Review: Wharfedale Diamond 210 Bookshelf Speakers
Achieving a State of Zen for Under $300 Canadian!
by Steve Graham
I was casting about, thinking of small speakers that I could try with the Elekit TU-8340VK amp I reviewed recently. As a last resort, I took down the Radio Shack minis that I had on my workshop walls. I placed them on top of a pair of floorstanders, connected them up and played a track. Man, were they ghastly. Bass was woolly, midrange dull and treble almost non-existent. They had to go.
Wharfedale is a storied name in British hifi. They were known in the early days for really big, real wood cabinets with multiple drivers (some open baffles, too! -Ed.). Then in 1981, they introduced the first Diamond. It was a revelation. A little speaker with full bass and a small price tag. This goes back a few years, but it seemed like every Sam The Record Man store I went into, they were playing music quite loudly over a set of Diamonds – with the bass cranked. I wonder how many people bought records after hearing them on a set of Diamonds.
Wharfedale and Diamond have become so synonymous that it makes me wonder how they can sell any speakers that don’t have the Diamond label on them. Well, obviously they must, they have other lines of speakers as well. Are the Diamonds the tail that wags the Wharfedale dog? I’d love to see a breakdown of sales by market.
Anyway, a promotion popped up in my inbox for various clearance Wharfedales. New, demo and factory refurbished models, being offered at considerable discounts from the suggested list price. Whatever ‘list price’ means anymore. I almost put my hand up for a pair of Diamond center channel speakers to place vertically. 200 dollars US for two speakers, each with two woven Kevlar woofers and a soft dome tweeter, seemed too good to pass up. Unfortunately they would have been too big for the space available in my shop.
Instead I considered the smallest Diamonds, the 210. They sport a 100mm woven Kevlar woofer and a 25mm fabric soft dome tweeter, in a vented enclosure. Wharfedale makes their own drivers in a vertically integrated factory; they don’t just shove somebody else’s woofers and tweeters into a box. I did a little searching online for reviews, but couldn’t really find a legitimate one for the 210. There was forum chatter, dealer reviews and a very curious YouTube review that’s fourteen minutes long in total, with three minutes of Japanese narration to start, followed by some environmental sounds and various music tracks. Helpful? Not really.
The closest I could come to a real review was of the Diamond 225, by Stereophile’s Herb Reichert. Now, I don’t dislike Herb, but his flowery prose can be a bit of a hard slog at times. Herb liked the 225.
So in the end, your faithful audio scribe decided to take yet another one for the team and have a punt, as the Brits would say, on a pair of factory-refurbished Diamond 210s. $230 CDN for the pair plus shipping and tax. Two days later the mail man delivered a small box, light enough that he didn’t complain about his knees while carrying it up my front steps.
No one screws up the English language quite like the English. Well, at least as far as names are concerned. Once upon a time I worked with three great guys from the UK. Wooster became Whoozie, Hitchman changed to Hitchie, and Gary was, and still is by all reports, known as Gazzer. Gazzer is from Manchester and one of the funniest guys I’ve known. People from Manchester are known as Mancunians. Don’t you just love that? I do. I have no problem calling the smallest Wharfedales, “Wharfies”.
Three minutes after receiving the Wharfies, I had them out of the box. As noted earlier, the pair I ordered were factory refurbs. But I don’t see how they could be refurbished, as there’s no way to get inside them. I’ll describe that investigation a little later. The only flaw I could see was a very slight scratch on the back of one of the cabinets. The front is painted gloss white, the other 5 surfaces are semi-gloss white. I figured white wouldn’t show the dust in my shop the way black does. There are two plastic plugs on the rear that can be removed for attachment to a mounting bracket. Be warned, the threaded insert concealed by the plugs is metric, M6, not ¼”-20. If you try the wrong screw, well, let’s just say you’ll hate yourself. Also, the thread is blind, so if your M6 screw is too long and you force it, you’ll hate yourself.
