Wharfedale delivers movie magic on a small scale
Don’t have much space in your home but still want to indulge in your home cinema hobby? For some, a soundbar just doesn’t cut it.
It’s easy to balk at the thought of introducing a full 5.1 surround sound package into your home when you have limited space – but Wharfedale has just the solution.
A follow-up to the excellent DX-1HCP and DX-1SE speaker packages, the Wharfedale DX-2 is a tiny, charming and extremely capable 5.1 surround speaker package that has already had a significant reduction on its launch price of £450.
Build and compatibility
How petite are the Wharfedale DX-2 speakers? Standing just 19cm tall – they’re roughly the same dimensions as the Sonos One – the four satellite speakers are small enough to fit almost anywhere.
While we’d recommend placing them on dedicated supports where possible, the compact speakers are designed to feel at home on top of shelves, on bookcases, on the TV rack – anywhere you can find a spare spot in your room, really.
Don’t have the space or budget for stands? You can wall-mount them instead, thanks to the brackets at the back of each speaker.
The entire package has been redesigned. The glossy front remains, but the cabinets now have curved edges and the smooth leather-like finish wrapped around the speakers removes the need for spikes or rubber feet – so you can place them directly on surfaces without fear of scratches.
It’s a sleeker, smarter and more luxurious look.
Further cosmetic flourishes, such as the chrome rings surrounding the fixed speaker grilles for each driver – a neat design that protects the drivers without completely covering up the front – and lack of any grille holes make the whole package look even tidier. The DX-2 comes in two colours: the black of our review sample or a white finish.
Build quality is good for the money, although we do have trouble getting our reference cables (with standard 4mm banana plugs) to fit into the speaker terminals. It’s too tight a fit, with the terminals feeling a tad undersized.
Just like its previous iterations, each satellite has a 19mm silk dome tweeter and a 7.5cm mid/bass driver, with the centre channel using two of the mid/bass drivers to flank the same tweeter.
The satellites are all closed-box designs – there’s no port – making it easier to place them closer to walls without affecting sound quality.
The centre channel has an aperiodic bass loading system (a small hole at the back filled with special foam) helping reduce low-frequency distortion and control bass performance from a small cabinet.
The WH-D8 active subwoofer completes the set. Comprising a forward-firing 20cm long-throw driver powered by a 70W amplifier, it’s compact enough to be tucked away in a corner.
If you regularly watch movies, we’d keep the ‘auto sense’ switch toggled on: the sub automatically goes into standby when not in use, switching itself on when a signal is detected.
Speakers this size often struggle to handle Hans Zimmer’s epic score for Inception, but the Wharfedale DX-2 package delivers a respectable scale of sound – larger and heftier than its diminutive stature would suggest. It sounds punchy, detailed and surprisingly expansive.
The DX-2 may be designed for smaller rooms, but it copes admirably even in our large AV test room. There’s abundant detail, it handles dynamic shifts with ease and not once does it fail to fill the room.
That’s an impressive feat for any small, sub-£500 surround package.
Of course larger speakers will fill a room more easily, but as the dream collapses in the final act of Inception the Wharfedale speakers deliver deep, resonant notes and thunderous crashes with utter composure.
The DX-2 speakers are well-integrated too. Surround effects ping around the room, engulfing you in an articulate cocoon of sound. The haunting whispers on the island in Star Wars: The Last Jedi are clear, precise and evoke a chilling atmosphere as they echo across the surround speakers.
The package does a grand job of going quiet, too: echoes in a cave die abruptly, plunging you into silence. The edges of notes are precise and clean, allowing the Wharfedale to keep a snappy, agile sense of timing. It’s a hugely listenable speaker package.
Dialogue cuts through the busy special effects clutter, although we would prefer more texture and depth to voices. Rey’s hopeful entreaties contrast nicely against an elderly Luke’s grumbles, but more solidity and low-frequency detail would flesh out the emotion in their voices.
More subtlety in the lower frequencies would help overall, but that shouldn’t take away from the rumble to punches, explosions and soundtrack crescendos. It’s a satisfying amount of grunt and weight – especially at this price – to keep us hooked to the action.
Push the volume too high and the Wharfedale package starts to struggle. But the DX-2 holds our attention at lower volumes – a sure sign of subtle and expressive dynamics.
Go up the price scale and you’ll find speaker packages (such as the Q Acoustics 3010i 5.1 Cinema Pack) that are more articulate, more precise and bigger-sounding. But they cost double what the Wharfedale does.
The entertaining performance, the compact-yet-stylish build and appealing price tag – it’s impressive how much Wharfedale has bundled into the petite DX-2 package. It’s a great solution for AV fans tight on budget and space.