Wharfedale Diamond 12.4 Review: High performance at a low price

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The Wharfedale Diamond 12.4 is the latest incarnation of the Diamond acoustics, which have been on the market since the 1980s. One of the main features of the Diamond 12 series is the Klarity material from which the cones are made: a mixture of polypropylene and mica is designed to add stiffness to the cones and minimize the effect of “coloring” the sound. In addition, the Klarity drivers have received soft suspension so that they have the “highest possible linear response.”

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Another important innovation is the magnetic system with an aluminum wear ring. It is said to reduce the effects of unwanted vibrations. The tweeter domes with a diameter of 25 mm were made from a special fabric film, which is designed to make them more open high.

Wharfedale also drew attention to the special design of the hulls, which makes it possible to build a deep and voluminous stage. The enclosures are assembled so that their useful internal volume enhances the performance of the speakers. The multi-layer sandwich design should reduce the impact of the cabinet on overall sound quality and character. According to the developers, this makes the acoustics universal in terms of musical material – so the speakers should cope with any genre.

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Wharfedale noted that the new series of speakers uses fourth-order Linkwitz-Riley crossovers, as well as air-core coils (a solution from the higher price category). To date, the series includes three pairs of bookshelf speakers (Wharfedale Diamond 12.0, Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 and Wharfedale Diamond 12.2), Wharfedale Diamond 12.C center channel acoustics and two versions of Wharfedale Diamond 12.3, Wharfedale Diamond 12.4 full-size floorstanding speakers. All of these models will be available in four color options: black, white, light oak and walnut.

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The Wharfedale Diamond 12.4 floor standing loudspeakers have a three-way configuration. Like all models in the series, the Wharfedale Diamond 12.4 features quality exterior finishes and is crafted with select components. To give the speaker casing the necessary acoustic inertness, its walls are made of multilayer, and inside there are special partitions. In addition to increasing rigidity, they form isolated working chambers for the low and midrange sections of the Wharfedale Diamond 12.4, so that the loudspeaker sound is as balanced as possible. The woofers in the speaker have a diameter of 150 mm and are equipped with rigid and lightweight Kevlar cones, as well as powerful magnetic systems. The woofers are loaded onto a bass reflex, which is more efficient and does not generate acoustic noise.

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The mid-range driver in the Wharfedale Diamond 12.4 is 150 mm in diameter and also features a Kevlar cone. The crossover frequency between it and the low-frequency section is set at 210 Hz, which provides good sound on the midbass, as well as in the lower part of the mid-range. The high-frequency radiator in the column is equipped with a fabric dome 25 mm in diameter, loaded onto a round sound guide horn. The design of the tweeter ensures its reliable protection from external mechanical vibrations, and the sound guide ensures the required directional pattern.

The front speakers are covered with a protective magnetic mesh, giving the Wharfedale Diamond 12.4 an attractive appearance. Despite the reduced dimensions, this acoustics also perfectly reproduces the lowest bass, but at the same time it will not cause an overload on the bass in the usual living room of most city apartments. This speaker will be an excellent choice for completing both stereos and home theaters.

Less than three years have passed since the day when we listened to similar 11th generation floor standing speakers, and Wharfedale already has models for the next wave. But personally, I am more impressed not by the speed with which the company releases new products, but by the determination of one of the most reputable British acoustic brands to change its own rules of the game. If before that all Diamonds looked like remixes of commercially successful “diamonds” of the eighth generation, which became real hits in the world of inexpensive hi-fi acoustics, now we have to listen to a clearly different composition. And we will start with the largest and most powerful representative – the Wharfedale Diamond 12.4 models.

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Wharfedale Diamond 11.4 admired cases with convex sides, an additional base and a slotted phase inverter brought out to it (which is extremely rare in the budget price category). The Wharfedale Diamond 12.4 has a classic design – with flat walls and round ports leading out to the rear panel. Instead of a base – a pair of fairly light support “strips” with adjustable cones. Instead of four finishes, three are offered (however, all are consistent with fashion trends). And one fewer drivers. Moreover, both mid-bass drivers are not quite ordinary – there have never been such ones on “Warfs”.

Someone will decide that the manufacturer has taken a step to simplify and reduce the cost of “folk” acoustics, but let’s not jump to conclusions. The same rectangular shape is advantageous for maximizing the internal volume, which we can see by looking at the passport data – despite the smaller width of the cases, their displacement has increased to 40.8 liters (the volume of the previous generation model was 30.9 liters). And so that high straight walls withstand resonances as well as curved ones, the engineers have implemented the Intelligent Spot Bracing damping tie system. In it, opposite planes are connected by special wooden brackets, the shape of which (as well as the mounting points inside) are carefully calculated by computer modeling. By the way, this is indirectly indicated by the increased weight – each speaker became 3.6 kg heavier, although due to the loss of one driver, logically, it should have become lighter.