I put some self-adhesive rubber feet on to the bottoms and plunked them on top of my PSB’s. The stereo was already running, so I just disconnected the big speakers, connected up the Wharfies and slipped Kind of Blue in to the CD player. Around the 53 second mark in to So What, a sax plays in the right channel. I happened to be standing near the speaker and it sounded distorted. I freaked out! I’d gotten a bad speaker! I swapped the Wharfies left for right, still distorted. Freaked out even more! Connected the PSB’s back up. Distorted! Freaked out even more still! Bad tube maybe? Then I calmed down. Popped the disc out of the player then rushed upstairs to my headphone rig. Distorted sax again. I concluded two things: the distortion is probably on the disc, and the Wharfies are not low resolution speakers. Calm returned to Casa Graham.
The Wharfies were plunked on top of the PSB’s and connected up again, this time spinning some Loreena McKennitt. They sounded nice. My wife came in, she said they sounded nice. Over the next two weeks or so the Wharfies ran 24/7, either playing some music for non-serious listening, or connected to my late father’s 40-year-old Pioneer receiver, tuned to a classical station.
My listening room isn’t really set up for small speakers. I don’t have stands and the room is too big for small speakers. I connected them up and put one on the ARC line stage on my left equipment rack and the other on the DVD player on the right side. Sitting on the floor so that the speakers and I formed an equilateral triangle, the Wharfies do the mini-monitor, 3D, big-screen imaging thing. I find this sort of listening interesting, but fatiguing. All of my energies go in to processing the soundstage “magic”. and there’s none left over to just enjoy the music.
With any overachiever, you want to push it to (or past) its limits just to see, or in this case hear, how it will perform. Unreasonable from a system matching point of view, I connected the Wharfies to two different amplification chains. First to my own Audio Research line stage/power amp, and secondly to the Elekit TU-8340VK power/Aikido linestage combo. The Elekit had the KT77 tubes I really liked in the recent power tube shootout.
Also on board the Elekit were the optional Lundahl output transformers. A TU8340VK update will appear soon on WoS, detailing my thoughts on the Lundahls, as well as a pair of floor standing speakers from Triangle, and listening to the Elekit in triode mode.
With the ultralinear/triode switch on the Elekit set to triode, the Diamonds played cleanly at a louder level than I expected they would, though this was nowhere near concert-level Def Leppard, obviously. The Wharfies noticeably resolved the differences between the two amplification chains. The ARC pair imaged better, with the sound stage extending past the outer edges of the speakers, and with more definite positioning, especially the center fill between the speakers. There was also another small layer of detail revealed, with the ARC gear. The Elekit/Aikido was still enjoyable; there was a bit more excitement and intimacy to the sound than I heard with the more reserved ARC pair.
This is a pretty stunning achievement for a little pair of speakers that cost less than a family of four might spend for a day at an amusement park. And don’t think that big-buck amplification is required to enjoy these speakers. As you’ll read below, they were also a lot of fun connected up to my highly suspect kitchen system.
Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to have a look inside. Not an easy proposition. All I could do was remove the terminal cup and have a peek. The crossover is not just a capacitor and an inductor. Three caps, two of them film types, two inductors and at least two resistors were visible. The front on mine appears to be glued to the rest of the cabinet. I suspect that my Wharfies were not internally refurbished. The near-microscopic blemish, I’m assuming, was the reason for the lower price.
While my wife was out at yoga, I removed a small set of ancient speakers from atop our kitchen cabinets. The Wharfies were connected up and music, supplied by an old Rotel receiver and a CD player of questionable pedigree, poured forth. I spun some Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bob Marley and Lee Ritenour. I danced around the kitchen, not a pretty sight I’m sure, enjoying everything I played. The 210 doesn’t do the thing with the highs that some small speakers slip up on, notably make the treble too bright. On a speaker with limited bass extension, flat or especially raised treble response can lead to an off kilter sound. Wharfedale strikes a good balance between detail and extension in the higher octaves.
