Wharfdale 10.1 speaker: budget superstar or hype??

We generally discuss the pro and cons of various $1000 plus components in these threads. However, I have been seen several over-the-top reviews on the Wharfdale Diamond 10.1 speaker which retails for $349. I am curious if any one has auditioned this budget overachiever, and actually heard it matched against other speakers costing 3 or 4 times as much.

Occasionally, these audio anomolies come along and perform way beyond their price point, or just are reviewers' hype. It will be interesting to hear comments about the entry level Wharfdale 10.1 speaker, and/or other ocassional phenomenon like the NAD 3020; Dynaco A-25, Epos 14; or a Rega Planet CD player just to name a few that take the audio market unexpectedly by storm. Thanks Jim
Budget overachievers present challenges. In general, they can get you 80% or so there in overall performance and they can excel in one or more areas. It becomes then, are the areas where they excel of importance to you. You can put together a pretty decent system for $750 to a grand. In addition, you can train yourself to appreciate the sound of better components.

I am a sucker for the over achieving budget loudspeakers and over the years, I have owned quite a few of them. I did not care for the B&W 302, which were a Stereophile Class C, but loved the Rega Ara (now the RS1), which I don't think ever made anyone's list. I could never see what was special about the EPOS ELS3, as it did not have the same house sound as the EPOS 11, which I owned and loved for years.

I had the Wharfedale Diamond 8.1, which I liked (and gifted to a friend). A few years later, I had the Diamond 9.2, which I was indifferent about, even though it was a well regarded speaker. I would not be tempted by the 10.1.

If I were going the budget route, I would try the Ascend Acoustics CBM-170 at $300 (I happily own the Sierra S1). The Ascend Acoustics house sound is lively and detailed with a touch of warmth. Or conversely, I would shop places like Vann's or Audio Advisors, which have deals like the $600 Energy RC10s for $300. I like the idea of a $600 speaker at half price, as opposed to a $300 speaker at list.

If you can audition these speakers ... great. But in most cities (NYC included), auditioning is not convenient.

As for other budget picks ... I am enjoying the Emotiva CD player (ERC2) that I picked up on sale for $350. NAD budget integrateds are usually worth the price. Rega Apollo CD player at its current $650 price is a steal. NHT speakers are just plain nice. The Magneplanar MMG are always tempting at $600 and I have 2 cats that would love me to pull the trigger on them.

After awhile though, chasing the budget overachievers is costly. Assuming that you can, you are probably better off buying something that really has the sound that you are looking for, as opposed to settling (or experimenting) and then, looking to upgrade 6 months later.

When I look at my main components, I have owned them for years ... Prima Luna amps going on 8 years, Rega Apollo for 6 years, Musical Fidelity Preamp/ CD player for 9 years, Outlaw receiver for 6 years, SONY SACD player for 11 years.

So, my point ... it took time and some cash to learn what I like. I still get tempted by budget electronics, because $350, is almost disposable money (I said almost). I don't feel that the reviews are hype ... that particular product may have hit the reviewer's hot buttons. Part of this becomes knowing what the reviewer looks for.

Rich and Ryder: You both make excellent points. I did consider the Paradign Atom V7, but felt it could lack even fair bass response. In addition, I have garden hose speaker cable for my main speakers which I would have to use on the Atoms; I fear the torque of a heavy cable, might lift and spin them around.

I have no experience with Wharfdale speakers, but the price is right. Though, I can understand Rich's reluctance about the 10.1 speakers if left unimpressed with previous models. I began this quest after reading the review of the Totem Dream Catcher in Stereophile which retails for approx $625; the Totems Arros were next on the wish list but are ridiculously priced even used, and its retail is belly laughable at $1675.

Two other contenders are in play after reading a review in "What Hi-FI" (which never fails to overrate Brit midfi speakers) are the Monitor Audio BX-2, the mag's 2011 budget speaker of the year at approx $450 retail; another source touts the KEF q300 at approx $600. I am familiar with the "house sound" of both, but need to dig up reviews on both to get other POVs

Rich's point about the expense of accumulating budget masterpieces is well taken, and shooting for a speaker that has "the sound you are looking for". A caveat for me is two: I am not buying anything at retail accept possibly the Wharedale's I would like to spend $350-$400 max for USED copies of the more expensive monitors mentioned above. They will only be used ocassionally to change up the sound and later placed in the corner when not in use; however, I want something very accurate, musical and can play loud without strain. That might be a silly tall order at $400 used.

