Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Articles

Wharfedale Evo 4.4 Loudspeakers: The Audiophile System Builder

Looking to build a really high-end hi-fi around a pair of audiophile loudspeakers that are affordable? The Wharfedale Evo 4.4 take the crown.

Wharfedale EVO 4.4 Loudspeakers Lifestyle in Black Oak

Our focus in recent columns has been on “bookshelf” loudspeakers; a misnomer as almost all of the current offerings really belong on stands and placed at least 2 feet away from the walls around them. We are going to pivot for the next few weeks to some of the excellent floorstanding loudspeakers available below $2,500 from brands like Zu Audio, Magnepan, Elac, and Wharfedale. Not everyone wants a pair of heavy and ugly stands in the middle of their living space and would rather go for a pair of attractive speakers like the Wharfedale Evo 4.4. 

The “Linton” speakers from the venerable British brand get a lot of love, and we’re big proponents of the current Diamond 12 Series (review) which offer a lot of value and great sound quality in an affordable package. Wharfedale has something for almost anyone from $350 to $10,000. 

The Evo 4.4, however, might be the best kept secret in high-end floorstanding speakers and for less than $2,000. 

A Naked American Man Just Stole My Balloons…

Wharfedale EVO 4.4 Floorstanding Loudspeakers in Walnut

If you ever awaken without clothing in the zoo in central London, the Evo 4.4 will provide a degree of cover because they are on the larger side when it comes to floorstanding speakers (42”H x 10”W x 14”D) and the cabinet is a solid 56 pounds. The fit and finish on the cabinets is excellent and we’re particularly fond of the walnut real wood veneer. 

Definitely not a speaker to cover up with the supplied magnetic grille covers; they look and sound better in both scenarios. 

The Wharfedale Evo 4.4 loudspeaker employs a specially engineered 1.1875″ x 2.375″ AMT (Air Motion Transformer) transducer for very smooth high frequency reproduction. By design, the AMT allows for a higher volume of air to be moved during playback than with a conventional soft dome tweeter. The AMT driver has excellent extension and detail and can be quite airy sounding with the right amplifier.

There is one drawback with the AMT that requires some attention during setup. The dispersion pattern is somewhat narrow so you might discover that the treble sounds quite different when you listen off-axis as opposed to sitting in the sweet spot. 

The Evo 4.4 is also a 3-way design that incorporates a 2″ soft-dome midrange to go along with its AMT high-frequency transducer and Kevlar cone woofer. The 2″ driver is rather unique; you don’t see it on too many loudspeakers anymore, but it certainly makes the speaker sound more full-range, and the midrange is wonderfully detailed. Vocals really benefit from the driver compliment and there is a naturalness to the sound that makes it easy to listen to for many hours. 

Wharfedale EVO 4.4 Floorstanding Loudspeakers in White, Walnut and Black Oak
Wharfedale Evo 4.4 floorstanding loudspeakers are available in White, Walnut or Black Oak

The Evo 4.4’s two bi-directional weaved Kevlar cone 6.5″ woofers can deliver a lot of bass; both in terms of extension and visceral impact. 

The bass response of the Evo 4.4 was a real surprise the first time we heard the loudspeakers setup in a medium-sized room; they really need some space to not overload the room. If your listening room is not very large, I would recommend the smaller Evo 4.2 or Evo 4.3 which offer the same tonal balance and presentation but less bass. 

The Evo 4.4 require at least 2-3’ behind them (at a minimum) and at least 3 feet on either side to really shine. 

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

The tonal balance is on the warmer side and the loudspeaker is most certainly laid-back sounding, but not at the expense of clarity or detail. The midrange has excellent resolution, and the AMT delivers detail galore on every recording. 

Wharfedale suggests between 6-13’ feet of separation but we’ve had excellent results with 6-8’ and don’t agree that they need as much toe-in as the manual recommends. They do image better with the cabinets turned slightly inward and angled towards your listening position, but the stereo image didn’t collapse with 15° to 20° in our room. Every situation will differ so experimentation is a must. 

Is That A Power Amplifier in Your Pants or Are You Just Glad to See Me? 

