Wharfedale DS-2 Review
- Detailed, refined and articulate performance
- Great stereo imaging and separation
- Easy-to-accommodate design
- Well priced
- Not the most commanding sound
- At top volume, they lose some refinement
- No remote control
- Review Price: £179
- aptX Bluetooth
- 3.5mm aux input
- 19mm tweeter, 75mm woofer
- Size: 19x12x14cm (each)
What are the Wharfedale DS-2?
The DS-2 are a pair of desktop Bluetooth speakers that are small enough to sit on a desk, bookshelf or anywhere you can squeeze them, and aim to offer better stereo separation than a one-box speaker can.
They follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, the very capable DS-1 speakers from 2015, and use the same drivers and speaker design as the satellite speakers in the DX-2 5.1 home cinema package.
Considering the performance of the DX-2 package, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that these sound so good, and the fact they come in at just £180 only helps to further their charm.
Related: Best Bluetooth speakers
Wharfedale DS-2 – Design and build
The DS-2 are designed exactly the same as a two-way hi-fi speaker would be, but measuring just 19x12x14cm, have been shrunk down to a more accessible desktop size.
Each speaker features a 19mm silk-dome tweeter and a 75mm woven polypropylene mid/bass driver, which sit behind a pair of fixed circular metal grilles and chrome surrounds on the speakers’ high-gloss front baffle.
All in black (or white, should you prefer), this is then offset by a leatherette finish across the rest of the cabinet, which has been gently curved at its edges to give it a softer overall look.
At the back, there is a rear-firing port for giving the bass some added punch, while on the right of the master (right) speaker, you’ll find a small control panel. This offers volume controls, a Bluetooth pairing button and a 3.5mm aux-in (with a cable included in the box) – they’re not the most refined controls I’ve seen, but they do the job.
That leaves the back panel clear for all but an input that connects the left and right speakers together, and a power input and switch on the master speaker. As is always the case in this sort of speaker setup, the master speaker is the brains of the operation, and is where the new-generation digital amplifier sits, capable of 30w of continuous power
This drives the treble and mid/bass units via a high-quality crossover network containing select audio-grade components, which is much superior to the cheap, single-component crossovers used by many compact speakers.
A single light sits on the front of the right speaker too, which shines blue to show when they are switched on.
Wharfedale DS-2 – Features
Wharfedale has removed the NFC connection that was in the DS-1 speakers, so if you want to use aptX Bluetooth for music playback, you’ll need to physically pair the DS-2 with your chosen device using a long hold of the pairing button.
Once in pairing mode, the blue LED on the front of the speakers will flash and the DS-2 will appear in your device’s pairing menu. Once paired successfully, the light will then switch to solid blue.
Wharfedale recommends having your device volume at around 75% of the maximum, and then adjusting the volume up or down using the volume controls on the speakers.
It depends on their placement as to how convenient that will be – the lack of remote control or remote app means it’s a little annoying having to go to the speakers every time you want to adjust volume, but there’s more volume available here than you’ll get from maxing out your phone’s volume control.
Wharfedale DS-2 – Performance
The DS-2 are hugely capable speakers for their size, offering an articulate, upfront performance that really show up the downfalls you experience from a one-box design.
Most obvious of these is stereo imaging and stereo separation, which is much stronger here than you’ll hear from any single speaker at this price (and even above). The DS-2 are much more capable of placing sounds accurately across the listening position, as well as throwing the sound wider in the room, due to the obvious advantages of a two-box design.
They’re superbly balanced too, with no bloating in the bass or harsh edges in the treble, even when listening at medium to high volume. The midrange, in particular, is really well handled and places vocals front and centre of its concerns, with a level of clarity and expression that you can’t always expect at this price.
The bassline, meanwhile, does just enough to keep things sounding punchy and authoritative, and for the size of the DS-2, will go pretty low too.
If you’d like more oomph, placing the speakers closer to a wall will help the bass make a greater impact. Just don’t expect these to rumble your floorboards when the beat drops – it isn’t really their M.O.
Instead, they’re more focused on detail, and put insight, agility and expression at the top of their to-do list. They might not have the va va voom of a showstopping party speaker, but what they offer in musicality and timing more than makes up for it. Not even the offbeat rhythms of DJ Shadow’s Organ Donor could fluster them.
And while they aren’t the most commanding speakers I’ve heard, that doesn’t mean they can’t have fun. Thanks to a decent handle on dynamics and scale to spare, the DS-2 do a good job at communicating the rise and fall of a track without sounding strained. There’s certainly more attack here than you might have heard on their predecessors.
However, try to push them outside their comfort zone and things can start to get shaky. When played at the very top of their volume controls, the treble can start to sound a little more fragile and the low end can lose a touch of its composure and refinement too.
Hook up your device via the 3.5mm and things do tighten up and sound more solid (also a tip for getting the best out of any bright, lower quality recordings), but keeping these just a few notches down from the maximum – which is still plenty loud enough for the majority of rooms – is when they are going to sound at their best.
Why buy the Wharfedale DS-2?
If you’re looking for a refined desktop speaker, and put musicality, agility and expression at the top of your wish list, the DS-2 is going to tick all of those boxes for under £200.
You also get a much better sense of stereo imaging here than you do from a one-box unit, and a much more insightful performance than most of them too – particularly for under £200.
If you’re looking for a party speaker, they’re probably not the punchiest or most commanding sound you can get. And stepping up to the sublime Ruark MR1 Mk2 will get you greater versatility, thanks to a remote control, an optical input and subwoofer pre-out.
But for something that’s going to give you close to an authentic hi-fi experience on a budget, and that can be listened to for hours on end, these dinky desktoppers are nothing short of superb.
Petite, refined and articulate, the Wharfedale DS-2 speakers bring hi-fi to the desktop.