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REVIEW: Wharfedale Denton 80th Anniversary speakers

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by The Seeker, Oct 18, 2015.

  1. The Seeker

    The Seeker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Having spent significant time with the Wharfedale Dentons I purchased recently, I feel like I'm ready to comment. I would first start off by saying that everything the professional reviewers as well as the members of this site say about these is pretty much spot on. Not only that, but I think they're one of the finest speakers I've ever heard, period. For the price, they are indeed an absolute steal. I just came from a session at a friend's house and we compared them against a pair of Spendor S3/5 monitors and Harbeth Monitor 30s and they held their own and then some. Midrange was very close in quality and refinement to the Monitor 30s.

    Compared to the Dentons, the Spendors had a little more finesse in the tweeter section and slightly better bass definition, though not the bass extension or weight of the Wharfedales. The Dentons put out a shocking amount of bass for their size. The Spendors had subtle grain and plastic quality to the midrange whereas the Wharfedales were rich, alluring, full, and buttery smooth by comparison. For a pair of speakers known for their midrange such as are the Spendor S3/5 to be clearly bettered in that department by a $500 pair of Wharfedales, that is some high praise for the Dentons. The Harbeths added just a bit more refinement, smoothness and control, had fuller bass, and generally sounded bigger and more sophisticated, which you would expect at six times the price. But none of these differences were dramatic. All three pairs of speakers sounded more similar than they did different. In terms of tonal and high frequency balance, all 3 speakers were remarkably similar and none were brighter or more top heavy than the other. All are very tastefully voiced and a joy to listen to.

    I detected a slight amount of cone cry during vocal peaks on both the Spendors and the Wharfedales, while it was not present to the same extent or even close with the Harbeths. This, however, is a phenomenon that is present in every loudspeaker to one degree or another and usually occurs when a manufacturer attempts to extend a midrange driver past it's mechanical limits. What is puzzling is that the crossover point of the Denton is 2.2kHz, 4.5kHz for the S3/5, and 3kHz for the Monitor 30. If anything, the Dentons should be the most well-behaved of the bunch, but they're on par with the S3/5. This indicates that though the Wharfedale Kevlar mid is superb, it does have it's limits and it is no Radial cone Harbeth driver. Again, this is no surprise. The Dentons are ridiculously good. They are not harsh. They are not strident. And I disagree with the claims that various people have made regarding them sounding too "vintage-like" or lacking in definition. That is absolutely ridiculous and the work of those who are not used to hearing neutral, detailed, natural sound and would prefer the harsh, artificially-extended highs that blare out of most modern loudspeakers. The Dentons are actually quite detailed and remarkably flat through most of the frequency spectrum. I described the Dentons as mini-Harbeth Monitor 30s to my friend before we listened this evening and after the session, both of us agreed that was an accurate statement. Thus said, I think the title "poor man's Harbeths" is most appropriate for the Wharfedale Denton 80th Anniversary speakers.

    What don't they do? Well, they don't do what the Harbeth Monitor 30s do as well as they do it (see above). They don't make the bass of my large Spendor monitors with cabinets that are twice the size in my large room where I have the speakers placed pretty far from the rear wall. Thus said, I'm done sampling the Wharfedales and will now take the opportunity to shamelessly plug the ad I'll be placing in the forum classifieds for them in a little while. Whether you buy my Dentons or you buy them from Music Direct or elsewhere, these speakers receive high marks from me. They're tamer and better mannered than most I've heard. Ever. And they're musical, rich, satisfying, detailed, and non-fatiguing. What more do you want? If I were prepared to spend up to $2000 on a pair of new speakers, I would seriously look at these above all others. They're going to take you places that you won't get to unless you spend a lot more money or unless you happen to prefer boom, sizzle, and shout. Add a subwoofer or a pair of subs and you would have a full-range system that would be quite amazing indeed.

    A word regarding amplifier power:
    The Dentons played okay on my 12 watt 6V6 tube amp, but started to give up when the volume crept up or during heavy bass passages. Switching to the 4 ohm tap improved things slightly, but you could still hear the amp straining and not quite waking up the speakers.

    My 20 wpc 7189 Sherwood integrated had absolutely no trouble driving the Wharfedales as loud as I cared to listen, which was not too loud, but loud enough.

    My friend's KE Engineering KE-50A KT-88 tube mono amplifiers drove the Wharfedales flawlessly and they sounded best with more power.

