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Wharfedale Denton 80th Anniversary, a non-professional review

Discussion in 'British Audio' started by BadassBob, Nov 3, 2014.

  1. BadassBob

    BadassBob Digitally rendered

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    Last week at this time, while researching possible components for a new system, I stumbled across the Wharfedale Denton 80th Anniversary speakers at Music Direct. The mahogany finish looked great in the pictures, and the frequency response of 44Hz to 24KHz +/-3dB sounded like something I could live with. Mind you, my background is SET/high efficiency speakers that require large cabinets to make that sort of bass. I wasn't sure what to expect from a 5" woofer, so I bought them expecting the worst. At the same time, I bought a Music Hall a15.3 integrated amplifier that puts out 50WPC at 8 ohms, and 95W at 4, thinking it would be a nice fit for the 6 ohm Dentons. I needed something a little on the beefy side to power these, as I didn't have anything available that put out more than 15WPC. I do have a NAD C350 as well, but that's used in my living room with B&W DM302's.

    Upon unboxing the Denton's, the first thing I noticed was they were wrapped in a white cloth sack with a draw string, and after removing the speakers from the box, another bag was enclosed with the manual and a pair of white gloves for handling. Impressive. Never would I have thought that speakers at this price point would be packaged that well. I'm used to new speakers being wrapped in a plastic bag and nothing more. The only thing that could've wowed me more during unboxing would've been the inclusion of a bottle of Ardmore single-malt, very impressive packaging. Once the speakers were removed from the cloth bags, I noticed the beauty of the red mahogany veneer. The pictures online don't do the finish any justice as it is quite exceptional, a very deep red and a grain one could get lost in. The tungsten-colored grills are also a very nice touch, they mesh very well with the red mahogany, and the speakers look better with them on (IMO of course).

    Once the love affair that was unboxing was over with, I mounted them on a pair of 24" Dayton stands and hooked them up to the Music Hall integrated, connected with White Lightning Moonshine speaker cables and a Raspberry Pi as a source. On the Raspberry Pi, a Hifimediy Sabre USB DAC is used for getting the sound to the Music Hall, connected with a 1ft 3.5mm to RCA Monoprice cable. The speakers were positioned toed in about 3ft from the rear wall, with the side walls about 12ft each side, listening position is about 8ft back. My musical tastes vary, but generally consist of ambient electronica and rock from the 1960's through 1990's with a little outlaw country thrown in the mix. The tracks I used for referencing purposes are Shpongle - And The Day Turned To Night, Rage Against The Machine - Wake Up, and Alice In Chains - Down In A Hole.

    Shpongle - And The Day Turned To Night
    This is a very long track, at just a hair over 20 minutes in length. Simon Posford uses many layers in his compositions and goes all over the map many of his songs. Sometimes one will even wonder if it's the same song playing by the time it's finished. The large soundscapes portrayed by Shpongle were finely textured on my former SET system, and still were with the Denton/a15.3 combo. This particular track has a bass passage that kicks one in the chest, and these Denton's were able to replicate that better than my 12" EV coaxials. I could even feel it in my listening chair. Impressive for a 5" woofer. Raja Ram's flute was conveyed with a sense of airiness and great detail, and I was easily able to hear him inhaling between passages, something that I couldn't on my old system. The textures in all the layers of the song had a very intricate sound, and I could more readily pick out the layers that I previously thought were meshed together. There's more to this song than I thought. Very nice resolution indeed.

    Rage Against The Machine - Wake Up
    This has always been one of my favorites, even before I was an audiophile. Rage Against The Machine is my generation's Bob Dylan. Not from a musical standpoint, but a lyrical standpoint. Zack De La Rocha sounds even more pissed off, Tom Morello's guitar sounds crunchy, and Tim Commerford's style of playing bass (picked, slapped, and plucked) has a great sound to it. You could hear Commerford's thumb slapping strings and his fingers plucking them. Both him and Morello could be heard making their way up and down the fretboard. Previously, it was only Morello I could hear doing such a thing, but now I hear them both. This album is very well mastered, and the soundstage puts the listener front and center.

