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The Audiophile System Builder III: Big Sound for Small Spaces with Klipsch and Wharfedale

Build a truly great sounding hi-fi audio system for less than you think. Select from a curated list of components that work well together with Klipsch or Wharfedale bookshelf speakers.

Klipsch RP-600 and Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Bookshelf Speakers

Space. Not the final frontier but the amount of room that all of us have to play with in our homes. Klipsch and Wharfedale customers know all about that issue. Over the past 20 years, I’ve been fortunate to visit the listening rooms of about a dozen fellow reviewers in Canada and the United States – and almost all of them had one thing in common. Not a single one was a completely dedicated listening room isolated from the rest of the house or apartment. Most of the listening rooms were typical dens, living rooms, or home office set-ups. None of the rooms were especially cavernous or horrible acoustic spaces. They were the types of rooms that most people actually share with spouses, children, pets, and stacks of books, records, and furniture. Real life. 

A few are lucky to have accommodating spouses or partners who don’t care if we lock ourselves away for a few hours in a dedicated space that has been treated with acoustic treatments and doesn’t interfere with the day-to-day operation of a house. 

That wouldn’t be me. 

For the most part, I listen in our den, living room, and dining room (one of the best acoustic spaces in our home). 

People enjoy listening to music while they eat. Or sitting at the dining room table late at night working. 

Most people have to work with what they have. That reality heavily influences what they buy. 

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Our newest contributor has put off improving her system for the past few years for that very reason. She recently purchased her first home and will be delving into this very topic later this month. She is a vinyl-centric listener with a great ear and sizable collection. 

When we were discussing her first series of articles, the issue of space and creating a great sounding system for smaller rooms became the topic of conversation. For those paying attention on social media platforms – it is a topic that comes up quite frequently.

Your room has a huge impact on the sound quality of your system.

A smaller room can work really well if you make intelligent choices in regard to equipment and set-up.

How you listen also matters. 

Chapter VI: The Fried Chicken Platter 

The Fried Chicken Plate

Fried chicken is delicious. It’s also very unhealthy. It can be very hard on your arteries if you eat it on a regular basis. Throw in some fresh biscuits and gravy, and a side of candied yams – and you might need to keep the defibrillator close at hand. 

The Klipsch Audio RP-600M loudspeakers are a fried chicken platter; once you hear them at their best, you may not be able to resist another piece…I mean listen. 

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These boisterous two-way bookshelf loudspeakers benefit from some space behind them and solid stands. They can work on a credenza, but I found them too large for any bookshelf. 

Klipsch RP-600M Bookshelf Speakers in Walnut
Klipsch RP-600M Bookshelf Speakers (Walnut)

They are not very difficult to drive, but during their three-month visit in my den (16’ x 13’ x 9’) I discovered that their 96 dB (as quoted by Klipsch in its literature) sensitivity rating was being somewhat optimistic. 

They are also somewhat restrained sounding by Klipsch standards. The horn-loaded tweeter can be too much if your amplifier or sources are too forward sounding but can also be quite civilized in a smaller listening space. 

Keep the magnetically attached grilles on. They look better with them off, but long-term listening suggests that the sound quality doesn’t suffer. 

Before you look at their 6.5” Cerametallic™ cone woofers and begin to salivate over how much bone crunching bass they obviously create – lower your expectations. Their bass performance is on the more defined side and actually quite tight. Even in a smaller listening space, they need to be pulled away from the walls. Quality over quantity. 

What makes them so special at their affordable price point is the remarkable degree of presence that they deliver. They won’t cause you to choke on a chicken bone, but polite they are not. 

The choice of side dish will have an enormous impact on the sound quality. 

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Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2 Integrated Amplifier
Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2 Integrated Amplifier
Heed Audio Elixir Integrated Amplifier
Heed Audio Elixir Integrated Amplifier

The Heed Elixir or Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2 integrated amplifiers work especially well with the Klipsch RP-600M. 

The Heed has a better phono stage but lacks the Ragnarok’s internal DAC and superior headphone amplifier. 

Neither amplifier has a forward sounding treble which is what you want with these loudspeakers. 

