REVIEW: WHARFEDALE LINTON - HERITAGE UPDATED
We announced the return of the Wharfedale Linton and have had the privilege of being one of the first UK publications to review the resurrected legends. Here are our thoughts.
£999 (£1099.95 with optional stand)
Hollywood loves a remake but, where they might guarantee footfall through the box office, almost all fail to capture the magic of the original. We are, then, thankful that the latest Wharfedale Lintons appear to be more of a reimagining of the original tale, rather than attempting a faithful reproduction given how technology has moved forward since their first outing. Let's face it, no matter how much we love the original Star Wars, Jaws, Jason and the Argonauts etc., would we still be satisfied by those special effects in a 21st century, non-ironic production?
Wharfedale Linton Heritage
The Wharfedale Linton boasts a history dating back to 1965. The design was updated and revised several times before being discontinued in the early 1980s. However, in May this year, the Wharfedale Linton joined the resurrection section within the company's Heritage range.
The Linton Heritage retains its classic looks with wood-veneered, vintage-inspired cabinets. Moreover, it keeps its three-way design although we now have an updated 8-inch (200mm) woven Kevlar woofer, 5-inch (135mm) woven Kevlar midrange, and 1-inch (25mm) soft fabric dome tweeter all specially designed for the Linton Heritage. You will not find these drivers in any other Wharfedale speakers. The crossovers for this set-up are at 630Hz and 2.4kHz with an overall frequency response rated at 40Hz to 20kHz.
Measuring 565 x 300 x 330mm (HxWxD) the beautifully finished cabinets weigh in at 18.4 kg apiece. Around the rear, you will find a pair of large bass ports and high-quality speaker binding posts. Additionally, should you forget the speaker's heritage, there is a sizeable 85th-anniversary panel there to remind you.
We instantly recognised, when wrestling these substantial speakers out of their protective cartons, was that every face of them received the same level of attention when it came to the real wood veneer, even the back and bottom panels have been lovingly tended to.
It is interesting to note that the Linton Heritage utilises a medium-density fiberboard/chipboard sandwiched by MDF in its cabinet construction rather than the more commonly used solid medium-density fiberboard. The reasoning for this, we are informed, is that the Linton's chipboard mix of large and small chips in a resin base forms a lossy path for sound to pass through. The more widely distributed cabinet resonances are spread over multiple frequencies in Wharfedale's design which, in turn, results in a reportedly cleaner sound from the drivers.
Another point to make here is that the Lintons are 'handed', meaning that there is a left-sided and a right-sided speaker. Wharfedale states that the tweeters should be on the inside, and it really does make a difference. We generally prefer being able to see the speaker drivers and will usually keep the grilles off any cabinets with the option. However, the Lintons have been designed to perform better with the grilles on. We were informed that the grilles aid dispersion of the tweeter.
The baffle is recessed, leaving a rectangular edge that can interfere with the output from the treble unit (and the upper reaches of the midrange unit). The grille has an asymmetric cut out which smooths the dispersion, thereby removing the issue. Naturally, the cloth has a mild attenuation too, so I took the decision to balance the tonality with grilles on – this, we believe, is how most users will want to play these Heritage-style speakers.
So, that's how they have been tested. Naturally, we had to have a careful peek at those specially designed drivers before replacing the grilles.
Finishing off the whole Linton show are the optional speaker stands. The substantial steel construction perfectly complements the Lintons. Additionally, the extra mass of these supports more-or-less guarantees that anything short of an earthquake isn't going to move your speaker set-up. Furthermore, as a bonus, the stands can store 50 or so LPs. Handy for making selections for listening sessions or for shoving LPs you've just played instead of having to file them back straight-away (that's how we ended up using the space).
Stepping back to admire the speakers on their stands, we can see the attraction of these large pieces of audio furniture. Even though they do command a presence in a room, they can easily blend in with your other bits and pieces of furniture - hidden in plain sight, if you like. To aid the coordination with your other furniture, the Lintons are available in Mahagony or Walnut real wood veneer.
We will admit, even though we were aware of the new drivers and such, we still expected the Linton Heritage to sound polite, well mannered and, perhaps, a little stuffy. Rest assured, dear reader; the Lintons might look like they've just stepped out of a Country Club but think more James Bond than Rowley Birkin QC.
Whether plugged into the YBA Passion 350 or Musical Fidelity M6si amplifiers, the Lintons proved that they were equally at home kicking back with some jazz or when showing they could slam with the best of them. We found that they only needed a slight toe-in for our listening space and, as such, more people were able to enjoy the performance than when we've had a more focused sweet spot.
We warmed the YBA up by spinning Taunton post-punk trio Burnout's second LP, Inside. The eclectic mix of punk, post-punk and glimmers of prog and melodic rock make this an interesting test for the large Lintons. Firstly, the use of a distorted bass guitar, often playing chords, could wrong-foot many speakers; secondly, as Burnout is a young band doing everything DIY, the production, though more than adequate for most listeners, does not reach the same level as those big-budget bands.
Nonetheless, the Lintons bounce along, giving the instruments and vocals room aplenty while never attempting to pull the leash on the angry dog attitude coming from the spinning vinyl.
Leftfield's anniversary edition of Leftism was up next, and the volume pushed up via the YBA's hefty remote. Oh my! That bass. As the dub-flavoured Release the Pressure pulsates through the listening space, our smiles turn to grins. We kept the disc spinning through the tribal Afro Left as the deep, rhythmic bass reminded us why this music is so much fun to play.
The odd thing is, looking at our system bookended by the 60s/70s-styled Lintons playing Leftfield may have felt a little wrong, but more fun for it. Kind of when your parents went out, and you could play your Punk or Thrash (carefully) on the grown-up's system.
Before flicking the switch on the YBA 430 CD player, we dropped the needle on Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. Again, the bass line thumps its way through Dreams. Full, fat and round, there is no denying that the Lintons have it in the low end. However, the metronomic closed high-hat marking time is also clear and defined, as is the strummed acoustic guitar. Stevie's vocals come through intimately as if addressing us personally backed up by softer harmonised voices. The mids and highs are handled with a precision that's almost in contrast to how the Lintons appear. There is also a seamless hand-off between high-mids and the top-end.
Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um on the Columbia CD was next and, once more, the Lintons were more than up to the job. Better Get Hit In Your Soul was delivered with plenty of heart but with an open soundstage that left even the jazziest moments interpretable rather than sounding like a melee of sax, bass, drum and trombone. That gutsy low-end is still present, which adds to the live feeling of the performance. The midrange's speedy reactions have much to do with the clarity; as does the separation skills of having a 3-way set-up.
You do get a lot of speaker for your £1099.95 (inc. stands). The majority of people who have seen the Lintons in our room have guesstimated a retail price of much more than £1100, especially after hearing them.
Yes, they are a bold statement sat there in their bell-bottomed finary but don't mistake their retro-chic for not being au fait with the latest Grime, Folktronica or Glitch Hop.
The Wharfedale Lintons are capable of producing trouser-flapping bass as well as being able to pick out the sweetest highs. Where we have heard more accurate and more detailed loudspeakers, the Lintons have a dash of fun and an easy-going appeal that makes them instantly loveable.
As well as possessing an enjoyably expansive soundstage, the Lintons also have a well-presented depth, front-to-back. That, matched by the Linton's impressive sense of timing, sees them consistently punching above their pay-grade.
A thoroughly well-made 3-way speaker with heritage almost literally written all over them.
Well done Wharfedale, have yourself one of StereoNET's coveted Applause Awards.
StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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