At the end of September, the IAG-owned Wharfedale brand announced a new range of Diamond loudspeakers. The 12th Generation editions had been designed by hired gun Karl-Heinz Fink and featured significant changes in direction from the Diamond 10 and 9, whose x.1 standmounts I had reviewed during the nascent stages of this publication’s development some ten years ago. The Diamond 12.1 had been given an all-new mid-bass driver – bye-bye Kevlar, hello Klarity – that drew on a rear-firing port and was augmented up top by a doped-fabric dome tweeter.
During our follow-up podcast interview with Fink a few weeks later, we learnt that the Diamond 12 series’ cabinets had been computer modelled to locate possible additional points of bracing. I’ll add that despite being vinyl wrapped, it’s not as easy as you might think to finger outward evidence of the 12.1’s €299 price point. I had purchased a pair from the German distributor to shortcut the IAG UK team’s fussing over a review sample’s source – and to afford myself extra time, should I need it, to script/shoot/edit a video.
However, as is often the case, there would be a wrinkle. I had no price-commensurate amplifier with which to drive the new Wharfedales. The Bluesound Powernode 2i at €879 was three times the loudspeakers’ asking and a less-than-stellar audible match. I needed something considerably more affordable that didn’t lean in the same sonic direction as the Bluesound/Wharefdale pairing. I’d been eyeing the NAD C316 BEE V2 for some time (€369). Its Class A/B design makes it (possibly) the last of its kind for NAD. Lenbrook’s CTO Greg Stidsen told me during Munich High-End 2019 that the company’s main focus moving forward will be switching Class D amplifiers.
Buying the NAD and hooking it up to the Diamond 12.1 was a sharp reminder of just how much a loudspeaker’s sound can change with its electronics; that judging a passive loudspeaker is fraught with risk when only one amplifier is used. And that also, per the video below, even the DAC and streamer can tip the tonal balance in the wrong (or right) direction. In covering a passive loudspeaker, we should try to remain mindful that what we’re hearing is a complete system.
If our loudspeakers dictate music’s food type and portion size, the amplifier will impact its flavour and the DAC/streamer its nutritional value.
Further information: Wharfedale
Camera: Olaf von Voss | Editor: John Darko | Motion Graphics: John Darko | Ad Segment: Jana Dagdagan