Floor-standing Speakers

Anthony Gallo Acoustics Reference 3.5 Speakers


Setup and In Use

I set up the Gallo 3.5s in my room in the same location as my 3.1s, but toed in towards the listening position as recommended by the user manual. I replaced my normal speaker cables with the OPT Level 2 equipped cables sent along with the speakers for the first half of the review period. The speakers were powered at the full range binding posts by my Emotiva XPA-1s. I used the Gallo Reference SA subwoofer amp to power the second voice coils in the same configuration I used with the older 3.1s. I initially tuned gain, phase and crossover frequency by ear using my previous experience with the 3.1s. I later tweaked these settings when I measured the response of the speakers at the end of the review, but I had gotten pretty close by ear. I took this route since most people don't have measurement tools. I also didn't want to color my opinions of the sound by measuring the speaker first. I let the speaker break-in for a few weeks of home theater duty before any serious listening got underway.

Once I did start listening, the Reference 3.5s were as welcome as an old pair of slippers, only better. I hoped that the 3.5s would deliver all of the advantages of the Strada system I recently reviewed, without any of their weaknesses as compared to the 3.1s. The new speakers delivered. The 3.5s best the 3.1s in absolutely every area bar none, and also give up nothing to the Stradas (other than in price tag). One of the main advantages of the Strada is the exceptionally wide, tall and deep soundstage. One issue did not mention in the Strada review is the height of the soundstage. The Strada soundstage is about 1ft. above the speakers, which were on very tall, 40" high stands. This leads to a somewhat unnaturally high soundstage. Some might like this, but I found it a little distracting. The 3.5s also deliver a soundstage about 1 ft. above the speaker, but the height of the 3.5 is less, making the delivered soundstage more natural. The soundstage width was every bit as good as the Strada, but with even better, more natural positioning of images within the soundstage. In Emiliana Torrini's "Fisherman's Woman", the simply produced acoustic guitar and voice sounded beautifully round, deep and spacious, without sounding artificially stretched. By comparison, I remember the soundstage of the Stradas sounding a bit exaggerated by comparison: a little wider, deeper and taller than natural.

Retrieval of detail was similar to the Stradas. I can't say the 3.5s have any advantage here, except in the bass. Still, compared to other speakers I've had the pleasure to listen to, the 3.5s and the Stratas are at the very top in the ability to extract every last bit of detail out of a recording. The only speakers I've listened to that best the 3.5s are the Legend Tikandis with the DEQ-X room correction system. Realize, this system is more than three times the cost of the Reference 3.5s.

The one place where the Stradas did not clearly best the 3.1s was in the bass. While they played with plenty of depth and agility, the impact and dynamic contrast of the stereo woofers of the 3.1s seemed a bit better. The Reference 3.5s take care of that complaint. The new bass drivers on the 3.5, combined with the Gallo Reference SA subwoofer amplifier truly deliver world-class bass performance. They play all the way to 20 Hz (see the measurements section), offer exceptionally smooth and even bass frequency response, and deliver stomach-pounding impact when called for. Even more impressive was the smoothness and integration of this bass power. The TR-3 subwoofer blended well with the Stradas, but the woofers in the 3.5 deliver even better integration with the midrange and tweeter.

Every once in a while, I would be reminded with the Strada/TR3 system that I had a separate subwoofer. No such issue with the Reference 3.5s. The Daft Punk bass torture test was passed with flying colors. Human After All delivered organ-vibrating power, with shocking transients. This was combined with absolutely NO sense of the bass being "separate" from the rest of the spectral range. It's this spectacular bass performance that costs you the extra $3,000 clams over the Strada system. You could remedy this with dual TR3s and still be $2,000 ahead, but you'll never get the bass integration and smoothness delivered by the 3.5s. It's an axiom of high-end audio that bass is expensive. If you don't care much about the bottom octave, and you're not a card carrying bass head, the Strada/TR3 system might be the best choice. If you want world-class bass performance, while keeping all the other magic of the Strada, the Reference 3.5 is the only choice. Yes, that last bit of performance costs a considerable amount of money, but what did you expect? Something for nothing?

After listening to the 3.5s using the Gallo supplied OPT2 speaker cable, I switched back to my normal speaker cable, Wireworld Eclipse. The sound did change, but I couldn't really pick out a clear winner. The Gallo speaker cables seemed to be a little more detailed, and definitely had a more forward presentation (i.e. the soundstage was a little closer). The Wireworld speakers seemed to have more round, three-dimensional images and a soundstage that was set a bit farther back. If I didn't already have good cables, I would certainly consider the Gallo cables to go with the 3.5s, but I don't think it would be worth replacing an already good pair of cables. This is particularly true if you don't have noise pickup or interaction issues with your current cables.