Wharfedale D330 Loudspeaker Page 2

In the smaller D300 speakers, this port exits into a gap formed by little feet on the base of the speakers. The D330's plinth serves the same function, as well as stabilising the speaker, and is fitted with conical spikes. Overall, the quality of build and finish is exemplary, as we've come to expect from Wharfedale parent company IAG's massive Shenzhen plant.

sqnote Remarkable Value
Despite that downward-venting port, the D330 proves quite sensitive to room positioning – these are, after all, relatively modest speakers, and a bit of rear/side wall assistance helps fill out a bass that's a little parched when they're used out in free space. Similarly, some toe-in to the listening position helps tame a slightly over-enthusiastic treble, as well as doing much to firm up the speakers' imaging and enhance soundstage depth. Setting up the speakers with the outer side of the cabinets just visible from the listening position should do the trick.

319wharf.3300That done, these are nothing short of remarkable speakers for the money. Yes, one can't escape the fact that they're budget designs, and much pricier rivals will show them a clean pair of heels when it comes to bass weight and definition, along with treble refinement, but they have an honesty and musicality about them that's hard not to like, and perform way beyond what one might reasonable expect at this level.

Front And Centre
Playing the latest Elvis Costello And The Imposters album, Look Now [Concord Records 0088072068223], the D330s make a fine fist of the music, focusing and delineating Costello's voice centre stage, and giving impressive insight into the mixes, from the simplicity of 'Photographs Can Lie' to the punch of 'Mr & Mrs Hush'. This is by far the most impressive Elvis Costello release for many years, and Wharfedale's D330s don't sell it short, instead revealing all the skill in the songwriting, performances and recording.

Even better, they do so with a range of amplification. As well as auditioning them on the end of my usual Naim-based system, I tried the D330s with the affordable Denon PMA-800NE amplifier (£449), and they made a pretty winning combination of the kind that has one totting up how little one could spend to build a very effective system. I reckoned around £1500 would do it, using the Denon amp and its partnering DNP-800NE network player (also £449) driving the D330s, but it could be done for even less with some judicious secondhand shopping.

Meanwhile the Wharfedale speakers continued to impress, this time with the 2018 remaster of Bowie's Let's Dance album from the Loving The Alien boxset [Parlophone DBX4], that well-controlled bass working well with the slink of Nile Rodgers' production on the title track, and the clarity of the speakers really opening up his mixes throughout. One really does have to keep reminding oneself just how inexpensive these speakers are: their sound is very commercial, of course, but it's impossible not to like them.


A Communicator
Even with the demands of classical music they remain relatively unfazed, and while one could achieve greater detail by throwing a lot more money at a system, the D330s play the recent Pittsburgh SO/Honeck recording of Beethoven's Eroica [Fresh! FR-728; DSD128] with real power and conviction, from the exuberant opening to the solemnity of the third movement.

It's a sound to have one overlooking the relative limitations of the speakers, so involving is the music-making in evidence here. This impression is reinforced with the Kronos Quartet's recording of Steve Reich's chilling WTC 9/11 [Nonesuch 7559-79645-7], its sharply-defined strings intercut with clips of police radio and recollections of the event.

Indeed it's the ability of the D330s to so readily communicate the music at hand that's the most striking aspect of this design. The icing on the cake is that they're also compact enough to fit in almost anywhere and – with a little care in placement – room-friendly, too.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
In a bold move by Wharfedale, these new 'not-Diamonds' undercut the brand's existing budget range, feature a strikingly different aesthetic, with revised drive units and construction to maximise performance. It all pays off in a compact, affordable and smart-looking floorstander that offers surprising levels of performance for the money. It's just the thing to make the most of budget-conscious systems.

Shenzhen, China
Supplied by: International Audio Group Ltd
01480 447700