Active Near Field Reference Monitors are for a certain type of listener.
I am one of them, and what follows is my evaluation of the Wharfedale Pro 8.2 and 8.1 Active NFRM and how it physically compares to the Quad 12L/A.
I hope after reading this, maybe you’ll try this type of speaker and see what you like, or dislike about it. I’d like to hear back with any opinions on the subject.
Let me first describe a NFRM taken right from Wharfedale’s own booklet:
“The function of a Reference Monitor Loudspeaker System is to provide an accurate sonic reference for the operator/engineer thus enabling value decisions to be made in the recording and mixing process. The purpose of these devices is not simply to sound exciting or impressive – only to give an accurate and clean representation of the original sources and recording devices used. This must be done with the minimum destructive interaction with the room and consistently in a variety of environments. It is also essential that the Reference Monitor does not favor or exaggerate any part of the spectrum, but gives the engineer a reference for the real-world environment in which the program will be played and heard by the general public.”
It’s amazing how many people I’ve meet that use this type of speaker in a very large room, and sit too far away from the speaker as well.
Of course that’s no different than the nimrod writing this, who tried to fit his Klipschorns in a 9’ x 12’ listening room. Even the dog shook his head in disbelief. Oh well, that’s another story.
The point is every speaker, like every tool, is design to be used within certain limits, to get the maximum performance out of it. I think because some of us listen to speakers that may not be setup as they were intended, unintentionally give a shaded account of them, compared to their true potential with proper setup.
The other point to keep in mind, and I don’t see this mention very often, is like a musical instrument, most speakers are “voiced”. This means the speaker builder is trying to get a certain sound out of the speaker that he hopes will match up with most rooms and that the majority of people will choose over his competition. It might be a rise in the low bass, a dip in the midrange, a little lift in the treble, or some combination and variation of this.
With that said, I like listening to NFRM’s in my 9’ x 12’ room, more than any other type of speaker. I place the speakers on the long wall and listen about 7’ away from them. I use Standesign adjustable speaker stands, so I can place the tweeter of whatever speaker I’m using at the proper height. The distance I place the speakers from the front wall depends on if the port is in the front or back, or if it’s a sealed design.
Up until now, the best NFRM I’ve preferred for my needs is the: Acoustic Energy Evo 1.
This speaker is a result of certain trade-offs on a design, (the AE 1 @ $4000 pr.), to make it affordable (I paid $149 pr.) to the masses, as opposed to professional recording engineers. The aspects of the design change suits me just fine. The needs of most music listeners’ are much different than that of a professional recording studio, and the different people that will use the equipment. I feel the differences between the two are perfect for my needs, but may not be for yours.
Now, after hearing the Wharfedale Pro Active speakers, I wish I could hear the EVO’s bi-amped with an active crossover. I really think the main difference in the improvement of sound, from passive speakers to active ones, is not so much the bi-amping, but the active crossover. I myself just think the passive crossover unit presents a light veil over the sound of the music. The Evo 1’s have provisions to be either bi-wired, or bi-amped, but you are still using the passive crossover inside. You can tell the difference in sound right away when the two units are side by side.
The WHARFEDALE PRO 8.2A & 8.1A “Poor Man’s Quad?”
Let me start by saying, I have a variety of loudspeakers in my stable at any one time. Just like some musicians have different instruments they might like for one reason or another, I have various speakers for different musical presentation alternatives. The same is true for my electronics. With a dozen pairs on hand and the same number that no longer live here, NONE of them ever came with a booklet as informative as the one that comes with the Wharfedale Pro 8.2 & 8.1 (You can see it, or download it at their web site.)
Every speaker manufacturer could learn something from this. This booklet is so far ahead of the pack, that no speaker that I know of even comes close.
I think this kind of extensive booklet must only be for Wharfedale’s Pro line. I say this because, I just bought a new pair of Wharfedale Crystal 30 floor standers, and there wasn’t even a spec sheet in the box! They must have an A-team and B-team working there. (They should get together and talk.)
For a full overview and specifications of the 8.2 and 8.1, go to the web site:
Both Wharfs come with Iridium color laminate. It seems easy to maintain, and very durable…..and there is no way my wife would allow something that looks like that to go into our living room, or any room she’d be in for that matter. She would tell me to put them in my listening room, where no one will see them, but I really like this durable and easy to care for finish. It gives them a very professional look. (My Klipschorns were oiled oak, and she loved them…..well maybe liked them….no, I think tolerated is the better term.)
I think that both the 8.2 and 8.1 are great speakers to own. The two Wharfs have minor differences that may, or may not be important to you. You will have to decide for yourself, but here’s what I found.
The only physical difference between the two units is how they are tuned. The Wharf 8.2 volume is 0.73 cu.ft. with a single port in the front for the 6.5” woofer. This gives it an extension to 45Hz. Where as the 8.1, has a volume of 0.55 cu.ft. with a single port in the front for the 5” woofer. This gives it an extension to 50Hz. (For comparison, the Quad12L is 0.64 cu.ft. and the Quad 11L is 0.53 cu.ft.)
The amps are the exact same design and power rating. The only other difference between the two is, the 8.2 crossover is set to 1.9K Hz, compared to 2.0K Hz for the Wharf 8.1
The 8.2 also has a higher output of 108db, (due to the bigger woofer) vs. 106db for
the 8.1. Both share the same tweeter, and both use a bi-directional weave Kevlar woofers.
These are the physical differences I found between the Wharfs and the Quad 12L /A:
I don’t think anyone can argue the fact, that the biggest difference in price between the
Wharfedale Pro 8.2 A ($340 pr.), and the Quad 12L /A ($2000 pr.), is in their finish.
