Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A visit with the Wharfedale W60s

The Wharfedale W60 was made from 1962 to 1966. It is a 2 way system featuring a 12" Alnico woofer and a paper cone tweeter. Mine are the original W60 which has the '5' tweeter. Crossover is simple - utilizing a single 12uF paper capacitor and an L-Pad to control the high frequency output. Construction quality is high - heavily built with even a separate enclosure for the tweeter.

The later W60D uses the 'Super 3' tweeter. Be warned that Wharfedale was an early user of foam surrounds and problems with foam rot have been reported on these later models.

Two years ago I bought my pair of W60s off of Ebay to be used in my second system. I wanted something that was efficient and durable. My wife really liked the almost Ikea-like looks where I appreciated the overall solidity. Well so it goes. The heavy grille cloth certainly kept out some prying toddler fingers or curious cats.

The Wharfedales are not great performers compared to some of the better speakers that I have owned. But they do really excel in the midrange with very natural smooth sounding voices. This works well when listening to radio announcers or vocal heavy music. Lower bass is lumpy and not quite as deep as you would expect with 12" woofer. Definitely more of the polite 'British' sound than say JBL. The tweeter is also very rolled off on top - lacking high end extension. I ended up cranking the L-pad as far as it would go and then eventually just bypassed it when I went in to replace the old coupling capacitor. Inner detail is also lacking and so are many other audiophile tricks like soundstaging and big dynamics.

Can I recommend these? As an audiophile - no. As a music lover - yes. They are warm, forgiving and work wonders with bad recordings. This is not a moot point in these days of hot overly compressed digital recordings. The W60s return a sense of naturalness back to the music. However in the long run my KEF Q30s won out and the W60s have been shuttled on to a friend who was in need of a new pair of speakers.