    Alice In Chains - Down In A Hole
    Jerry Cantrell is one of my favorite guitarists, and his talents and characteristic dissonant playing style really shine in this track. Many systems I've heard have a hard time conveying the harmonizing between Cantrell and Staley, which has lead many to think either one or the other was singing some passages, and not both as what's actually done. Cantrell's voice is sad, and Staley's angry and upset. Cantrell's guitar playing in this track conveys a sad and airy sound signature that can be hard to catch on some systems, but this one had the hair standing up on my back, very very good! Sean Kinney's drumming is very nice too, making his bass drum felt in my listening chair good, and giving me that all-familiar hit in the chest. The harmonizing vocals of Cantrell and Staley were very well conveyed by these speakers, even better than my EV's, and this was with a lower tier DAC to boot.

    To sum it all up, these speakers are fantastic, especially for the price Music Direct is currently selling them for ($500). The biggest thing I've noticed, all of my music is now listenable, from the very well mastered Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits to the very poorly mastered Kill 'Em All by Metallica. My previous system was far too source-dependent, making poorly mastered recordings unlistenable for the most part. It was either feast or famine with that system, but now I can sit back in my chair knowing I won't be getting any fatigue or surprises making me duck for cover. The soundstage is very wide and deep, but not as large as it was with my EV's, but the sweet spot is much bigger. These sound larger than their small size would dictate, and definitely do go deeper than the 12TRXB's they replaced. I had no idea a 5" woofer could convey that depth of bass. Not only does the bass dig deep, but it's very tuneful as well. The cabinets are very well constructed and make a nice "thud" when you knock on them, no resonances whatsoever. I can't really say I fault anything in these because they are a completely different animal than what I'm used to. There aren't any other speakers I've owned that I can directly compare to, so the only thing I can really say is to judge with your own ears. I'm a very satisfied customer, and the transition from SET/HE to a modern integrated/monitors wasn't what I expected. In the beginning, I was expecting disappointment, but now that I've spent time with the new setup, I will say it was a very pleasant transition. Now I know what all the hubub about modern audio is, and will say I favor it more than vintage at this time. Soon, I will have a new DAC (undetermined model), and expect the sound to get better once it's in my system. These Denton's are a steal at the $500 price on Music Direct, and I wouldn't hesitate to buy them at their $1000 MSRP. Great job Wharfedale, you have a hit on your hands.
     

     

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  2. Gang-Twanger

    Gang-Twanger Resident Wharfedaliophool

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    Very-nice review...

    Aw man, they gift-wrap 'em like a 15 year old single-malt bourbon too? Wow, that's awesome. I think I found my next speaker purchase. I HAVE to have a pair of these. I just hope I can come up with the money before that sale ends. They sound exactly like the sort of speaker that would make me fall head over heels in love at first listen. Nice to know they can rock as well as rock you to sleep.

    Somebody get me some Phazyme Ultra Strength... I got gear acquisition syndrome.
     
  3. Tbone289

    Tbone289 Schiit/Creek

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    Thanks for the review Bob. It appears that they're as great to listen to as they are to look at.
     
  4. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

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    I guess I need to come over for a listen - eh? :D
     
  5. Gang-Twanger

    Gang-Twanger Resident Wharfedaliophool

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    By the way, here's the speaker in question...
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Tell me you wouldn't love to shop in THAT store... Handsome little bugger, isn't it?
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2014
  6. BadassBob

    BadassBob Digitally rendered

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    Hows that bullet taste, Gang-Twanger? :lmao:
     

     

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  7. Gang-Twanger

    Gang-Twanger Resident Wharfedaliophool

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    [That bullet was making me crazy... Ended up buying a pair within two weeks of this post if I'm not mistaken]

    Don't know... Can't quite reach it inside the chamber with my tongue. Damn automatics. :D

    Yeah, I've been thinking hard about it. I need to find a way to scrounge up enough money for those. Any idea how long they'll be on sale at that price?

    Also, I need to read up a bit on them, review-wise, so I can make sure I'll be able to power them with my Fisher 800C if needed. My 2000x needs some work, plus I love the sound of my Fisher anyway, but damn, I want a pair of those things. I've been saying how I can use a smaller, modern alternative to my big W90's, and I was thinking about a pair of B&W DM23's if I can find some, but I'd rather have those Dentons.