The Quad has a real wood finish that is sealed with 7 coats of lacquer and each coat is allowed to dry for 24 hours before the next one is applied. You can’t provide this kind of a quality finish with out putting a heavy price tag on it.
The Wharfedale, on the other hand, is probably assembled, finished and shipped within 24 hours! So this point is a no brainer. If you want a fine furniture finish, in your choice of woods, go with the Quad.
If a grey laminate finish will work for you, save some loot, and go with the Wharfs.
Here are the other differences I see between the Wharfs and the Quads.
The Wharfs have a front single port, compared to the Quads having dual ports in the rear. I’ve always had better results with the placement of front ported speakers in my 9’ x 12’ room. It seems with front ports, I don’t have to make trade offs between the sound stage, imaging, depth and the bass response.
Both the Quads and the Wharfs use the same amp and active crossover, the only difference is the crossover in the Quad is set at 1.8K Hz, and the Wharf at 1.9K Hz.
They both also seem to share the same drivers, or at least very similar ones.
The big difference is since the Quads have dual ports on the rear, the amplifier is physically smaller so as to fit it on the back of the cabinet without interfering with the ports. So basically they had to make the heat sinks on the Quads about half the size of the ones on the Wharfs. Call me crazy, but I figure, the larger the heat sinks, the cooler the unit will run. The cooler the unit runs, the longer it should last, and the better it should operate.
So it comes as no surprise to me that that the Quad 12L/A is no longer available. For the difference in price I would go with the Wharfedale’s every time. For me the 8.2 and 8.1 are the closest thing to having a set of Active Quads, and maybe even better, because now you can choose between a 12L/A or 11L/A active type of sound, depending on your needs, where as Quad made the 12L/A as their only active pro speaker.
I’ll finish by trying to describe the sound of Active NFM’s in general. This type of speaker shouldn’t sound sweet, warm, involving, or any other term people use to describe sound…..it should simply sound… TRUE. I mean what ever sound was trying to be recorded, should be reproduced the same way through these. Until you’ve experienced this sound for yourself, it’s very hard to describe with just the right words.
Some people won’t care for the sound of these at all, while others might feel this is what they have been looking for the whole time in a loudspeaker. You be the judge. I just know they work for me.
The Sound: If your taste in music is different than mine, then my comments on sound will mean nothing to you. If there is something listed here that you also like to listen to, let me know.
Alt. Pop: Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Peter Gabriel, Brian Ferry etc.
Orchestral: Gorecki, Hovanhass, Respeghi
Jazz: H. Cole, J. Monheit, D. Krall, A. Jamal
The Wharfedale Pro 8.2 Active:
What a great sounding speaker right out of the box. Although, I think any speaker using Kevlar, or any similar material, needs a long break-in time before they sound their best. Only after the break-in period do you hear them at their full potential. This may be something that changes with time, if it does, I’ll report back to you.
This is without a doubt, the most balanced speaker I’ve ever owned. From top to bottom the sound remains at a constant level, without ever favoring any certain portion of the frequency response. These also reproduce such a high level of detail in the recording that some listeners may be turned off by it. Some might feel it’s too much of a good thing, (Is that ever possible in audio??) I think the 8.2’s have a very slight hump to the bass to get a little more extension in the bottom end. Again, this is something I noticed in my room, with my amps, and my ears. You may have a different opinion after listening to them yourself. Heck, you might even like the bump!
I haven’t listened to the 8.1’s yet, (they’ll be here any day), but I bet they are a bit smoother. I think the 8.1 gives up the bass extension for a smoother response. I’m sure the 8.1’s will have enough bottom end for me, plus I intend to try a subwoofer with both models also. We’ll have to wait and see what develops.
The Wharfedale Pro 8.1 Active:
The 8.1’s are just about 3” shorter than the 8.2’s and have a 5” woofer crossed over at 2.0K Hz. The 8.2’s have the 6.5” and are crossed over at 1.9K Hz.
Aside from that, the two units are physically and electrically identical.
I just raised the 8.1’s up a few inches to put the tweeter at the same level as the 8.2’s, and made sure the SPL was the same as the 8.2’s, and sat back to compare them.
Both sets of speakers were used with a NAD 3300 integrated amplifier. By removing the jumpers on the back of the amp, I was able to connect the speakers directly to the preamp section using RCA cables. I set both speakers amps at their center detent position, which is 0db.
Since both the 8.2 & 8.1’s are so much alike, it’s understandable why they sound so similar.
They only differences I hear, (right out of the box), is that the 8.1’s seem to have lost the slight bump, along with the more extended bottom end of the 8.2’s. I also think the 8.1’s present even more detail than the 8.2’s. The difference between these two speakers can be compared to the differences between the Quad 12L and 11L. In other words, they’re close.
I would be very happy with either of these models at this point, but if I had to pick only one, and didn’t own a subwoofer, I’d go with the 8.2’s. Otherwise the 8.1’s would suit me better in my small room. I would never make such a decision though based on such a short trial period. I will keep both of these units for now, and make a decision after some time has passed. Then I’ll report back as to which one I prefer.
For now, I’ll have both sets of the Wharfs, and a set of Athena AS-F2’s, setup for an extended period, and see how well they compare with a wider variety of music in my room.
The Athena AS-F2 is my reference for comparison to any new speaker. These provide the things that are most important to me in a loudspeaker, at the absolute best price. At the moment, I feel these are the best deal in town, if your needs, and ear, are the same as mine. I like a full range, tube friendly, small footprint, dynamic, 2-way system,
front ported, efficient and well built pair of loudspeakers for $400.