The best of old school hi-fi with the best of the new.
With a retro look and a natural, relaxed sound to accompany it, these Wharfedale are different, but undeniably splendid.
-Natural bass reproduction
-Open and detailed soundstage
-Its appearance is not to everyone’s taste
We often say that good sound never ages, but the years do pass. Listen to old-fashioned hi-fi and you’ll notice a different sound presentation, more suited to the music of the time. In the case of the original Wharfedale Linton speakers, that “then” was between 1965 and the late 1970s – an era of bell bottoms, big music and big speakers.
These original Lintons were about 25-30cm larger, depending on the specific model, and between the large chassis, large front baffle, and large drivers, they were capable of producing a big, open sound that is very different from that produced by monitors. much more compact today.
But what if you want new speakers built using modern methods and materials, but with old-school style and sound? Then you’re sure to like Linton’s new version, which hit the market celebrating Wharfedale’s 80th anniversary.
Size and style are the most obvious old-school features of these Linton speakers. At around 56cm high, 33cm deep and 30cm wide, they are significantly larger than other modern monitors, but they don’t feel overwhelmingly large, even in relatively small rooms.
This is partly due to its natural appearance, with wood grain, mahogany or walnut. If the finish was black or lacquered white, they would surely be much larger.
Its other weapon when it comes to maintaining a low profile is its dedicated floor stands, which leave the speakers at a slightly lower height than other models. Lower enough that those who sit a little lower than usual can hear the Lintons in all their glory.
Despite this disproportion in height, Linton supports are excellent. They have been designed to definitely fit the speakers and although they cost £280 if purchased separately, when purchased with the speakers they only cost £100.
Whether you appreciate the Linton aesthetic or not (we are delighted with it, if our opinion is anything to go by), it certainly has clear sonic benefits. A larger cabinet would have a more generous bass and a wider speaker width would help give a little more solidity to the mids, supporting the output at lower frequencies. This effect, known as the “baffle effect,” occurs at a higher frequency in narrower speakers, so they sound less solid, even with electrical compensation applied to their filter network.
A larger chassis can also accommodate larger speakers. Low frequencies are handled by a 20cm unit, the same size as the old Linton XP2 woofer, but this time woven Kevlar has been used instead of paper in the construction of this cone. Just above, in its own enclosure, we find a 12.5 cm Kevlar midrange speaker and somewhat displaced towards the interior, a 25 mm textile dome tweeter.
The enclosures are made of high-density chipboard between layers of MDF to create a combination that Wharfedale maintains can dissipate panel resonances better than MDF alone. The internal cushioning material chosen is long pile synthetic wool.
The Lintons feature two rear reflex bas ports on each unit. Although they are not complicated to place, we recommend leaving about 50 cm to the wall and start testing there.
This model has been specifically designed for use with the grille on. Not only does it help maintain a low visual profile, but the grilles actually improve sound as their shape improves interference from reflections from the edges of the chassis.
These speakers sound best when they are slightly oriented towards the listener, with the Wharfedale logo on the outer corner of each speaker. Thus, the eccentric tweeters are located in the interior corner, although to us – as we have tested various locations – it has seemed that the interior and exterior difference is minimal.
It soon becomes clear that these speakers are very laid-back, so we’ve paired them with the energetic Rega Elex.R integrated amplifier (£949). Other amps show good motivation and will also work well.
The minute we start listening, we have a great sense of scale and space, so we grab an orchestral recording to see what they can do with it. We reproduce The Raiders March by John Williams – the main theme of the Indiana Jones movies – and we were electrified by the dynamics of the speakers.
Starting soft but firm with the intrepid horn section, the piece – through the Lintons – offers a brilliant range of textures and capabilities as it develops. Playing off to the side, the trumpets are as heroic as the archaeological adventurer, while the string section takes the lead. Beneath it all, the enormous tolls of the timpani are reproduced with consummate ease by those floor-standing monitors.
The presentation of the music is so fantastically open that our space seems larger than it is. Each instrument is heard in its exact position in the sound scene. The strumming of the harp floats overhead, the timpani come in seamlessly from the rear left, the cymbals crash, and the tubular bells sound so real we could almost see the instruments. It is a delight and, probably, the staging of these speakers at their best.
We changed to something more contemporary from the original Linton –Jumping Jack Flash by The Rolling Stones. The track easily suffers from poorer quality speakers, but the Lintons excel. The tonal balance is perfect and no instrument dominates – not Jagger’s voice, not the tambourine or the drums. This recording may sound very thin, but not here. His performance is as full as we expected it to be, but the speakers are nimble enough not to let the track descend into a jumble of noises as it reaches its climax.
The Linton’s capacity for low frequencies is obvious. The bass has a round sound in its strings, very separate from the weight of the bass drum. It carries the song and gives you a real impression of how exciting and rebellious this band had to sound in concert, in all its splendor.
Finally, we choose something more recent, Blinded By The Lights of The Streets and its naked, powerful bass. Through the Lintons it sounds big, clean and as precise as we expect – just the bass, the snare and Mike Skinner telling the story of a nightclub gone wrong.
It is not as advanced a sound as what we are used to from more modern speakers. We don’t get the hits of the bass line like with the also brilliant but very different KEF R3 (£1300). The KEFs are probably a little more detailed, but not by much, despite first impressions. Their more direct approach makes them accessible, but practically all their detail is also in the richer and broader soundstage of the Wharfedale. You have to try them.
On a track as spread out as this one, it’s easy to prefer the KEF’s presentation. They create certain nuances in Skinner’s voice and his shimmering synth. But the Lintons achieve something that the R3s don’t: with that not-too-focused electronic sampling, we get a magnificent sense of the size and atmosphere of the club, from the strobe lights to the dry smoke at the back of our throat. Welcome, nostalgia. These speakers have done their job.
The Lintons may not be what everyone would think they want to hear, but they would be worth considering. These speakers do an impressive job of capturing some of the older, fuller, simpler, more open style of hi-fi sound, while still making music exciting. This passion may not overflow from its cones, but you won’t need whiskey and elbow pads to enjoy it either.
With their natural weight, accurate scene imaging, and layer upon layer of wonderful detail, you can listen to these speakers for days and never get tired of them. Just remember to change the disk from time to time.
Simon Müller is the driving force behind UMusic, embodying a lifelong passion for all things melodious. Born and raised in New York, his love for music took form at an early age and fueled his journey from an avid music enthusiast to the founder of a leading music-centered website. Simon's diverse musical tastes and intrinsic understanding of acoustic elements offer a unique perspective to the UMusic community. Sporting a dedicated commitment to aural enrichment and hearing health, his vision extends beyond just delivering news - he aspires to create a network of informed, appreciative music lovers. Spend a moment in Mueller's company, and you'd find his passion infectious – music isn’t simply his job, it’s his heartbeat.