Wharfedale launch the Diamond 11 Speaker Series

Review - Wharfedale Diamond 11 Series

Wharfedale Diamond 11 Series

Wharfedale launch the Diamond 11 Speaker Series
I t’s all speakers at the moment and third to the pass amongst the speaker companies is Wharfedale with the Diamond 11 series, the 11th iteration of the Wharfedale Diamonds. Sporting extensive improvements both inside and out, Diamond 11 represents the most significantly enhanced Diamond series in years. The range comprises eight models: three stand mounting speakers (Diamond 11.0, 11.1 and 11.2), three floor standers (Diamond 11.3, 11.4 and 11.5) and two centre speakers for home cinema systems (Diamond 11.CC and 11.CS).

The most immediately obvious change is a return to the curved cabinet sides seen in the Diamond 9 and Diamond 10 ranges. The more recent Diamond 100 and Diamond 200 speakers had square-sided cabinets, but the Diamond 11 Series brings back the curves in response to global demand. The result is an affordable speaker range with a distinctly premium look and sound.

■ Extensive improvements made in the Diamond 11 Series include:

• New drive units across the range, designed and built in-house to deliver exceptional performance at this price level.

• Bass/midrange drivers incorporate massive magnet designs, special ribbed baskets and advanced suspension to complement their woven Kevlar cones.

• High-performance textile-domed tweeter sports an over-sized ceramic magnet and specially shaped rear chamber.

• Redesigned crossover network, perfected over thousands of hours of listening tests.

• Cabinet walls made from a sandwich of woods of differing density, ensuring excellent acoustic characteristics and an impeccable standard of finish.

• Curved cabinet walls enhance acoustic performance as well as the speakers’ aesthetic qualities.

• Bass loading via an improved version of Wharfedale’s slot-loaded distributed port, enabling deep, articulate and well-integrated bass with an absence of ‘chuffing’.

Wharfedale Diamond 11 Series – more detail

The latest generation of Diamond speakers includes design elements never previously seen at such affordable price points. At the start of the design process, Wharfedale’s engineers went back to basics to create a loudspeaker system that would once again revolutionise this sector of the hi-fi market and bring high-end performance – and style – within reach of many music lovers, not just the wealthy few.

■ Advanced driver systems

Whereas most affordable speaker systems are based on drive units that are built down to a price, Wharfedale started with the premise that Diamond drivers should be aimed at performance. That is why the Diamond 11 Series sports advanced driver systems incorporating elements that normally only find their way into high-end loudspeakers.

For example, the bass and midrange drivers use a basket with a network of ribs that maintain the rigidity of the basket while leaving a large open area behind the cone. The rigidity improves transient impact while the big open area reduces early reflections to cone and allows the generous, specially chosen internal cabinet absorbent to do its work.

The Diamond 11 Series speakers also feature massive magnet designs to both raise sensitivity and ensure absolute control of cone movement over lower bass frequencies. In addition, the use of a specially shaped one-part-forged pole piece with copper cap reduces inductance, controls the magnetic flux and ensures low distortion through the critical midrange area.

Then there is the progressive suspension which features a lightweight foamed surround for an extended midrange response, in conjunction with a super-long-throw voice coil motor system, to achieve unparalleled linearity and accuracy in this sector of the market. Naturally the woven Kevlar cone, a long-time favourite for Diamond designs, has been treated to provide a precise match to the new suspension elements, avoiding the ‘midrange dip’ caused by reflections from the surround edge.

High-frequency performance has been similarly enhanced with a sophisticated new tweeter design. Again, an over-sized ceramic magnet system is used, with a copper cap for flux control. And, here, the pole piece is vented through to a specially shaped rear chamber, damped with a fibre filling. This provides a low resonant frequency below 800Hz, ensuring excellent linearity throughout the operating bandwidth and allowing the textile dome to contribute to a lucid midrange performance in addition to precise high-frequency detailing.

■ Crossover integration

While the drive units are the heart of a loudspeaker system, they would be nothing without the integration of a precisely derived crossover. Wharfedale’s engineers use a highly evolved virtual crossover software system to help create a series of circuit options for combining the bass/midrange and treble units seamlessly. These circuit options are then evaluated using stringent listening tests over a period of months, involving a wide range of music.

Once the final circuit strategy has been chosen, the design team fine tunes the crossover component values, the type of components and the circuit board layout to yield the most accurate, detailed and, above all, enjoyable musical performance using only listening tests as an arbiter of quality.

Special attention is paid to the lifelike qualities of vocals and natural instruments, as these are always the focus of listeners’ subjective appraisal of a loudspeaker’s performance. It is this attention to fine tuning, allied to excellent technical design that gives Wharfedale Diamond speakers their enduring appeal in the affordable sector of the hi-fi market from one generation to the next.

■ Cabinet construction

While the cabinet, to the owner, is often just a piece of furniture, Wharfedale has long realised that it is the final piece of the design process that marks a speaker out of the ordinary.

For the Diamond 11 Series, Wharfedale’s engineers have refined the multi-layer sandwich of woods of differing density to subdue the identifiable characteristics of the cabinet ‘sound’ and so let the drive units speak for themselves. Critical bracing of the cabinet panels, together with the curving of the cabinet walls to provide a non-boxy shape, have reduced resonances more than 25dB below the driver outputs. In addition, the cabinet walls are lined with a specially developed internal fibre which has been chosen because of its outstanding absorbent qualities across a wide bandwidth.

The result is that the listener hears the drive unit output unsullied by unwanted colorations caused by panel vibration or internal resonances, revealing more of the detail of the musical performance.

■ Slot-loaded distributed port

The slot-loaded distributed port is a recent Diamond innovation, first introduced in the Diamond 100 Series in 2012, where the internal port tube opens into a slot formed between the cabinet and the plinth. This reduces the turbulence and audible ‘chuffing’ suffered by conventional ported systems, which is caused by the sudden outrushes of high pressure air into the low pressure in the room. A further benefit is to increase the efficiency of energy transfer from the bass reflex tuning to the room.

Wharfedale has taken this one stage further for the Diamond 11 Series, profiling both ends of the port with a semi-parabolic entry and exit curve that linearizes airflow through the port tube. This has allowed us to increase the volume of air in the slot-loaded system and further improve the performance of the low frequency output.

The result is an entirely natural and low-distortion recreation of the fundamental notes of bass instruments, matching the realistic sound of the midrange and treble characteristics. The low ‘Q’ (broad tuning) nature of this ported system also allows the listener to position Diamond 11 speakers close to a rear wall, helping to make the speakers less obtrusive in a room setting

■ Wharfedale Diamond 11 Series – prices and availability

The Diamond 11 Series is available from July 2017. All speakers come in a choice of black, white, walnut or rosewood finishes. Recommended retail prices are as follows:

■ Bookshelf speakers

Diamond 11.0: £159.95 per pair

Diamond 11.1: £269.95 per pair

Diamond 11.2: £349.95 per pair

■ Floorstanding speakers

Diamond 11.3: £599.95 per pair

Diamond 11.4: £779.95 per pair

Diamond 11.5: £999.95 per pair

■ Home cinema centre speakers

Diamond 11.CC: £149.95

Diamond 11.CS: £229.95

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