The Whatmough name has been around for the past 30-odd years and remains one of Australia's best-known loudspeaker brands. Like many home-grown audio brands it has moved some (not all) of its manufacturing to China, simply in order to remain competitive.
This is something we're familiar with in all facets of manufactured goods and it's no different in the consumer electronics/AV industry. What it does tend to mean for the end user, though, is a lot more product for their money.
Design and features
This is a complete 5.1-channel AV speaker system comprising a pair of floorstanders (AV7F), centre speaker (AV7C), pair of rear effects (AV7R) and an active subwoofer, the Tornado2. All are quite substantial in size and weight, and the system is best suited to a mid-sized/larger listening room. Discretion is not what this speaker system is about. Available only in a black vinyl wrap, aesthetics aren't exactly high on this speaker system's charm offensive either.
All share similar drivers for tonal consistency using cellulose fibre cone bass/mid drivers and a soft dome tweeter. The Tornado2 subwoofer packs 240 watts of Class A/B amplification driving a forward-firing, long-throw 10-inch (250mm) woofer. Whatmough has decided to opt for sealed cabinets, except for the AV7F floorstanders, which are bass reflex and front ported. This makes them more flexible with room/wall placement, but given their size, we'd recommend giving them plenty of space.
The specs make for pretty average reading — 6 and 8 ohm impedance and OK sensitivity, so we'd expect the system to partner with the vast majority of competent AV receiver/amplifiers.
Used on their own, or with the Tornado2 subwoofer as reinforcement, the AV7F floorstanders are competent musical performers. They cover all the fundamental basics well — good stereo separation, broad soundstaging, plenty of stereo depth and accurate and stable stereo imagery. Bass is lean and well controlled, the mid-band fluid and higher frequencies sound relatively smooth and non-fatiguing. This is precisely the sort of performance you'd expect of a loudspeaker of this size, design and price.
Listening to some well-recorded and nicely rhythmic material, such as Elbow's latest album Build a Rocket Boys, the Whatmoughs impress. The bass, sans subwoofer, packs a reasonable punch and is fast, tight and with good dynamic projection. Guy Garvey's vocals have just the right amount of Northern England inflection and the album's whole presentation is one of ample atmosphere and presence.
We liked what we heard with a wide range of music, from dub reggae to The Carpenters as well as big orchestral classical works and delicate piano concertos. Musically, the Whatmoughs are good all-rounders, which isn't always the case with many AV loudspeaker systems.
Adding the remaining speakers into the mix for movie use, the Whatmoughs' musical ability translates well to 5.1-channel use. Movie sound is cohesive and well steered by the AV7 as a collective. Importantly, the centre speaker handles dialogue and other centrally placed effects impressively; ensuring voices are projected clearly and powerfully, with good dispersion too. It ensures a solid sonic bridge between the front trio and is kingpin in achieving an even multichannel balance.
The stocky Tornado2 subwoofer is capable of a certain amount of audio destruction — we were pounded into submission by the U-571 depth charge explosive sequence and things were definitely quaking as the tripod emerges from the street scene in Spielberg's War of the Worlds. We were able to push it and the entire system pretty hard before any sign of complaint. Like any surround speaker system, there's a dynamic limit but in the AV7's case, it's got a pretty high decibel tolerance level.
We'd have liked some more diffusion from the rear though — which is usually the case when using a conventional two-way speaker as surround effects. A dipole or bipole design always works better in this role, but having said that there was no mistaking that we were in the heart of the action with big sounding scenes such as the construction site chase scene in Casino Royale.
Available for a tad over AU$2000 there's no denying the value for money this surround speaker system represents. With movie use, it's plentifully powerful with big bass extension and delivers bags of drama. With a softer side, the Whatmoughs will gladly act as seducers in a stereo role too. Cosmetically, they're a bit bland in black, but if the sonics are more important than the visuals, this is a belter of a surround sound speaker system.