Wharfedale’s XP range surfaced in autumn 1975 – and went on to earn the company a great deal of respect, because each model had a pleasing tone, was well made and styled in an attractive way. It was hugely successful, becoming the staple diet of entry-level, budget loudspeakers – appealing to the sort of buyers who couldn’t stretch to brands like Mordaunt Short, Monitor Audio, Celestion and KEF.
Pricing was very clever; the Chevin XP cost £37, putting it just above the many low quality speakers on sale at that time; it was smaller and had fewer drive units but clearly sounded better than its price rivals. Those interested in the Chevin XP couldn’t help but be intrigued by what Wharfedale offered further up the range, though – and this was the genius of the company’s sales proposition to late seventies budget speaker buyers.
You might say that the company really hit the spot with the design and performance of these products, just like Ford was doing with its Fiesta, Escort and Cortina cars at the time. To extend the analogy, Wharfedale had the SP2 series – Teesdale SP2 and Dovedale SP2 – to cater for the high end ‘Ford Granada’ market, and the punchily styled high efficiency E series – initially the E50 and E70 – to appeal to the ‘Capri’ market! These were far more expensive than the XP range.
All XP series speakers had a real wood veneered cabinet – infinite baffle not reflex loaded – a removeable grille and a styled front baffle. This meant silver metal trims to the drive units and a stick-on information plaque beside the tweeter, giving the speaker’s specifications. Pre XP-series budget Wharfedales had none of these, and looked crude by comparison.
Then in summer 1978, the new XP2 series emerged, a light redesign of its existing and best-selling XP series. To the existing single-driver Chevin XP, two-way Denton 2XP, and three-way Linton 3XP and Glendale 3XP, was added a new mid-segment product. The Shelton XP2 as it was known, was a two-way and basically a ‘Denton on steroids’.
The result was a five-product range with something for every budget buyer. The Chevin XP2 was largely unchanged. handling 20 watts (DIN) and cost £37 per pair. The Denton XP2 got two new driver units, handled 25 watts and cost £53. The new Shelton XP2 had a power handling of 28 watts, and cost £65. The Linton XP2 took 35 watts and cost £80; it received new bass and treble units, plus the midrange driver from the old Linton 3XP. The Glendale had a power handling of 40 watts, and cost £105; it used the same midrange and treble units as the Linton, but with a completely new woofer. The stick-on plaque was deleted, and the front baffle was moved forward so it was flush with the front of the speaker when the grille was fitted.
There was no XP3 range; the concept had been very much of its time and by 1980 the XP2s with their brown cloth grilles and recessed from baffles looked very dated. The new Laser range replaced it, with the high end eventually going to the TSR range – Total Sound Recall – which spawned the Wharfedale Diamond a couple of years later.
Wharfedale XP and XP2 loudspeakers are pretty poor by today’s standards – congested, boomy, veiled and compressed with a lumpy bass and poor treble extension. Yet still they have a charm of their own; they give a nice, pleasant, soft and warm sound that epitomises that era of loudspeakers. Also, their infinite baffle design makes them a bit easier to place near boundary walls, and confers a tuneful, bouncy bass. There’s always something special about a sealed box cabinet, no matter how antiquated!
The XP2 range sounded slightly sharper and more defined; it’s definitely a more modern style but doesn’t depart that much from the XP. The newer speakers are slightly better to listen to for 2021 ears, but lack the visual appeal of the XP range, to my eyes. Either is a nice thing to have if you’re putting together a retro system, and prices are still low. As ever, buy the best examples you can, paying particular attention to the state of the drive units. It’s easier to give the cabinets a quick spruce up with teak oil than it is to rebuild drivers! Being the rarest, the Chevin XP and Chevin XP2 is the most expensive, with prices over £150 – but it’s totally down to condition with everything, as always.