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This article was originally published in issue #31
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For those of us of a certain age, the name Wharfedale is synonymous with quality Hi-Fi speakers that, in the home recording boom of the '80s and '90s, even made their way into home studios as reference monitors. In the late '90s, Wharfedale was incorporated into the IAG group based in China, joining other premium Hi-Fi brands such as Quad, Mission, LEAK, Audiolab and several others. This is where some of their iconic models such as the Denton and Diamond Series are still made today and are still picking up a raft of Hi-Fi magazine awards.
The Titan 12D on review here, is part of a range of active and passive units made under the Wharfedale Pro banner for both PA and installation use. The 12D sits in between the 8D and the 15D in the active range (as you’ve guessed, the numbers being the size of the LF driver in inches), all of which can be combined with a 12” or 15” sub-woofer. Power wise, the 12D uses a Class D power module which means it runs cool enough to dispense with heat sinks and fins. The module is bi-amped and delivers 250W RMS for the LF driver and 50W RMS for the HF driver so a combined total of 300W RMS. Because raw Wattage ratings can be pretty meaningless (so much depends on the speaker's efficiency), let me say that this translates to a maximum SPL of 127dB, which is pretty impressive for such a small, lightweight package!
Construction-wise, the cabinet is made from tough, moulded polypropylene with recessed handles - these have a rubberised finish to the inside and make the cabinet very easy to handle. A point of note is that, even taking into consideration the size of the driver, these are one of the lightest PA speakers I’ve ever carried - I can only imagine how light the passive versions are without the amplifier onboard! To put a number on that - the 12D weighs just 12kg or around 26 1/2 lbs.
At the top of the unit, the 1” titanium tweeter sits at the back of an elliptical horn design, which has an accompanying circular blue LED (there is a switch to turn this off if preferred, but it looks kind of cool and also lets you know the unit is on). The cabinet is a ported design, with one aperture either side of the cabinet, separating the horn from the 12” moisture-proof driver, which sits behind a substantial grille. The sides of the cabinet are angled, so that it can also be used lying down as an on-stage monitor. At the base, there is a standard mounting hole for use with a tripod stand and the cabinet itself has “rigging points” with different thread sizes to accommodate bolts for brackets or hangers for permanent installation or even stacking multiple units together. Incidentally. That reference to 'moisture proof' means that, provided you take reasonable care, these handy speakers can also be used for outdoor gigs - very useful in summer!
The rear of the unit is very comprehensive and gives you the option to use the cabinet independently, or with a mixer and/or second cabinet. There are two inputs on XLR/jack combi connectors and a stereo input on phono (these are internally summed to mono). Input A has a gain selection switch for mic/line level, allowing you to connect a dynamic mic directly, if you’re not using a mixer. Input B is fixed at line level, but both have independent volume controls. There is a Hi/Lo shelf EQ to tailor the sound even more as well as an additional 90Hz roll off filter switch to counter any “boominess” at the bottom end if it’s being used in a monitoring situation.
A cool function is the “Loop/Mix” button, which determines what is sent to the line level XLR output connector. In LOOP mode, the signal of input B is sent to the output XLR, bypassing the volume and EQ section, but still appearing in the speaker alongside input A. This means that, if you were using several cabinets as a monitor system, a band mix could be daisy-chained to all the units (into input B) and each performer could also send a separate feed of themselves into input A for more “me”. With the switch in MIX mode, both inputs act the same and are sent to the XLR output.
I had the opportunity to use two 12D cabinets (with a mixer) for an acoustic gig in a venue of around 75/100 people. As I mentioned earlier, my first revelation was being able to carry both cabinets 100m from the car and lift them up onto the speaker stands with minimum effort (when you’re carrying equipment into a venue that’s already open, this is a welcome bonus). In this instance, the on-stage volume was relatively low, so the audience was hearing the PA almost exclusively. The 12Ds were more than up to the task and were impressively loud. Due to the nature of the size of the drivers, I wasn’t expecting a trouser flapping low end, but the highs and lows of the guitar and voice came over equally well without any additional EQ (other than that from the small mixer). The design of the horn and cabinet itself meant that the sound was delivered over quite a wide area and there were no discernible dead spots when walking around the room. If you were to make the move to a full band performance, just the 12D cabinets on their own, would possibly struggle to keep up over a loud drum kit and guitar/bass amplifiers, but that said, a couple of the 15Ds, combined with one of Wharfedale's new lightweight subs, the Titan 15ASUBMKII, either side would make a great pub/club PA for any gigging band.
Many readers will be pretty familiar with Wharfedale's PA products and may wonder why we've chosen to look at such a long-established product. The reason is simple. Due to the opening of a new manufacturing facility in China, IAG says it has been able to reduce the price considerably and it seemed to us that it's sometimes too easy to overlook an established product when the market is swamped with so much new gear. We wanted to see how an established market leader stood up to some of its newer rivals and especially given the new pricing, I can only say it does - and how.
Taking account of various comments about the sound of the vocals and acoustic guitar, I’d say that Wharfedale were justified in putting the word “pro” on the cabinets – I’d happily use them again and may try to get one more gig in before I have to return them……