The Wharfedale Evo 4.4 are not a difficult load (89 dB, 4 ohms) but they really do benefit from some power and control in the low end. They also need an amplifier with a slightly forward presentation to make them come alive.

I’ve read some strange discussions online about using amplifier ‘x’ with only 50 watts or amplifier ‘r’ with 40 watts of tube power – and I’m going to say with a strong degree of certainty that you need 80-200 watts with these loudspeakers to make them work at the level that they can. 

AVRs are a bad choice unless we’re talking about Anthem or the top models from Marantz. 

As I mentioned before, do not buy these for a smaller room. I know people using the smaller Evo 4.3 in 15’ x 12’ rooms with 50 watts and they are quite happy with that combination at conversation volume levels. 

The Evo 4.4 are a very different loudspeaker with greater extension, scale, and dynamics. 

These speakers need a “Schiit” load of power, and you won’t feel bad about it the next day. 

Tower of Power

Cambridge Audio CXA81 Integrated Amplifier with remote control
Cambridge Audio CXA81 Integrated Amplifier with remote control

My first inclination was to recommend the Cambridge Audio CXA81 integrated amplifier because it has the right tonal balance and more than enough power to drive the Evo 4.4’s to satisfying levels. 

At $1,300 USD, it’s hard to find fault with this combination. You still need to add a phono preamp to make this work with your turntable, so any configuration is going to fall between $1,700 – $2,000. 

Schiit Audio Vidar Power Amplifier and Freya+ Tube Preamplifier
Schiit Audio Vidar Power Amplifiers (bottom) and Freya+ Tube Preamplifier (Top)

I think a better long-term combination would be the Schiit Audio Vidar/Freya+ which will run you $1,598; more power, greater low end control, larger soundstage. 

You still need a phono stage and DAC or streamer so the difference in price will be at least $500 – $1,000.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

The Freya+ is a tube preamplifier that will add some extra detail to the sound and create a more fleshed out presentation with the Vidar. 

Sources of Evil

Bluesound NODE Music Streamer Black Front Angle
Bluesound Node

Keep things simple with the Bluesound Node; it sounds good, provides access to almost every available streaming service, and is compatible with MQA and hi-res formats except for DSD (that 99% of the world has never heard of). 

The Wharfedale Evo 4.4 really shine with analog sources and I’m to going to suggest investing a bit more in your turntable/cartridge with this system. 

A restored Thorens TD-160 Super reproduction turntable from Vinyl Nirvana with an Ortofon 2M Bronze would be stellar in this system. 

Thorens TD-160 Super Turntable Restoration
Thorens TD-160 Super Reproduction Turntable from Vinyl Nirvana

Fawlty Towers

Wharfedale Evo 4.4 Loudspeakers ($1,999.98/pair)

Cambridge Audio CXA81 Integrated Amplifier ($1,299.99 at Crutchfield)

Or

Schiit Audio Vidar Power Amplifier ($699 at SchiitAudio.com)

Schiit Audio Freya+ Tube Preamplifier ($899 at SchiitAudio.com)

Moon by SimAudio LP110 V2 Phono Preamp ($475.00 at Amazon)

Thorens TD-160 Super Reproduction Turntable by Vinyl Nirvana with Ortofon 2M Bronze ($2,109)

Bluesound Node Streamer ($549.00)

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Total: $6,432.00 – $6,733.00

Continue reading: See more Audiophile System Builder recommendations →

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Josh

    April 26, 2022 at 6:02 pm

    Ian – recently discovered your site and really appreciate your practical perspective and system builder recs, which are surprisingly rare beyond forums with countless differing opinions.

    My situation – 25′ x 22′ room, half has 20′ ceilings, the other half 10′ ceilings. Spekers sit in front of a Glass wall in the 20′ ceiling half space facing couch ~9-10′ away. Acoustically a rather live room I suspect.

    Current system – Canton Ergo 72 DCs (1999) 25-30,000HZ & Marantz PM6006 streaming Tidal/Spotify via Sonos Port coax passthrough (so Marantz DAC drives, not Sonos). Eventually may add vinyl/CD but digital will be my primary source.