    I love that they're great with modern electronic music. I'm a fan of electro/techno stuff, andj W90's are surprisingly-good with a lot of that stuff, but I still want a quicker speaker for music like that, and the Dentons fit the bill. Plus, they're warm, cozy, and super-musical to boot. And I'm afraid that if I let this sale pass me by, I'll never get around to buying them later at the regular price.

    Are all these pictures (that I posted) of the same finish that yours have? I much prefer the look of this amber-like finish over the red/burgundy ones. And I don't like them in black.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2015
  8. BadassBob

    BadassBob Digitally rendered

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    I had to buy an amp with mine because everything else I had on hand was low-power. I'd say 50-ish watts would suit you fine. How big of a room will you put them in? My space is 30 x 16 and 50W is plenty good :yes:
     
  9. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

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    only 50 W :D

    So you are in flea-powered SS? :lmao: sorry couldn't resist....
     
  10. BadassBob

    BadassBob Digitally rendered

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    Once a flea lover, always a flea lover *scratch scratch* :D
     
  11. Gang-Twanger

    Gang-Twanger Resident Wharfedaliophool

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    Oh no, only about 14' x 14' at best, and I don't go crazy with the volume. I just don't want to hurt the speakers OR my receiver/s.

    I want 'em though. This is the first modern speaker I've crazy-lusted after since buying the W90's. Plus, I LOVE that finish in those pictures. Need to go down to the clinic and sell some blood. But Xmas is coming, so maybe I can work something out with the family.

    After buying them, I can work on getting my 2000x looked at and maybe power them with that. The 2000x should actually be a good match for them. I also have a 4000 that needs looking at as well. Money money money... That's why it would be nice if I can use the Fisher temporarily UNTIL I get the others in ship shape. Plus, I don't want to miss that price.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2014

     

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  12. BadassBob

    BadassBob Digitally rendered

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    I think you'd be fine in that room with the 800C, 35W should be plenty good ;)
     
  13. Gang-Twanger

    Gang-Twanger Resident Wharfedaliophool

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    Good to hear. I was just worried about ohm'age as well as underpowering. God, those sure are purty.
     
  14. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

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    The speaker fit and finish now is amazing.....

    Even for the real inexpensive ones.
     
  15. Gang-Twanger

    Gang-Twanger Resident Wharfedaliophool

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    Yeah, I can't stop staring at them. I'm mesmerized. Those are some deep cabs by the way. Must be maximizing the crap out of that little woofer. Something tells me these speakers can outperform some very-expensive competitors, maybe even including some LS3/5a-types.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2015
  16. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

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    It is amazing what they can do now-a-days but some of the older speakers are no slouches either. It is easier with computer-aided design and calculations is all. The newer cone materials are the big differences.
     

     

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  17. BadassBob

    BadassBob Digitally rendered

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    If I had LS3/5a's to compare them to, I'd let you know in an instant. The only speaker that I own that I can compare them to are my B&W DM302's, and there really is no comparison. For reference purposes, the DM302's were $250 per pair nearly 20 years ago and feature the same driver configuration (1" soft dome/5" woofer). The only thing that the DM302's have going for them is their 91dB 1W/m efficiency, but they are much lighter in the bass, and have a lower midrange hump to "compensate" for it. They do sound good enough, but the Dentons are much much better, both in sound and build quality. Both are speakers one can listen to all day, but the DM302's don't sound as nice at higher volume's, as that's when you can hear the cabinet limitations rearing it's ugly head. The bass gets boomy and loses resolution, but the tweeter does keep up well enough.
     
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  18. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

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    LS3/5A are about midrange - that is what they excel at. Not the entire audio spectrum - not very dynamic either.
     
  19. BadassBob

    BadassBob Digitally rendered

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    I hear lots of SET guys like the LS3/5a. Are they wearing them as headphones or something? :lmao:
     
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  20. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

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    They are considered 'Nearfield' speakers - they were designed for portable recording studios (like in the back of a van).

    [​IMG]
     

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