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Wharfedale Denton 80th Anniversary Edition
Sound Quality
Conclusion
Measured Performance
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From Hi-Fi World - November  2012 issue
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Yesterday today

 

Wharfedale Denton 80th Anniversary edition

To celebrate its 80th anniversary Wharfedale has launched the Denton 80th Anniversary Edition loudspeaker. But can it cut it in today’s market? Jon Myles finds out.

 

In this brave new hi-fi world of streaming audio, iPods, hard disc storage and what-have-you, it takes a company with a certain chutzpah to release a product harking back 45 years. But then again not every company is Wharfedale – with all the heritage that famous name brings with it.

What better way for the iconic loudspeaker brand to celebrate its 80th anniversary than by revisiting one of its most popular models? The new, limited-edition Denton compact standmounter does just that.

The original Denton hit the market in 1967 and became one of the then Yorkshire-based outfit’s biggest-selling models – bringing a taste of high fidelity to those who couldn’t afford Wharfedale’s more exotic (and expensive) speakers.

In fact, there’s more than a few of the originals still in use, as a quick look at any number of internet auction sites will testify.

What you get with the new Denton is a decidedly retro looking loudspeaker boasting a beautifully veneered Mahogany cabinet, inset front baffle and traditional cloth grille. But beneath that 1960s fascia things inside are very different indeed. The original model’s paper cone mid/bass unit is replaced by Wharfedale’s own 21st century 125mm woven Kevlar driver while the tweeter is a bang-up-to-date 25mm textile soft dome.

Round the back are a pair of small rear ports and sturdy off-set bi-wire terminals.

Sensitivity is quoted at 86dB with a 6ohm nominal impedance.

The whole package measures  320x200x305mm – slightly deeper but not too far off the originals. The new Denton may hark back to the past but there’s no doubt it looks and feels fantastic.


SOUND QUALITY

Wharfedale’s ownership has passed to the China-based IAG group – but that 80 years of experience means making damn fine loudspeakers is imprinted in their DNA.

I was initially expecting a period of readjustment with the compact Dentons, because they followed the large and seriously impressive Epos Elan 35 floorstanders into my listening room. That the period lasted less than five minutes tells you just how good this new Wharfedale is. IAG’s head designer Peter Comeau says he voiced the 2012-specification Dentons to reflect the sound of the original model: “Musical but with a touch of warmth.” And, in short, that’s exactly what you get.

Fire them up and the first thing you notice is the impressive timing and amazing amount of detail they manage to excavate. 

The Clash’s take on the reggae classic ‘Time Is Tight’ positively bounded from the speakers – and the Dentons had no difficulty delineating the occasional burst of saxophone buried so deep in the mix it can sometimes be barely audible. It’s this sense of detail that makes the Wharfedales sound significantly more expensive than their £500 price tag.

Elizabeth Fraser’s vocals on Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ are pitched just right while you can hear Nick Cave maliciously smacking his lips together with fiendish menace on ‘Song Of Joy’ from Murder Ballads. It's this detail that means dense, complicated tracks fare extremely well – the Dentons letting you follow individual instruments with ease.

Bernard Sumner’s little guitar flourishes from New Order’s Brotherhood collection are a case in point. Where these are glossed over on some similarly sized and priced speakers, they are clearly defined on the Dentons, adding a refreshing depth to the music.Wharfedale Denton 80th Anniversary edition rear

Integration between the mid/bass and tweeter is also exemplary. The high-frequency textile dome is extremely civilised with no hint of a screech. It all adds up to a package that has fine overall smoothness yet doesn’t miss any of the musical message, whatever is being played. Jazz, rock, classical – whatever your tastes the Dentons handle it all with a refreshing aplomb.

And if you’re perhaps harbouring any fears that recessed 1960s-style front baffle may restrict imaging then you can put them to one side immediately.

The Dentons do what modern small speakers are renowned for by delivering impressive out-of-the-box imaging. Stereo definition is precise and solid – anchored firmly between the speakers with admirable depth. Music really does seem to be projected well into the room with realistic height and weight.

On that note I also tried them with the grilles both on and off and couldn’t notice any significant difference – so left them on as, frankly, they look better that way.

So, what don’t the revised Dentons do? Well admittedly they don’t run deep (just not possible for a speaker this size). But that warmth Peter talks about does give the subjective impression of tracks having a little bit more bass than is actually there.

Luckily, though, it’s not the tuneless thud-thud-thud served up by some inferior models. Instead upper bass is tuneful and solid, meaning you never get the feeling anything is missing from the music.

It’s a very careful balance. The Dentons never give the impression they are emphasising one part of the music to the detriment of another yet still manage to avoid sounding overly dry and clinical. Instead they just make music sound fun – whether you want to delve deep into a mix or simply let it flow over you.

They are also fairly forgiving on positioning and power levels. Positioned close to walls the small port size means there’s minimal boomy bass. But yes, they do sound better with a little free space around them.

And they have no trouble being pushed hard. Wharfedale recommend amplifiers of 25-100 watts. I cranked up the volume with 80 watts of Naim amplification and it was only at unsociably loud levels that they really started to show any strain.  That’s undoubtedly a consequence of the quality of cabinet construction and drive units employed. Even pushed relatively hard they remain civilised.


