Yes, Denton is a no-excuses remake of a sixty-year-old Wharfedale classic. There’s no getting around it. But don’t be so convinced that a light dive into Wharfedale’s back catalogue is somehow outdated or defunct. Because it's not, not by a long shot.
It seems Wharfedale's onto something with this whole Heritage racket, something beyond the surface level aesthetics. Sure, Heritage looks the part. But, by incorporating elements of traditional loudspeaker design from the 60s and 70s into its modern reimagining, Wharfedale's produced some pretty surprising results, and its 85th Anniversary Edition Denton is one of them.
There’s a lot more to this loudspeaker than meets the eye, and its nod to classic loudspeaker design reveals that a light dip into the past doesn't simply bank on nostalgia; it might in fact leave you with a more fulfilling listening experience
Denton Details & Specifications
The Wharfedale 85th Anniversary Edition Denton is a two-way bookshelf loudspeaker featuring a frequency response of 45Hz - 20kHz and a sensitivity of 86dB. The speakers have a 6 Ohm impedance and are recommended to be used with an amplifier that can deliver somewhere between 20 - 100W of power.
The Denton features a 1” or 25mm soft dome tweeter and a 6.5" or 165mm woven Kevlar mid/bass driver, which is further supported by a rear-ported bass reflex design. The cabinet dimensions are 340 x 240 x 275mm, constructed using a multi-layer sandwich method combined with real wood veneers – available in black oak, mahogany, and walnut. And its finishing details include bi-wireable binding posts, rear heritage anniversary badges, and jersey knit speaker grills.
Who is and isn't Denton For?
From the outset it should be addressed that Wharfedale’s Heritage range – of which the Denton belongs – isn’t for everyone. Not everyone’s going to favour the classic hifi look nor will they preference a classic sound. In fact, if you’re a diehard digital audio futurist that shudders at the thought of vinyl records, then Denton is unlikely to be your speaker of choice.
But in fairness, it’s not really designed to appeal to you either.
No, Denton 85 is fairly well aimed at the vinyl slinging audio enthusiast with a certain romantic bent for classic HiFi. You know, brushed aluminium electronics, big ol’ jog dials, loudspeakers that double as room furniture. You know the type.
While modern loudspeaker design may favour disappearing into its surroundings, classic loudspeaker are, well, loud. They’re not disappearing into anything.
Despite how niche this listening audience may sound, you might be surprise to know that Wharfedale’s Heritage range has become an absolute blockbuster. It's easily one of Wharfedale's most popular loudspeaker lines. And with the addition of Made In The UK Heritage models like Dovedale and Aston arriving in the second half of 2024, that popularity isn't likely slow down any time soon.
Origins in a Holy Era of Music
The original Denton dates back to one of music’s most iconic periods, the late 60s and 70s. And if you’re a fan of music from this period, and let’s face it who isn’t, then Denton might just be the perfect loudspeaker for you.
This holy era in music is an epoch of such immense innovation and creativity that it summoned forth the likes of Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Janis Joplin, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Fleetwood Mac, Creedence Clearwater Revival – shall I go on? This holy era in music is not just seminal; it’s downright cultish. And with damn good reason.
Few moments in music history are responsible for such a diverse range of sounds and expressions. And when tied to seminal political moments like Free Love, Vietnam and the Cold War, it’s little wonder why this condensed explosion of artistic expression continues to heavily influence contemporary culture.
For a loudspeaker’s design to be steeped in the rich history of this musical era, it’s also little wonder why Denton reproduces this music so well.
Why Denton Delivers Big with the Classics
Much of why Denton delivers big with 60s & 70s music belongs to its classic big box, wide baffle design, a trademark of speaker design from that time. At 340 x 240 x 274, Denton gives you a lot of loudspeaker for your dollar. And its larger than average bookshelf size is kinda the point.
That much wider than average baffle width of 240mm helps to mitigate a problem found in many modern, slimmer loudspeaker designs: the problem baffle step.
