Conventional Looks, Unconventional Excellence
June 29th, 2012 -- by Chris Martens
Source: The Perfect Vision
In our sister publication The Absolute Sound, I recently wrote a favorable review of Gallo’s new Classico CL-3 floorstanding loudspeakers ($1595/pair), which are among the first of a series of Gallo speakers that—for the first time in the company’s history—feature conventional wood-box enclosures (gasp!) rather than the exotic-looking and unorthodox metal enclosures previous Gallo speakers have used. At the time, I wondered if the CL-3 would sound like a “real” Gallo, but I needn’t have worried as I discovered early on that the new Classico model not only equals the performance of the firm’s critically acclaimed Reference speakers in many respects, but arguably surpasses them in some critical areas.
But having concluded that the smallish Classico CL-3 floorstanders were the real deal in terms of sound quality for high-end stereo applications, the next question that came to mind was this: How would a full-on Classico surround system sound? To help me answer this question, the good folks at Anthony Gallo Acoustics loaned The Perfect Vision/Playback a set of Classico CL-2 bookshelf monitors ($795/pair) to use as surrounds, a Classico CL-C center channel speaker ($599), and a Classic CLS-12 powered subwoofer ($999)—components that complemented the CL-3 floorstanders to form a complete 5.surround system (total system price, $3988).
The goal of this review will be to give you a useful description of the performance capabilities of the Classico surround system. In so doing, though, I will first need to spend some of time explaining the many subtle, inventive, and in some cases downright exotic technologies that are embodied in these deceptively conventional-looking speakers. There’s more going on in the design of the Classico’s than first meets the eye, as you’ll see in a moment. But after we summarize technology highlights, we’ll get right down to business and talk about the system’s sound.
Classico CL-3 floorstander
- Enclosure: The CL-3 is an unusually small 31-inch tall tower-type speaker that features strikingly angled panel surfaces intended to minimize problems with unwanted internal reflections. Classico models are offered with either genuine cherry or ash veneers and come with curved, magnetically attached mesh grills. The CL-3 enclosure is made from 3/4-inch internally braced MDF and is configured, says Gallo, as a “modified transmission line” that vents through a rear-firing slot. The transmission line, in turn, is loaded with Gallo’s patented S2 damping material, which we will discuss further below.
- Special Enclosure Damping: Like previous Gallo speakers, the CL-3 uses the firm’s proprietary S2 damping material within its cabinet. S2 is a finely shredded polyethylene film material that not only provides excellent general damping properties, but also improves the volumetric efficiency of the air within the speaker. As Gallo puts it, “our patented S2 technology tricks the Classico's precision woofers into performing as though they're in significantly larger enclosures.” Previous Gallo designs have always used S2 material in sealed enclosures, but in the Classico CL-3 the S2 material is, for the first time being applied in a vented, transmission line-type enclosure. For the CL-3 application, Gallo has strategically placed air-permeable bags containing carefully chosen quantities of S2 material at specific locations within the transmission line. The claimed result is a speaker that “sounds much larger than its actual size and delivers real-life impact without ever sounding muddy.” Gallo has given this distinctive transmission line loading methodology the acronym BLAST, which stands for Backwave Linearization And Synchronization Technology. According to Gallo, BLAST affords “an improved acoustic impedance match between the woofer/midrange driver and the air within the enclosure,” which “allows the speaker to play louder, deliver exceptional bass, and perform overall like a speaker many times its size.”
- Gel Discs: In lieu of traditional floor spikes, each CL-3 is supplied with a set of four large, thick vibration-damping gel discs that are placed on the floor beneath the speaker enclosures. The discs do a great job of decoupling the speaker from the floor, though it can be downright eerie to touch the enclosure when it is resting on the discs, because the enclosure seems almost to “float” on the discs.
- Drivers: The CL-3 driver complement consists of a pair of 5.25-inch mid/bass drivers with carbon fiber diaphragms, plus one of Gallo’s CDT 3 (cylindrical diaphragm transducer) tweeters. Interestingly, a brief spin through the Gallo specifications table reveals this telling phrase: “Internal Crossover: None required.” Like many of Gallo’s Reference-series designs, the Classico CL-3 is essentially a crossover-free loudspeaker, which as you might expect yields audible benefits in terms of openness, transparency, and freedom from crossover-induced sonic artifacts.
- About the CDT Tweeter: Gallo’s signature CDT tweeter provides a whopping 180 degrees of horizontal dispersion and 30 degrees of vertical dispersion. Gallo notes that the CDT tweeter provides “consistent high-frequency response … both on and off-axis,” meaning that both “soundstaging and imaging are enhanced.” The tweeter features a semi-cylindrical diaphragm formed from sheets of a piezoelectric material called Kynar. As current flows back and forth, the material expands and contracts, with acoustic output closely approximating that of a theoretical pulsating cylinder. Significantly, the CDT tweeter naturally acts as a roughly 6dB/octave high-pass filter that rolls in at about 5kHz, so that the tweeter literally serves as its own crossover. Apart from terrific horizontal dispersion, the CDT tweeter also offers good linearity, high resolution, and extremely fast transient response.
- Optimized Pulse Technology: Finally, the Classico CL-3 employs what Gallo terms Optimized Pulse Technology (OPT) Level 2. OPT “applies a dielectric absorption countermeasure to eliminate sonic degradation from state charges that typically build up on speaker wires and within the speaker itself.”
- Claimed Performance: Despite its compact size, the CL-3 claims frequency response of 32 Hz – 22 KHz ± 3dB in room, but with the caveat that the speaker must be placed at least at least four inches and no more than 24 inches from the wall behind the speaker (in our experience moving the speaker more than 24 inches from the back wall causes bass response to fall off precipitously).