    I recommend at least 20 tube watts or 40-50 watts of solid state to achieve total satisfaction, though one could potentially live with less power if you don't push the speakers too hard. Or a legendary amp like the NAD 3020 which is rated at 20 watts into 8 ohms, but seems to pack quite a punch, would probably be awesome with the Dentons.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 18, 2015
    McLover, timind, Robert C and 10 others like this.
  2. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    1) ? I love them they are amazing, but I'm selling them?
    2) Vs. KEF LS50?
    Tim 2, Tullman and AmericanHIFI like this.
  3. The Seeker

    The Seeker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    1) I explained why. They're too small to work in my large room with my low-powered 6V6 tube amp of choice. I would have to add a subwoofer and/or purchase new amplification. Why would I do that when I'm perfectly happy with my Spendors?

    2) I would expect the LS50 to be a different sound...more analytical, less relaxing to listen to, and less forgiving. This is because, though I've not heard them, I've read many reports regarding their revealing, merciless nature. They also have an aluminum tweeter and I don't like metal domes. They sound, to me, metallic, which of course makes sense that vibrating piece of metal would sound that way. Also, the Stereophile measurements confirm a bump in the 'detail' region:


    Compare with the smooth, natural roll off of the Denton:

  4. coopmv

    coopmv Newton 1/30/2001 - 8/31/2011

    CT, USA
    I reviewed these speakers somewhat but decided to pass. While the Harbeths and the Sterlings are a bit more expensive since they are still made in the UK, I may come around at some point and spend the money. As I am also looking for a new amp for my study, a pair of mid to high-end Harbeths and Sterlings will be almost like the price of the amp I have budgeted for ...
    Tim 2 likes this.
  5. The Seeker

    The Seeker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I try not to get hung up on where things are made. Good sound is good sound and as far as I'm concerned, whoever makes the best sounding speakers wins. Of course, I would greatly prefer to have things that are made using top quality components in a nice facility where the employees are properly compensated for their time, but it's unfortunately not a perfect world. I've never heard Sterlings, but I would love to. Harbeth Monitor 30s are, in my opinion, probably the finest cone speakers ever made. No Wharfedale is ever going to compete with those, but I'm surprised at how close the Dentons come to the M30s in terms of midrange purity and beauty. Another aspect of the Dentons I failed to mention is how seamless and well done the crossover is.

    Oh, and I love the sausage dog pictured in your avatar. I have one as well. They're lovely dogs, aren't they?
  6. The Seeker

    The Seeker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Just unboxed the Dentons for another round. Couldn't resist. I have them hooked up to my Fisher 80-AZ mono blocks which each use a pair of 6L6 tubes and are about 20 watts-ish per channel. This is a great combination! I suggest that these speakers would be awesome with a vintage 7591 Fisher receiver or integrated amplifier.
    HiFi Guy 008 likes this.
  7. Daedalus

    Daedalus I haven't heard it all.....

    A while back I started a thread regarding the Denton speakers. I acquired a pair of them when the retail price was halved. These speakers are excellent-both sound quality and apparent build quality. I have bought and subsequently sold many speakers over the years but for me these are keepers. They partner well with my 25 watt Jolida tube amp as well as my solid state Denon D-A100.
    Tyler, SandAndGlass and The Seeker like this.
  8. Bettis

    Bettis Well-Known Member

    I just picked these up when my dealer had just sold his last 2 pairs of Wharfedale Diamond 10.5s that I had auditioned yesterday. I really didn't want bookshelves but they sounded amazing for their size and for a 10x10 room, I think I made the right decision. I compared them to PSB X1T floorstanders which cost almost double and it was even to me, likely that the Wharfs were better to my ears. Next I'll be amp shopping.
    The Seeker likes this.
  9. bhazen

    bhazen Apple Bonker

    Newcastle, WA
    The best <$500 standmount, for certain. You gotta spend a grand, at least, to do better.

    IMO, YMMV, etc.
    The Seeker likes this.
  10. Anton Vasin

    Anton Vasin New Member

    I'm trying to decide which bookshelves to buy. These Denton's look like a bargain but I also have an opportunity to buy demo pair of Harbeth Monitor 20 for 800$ with stands.

    What would you guys picked out of these two?

  11. coopmv

    coopmv Newton 1/30/2001 - 8/31/2011

    CT, USA
    This should be a no-brainer choice ... :righton:
  12. Anton Vasin

    Anton Vasin New Member

    Harbeth? :)
    Tim 2 likes this.
  13. coopmv

    coopmv Newton 1/30/2001 - 8/31/2011

    CT, USA
    martinb4 likes this.
  14. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    My Dentons arrived yesterday, and I immediately set them up facing each other, out of phase, with a (bass-heavy) pop music station playing on the radio. I left it going for about 11 hours yesterday, while I was out of the house. They are nowhere near fully broken in yet, but that at least got them on their way. Amplification is from a recapped Yamaha CR-1020 receiver (75 wpc), which tends to be on the cool side of neutral IMO.

