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Very first out-of-box suspicions? Anthony had told porkies. Where was all the promissed bass? Then I remembered. S2 needs to physically settle down even if the drivers are already broken in. (These had "about 20 hours" on them. For the Classico range Anthony reports break-in far shorter than for his Reference models - "between 80 to 120 hours"). Transit always upsets the S2 packing. It had taken the ready-to-roll Classico III a day or so to - um, drop their balls. And so it would be for the CL-2. During the waiting game, curiosity set in. So I screwed with a midwoofer. Actually these were no lame wood screws in frazzling MDF. These were properly T-nutted 1-inch bolts to never wear out their welcome threads. Calling the insides stufft seemed near understatement. The silver-dollar magnet sized very much like the dust cap and perhaps 3/4" tall to be a powerful but compact Neodymium unit had made a real dent in the dense S2 sock behind it. Having spotted the beginnings of a diagonal brace of presumably a line bend without seeing where it went—I wasn't about to pull out the stuffing—curiosity was sated and I re-torqued the bolts for a cracking firm grip.

Starting on the desk top fronted by a digitally tapped AIFF-loaded iPod 160GB Classic into Bel Canto's one-for-all C5i and later Wyred4Sound's mINT, I quickly renewed my lust affair with Gallo's tweeter. It's the man's magic bullet. Coming off a high-quality Wavecor silk-dome tweeter in my usual Everything But The Box Terra III, the difference in soundstaging spread, image lock, transient dynamics and sparkle was significant. Unlike Heil-based tweeters which often strike me as energetically hot or dynamically forward, the CDTIII was smooth, expansive and nicely integrated with that midwoofer which trails up high to get out of the critical presence region. By eliminating the beaming typical of dynamic tweeters—beaming reduces off-axis high-frequency content—Gallo's 180° dispersion tweeter creates a noticeably broader sweet spot and more specific imaging.

Everything But The Box Terra III with Wyred4Sound mINT and Cambridge Audio iD100 digital-direct iPod dock

You'd not think that speakers with a big monitor screen between 'em could spell 'soundstaging'. Think again but do close your eyes to eliminate the psychological barrier. Obviously no screen would be better and not just for the psychology of it. But I wasn't talking absolutes. Given desktop reality, the CL-2 staged like a bandit. And at 1-meter or less proximity with additional table-top boundary reinforcement, it needed no sub augmentation even for Mercan Dede, Bob Holroyd & Co. There was enough foundation coverage. With the subwoofer ambient/trance fare naturally hit rock bottom all the way but even knowing the music well the monitors solo signaled no lack. They were sufficient.

Did you note sensitivity during the earlier spec credits? Whilst efficiency with the Classico range goes up as the models grow up, already the CL-2 hits a mark no Gallo previously has. 90dB is bloody high for a small speaker. For Gallo it's downright stratospheric. His Strada is 87dB. The Classico II not only makes more bass—one glance at the cubic volume tells you that; and no the Strada solo had not been sufficient—it also gets on song sooner. And it's cheaper. What it hasn't got are the futuristic looks, compactness and aimable stand which particularly on the up-close and limited real estate of the desk top were adorable Strada assets.

Being able to play quietly without the constant impulse to raise the volume to hear everything is how the CL-2 counters. I prefer the Strada's sculpted looks particularly in stainless. I prefer the Strada's more Lilliputian svelte stature. I prefer the CL-2 for its more mature bass, for its warmer fuller voicing where the Strada was electrostatic; and for its ability to whisper more meaningfully. Does the CL-2 stage as spectacularly as the Strada did? I suspect not but only a direct A/B could be sure. If the Classico gives up some outer space, it more than makes up for with bass reach and overall weightiness. And for the decorators amongst us, the Classicos' flat tops invite some knickknacks or even small plants where the Stradas were unforgiving tech objects.

In the end and despite retaining a particularly soft spot for the Strada, my ears and wallet have to declare the Classico II the better speaker. While it is a very conventional looking box, it's sonically a Gallo to the bone. Hey, hold that choice of word. Though true, this sound is a bit cozier and fleshier and thus less bone than the company's prior signature sonics. With the same tweeter and zero filter concept, familiar essentials are in place. The new wrinkle which many could call an advance is this added warmth. Is this due to the resistive venting? The drivers now literally have air to breathe, quite different from the prior sealed spheres and canisters. Does the new baffle surface play a part? Whatever the answer, the 'pedestrian' embrace of boxes and ports has shifted the Gallo sound. Admittedly less radical, it's perhaps more—or at least differently—balanced. A bit more comfort/bloom, a bit less speed/transient. With the Reference products still in the catalogue, shoppers have a choice. The relevant statement is simply that though clearly a concession to more traditional looks, these Classicos are no concession on sound.

Absolute vs. better phase. As I reported in prior reviews of OPT-based Gallo models—optimized pulse technology—deciding on better phase at the amplifier or speaker terminals is important. This is not the same as flipping polarity on the preamp or in the digital domain. Throw away textbook absolutes. Trust your ears. Most likely an interactive function of distortion behavior between amp and speaker, it's something one ought to check with any speaker. It simply tends to require very good impulse response/time behavior to explain why certain speakers make it far more obvious than others. So listen with the speaker cables seated conventionally (+ to +, - to -), then invert both channels. The better phase will exhibit crisper leading edges and finer detailing. Inferior phase will seem slightly hollow and fuzzy. Chances that absolute polarity will sound better are about 50:50. That solely depends on any given amp/speaker interaction. These Classicos are sensitive to that. Be sure then to check up on this easy free and potentially rewarding decision.