Wharfedale Glendale 3XP

1975 Wharfedale Glendale 3XP

An in-depth retrospective on Wharfedale’s 1970s budget super speaker – high end hi-fi for the common man! Please donate to support zStereo Classic Hi-Fi Buying Guides.

0.50 £

Wharfedale GlendaleWharfedale is an iconic British loudspeaker brand whose heyday was arguably the nineteen seventies, at the peak of the British hi-fi boom when it was owned by the Rank Organisation. Founded by Gilbert Arthur Briggs in his Ilkley home in the valley of the River Wharfe in 1932, the company designed and built all its own drive units, or at least latterly shared them with other Rank organisation products. This gave them a distinctive sound, and one that proved exceedingly popular.

His famous book, Loudspeakers: The Why and How of Good Reproduction, was published in 1948. It proved a popular reference work for budding speaker designers and hi-fi enthusiasts alike, and was reprinted many times. Written in plain English, it made the black art of loudspeaker design surprisingly accessible. Aged sixty eight, Gilbert Briggs sold Wharfedale Wireless Works to Rank in 1958, and retired seven years later. By this time he had overseen two major breakthroughs – the pioneering use of roll surrounds around paper cones, and the launch of the first ever speakers using ceramic magnets. The company went from strength to strength, and in 1967 announced its move to a vast 170,000 square foot factory in Highfield Road, Bradford. In the nineteen seventies, Rank took the brand slightly downmarket, appealing to the sort of people who wanted decent sound on a budget.

The range that really caught the public’s imagination was the XP series; these were affordable budget boxes that offered real value for money compared to competing products. Launched in the autumn of 1975, the range started off with the £40 Chevin XP. This small cube shaped, teak veneered box sported an eight inch paper cone woofer with a small paper coned tweeter fitted concentrically at the centre. The £60 Denton 2XP offered the luxury of two full sized, discrete drive units, including a large paper dome tweeter of an unusual design, mated to an eight inch mid/bass. The figure prefixing the ‘XP’ in the name referred to the number of drive units that the speaker had.

The £80 Linton 3XP was the cheapest three-way in the range, a junior high end design. To the Denton’s driver complement, it added a three inch paper midrange cone. Topping the range was the £110 Glendale 3XP, a serious big hitter by most people’s standards. Whereas the Linton 3XP only had an eight inch bass unit, the Glendale had a ten, giving a claimed frequency response of 50Hz to 20kHz and a power handling of sizeable 40W RMS. It was quite sensitive by the standards of the day at 86dB, but by today’s standards this is poor for a largish 356x610x305mm, 12kg loudspeaker. This is partly due to the fact that like all the XP series, the Glendale is an infinite baffle design. Despite giving a tighter bass, there are real trade-offs with this method; for a given size you either get less bass extension or efficiency, and there’s a chance that the speaker’s nominal impedance drops.

By today’s standards, the Glendale 3XP is everything that modern speakers are not. It’s a wide-baffle, boxy design without bass reflex loading. Its a true three-way with the drivers crossing over at 800Hz and 4,000Hz, and it has a large and poorly braced teak veneered cabinet that looks positively Paleolithic. The internal wiring isn’t of the best quality, the crossover components aren’t particularly good, and the insides of the cabinets are not well damped. All the same, this loudspeaker is still well built and finished by the standards of its day. It neither looks, feels or sounds cheap – which is why it proved popular.

As soon as you set ears on the big Wharfedale, you know it’s a long way from what would be considered desirable nowadays. It’s as mid-seventies as polyester flared trousers. Somehow though it manages to be a rather enjoyable experience. It has a slightly dreamy, diffuse sort of sound that is relaxed yet assured. It’s quite big and spacious, meaning that it happens to work extremely well when you feed it some music of that period. Elton John’s Benny and the Jets, for example, takes you right back. Sat atop 30cm high frame stands, this speaker sounds big, wide and gutsy, with a large bass response that’s less lumpy than you’d expect considering the size of both its woofer and the cabinet. Actually, the Glendale proves quite tuneful in the bass, and will have many tapping their feet pretty quickly.