    Like warm Marantz sound / strong lower end but realizing mid/high clarity are muddier. Have tried Cambridge CXA61 (LOVE the clarity, bit fatiguing and thiner low end) and Peachtree Nova 300 (bit more balanced between Marantz/Cambridge pros/cons but still thinner low end, bit less refined than Cambridge on mid/high)

    Just bought Wharfedale Evo 4.3 speakers arriving tomorrow. 4.4s just seem overly large and I don’t envision huge volume levels, just want rich/warm/full music with as much clarity, separation, soundstage and low end balance that I can get.

    My head is spinning with the infinite variables – integrated amps, speakers, streamers etc. Recently tried a Rega Brio w/ Naim Streamer (forget speaker info) in an audio shop and it hit the mark but when they swapped Naim to Sonos port streaming it lost some warmth. Have read about rega, musical fidelity, schiit audiolab, rotel, & countless other amps. Ideally I’d keep the Sonos Port (love the UI) and rely on the amp DAC.

    All to say – do you have a particular integrated amp/streamer/speaker combo best suited to either my Canton speakers or to the Wharfedale Evo 4.3s? If I can use the equipment I have (Sonos Port, Peachtree or Marantz) that’s great but open to alternatives. Ideally in ~$2-3K for amp + streamer (if the Sonos won’t work).

    THANKS in advance for your thoughts!

    • Ian White

      April 26, 2022 at 9:18 pm

      Josh,

      Let me give this some thought because I’m currently traveling and I want to give you a thorough answer.

      Best,

      Ian White

      • Josh

        April 27, 2022 at 2:55 pm

        Thanks Ian, much appreciated. I’ve got about 30 days left to demo the Peachtree and 60 days for the Wharfedales before they’d need to be returned if going different directions.

        If it would make a material difference I’m open to a full system rec but would like to keep it under $5K all-in if going that route.

        Happy to provide any other info if helpful.

        Thanks again for your time/insight.

        • Ian White

          April 28, 2022 at 3:35 pm

          Josh,

          The EVO 4.3 are a really good choice. They are also on the warmer side which is more my of my preference. I’ve had the 4.4 in my 16 x 13 den and it was way too much for the room. The bass overloaded the space very easily.

          The EVO definitely need some grip in the bottom end. Every consider Rega or Cambridge Audio?

          Ian White

          • Josh

            April 28, 2022 at 4:17 pm

            Thanks Ian. Yes, Rega and Cambridge are both on my list. Recap of my current system / things I’ve tried –

            Current system – Canton Ergo 72 DCs (1999) 25-30,000HZ & Marantz PM6006 (with tone controls) streaming Tidal/Spotify via Sonos Port coax passthrough (so Marantz DAC drives, not Sonos). Eventually may add vinyl/CD but digital will be my primary source.

            Like warm Marantz sound / strong lower end but realizing mid/high clarity are muddier. Have tried Cambridge CXA61 (LOVE the clarity, bit fatiguing and thiner low end) and currently demoing a Peachtree Nova 300 (bit more balanced between Marantz/Cambridge pros/cons but still thinner low end, less refined mid/high than the Cambridge)

            My Marantz has adequate warmth/low end but lacks clarity. When I tried the others I gain clarity at significant loss to low end (Cambridge/Peachtree lack tone control). Will be firing up new Wharfedale 4.3s (using Marantz and Peachtree) when they arrive tonight.

            So I’m debating the Cambridge CXA81 you recommend. Wondered if I should pair with the CXN V2 if that would meaningfully improve sound over the Sonos Port?

            Also Considering Schiit Ragnarok 2 or Vidar – if Vidar, suggestions on preamp and DAC? Tubes seem fussy but I want the right sound so open to it if critical.

            Rega – could go with Brio, Elex or Elicit. Not sure the merits of higher end versions. None have a DAC so I’d be relying on Sonos Port DAC (which seems thin to me). They apparently just released an Elicit MK5 with integrated DAC.

            Also read good things on Audiolab 6000, Musical Fidelity M3si, Rotels etc.

            Apologies for the novels. Any thoughts on the right combo above are welcome. Thanks again for your time.