I took a few pictures, see below, but wasn’t watching the time. My wife got home when the Wharfies were playing Am I Wrong from Ritenour’s Six String Theory. My wife said, “They look nice, I like the sound too. They can stay right there.” What could I say? She not only tolerates my audio hobby but encourages it. It seems like I’ll be looking for another pair of speakers for my workshop.
Are these serious speakers for an audiophile? Yes and no. If you are an impoverished audiophile, or one with severe space limitations, they are worth every penny. If you can manage it, going one or two notches up the Diamond food chain would no doubt be beneficial. It you can’t, don’t sweat it, the 210 has very satisfying fidelity and a fun-to-price ratio that’s off the charts. These would also be fine speakers for a bedroom, kitchen or other “second system” as well. They’re also a great go-to speaker when a non-audiophile friend or relative asks for a recommendation.
I’m sure there are lots of other small speakers out there worthy of recommendation too, but I don’t regret buying the Wharfies for a minute and I don’t think anyone else will either. Just don’t let your significant other hear them until they are securely attached to the wall of your choice.
On a personal note: As I write this, it was about a year ago that I contacted Noam and inquired if he was looking for another equipment reviewer. I have to say this past year has been fun, but what astonishes me is the number of things I’ve learned. I hope I’ve been able to pass a few of these on to our readers.
Please scroll down and ask a question or leave a comment if you wish. We love hearing from you.
Send a Donation
If you've enjoyed this content, consider supporting Wall Of Sound with a donation. It only takes a moment and will be greatly appreciated.
why but this junk when you can get NHT SuperOne………or other speakers from Internet Direct companies like Ascend………
NHT SuperOne….that’s 20 years old now. 🙂
They were pretty good but you’d be looking at an old used pair, in this price range.
The latest and current version of the NHT SuperOne, the NHT SuperOne 2.1, is currently available and has been on the market for several years now.
As Steve said, those retail at about twice the cost of the Wharfedales he reviewed.
I had NHT’s in the 90’s (Super Zero’s and Super One’s), this is when they were made in the U.S. They’re made in China now. I’m not saying they’re junk, but I also don’t see why the other commenter was calling the Wharfies ‘junk’.
Even though I am not “techno music equipment savoy,” I must admit that these articles/stories written by the infamous Steve Graham over the last several months have most certainly entertained me, if not tickled my fancy! Personally, I enjoy listening to all sorts of music and my only instrument worthy of sound is an ipod! How sad is that? Anyway, I particularly enjoyed this Wharfie story. Found myself laughing out loud and being educated on several matters all at the same time. Most interesting! I just may have to buy me a set of those techno speaker thingies to replace my mini music system! I wonder if I can find this Steve guy to help me out? Perhaps if he was more famous I could look him up? Oh well, what will be will be. Thanks for these great stories Steve. You are a natural at writing and you got the smarts for things “music techy!” Keep up the good work here!
Thank you for your comments folks. Though I enjoy the mainstream audio press (Stereophile & their associated web sites, TAS etc.) I blanche at the price of some of the equipment they review. In the current issue of Stereophile they review a pair of speakers that are $109,000 US. I believe the reviewer when he says they are fantastic but let’s face it, these are products for the 1%.
For this review I put myself in the shoes of normal people (read non-audiophiles) and audiophiles on a strict budget. People that are putting kids through school and paying down a mortgage and think even $500 is silly or out of reach for a decent pair of speakers.
As I write this it costs about $1.39 Canadian to by one US dollar! That would put a new pair of NHT SuperZero 2.1 at about $450 CDN tax, shipping and courier brokerage charges in. I’m not saying the SuperZero isn’t worth it to us audiophiles but normal people might balk.
The Wharfies set me back $270 Canadian including tax and shipping. I believe they are a decent, viable alternative to the no-name products that people might be tempted buy at a big box store.
And who knows, a set of cheap Wharfies today and when the mortgage is paid maybe a set of Paradigms or PSBs.
