For most other manufacturers, loudspeaker design is full of compromise. More often than not, it’s a case of taking whichever drive units are available from the various manufacturers, designing a cabinet which someone else builds and designing a crossover which compensates for the differences between drivers and between driver and cabinet. Even large, well-known manufacturers that claim to have revolutionary designs are often just assembling parts built by someone else
Design and manufacturing excellence
Wharfedale today is part of the International Audio group – one of the largest manufacturers of audio products in the world – and certainly the most vertically integrated.
The flow through our 1.5 million square foot factory from raw material to finished product is well corriagraphed with quality control check-points at every stage throughout the process.
Our UK based design team have complete freedom to specify materials, processes, shapes and performance parameters of every component part – often working with our experienced production teams to develop new, more efficient processes. One such area in which Wharfedale have developed considerable experitse is in the field of cabinet construction. Whilst high-end loudspeakers have for several years used curved and oblique cabinet constructions to help damp standing waves and reduce cabinet resonance, these had been the exclusive preserve of the high-end models.
We have now developed no fewer than six different types of curved cabinet construction technique, each applicable to different applications and relative cost. Products such as the Opus use a brand new technique in which multiple layers of very thin particle board with varying densities are sandwiched with radio-frequency activated glue, moulded and set solidly to create an incredibly inert enclosure. We also use ‘etched MDF’, ‘clinker style’ slat building, large scale injection moulding, aluminium die-casting and aluminium extrusion techniques – all developed and operated entirely within our own factory.
Wharfedale’s drive unit development programme works in partnership with our loudspeaker research programme. New materials and processes have revolutionised the process of driver design, although the basic principles of developing moving-coil speakers has been virtually unchanged for seventy years. Wharfedale is one of a very few companies that has the resource to develop drive units in-house – partly this is due to our large manufacturing scale and our degree of vertical integration, allowing our engineers to experiment with materials and techniques that would normally be out-of-reach.
Revolutionary new drive units such as the tri-laminate cone used in the Airedale loudspeakers; the woven graphite bass drivers used in Opus; the dome mid-range and high-frequency drivers used throughout our ranges; the KEVLAR® bass drivers used in the Diamond and Evolution speakers and the HCWPP cones developed exclusively for Crystal; and indeed a total of over 500 different drive units – have all been conceived, developed and manufactured within our own factory.
Because of our synergy throughout the design and manufacture process, we are able to very closely match drive units to their cabinets and intended frequency responses. As a consequence, very little is required in the way of electrical correction through the crossover components and we can make them very simple. This has significant additional benefits. An ideal crossover preserves complete phase linearity through the crosssover region. Most crossovers, however, fall some way short of this ideal. Whilst a perfect crossover is a virtual impossiblity, we can get much closer to the ideal by using far fewer and higher-quality components. By preserving the signal path intact, the bass driver and treble units can move in unison. Herein lies the secret to Wharfedale’s famously fluid and smooth mid-range.
Because we design and manufacture our own crossover PCBs and crossover components, we are able to maintain the highest standards of performance. Our Opus range, for example, features separate PCBs for the bass and mid-range crossovers. By separating these highly sensitve components, the inductive effects of one upon the other can be reduced. On higher-end models, the Evolution, Opus and Airedale ranges, we use a specially developed metallised polypropylene capacitor within the crossover – capable of handling exceptionally high-frequencies.
Wharfedale is probably the most complete designer and manufacturer of hi-fi loudspeakers in the world today. Our expertise is put to the best use in designing ranges which both excel in performance and build. We use the highest quality components and offer you the best value you will find in audio.