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Wharfedale Evo 4.1 – Endgame Bookshelf Speakers under 500 Euros?

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I’ve owned the Wharfedale Evo 4.1 for almost 6 months now. I originally bought them because of my failing electrostatic speakers (one channel started to cut out) and wanted something to fill in the gap before I could afford something better. I was allured by all those glowing reviews on the Internet describing the Evos as the “next big thing”. Right at that time, I was moving to a smaller flat, too and needed smaller bookshelf speakers. So the Evos seemed to fit the bill perfectly. As an owner of electrostatic speakers, the Evos major selling point for me was its AMT (Air Motion Transformer) tweeter. Properly implemented, those drivers will give you much of the magic of ribbon speakers. And I thought I can’t go wrong at just 499 Euros for the pair.

Here’s a short clip I’ve recorded in my living room (sorry, no sound as we have to observe copyright…):

Unboxing and Initial Impressions

I was mightily impressed with what I received for the money. I went with the white wood veneer version to fit in seemlessly with my IKEA furniture :) The build quality is reminescent of older generation B&W Nautilus 805 speakers(!). Yes, it’s that good. The MDF enclosure is well-damped and basically dead. On the rear end, you’ll find gold plated bi-wiring terminals. Everything feels premium about this little speaker. I also loved the magnetic dust covers. A slight disappointment is the cheapish metal bridge for the bi-wiring terminal. But hey, we’re talking about a 400 Euro bookshelf speaker here.

Wharfedale Evo 4.1 Front:

Wharfedale Evo 4.1 Rear Terminal:

Technical Specs

The AMT tweeter seems to be a Chinese product but appears quite capable. The midrange / bass woofer is a little 5″ kevlar cone driver. Once again, quite impressive specs. The phase plug on the other side seems to be cheap and maybe just for decoration only, who knows.

Wharfedale engineers were smart enough to know that this speaker would most likely be used in smaller listening rooms or on book shelves. Thus they chose to let the bass reflex port fire downwards. Great idea which allows the speakers to be placed nearer to your front walls. Less bass problems, more musical enjoyment.

You get a lot of flexibility for near-field listening, too.

Sensitivity is rated at 87db. Many audiophiles claim you need tons of power to get the best out of them. So I hooked them up to my 400W Hypex NCORE400 monoblocks and started to listen.

Listening Impressions

Wow! The AMT tweeter didn’t disappoint. It rendered even the finest saxophone details of Houston Person & Ron Carter: “Remember Love” without glare. I never felt the highs to be shrill or aggressive. They just blend in nicely with the rest of the loudspeaker acoustic tuning. Mid range was pretty good, too. Voices sounded natural although lacking the last bit of resolution of ultra high-end bookshelf speakers. But that’s an unfair comparison – the closest competitors to the Evo 4.1 would be a Dynaudio Confidence C1 – I don’t have direct comparisons but from memory they are voiced similarly. Don’t get me wrong, though – you won’t get that same midrange clarity but overall good enough even for very spoiled listeners. The bass was punchy and reaching deep but for rooms larger than 12m2 you probably want a subwoofer. I think you can further improve the sound quality of the Evo 4.1 bookshelf by adding a subwoofer and crossing them over at 80Hz. This will allow the small woofers to focus on midrange and might fix those clarity issues. I may give this a shot some day.

Currently, I’m not using the Evos as my main speakers but damn…they are too good for the price. It’s hard to believe how much value you get these days.


Did the glowing reviews in the blogosphere overhype these little bookshelf speakers? Not at all. The Wharfedale Evo 4.1 is highly recommended by me. Pair them with a decent amplifier such as my Hypex mono blocks (I’ve heard good results from owners driving them with Cambridge Audio or Musical Fidelity amplifiers (advertisement links)) and you may not have a craving for more expensive loudspeakers for a long time. And this is coming from someone having owned B&W, Martin Logan just to name a few…

You can buy your own pair of Evo 4.1 bookshelf speakers at Amazon (advertisement link).

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