I firmly believe we can’t just preach to the choir if specialist audio is to survive. Decent, entry level products might bring normal people into our crazy, but harmless, little corner.
Cheers, Steve Graham
I am currently deciding between the Wharfedale diamond 210’s and the 220’s.
I have a small living room (about 25 square meters) in which I use a Pioneer VSX-923 surround receiver with an JBL subwoofer hooked up to it. Would it still be beneficial to save a little extra for the 220’s or does the subwoofer fill the gap in the low frequencies and would the 210’s be sufficient?
Esthetically the 210’s would look better in my living space, but I think the sound is more important than looks.
Thanks for your interest in Wall of Sound. My first instinct is to say bigger is always better when it come to speakers. But seriously, check out the specs of both speakers on the Wharfedale website and you’ll see that the 220 will play 5db louder. The bass extension might not be a factor since you are using a sub but if your budget will stretch to the 220s and they’ll fit in your space, the 220 is 8.3cmm higher and 3.1cm wider than the 210, I think the 220 would give you more long term satisfaction especially if you like to crank it up occasionally. It would be hard to go wrong with either one of these little over-achievers.
All the best, Steve
Thank you for your quick response.
Could you define ”crank it up”? Does this mean ‘I want to hear my speakers in the other room’ or ‘I am risking serious hearing damage’? According to an app that measures decibel output (of course questioning the integrity of the app) when I crank it up to a level where my neighbors will start door banging and calling the landlord because I can’t hear them banging, I am reaching average levels of 85dB with peaks of 96dB. This is on small awful sounding samsung surround speakers in which I still can’t hear any distortion at these levels. On average my listing volume lies somewhere between 67 and 76dB. Would the 210’s cover this neatly? What would you recommend in my situation? I’m kind of new to this and your’s is the only decent review I’ve found about the 210’s. The 220’s are supposed to be awesome budget bookshelf speakers. I’m wondering if the 210’s are soundwise alike, but just a little les powerful or if there is more to it.
Kind regards, Koen
I guess if your neighbours are objecting it’s too loud. I don’t listen at ear splitting levels but there are times, if the music warrants it, I have it louder than what could be considered a polite level.
I’m fortunate in that I live in a single family dwelling, have a dedicated listening room and a very, very tolerant wife.
I can only relate my own experience. 40 years ago I bought a set of Infinity speakers and got the smallest one in their entry level series. I should have bought the next one up.
A few years after that I bought the second from the top in their mid-line series. I should have bought the next one up.
About ten years ago I bought a pair of the then top of the line PSB speakers and haven’t regretted it.
Though I haven’t heard the Wharfedale 220 they will have a bit more dynamic headroom and go a bit lower in the bass, based on the manufacturer’s specifications.
I don’t think, budgetary and space issues aside, you would regret buying the 220. You might in future want to go to a more purist setup without a subwoofer and potentially a larger room and the 220 would defiantly be the better way to go if that happens.
I hope this helps. Steve
Can you tell me what’s the difference between the Diamond 2xx series and the Diamond 11 series. Has the latter replaced the former or are they of different quality?
Peter, thank you for your interest in WoS.
I don’t have any inside information but it would appear that the Diamond 11 series of speakers is a more upscale version of the Diamond 200s. If you look closely on the Wharfedale website the 11 series appears to have curved sides on their cabinets.
Here’s what I think has/is happening: The Diamond designation has become so associated with Wharfedale’s high value line of speakers that they have to badge the name on other lines to get attention in the marketplace. I’m not saying that other lines of Wharfedale’s are not a good value to but to get noticed their marketing department might have done a bit of creative recycling, name-wise. It could be a case of the tail wagging the dog. 🙂
All the best, Steve Graham
Thanks for your reply. Your theory might be true. It’s a pitty that I can’t audition Them anywhere. In fact I can’t audition either model anywhere. You have no plans to review the 11.2 by any chance?
