Test Report: Wharfedale DX-1 Speaker System

It seemed that audio companies had surrendered the home-theater-in-a-box concept to the TV manufacturers. But the introduction last year of three world-beating mini speaker systems — the Cambridge Audio Minx, the Polk Audio Blackstone TL3, and Sound+Vision’s 2011 Product of the Year, the Paradigm MilleniaOne — showed a renewed interest in this seemingly abandoned category.

The latest well-regarded audio company to get (back) into the HTiB business is Wharfedale, which announced its $799 DX-1 system at last September’s CEDIA Expo. The DX-1 is a classic HTiB: four 7.5-inchhigh two-way satellites, a matching horizontal center speaker, and an 8-inch subwoofer. True to form, the whole system ships in a single box.

Wharfedale didn’t go out of its way to make the DX-1 look stylish — but it did build the speaker enclosures from relatively non-resonant MDF rather than the usual flimsy plastic, and used curved sides to stiffen the cabinets. The system’s available in gloss black or gloss white, and it’s designed to look good with the grilles on or off.

The core of the system, the DX-1 Satellite, is a two-way minispeaker with a 3-inch midrange/woofer and a 0.75-inch tweeter. What most distinguishes it from a mass-market HTiB speaker is inside. Where mass-market HTiB speakers tend to use just a single capacitor (and maybe a resistor) in the crossover, the DX-1 Satellite uses three capacitors, two chokes, and two resistors.

Why should you care? Because a more complex crossover tailors the signal better for each driver. A single-capacitor crossover gives you a first-order (6 dB/octave) filter on the tweeter, while the woofer runs full-range. The DX-1’s crossover provides a third-order (18 dB/octave) filter on the tweeter and a second-order (12 dB/octave) filter on the woofer. The result is less low-frequency signal into the tweeter (thus lower distortion) and less high-frequency signal into the woofer (thus better dispersion).

Similar story for the DX-1 Centre, which sits horizontally and adds a second midrange/woofer. Besides the extra driver, the big difference is that the Centre’s cabinet is ported while the Satellite’s is sealed.

To fill out the low end, Wharfedale includes the DX-1 Subwoofer, a minisub with an 8-inch woofer powered by a 70-watt rms amp. Its back panel includes volume and crossover frequency controls, a phase switch, power and auto-on switches, and stereo RCA line inputs, as well as dual ports for the woofer.

Looking over the DX-1 system’s specs, like any audio aficionado would, I thought, “Probably decent sound but low output.” Let’s give a listen and see if that guess is correct.

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