What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Wed, 27 Mar 2013, 3:07pm

Wharfedale Diamond 155

Tested at £500
60100
3

The Diamond 155s are fine sounding speakers but are let down by poor attention to detail

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For

  • Powerful and agile bass
  • Lots of detail and a high level of transparency
  • Impressive scale and authority

Against

  • Very poor finish on our review sample

Wharfedale has a long, fine pedigree in the speaker market, particularly at the more affordable end of the price spectrum. Classics such as the Wharfedale Diamond 9.1 ruled the budget speaker market for several years, picking up a Product of the Year accolade back in 2005.

However, we've discovered a problem with the company's latest range: poor quality control. Our experience of the brand’s new Diamond range covers two models: the 121 standmounters and the 155 floorstanders on test here. Both have impressed with their sound, but their finish has disappointed to varying degrees.

Our first sample of the 121 was just about acceptable for its price, but it took a second, better-made sample to make us feel comfortable enough to give that standmounter a hard-fought Group Test win.

We gave the 121s a certain amount of leeway because they were such an early production sample. Sometimes with such new products the production process takes a while to bed in.

That was back in our January issue. Four months later we find ourselves confronted by the 155s, which are significantly worse in terms of finish than even the earliest sample of the 121s. And they cost significantly more.

Wharfedale Diamond 155 review: Design

We can forgive the fact that the 155s’ floor plinths were loose when we unpacked the speakers. It’s possible for such things to happen when shipping products half-way around the world, with all the temperature changes and general settling involved. Besides, it takes only a screwdriver and a minute to tighten things up again.

However, the uneven front baffle finish we noted in the original 121 review is still present in the 155. And, even worse, the vinyl wrap really bothers us.

Wharfedale Diamond 155

A close look at our review samples shows the covering peeling off at two corners and untidily applied at the edges (see pictures above and below) – and that’s before we get to the unevenness caused by the application of the thin vinyl wrap on top of the composite chipboard panels. At least when it comes to the choice of chipboard there are sonic upsides to its inclusion. More of that later.

Wharfedale Diamond 155

Wharfedale Diamond 155 review: Drivers

There’s another reason to be so upset about the poor finish, too – because the real tragedy is that once you get past it there is much to admire about the 155s’ sound. In fact, under normal circumstances these floorstanders would be battling it out for class leadership; Wharfedale’s engineers have clearly gone to extraordinary lengths to get the performance right.

That cabinet – finish apart – is solidly constructed, but what stands out is the fact that the enclosure is made of a combination of MDF and chipboard, which leads to better-damped panels. This in turn leads to a cabinet that contributes far less to the sound – and that’s always a good thing.

The quality of the drive units is impressive, too. We know and like the Diamond 155’s 25mm soft-dome unit, which sits in a heavily shaped faceplate that controls the way it disperses sound.

Wharfedale Diamond 155

The two larger drivers are substantial 16.5cm woven-Kevlar units that work in partnership – the upper one produces midrange and bass, with the one below only helping out at the lowest frequencies. These are tuned by a pair of downward-venting ports in the base of the cabinet.

As with the Diamond 121 standmounters, these ports exit into a small air-gap between the base of the cabinet and a plinth, which makes the power transfer from the port to the room more efficient. That, in turn, should lead to better, more powerful bass.

Wharfedale Diamond 155 review: Performance

And that’s exactly how it sounds to us. The Diamond 155s dig deep into the lows and have the power and punch to do a hard-hitting album such as The Dead Weather’s Horehound justice. If anything, the 155’s deep bass performance is a little overstated, even with the speakers positioned well out into the room. But it’s fast, articulate and detailed, so we don’t really have a problem with it.

Move up the frequency range and we’re impressed by the 155s’ integration. That sculptured tweeter faceplate obviously works well, helping to deliver a sparse recording like XX’s Coexist with a great deal of finesse. There’s a high level of transparency through the midrange too, well beyond what most floor-standing rivals would manage.

Wharfedale Diamond 155

You can add a surefooted sense of rhythm – a rare skill for floorstander at this price level – and a pleasing impression of scale and authority to the mix, too. There’s also plenty of detail on tap, and a level of precision that’s right up there with the best at this price. The 155s really do give a clear view into the music and recording.

The Diamond 155s have such a wide spread of talents that they sound confident with every genre of music. There’s enough drive to keep Metallica fans happy, but they can change gear effortless to deliver Kate Bush’s lovely Amongst Angels with real delicacy. All it would take is a little more enthusiasm and they would arguably lead the class in sound quality.

It pays to take care in installation. These speakers sound better with a bit of space to breathe, otherwise that powerful bass performance starts to dominate things. Meanwhile, a touch of toe-in towards the listening position helps to firm-up the decent stereo image and we preferred the extra transparency and openness brought about by bi-wiring.

Wharfedale Diamond 155

Wharfedale Diamond 155 review: Verdict

But as good as they sound, we don’t feel confident about wholeheartedly recommending the Diamond 155s. Wharfedale has to sort out its quality control before we can do that. Such poor finish simply isn't acceptable on a £500 speaker.

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