They both share a warm tonal balance and excellent pacing. The Heed will create a larger sounding soundstage with the RP-600M.

Vocals will be presented forward of the front baffle of the loudspeaker. Horns should have excellent energy without ripping your ears off. Emotional engagement with your favorite music will be exceptionally high. 

Klipsch Audio RP-600M Loudspeakers ($629.00 at Amazon)

Heed Audio Elixir ($1,450.00) or Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2 Integrated Amplifier ($1,799.00 at Schiit Audio) 

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NAD C 588 Turntable/Ortofon 2M Red ($899.00 at Crutchfield)

Bluesound Node 2i Streamer ($549.00 at Amazon)

Pangea Audio DS400 24” Loudspeaker Stands ($199.95 at Crutchfield)

System Total: $3,726.95 – $4,075.95

Chapter VII: Fish and Chips

Fish and chips platter

There are 2 kinds of fish and chips.

The odd fish finger concoction offered up in sports bars that might be fish and is usually served with an abundance of fries. 

Or the authentic kind served up in the U.K. or in my childhood neighborhood overflowing with Scotsmen who use Atlantic Cod or Haddock and a healthy portion of chips and mushy peas. 

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With a healthy splash of malt vinegar to make the heart attack complete. 

The combination is a wonderful mixture of flavors that work even better if the fish is super fresh. 

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Bookshelf Speakers
Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Bookshelf Speakers

Wharfedale likes to keep its loudspeaker line-up fresh and there is plenty to like about the new Diamond 12.1 two-way loudspeakers. 

A pair of Diamond 10.1s get daily use in my home office so it’s fair to say that I’m a fan after all of these years.

The Diamond 12.1 are not particularly large loudspeakers (12.2″ H x 7″ W x 10.9″ D) but they’re a great match for smaller spaces on their matching ST-3 24” stands. 

They are also not especially hard to drive but they do sound better with between 35-50 watts. 

NAD C 316BEE V2 Stereo Integrated Amplifier Front View
NAD C 316BEE V2 Integrated Amplifier
Cambridge Audio AXA35 Integrated Amplifier
Cambridge Audio AXA35 Integrated Amplifier

Between the NAD C 316BEE and Cambridge Audio AXA35 integrated amplifiers, it’s hard to go wrong but I’m sticking with the AXA35 in this system because its tonal balance offsets the neutrality of the Diamond 12.1 better. 

I own both amplifiers and swap back and forth a lot so don’t think I’m dismissing the NAD in any way. The NAD has a slight bump in the midrange that works incredibly well with more restrained sounding loudspeakers like the Q Acoustics 3050i and 3030i

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The 12.1 are not bass monsters but they do everything else so well for the price that it’s easy to forgive that crime of omission. 

Those about to move on because they can’t pulverize your room with bass – you’re making a rookie mistake. 

Quality not quantity. 

And to flesh out the bottom octaves, I suggest adding a subwoofer with these excellent loudspeakers. 

But not just any subwoofer. 

REL’s latest TZero MKIII is their smallest subwoofer but don’t be fooled by its size. REL has always been about quality over quantity and all of their subwoofers do more than just add extended bass response to your system. 

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REL TZero MKIII Subwoofer
REL TZero MKIII Subwoofer

When you have it set-up properly, the REL will make the Diamond 12.1 sound larger, more transparent as you raise the volume, and expand the size and width of the soundstage. 

The AXA35 includes a very competent MM phono stage that works well with high-output Ortofon, Audio-Technica, and Nagaoka cartridges. 

Add the Andover Songbird/Schiit Audio Modi 3+ streamer/DAC combination and you’re done. 

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Loudspeakers ($399.00 at Crutchfield)

Cambridge Audio AXA35 Integrated Amplifier ($349.00 at Amazon)

REL TZero MK III Subwoofer ($449.00 at Amazon )

Pro-Ject Audio Systems X1 Turntable ($999.00 at Amazon )

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Andover Audio Songbird Streamer ($129.00 at Andover Audio)

Schiit Audio Modi 3+ DAC ($119.00 Amazon)

Wharfedale ST-3 24” Loudspeaker Stands ($249.00)

System Total: $2,693.00

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