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Wharfedale Opus 2-3 Speaker & Opus 2-M2 Bookshelf Speaker & SW380 Subwoofer Review

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Bass Drivers and SW380 Tri-Lam Driver

There is a distinction between the monitor’s Kevlar bass cone and the 2-3 Tower and SW380’s cones. The tower and subwoofer utilize what is called a “glass/carbon/glass” triple laminated process. Described as, “a composite construction comprising a hydraulically molded and thermoset lamination of three layers,” the inner layer is a bi-directional carbon weave, and the outer layers a bi-directional glass fiber weave. Cook to proper temperature and you get a driver pie, or at least a driver roughly shaped like a pie tin! The outer rim also receives a “rim edge stiffening” to reinforce the cone. Described as being, “…without the ‘muddy’ delays associated with lesser cone materials,” I think it is to be credited with the lack of overhang I noted in listening sessions.

Two “Pyramids of Sound”

When constructing a pyramid one had better get the base correct. It hardly pays to have a shaky foundation when attempting to resurrect a huge monument. The size of the base also determines the potential height of the structure. I found the two platforms for sound with the Opus series likened to pyramids of slightly different form, but constructed of similar materials.

The tower Opus 2-3 is a taller, narrower platform, which has less weighty bass and an elevated M/T physically. The entire performance is lifted approximately six inches higher than the 2-M2 monitors on stands. Six inches is a goodly amount of elevation, and it makes the towers sound more prodigious in terms of soundstage.

Another difference is that the bass drivers of the 2-3 tower hang lower to the ground, versus the elevated 8” driver of the monitors. With the towers, one never has the impression that the bass is being directed to the face, but one does have a bit of that sense from the monitor as it was very close to ear level. In order to raise the sound field a bit, I tilted the stands backwards by completely removing the rear spikes and letting the stand sit on its base at the back. This nicely lifted the soundstage more on the level of the floor standing speaker. However, it also made the 8” driver more pronounced. I did not mind this effect, as long as the subwoofer was dialed in properly.

I had just picked up Peter White’s latest work Good Day and used especially “Mission 2 Mars” as a test track to assess the bass differences between the two Opus platforms. In the beginning of this piece, there are a series of background noises with low frequency intensity. They appear scattered across the acoustic landscape and have differing depths and tonality to them, much the way that in an industrial setting different massive objects being relocated and “dropped” in place create unique sonic signatures. The Opus 2-3 was seamless from about 40Hz higher.

The wider “stance” of the Opus 2-M2 and subwoofer combo was most acutely felt in the visceral presence of the lowest frequencies unreachable by the towers alone. A deep, sonorous substrate of bass under girded the monitors, and allowed them to perform their disappearing act while not sacrificing bass depth. The background noises on “Mission 2 Mars” were heard as having more extension, a bit like hearing thunder in the distance. The pyramid of sound was more massive; even the voices of the supposed space station personnel conversing between the noises carried more heft.

While using the same mid/tweeter complement, the 2-M2/SW380 combo more convincingly opened up the venues on recordings, placing performers at a more realistic distance from each other, while not losing the “together” aspect of the ensemble. Thus, the pyramid of sound was wider, “heavier” on the bottom-end and while wider and deeper, not taller. This can be adjusted by procuring taller stands; possibly an additional six inches of elevation would match the experience of the larger speaker’s acoustic “ceiling”.

Perceptually, I felt there was a nuance of difference in the sound of the cabinets between the speakers. The Opus 2-3 tower’s cabinet made itself more noticeable at the lowest frequencies, while the 2-M2 monitor’s cabinet caught my attention with the mid-bass. This would stand to reason, given the design parameters. In both cases the resonance of the cabinet was noticeable, and while neither was spoiling to the ear, the monitor seemed to be able to be disguised better by letting the subs cover at the frequencies where the cabinet’s sound was most noticeable. I flitted between setting the SW380 at 45Hz, and one step higher at 55Hz, possibly as my ear was looking for a masking of the cabinet resonance. At 63Hz and above on the output indicator of the subs, I could begin to blend the monitor’s bass to disappear without attention to it, or conversely, at 61 and below add a touch of highlight with its own cabinet’s signature.

Mid-Level High-End

The Wharfedale speakers represent a mid-level high-end effort. There are shortcomings but if those shortcomings happen to be in areas which are not critical for you then they may represent outstanding value. One sees such shortcomings when compared to a thoroughbred larger speaker, like the Legacy Audio Focus SE. The higher structural density of the Focus’s cabinet is immediately noticeable over the more resonant Opus 2-3. As open as the Opus dome midrange is, it cannot quite pull off the same spaciousness as the 4” planar mid on the Legacy. However, the price for admission to the Focus SE is almost precisely double. Those seeking as close to authentically uncompromised performance and willing to spend the money will want to consider the Legacy.