In the end I decided to take the plunge and bought the Diamond 11.2. I have them hooked up to my Marantz Model 2015 and alternately to my Marantz Model 1060 for two days now, so I guess they are not run in yet. I have tried different bookshelves in my desktop setup (Wharfedale 507.2’s, Magnat Zero 3, Mordaunt-Short Aviano 2 and Mordaunt-Short Mezzo 2). Of the speakers I have tried I kept coming back to the Wharfedale 507.2. I guess I’m a Wharfie fan. Compared to my old 507.2’s the 11.2’s are quite small. They sound just as big however. I get a full bass. Mid range is very musical and rich. Most importantly, the tweeter is kind to my ears yet offers much detail. I have a desktop set up so we are dealing with near field listening conditions. Most other speakers I have tried give me listening fatigue because of the brightness of the tweeter. The 507.2’s did well in this department and I’m glad to report that the 11.2’s have the same characteristic. Typically Wharfedale you might say. So far I’m very happy with my new Wharfies. As they are not quite run in yet they can only get better over time.
Hi Peter. I am planning on buying the diamond 11.2 as well. I wanted to ask if you can describe them more in terms of the sound they deliver.
Hey, thanks for your review on the Wharfies. I am just about buying a pair and stumbled by your real cool and “for humans” post.
I just want to tell you a very serious advice. My advice is: DON’T UNPLUG SPEAKERS WHEN THE AMP IS ON, AND DON’T TURN ON AMP IF THERE ARE NO SPEAKERS CONNECTED. NEVER. NEVER.
You’ll hate yourself one day. And I’ll think you’re blasphemous.
So, always make sure you unplugged the amp from the wall outlet before you disconnect the speakers, and connect the speakers back before plugging the amp back into the wall outlet.
Keep on the good listening!
Greetings Jorge and thank you for your interest in Wall of Sound. It is always good to get feed back from our readers especially the positive kind.
I agree with you that it’s a good idea to turn the power off when changing speakers on a solid state amp. Most tube amps (those with output transformers anyway) are generally less bothered by changing speakers “live”.
More important, with both tube and transistor POWER amps, is powering them down when connecting or disconnecting anything to their input jacks. This is not usually a problem with line stages or integrated amps as long as their volume controls are set to minimum.
The exception to this rule is components connected with balanced XLR type connectors. With XLRs the ground connection is made first unlike RCA plugs where the “hot” connection is made first, hence the loud buzz that often occurs when changing RCA connections live.
I swap the cables around live all the time on my balanced-connected ARC gear without incident, so far.
Regards, Steve Graham
I assure you,these are definitely not “junk”.While in the process of building a new system,thinking I’d keep things low key,I ended up with a pair of the 225’s purchased from Music Direct on Amazon.I’ve gotta say..what a deal..$450 for the pair..and of course I did Prime to get the free shipping.Won’t even admit to what I first hooked them up to,but that was just temporary.Watching the classifieds found a local seller with a NAD C 315BEE..original owner..just a few miles away and $200 price tag was decent.Been using these together for the last 6 months and I’m very happy with this combo…except for a growing yen to return to tubes.And now I can hardly wait to finish a pair of project amps and turn them loose on the Wharfies.It sounds like the 210’s are just as much a steal at $300.
Thank you for your comment and interest in Wall of Sound Mr. Seymour. I’ve tried the 210s with three different tube amps and one SS amp. They all sounded good. I suspect the 225s will work well with tubes too and the better the amp the better they’ll sound. Good luck with your project amps. Keep checking back, or subscribe to updates, the tube phono preamp project is a go. We might tempt you into building one for yourself.
Regards, Steve Graham
I bought a new pair of 210’s a couple years ago for $175US for my office system. I must report that I could not be happier with them. Great sound and detail driven by Linn electronics and an iPad Mini loaded with tunes.
I just saw tha Crutchfield now has them on sale for $149.99US while supplies last. The smart audiophile should jump on such a deal for a secondary system.
Thanks much for your 210 review.