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Rock and Roll All Night… I Just Might! - Wharfedale Diamond 12.3 Loudspeakers

04-01-2023 | By Michael Laurance | Issue 126

A common topic among audiophiles or collectors of HiFi gear is the piece of gear you regret selling the most. Often, this results in a list of equipment we lament relinquishing to the wild. You have yours and I have mine. What's my regret? A gorgeous set of Wharfedale Pacific Evo tower speakers that I purchased in my days when I was a manufacturer's rep for the company. Not only were they beautiful speakers—they also sounded incredible. However, gear ebbs and flows, and we have those moments where we feel we are "heavy," and need to thin our herd a smidge.

Since then, I have always held a special place in my heart for Wharfedale products. My affinity for the brand does not give me any particular bias. Such an opportunity came my way with the Diamond 12.3; a pair of slim, attractive, tower speakers.

What They Are

The Wharfedale Diamond 12.3 ($998/pair) are a 3-way floorstanding tower loudspeaker featuring a 1" soft dome woven polyester tweeter, a 5" Klarity midrange, and a 5" Klarity woofer. Both midrange and woofer are a polypropylene and mica composite. All drivers are housed in a gloss (white or black, depending on finish) baffle. They stand just over 38" high, putting the tweeter at an ideal height for imaging and listening. They come with magnetic removable grilles. My tests were performed with the grilles off. Finishes available are black, white, and walnut. My demo pair arrived in walnut and proved to be attractive, with furniture-grade looks, and a somewhat understated size for a significant tower speaker. In other words, the Diamonds do not give the appearance of big speakers in my listening room, which modern audiophiles may find appealing while trying to work with more minimal décor.

In the back of the speakers, four binding posts splay out and present the option of bi-wiring or bi-amping. Combined input power is rated at 150 watts. Sensitivity is 88dB.

Unboxing and Setup

Unboxing each 43 lb. speaker solo out of their long boxes was one of those lessons in why they invented the buddy system, but I accomplished my mission. The Diamonds come with a box of hardware that includes carpet spikes and pucks for under the spikes, should you have hardwood floors.

Placement was an absolute breeze. Dialing them into a sweet spot while spinning Marshall Crenshaw's Downtown LP was child's play. Within five minutes, the Wharfedales were producing a vivid and lush stereo image. Though these are set up full-range, they are not a particularly bass-heavy speaker, so I found that bringing up the level of my subwoofer (set for 50Hz and below) helped to strike a better balance.


Certain speakers have a way of announcing who they are as soon as they find their way into the listening room. The Diamond 12.3 are a bit mid-forward, and demonstrate a fantastic gift for bringing out the best in guitar and vocals, in particular. My first impression of them was—these are rock and roll speakers! That being the case, the first couple of selections came rather easy.

The classic "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas (LP) is my obvious choice as I now sit down for my critical listening sessions. Bingo. The Wharfedales pronounce every note of the Travis-picked guitar line without being too overwhelming. Finger squeaks on the strings come out as chords move. The violins flow over the top smoothly, perhaps not as wide as I've heard with pricier speakers, but as pleasant.

Dropping Bad Company's Run with the Pack (LP) on the platter heats things up considerably. "Live For the Music" brings the searing guitar licks right out into the middle of the room, making it difficult not to turn the volume up, and let the record continue to play. The Diamond 12.3 are proving themselves to be all-night speakers. Through track after track, Paul Rodgers' incomparable vocals roll out like a good bourbon. By the time the needle reaches the title track, I'm fully immersed. The clean, ringing guitars in "Silver, Blue, and Gold" become the icing on the cake to this first listening session.

MoFi's recent Gain 2 release of Foreigner's Double Vision (LP) is the last record to hit the turntable. From the moment the stylus meets "Hot Blooded," the soundstage opens up and detail increases. Sure, the crunch of the guitars is fun, everything I want here, but the presence of the drums and keys is refreshing, especially as the record progresses into "Blue Morning, Blue Day." Small elements such the castanets in the middle of the song clack out in the right channel, rising above the clamor of the driving track. "Love Has Taken its Toll" demonstrate that with the proper placement, which again took me mere minutes dialing in, the Diamond 12.3 loudspeakers image beautifully. The back-and-forth play, wide panning, and multi-layered instruments in this song make these Wharfedales hugely entertaining, and side one draws to a close. For me, the highlight of this record has always been the final track, "Spellbinder," and is proving to be a real treat through the Diamond 12.3. The tight bass line matched with the rhythm guitar is punchy and groovy, with stabs from the kick drum. The Wharfedales reveal their storied pedigree as the record concludes.

At this point, though, I am hardly content with pigeonholing the 12.3 as a rock speaker. Switching over to Qobuz, Gorillaz "Cracker Island" (24-bit/44.1kHz) lights up my listening room like the fourth of July. The Diamond 12.3 transmit every juicy ounce of this demanding song with poise and balance. Yes, there's thump, plenty of it, so don't worry that your living room party won't be lit. It'll be fire. (Thanks to the 14-year-old consultant for this part of the paragraph.) What is more crucial is that the mids and highs flow evenly, even above moderate levels. I did mention that this is an all-night kind of speaker.

Something more raw, such as "Anti-Glory" by Horsegirl (24-bit/44.1kHz) takes on a club feel with the Diamond 12.3. There is a seedy late-night atmosphere brought out by the Wharfedales that make me thankful I'm not elbow-to-elbow with five hundred people in my listening space at the moment. There's a time and a place for that.

To fully prove to myself, and all of you, that the Diamond 12.3 can do more than rock, I reach for Jazz at the Pawnshop by Arne Domnerus, Bengt Hallberg, Lars Erstrand, Georg Riedel, and Egil Johansen(16-bit/44.1kHz). Not only are the Wharfedales incredibly pleasant here, but the imaging rises above speakers in this price point. The vibes ring and almost magically circle around my head. It's a good thing that jazz is meant to be heard to late into the night, because the all-night speakers are pulling me in here, just as they did with the rock and roll. It is said that piano is the hardest instrument for a speaker to reproduce well, but I will say the same the same for the clarinet. The clarinet can sound like a kazoo on a bad set of speakers. The Diamond 12.3 perform an admirable job at bringing out the tonalities of Domnerus' clarinet, further lending to the sessionability of this loudspeaker.

Wrapping It Up

I've gotten to spend some time with the Wharfedale Diamond 12.3. I've rocked with them, I've rolled with them. I have listened to them all night. I have listened to them on a few different amplifiers, only to observe them respond beautifully to everything that powered them. I even tried some cable-swapping with them when the mood struck. While rock and pop are certainly their strong suit, there is no genre of music that I did not enjoy through them. When I say enjoy, the enjoyment was done in longer listening sessions, whole albums, nights of taking in music. An attractive speaker that won't break the bank, the Diamond 12.3 are sure to bring you the same late listening sessions, as well.

Diamond 12.3 Loudspeakers

Retail: $998 a pair



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