The Wharfedale Diamond series have always been budget entry-level speakers and the Wharfedale catalogue lists many Diamond 8 and Diamond 9 models for both home cinema and stereo use.

There are no fewer than six stereo pairs in the Diamond 9 range, but the 9.1 miniature is the one that's been grabbing the headlines.

In the standard vinyl finish it costs just £150 per pair, but our limited Anniversary edition (with better fit, but the same acoustic performance), comes in a lovely waxed walnut wood veneer, with gilt trim and concealed magnetically attached grille.

Inside Wharfdale's classy speaker

Though both enclosure and bass/mid driver are decidedly small, this is a very classy little speaker.

This is certainly true of the enclosure, which has curved sides to add stiffness to the structure and disperse horizontal standing waves and reflections. Twin ports, claimed to reduce distortion by 40 per cent, are fitted into the front panel.

The little (125mm) main driver has a 'skeletal' cast alloy frame, to avoid reflecting the rearward radiation.

It has a 100mm diameter cone made from woven Kevlar-in-polymer-matrix, while the tweeter has neodymium magnets and a soft 25mm doped fabric dome diaphragm. Twin terminal pairs are fitted on the rear.

Hit and miss sound quality

Although the Diamond 9.1 delivers a rather small sound, dynamically speaking, and lacks any serious bass weight or power, it still delivers a surprisingly generous and spacious soundstage which is significantly bigger than the visual cues lead one to expect.

The speaker can sound a little too thick and heavy if it's positioned too close to a wall. When some space is left around them, however, the modest coloration and well controlled boxiness, the cleverly organised balance and the fine overall coherence really come into their own.

And the overall sound has a warmth that small loudspeakers often lack. The sound might also be a little too laid- back for some tastes perhaps, but that is a worthwhile feature of any low-cost speaker system that's likely to be used with modestly priced sources, amplification and ancillaries.

Avoiding usual pitfalls

Small speakers often show a tendency to 'shout', by over-projecting the upper midband and presence zone.

While such character might have initial showroom appeal, it can become wearing after a time and is not what hi-fi ought really to be about.

It is very much to the credit of this Wharfedale that it carefully avoids such a pitfall and manages to sound like a genuine 'grown up' hi-fi speaker, despite its very modest price.

A great value speaker system

There are limitations, especially in its reluctance to generate any real dynamic tension and a slightly muted dynamic expression. But the fine soundstage imaging, substantial freedom from boxiness and the well-controlled tonal balance, all amount to a beautifully made hi-fi performer at an unfeasibly low price.