If you are in the market for a sub-£200 loudspeaker you have lots of options, but Wharfedale is a name that has been in this market for donkeys’ years and so if only for that reason their D320 standmounters attracted our attention. But how do they perform? Harry and Stuart Smith find out. 

Wharfedale is famous for their super-popular Diamond range of speakers that have been a mainstay in many entry-level Hifi systems for decades. The D300 range aims to be a slightly cheaper alternative to the Diamonds that are being marketed as a more premium option, though they are intended to exist alongside the Diamond range of speakers. The new line of speakers includes the D310 bookshelf speakers, D330 floor standers, D300C centre unit and the D320 bookshelf speakers that I was sent to review.

If you haven’t heard of Wharfedale already, you probably have been living under a rock for the last eighty plus years. They have been a heavyweight in the Hifi industry since the early 1930s and have been champions of the entry-level and midrange speaker market gaining particular success in the eighties with their original Diamonds. 

BUILD AND FEATURES

The D320s that I was sent for review cost just £199 and come in four finishes, black, white, rosewood and walnut.

At first sight, the speakers seem pretty ordinary until you look at the back and realize that there is no port – but they are not a closed box design. The port on the D320s is actually situated on the bottom side of the cabinet firing down – though there are rubber feet on the cabs to raise them above shelves, desks or speaker stand. I chose to use a pair of ISO Acoustic stands as I know they work well, raise the speakers a little on my desk and allow more air below the downward firing port. However, this proved to be a bit of a problem at first as the rubber feet were getting in the way of the contact between the speaker and the stand. Thankfully they were easy to remove with a hex key (not included with the speakers).

The curved edges and understated Wharfedale logo make the speakers look elegant and not out of place in my typical early twenty-something flat.

In fact, I would go as far as to say I’m a big fan of the build quality considering the price; the wood and high-quality plastics are soft to the touch and seem very durable. The feel of the materials and curves remind me of a Martin & Co acoustic guitar (very high praise from a guitarist)

The D320s are driven by a 4” bass driver teamed with a 1” soft dome full range driver. The bass drive units are made from woven kevlar with a foam surround.

The D320s were much heavier than I expected but this is probably down to Wharfedale not skimping on the materials. They’re made in China but at this price, I wasn’t expecting anything else.

You would struggle to find better build quality on another pair of sub £200 speakers in my opinion.

SOUND QUALITY 

For this review, I paired the D320s with an Amptastic mini 1 amplifier and a SOtM sHP-100 DAC along with a set of Atlas Equator 2.0 speaker cables. I used a laptop as my main media source running TIDAL and taking advantage of their “Master Tracks” where it was possible.

The D320s are great all-rounders. Nothing stands out as the speakers’ best quality but everything sounds exactly as you would expect, given their budget price-point. That being said, the bass is pretty damn good and the speakers go much louder than you would expect before they start to break up and distort. Indeed, with the modest output of the Amptastic amp, I was hard pushed to get them to these kinds of levels. The soundstage, in general, is much wider than you would get from a traditional pair of bookshelf speakers at this price and perhaps this is down to the shape of the front baffle

The advantage of having the port on the bottom becomes apparent on more bassy tracks when the lower notes (thankfully) don’t overwhelm the mids or highs that are surprisingly clear.

No matter what I threw at them the speakers managed to deliver a fantastic listening experience.

Janelle Monàe’s album “Dirty Computer” was definitely a great opportunity to showcase the all-around performance. Her signature R&B sound paired with disco Nile Rodgers style guitar loops and almost Beach Boy-esque backing vocals sounded immersive, especially on the track “Make Me Feel”

“Got To Keep On” by the Chemical Brothers also impressed me. The overall groovy feel of the track filled with repetitive but catchy backing vocals were not too overwhelming and let the synth hook take center-stage. The speakers didn’t distort at all even though I was playing the track at near full volume. (the neighbours unfortunately didn’t appreciate the clarity of the speakers at this volume).

On more acoustic tracks featuring folk guitars like “Blackbird” by the Beatles, I was able to hear the intricacy of the fingerpicking and background bird call sound effects. Paul Mccartney’s unmistakable vocals sounded warm and natural.

The D320s didn’t struggle with Rock at all. Blur’s 2003 album “Think Tank” and its heavily distorted guitars, robotic backing vocals, and repetitive drums were easy to differentiate from each other as the speakers provided good separation between the instruments. Even though the sound of this album is rather unconventional, it was faithfully reproduced. This is personally my favorite Blur album and one of my favorite albums of all time, so I’m happy that it sounded great on the Wharfedales. “Crazy Beat” was definitely the best track on the album to showcase the speakers – it can sometimes sound muddy on cheaper hardware, but that wasn’t the case here. “Propaganda” by Muse was also able to showcase the same characteristics as the Blur track as it features similar distorted guitar riffs and vocals.

