You’ll need to factor in the cost of cabling and an amplifier alongside this package, of course. But this little system shows that 5.1 setups don’t have to be big or expensive to sound superb.
Design and build
The Wharfedale DX-2 package is made up of a dedicated centre channel, two pairs of identical satellite speakers and a separate subwoofer. It’s a compact package, designed to work well in almost any size of room, with its easy-to-accommodate satellite speakers measuring just 19 x 12 x 12cm.
There’s plenty squeezed into their diminutive dimensions, and an improved cabinet design since the DX-2 is engineered to make the most out of the fine-tuned 19mm silk dome tweeter and 75mm mid/bass driver.
The centre channel packs the same pairing, but adds a second 75mm mid/bass driver for extra authority when it needs to stand out in the mix.
The included active subwoofer has also seen some changes from the DX-1, promising a more powerful 70w amplifier to deliver greater scale, punch and refinement from its front-firing 20cm long-throw bass cone.
Aesthetically, the setup receives some welcome tweaks, with a softer, more refined design compared to its predecessor. The speakers’ edges are rounded, the drivers are covered with fixed grilles with a chrome surround, and the high-gloss front baffle is joined by a leather-like finish to the rest of the cabinet.
Currently the speakers are only available in black, but Wharfedale is planning a white version should that work better for your room.
In the grand scheme of 5.1 systems, the DX-2 is one of the more laid-lack setups you’ll come across. Yes, you need to wire it all up, but invest in decent cabling with banana plugs and this will take a matter of minutes. Despite its affordable price, there are no spring terminals to be seen here.
And when it comes to placement, these speakers aren’t particularly fussy. If you have dedicated stands then great, but they’re equally at home on shelves, TV cabinets or tables. The closed-box design means you can even sit them close to a wall, or wall-mount them, without worry that it will affect performance.
You’ll want to leave just enough room to access the sub’s controls at the rear. These include a phase switch (give both a try to see which works best for your room – I kept it at 0°), a crossover control (I set it to just past midway, between 100-120Hz), a volume control (set just below half way) and an on/off button for the auto-on control.
You’ll want to spend some time playing around to ensure the sub sounds properly integrated, but doesn’t take up too much (or indeed too little) of the limelight in the mix.
I angled in the front speakers towards the listening position, just slightly, and did the same with the surrounds, which were placed along the side walls.
Once in position, I gave the whole system a good 24-hour run-in before any critical listening took place – and, of course, I ran my amplifier’s setup programme to ensure the sound was correctly balanced for my room.
One thing is for sure – the Wharfedale DX-2’s performance is big for its size, and won’t disappoint even in the most challenging of action scenes.
Watching Star Trek: Into Darkness gives the DX-2 plenty of opportunity to flex its muscles, and it does so convincingly. In the warp battle scene, where the USS Vengeance attacks the Enterprise, the sub jumps into life to give a deep, solid rumble to the engines as they push into overdrive.
It’s equally powerful when it comes to putting short, sharp punch behind missile fire, showing off a keen level of agility too. It might not display the most detail at the lowest of frequencies, nor be the most subtle, but it’s ability to get as low and loud as it does is impressive from such an affordable package.
Such a strong bass performance helps to underpin an equally confident mid-range, which is full of body and plenty of detail. In particular, dialogue is handled superbly by the centre channel, and remains focused and insightful, even in when things get busy on-screen.
The treble, too, is well balanced, with no hint of harshness, even at volume. This doesn’t mean there’s no bite when it’s needed though, which helps to ensure the overall sound doesn’t become too thick or lacking in expression.
Such an assured display across the frequency range means that soundtracks sound fantastic. There’s great scale here and plenty of dynamic know-how, but with a good amount of precision that helps it place sound effects seamlessly around the room for a more engaging and cinematic experience than any soundbar can offer.
That’s helped by the fact that this dinky system will fill the majority of rooms without issue. In fact, the soundstage is pretty expansive – not as all-encompassing as you’ll get from larger speakers, but much bigger than its dimensions would suggest.
For its price the Wharfedale DX-2 system is hugely accomplished then, but you’ll start to hear its limitations towards the top of the volume range. Here, it can sound a touch pushed. Most won’t feel the need to turn it up that high, however, such is the scale on offer here.
You’ll also notice it doesn’t remain the most poised during the busiest of action scenes, when the speakers start to show their limitations when it comes to finer detail and organisation.
You’ll need to spend more money to fix these problems, and at this price the DX-2 far exceeds expectations in more areas than it disappoints with its shortcomings.
The Wharfedale DX-2 is a superb speaker package for those craving an authentic home cinema experience without the high price tag.
Its compact size and sophisticated design result in a setup that’s easy to accommodate in any room, while its flexibility over placement means you don’t need to worry too much about having speaker stands cluttering up the place – the speakers will work just as well on the bookshelves and tables you already have.
While it can’t compete with the pure convenience offered by a soundbar, the bump up in performance is undeniable. The DX-2 offers a far more engaging, expansive and, above all, enjoyable home cinema experience than any one-box solution can muster.
Yes, you’ll have to incorporate the price of an amp and cabling into your budget, plus a bit of extra faff in the process, but it’s unlikely to come in much higher than the cost of a premium soundbar.
That only makes the Wharfedale DX-2 an even more compelling proposition, and a product that should feature highly on your audition list, if not top it immediately. You’ll do well to find better at this price.
A powerful, compact 5.1 home cinema system that balances price and performance with style.