Wharfedale Reva 2 Speaker Review
Wharfedale pitches understated accuracy... and largely convinces with it.
What is the Wharfedale Reva 2?The Wharfedale Reva 2 is the larger of two standmount speakers from the
Reva Range of speakers. This sits above the well known and extremely capable Diamond Series of affordable speakers and below the more sophisticated Jade models. Unusually, the Reva Series borrows more heavily in design terms from the Diamond models rather than showing 'trickle down' from the more expensive Jade designs. This is perhaps not the expected design practise at the price but there is no shortage of interesting technology present in the Reva 2 so it doesn't necessarily start at any disadvantage when viewed against rivals.
The Reva 2 contests an interesting price point though and one that has no shortage of competition. Wharfedale has a strong reputation for solid engineering and good value but for many people (and despite the continued existence of some very expensive Wharfedale models), the company is best known as the producer of affordable speakers rather than a brand which shows the same strength in depth across multiple price points. Does the Reva 2 go some way to altering this perception and can it take on the best that £600 has to offer and deliver the goods?
SpecificationsThe Wharfedale is a two way standmount loudspeaker that is one up from the smallest member of the Reva family – which is another two way standmount design. Viewed from the spec sheet alone, the Reva is conventional enough. If you dig a little deeper into how Wharfedale has implemented many aspects of it, you become aware that in some regards at least, this is an intriguingly different approach to that taken by many rivals.
One area where this is immediately apparent is in the way that the Wharfedale is ported. Most speakers of this size and design will use a bass port of some description and in recent years an increasingly popular way of doing this is with a slot port. By using a wide but thin opening, manufacturers can reduce the levels of audibility from air moving though the port – usually referred to as 'chuff.' As there is a larger cross sectional area for the air to move through, the low end can be suitably augmented without this being so much of an issue. As a final further advantage, with less of a jet of air being directed out of the speaker, placement should be easier too.
Where Wharefedale has taken this approach a step further is that the Reva 2 features a plinth that forms the base of the speaker. The gap between this plinth and the main body of the enclosure forms the slot of the bass port. At the same time, the plinth itself serves to decouple the main cabinet a little from the outside world and ensure that the Wharfedale is less sensitive to what it is placed on than many of its more conventional rivals. The Reva 2 will still do its best work on a stand as you might expect but it has an inbuilt advantage over a 'normal' speaker.
The cabinet of the Reva 2 is also slightly different in execution. Like most speakers at this price point – and indeed a great many other price points – the cabinet of the Wharfedale is made from a combination of MDF and particle board. In the case of the Reva series, Wharfedale has carried out an extensive analysis of the effects of resonance and energy on these materials when they developed the Diamond 200 Series and assembled the cabinet in such a way as to eliminate, or at the very least reduce to a absolute minimum, the resonant energy that resulted.
The Reva cabinet takes this a stage further and introduces additional materials (what these materials might be is not something they'll be drawn on) and augments the existing combinations of MDF and particle board with them. The entire collection of material is then bonded together in a heated press which serves both to compress them and add the curvature to the sides of the cabinet at the same time.
The drivers that sit inside this cabinet are related (although by no means identical) to those that are employed in the Diamond 200 Series, This takes the form of a woven glass fibre mid bass driver that is built in a variety of sizes for different Reva models and a 25 mm textile tweeter. The tweeter is interesting because it sits in the centre of a wider circle that, while not a driver itself, is part of the tweeter assembly and presumably aids the dome's performance. Textile tweeters might lack some of the headline grabbing excitement of more exotic materials doing the rounds but they are capable of excellent performance and can usually avoid the harshness that can affect other designs.
The partnering mid bass driver is a 125mm unit that has been produced to both match the tweeter and to take full advantage of the resonant controlled cabinet. Wharfedale claims to have expended considerable effort in terms of how the drivers work when driven hard and ensured that they avoid breakup or other unwanted behaviour extremely well. At the same time, this has been achieved without making the speaker extremely insensitive. A final relatively unusual feature for a speaker released recently is the fitment of biwire terminals rather than just the straight pair.
DesignThe Wharfedale range is one of two dedicated speaker brands belonging to IAG that are currently active in the UK (the company also owns Castle but at the time of writing it is unclear if these are on sale here) and additionally produces speakers under the Quad name too. As a result of this, there has been considerable effort expanded to give each brand its own identity. Wharfedale in 2016 is still focused on representing excellent value for money at any given price point but additionally, there is a focus on elegant and contemporary design.
All things considered, the Reva 2 does a good job of pulling this off. While I can't pretend that the white finish of the review samples is one I'd choose to spend my own money on, it does show up the clean lines and good proportions of the overall design. The careful use of brightwork is well implemented and this results in a speaker that manages to look elegant without being anonymous.
