“With the D320s, Wharfedale has pro­duced a fine pair of speak­ers”

FOR Bold and well in­te­grated; good level of de­tail AGAINST Not the most ex­cit­ing lis­ten

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - First Tests -

Wharfedale's Di­a­mond se­ries has been the be­drock of its prod­uct out­put since in­tro­duced in the early 1980s, but the 11th gen­er­a­tion, re­leased last year, left a gap at en­try-level price points. This is where the new D300 range comes in.

It con­sists of two stand­mount pairs, of which the D320s are the larger and more costly. Though Wharfedale is adamant this se­ries is not a new Di­a­mond range, there's a close re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two.

Care­fully en­gi­neered

This is most ev­i­dent in the D320’s drive units. The 25mm dome tweeter is pretty much un­changed from the Di­a­mond 11.1 we re­viewed last year, with its vented de­sign and shaped face­plate, while the 13cm mid/ bass still uses a wo­ven Kevlar cone with its un­usual foam sur­round.

The mid/bass is claimed to be a long throw unit and has a one-piece pole plate fit­ted with a cop­per cap to re­duce in­duc­tance and con­trol mag­netic flux. The mag­net is ce­ramic in a bid to get a smooth re­sponse com­bined with high sen­si­tiv­ity, and the chas­sis is ribbed for rigid­ity and de­signed to be as open as pos­si­ble to min­imise re­flec­tions.

An­other carry over is the un­usual down­ward-fac­ing port. In the Di­a­mond range, this fires into a gap be­tween the cab­i­net base and a built-in plinth, but in the case of the D320 bud­get con­straints have meant that the speak­ers sit on small feet and the port fires straight onto the sup­port­ing sur­face.

Over­all build is good for the money. These stand­moun­ters feel solid thanks to a braced cab­i­net and an unusu­ally thick front baf­fle of 28mm. The en­gi­neers have also taken care to round off the cab­i­net edges to re­duce dif­frac­tion ef­fects.

On first lis­ten there’s much to ad­mire. The D320s sound bold in a way that most sim­i­larly-sized ri­vals would strug­gle to match. The in­te­gra­tion be­tween the driv­ers is nicely han­dled, re­sult­ing in a well­pro­jected and clear midrange that de­liv­ers a good amount of de­tail and clar­ity.

Strong com­pe­ti­tion

We lis­ten to Kate Bush’s Aerial and the Wharfedales take the com­plex pro­duc­tion in their stride. No speaker at this level will un­ravel every in­stru­men­tal strand, but the D320s dig up a fair amount of de­tail and or­gan­ise it in a mu­si­cally re­ward­ing way.

While de­liv­er­ing a good amount of punch, they don’t quite have the dy­namic sub­tlety of class lead­ers such as Dali’s Spek­tor 2s, or the same rhyth­mic pre­ci­sion. The re­sult is that we’re not drawn into the mu­sic quite so much, but there’s no deny­ing the speak­ers' re­fine­ment or the su­perb tonal bal­ance Wharfedale has en­gi­neered. These speak­ers are as for­giv­ing as they come with poor record­ings, but still have the bal­ance and open­ness to please with bet­ter pro­duc­tions and sys­tems.

We lis­ten to a range of mu­sic, from Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue to Eminem’s Re­cov­ery and the Wharfedales don't blink. They don’t favour one genre over an­other, and have enough in the way of at­tack, tonal bal­ance and smooth­ness to keep us lis­ten­ing. Their stereo imag­ing is de­cently ex­pan­sive and sta­ble enough to pin­point the po­si­tion of in­stru­ments, while bass, al­ways lim­ited in speak­ers of this size, is pleas­ingly weighty.

We like the D320s. They’re easy to get along with and will work well in a wide range of sys­tems. They’re up against some tough com­pe­ti­tion from Q Acous­tics' 3010i/3020i duo and the Dali Spek­tor 2s; but, even against such for­mi­da­ble op­po­si­tion, they’re still worth a lis­ten.

An unusu­ally thick front baf­fle aids the D320s' solid con­struc­tion

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