I bought these fantastic speakers around 6 months ago. For listening to low-mid tempo music, I give them a solid 9/10. I can’t imagine there are a better pair on the market that look and sound like this for anywhere near the price of £599. However, I have come to realise that there is an ingredient missing that is vital to the enjoyment of certain genres. They sound great with every genre I play on them but their laid back nature leaves them feeling a little boring in comparison to other speakers. If you are considering these speakers and favor genres that are more energetic such as Rock, Dance, D&B, Hip Hop etc I would suggest that you will be able to find a more enjoyable pair of speakers. This is my love story with these wonderful speakers that eventually lead to heartache.
Wharfedale Evo 4.2 Characteristics:
- Wide, deep, immersive soundstage, In the right room given the correct positioning, playing the right songs, they create an environment of music that surrounds you and makes for a truly magical listening experience.
- Laid-back, smooth, non fatiguing sound allows for extensive listening sessions.
- Instruments and vocals sound fantastic. Instrument separation is strikingly good.
- Full bodied lower bass.
- Upper bass/lower mids lack dynamics/attack/bite/punch.
- Sound best in medium sized rooms. In a small room they don’t have the space to create the soundscape that makes for a magical experience.
Lacking a little in dynamics, energy and excitement. Not for those who want to get down and boogie.
- Blues, Jazz, Acoustic, Vocals, Dub Reggae, Instruments and low-mid tempo music types are presented fantastically.
- Dance, Rock, Drum & Bass & Hip Hop music sound good but do not play to this speakers strengths.
- They look and feel much more expensive than they are
- They have a small sweet spot which sometimes stopped me from relaxing fully as I was distracted by making sure I was in the perfect position at all times.
A Brief Intro:
I am 6 months into my new found hobbie/obsession of Hifi. The story began when I inherited a pair of Heybrook HB1’s which are approx 15-20 years old. Before I inherited them I had spent many evenings enjoying their sound when connected to a Marantz PM7000. This combo produced a nice cosy ‘warm’ (I’m learning!) and relaxed sound. Unfortunately the amplifier was broke and so the search for a new one began and a new hobby/obession was born. I found myself feeling overwhelmed, dazed and confused as I obsessively spent many hours and many days trying to absorb a wealth of information. So many things to consider, so much lingo to learn, watts, ohms, warm, neutral, cold, DACs, Inputs, Outputs, Preouts, Sub Outs, USB, Bluetooth, Aptx, Digital Coax, Optical and Phono to name but a few. What does it all mean? I was learning to crawl, and as I was crawling along I was picked up and placed upon the Cambridge Audio CXA 81 hype train (CHO CHOOOO!) The USB connectivity and AptX HD Bluetooth connectivity swung the deal.
As soon as i connected the amp to the Heybrooks i noticed a difference in what I remembered to be their sound signature. They were not how I remembered them, they were like a different pair of speakers. The sound is now more awake with an icy brightness that reveals a little more detail but when played with volume can be a bit piercing and over time fatiguing. Although they were not how I remembered them, the sound was still pleasing & I was happy to have brought them back to life. After enjoying the sound for a month or so I couldn’t help but wonder what sound modern speakers would offer when paired with the CXA 81. Once more I dived head first down the rabbit hole...
As I searched through forums and watching Youtube video’s I was drawn towards the usual suspects within my price range of £500-£1000. After extensively watching reviews and reading forums, my attentions were drawn towards the Wharedale Evo range. My choice was reaffirmed when I head Zero Fidelity describe the CXA 81 and 4.2’s pair as "freakishly good”. Tharbamars review of them had me waving my cash card in the air saying 'take my money’! I briefly considered the 4.1’s. Strangely I couldn’t find any youtube reviews but there were a few people on the forums who seemed to prefer the 4.1’s over the 4.2’s. After some consideration, I simply couldn’t resist the great words being used to describe the sound that comes from the 4.2’s dedicated Mid dome. I placed my order via Audio Affair who provided a great service and within 48 hours I was wearing the supplied white gloves as i unpacked and served them to their new stands like a butler.
Straight Out The Box: My first reaction as I undressed them from their protective white gowns was that the walnut appeared duller than it looked in the pictures but that they still look beautiful and seem very well made. Their shape and design look very at home in my living room. The first test that had to pass was the wife test, I was nervous. They are larger and have a more imposing presence than the HB1’s but thankfully she liked them and said they look expensive (phew).