There are some nice design touches too. As you might expect, the grilles use a magnetic tab to avoid any unsightly holes in the front of the speaker and Wharfedale has ensured that the force the magnets exert will actually keep the grilles in place. Around the back, the opposed placement of the biwire terminals possibly isn't completely necessary from an engineering perspective but it is a neat method of showing that the implementation is bespoke.
All of this is then combined with good overall build quality and a level of 'feel' to the product that is in keeping with the asking price. The Reva 2 is slightly unusual in that each cabinet doesn't feel as weighty as some similarly sized speakers at similar prices but when you tap the cabinets, it is clear that they are usefully inert and well assembled so it seems Wharfedale doesn't feel that they need extra mass for the sake of it.
The careful use of brightwork is well implemented and this results in a speaker that manages to look elegant without being anonymous
How was the Wharfedale Reva 2 tested?The Wharfedales were placed on a pair of Soundstyle Z60 speaker stands with some Blutak helping to couple them to the top plate. They have been tested predominantly with a Naim Supernait 2 integrated amplifier, Naim ND5 XS network streamer with XP5 XS power supply and an Avid Ingenium Twin turntable with Cyrus Phono Signature phono stage. All electronics have been connected to an IsoTek Evo 3 Sigmas mains conditioner. Test material has included lossless and high resolution FLAC, Tidal, Spotify and vinyl.
Sound QualityOn the assumption that the review samples were new the first order of business after they were initially connected was for some uncritical background running while other items passed through critical listening. The human brain is an unreliable witness to progressive change but no serious alterations to the overall presentation were apparent in this time. This is a good thing because out of the box, the Wharfedale does a great many things right.
Listening to Friends the newest album from The White Lies, the Wharfedale shows itself to be a speaker that will always try for a fundamentally accurate reproduction of the material you play through them. This self produced effort from The White Lies is less tonally dark than their previous efforts – it even has songs on it that might in passing be described as 'happy' – and the Reva does a good job of capturing this. The absolute limitations of the material, limited dynamic range and a slight lack of bass depth are gently but accurately revealed as you might expect in a speaker designed to produce a believable facsimile of what you play through it.
What is impressive about this though is how gently – almost apologetically – the Reva 2 makes these failings apparent and how little they interfere with the wider musical message of the piece. This might deny it a job as a true studio monitor but ensures that the Wharfedale will go about reproducing a wide variety of material without rendering any of it unlistenable. It manages to do this while also sounding controlled and tonally even from top to bottom. The integration between the two drivers is very good indeed and this helps everything you play on the Reva 2 to sound composed and inviting.
If you give them a genuinely good recording to get stuck into they deliver a performance that is strong judged by the standards of sub £1,000 speakers rather than simply £600 ones. Their performance with the 24/96kHz download of David Bowie's Blackstar is compelling and presents the jagged beats and vocals of Girl Loves Me with plenty of space and with all the little details and nuances of the track effortlessly placed in a soundstage that is convincing and has a reasonable degree of three dimensionality to it.
Things aren't perfect of course. The Reva 2 goes impressively loud and stays perfectly civilised while it does so but where some speakers can generate a fizz of excitement beyond what is in the recording, the Wharfedale stays on the side of matter of fact. This does mean that music that isn't designed to get you moshing can sound genuinely excellent though. Listening to the vinyl pressing of Terry Callier's What Colour is Love? has the Wharfedale playing to its strengths and delivering a performance that flows from the speakers. Vocals are rich and well defined and that excellent integration allows the performance to just speak for itself.
The last piece of good news is that the plinth and slot port arrangement does seem to imbue the Reva 2 with low end that is reasonably deep and free from bloat and overhang. The Wharfedale also seems to be pleasantly unfussy about its placement close to walls and even when placed directly on a Quadraspire rack, they keep most of their positive attributes. There are floorstanders at a similar price that can naturally go a little deeper but the Reva 2 is capable of producing bass that is usefully forceful when called upon to do so.
They deliver a performance that is strong judged by the standards of sub £1,000 speakers rather than simply £600 ones
- Refined and accurate presentation
- Lovely build
- Handsome and understated appearance
- Lacks a little excitement
- Quite large compared to some rivals
Wharfedale Reva 2 Speaker ReviewAs noted right at the start of the review, there is no shortage of very capable speakers at £600 and this is not the sort of money you would throw away on a whim. The Wharfedale Reva 2 unquestionably warrants attention though. This is a speaker that manages to bring a range of well considered attributes to its performance and will reward the listener with a sound that is a useful balance of accurate and forgiving. When you add excellent build, attractive appearance and unfussy placement, you have a speaker that is entirely worthy of recommendation.
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