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 static charges that typically build up on speaker wires and within the speaker itself.”
All of these technical features sound promising in principle, but how do they work out in actual practice? The simple answer is that they work better than I ever imagined possible.
Let me acknowledge from the outset that CL-3, which is quite attractive in its way, simply looks too compact, too short, and too conventional to be capable of producing deep bass and powerful and expressive dynamics, or of delivering a big, transparent, and highly refined sound. But once the speaker is broken in (about 50 hours’ worth of run-in time should do the trick) and properly positioned, the fact is that it does all of the above and more.
Gallo specifies the CL-3’s frequency response as 32Hz–22kHz +/-3dB in room, and when you look at that 32Hz bass extension figure and then look at the CL-3 with its two 5.2" mid/bass drivers, your first thought might well be, “No way!” But put on a track with really solid low-frequency content, such as the very low-pitched drum heard near the beginning of the track “Temple Caves” from Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum [Rykodisc], and you’ll soon be singing a different tune. Implausible though it may seem, the little CL-3s go amazingly low and they do so with a remarkable combination of authority, finesse, and pitch definition. For example, you can easily pick out subtle drumhead “skin sounds” even on very low-pitched concert bass drums and the like—precisely the sort of thing many moderately-priced speakers either fail to reproduce altogether or else capture with an overlay of thick, ill-defined low-frequency noise. With the Gallo, on the other hand, it’s hard to say which is more impressive: its ability to go low, or its ability to maintain a very high level of textural finesse when doing so. Is there a trick to achieving this level of bass performance? Well, there is one: You must heed Gallo’s positioning guidelines, which recommend placing the CL-3 at least four inches and no more than two feet from the wall behind the speakers. I tried several positioning options during my listening tests and discovered that once the speakers were pulled out more than two feet from the wall, bass performance (that is, perceived weight, depth, and balance) fell off precipitously. But, within the two-foot zone, bass performance was exemplary.
Next, let me focus on the CL-3’s midrange performance and dynamic capabilities. It is in these two related performance areas that I felt the CL-3 actually managed to outperform some of the Gallo Reference models I’ve heard in the past. Specifically, the CL-3 exhibits a wide-open, highly transparent midrange that is terrifically responsive to shifts in dynamics. Although the CL-3 is nowhere near as sensitive as today’s best horn-loaded loudspeakers, it does somehow convey their traditional sonic qualities of effortlessness and powerful (indeed, at times explosive) dynamics-on-demand. By comparison, the midrange response of Gallo’s Reference models, though very good in its own right, can at times sound ever-so-slightly over-damped, so that one sometimes has the sense that a very powerful amplifier is needed in order to help “push” the notes out of the speaker. But, within reasonable volume limits, the CL-3s have no such restraints or caveats; with the Classicos in play, the music just flows freely—even at moments when dynamic demands become pretty extreme.
To appreciate what I mean, try listening to Movement 3 of David Chesky’s Concerto for Electric Guitar and Orchestra [Chesky] and note the ferocious interplay between Bryan Baker’s electric guitar and the orchestra at full voice. Trying to get either the sound of the guitar or the orchestra right would be tough enough for most moderately priced loudspeakers, but in this movement the Classico handles both challenges with equal parts grace and savage energy. Note, as you play this movement at reasonable volume levels, how beautifully the CL-3 captures both the aggressiveness and intricate articulation of the guitar, while simultaneously handling the opposing demands of very high-frequency and very low-frequency percussion instruments played with gusto. If you have any lingering doubts about the CL-3’s ability to handle loud, abrupt, low-frequency transients, this track will quickly put them to rest.
The only caveat I would mention is that, because the midrange of the CL-3 is so expressive and revealing, the speaker is not very tolerant (or forgiving) of the overly hot midrange sounds captured on some modern pop records. I put on the track “You Were Always There” from Lyle Lovett’s My Baby Don’t Tolerate [Lost Highway] and noted that the Classicos pointedly exposed the fact that Lovett’s vocals were somewhat too closely mic’d and therefore exhibited an unnatural glassy sheen and a strident sound on sibilants and other vocal transients. For better or worse, the CL-3’s will consistent expose flaws of this sort, though I feel this is a small price to pay for the levels of openness and transparency the speaker offers on good recordings.