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The RMAF 2010 audio show in Denver came and went but in its wake I've thus far only found one show report to pick up on what I think most observers would consider a very surprising novelty from Gallo Acoustics. The SoundStage Network's reportage however did find it newsworthy enough to cover - Gallo's new $2.000/pr Classico III three-driver two-way floorstander. To appreciate why it's unusual coming from this company, let's rewind.

I hate box speakers. You'd expect him to say that. Anthony Gallo after all has made a reputation for skirting rectangular conventions with decidedly unboxy speakers. And yet. "One Gallo salesman at a Virginia dealership has sold literally hundreds of Ref 3/3.1s, more than any other individual on the planet. He repeatedly told me that key to his success was that they looked like nothing else. But, most my dealers clamour for box speakers instead. Their argument is that if I could just make a box speaker sound like my spherical speakers, they'd sell a lot more."

To even consider "square" requests, Anthony had bought a few popular box speakers earlier in the year. His first step was filling them to the brink with his trademark S2 Polyolefin flakes.

"I was very surprised. Altering the air's behavior inside their enclosures eliminated much of that audible boxiness I'm allergic to." This strong personal bias had led Anthony down his well-chronicled RoundSound™ path. Did his discovery presage that he could now squeeze orange juice from lemons even if admittedly somewhat diluted? The next step was sourcing a suitable mid/woofer. Anthony wanted one that'd meet his CDT III film tweeter filterless. If Gallo was going into the box speaker biz, there would be no conventional crossover. While in rethink mode, higher sensitivity got on the list of the new mid/woofer search too.

Finally the man who'd built an enviable reputation on sealed spheres and cylinders would add a port to make 32Hz from a bookshelf monitor. "After completely stuffing an enclosure with our patented S2 material—you cannot replicate this with the usual fiber fill—a port no longer behaves traditionally and the Thiele/Small parameters no longer apply. The closest precedent would be an aperiodic port but that still behaves differently.

"It turns out that one of the gravest contributors to box sound wasn't the enclosure. The culprit was the air inside the enclosure. The driver rear wave reflects off the walls back through the diaphragm. This is obviously delayed in time and rotated in phase.

"It distorts any driver's direct output no matter how fancy the driver itself might be. Going overboard with ultra-rigid enclosures won't alter that. The cabinet walls could flex wildly for all the air cares. As long as the energy trapped inside reflects back through a driver, there's time smear and blurred transients. That's a high percentage of the box talk I've always tried hard to avoid with our complex enclosures. Obviously those aren't terribly cost-effective to build."

For his first conventional prototype, Anthony stuck his CDT III on a box and surrounded it with felt for cheap diffraction control. Then Gallo customer Barry Cohen who'd been at Anthony's for the first Ref 3.1 to 3.5 conversion hit the forums April 17: "I went to visit with Anthony today. He's got some new affordable CDT speakers in the works. Strangest of all, they're in boxes. They sounded great, not 3.5 great but amazing for a $999/pair of bookshelf speakers. I think they may even go deeper than the 3.5 but of course won't play as loudly. I may have to get a pair for my living room. They are different animals from the Stradas. The Stradas don't go as low but subtle details in a recording are more apparent on them. For comparison, we also listened to a pair of conventional $478 and $1.099 box speakers. Anthony again has done his home work. In my opinion he's created a speaker that's superior to his competition."
By October Gallo's new Classico III was previewed in Denver as a stumpy 3-driver two-way floorstander all of 26.5" tall, with a CDT III tweeter above two paralleled 5.5" Carbon-fiber mid/woofers in a rakishly shaped enclosure for just $2.000/pr.

Doug Schneider's show report mention took it all very much in stride. His demo impression seems to have been positive too. "...Anthony Gallo Acoustics was getting big sound from a small package - their specialty these days..."

With canted front and rear baffles plus a sloping top for an eight-sided cabinet, the dealer-sold Classico III's $2.000/pr retail price seems very competitive considering the geometrically more complex enclosure. Such positioning was the lynch pin for the entire Classico enterprise. The Reference models—original Ref 3 above, prototype 3.5 replacement right—occupy their specific audiophile niches already. So do the more mainstream micro spheres and cylindrical subwoofers. With a globally depressed economy and dealer requests for more conventional cosmetics, what Anthony wanted now was a new high-performance budget range.

The make-or-break question is, could it be done without sacrificing the company's established sonics? The secret project brief might have read 80% round sound from rectangular boxes for half the price. Has Gallo pulled it off? Obviously the Classico III boxes aren't standard rectangular jobs. The only parallel panels in fact are the side walls. This randomises internal reflections. Two, S2 damps the interior to significantly attenuate the back wave. Three, the purpose-built mid/woofers roll out at the proper frequency and slope mechanically to meet that famous tweeter without an electrical filter. Four, the trademark cylindrical diaphragm tweeter replaces the usual HF dome for improved dispersion and dynamics.

The Classico III thus sports most the recognizable Gallo elements we're familiar with. Sonically, the design brief Anthony had described to me earlier this year didn't exactly call for identical sonics to the spherical models. It simply wanted most their qualities to stay true enough to the brand's identity while pursuing new customers for whom the existing styling is too outré and the cost of admission too high. If the new Classico monitor for example can outdo the Strada in a free air rather than wall-mounted setup in the bass to not require a subwoofer, many will happily sacrifice ultimate loudness potential and resolution while saving 50%. Is that's how the math will work out? We'll have to wait for the first formal reviews to let us know.

For now we can add that the Classico range is at present envisioned to include four main 2-way models, the ca. $600/pr Classico I (an entry-level monitor with a dome tweeter and the range's 5.5" Carbon-fiber mid/woofer); the $999/pr Classico II (a 2-driver monitor with the CDT III tweeter in a rectangular box); the $1.999/pr Classico III as shown above; and the ca. $3.500/pr Classico IV (quadruple parallel/series mid/woofers, 8-inch taller enclosure than the III with the same faceted form factor). Finishes will be Cherry, Mahogany, Wenge and Black Ash real wood veneers over MDF (the Classico I may have to be vinyl). There will also be a few dedicated Classico range transmission-line subwoofers and probably a center channel.

The Classico III and IV use a 2-foot long multi-bent transmission-line hybrid bass alignment. The III's terminus with its F3 of 27Hz is a 1 x 6" slot and and located at the rear. "Stuffing this short line as we do has it behave a lot longer than it actually is. The density of our S2 loading here is very critical of course and I had to design an internal packing system that insures that the material is evenly spaced and at exactly the right density.

"In Denver, the first question people asked seeing the Classico III was whether it needed a stand. Once they actually heard it, nobody remembered that question (chuckles). And because the CDT III tweeter is on top rather than between drivers as it is with the Strada and Ref 3.5, this very short floorstander actually stages significantly taller than the Ref 3.5. Showgoers absolutely loved the short profile and how big the speaker sounded in spite of it. I think we're very much on the right track here..."
Gallo Acoustics website