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Wharfedale Denton 85th
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Trad. appearance means it comes in a sturdy, squat cabinet measuring 340mm high, 240mm wide and 275mm deep, plus 12mm more for terminals. But it is solid and heavy at 9kgs, purposed for a strong shelf or stands; the Denton is certainly no mini. But at the same time cabinet volume is how you get decent bass, so size here isn’t cosmetic but has purpose. ’Speakers of old might not have been tall and slim – they had bass instead! 

   A real wood veneer is used and the front panel is even surrounded by baffle trim – rarely seen nowadays. With grill on or off you get to see a Wharfedale badge. Both cabinet and bass unit size have increased over the 80th edition (reviewed in our November 2012 issue), and the tweeter is now offset to produce a ‘handed pair’ – giving left and right loudspeakers, tweeter on inside for best imaging. 

   At rear there are lovely heavy duty gold plated terminals, with removable links to allow bi-wiring. They accept bare wire, 4mm banana plugs or spades; easy to access and use. 

 

SOUND QUALITY

I paired the Denton 85th Anniversarys with a safe combo of Creek Evolution 100A  amplifier, driven via Chord Company Epic balanced cables to the power amp section from an Audiiolab 8300 CDQ player acting as preamp and CD player. An Astell&Kern AK-120 player delivered hi-res, connected to the 8300 CDQ digitally via a short QED Quartz glass optical cable. Loudspeaker cables were Chord Company Signatures. 

 

 

 

Wharfedale parts being made on a Marconi production line.

 
 

Starting with high dynamic range (uncompressed) CDs, saxophone behind Hans Thessink singing Mississippi had a nice warm and fulsome presence, trundling along casually behind his vocals that stood out well. There was good dynamic separation between them and reverb around Hans Thessink’s vocals was made obvious, giving a nice feeling of atmosphere and being-there. Guitar strings were crystalline in quality, forward in the mix and finger picking highlighted, making for a close-up feeling. 

   The bass line in John Campbell’s Down in the Hole (CD) strode along firmly and had plenty of presence, showing an Olde-Worlde ability here: think fulsome and powerful. The Denton’s sound large – larger than they appear. Distinctive in a good way.

   Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams (24/96) was dealt with less sympathetically. Steve Nicks vocals were sharp sounding and cymbal crashes from Mick Fleetwood’s drum kit harsh. This track is a digital transcription from analogue master tape that I use regularly and know is a bit hard and bright up top. The Denton 85s emphasised its problems, making for a not especially pleasant rendition; “unforgiving” my notes say. But I was wrong, because I review loudspeakers grille off – but with the Denton 85th Anniversary the grille must be on, because it is not transparent, being relied upon to reduce high treble. With grille on balance was restored but there was still some treble wispiness.

   Rimsky Korsakov’s Snow Maiden from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (24/96) came over as a lively performance with horns, violins well separated, and with entertainingly strong kettle drum strikes. Here the Denton 85s were deliciously resonant, enhanced by the cabinet in old-stye fashion. Distinctive in a good way again here; I haven’t heard this sort of delivery for a long time and feel they brought an engaging sense of scale to orchestra, belying their small size. 

   Moving on to vinyl I hooked up our Timestep Evo Technics SL-1200 Mk2 turntable with SME309 arm and Audio Technica VM750SH moving magnet (MM) cartridge, working through an Icon Audio PS3 Mk2 valve phono stage. Spinning Hugh Masekela’s Uptownship (180gm, from Analogue Production) the Dentons sounded vividly clean and forthright, giving fantastic insight into the music. Now their strong treble served to highlight the ringing percussion. There was also resonant heft to the drums, making them lively and exciting. 

 

Wharfedale loudspeaker delivery by latest method in the 1950s. See propeller in background!

 

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