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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Speakers

The British are coming: Wharfedale Jade 3 speakers

Can't fit tower speakers in your abode? The Wharfedale Jade 3 monitor speaker will blow your socks off!

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Wharfedale Jade 3 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Wharfedale is an old-school British speaker manufacturer; the company was founded in 1932! I first discovered its speakers in the early 1980s when they started showing up in New York City; the little Diamond speakers sounded two or three times as expensive as their actual selling prices. I reviewed a current set of Diamond towers on this blog not that long ago, but I was eager to try a somewhat higher-end Wharfedale and selected the Jade 3 monitor speaker.

Unusually for a midsize monitor, the Jade 3 is a three-way design, with a 1-inch (25mm) aluminum dome tweeter, 3-inch (76mm) aluminum/pulp midrange driver and 6-inch (150mm) Acufibre woofer. Impedance is rated at 6 ohms and the sensually curved cabinet is 17 inches high (433mm) and 15.7 inches (400mm) deep! So it's bigger than it looks, I guess the curves threw me off, and my sample's rosewood finish is exquisite! The Jade 3 is also available in Piano Black, Black Oak and Cherry. The look and feel of the real rosewood veneer oozes high-end quality.

So I felt a little guilty getting acquainted with the Jade 3s first with the Beastie Boys' funked-up "The Mix Up" CD, turned up nice and loud! Bass was resolutely deep, fast and clear, there's no mud down there. This speaker sounds fine at low and moderate volume, but can also play fairly loud and fill big living rooms with sound. The Jade 3 likes to push its weight around, but it's also tonally accurate and highly transparent. It has the right stuff.

With "The Banner Saga," the Dallas Winds orchestra and voices took on a full-bodied presence in my listening room. The sheer scale of the sound defied my expectations; soundstage spaciousness and depth were excellent. Percussion was lively, there was no softening of transients or blurring; the low thunder of tympani bass hits didn't fluster the Jade 3s' composure. The speaker's audiophile credentials were fully in order.

I came to see the Jade 3 as an ideal step-up speaker, perfect for audiophiles who already have a very decent mid-fi system, but are now ready to buy a true audiophile-grade speaker. The Jade 3 is revealing enough to let you hear upgrades in your turntable, digital player or amplifier, but not so demanding that I couldn't do the bulk of my listening with a tiny PS Audio Sprout stereo integrated amplifier (review in the works), but I also heard the Jade 3s' transparency bloom when I put them in my main system with a Bel Canto REF500s 250-watt-per-channel power amp. Chances are you won't "outgrow" the Jade 3 as you upgrade the rest of your system.

The Jade 3's sealed cabinet (no bass port) helps make the speaker somewhat less sensitive to placement near walls or corners, though I had them 4 feet from the rear wall. Wharfedale sells a matching floor stand for the Jade 3, but I used my own metal stands. Matching towers, center-channel and surround Jade Series models are available.

US pricing for Black Oak, Cherry, and Rosewood finished Jade 3s are $1,499 per pair, Piano Black speakers run $1,799 per pair; UK prices are £839.95 and £999.95 respectively.