Whatmough P15SE Performance Series Loudspeakers Review
Whatmough has been designing and building high quality speakers for over 40 years with great success. Their new P15 Performance series bookshelf speaker, whilst quite large for a bookshelf, may have a few surprises for the unwary listener.
The robust cardboard box contained two speakers which were well packed and covered with a soft cloth bag, a set of 2.5m bi-wire low-capacitance speaker cables (WC-BW420) with locking banana plugs at each end are included, and the instruction manual.
Upon opening I was greeted with very shiny speakers, perhaps more a 'stand-mount' than a bookshelf design. At 28kg per pair, plus cabling and de-coupling hardware, I hope you have a bookshelf which can carry 30+ kilos! The reason I say “bookshelf” speaker is that is what they are called on Whatmough's product website, although their secondary loudspeaker-specific website does not specifically classify them as such. Personally, I think they would be better suited to stand-mounting rather than sitting on a bookshelf. The piano black finish top and bottom, with graphite finish back, front baffle and sides and the cloth grille, as supplied, are finished immaculately. So much so that I cringed a little every time I re-positioned the speakers and left fingerprints on the mirror surface. Fortunately these were easily cleaned off with a soft cloth, and before long I found the ideal listening orientation - very slightly toe-in, and about 3m apart, and 1m from the back wall of my listening area.
Typically, I've never been a fan of the Vifa / Scanspeak type ring radiator tweeters, but the time that Whatmough have taken with their crossover design really does justice to these drivers. The top end is smooth and detailed, with only a hint of harshness on “Sharpening a Knife”, Carl & Parisa, Stockfisch Records Vol.3. The low end, provided by a 6-1/2” woofer with phase plug and front mounted port, is a little reserved in Dire Straits' “Private Investigations”, but still clean and detailed. The midrange, while very smooth - almost too smooth for my liking in “Chinese Girl”, also from the Stockfisch album, is a little neutral but well-balanced. The crossover has no obvious ripples and the driver integration appears almost seamless in phase and linearity. The port may be slightly under-sized, characterised by an early roll-off, but this compromise retains a low group delay, and allows the bass to fill out naturally by the room size, only a few dB down at 40Hz by my ear.
Output from the speakers, specified as 89dB, is very good, requiring only 20 or so watts to fill the room beyond normal conversation level. Even with the volume pushed up over 100dB on Dire Straits' “Money for Nothing”, there was no hint of break-up from the drivers, but the room certainly knew something was going on. Time to buy some new room treatments!
As mentioned, these speakers are quite large, but are not floor standing by any stretch, as they are less than 50cm tall. A good solid set of speaker stands to bring these up to ear-level would be an essential addition to get the best results from these speakers. Don't skimp on quality stands however.
I really didn't know what to expect from the P15's. They are impressive for the $2,499 RRP ($2,199 + $300 for the Graphite finish) price tag. There's no indication on their website whether that price includes the Bi-wire cables or not.
If you're looking for mid-priced speaker performance and have a standard sized listening room, you would not be dissapointed investing in the Whatmough P15 Performance Series.