Some stories require a bit of background and the story of the creation of Gallo Acoustics’ Reference Strada system is one of them. To start, let’s turn the clock back a few years.
In 2004 Gallo released a groundbreaking and—truth be told—somewhat otherworldly-looking floorstanding loudspeaker called the Nucleus Reference 3, which at the time sold for a bit under $3000/pair. I had the privilege of reviewing the Reference 3 in issue 150 of The Absolute Sound and I concluded that it was “…a reference speaker for Everyman.” The reason I said this was that the little speaker bowled me (and many other serious high-end listeners) over with its amazingly sophisticated sound—sound that could hold its own with the “big boys,” but at a pennies-on-the-dollar price. In fact, I once had a visiting manufacturers representative, who had just loaned me a very expensive amplifier to review, observe that, “the Gallo is by far the cheapest speaker I’ve heard with my electronics in the last few weeks, and it’s also hands down the best sounding.” You get the picture.
Later, Gallo updated the Reference 3 to create the Reference 3.1 (with an attendant, but thankfully not excessive, price increase), which was in essence a tweaked and sonically improved Ref 3. Over time, Gallo adapted the drive unit technologies from the Reference 3/3.1 to create the excellent Reference AV satellite/subwoofer surround system, which I reviewed in The Perfect Vision issue 73. One thing that is interesting to watch is the process through which Gallo’s work on audiophile speakers and home theater systems creates cross-currents of design thinking that, at the end of the day, helps improve all Gallo speakers over time.
Now, let’s fast forward to the 2009 CES show, where Gallo showed two very impressive new product prototypes. The first was the spectacular new Reference 3.5 floorstander, which represents a fairly radical re-thinking of the original Reference 3/3.1 concept. From past background interviews with Anthony Gallo I knew that—good though the Reference 3/3.1 design was and is—Gallo believed it might be possible to build a speaker that sounded significantly more open, transparent and—for want of a better phrase—“immediate” than the Reference 3/3.1. The new Reference 3.5, which is slated to go into production later this year and to sell for about $5800/pair (give or take a bit), is that very speaker.
But what may be even better news, especially for home theater enthusiasts or those with comparatively limited budgets, was Gallo’s other new 2009 CES debut product—the Reference Strada system we’ll discuss here. Here’s the deal: the Reference Strada speakers are compact three-driver, two-way, midrange-tweeter-midrange modules that give you the exact same tweeter/midrange capabilities of the big Reference 3.5, but at a price of about $1000/channel. Reference Strada models are offered in two versions—Strada Sides, designed for vertical placement, and the Strada Center, designed for horizontal placement. To go with the Reference Strada speakers, Gallo offers its new TR-3 powered subwoofers, which sell for about $1000/each and that use the same woofers as in Reference 3.5, but in a differently sized enclosure. Better still, each TR-3 comes with its own 300-watt amplifier, whereas the Reference 3.5 is offered as a passive, full-range speaker, only.
So let’s consider this key point: Gallo’s Reference Strada system essentially is intended to gives you all—or nearly all—of the sonic goodness of the new Reference 3.5 floorstander, but for a lot less money and in a home theater-friendly format. Is that cool or what?
Relative to the original Reference 3/3.1 and Reference A/V designs, the Reference Strada system incorporates a number of significant technical changes including an all-new version of Gallo’s signature CDT Kynar tweeter, revised midrange driver enclosures (most notably involving the shape of the “mouth” of the enclosure), and a number of significant internal revisions that Gallo has asked me not to disclose. The enclosures, by the way, are made of solid metal (no plastic here), with a main housing that is die-cast with a removable metal back plate, plus two semi-spherical spun stainless steel enclosure for the mid-bass drivers. To say the Reference Strada speakers are “beefy” is, believe me, quite the understatement (most people grunt audibly when I invite them to pick up one of the Stradas). Together, these changes are said to help give the system the more open and transparent sound that Gallo has been seeking, while also making the speaker easier to break-in and to drive.