CONCLUSION

The Wharfedale Dentons’ 1960s retro look will inevitably be a matter of taste. Personally, I love it. But taken on sound quality alone there’s no argument: Wharfedale have produced a very impressive, sophisticated, detailed and musical speaker here at an almost bargain price of £500. They combine class-leading levels of detail, coherence and a toe-tapping factor that just demands you keep listening.

You could easily spend a great deal more and end up with much less than the Dentons deliver.

Factor in the superb build quality and there’s no doubt Wharfedale has done a fine job of updating a classic from its illustrious 

 

Warm, extremely detailed and very musical, the new Wharfedale Denton is a superb speaker for the price – highly recommended.

 

 

FOR

- detail

- supremely smooth

- retro look

- build quality

 

AGAINST

- retro look? 

 

 

WHARFEDALE DENTON 80th Anniversary Edition £500

Wharfedale

    +44 (0)1480 452561

www.wharfedale.co.uk


MEASURED PERFORMANCE

The Wharfedale Denton 80th Anniversary Edition measured flat on-axis, grill on or off. Slightly off-axis (i.e. pointing straight down a room and not at the listener), with grill on, it gave the result published. Taking the grill off made little difference, even above 10kHz where wavelengths are short, and off-axis balance differed little from on-axis so dispersion is good.  Phase matching was also very good, response varying little with height. Although looking retro, the Denton was in fact better than most modern loudspeakers in these important areas. The drive units are very high quality. 

Absence of a midband crossover dip will result in plentiful detail and a sense of definition, whilst the slow roll off in upper treble will ensure the sort of smooth sound older loudspeakers were known for. This is a loudspeaker that will not screech, yet it is tonally very accurate, more so than most. 

The bass unit reaches down to 70Hz and there is some peaking around 100Hz. The two small ports are broadly tuned (red trace) and effectively damp the bass unit so the Denton 80th has good bass control and will not boom or sound sloppy. Although port output reaches down low, small ports do not produce much acoustic power; their SPL was just +2dB up on forward output at 80Hz.

Our 200mS decay spectrum (not shown here) was clean, even at low frequencies; the cabinet is not ‘hot’ and will not overhang or boom. The drive units are relatively uncoloured too.

At 86dB sensitivity was high as small loudspeakers go, largely because a 4 Ohm bass unit has been used and, below 500Hz, this is a 4 Ohm loudspeaker our impedance curve shows (5.7 Ohms overall). This curve also confirms excellent bass unit damping by absence of residual peaks either side of the anti-resonant port system. The load is largely resistive, another plus point, as energy is not returned to the amplifier.

The Denton will have strong upper bass and a full bodied presentation, with smooth treble and plenty of mid-range detail. Bass looks controlled and should be of good quality. This is a very modern, well executed design. Only the cabinet is trad. NK

 

FREQUENCY RESPONSE (what it means)

Wharfedale Denton 80th Anniversary edition frequency response

Green - drive unit; Red - port

 

IMPEDANCE  (what it means)

Wharfedale Denton 80th Anniversary edition impedance

 

DECAY SPECTRUM 200mS (what it means)

Wharfedale Denton 80th Anniversary decay graph

 

DECAY MAP 200mS (what it means)

Wharfedale Denton 80th Anniversary edition decay map

 
Comments (4)
wharfedale denton 80th anniversary speakers
4Friday, 20 March 2015 16:32
robert baldry
I think it's a wonderful pair of speakers. The Denton's have a beautiful detailed and rich sound. The sound is full and full of depth. They sound much better than any others of similar price in my opinion. The retro look won't appeal to many but the sound is amazing and so revealing. A shame its a limited addition. Well worth searching for.
Thanks for the recommendation
3Saturday, 07 June 2014 08:39
Matt
Having spent some time looking for speakers that were to my taste came across your review.For the first time I actually bought a pair ''on faith'' for £300 , new, sold on EBAY as ''slight cosmetic seconds'' released by the manufacturers. I can only wholeheartedly agree with your comments.
A truly great set of speakers that combine the best of old and new. (and i really cannot find a cosmetic fault on them, wharfedales standards are obvously very high for this model)
Limited Edition ?
2Friday, 28 December 2012 05:45
Kenji
I was told the new 80th Anniversary Denton speakers are limited edition; and they only make 2000 pairs. Is this true?

Hi Kenji. At this moment I do not know: everyone is enjoying Christmas and / or recovering from the New Year celebrations so I cannot ask. But I am meeting designer Peter Comeau on 4th January 2013 and will ask him for you. I will post his reply here.
He did tell me traditional Wharfedales are popular in China and Far East markets, so it seems likely some form of Denton will continue. Noel Keywood

UPDATE 8/1/13
I met designer Peter Comeau last Friday and put your question to him. The 80th Anniversary Edition is not limited specifically by number produced, but it is by being current only over the anniversary year, so one year's production of this loudspeaker is all that will leave the factory. It seems to me this would amount to around 2500 pairs though, so your figure is probably not far off. Noel Keywood
Wharfedale
1Saturday, 17 November 2012 00:34
Marco
Finally – a good looking speaker not resembling a condom!

Er - yes, O.K. Marco. I don't know what loudspeakers you have been looking at. Were they in a brothel?

The Wharfedale's 'classic styling' appeals a lot to the Chinese market, as well as others not wanting unpleasant objects in their lounge (shall we say!).

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