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Wharfedale Celebrates Its 80th Anniversary: a Historic Look Back

— Limited edition Denton Commemorative Loudspeaker unveiled to mark company’s anniversary —

Wharfedale is one of the founding companies of high fidelity, and in 2012, the company is celebrating its 80th anniversary as one of the most legendary marques in audio history. In addition to the year-long celebration, Wharfedale is commemorating this very special occasion by offering its limited-edition 80th Anniversary Denton loudspeaker, a two-way bookshelf speaker in the classic bookshelf tradition.

Founder Gilbert Briggs was driven by a lifelong love of music. He saved for three years to buy his first piano at age 18 and owned 40 pianos in his lifelong quest for ever-better performance. In 1932 Briggs built his very first loudspeaker in the basement of his home, located in the area known as Wharfedale. Encouraged by his initial success among radio enthusiasts for products such as the award-winning Bronze Wharfedale transducer, he set up a small factory near Bradford, England, in 1933.

By 1936 Wharfedale moved to a larger facility, and by 1945, the company developed one of the landmarks in audio reproduction – the world’s first two-way loudspeaker. By utilizing two drivers – woofer and tweeter – to handle bass/midrange and treble frequencies and optimizing each driver for its respective frequency range, a dramatic improvement in fidelity was achieved.

In 1948 Briggs established himself as an author and authority on high-fidelity with the publication of “Loudspeakers: The Why and How of Good Reproduction.” The pamphlet became extremely popular in the UK, the US and internationally, and through his lifetime Briggs continued to write and lecture about high fidelity.

In the 1950s Briggs staged an audacious series of worldwide concerts that compared live and recorded music in venues like Carnegie Hall and the Royal Festival Hall. A live orchestra would play a selection while being recorded. Next, the recording would be played back to the audience to enable them to experience live versus recorded music first-hand.

In 1958 Briggs sold Wharfedale to the Rank organization, a British entertainment company. This provided resources for continued growth and fueled technological improvements such as the first “roll surround” driver cone, and in 1962 the first-ever speakers to employ ceramic magnets. In the 1960s Wharfedale expanded into electronics, offering tuners, amplifiers and even turntables. During this period, as hi-fi components evolved from being hidden in furniture to becoming objects of desire to be showcased in the home, Wharfedale’s products evolved from their previous staid, traditional appearance to more contemporary styling and a greater variety of finishes and colors.

Wharfedale moved into a larger facility in 1967, and production growth continued through the 1970s with classic models like the Linton and the original Denton. The 1980s saw significant improvements in technologies for loudspeaker design and engineering, including laser holography and Wharfedale’s exclusive SCALP (Scanned Laser Probe) and FRESP (Frequency Slice Plot) techniques that enabled better understanding of loudspeaker behavior and the further advancement of the industry.

In 1981, Wharfedale introduced the first of what would become a landmark loudspeaker series – the original Wharfedale Diamond. The use of a smaller cabinet and light yet rigid driver material resulted in a speaker that delivered outstanding clarity and imaging and took listeners by storm. Never a company to rest on its laurels, Wharfedale subsequently introduced the Diamond II, and the series continues to this day with the acclaimed high-performance/high-value Diamond 10 lineup.

In the 1990s Wharfedale was sold to Verity Group PLC, the specialist company that at the time owned Quad and Leak and developed the revolutionary NXT loudspeaker transducer. In 1997 Verity decided to focus more exclusively on this technology and sold a number of its brands including Wharfedale, now an independent again. Wharfedale took the opportunity to expand into the professional audio market with its Wharfedale Pro division (now Wharfedale Systems and Professional).

Wharfedale became part of the International Audio Group (IAG) in the 2000s. IAG also owns Quad, Mission, Tag McLaren and other prestigious brands. In the 2010s Wharfedale is still one of the fastest growing audio companies in the world, expanding into new international markets and reaffirming its presence in the United States by appointing Canton, MA-based Sound Import LLC as its exclusive U.S. distributor. Under the direction of Vice President of Sales and Marketing Walter Schofield, formerly with Mark Levinson, and President Bob Springston, Wharfedale has continued to expand its presence stateside while providing the complete ultimate home entertainment experience.

In order to remain at the forefront of the industry, Wharfedale employs the most integrated and thorough manufacturing and quality control processes in the industry. The company has 1.5 million square feet of manufacturing space in which every single product and process takes place in-house. This vertical integration enables Wharfedale to have complete design control over every aspect of every loudspeaker. The company can manufacture superior-performance loudspeakers at attractive price points and employ materials and techniques that are unavailable to other manufacturers.

In celebration of its 80th anniversary in 2012, Wharfedale has created its limited edition Denton loudspeaker, a two-way bookshelf model that is beautifully crafted in Vintage Mahogany. Though classic in appearance, the Denton features up-to-the-minute technologies including a woven-Kevlar-cone woofer with a die-cast frame, a woven-textile-dome tweeter and a crossover designed for maximum sonic purity and a seamless blend between the two drivers. The Denton conveys music with a rich, natural quality; exceptional detail, clarity and imaging; and an open, inviting sound. The Wharfedale Denton is available at a suggested retail price of $1,000 per pair.)

Wharfedale remains committed to the values set forth by founder Gilbert Briggs, staying true to the pursuit of the superior quality and value that has made Wharfedale one of the most revered names in audio for 80 years.