Wharfedale Diamond 11.1 loudspeaker Page 2

The finish is to the usual high standards of the Shenzhen plant, and while the wood effect is a little 'coarse grain' and the bright trim-rings around the drivers rather blingy for my taste, the whole enterprise looks and feels both solid and built to last, and the curved panels both add elegance and have the effect of diminishing the apparent size of the speaker.

sqnote.jpgA Polished Diamond
The slot-loaded port of the Diamond 11.1 is designed to allow the speakers to be used close to a rear wall if required, but I'd go further and suggest that such a position is desirable, as a bit of boundary reinforcement does wonders to boost the low-end. It's not that the speakers ever sound bass-light, rather it's that they gain a bit of richness and warmth when so positioned on a pair of substantial stands. The stands don't have to be that hefty – although a little mass-damping never did any harm – but they should be rigid and stable to allow these loudspeakers to give of their best.

Thus installed, and with the very slightest of toe-ins to the listening position to firm up the already substantially wide imaging made possible by those largish tweeters, the Diamond 11.1s impress with a sound that's a marked step up, not only from the common image of budget speakers but also from the expectations raised by the pricing. These are very sophisticated sounding loudspeakers, with excellent integration between the drive units and a sound as lively as it is refined.

Initial impressions were that the bass, while rather light when the speakers were used in free space, was a bit on the loose side, lacking some of the definition and attack for which one might hope in small speakers of this kind. However, after a few days' running on the end of a variety of amplifiers from the little Denon PMA-30 [HFN Oct '17], which is price-comparable with the speakers, through to the Rotel RA-1572 (which certainly isn't), the sound tightened up a shade and gained better control, melding with the rest of the frequency range to create a rather enjoyable whole.


Imaging is a definite strong-point here, the Diamonds doing a fine job of balancing solo piano and a full orchestra with the recent Naxos recording of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No 2, with Boris Giltburg/RSNO [8.573629; 96kHz/24-bit], while creating a credible picture of the orchestra in a concert-hall setting. Switch pianism to the solo performances of Abba's Benny Andersson on his Piano album [DG 479 8143; 96kHz/24-bit] and the focus is remarkable, as are the delicacy and realistic dynamics of Andersson's instrument, recorded close-up and with every detail there in the hi-res files.

Drama And Punch
Change pace to something rather more hard-rocking – well, let's face it, almost anything would be – and the Diamond 11.1s make a pretty solid case for themselves. OK, if your prime requirement is neighbour-rattling volume levels and bass, you might want to look elsewhere, but given their compact size they present music in a highly impressive manner. They crash out the swagger of Van the Man's Roll With The Punches set [Exile Productions 5703574; 96kHz/24-bit], with its Chicago blues feel – all Hammond, piano fills and chugging bass-lines – while giving good insight into the slightly sibilant vocals and having an easygoing handling of the more downbeat tracks.

Yes, they're slightly lightweight with the Hans Zimmer score for Dunkirk [Water Tower Music/Sony Classical 88985461482], but then Zimmer's music has a habit of putting a lot of pressure on the bass drivers of any speaker! That said, while Zimmer's 'Supermarine' is no Walton 'Spitfire Prelude and Fugue', it sounds both dramatic and punchy through the little Diamond 11.1s on the end of the Rotel amp, and the crisp attack and imaging is solid and reliable, making the inner details of the scoring easy to follow.

The Wharfedale Diamond 11.1 shows the latest iteration to be a mature and refined-sounding design, as adept with mainstream rock and pop music as it is with the demands of jazz and classical pieces. It works well on the end of modest amplification of the kind one might expect to be used with a sub-£300 speaker, but it really shines (sparkles?) when you surprise it with something more ambitious, either in the form of the powerful Rotel integrated or, as I did during the listening period, with my 1990s Naim pre/power combination.

It's no giant-killer, agreed, for however hard the Wharfedale design team have tried, the sheer physics of a small speaker still impose some limitations. But the 11.1 still has the wherewithal to stand out.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
A long-running design revamped for the modern age, the Diamond 11.1 combines the slot-type bass port of the most recent models with the curved, rigid cabinets of a few years back, and throws into the mix revised drive units and a multilayer cabinet construction designed for extra solidity and damping. Positioned with care, these little speakers deliver striking imaging and fluency with a tight, well-controlled bass.

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