Wharfedale NEW AURA Speaker range
In 2016 Wharfedale embarked on a new R&D project to create upscale designs that would sit above the classic entry-level Diamond speakers in the company’s range. Many innovative and uncompromising concepts were explored, with several key technologies emerging that would form the basis of Wharfedale’s flagship Elysian Series and mid-level EVO4 Series, both of which launched some three years after the project began.
The Elysian and EVO4 speakers have several distinctive technical elements in common: AMT treble drivers, three-way configurations (with unusual domed midrange units in the case of EVO4), and exceptional cabinet engineering incorporating Wharfedale’s Slot-Loaded Profiled Port. Such features are unique at the retail prices charged for the EVO4 Series models, and in the Elysian Series the engineering of these elements is pushed to the limit to deliver a truly remarkable performance.
Now, a third loudspeaker range developed from the Elysian project has arrived, offering various models at prices above the EVO4 Series and below the flagship Elysian speakers. The Aura Series is like the EVO4 range in that it consists of two standmount models (Aura 1 and Aura 2) and two floorstanders (Aura 3 and Aura 4), plus two centre speakers for home cinema systems (Aura C and Aura CS). The driver configurations are similar too – the smaller standmount is a two-way model, while the larger standmount and both floorstanders are three-way designs, with dedicated midrange units accompanying the AMT treble driver that features throughout.
The speakers are also comparable in size to the EVO4 designs – a little larger, but more compact than the equivalent Elysian models. But when it comes to the technical elements – the drivers, the cabinets, the crossover networks – the Aura Series takes its cues directly from Elysian.
Feel the high
Unlike conventional dome tweeters, or other forms of ribbon and planar diaphragms, the Wharfedale AMT (Air Motion Transformer) high-frequency transducer does not move forwards and backwards like a piston. This means it is not constrained by the mass of its diaphragm, with the attendant blurring of transient response. Instead, the diaphragm is folded and carries conductive elements immersed in an immensely strong magnetic field. When the music signal from the amplifier traverses the diaphragm, the folds constrict and expand – this has the effect of squeezing the air between the folds, rapidly altering its pressure to accurately transmit the equivalent pressure wave received by the microphones in the recording studio.
The AMT diaphragm operates over a large area, delivering high efficiency, and can generate transient acoustic power with ease. Wharfedale’s design team has improved the AMT unit in the Aura loudspeakers to extend the response to 36kHz (-6dB), allowing a smooth and linear response to 22kHz (+-3dB). The result is exceptional clarity of treble detail allied to realistic transient response, smoothly enhancing the harmonic overtones of voices and instruments whilst providing shimmering realism to percussion such as cymbals.
For the Elysian Series, Wharfedale developed bass and midrange diaphragms formed from a proprietary woven glass fibre matrix to match the transient accuracy and efficiency of the AMT treble unit. These cones provide low mass and high strength, with the addition of a high-plasticity coating to control acoustic behaviour.
The Aura Series drive units are descended directly from the Elysian drivers, with cones made from a coated woven glass fibre material terminated by high flexibility rubber surrounds. The voice coils driving the cones are immersed in high-flux magnetic fields, with eddy currents and inductance controlled by copper-clad pole pieces.
These low-distortion motor systems are mounted on die-cast aluminium chassis, each fixed to the cabinet by six high-tensile bolts to maintain the rigidity of structure and provide accurate transient response. The rubber trim rings surrounding each chassis are not just a cosmetic feature but also control any resonance occurring at the junction of the aluminium chassis and wood cabinet.
The smaller of the two standmount speakers, the two-way Aura 1, combines the AMT treble driver with a 130m mid/bass unit, while the larger three-way Aura 2 separates bass and midrange with 150mm and 100mm drivers respectively. The two floorstanders use the same 100mm midrange unit as the Aura 2, coupling this with twin bass drivers – 130mm units in the Aura 3 and 150mm units in the Aura 4.
The two home cinema centre speakers are two-way designs with twin mid/bass drivers – 150mm units in the Aura C and 130mm units in the smaller Aura CS. That makes the Aura C a perfect match for the Aura 2 and Aura 4 speakers, while the Aura CS is ideal to use with the Aura 1 and Aura
In many ways, the crossover is the ‘heart’ of any high-quality loudspeaker. As the originator of two-way loudspeaker systems for domestic use, Wharfedale was the first such manufacturer to utilise an electrical crossover network to divide the audio signal between drive units optimised to handle upper and lower parts of the frequency range.
Today’s crossovers must do more than simply divide up the musical input to the loudspeaker and distribute it to the relevant drive units. They need to be matched accurately to the acoustic performance of each drive unit to achieve a blend between the drivers that is acoustically seamless. Although this process is aided by sophisticated computer analysis, the fine-tuning is done by ear using a variety of musical sources and styles. Additionally, each individual crossover component is rigorously tested and evaluated for acoustic transparency.
This extensive fine-tuning requires hundreds of hours of listening tests to balance the fundamental and harmonic overtones of voices and instruments and ensure a perfect blend. In the three-way Aura models, the bass/midrange and midrange/treble crossover networks are laid out on separate PCBs to reduce electromagnetic interference, each network coupled to its respective terminals to facilitate bi-wiring. All this painstaking attention to detail allows the Aura speakers to ‘disappear’ acoustically as the listener is enfolded into a seamless musical experience.
The Aura speakers’ cabinets are designed to appeal to the eye whilst delivering acoustic excellence that captivates the ear. Available in black, white and a feature-grained walnut wood veneer, each cabinet is lacquered and polished to present a piece of furniture of which the owner can be justly proud. The cabinets’ smooth curves are more than just eye catching; they help to disperse the acoustic output of the drive units smoothly into the room without undesirable reflections.
Beneath the lacquered veneer is a sandwich of woods of differing density, designed to reduce panel resonance to below audibility. Named PROS (Panel Resonance Optimisation System), this multi-layer construction also inhibits the leakage of unwanted sound energy from inside the cabinet, which would otherwise interfere with the forward output of the drive units.
Within the cabinet, multiple layers of matted long hair fibre is strategically placed to absorb internal energy, its damping factor specifically calculated to avoid rear reflection back out through the drive unit cones whilst still allowing unrestricted airflow to the SLPP reflex port system.
Utilised by the Elysian Series, the EVO4 Series and now the Aura Series, Wharfedale’s SLPP (Slot Loaded Profiled Port) bass reflex design was developed from an original idea of Gilbert Briggs, the entrepreneur who set up and ran Wharfedale from 1932 to 1964. In the latest version developed for the Aura Series, the high-pressure, high-velocity airflow from the downward-facing port is appropriately matched to the low air pressure in the room by distributing the airflow through a series of slot ports in the plinth. This both reduces unwanted turbulence from the port and improves the efficiency of the bass reflex system.
In conjunction with the low resonance of the bass units, the SLPP system provides bass extension well down into and below the 30Hz region for the Aura 2, Aura 3 and Aura 4, revealing the fundamentals of musical instruments with excellent articulation, clarity and power. This enables the listener to feel as well as hear the true acoustic impact of the musical performance.
Price and Availability
The Wharfedale Aura Series is available 9th October
RRPs are as follows:
Aura 1: £1,499 per pair
Aura 2: £1,999 per pair
Aura 3: £2,999 per pair
Aura 4: £3,999 per pair
Stand for Aura 1: £899 per pair
Stand for Aura 2: £999 per pair
Aura CS: £1,099
Aura C: £1,299