Very few products have made such an indelible mark in the hi-fi world as the Wharfedale Diamond entry-level loudspeaker range. When it first burst onto the scene in 1982, the budget speaker market changed forever: the performance-per-pound benchmark was substantially lifted, the entry point to true high-fidelity sound truly redefined. And over the past four decades, subsequent generations have continued to make just as much ground-breaking impact.
The Wharfedale Diamond isn’t only one of the longest-running speaker ranges of all time, it is also one of the most successful, as What Hi-Fi? has penned more than once. That's why Diamond speakers have featured in What Hi-Fi?’s lists of the ‘best stereo speakers of 21st century’ and ‘best British speakers of all time’.
Wharfedale’s trophy cabinet certainly speaks for itself. Since the turn of the millennium, four successive generations of Diamonds – the Diamond 8, Diamond 9, Diamond 10 and Diamond 200 series – have all yielded What Hi-Fi? Award winners, collectively earning several ‘product of the year’ honours around the world.
New Diamond 12 Series: Wharfedale is at it again
Over the range's 38 years, each new generation of Wharfedale Diamond speakers has been comprehensively updated to further push the boundaries of entry-level speaker performance and keep the line’s enviable position at the top of their class.
Never complacent with their success, Wharfedale hasn’t rested on its laurels to this day. Which is why an all-new Diamond range has arrived to once again raise the bar for affordable, high-performance loudspeakers. Please welcome the Diamond 12 speaker series, the best Diamond range yet.
If Wharfedale’s rich heritage and decades of expertise aren’t solid footings enough, the Diamond 12 Series marks the British company’s first collaboration with Karl-Heinz Fink, one of the most world-renowned and successful speaker designers on the planet. Due to his penchant for delivering class-leading sound from modestly priced models, few designers are behind as many What Hi-Fi? five-star products in the past decade. His latest achievement: setting a new budget speaker benchmark with the Wharfedale Diamond 12 Series.
In its latest generation, the Diamond range has moved forward in everything from aesthetic design to acoustic engineering – but not in price point. True to the ‘maximum sound-per-pound’ ethos ingrained in the Diamond’s heritage, the new series offers astonishingly good value, starting from just £199 for a pair of the range’s most compact bookshelf speakers, the Diamond 12.0.
While the Wharfedale Diamond 12 range comprises five models – three bookshelf speakers, two floorstanders, and a centre speaker for home cinema configurations – none bares greater significance than the ‘.1’ bookshelf model, which has had a place in every Diamond line-up from the last two decades.
Priced at £249 per pair, the Diamond 12.1 Is the direct successor to the Diamond 8.1 (2001), Diamond 9.1 (2003), Diamond 10.1 (2009) and Diamond 220 (2014), all of which have won coveted What Hi-Fi? Awards. Yet the new iteration manages to comfortably fill the exceptionally big shoes of its predecessors, and here’s how…
The linchpin of the 12.1’s innovative design: brand-new drivers. The compact bookshelf speaker introduces a specially designed 13cm mid/bass driver with a cone fashioned from a composite called Klarity. This combines polypropylene – a material long favoured for its ability to deliver low distortion – with mica, which adds all-important stiffness. The result is a lightweight yet highly rigid cone that delivers on the two most important fronts: low colouration and lightning-fast response.
Wharfedale’s design team worked tirelessly to create an appropriately damped surround that would maximise such a cone’s performance; that would dampen enough to achieve a smooth response, but not overly so as to restrict dynamics and soften bass. By simulating many different cone shapes and adding ribs to provide further stiffening, they struck gold, accomplishing effortlessly expressive dynamics and impressively low distortion.
Driven by their obsession with perfection, the team took further anti-distortion measures to reduce resonance generated by the motor system – namely by utilising an aluminium compensation ring in the driver’s magnet structure.
An equal amount of attentiveness went into squeezing the very best high-frequency performance out of the Diamond 12.1’s 25mm dome tweeter, too. To complement the high-loss-coated, woven polyester film make-up – chosen for its open, smooth and extensive characteristics – the tweeter’s magnet system and front plate have been optimised for wide dispersion and uncompressed behaviour.
Tying all that exquisite engineering together, and ultimately ensuring both drive units work together in close tandem, is the crossover network, whose low-distortion air core inductors are often the reserve of much higher-end speakers. In fact, also contrary to the modest asking price of the Diamond 12.1 is the engineering of the voice coil, which is wound on a stiff, high-power epoxy/glass fibre bobbin that delivers far greater power handling than the commonplace aluminium alternative.
No expense has been spared with the Diamond 12.1’s rear-ported cabinet either – everything from its internal volume, to its walls’ multi-layered wood fibre composition, to its resonance-reducing Intelligent Spot Bracing has all been meticulously measured to ensure the drive units work optimally. Even the resonant properties of the glue between the layers was deliberated to determine the best result.
A sonic cut above the rest
Like every Diamond speaker before it, the Diamond 12.1 embodies the very spirit of hi-fi. With benchmark levels of transparency, clarity and rhythmic expression for a speaker of its humble price and proportions, it takes the iconic Diamond lineage to even greater sonic heights, delivering every genre of music even more faithfully and even more enjoyably, as the artist intended it to be heard.
Whether you’re after an affordable hi-fi stereo or home cinema surround speaker set-up, the Diamond 12.1, like the rest of the members in the Diamond 12 Series family, is the high-performance gem guaranteed to transform your music or movie experience.
The all-new Wharfedale Diamond 12 Series will be available in October, in a choice of black, white, light oak or walnut finishes.