Lastly, I had a chance of scoring a new pair of Dynaudio 2/6 on e-bay (retail is $800) I have heard them a few times and liked their neutral sound but including shipping, they would have ran $570, and I still needed a pair of 50.00 stands. I am sure the Dynaudio DM 2/6 is superior to the Wharedale's, but..... by how much. The latter would cost me $349 from Music Direct with free shipping until Feb.29, and with a a pair of $50 stands would total out to be $399, OK, it is $171 more than the Dynaudios total price....and....yes, it is not a substantial difference, but $400-$425 is my goal.....though I could wind up making the budgeteer's mistake of placing value over sound, and thus begin my audio curio case. Thanks, Guys.
"It becomes then, are the areas where they excel of importance to you."

Rich, I think that is a very insightful statement you made. I love classical music, and if a pair of speakers gets the tone colors of unamplified instruments right (especially violins), I'll gladly tolerate other areas of performance that might not be completely to my liking (i.e., imaging, bass extension, lower-mid clarity). Because no speaker that I know of does everything well, I think you really have to focus on the aspects of reproduction are important to you and make your decision accordingly. Great post, Rich!
The amount of energy that Reina's review of the Totem Dream Catchers has generated.

In my tinkering with small speakers for my two ancillary systems (TV room and bedroom) a few years back, I actually saved my pennies for the real upgrade ... from Rega Aras (picked up NOS for $250) to $2150 Spendor SA1s. Guess what? I hated the Spendors (with tubes and solid state) in spite of a half dozen glowing reviews. I lived with the Spendors for a year and could not warm up to them. So one summer day, I walked into Stereo Exchange and listened to a pair of Totem Mites driven by a Prima Luna tube integrated (which I owned) and a McIntosh universal player. Fell in love with the Mites, even though I disliked every Totem I ever heard at a trade show. Go figure, but hey I thought that this should work out OK.

Get the Totems home and I can not recreate the magic. Why? Who really knows, but I may have hit on it a few months ago. I was playing the Stills Young Band's 'Long May You Run' on my different systems and it hit me like a brick ... there was absolutely no low end on the Totems. Over the years, I had grown very accustomed to having well reproduced bass as part of my listening experience (I owned AR 302's for 10 years ... 3 way speakers with 10 inch woofers) and had become less hooked on having only the best midrange possible. Also, adding a dedicated CD player (Emotiva), as opposed to using a universal player helped as well.

At the end of the day, know what you like and go after that with whatever your wallet can handle. Once you have been 'audiophiling' for awhile, you will find that whether you use your system every day or once a year, if you don't like the sound, you are not going to be happy.

And that is the challenge when looking at the budget overachievers.

Some words on the Dynaudio 2/6. I researched these speakers about half a dozen years or so ago. If my memory servers me correctly, there were 6 inch and 8 inch versions and they were modeled after Dynaudio's PRO speaker line. See this thread on the DM 2/6 .

@Bob ... thank you for the kind words. My dad owned a TV & Radio repair shop in Brooklyn. After 54 years, I am finally hearing what he was saying for all those years. If he were still around, he would have turned 90 last week.

The Totem Hawk is the best of the few Totems I have audition. Everytime over the course of 10 years and at 5 different locations, they sounded very good (and just right with a tincture of warmth), with outstanding imaging. I last heard them a few months ago in a small and cramped showroom, and the magic was there again. They actually outshown the Dynaudio 2/6, and the Rega RS-3. However, the very expensive Sonus Faber Guerini(monitor?) were better and crisper, and provided brick solid images.

I have been advised that the Forest speaker is/was the strength of the line, but like the Hawk, IMHO, grossly overpriced, which also jacks up their "used" ticket.

Overall, I disagree with Rich's comment on the first response. I think imaging is important to a speaker's task of conveying the musical event. The original large Advent was possibly the most tonally accurate speaker I have ever heard, but its imaging was almost non-existent, and highs were below adequate. Another vintage classic was the Rectilinear 3A, a large floorstander that was the easiest and one of the most musical, or euphonic speakers I have heard, but again imaging though better than the Advents was just adequate.

I think there are some "legit" budget masterpieces out there whose overachievement is often based on far exceeding the listener's expectations. I may say to myself "I can't believe 'that speaker' is capable of so much performance" I may be impressed and/or overimpressed, and that fills my satisfaction quotient....but that will only be temporary until one listens to say a "legitimately" good $1000-$1500 monitor, or a good $2000-$2500 floorstander that gives you exactly what you paid for. It may be just a well-designed "achiever", but it delivers quality sound with few limitations or faults.......Tricky business this audio hobby, but I guess that is why it is becomes obsessional.