Loudspeaker baffle step is an acoustic phenomenon that occurs when sound waves emitted by the speaker driver encounter a change in air pressure caused by the baffle edge. This edge, which is the transition from the baffle face to the surrounding air, can cause a significant reduction in the loudspeaker's output in the mid-bass frequency range, typically between 200Hz and 1000Hz.
This reduction occurs because the sound waves diffract or bend around the baffle edge, causing a phase shift in the sound waves that results in some of the sound energy being canceled out. As a result, the loudspeaker's output in this frequency range is reduced, which can affect the overall balance and tonal quality of the sound.
To compensate for baffle step, loudspeaker designers use various techniques.
They can use a stepped or curved baffle edge. but this can and is likely to cause all other kinds of diffraction issues.
They can use a crossover network that equalises the response, and in most cases that precisely what they do. Buuuuut the trade off is that it tends to decrease a speaker’s efficiency, so you get less performance at lower wattage.
Or they can use a wider baffle, just like the Denton, and just like the speaker designs that belong to our much-loved bygone era of the 60s and 70s.
Denton’s midrange, aided by this increase in baffle width, is the star attraction of it’s musical talent – at least according to the critics.
Midrange and the Mid-to-Late 20th Century
Music from the 60s and 70s was heavily influenced by the technology available at the time, particularly in terms of recording and amplification equipment. Many of the classic recordings from this era were made using analog equipment, which had a specific frequency response curve that emphasised the midrange frequencies.
A great example of this midrange emphasis is the sound of the electric guitar. Many of the iconic guitar tones from this era, such as those used by Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page, were heavily distorted and heavily emphasised around the midrange. This gave the guitars a cutting and aggressive sound that not only helped them stand out in the mix but also become one of the most defining sounds of the era.
Overall, the emphasis on midrange frequencies in music from the 60s and 70s was a result of the technology and production techniques of the time. This approach helped to create a unique and memorable sound that, like is said earlier, has become downright cultish among modern music lovers. And 85th Anniversary Edition Denton, due in no small part to its stellar mid frequency talents, serves it up with the best.
Far From Stuck in the Past
While Wharfedale took some key design principles from the original Denton that favour music's most icon era, it's by no means stuck in the past.Everything about the 85th Anniversary Edition Denton is bang up to date.
Denton is not only kitted with completely redesigned driver systems, its mid/bass driver diaphragm uses woven Kevlar to significantly improve cone stiffness and self damping. A very modern improvement that produces a highly detail, dynamic listening experience.
In addition to Denton's driver improvements is the introduction of a multi-layer sandwich cabinet construction bonded by a damping glue. Underneath that stunning true timber veneer is a first-class and contemporary approach to mitigating cabinet resonances that ultimately colour and distort a loudspeakers playback.
By combining a wide range of modern improvements to a traditional design philosophy, the 85th Anniversary Edition Denton won't just favour the classics; it'll slay modern music too, long into the future.
The Wrap Up
So, yes, Denton is a no-excuses remake of a sixty-year-old Wharfedale classic. There's no getting around it. But the 85th Anniversary Edition Denton isn't trying to either. If anything, Denton leans right into its historic roots to deliver some pretty outstanding results.
This talented two-way Heritage bookshelf speaker performs exquisitely for the diehard vinyl junkies salivating over music's holy era. Denton's impeccable mid-range talents, thanks in no small part to that big box, wide baffle design, makes listening to albums like Dylan's Blood on the Tracks, Rumours from Fleetwood Mac, and Zeppelin's... well, any Zeppelin album you like, really, a near spiritual experience. Truly.
Just don't be fooled into thinking that that's where it ends. Denton's driver overhaul, its updated cabinet design, and modern material selections have made it a weapon with new music too. Anything, from Adele's 25 to James Blake's Overgrown, isn't just well done; it's downright impressive.
So, if you have a small to medium sized listening space and are looking for a vintage two-way bookshelf loudspeaker that favours the classics, loves a vinyl record, but also delivers the goods when it comes to modern music too, Wharfedale's 85th Anniversary Edition Denton might just but the loudspeaker for you.