Tonally, this loudspeaker sounds warm and soft. It throws a comfort blanket over everything. Treble seems a little rolled off right up top, but before this is doesn’t sear out at you. It crosses over smoothly down to the midrange driver, which itself is quite floaty and vague. Again, it hands over smoothly to the bass unit, which offers a decent thump from the sealed box cabinet, and one that’s fulsome yet rounded. Yet it still manages to arrive at the listener at pretty much the same time as the rest of the music. Bass extension isn’t great but it still makes a serious pass at the bassline from The Bee Gees’ How Deep is Your Love?, which is likely to be a song it spent much of its early life playing…

The Glendale has so many problems, yet still manages to be fun. You can wax lyrical about the poor stereo imaging and relatively two dimensional sound, yet it willingly pushes images far left and far right if called upon so to do. You can criticise it for the veiled midband, but it’s rather beguiling in a way – rather like looking at an impressionist painting. Overall the Wharfedale proves to be an amiable and engaging partner, because it sounds – and there’s no other way to put this – nice. Many lament the good old days of hi-fi when everything had a “nice tone”, and the Glendale 3XP personifies this.

The new Glendale XP2 – the 2 suffix denoting the second XP range, not the number of drive units – got a black grille instead of a cigar brown coloured one. The cabinet was subtly redesigned with a new wood finish and drive unit compliment; the new cone tweeter being the biggest change. It may have measured slightly better but was a less pleasant thing to hear; it sounded tighter and tauter but seemed to lose some of its predecessor’s richness and charm.

The nineteen eighties saw Wharfedale lose its magic touch. The Laser series effectively replaced the Chevin/Denton/Linton/Glendale line-up and although it looked far more modern, was more cheaply made. The top end Total Sound Recall range was good, but outclassed by price rivals from other brands, and it was only the spin-off from this – the Diamond – that really became a hit in this decade. The world had moved on though, and five years after the Glendale 3XP was launched, it looked like it had come from another century. Such are the fickle fortunes of the domestic loudspeaker market.

These days, Wharfedale Glendale 3XPs can be had for pennies. They’re incredibly cheap; this pair cost just £25, because they’re terminally unfashionable. But if you’re looking for something for your period/classic/retro system, then you could do a lot worse. Get a well preserved pair of these, and you’ll be basking in a louche, warm sound – ideal for a high end seventies music centre, stack system or even quite decent mid-price hi-fi separates. The usual caveats apply though – buy carefully, shop around and don’t expect an almost forty year old loudspeaker to sound like your brand new high end KEFs.

Buying secondhand
Speakers are not made of magic materials that go on forever, so your first concern should be starting off with a decent pair in the first place. Speakers with tatty cabinets tell a story about the treatment they’ve had, but it’s not necessarily the end of the world. If the cab has chunks gouged out of it, then the speaker is best avoided, but if there are light surface scratches to the wood, or fading or stains – but no indentation – then this is easily rescuable. The easiest thing is to treat the wood with Danish oil, and this will perk up many classic seventies speakers, but if it’s worse then you could sand of the varnish and reapply it, or simply wax the wood or treat it with oil. It’s possible to bring many classic speakers back to near-new condition this way, and well worth learning more via any of the various YouTube videos on speaker restoration.

Buy the speakers with the best drive units you can find. Even so, the foam roll surrounds may well be on their way out, but there are specialists who can renew them, such as Anapeach [07941 460050, www.anapeachloudspeakerrestoration.co.uk]. You should also contemplate replacing the capacitors and resistors in the crossover, as they tend to degrade with age, and you might even like to rewire the speakers with high quality cable. This is all simple stuff for these handy with a soldering iron, and dramatically improves the sound – giving a tighter stereo image, better bass definition and superior midrange detail.


  1. Derek

    Nice to see you back! I really enjoy these reviews as you put the products into context, history and rivals etc. I guess you must be a busy bloke but efforts on this site are appreciated.

