Wharfedale Valdus 400 (modified) towers review: Life-like reproduction, subwoofers included

This is going to be a weird review, but I still felt the need to write it. My friend gave me his Wharfedale Valdus 400 floorstanding speakers. They needed to be repaired (that’s why I say they’re “modified”). Merely touching the “foam surrounds” made em disintegrate. I fixed em with new, rubber surrounds.

(After the fix: Rubber surrounds).

-Why this review is weird, reason 1: These are the first speakers I ever fixed myself.
-Why this review is weird, reason 2: These are my first floorstanding speakers. I have no comparison point except bookshelfs, my subwoofers, and, well, headphones.
-Why this review is weird, reason 3: Review was made with the Wharfedale Valdus 400 plugged into my SMSL SA100 amp, eq’ed to “bass -2” and “treble -2”, and the DAC used is my Xduoo XD05 Basic (AKM version).

Still interested? Let’s start: These are V-shaped speakers, and too V-shaped for me (hence the EQ).

I trust my XD05 DAC to be neutral and sufficiently detailed. My little SMSL SA100 is also neutral enough. But the unadultered tuning of the speakers was not for me. Cymbals and high violin notes were too loud, and drum kicks and bass too “rumbling”. Voices and guitars were lost in the mix. Yeah, when I say “subwoofer included”, I’m NOT exaggerating. Seen this big hole? There’s one subwoofer and a half in each of these towers, damn it!

(Meow. – And yeah, previous owner did a wonderful paint job for this wall. :roll_eyes: )
“Each tower includes two drivers, two tweeters and two subwoofers” (obviously not, but it sounds like it).

Sound: V-shaped.

Setting the SMSL SA100’s integrated EQ to “treble -2” and “bass -2” gave me a neutral enough sound, with the most life-like voices I ever heard. Daniela Andrade - Creep (cover) is a beautiful experience. Michael Korbin - Nightlife got all the details. And LL Cool J - Phenomenon (yes, still with the bass set to “-2”), got all the bass and sub-bass you need, and with the treble set to “-2”, the xylophone/triangle-like sounds won’t ever annoy you (…I was quite surprised to discover, after all these years, that this song is very well recorded – oh how many of these songs did I listen to on an old CRT TV with a single speaker under the round dial set to “3” for the TV decoder…).

And yes, even with the bass set to “-2” on the SMSL SA100, the drum kicks are present, punchy, and when a song was recorded with a modern-sounding drum kit, you definitely hear it, and when you listen to electronic music, you get all the energy and sound pressure you want from the powerful electronic kicks and bass. Even at low volume. One thing I noticed with these is, they’re highly directional. If you’re in front of em, you’ll feel the sound pressure from the kicks and bass (again, even at low volume). If you’re not in front of em? Nothing. More than neighbor-friendly, these are “adjacent-room friendly”. These speakers have been used in an apartment to listen to electronic music and movies and shows for months now, and no one complained.

Soundstage: No replacement for displacement?

Soundstage is obviously one of the reasons why I like towers. How can I go back to bookshelf speakers after that? When the soundstage is actually the width of a stage, saying “it helps” is an euphemism. When the guitars sound like they’re at their actual height in front of your eyes, it helps too. About depth? Gidge - Perimeter made me feel like some sounds were coming from 2 meters behind the wall which is behind the speakers. Listening to Appetite for destruction with towers is a really fun experience… Hell, if you want to go to a ton of shows but don’t have the money to do it, this obviously won’t ever be the same thing as being there, but this is an excellent alternative (there’s so many professionally-recorded full shows on YouTube already).

Why did I write this review?

First: Note, there’s no soundstage “needed” in any of the first 3 songs I mentioned. Daniela Andrade is one person, one guitar, one mic. Same for Michael Korbin… And I was still shocked. Because, well, despite the repairs. And the EQ, because I did not want V-shaped speakers. And despite the SMSL SA100 and the Xduoo XD05 being inexpensive compared to my main system (Moon 100D → Little Dot Mk2 → Pioneer Elite A35-R → Wharfedale Valdus 200 bookshelves), the Valdus 400 towers still give me some of the most detailed and realistic sounds I ever heard from speakers. “Mids are where the music is”, and when you push em enough, you realize, Wharfedale got it right. It’s not “uncanny valley” territory, but damn close to it. My Emotiva B1+'s (bookshelves) AMT Tweeters obviously do treble infinitely better than these towers. And the B1+'s technicalities are all better (paired with a Kanto Sub8 active sub). But… towers do soundstage infinitely better than tiny bookshelves meant for near-field precision. Now imagine how the Wharfedales can sound, in perfect condition, with a decent, mid-oriented amp. (It’s an odd comparison, I know. Two different beasts. But, you get it. Emotiva B1+'s near-field bookshelves and an active subwoofer for micro-details and technicalities, Valdus 400 towers for life-like soundstage, naturalness and macro-details.)

Pairing recommendations: Mid-oriented amps.

Anything with laid-back treble, or at least mid-oriented, will help the Wharfedale Valdus 400’s. These towers deserve a hi-end amp which can make the mids-to-high-mids shine. Possibly the Vista Spark (I probably will be able to try em with a Vista Spark soon, and will tell you my impressions if it happens).

I also tried the cheap-but-good Fosi V3: With these, it was not my style. The Fosi V3 deserves its praise for fitting very well with Fluance SX6’s, or maybe Sony SSCS-5’s, counter-balancing their too-sharp treble and lack of mid-bass (that’s “harman neutral” for you…). But with these towers, there’s too much mid-bass. If you like bass, a powerful mid-bass thump and “growl”, and/or a “dark” sound, go for it. But this mid-bass-oriented amp muted the female voices and violins too much for me. Cymbals and highs were all there, but… I need my “high-mids”.

Why did I not plug em in my “Moon 100D + Little Dot Mk2 + Pioneer A35-R” system? Because it’s here, in my small room. My beloved system for my bookshelf speakers and my headphones. I agree, this probably would have been the perfect match with the towers. But there’s no space for em here. Review and impressions of em were made in an uncluttered, twice-as-wide living room -​- where they belong.

And yes. I originally got these floorstanding speakers for free from a friend. At the time, he was trying my Adcom GFA-535. After experiencing these speakers for a few days, I said “you can keep the Adcom”.

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Bonus: Crappy image of towers with a CRT screen in between. I’d like to call this piece “#priorities”.


Either that or, "That’s what your living room looks like with a 100-inch TV and no speakers. Go buy towers, you muppet!"

(On a more serious note: The CRT is used to play retro games. A projector gives me a 72-inch screen on the wall above it.)