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Wharfedale Diamond 12.2 Loudspeakers: The Audiophile System Builder

Can the $600 Wharfedale Diamond 12.2 loudspeakers offer a full-range experience? We build a system around them that can.

Wharfedale Diamond 12.2 Bookshelf Speakers in Black Ash, Light Oak, White Oak and Walnut finishes

Affordability has become a very important trend in 2023 and that is a very good thing for consumers who love music but feel that too much of high-end audio is out of reach. Having been an audiophile for almost 40 years and consumer A/V journalist and editor for 24 years – I have a hard time refuting those thoughts – especially from those who take the time to research their options and ask reasonable questions.

Our recent “Best Budget Speakers” feature has been, not surprisingly, very popular and I hope that it answered some questions for those with a budget of only $500 USD for a pair of loudspeakers. I own 6 pairs of loudspeakers between $250 and $500 and have assembled some great sounding systems with them. Being frugal – something that has become mandatory with 3 children, college, and private school tuition, ageing parents who require financial help, and a pile of bills on my desk – almost feels like the responsible way to act right now.

I’m a rather vocal proponent of combining a pair of affordable bookshelf loudspeakers with a high-quality subwoofer than can be vanished, but I also recognize that a lot of people want a pair of affordable bookshelf or stand-mounted loudspeakers that can deliver some low end punch.

Wharfedale Diamond 12.2 Bookshelf Speakers Front Walnut No grille

Enter the Wharfedale Diamond 12.2 Loudspeakers which retail for $600 USD/pair. 

Wharfedale’s founder, Gilbert Briggs built his first loudspeaker in 1932 in his home in Ilkey, Yorkshire; the town was based in the valley of the river “Wharfe.” Briggs opened Wharfedale Wireless Works in 1933 supplying advanced loudspeaker drivers to the growing radio industry and the company became a leading supplier selling more than 9,000 units per year until the outbreak of World War II. The company flourished after the war and became one of the first companies to offer a two-way loudspeaker in 1945 – the prototype for the modern loudspeaker. 

Fast forward to 2023 and we find Wharfedale as a major global brand in the loudspeaker category with almost 65 products in its lineup. The company still designs everything in the United Kingdom but conducts it manufacturing overseas to keep its products affordable; the Heritage Linton and EVO series loudspeakers deliver excellent sound quality and are extremely popular with consumers shopping for loudspeakers in the $800 – $2,000 range. 

I’ve been a Wharfedale customer for almost a decade and listen to my pair of Diamond 10.1 bookshelf loudspeakers almost every single day. They were an exceptional value when I purchased them almost 7 years ago and they work well with a wide variety of electronics. 

The Diamond series receives a facelift every 3-4 years, and the updated Diamond 12 series products are already proving to be a massive hit. 

Wharfedale understands that most consumers don’t have a lot of space and are working within a very specific budget when buying a hi-fi system. 

There are specific brands of electronics that work exceptionally well with Wharfedale’s loudspeakers; Audiolab, Croft, Marantz, Rotel, Cambridge Audio, Quad, Rega, and NAD. All of these brands have at least one integrated amplifier that is affordable and a good match for the Diamond 12.2 loudspeakers. 

The Wharfedale Diamond 12.2’s are not ideal for a desktop; unless you posses an especially large desktop, but they do work rather well on stands or a media unit.

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These stand-mounted loudspeakers are a two-way, bass-reflex design. The 6.5-inch mid/bass driver uses a polypropylene/mica composite cone material, and the tweeter is a 1-inch textile dome design that offers a very smooth sounding top end and excellent dispersion. 

Wharfedale Diamond 12.2 Bookshelf Speaker Rear Light Oak

The Wharfedale Diamond 12.2’s are rear ported (which is a switch back to the older design that sits on my desk) and offer two sets of binding posts.

The cabinet is extremely rigid for a design at this price level; there are multiple layers of MDF and extensive bracing to control resonance that might otherwise impact the sound in a negative way. 

