I have been interested in Gallo speakers since auditioning the Nucleus Minor almost ten years ago. I presently own 2 pairs of Nucleus Micros, which I use as surrounded speakers. For some time I have been hoping that Gallo would introduce a new speaker comparable to the discontinued Nucleus Solo or Reference II (which received virtually unanimous extremely positive reviews from both professional reviewers and owners).
I auditioned the Reference 3's on two different occasions at the same store (The Little Guy's in Homewood, Illinois). I heard them in 2 different rooms and was amazed at how different the bass was from one room to the other. In both case they were demonstrated without augmentation (bi-amping of the woofers second voice coil). In the first room they almost did not require a sub-woofer and in the second room they definitely did. In as much as I am completely aware of the affects a room can have on the lower frequencies I was still surprised at the huge difference. The approximate size and layout of the rooms were as follows:
Room With Full Range Response
About 16' wide by 18' long by 9' high with speakers on the long wall about 30" out with a 65" plasma TV between them. The listening position was up against the opposite wall. (I realize that this was not an optimum set up and that is why I auditioned the speakers again in the room below.) The amplifiers used in this room were discontinued Musical Fidelity mono-blocks (250 Watts per channel into 8 Ohms).
Room With Rolled Off Response
About 18' wide by 20' deep by 10' high, with speakers on 18' wall with the speakers about 42" out and the listening position about 8' out from the opposite wall. (walking around the room made only subtle differences in bass response).This room probably makes the speakers sound more like the designer intended but definitely requires augmentation. The amplifier used in this room was a Musical Fidelity A308 Integrated Amplifier (150 Watts per channel into 8 Ohms)
I noticed that on some male vocals the image seemed rather low. I thought this might me due to the low placement of the woofer. I e-mailed Srajan Ebaen of sixmoons.com, who reviewed the Gallo's; with this observation and he wrote that he consistently achieved an image that was about 5.5' to 6' high (he had them fully tilted back which I did not). I also felt the image was not well focused in the 'full range room' (I assumed due to the large plasma TV between the speakers). Image quality in the rolled off room was slightly better but not as good as my home system or the SP Technology Continuums that I auditioned previously. The Continuums are great speakers but after the recent price increase, they are beyond my budget and SP does not currently offer a surround speaker that can be wall mounted.
After my first audition of the Reference III, I was extremely enthusiastic about the speaker. I felt that it had and an extended open response, reasonably good dynamics and good bass extension. The few negative things, such as the diffuse imaging and low image height were in my opinion attributable to the room and set up in the room described above as 'room with full range response'. Upon auditioning the speakers again I was so preoccupied with the drastic change in bass response that I did not pay enough attention to the remainder of the frequency range. I did however notice that the imaging was still not as focused as I am accustomed to. Although the second room did have acoustical absorbing material on the walls it may not have been located properly for the current speaker and listener positions. It is my guess that since the Reference III uses an omni directional tweeter, positioning of acoustical absorbing materials is very important.
There is however one other issue that is troubling me. Like many people today I am interested in surround sound for both music and home theater (with emphasis in my case on music). This requires the use of three front speakers preferably identical or at least as close to being identical as possible. The reference III could have fulfilled that requirement if they could be purchased separately but unfortunately Gallo only sells them in pairs in pairs. I understand they will be introducing a new center speaker to match the reference III, and that this new product may be configured for both horizontal and vertical applications. Personally I think horizontally oriented center speakers are a compromise necessitated by CRT type rear projection TVs. For an ideal music surround systemit is my opinion that three identical front speakers, with identical radiation patterns is the ideal. I find it difficult to understand why Gallo has chosen to only sell their new product in pairs. The current trend in video is away from CRT rear projection televisions to more compact formats such as plasma LCD and DLP, many of which can be wall or shelf mounted. The three foot high Reference III could easily be accommodated below these televisions. I understand that many people still own CRT type rear projection TVs and for that reason would prefer a horizontally oriented center speaker. However it is my opinion that in the future horizontal center channel speakers will not be as popular as they are now, especially for music surround applications. For this reason I think it would be wise if Gallo sold the Reference III separately as well as in pairs. I'm sure that their new center channel speaker will be a good product but like all products it may not suit everyone's needs, but it would not cost Gallo anything to also sell the reference III separately for use as a matching center channel speaker.
Despite the above criticisms, I am still very interested in the Gallo's and I will definitely audition them again. One of the reasons that I have posted this mini review is to illustrate how different these and most other speakers can sound under different conditions. When someone dislikes a speaker based on one audition, they may not have heard what the product is capable of. I am hoping I have not yet heard what the Reference 3 is capable of.