Wharfedale, the respected British speaker manufacturer, is best known for its pricey minimonitors. The Brits are branching out into more affordable home-theater options, however, and the Diamond SW150 ($450 list) subwoofer is a great example. This is the company's most affordable subwoofer, but every part is still designed and built by Wharfedale.
The SW150's woven 10-inch Kevlar woofer resembles the ones we see on expensive B&W speakers. The woofer's cast-alloy metal frames are extremely strong and thin (the frame is the structural part of the speaker behind the cone). Many competitors rely on thick plastic or stamped metal frames that can restrict airflow inside the speaker--a bad move because it tends to muddy the sound. Our review sample's vinyl-wrapped silver finish would look better in real wood, but it's still fairly attractive. The sub also comes in four other finishes: black, cherry, beech, or rosewood, although the last two aren't imported into the United States.
Notably, Wharfedale builds the SW150's 150-watt amplifier and its associated electronics in-house--most subwoofer manufacturers buy electronics from outside suppliers. Connectivity options include stereo-line and speaker-level inputs, as well as stereo-line outputs. Considering its 44.5-pound heft, the SW150's dimensions are pretty reasonable, measuring 13 inches wide, 14 inches high, and 14.25 inches deep. Wharfedale also offers three step-up 10-inch, 12-inch, and 15-inch subwoofer models with remote-control operation for volume, crossover, phase, and the like.
During our listening tests, we mated the SW150 with the company's Diamond 9.1 bookshelf speakers, Diamond 9.CS center-channel speakers, and Diamond 9.5 towers. In its favor, the subwoofer didn't call attention to itself, blending seamlessly with the other speakers. It was an unusually adept musical performer; on acoustic bass, it evinced above-par pitch definition without any muddy boom.
Home-theater displays of bravado weren't as impactful as those of, say, JBL's or Klipsch's more dynamic performers. For example, when the tsunami crashes into Manhattan on the DVD The Day After Tomorrow, the SW150 failed to transmit the wave's force as powerfully as we'd have liked. We'd certainly give the sub a passing grade if we were to judge it solely on its deep bass extension and power, but it earns its highest marks for being a great team player with Wharfedale's tower and satellites.