An audiophile speaker for a budget price: Wharfedale Diamond 220
It's true, the Wharfedale Diamond 220 is the real deal!
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Wharfedale is one of those well-regarded British loudspeaker manufacturers that I take for granted. Their speakers have always been strong contenders, and the brand first made its mark in the US with its entry-level Diamond Series in the early 1980s. The Diamonds are still with us, they're now called the Diamond 200 Series.
For this review I selected the larger of the two Diamond 200 Series bookshelf models, the 220, but there's also three towers and a center channel speaker. I first assumed the Diamond 220 was a sealed box design, but it's not; there's a bass port on the bottom panel that's acoustically coupled to the speaker's base. My samples faux rosewood cabinet, with black gloss front baffle are attractive, yet discreet.
Non-removable, round black cloth grilles cover the speaker's 1-inch (25mm) soft dome tweeter and 5-inch (130mm) woven Kevlar woofer. The backside has beefy, all-metal bi-wire speaker wire connectors, the speakers are also available in black ash, pearl walnut, and white sandex finishes. The Diamond 220 is 12.5 inches (315mm) tall, and its impedance is listed as "8 Ohm compatible," but the minimum impedance is 4.1 Ohms. My 40-watt per channel NAD C 316BEE integrated amplifier had absolutely no trouble driving the speakers.
The Diamond 220 replaces the Diamond 10.1 and 10.2 models; I reviewed the 10.1 three years ago and really loved it. I didn't have it on hand to directly compare, but I still see Diamond 10 Series speakers online, so if you can get a deal on those, go for it.
The sound is open and clear, the Diamond 220 doesn't call attention to itself. I like that, and as I played all types of music, and watched "House of Cards" I forgot all about the Diamond 220, that's a good sign, nothing about the sound distracted me.
Aphex Twin's lively new "Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2" album is a rather minimalist affair, with lots of solo drums and plucked strings, and the Diamond 220s' sound was immediate and dynamically alive. Switching over to the somewhat larger Chane A1rx-c bookshelf speakers I heard less fullness and overly aggressive brightness with The Black Keys' "Brothers" album. I felt, literally, that the Diamond 220s belted out the 'Keys' raunchy blues rock with more authority. Classical music also really shined, the Diamond 220s clicked with all music genres.