MoFi: Wharfedale, Quad, TAD and Isotek

Mofi Distribution curates a lot of high fidelity brands, and as such their rooms at audio shows are usually 100% available through them as a one stop shop. The listening station was split into two last weekend, with one side featuring a higher-ish end (but not really, in comparison to most other rooms) and one budget side.

The “high end” side had the same TAD Laboratories Micro Evolution One ($12.5k) we saw at AXPONA this year. During that demo, MoFi’s Jon Derda gave us a sample of Led Zepplin’s “Moby Dick” that we won’t soon forget. Even with the older production tech used during that time period, John Bonham’s drum solo felt shockingly tight, with left/right imaging that might make a hardcore fan’s hair raise. The TAD One managed to overcome the bass extension hurdle that so many bookshelf category struggle with, on both then and this weekend. It may come as no surprise then that I have a thing for 3-way concentric driver bookshelves, ever since we got our hands on the ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 and KEF’s R300s. While more than twice the price of either of those fine specimens, the Micro finds its appeal as a natural extension to the detailed groundwork both these speakers lay out in the market. The TAD’s are rated down to 36Hz from the 16cm woofer cone. Sure, adding a sub might make your teeth rattle a bit more, but in most 2 channel music situations, it hasn’t been very noticeable – which is saying a lot without boasting anything at all.

Driving the back end was Spiral Groove Revolution ($18k) with a Centriod Tonearm ($6k) and a Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum cartridge ($7.5k). Powering the source was a TAD M2500 power amp ($24k) to a C2000 pre ($29k), cables by Nordost. There was also a digital option through a TAD D1000 SACD/DAC ($15k).

As we swung by the room during Thursday’s setup just to get a sneak peak at what was going on, we ran into MoFi’s Managing Director Norbert Schmied fine tuning the system. The TAD Micro One has gotten quite a bit of the limelight as of late. But another interesting proposal on MoFi’s roster was being featured just adjacent that was worthy of the same audience, albeit a different budget range.

The 2-way bookshelf Wharfedale Diamond 225 ($449) made up an entirely different creature, held up by stands that nearly eclipsed the cost of wallet-friendly loudspeaker. The sound was almost equally impressive in the low end (the 225’s are rated down to 45Hz) and never sounded watered down throughout the demonstrations I heard. Some of that may no doubt been easily helped along by the $4k of support staff in the form of the Quad Artera Play source ($2.2k) and Artera Stereo ($2.3k).

We were graced with a demonstration from Isotek’s Bjorn Hegelstad, which featured a nice A/B comparison of a few of the companies products via the Maria Mena cover of the KISS track I Was Made for Loving You. Whether you fall into cable camp or prefer to spend your money on other audio items, the power conditioning demo proved to be interesting from many angles. Even from the start the demo felt very high fidelity, featuring a finely articulated electric bass isolated well enough to hear much of the tone that is usually buried beneath the mix. Vocals were clear and mic’d well, providing plenty of information in the lead in to draw an applicable conclusion against overall details and mid tone response. In short, the Wharfdale 225’s were able to break ground into fidelity that was occasionally missed from even some high tag rooms that weekend, even before the main variable was applied.

So what were the variables? The demo started with plain power cables into a Walmart-style power strip that you can usually pick up for $15 or so. Step 2 included upgraded Premier Power Cables at $149/piece into the Polaris Power Strip ($449). Step 3 involved a bigger jump to the rack-friendly Aquarius Conditioner ($1,995). To my ears at the show, there was a surprising change from 1 to 2 in the form of tighter bass response and a more “breathy” sensation from the vocals, possibly alluding to more detail or extension on that end. The step from 2 to 3 was more subtle, but still appeared to drive a more cohesive sound. It is worth mentioning that the cables in step one were never plugged directly into the wall, so said improvements could be influenced by a dodgy build from Walmart, but the experience was no less interesting to behold. If you prefer to give a gander yourself, we captured the entire event from our Facebook Livestream. Feel free to strap on some headphones and give it a listen, apologies in advance for the far-less-than-scientific approach for audio capture, you might find the iPhone mic through a low res stream a bit restrictive, but its currently the easiest option for mobility at a show. Please feel free to leave observations in the comment section if you hear any differences.

  • Alan R. Christilaw

    Some of the simple mic’d direct to master tape recordings from the 50’s and 60’s? Can sound better than the compressed or synthesized stuff marketed today. Without a doubt the music performances were better back then (IMO). Bonzo included!

    • B52

      Yep-i was just listening to cliff richard “living doll” on Spotify-even streaming,the vocal sounds incredibly warm and direct-you can here him right up on the mic=Amazing!