Some speaker brands are synonymous with particular areas of the market – that much is evident. As far as the storied Wharfedale brand is concerned, it’s fair to say it’s most commonly associated with the more affordable end of the sector, if for no other reason than its long-established Diamond ranges have always been there-or-thereabouts when it comes to naming the best budget-orientated speakers.
That’s not to say that Wharfedale hasn’t turned out some deeply impressive speakers with more significant price-tags attached, mind you. Its ‘Evo’ series isn’t its most expensive, though it’s far from being its most affordable – but it might just be the sweet-spot of Wharfedale’s entire current range. And when establishing the sweet-spot of the Evo series itself, it’s hard to look past the big floorstanding three-way Evo 4.4.
With two big bass drivers beneath a midrange driver and a pleated diaphragm tweeter, plus a downward-firing bass port of Wharfedale’s preferred ‘slot’ design, you’d be disappointed if the Evo 4.4 didn’t have a bit of scale and presence. You can relax – the Evo 4.4 has scale and presence to spare.
They’re far from a blunt instrument, though. Yes, they can dig deep and hit hard and yes, you’ll need a medium-sized room at the very least in which to position them, but these Wharfedales are talented across the board. Their insight into even the densest, most complicated musical arrangements is deeply impressive and they have no trouble establishing an expansive, organised soundstage. Their control of the entire frequency range is unquestionable – they describe the attack and decay of individual sounds with something close to fanaticism. And despite the considerable driver-count, frequency integration is smoothly achieved and crossover points are not noticeable in the slightest.
Although they’re a decently rapid listen and can be forceful if your music demands it, the Evo 4.4s strike a fairly laid-back balance most of the time. That’s not to say they’re incapable of generating a sense of excitement but they’re not as up-front as some nominal rivals. In the showroom this isn’t always ideal because the Wharfedales often need an extended listen to reveal their numerous charms – so keep that in mind at the audition. Over the long haul (whether that’s a listening session that lasts hours or a period of ownership that lasts years), the Evo 4.4 will be a more rewarding investment than pretty much any other burly floorstander at this money.
Did we mention they’re quite big? That they need a bit of breathing space? Unless you enjoy being shouted at, there’s not a lot to be gained by putting a big speaker like this in a small space. The Evo 4.4 bass reflex slot faces downwards, but they nevertheless prefer a bit of open space – and they certainly won’t thank you for putting them close to a wall.
In every other respect, though, the Wharfedales are about as easy to live with as they are to listen to. The cabinet construction is impressive – those rounded edges have sound acoustic principles behind them but the fact they look so good doesn’t do any harm either. The available finishes – black, white or walnut – are expertly applied and go some way to minimising the speakers’ visual impact. Even the floor-spikes are good-looking in a chunkily purposeful sort of way.
Just as you should never judge a book by its cover, don’t judge a loudspeaker by its size or its driver-count. Despite the Wharfedale Evo 4.4s looking like the bruisers on the door at a nightclub, at heart they’re sensitive, even poetic, souls. And no matter what sort of music you listen to, they deliver it with all the subtlety and nuance intact. And all its punch and aggression too, when required.
Kate Bush Mother Stands For Comfort
As a showcase for the ability of the Evo 4.4 to resolve a recording, to give the spaces and silences their due prominence, to control a tricky bass-line and to sound effortlessly, endlessly musical at the same time, this is an ideal recording.
The Pharcyde Passin’ Me By
The Wharfedales have no problem describing the deep, loping hip-hop beat, and deliver the recording as a unified whole even as they make the cut’n’paste origins apparent. And there’s a very agreeable little pocket of space for the rappers to do their thing, too.
Pere Ubu Non-Alignment Pact
All the clattering attack of the garage-band beginning of this recording is delivered intact. The wide stereo pans are positioned precisely and the howling feedback is every bit as abrasive as it’s intended to be. If you want the Evo 4.4 to slum it every now and then, go right ahead.
Just because you want big, purposeful and thrillingly accomplished loudspeakers, that’s no reason to pay over the odds. The value on offer here is prodigious