    Upon my return last night night, I rewired them in phase and put them into listening position. Stands are heavy, sand-filled metal (Target?), with the tweeters raised to proper ear level.

    My initial impression is these speakers are not nearly as warm as I was expecting, but they are smooth and easy to listen to without being boring or rolled-off. If anything, they are very slightly lean-sounding, but this could probably be attributed to the Yamaha's character and also to the fact that the speakers are still breaking in. I am reserving final judgement on that for now. They do an especially good job of reproducing the human voice. Listening to NPR on FM, I was struck by how natural the announcers' voices sounded. I found that the Dentons have a nice "quickness" to them, an aspect which reminded me of the perky little Rega R1's that I used to have.

    I am so far disappointed in their imaging, which so far sounds very flat and two-dimensional. Even my ancient AR4x's have a better realized soundstage. Again, this very well could change once the speakers burn in.

    As others have stated, the rosewood finish on these speakers is rather stunning, much more so in person that how they look on the web. The wood grain pops with wonderful vividness and depth. These speakers are lovely to look at and look "high end."

    In conclusion, keeping in mind that my reference system has a pair of highly regarded KEF LS50's, the Dentons may or may not live up to my expectations in the long run. Music Direct (whom I purchased them from) has a 60-day money-back guarantee, so I will continue running them in and see how they evolve.

    Stay tuned for further evaluation...
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2016
    Dino and Shiver like this.
  15. The Seeker

    The Seeker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Try them in the main system in place of the KEFs just to hear what they do. I think you're hearing the Yamaha.
  16. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    Even though my Dentons only have about 12 hours or so of use, I couldn't resist bringing them upstairs, hooking them up to the Fisher 400, and doing a comparison to the LS50's. The Dentons sounded good, but they were much thinner and less impactful than the KEF's, which were positively exploding with tone color and depth by comparison.

    I am still reserving final judgement until the Dentons break in more, but I don't have great hopes that I will love them.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2016
  17. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    We seem to usually get what we pay for, even if heavily discounted.
    MonkeyMan and action pact like this.
  18. DigMyGroove

    DigMyGroove Forum Resident

    If you're going to return the Dentons might I suggest you give the Music Hall Marimbas a try? Originally $350, Musi Direct now has them for $179. I have KEF LS50s in my home office as the "A" speakers, and the Marimbas as the "B" speakers in my den right next door. When I go from room to room the Marimbas hold their own fairly well with the much more expensive KEFs.

    Because I have the Marimbas on bookshelves I have inserted foam into their rear bass ports to suppress the bass, and have them paired with an M&K 125v subwoofer. The Marimbas have great bass, but I can't use it due to where I have them positioned. They are exceptionally good with vocals, I'm always wowed when listening to female vocals in particular. I don't understand why they're such sleepers, at $175 they are an absolute steal.

    One thing they're not is something special to look at, just simple black boxes. In my case though it's great that they disappear on the dark bookshelves, especially as there's also a center channel and two bookshelf speakers for my home theater system there as well. When I installed the Music Hall Marimbas my wife was much happier than when she was looking at the much larger, Teak finish CSW Model 6 that had been there. Those are now in the bedroom and she's fine with that.
  19. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    Cool, I will check them out. I remember the positive review they got in Stereophile.
  20. DigMyGroove

    DigMyGroove Forum Resident

    That's the review that sold me on them, I'm glad I found it!
    action pact likes this.
  21. bruce2

    bruce2 Forum Resident

    Connecticut, USA
    I wonder how the Wharfedales and Music Hall Marimbas mentioned above would compare to the NHT SuperOne 2.1 at $300. Anyone tried them? I like the idea of a sealed box enclosure in my small space.
    waaguirr likes this.
  22. Daedalus

    Daedalus I haven't heard it all.....

    I thought these needed a long break in period judging from what I heard with mine over time. Similar to the Denon 100 year anniversary integrated amp which took a long time to "break in".
  23. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    How would you say their character changed after break in? Where did they see the most improvement?
  24. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    OK, the Dentons are still "evolving" as they break in and I'm liking them better. I will reserve final judgement until later!
  25. Ivand

    Ivand Forum Resident

    Houston, TX
    What's your view on the Dentons now? Thanks

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