Which Is The Best Bookshelf Speaker? Wharfedale Diamond 12.2 vs. Q Acoustics 3030i Comparison Review!


Two British Brands. Two Budget Bookshelf Speakers. Two will enter, one will leave!

Sorry, got carried away there! But anyway, today I’m doing a comparison review of two popular Bookshelf Speakers under $500, the Wharfedale Diamond 12.2 ($499) and Q Acoustics 3030i ($399). Both have garnered rave reviews, so I wondered how they would stack up against each other.

While both are from well-respected British Brands, both are actually based on designs by the firm of German engineer Karl-Heinz Fink and manufactured in China. Go Figure. Fink and his team are known for their expertise in computer-aided speaker cabinet design, and the bracing inside both of these speakers is a manifestation of this philosophy.

Q Acoustics calls their version P2P or “Point to Point Bracing”, and Wharfedale calls it “Intelligent Spot Bracing”, but the idea is the same. By using computer modeling, the speaker designers can determine the best spots to sure up an enclosure, thereby optimizing the reduction of cabinet resonance.

Both of these speakers are 2-way designs with a 1-inch fabric-dome tweeter and a 6 ½ inch midbass woofer. The Diamond 12.2 woofer cone is made from a blend of polypropylene and mica, while the 3030i’s cone is made from coated paper.

If you’re looking for a good-sounding pair of speakers under $500, both of these bookshelf models have some great things to offer. This comparison review will give you quick impressions of each speaker, but if you want more detailed impressions, check out our full reviews here and here. So let’s break down these speakers!

My Setup

For this review, I hooked up both speakers up to the powerful, yet affordable Cambridge Audio AXR100 Stereo Receiver ($499) along with the matching AXC35 Compact Disc Player ($350). This combo sounds really good with its neutral, detailed sound that lets the speakers shine. And best of all, it’s affordable.

If you don’t dig CDs, you can either ditch the CD player and use the AXR100’s built-in Bluetooth receiver (which is not the greatest sounding), or pick up a $129 Andover Audio Songbird streamer. The Songbird does Bluetooth, Airplay, and Wi-Fi streaming, plus you can access tons of streaming services (Qobuz, Spotify, Tidal, Amazon) via the free smartphone app.

I hooked up the speakers with some nice AudioQuest Rocket 11 Speaker Cables and put on one of my favorite CDs, Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”, which I feel gives me a lot to work with when doing a review.

Both speakers were set up on heavy metal stands about three feet out into the room and pointed directly at the listening position.

I will compare the speakers in several categories, and then at the end, I will pick a “winner” based on a combination of build quality, technical performance, and musical enjoyment!

 

Build

The Wharfedale Diamond 12.2 wins this one by a landslide. The Diamond’s is a more solid speaker, and its enclosure is more inert than the 3030i. A rap on the Q Acoustics’ cabinet elicits a lot more sound than a rap on the Wharfedale. The Diamond also has more premium materials, with a thicker vinyl wrap, and a glossy painted baffle.

The Diamond 12.2 also has two sets of high-quality five-way binding posts. That means you can bi-wire or bi-amp them. The 3030i only has one. However, I really like the flush-mounted binding posts on the Q Acoustics speaker. The Banana Plugs go all the way in and fit very securely which is nice.

Winner-Wharfedale Diamond 12.2

 

Treble

This one isn’t as clear-cut. The Diamond’s treble is more forward, and a tad bit edgy. However, it’s also more detailed than the 3030i. On the other hand, while the Q Acoustics treble is a little rolled off, it actually sounds a little smoother and natural to me. That said, I give a slight edge to the Diamond 12.2 here, because the treble is just a little more refined. Cymbals just sound more realistic and Drum hits just have a little more power on the Diamond.

Winner-Wharfedale Diamond 12.2

 

Midrange

To me, the Q Acoustics 3030i is the clear winner here. This is my favorite part of the 3030i presentation and my least favorite aspect of the Diamond 12.2 presentation.

The Q Acoustics’ Midrange is more airy and open than the Wharfedale speaker, which sounds a little hollow in comparison. I just love the way the 3030i does vocals with such fullness and life. Horns are also fuller.

Winner-Q Acoustics 3030i

 

Bass

To me, the Wharfedale Diamond 12.2 is the clear winner in the Bass Department. The Wharfedale’s bass is tight, fast, and controlled and goes deeper than the 3030i. The Q Acoustics speaker has some decent bass response in the upper bass region, but it’s pretty slow and not very articulate.

Winner-Wharfedale Diamond 12.2

 

Imaging

For imaging, I had to give the nod to the Wharfedale. While both the 3030i and Diamond 12.2 had decent center imaging, the Diamond’s left/right imaging and focus was vastly superior.

It also has much more layering and separation than the 3030i. This is probably my favorite aspect of the latest Diamond speaker, and I must say I haven’t heard any speaker under $500 focus like they do.

Winner-Wharfedale Diamond 12.2

 

Soundstage

When it comes to soundstage, I give the Q Acoustics 3030i a slight edge, since it’s soundstage is very open and wide, which is what I prefer. You can hear elements of the mix way out beyond the speakers, which is not the case with the Wharfedale speaker. However, the Diamond’s soundstage is taller and deeper, which some may like better.

This one was tough because they both have decent soundstage, just in different ways. That said I liked the 3030i width over the Diamond’s height, so the Q Acoustics speaker one this one.

Winner-Q Acoustics 3030i

 

And The Winner Is: Wharfedale Diamond 12.2

So I have mixed feelings about this one. That’s because while the Diamond 12.2 is pretty much better than the 3030i in every way, I still found the Q Acoustics product more engaging at certain points in my testing.

I mean the Diamond is definitely more detailed, has better focused imaging, along with more plentiful and articulate bass, but I still found myself pulled over to the 3030i when listening to my Fleetwood Mac disc. When listening to “Dreams” from their rumors album, the 3030i’s superior midrange and upper bass range just brought Stevie Nicks’ vocal to life, which is something I key on.

The 3030i also spread the performance out wider across the soundstage, and I appreciated that over the more constricted presentation of the Diamond 12.2. That said the Diamond was just better overall technically with its layering of the presentation from front to back, something that was very hard to discern with the 3030i.

The detail of the cymbals, the overall timing, and the weight on the drum hits was also much better on the Diamond, so in the end, I made it the winner. But if you’re a fan of British Monitors and their warm, open mids, you may like the 3030i better. It does a good job of giving you the essence of that sound.

 

Where to Buy

Wharfedale Diamond 12.2

Crutchfield

$499.00/pr.

SHOP NOW

 

Q Acoustics 3030i

Amazon

$399.00/pr.

SHOP NOW

 

More:

PSB Speakers Alpha AM5 Review: These Affordable Powered Bookshelf Speakers Are Impressive!

Q&A:‌ Finding An Amp For The Tremendous Klipsch RP-600M Bookshelf Speakers!

Outstanding! The Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $500 (2021)

As an Amazon Associate, Hifitrends.com may earn from qualifying purchases via links placed throughout the site…this helps us keep the website going! Thanks in advance for your help! Prices are subject to change at any time.

 

 

Leave a Reply