(click thumbnail)Fast FactsApplications: Studio, broadcast
Key Features: Two-way; biamped; active; Kevlar woofers; low-cut switch; balanced XLR and 1/4-inch inputs; unbalanced RCA inputs; LED clipping indicator
Price: Diamond Pro 8.1 - $299; Diamond Pro 8.2 - $399
Contact: Wharfedale at 425-861-3909, www.wharfedalepro.com. Let's put things in proper perspective. My father still has a pair of late 1950s Wharfedales in his basement. They're almost five feet wide, have sand filled baffles, and are heavy beyond belief. Back then, a monitor such as the Wharfedale Diamond Pro Active 8.2 would have been the stuff of fantasy. In the intervening years speaker technology has progressed to the point where affordable and accurate reproduction of sound, in a compact and inexpensive package is now the norm for most home and close field monitoring needs.
Bench TestFrequency Response: On-axis 73 Hz to 17 kHz +/- 4.8 dB
Bass Limit: 89 dB SPL @ 80 Hz (<10% Distortion)
Control Action: Low-Cut Filter
500 Hz = -2 dB
300 Hz = -4 dB
200 Hz = -5.6 dB
100 Hz = -8.8 dB
The Pro Active 8.2 has a rising high frequency characteristic with irregularities at 1 kHz and between 3.3 kHz and 7 kHz. As the microphone is moved off axis a chasm develops between 600 Hz and 2.5 kHz and significant roughness appears above 6 kHz. Low frequency extension is relatively limited and some system noise can be heard just before the unit reaches full output. The front panel clip light doesn't turn on until after the speaker begins exhibiting overload symptoms.
When the Active 8.2 is used horizontally it is best if the speaker is angled so that the listener gets directly on-axis response. When the tweeter is placed on the inside, nearest a centered listener, response lobing begins immediately as the microphone is moved toward the listener. When the tweeter is mounted toward the outside of the listener lobing a less severe but still starts within 15 degrees of on-axis.
(click thumbnail)Transfer Function
Note : The figure of merit 10% distortion for Bass Limit is used because operating characteristics of drivers (using DLC Design DUMAX) shows that when a speaker is driven to its linear operating limit (BL product has fallen to 70% of the rest position value or the suspension compliance has increased by a factor of 4) the unit will still sound clean, but further drive causes exponential increases in distortion.
-Tom NousaineFor review purposes I received a pair each of the Diamond Pro Active 8.2s and 8.1s. Of the two, the 8.2 is the larger model in the series, with a bidirectionally-woven Kevlar 6.5-inch woofer rather than the junior model's similar but smaller 5-inch woofer and commensurately smaller cabinet. Both systems feature identical 1-inch soft fabric dome neodymium magnet tweeters and onboard 60 watt low frequency/40 watt high frequency amplifiers. Inputs are handled by a XLR/1/4-inch TRS combi-jack (balanced) and a separate dedicated RCA jack.
A continuously variable input potentiometer (with a center detent at unity gain) allows for matching to a wide variety of systems. There is plenty of gain to use the Diamonds with a line level source, such as a CD/DVD player, without the need for extra preamplification. An included low-cut switch offers a 6 dB per octave filter, though the manual does not specify at what frequency the rolloff begins.
At 16.5 pounds for the Diamond 8.1s and 17.5 pounds for the 8.2s, both systems are in the lower middle weight range for their cabinet sizes, and are finished in a shimmery metallic vinyl dubbed "Iridium." The cabinets are of reasonable quality for the price, but it's apparent that the majority of the production cost has gone towards the drivers rather than elaborate cabinets. The grilles are especially flimsy, but who uses a studio monitor with the grilles on anyway? Both the 8.1 and the 8.2 are available in a passive version, for those (like me) who prefer to keep their amplifier options open.
I auditioned the 8.1s and the 8.2s over a several week period and put them through their paces accordingly. First up were the 8.1s; at first listen they sounded very lightweight and peaky, but with good transient speed and a reasonably wide soundstage. A few hours at high volume with track 20 "Special Burn in Noise" of Stereophile's Test CD 3 (which features a mixture of people shouting, banging pots and pans, low frequency bass sweeps, and other sonic flotsam) on infinite repeat, improved matters dramatically.
I noticed a similar improvement with the 8.2's low frequency extension as well after a session with the burn-in disc. I believe that the suspension of woofers needs to be exercised for at least a few hours before they're compliant enough to really sing.
Once burned in, the 8.2s were able to put forward in a convincing way the growl and warmth of a Bartolini humbucker loaded FBB Custom fretless bass strung with Thomastik flatwound strings played through a Radial JDI direct box routed into the AD146 console. Switching to a Turner Renaissance Electroline 5 string bass, I did notice that the low B string was somewhat less distinct than on another pair of active monitors of similar size that I happened to have in the studio. On the other hand those monitors cost more than double the cost of the Wharfedales.
Vocals came across fairly decently through the Diamonds, if slightly hard on some female singers. Neither Diamond should be described as "forgiving" in the midrange, and I believe that that is a positive attribute for a studio monitor.
At no point during testing of either pair of speakers was I able to get the speaker protection LED to illuminate, and it was not for lack of trying. While the output of both the Wharfedales got a little bit abrasive sounding when pushed, they had more than enough headroom to keep their composure at "normal" listening levels. It's also obvious that attention was paid to the design of the front mounted port, as only the most minimal of "chuffing" was present, even during bass heavy program material.
Mixing (both 'in the box' using Nuendo, and through the superb Audio Developments AD146 console) through the 8.2s yielded mixes which translated well to other systems. I would attribute this to the gently rolled off frequency response both at the very top and bottom of the spectra, as well as the slight midrange grittiness which was apparent with both the 8.1 and 8.2. These factors invert on playback to provide a warm bottom end, extended top end, and uncongested midrange on other more extended monitors.
As is common with many other inexpensive active designs, the Wharfedale monitors fell down a bit in their ability to reproduce low-level detail such as reverb tails, which generally made for a slightly "dry" sounding presentation. Most usually that's the fault of the electronics rather than the drivers, though it would be easy to test that hypothesis by auditioning the passive versions of the Wharfedales. Self noise (at the cone) was inaudible during virtually all monitoring conditions, and neither the 8.1 or 8.2 became alarmingly hot at any point during testing.
Both Wharfedale models represent an excellent value at their respective price points. I especially liked the compact 8.1s. While neither of the Wharfedales are the very last word in detail or transparency, they are nonetheless very solid performers and a great choice.
Audio Developments AD164 console; Radial JDI direct box; Audio Technica 4060, Audix D6 microphones; Steinberg Nuendo 3.2.Diamond 8.2 and 8.1 Studio Monitor