  2. Brian

    Still got my Linton 3XPs. Still working brilliantly!

    Remember sitting on the floor in Beattie’s, Wolverhampton testing them with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon album. The whole shop cam to a standstill and listened.

    They were bought for my 21st birthday.

  3. Hayden

    I’ll mention Lintons here, rather than under their entry – seems to be more comments here!
    I finally inherited my parents’ Linton 3XPs recently, having coveted them for years, and finally found out why the stereo image was so dire. I’d always suspected the phasing was wrong, but no amount of cable-swapping seemed to improve things. Moving then from an old Technics NewClassA amp to a NAD3020 finally revealed the problem. One of the units suffered really bad phase errors in the midrange when badly driven. The NAD’s simple output stage was taking no nonsense and actually made them sound in-phase… just. Listening to mono output with the speakers on each side led to some very curious sensations inside my head. The same test on a modern pair of B&Ws just gave me a single point of sound between the ears.
    That, and the frankly wooly sound – smeared orchestras, lifeless vocals – led them to be dropped off at a charity shop. Only room for one pair, and these were just not good enough.
    Sad to see them go, though.

  4. Adrian

    Found this page as I am getting rid of my (originally parents) Wharfedales.
    Interesting stuff. I was born and raised in Bradford a couple of miles from the factory in Idle.
    My Mum used to work there as a solderer on the lines. Always remember going to a Christmas party in the canteen there for the staffs kids.

  5. Interesting article thanks. Does anyone know how to open the cases of the Glendale XP2? It looks as if the backs are possibly glued in place? I have a pair which probably needs the crossover repairing. Thanks in anticipation.

  6. stefan

    After reading your review on these 50 year old Glendales 3XP I own, I decided it was time for something else.
    I went through dozens of reviews on older and newer speakers to see whats out there now.
    Being a musician I thought I’d finally tread my self to something a bit more modern by acquiring a set of Tannoy Revolution R3 and R1 speakers to go with my Rotel RA-1312

    After wiring up my newly acquired set (by no means modern of course, but really well reviewed and with all the modern features that “would be considered desirable nowadays”)
    I was unpleasantly surprised by the lack of brilliance, the lack or real bass (small speakers just dont move air like the big ones do, and these ones are even far less tight) and the overall liveliness.

    The speakers you describe as “a long way from what would be considered desirable nowadays. It’s as mid-seventies as polyester flared trousers” somehow produce so much more clarity, and depth then these 170 Watts towers with bass reflex etc.
    (The set is wired up with 4mm speaker wire and gold connectors to my Rotel RA-1312)

    I played bass for 8 years and am a guitar player for some 25 years.
    I listen to a variety of music and certainly not all “flared trousers” stuff.
    (reggae dub ska rock metal classical jazz blues acoustic.)
    And i do not suffer from large amounts of hearing loss (yes ive been tested)

    Maybe its me being used to experience music through real big speakers (not loud but big).
    I like to feel some of that music when possible, and the glendales do a lot better job at that then these R3 + R1 for me in all of the above genres.

    To be fair, the tweeters on mine have been replaced by something non original (not high end by the looks of them), and one of the bass drivers has been repaired with superglue and the boxes have been painted over (features that i doubt add to the overall quality)

    For me this is a perfect example of why graphs and numbers can say one thing, but your ears can say something else.
    The 300 spend on the R3 and R1 are surely not one of my best investments, and I really hope I will sell them again without to great a loss.
    Ive just seen a perfect set of Glendales for 50 euros online….

    If you own a decent amp, I’d say these are still worth a try, and i would love to see a neck on neck review with some of the modern heroes

  7. William martin

    I have a pair of good well preserved Glendale 3XP . I also have Celestion Ditton 33s . Ive a pair of slightly smaller Celef 2 way monitoors . hard to pick between them .Id say bass is slightly better on the dittons but overall the Glendales are maybe clearer in the upper end . The Celefs pack a good punch too . Ive many othyer also rans including Tannoy but also rans is all they are . facts on paper dont always match real world experiences .

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