          • Ian White

            April 28, 2022 at 8:18 pm

            I own the Schiit, Cambridge Edge A, Audiolab 6000A, and have tried some of the Rega.

            The Ragnarok 2 is too soft in the bottom end. At least for me. It’s a decent tonal match but the bass is kinda soft.

            The Rega amps are all good. The new Elicit MK5 is too new to know. The tonal balance is probably a good match though if it is similar to the Audiolab which is VERY neutral sounding. Perhaps too much neutrality. Not a smidgen of warmth. Not one drop.

            It does have the power to drive the EVO.

            Cambridge and Wharfedale are usually a good match. The CXA81 is an excellent amplifier.

  2. Josh

    April 28, 2022 at 10:49 pm

    Thanks Ian, will give the CXA81 a shot and hope it adds more low end paired with the Wharfedale’s than I was getting from the CXA61 paired with my Cantons.

    Is the Cambridge CXN V2 streamer worth adding in lieu of my Sonos Port to fill out low end/warmth?

    If that fails sounds like Rega, maybe middle of the road with the Elex and find better DAC/streamer that the Sonos.

    I want to love the Schiit, their attitude and excellence for good value are so compelling. Good to know Ragnarok is thin though.

    Thank you again.

  3. Josh

    April 29, 2022 at 4:02 am

    Ian. The Wharfedales. I’m floored by how good they are! Giving the Marantz a whole new life, that midrange dome and the ribbon tweeter – lush indeed – and revealing far more than the Marantz did with my Cantons. Bass is a bit lighter than the Cantons but plenty strong out of the box. These are a revelation after endless amp/component research.

    The Peachtree is a miss, adds some clarity over the Marantz but still seriously lacks low end. Surprised given the many rave reviews about its warm/deep/powerful sound.

    I’ll likely still try the CXA81. Having now heard the Wharfedales I suspect the harsh I heard before was my Cantons not the amp . My only hesitation is if the bass will hold up (seems like some amps lacking tone control for signal purity can lose the low end). If another route (Rega/other) is better suited to preserve the low end while adding clarity like Cambridge I’d welcome your thoughts.

    Thank you for your Wharfedale review, big reason I pulled that trigger. And thanks for indulging my many long winded questions. New to this hobby, appreciate your solid/practical approach throughout your site.

    All the best to you.
    Josh

  4. Henry

    July 8, 2022 at 11:18 am

    Hi Ian (or any other fellow enthusiasts),

    Ik have my Evo 4.4 paired with a Cyrus One Cast. I am not able to easily compare the sound with another system, so I have no idea if I could achieve better results with other systems with the same capability.

    I’m happy with what I have now, but still curious if I can significantly I improve the sound.

    Does anyone here have experienced the combination Evo 4.4 with Cyrus One Cast? What was your impression?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Advertisement

You May Also Like

Articles

Klipsch and Wharfedale loudspeakers can work exceptionally well in smaller spaces with the right components and setup for under $4,000.

Floorstanding Speakers

The $499 Fluance Ai81 Powered Tower Loudspeakers look very impressive on paper. But can they deliver sonically at that price?

Preamplifiers

Does it make sense to spend $2,000 on a phono preamplifier? The McIntosh MP100 might be the best reason yet.

Articles

The Naim Audio Uniti Atom HE and Acoustic Energy AE1 Speakers make an ideal combination if you're looking for a compact system with great...

Articles

Did you just quit Spotify Premium over Neil Young? The $449 Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 loudspeakers, Qobuz, and a Dongle DAC are your answer.

Articles

The Cyrus Audio i7-XR Integrated Amplifier is not exactly inexpensive but it can create some serious magic in a system between $7,500 and $10,000.

Articles

You are probably not hearing your records the way they can really sound. Here are the best vinyl accessories to improve your listening experience.

Articles

The Q Acoustics 3030i bookshelf loudspeakers are $399 and one of the best of a new generation of British Hi-Fi products.

Advertisement

ecoustics is a hi-fi and music magazine offering product reviews, podcasts, news and advice for aspiring audiophiles, home theater enthusiasts and headphone hipsters. Read more

Copyright © 1999-2022 ecoustics | Disclaimer: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.