With much talk of a ‘burn in’ process I wasn’t expecting great results from the first song. I opted for a live recording of “Positive Vibration”, its the very first song on Bob Marley’s fantastic live album titled Babylon By Bus. The song begins with cheers, clapping and whistles from the audience. As Bob takes the stage, they cheer and he greets the crowd in the name of "Haile Selassie", as the song begins the crowd go wild. I immediately notice the sound stage is more expansive, the vocals sound a little clearer, a little more true to life, I noticed more detail within the sounds of the audience but as the music kicked in the bass sounded a bit flabby, boomy, too heavy, unrefined and the various elements of the music didn’t seem to merge pleasantly. Despite knowing they could take a number of hours burn in I was concerned these might not be the speakers for me. I put them on a low volume and let them play, 5 hours later I returned and turned them up towards a medium volume. At bed time I returned the volume to low and returned 24 hours after I had switched them on
5 Hours -
I did notice an improvement but I started to become concerned buy the bass. The speakers where well positioned away from side walls and rear walls. Too boomy and not allowing me to enjoy the mid dome/ AMT. I allow them to play at the same volume until bedtime when I reduce to lower volume while I sleep.
Starting to notice an improvement in overall presentation of the music but getting more concerned by the bass. I’m not able to connect the speakers to the great reviews. Have I bought snake oil? I wonder
24 Hours play time -
What a difference a day makes, 24 golden hours. The bass is less boomy, in fact its not boomy at all! Its full-bodied and is working in harmony with the mids and trebles. These speakers are beginning to sound very good indeed. I began to experience what ‘separation’ of instruments was, and I like it.
One week later -
I sit down for an evening accompanied by a selection of my favourite beverages and what a night it was. I really enjoyed the way the songs were reproduced. I had been speaking to a chap in one forum who told me the CXA & 4.2 combo leaves him with a stupid grin on his face. As the beer flowed I was enjoying going though various genres but that 'stupid grin' moment had yet to happen. It arrived unexpectedly with help from The Fugees. In my quest to test how 90’s Hip Hop sounded I reached for their brilliant album - The Score, one of my favourites. As the album played out, I thought once again it sounded well presented. Highs all there, most definitely non fatiguing, just about right, vocals all coming through nice and clearly along with instrument and other sounds from that frequency range. It was all very decent and enjoyable but then out of nowhere I took a hit straight to the sweet spot, KILLING ME SOFTLY came out of the speakers with such grace, beauty, strength and delicateness I found myself in a church with Lauren Hill as she powerfully and meaningfully opened her soul, as I closed my eyes my body dissolved and had I think what I would describe as a 3D sound experience, it was magical. 3/4 of the way into the song I realised it had happened, I had a stupid grin on my face. I played the song once more from the beginning but with more volume. I poured another beer and raised the glass to my stupidly grinned forum friend. Luckily for me, that grin had only just begun to get stupid and I was about to have listening experience that i’ve never had before.
Benda Bilili- Apojunkwetu
Songs on this album (Tre Fort Fort) are beautifully captured recordings of a band who were not always able to record their music in a studio. ‘Apojunkwetu' is one of those songs, it was recorded on the streets of Africa and features a backdrop of sounds ranging from insect noises and people conversing in what sounds like a restaurant as the waiter collects and even drops things. It is a phenomenal recording and incredibly reproduced by this combination of CXA 81 and 4.2. The vocals and instruments come across with such clarity and a really striking separation. One singer is coming from the left speaker, backing singer on the right, instruments coming through with great separation. The insect noises and other background noises create a soundscape that fills the room and envelops you. One of the band members Roger, a child prodigy who plays an instrument he made himself out of an empty fish can, called a ‘Satonge’. The sound it makes comes through the speakers brilliantly. This is the taste of ‘high end audio’ that Tharbamar was talking about!!! Very Engaging, Immersive, and one of the most incredible listening experiences I’ve ever had, 10/10.
When playing music that caters to this speakers strengths, they produce such a magical immersive soundscape I happily abandoned my old favourite genres in search of new artists and bands which I have now added to my favourites list. These speakers have got me researching music I have never given much attention to. In the back of my mind though I am hoping the speakers are going through an opening up process and soon my old favourites and I will be able to sing, dance, rap, head bang, air guitar, swing and sway and drum on the coffee table and get told off by the mrs. For now I am enjoying what these things are currently capable of and they are making me smile.