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The transition from a three-band scheme with two woofers of the same type to a 2.5-band one, where heads with exactly the same diffusers simply work out different parts of the range, I also welcome – for medium-sized floor-standing models, the “cut-down” scheme is often more justified, since with proper implementation it allows you to achieve even better driver matching. It’s a pity that the manufacturer does not specify how and at what frequency the powers of the 15-centimeter heads are divided. But it is known that the buzzer enters quite early – from 2.1 kHz, the filters themselves are Linkwitz-Riley (fourth order), and with coils “in the air”, without steel or ferrite cores. At the same time, the developers say that they took into account the higher ohmic losses in inductors of this kind in the parameters of the heads themselves, when they additionally optimized them for crossovers.

Here we come to the most important thing. We know that for several decades Wharfedale has used Kevlar and similar textile composites to manufacture diffusers. This is an outstanding material for advanced speakers, but extremely capricious for cheap ones – it is rather problematic to “stamp” heads with a smooth and stable characteristic from it. That is why British engineers returned to the basics of the Diamond series and tested a new material for the emitters – a mixture of polypropylene and mica (remember that the “diamond” series at the time of its appearance in the 80s was far from budgetary and was built on heads made of innovative polymers). The new mineral composite was named Klarity and is good in that it allows you to form very responsive high-rigidity relief diffusers, which practically do not color the sound with their own resonances.

And this is not the only innovation for the budget segment. Instead of Kapton, a more stable and lightweight fiberglass is used for the voice coil frames. An elastic material with a reduced level of damping was deliberately selected for the suspensions in order to reduce acoustic coloration. And in the magnetic system are installed aluminum compensation rings – “to minimize fluctuations in inductance when moving the voice coil”, as stated in the company datasheet.

The only familiar detail is a 25mm tweeter with a textile dome made of polyester fibers, to which a damping compound is applied. As in the previous generation, this emitter is slightly recessed into a complex composite flange with a tapered element for dispersion expansion. And for me this is one of the best soft beepers for inexpensive speakers – quite detailed and even, but at the same time not “filtered” and not suffocated by a ferromagnetic liquid.
There is one more important point to point out before listening. Wharfedale Diamond 12.4 is slightly inferior in sensitivity to its predecessors, but allows a higher input power. Does this mean that he has become more “heavy” for the amplifier? Hardly. At 11.4, the impedance from the nominal 8 Ohm at some frequencies drops to almost 3 Ohm, and in the new model, the minimum is quite high 5 Ohm – in theory, even not the most powerful theater receivers should get along well with it.

For the test, we stocked up with a powerful Quad transistor power supply that can deliver 140 watts into 8 ohms, but the Wharfedale Diamond 12.4 without question obeyed the much more modest amplifiers integrated into the Quad Artera Solus Play combo. … Accurate elaboration of the entire low base and fast punchy bass, as well as a distinct texture in the vocal band, the new “Diamonds” issued in full at once – as their new trademark!

Only the most “hardcore” tracks with extremely rich, heavy or sharp bass could become problematic for this system (I’m talking about the whole setup, not about the speakers). So they began to properly “imprint” only on the amplifier, which had a sufficient supply of stray watts. But if you’re not inclined to put your chest and eardrums to the test every time you listen, then any 100-watt amp for the Wharfedale Diamond 12.4 will be enough for your eyes, even to reproduce the classics with their powerful dynamic contrasts.

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The main thing. These systems compare favorably with their predecessors by linearity in the most important section of 200 – 2000 Hz. They do not have a bright “blush” in the midrange, and some “callous” accent – moreover, completely uncritical, eliminated by installing dust-proof grills and lightly turning the speaker from the listening point – falls only on the lower top (4-5 kHz).

Wharfedale Diamond 12.4 is surprisingly easy to install. They hardly excite low resonances in the room if there is a gap of at least 35-40 cm or more between the wall and the back of the speaker. And if the speakers are generally placed directly, without directing them to the listener, then in the tonal picture there will be no noticeable attenuation of the high ones, nor the narrowing of the stereo effect zone, which indicates a really wide dispersion of the tweeters. With such an arrangement, the scene at the edges of the base usually loses three-dimensionality, but with these speakers the unwanted effect is less pronounced – at least with the  Quad Artera Solus Play there was  not even a hint of linking the flanking imaginary sources to the speakers.

All this makes the new Wharfedale products suitable for theatrical installations. Although, in my opinion, the musical orientation is still primary in them. In the initial price league, there are many systems with similar power parameters and a rather “sonorous” character, but there are very few speakers in the sound of which there is just a minimum of false. Wharfedale Diamond 12.4 clearly gravitate towards the latter – they do not overwhelm with any special aesthetics from the first seconds of singing, but they are honest and sincere.

The systems do not have boosted edges of the range, and the bass at first seems a little tight. But at the same time, all fundamental and airy forms are easily read in the reproduced canvas. At HF there is no beautiful slickness, but there is the required intelligibility in the transfer of the color of voiced and noise components. Finally, the middle in their interpretation is so rich in subtle playful and dynamic shades – both in comparison with many classmates and with their predecessors – that these systems generally want to be set apart from all the speakers worthy of the “Good Buy” label.

In any case, such a full and musical presentation of the main range is something new for the Diamond series. To many, it may even seem unexpected. But this is definitely a step forward. And how big it is, we will know when we test other 12th generation “diamonds”.

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