With its own factory and broad reputation, Wharfedale is able to handle issues which might come up in ownership. That’s good, because if this were not such an established line I would feel more uneasy about issues like driver replacement. Bob was on top of my questions and issues nearly immediately and never fussed once with any requests I had. He was highly accommodating and seemed committed to my satisfaction, which bodes well for buyers.

As for my final conclusions regarding which of the two speaker systems I would choose if I could only keep one, I would have to say, surprisingly, the 2-M2 Monitors and 380W Subs! The subs sealed the deal in this respect, being far more configurable and sprightly than many I have heard. As such they built a seductive foundation for the mid and highs. The 2-M2’s imaged beautifully, and carried themselves as closer to a full-range speaker than the mass of puny bookshelves from innumerable companies. With their terrific coherence and sweet upper-end those seeking more affordable stand mounted speakers should hear the Opus 2-M2 wherever possible.

Wharfedale strikes me as a mature company which needs to have passion for the brand reignited. The Opus line seems an attempt to do that very thing, and I would encourage the company to take the energy and vision for this speaker even further as the company tries to connect with everyday listeners. My brother-in-law in Winnipeg owns a petite pair of Wharfedale Diamonds which have proudly inhabited the space flanking his remote controlled fireplace for years. He’s not an audiophile, but a Mediaphile. The speakers look good; they look right at home. They also sound respectable. That in the end is how I view my time with the Opus speakers – they are decent. Between the elitist, super-expensive models and the absolute putrid offerings at the box stores they are in the middle, waiting for someone with limited funds, an emphasis on aesthetics and décor, and possibly HT applications to snatch them up. Mediaphiles, who sock away as much in media as equipment will likely love them.

6 Responses to Wharfedale Opus 2-3 Speaker & Opus 2-M2 Bookshelf Speaker & SW380 Subwoofer Review

  1. Nigel Marsh says:

    Hi Doug,

    I am a little late but I have read your review from 2010 on the Wharfedale Opus family members several times. I bought the smaller Opus2 M1.

    Have you heard them ?

    I find the mids on up are exactly as you describe. However the bottom end “cabinet tuned Sound” is not there with this model.

    A superlative speaker sound and build quality.

    Regards from snowy Toronto,

    Nigel Marsh

  2. Nigel,
    God’s Joy to you,

    Thanks for the encouragement! I really enjoyed my time with the Opus line; I was soooo close to buying the bookshelf with the stands and two or three times wish I had them. I believe you about the M/T being spot on, and the bass without resonance. I relished the large dome mid; it was a lovely driver and so coherent with the dome tweeter, a terrific combo.

    You’re right, that line is a lot of speaker for a very good price!

    Douglas Schroeder

  3. William Kube says:

    Great review Douglas, I too like the sound of Wharf’s spkrs.
    Where in T.O can these spkr be heard. That’s Toronto slangly.. ha! ha!


  4. Doug Schroeder says:


    God’s joy to you.

    Yeah, the Opus line is sweet and forgiving on the ear and wallet!

    You’ll have to check with the company on dealerships nearest you.



  5. Dissanayake says:

    Hi Doug! I am from Sri Lanka. I have the SW380 sub woofer. It is great. My ceiling literally rattles ( 30 feet high ) when I play some music. However, when I connect the sub woofer, it always switches on with low frequency thump. Is this normal? Plus, when I play no music and the receiver is on there is a little hum coming form the sub woofer. It goes away as soon as I play some music. It is not a big deal but I wonder if there is a problem of the sub woofer. Apart from that I have no issues because this sub woofer is sufficient for almost any kind of average home unless you have a huge house. My system is :
    LG 47LW550T 47 inch passive 3d LED TV
    Yamaha rxv-3900 7.1 receiver (140w x 7)
    Samsung Blu ray player BDC 6800

    JBL northridge E90 (Front x 2)
    Boston Acoustics Classic II CS225C (Center x 1)
    Yamaha NS 333 (Rear x 2)
    JBL northridge E30 (Rear back x 2)
    Wharferdale SW380 (Sub woofer)


    • Rick Higgin says:

      Have heard a bit of a “thump” when some systems are turned on, not all. When expected, I reduce the volume to prevent it from being too much. Hum? Capacitors going out? Need re – capping? Some sort of slight compression, bleed through signal being amplified? I have all separates, incl. separate mono – block amps. Subwoofers have their own internal amps, D – Class. This may be where D – Class is an advantage: Should be no operation, amplification, with no signal in, or very tiny. Some Audiophiles avoid receivers. Good luck!

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