After a few months I started to detect that something wasn’t quite as I remember my old favourite songs to be. I hooked up my 15-20 year old Heybrook HB1’s to do do a comparison. The A/B testing instantly confirmed something I had felt but not been able to articulate. The HB1’s don’t sound as detailed, smooth or full bodied, the soundstage isn’t as spacious and the overall presentation is not comparable BUT within seconds of pressing play I noticed they offer more in the way of responsiveness, dynamics, punch and with a touch more brightness to them that seemed to reveal a little more detail. I got a feeling that is almost absent in the 4.2’s… Energy, a feeling that made me want to move and groove to the music. I hooked up the 4.2’s and played the same songs and my heart broke a little as I realised these beautiful speakers that I have fallen in love with don’t have something which for my listening preferences is vital to the enjoyment of my music. Kick drums play an important role in Rock, Dance, Hip Hop, D&B etc and sadly the 4.2’s are weak in that department. The sound is there but its more of a tap rather than a punch. In some songs the HB1’s revealed a rhythmic grove that seemed non existent in the Evo’s.
I made some notes as conducted the A/B comparison through the genres I listen to the most.
Lower bass plays an important role in this genre, the 4.2’s full bodied bass offering sounds plentiful and complements the genre, the vocals shine through, the highs are there in pleasing amounts. The swirling psychedelic echo effects in dub reggae are especially well suited to the immersive soundscape these speakers create. Burning Spear, Fat Freddys Drop & Gentlemans Dub Club sound brilliant.
I am a great fan of the British Dub Reggae band “Gentlemans Dub Club" and they sound great on this system. If there is any lack of punch its overshadowed by the overall quality of sound. If there is another sound system out there within my budget that can do what these speakers do but with that missing ingredient, I will have made it to audio heaven and I can end this consuming quest.
Vocals & instruments come through brilliantly and overall is a very smooth and enjoyable listen. D’angelo’s Voodoo album sounds fantastic.
In the various reviews I had read before buying these speakers, Blues music had been mentioned as being one of its strengths so despite not really being a fan of the genre, I began to explore it. Whoa! This is one of those genres that allows the speakers to produce magic. Strong vocals and instruments are this speakers forte they create a wide and deep soundstage, a musical environment envelops you and you feel like you can reach out and touch the sounds. Any emotion in the vocals is tangible and the striking instrument separation makes for a very enjoyable listening experience. Blues sounds so incredible on these speakers that I am now a fan of the genre. A blues recording by Tom Jones, "Soul Of A Man" is a phenomenal listening experience.
Although vocals and instruments are this speakers strong points Rock is a great place to identify an area of their weakness. The kick drum doesn’t have much kick to it. It’s there but its subdued, more of a tap than a thump. I now realise that the kick drum is where a lot of energy comes from and this speaker is lacking in it.
Vocals and instruments come through with spaciousness and sound better on the Wharfedales but the HB1’s project them forward with focus and an attack that thrusts words in your face. They also provide more brightness and a punchier sound that suits this genre. A song by UK Hip Hop artist Giggs titled “Man Are Outside” is a great example of this and is a much more enjoyable experience on the HB1’s. To confuse matters slightly, I tested Killing Me Softly on the HB1’s and they were not a patch on the 4.2’s.
R&B - low-mid tempo songs sound great, strong vocals really shine through. Lauryn Hill’s “The Miseducation” sounds phenomenal.
Dance - Again the sound that comes is pleasing, vocals sound brilliant, any other background, soundscape noises are enjoyable but there is something not quite as I expect dance music to sound. I’m beginning to understand why these speakers are classed as being ‘laid back’. A lack of dynamics and the type of energy that gives dance music its name is missing. I don’t feel like dancing. Hmm…
Drum & Bass
Immediately after I pressed play on the first drum and bass song I noticed something wasn’t right. The kick drum seemed to lack impact, the sound was there but it was thin with no ‘punch’, it was more of a tap. After noticing this area of lack, I hooked up the HB 1’s, not quite as detailed, not quite as clear, not quite as bassy BUT despite their shortcomings the were more enjoyable, more responsive, had a little more punch to them, more of that something within music that make you want to get up and dance. They had a touch more brightness to them which revealed parts of the song that had been veiled by the 4.2’s. A lift in the upper frequencies, a little less lower bass but with a little more punch to them. The result is something I can only describe as ‘groove’ and for some genres of music that ‘groove’ is one of the most important ingredients. I realised that despite all the great things they can do, they don’t provide that certain something that makes you want to get up and dance, the something that makes you really feel the music.
And so that concludes my experience with these beautiful speakers that I am still in love with. I'm going to find it very difficult to part with them. They are certainly going to be a hard act to follow and I won't be letting them go until I have found a worthy replacement. Speaking of which, Cheap Audio Man & Steve Guttenberg have just uploaded two very interesting videos on the new Elac Unfi Reference speakers. Although they don't look as beautiful as the Wharfies, they describe them to be exactly what I am looking for in a speaker and I am intent on hearing them for myself. Wish me luck!