The loudspeaker measures 13” H x 7.87” W x 12.3” D making them a rather chunky bookshelf or stand-mounted loudspeaker.

For 2023, the Diamond 12.2’s are available in 4 different finishes; we’re a huge fan of the Light Oak finish that is very clean and modern looking. The white baffle looks very sharp on the desktop on a pair of stands. 

Wharfedale Diamond 12.2 Bookshelf Speakers Front Light Oak
Wharfedale Diamond 12.2 in Light Oak

The Wharfedale Diamond 12.2’s are also not a very demanding load for an amplifier; the impedance does drop to 3.7 ohms, but the 86.5 dB sensitivity rating is accurate and you’re fine with any amplifier over 40 watts/channel in a room smaller than 20′ x 15′ x 9′ (my current living room).

Their quoted frequency response is 50Hz – 20kHz, and they definitely benefit from the addition of a subwoofer — but I would not call it mandatory. The 12.2’s play with a lot more authority in the low end than the Diamond 12.1’s and that will become apparent if you utilize an amplifier with a lot of low end control and power.

AVRs are rather mediocre with the 12.2’s and that has been my experience across the board unless you are spending the extra money on something from Anthem or the brand new Marantz Cinema Series — which are all considerably more expensive than any of the loudspeakers in the Diamond series.

Wharfedale Diamond 12.2 Bookshelf Speaker Front White Oak

Nu? How do they sound?

Wharfedale loudspeakers most certainly have a “house” sound; warm in the midrange, smooth and slightly rolled-off in the treble, and never aggressive. 

What is most striking about the Diamond 12.2’s is how authoritative these loudspeakers can sound with the right amplifier; and within the context of a system where you are only 8 to 12 feet away from the loudspeakers. 

Coherency and detail are both excellent, and I was pleased to hear that they don’t make excuses for poor recordings. Feed them garbage and you’ll know it. 

The midrange is excellent on these loudspeakers; warm, detailed, and quite transparent for a loudspeaker in this price bracket. 

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The treble has a little more bite than I expected from a Wharfedale, but it knows when to stay in its lane. You would have to drive this loudspeaker with very analytical sounding equipment to make the top end sound hard or etched. 

Bass response is surprisingly robust; there is something wrong with your system if you don’t find it rather defined, controlled, and quick. The larger midrange/woofer has far more impact and presence than the 5-inch driver used in the smaller loudspeakers in the series.

NAD C 316BEE V2 Stereo Integrated Amplifier

The NAD C 316BEE V2 is a perfect match for these loudspeakers; from a tonal perspective and because it comes with an excellent phono stage if you ever decide to add a turntable to this system.

Other good matches would be the Rotel A12MKII, Cambridge Audio CXA61, or Rega Elex-R Integrated Amplifiers.

The iFi Audio ZEN Stream, NAD CS1 or Cambridge AXN10 Network Players are logical options at this price point and will all sound great with our suggested amplifiers.

Andover Audio SpinDeck Max Turntable White
Andover Audio SpinDeck Max (white)

Do you need a turntable? We want to keep this system under $3,500 so your best options would be the Andover Audio SpinDeck Max or Pioneer PLX-1000.

Wharfedale is available through MoFi Distribution out of Chicago and in honor of my former home, I’m calling this system the “Char Dog.” 

If you’ve ever been subject to abuse from the fine people at the Wieners Circle on N. Clark – we are practically family at this point. 

Standing in line once at midnight in the cold next to a shivering Vince Vaughn, I realized that we are all indeed, just the same. 

You. Me. Them. Everybody. 

Where to buy

Related reading: Find more Audiophile System Builder articles.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Asa

    February 22, 2023 at 5:40 pm

    As you’ve state in other reviews/articles, this type of product is a dying breed. Why buy these when you can buy and an internally amped desk-top speaker for roughly the same price? I suppose if you have some of the other items laying around, then this might be preferable.
    As always, thanks for the excellent reviews (btw, I love that you’re folks are audiophiles). 🙂

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