It’s been barely a year since I first listened to the Wharfedale Diamond 225. That was my very first review, and I still break out that pair every once in a while. Not out of nostalgia or anything like that, but because the Diamond 225s are a very solid reference speaker, especially for entry-level stand-mounts. They look good; they sound good. They do everything I want a speaker of that price point to do.
I’m mentioning the 225s because I was just sent Wharfedale’s new Diamond 11.1 bookshelf speaker ($499). It’s the middle level of the three available stand-mounts in the updated Diamond 11 line. Three new floorstanders and two new center speakers round out that series and run the gamut in terms of pricing, although they’re still incredibly reasonable by hi-fi standards. And I have to admit, I’m really excited to get to listen to the 11.1s, although I can’t get that past review of the 225s out of my head.
Wharfedale hit it out of the park with the 225s, so much so that I still really like them. I’ve gone through other speakers, other components, new music, a new house, all that life stuff. Changes have happened. Tastes have shifted. But the 225s are still in rotation—steadfast, loyal, pleasant. If there’s anything consistent in my life, it’s the Diamond 225.
OK, so maybe I’m exaggerating just a little bit. Maybe that degree of devotion on my part isn’t fair to the 11.1s or even to my actual family for that matter. I’m going to listen to these new speakers on their own terms, but let’s be honest here: You never forget your first love, goes the cliché. Well, you never forget your first review, and since I have prior Diamond experience, a lot of these listening notes are backed up by comparisons to the 225 pair. I don’t want to spoil anything from the outset, but I will say this: It turns out, my heart is capable of loving another.
The Wharfedale Diamond 11.1 looks very similar to previous Diamond stand-mounts, at least in their recent iterations. They feature a 1" textile-dome tweeter overtop a 5" woven Kevlar bass/mid driver with a glossy black baffle and silver shiny rings around the tweeter and the woofer. “Wharfedale” is etched so finely beneath the woofer that I can barely see it from across the room. They use the same slot-loaded bass-reflex port design seen on past Diamond speakers; it makes the speaker look like it’s standing on a tiny plinth. This feature lets you place them near a wall, where they can still deliver a decent amount of bass—or at least as much low-end output as these speakers are capable of producing.
Wharfedale rates the 11.1 nominally at 4 ohms, although the company notes that it’s 8 ohms compatible, with a moderate sensitivity of 87dB. I found them easy to drive using a few various amplifiers, including my First Watt J2, which doesn’t always do too well into anything less than 8 ohms, but it drove the 11.1s just fine. I also tried them with the Schiit Audio Vidar—a new addition to my system—and that 100Wpc amp provided more than enough power. I mainly stuck with my Cambridge Audio CXA80 for the bulk of my listening, and found it capably drove the 11.1s. I never felt the need to crank them up to Beyoncé-concert levels, but I suspect I could get them there if I really wanted to. Overall, I think the 11.1s would pair best with a moderately powerful amplifier, although they definitely don’t need something monstrous.
The most interesting and striking physical feature of the 11.1 is its curved body. It tapers backwards from the baffle, and looks almost wind-swept. It’s a very pretty effect, and may contribute to its overall natural and smooth sound, which I’ll touch on later. As objects though, they pass the living-room test: I put them in my living room, and I didn’t hate them. Let’s be honest, not every hi-fi component can pass this very basic test, but I’m pretty happy in this case. Wharfedale clearly hit on a winning design with the Diamond series, which is probably why it’s been relatively stable over the last couple of iterations.