The Wharfedale Denton 85th Anniversary Edition is a time machine of sorts, a speaker that recalls 1970s British audiophile sound, but it's much better than that. The Denton is more transparent, with bigger and better-defined bass, and a more spacious soundstage than any affordable British monitor could muster back in the day. The Denton sells for $899 a pair in the US, and £549 in the UK.
It's a two-way design with a 1-inch (25mm) soft dome tweeter, and a 6.5-inch (165mm) black woven Kevlar woofer; both drivers are designed and made inhouse by Wharfedale. My samples' genuine red mahogany veneer is stunning, but it's also available in walnut, and the woven "tungsten" cloth grille adds a touch of class to the overall impression of the speaker. It's a very easy on the eyes design.
The cabinet measures 13.4 by 9.4 by 10.8 inches (340 by 340 by 275mm). The rear panel hosts two small bass ports and rather deluxe looking bi-wire speaker connectors. Impedance is rated at 4 ohms.
Don't confuse the Denton 85th Anniversary Edition with the still-in-production Denton 80th Anniversary Edition speaker -- the new one is a very different and more ambitious design. At this rate, I suppose we can expect the 90th Anniversary model in 2024!
Listening to the Dentons
I dove deep into the Denton sound with a heavy dose of 1970s UK rock from the Clash, Graham Parker and early Elvis Costello. I closed my eyes and I was there. Those recordings' grit and edge blasted through -- the Dentons weren't holding anything back, that's for sure.
Returning to 21st century music with Alt-J's brilliant Relaxer album, the Dentons sounded a lot better. Each tune is grounded by a weighty bass foundation that belied the Denton's reasonable size. Vocals likewise sounded so right, nothing hyped about them, making hours-long listening sessions fatigue-free.
Paul Simon's landmark Graceland album was heavily remixed in 2018, and the low down beats gave the Denton woofers a workout. The speaker packs a wallop, the Dentons handle power pretty well, but when I turned the volume way up the sound turned hard. They wouldn't be my first choice for party speakers.
The Denton's look and feel are miles ahead of the whitestand-mount speakers I auditioned in 2018 at the CNET office. Both speakers hail from UK-based manufacturers, and they're close to the same price, but the Denton looks a lot more expensive.
The 606s' sound was more forward, detailed and livelier. They're good, but these Dentons are richer and weightier in balance, which in turn makes them less-vivid performers. The 606s are higher contrast and brighter-sounding speakers, the Dentons throttle back the energy a bit. Both are recommendable, but they sound very different.
The Wharfedale Denton 85th Anniversary Edition speaker is a honey, I love the way it hearkens back to the classic UK sound, and still sounds great today.