Jazz also sounded surprisingly good. Horns, pianos and electric organs were vivid and contrasted really well with the deep bass lines that the D320s are able to deliver. Gregory Porter’s album “Take Me To The Alley” was definitely a highlight as some speakers struggle to faithfully reproduce his signature smooth deep voice. Not the Wharfedales! They sounded rich and warm like hot chocolate 

CONCLUSION 

All in all the sound quality of the D320s is definitely their main selling point. At this price, I would struggle to find such a great allrounder to compete with them. There are probably speakers around this price that deliver slightly better clarity but not without compromising the bass and mids. Wharfedale have been able to produce a pair of speakers that perform well no matter what you throw at them as they are very well balanced. If I was building a sub £500 system I wouldn’t hesitate on including the D320s no matter what genre of music you prefer. And recommend them to anyone on a tight budget.

AT A GLANCE

Build Quality: No complaints at this price it would be hard to find better build quality.

Sound Quality: Fantastic all-rounder. Overall a very pleasing listening experience with a surprising amount of punch.

Value For Money: The easiest £199 you would spend on a pair of speakers. They don’t disappoint no matter what music you’re into.

Pros: Great all-round sound and excellent build quality for the price

Cons: Would love there to be a hex key included in the box to make fitting them on stands easier but that’s being churlish.

Price: £199

Harry Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Hifi Pig we believe in matching similarly priced components with similarly priced components – or perhaps that should read products that perform at similar levels. Our philosophy is very much that a review really only has value if someone reading that review is able to relate to it and that it is somewhat pointless to pop a £3000 amplifier in a system that is running a pair of speakers that cost a couple of hundred quid. Hang with me on this point, I am getting to the review and this really is relevant. We have lots of reviewers and each of those reviewers have systems that come in at various price-points and here at Hfi Pig Towers we have several systems at different levels of performance. The final system we put together here was our circa £1000 system and we searched high and low and tested many bits of kit to ensure we had what we believed to be a relevant and realistic system that we could slot in review items that arrived on our doorstep. So, what has all this to do with the Wharfedale D320s? Well, when we were looking to put this system together we came across these speakers being run by another Outstanding Product award-winning partnership in the form of the Audiolab 6000A amp with DAC and 6000CDT CD Transport costing £599 and £399 respectively and we were very impressed – sadly the Audiolab partnership put us over our budget otherwise they would be on our rack as I type. Anyway, based on this audition we bit the bullet and bought a pair of the Wharfedales to add to our Amptastic amp and Cambridge Audio DAC Magic and we’ve been listening to them very happily since in order to get a handle on what they bring to the budget table.

This is not a full review, it’s meant as a bit of an addition to what has already been written by Harry and to ascertain whether the D320s are worthy of our Outstanding Product award (we don’t give them out on a whim like some publications and gave out less than ten in 2018 and even less the year before). In short, the answer is yes they are worthy, but why?

Of course they are a budget speaker and so you aren’t getting all the frills and jewelry you get on more expensive speakers – they are vinyl wrapped and you get just one pair of binding posts (though the binding posts are of great quality), but you do get removable magnetic grills that cover just the drivers rather than the whole baffle.

The Wharfedales are a balanced speaker that is well built, very well built for the asking price, they are easy to listen to and in my opinion punches well above its asking price. They fit well in the system, are unfussy about their placement and image very well indeed. They are not the last word in finesse when compared to much more expensive offerings but they are highly enjoyable and for those looking to enjoy their music without breaking the bank they offer a great insight into the recordings that are thrown through them. Bass doesn’t go massively low but it isn’t a one-note fart, mids are clear and articulate and there is good detail in the tops. The Wharfedales are agile and will satisfy those looking to move up from a soundbar based system and enter the world of “real” hifi. I also reckon they will prove popular in surround sound AV systems. They perform best on decent and solid stands but they also work well on a desk, though they are pretty big for a desktop system.

At highish volumes, they have that boogie factor and at low levels they have enough detail and poise to delight. Put simply, we stopped looking for a speaker for this review system once we plumbed them in and in all honesty I was really surprised by their performance. Look, Wharfedale is a big company that is able to exert the economies of scale where Fred in his shed producing speakers at this price-point just cannot compete and sonically this shows. Other offerings at this price-point are available and notably I’d say the Mission LX-2 should also be considered – both made in the Far East – but for me, the Wharfedales have it by a nose and as such, they are staying. with this in mind I have no hesittion at all in giving them Hifi Pig’s top accolade! Harry also bought his pair for his review system!

Stuart Smith

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