From the very beginning, Anthony Gallo’s loudspeakers have had a certain futuristic and almost otherworldly look—with design motifs that suggest a cross between science fiction and fantasy, touched with just a hint of whimsy. Perhaps for this reason, though, some enthusiasts tend to mistake Gallo’s designs for trendy “toys,” which they assuredly are not. As those who’ve had the opportunity to get to know Anthony Gallo can attest, his speaker designs are never “different” for arbitrary reasons. Instead, even the smallest details—no matter how odd they might look at first—have been carefully thought through and set in place with one goal in mind: namely, achieving superior sound quality at a reasonable price. A perfect case in point would the new Gallo Reference Strada system, which is the subject of this review.
The Reference Strada system consists of five Reference Strada satellites ($999/each)—four Reference Sides and a Reference Center, plus a pair of self-powered TR-3 subwoofers ($984.50/each), for a total system price that falls just a tick below $7000. The closer you look at any of the system elements, the more obvious it becomes that each of them fairly bristles with advanced technologies (and that’s not even counting some of the finer-point details hidden on the insides of the speaker enclosures).
Any notion that the small Reference Strada satellites are “toys” is quickly dispelled the first time you try to pick one up and realize that the speaker’s main chassis is made of solid die-cast aluminum. Into this chassis, which serves as the backbone of the Strada, are fitted two semi-spherical mid-bass driver enclosures made of spun stainless steel, and that house very high-quality, long-throw, carbon fiber diaphragm-equipped mid-bass drivers. Those drivers, in turn, flank Gallo’s distinctive, centrally positioned, semi-cylindrical CDT 3 (“Cylindrical Diaphragm Transducer”) tweeter, which—get this—requires no crossover network at all and offers an amazing 180 degrees of horizontal dispersion from 3kHz to 20kHz. In Strada Center models, the cylindrical tweeter is rotated 90 degrees, so that the center channel speaker can be placed on its side.
In an effort to give the Reference Strada a more open, immediate, and transparent sound than achieved by any of his previous Reference-series designs, Gallo worked to prefect what he terms the OPT (Optimized Pulse Technology) system. In a conversation about the Strada, Gallo explained that OPT involves the combination of his new third-generation CDT tweeter, a revised “mouth flange” for the mid-bass driver, which gives the speaker somewhat more tightly focused dispersion characteristics at midrange frequencies, and some clever internal changes, which Gallo prefers to hold as trade secrets at this time. But the cumulative effect of the OPT system is a net improvement in resolution of low level sonic details, more effortless and explosive dynamics, and significantly reduced break-in time for the speaker. (Previous Gallo designs required many, many hours of break-in before optimal sound was achieved.).
Rounding out the Reference Strada system is a pair of Gallo’s latest TR-3 powered subwoofers, which feature 10-inch, long-throw, “ceramic-enhanced aluminum” woofers (the same woofers that will be used in Gallo’s upcoming Reference 3.5 floorstanding speaker) housed in a cylindrical steel enclosure that looks—appropriately enough—like a submarine depth charge. Each TR-3 provides a 300-watt, Class A/B high-current amplifier augmented by a sophisticated set of bass EQ and filter controls.
The individual elements of the Reference Strada system look deceptively small, but as you’ll learn in a moment, their sound is huge. Once again, this is by design. All of Gallo’s speakers use a very unusual proprietary damping material that Gallo simply calls “S2”. One of the distinctive properties of S2 material is that it alters the spring constant of the air contained inside Gallo’s sealed speaker enclosures, effectively increasing the apparent volume of those enclosures. The result, in simple terms, is a small speaker that behaves like a much bigger one.