Gallo Micro SE: How can a speaker this small sound this good?

Few "lifestyle" speakers tempt discerning audiophiles, but Anthony Gallo Acoustics' latest crop of mini models will challenge their expectations.

Gallo Micro SEs, with table stands Steve Guttenberg/CNET

The Anthony Gallo Acoustics Micro SE speaker ($239) is a tiny steel sphere, just 4 inches in diameter -- that's the size of an orange. It's an audiophile quality performer, capable of delivering high-resolution sound and a big, downright spacious stereo image. In fact, the imaging of the Micro SE and the slightly larger A'Diva SE reminds me of the wide-open, boxless sound I get with large, flat-panel speakers. Since these Gallos have just one full-range driver, they don't need a crossover network to direct high frequencies to the tweeter and bass to the woofer, and that's one of the reasons Gallos don't sound like conventional box speakers. The A'Diva SE sells for $329.

Both Gallo speakers use the same 3-inch driver, which features a flat aluminum honeycomb sandwich diaphragm, developed by Anthony Gallo. Rather than use the usual plastic or wood construction, Gallo's "cabinets" are black or white finished steel spheres, and both models are also available in gleaming stainless steel. The speakers' binding posts accept banana plugs or stripped, bare wires.

Gallo Micro SE, on floor stand Anthony Gallo Acoustics

Of course, with speakers as small as these, you'll need a subwoofer, so I paired them with a Gallo TR-1D ($599), Gallo Classico CL-S 12 ($999), and my old PSB SubSonic 5. Perfectly smooth bass integration between the subs and sats was easy to achieve. All of the listening tests were conducted with my NAD 3020 and Emotiva Mini-X integrated amplifiers, and an Onkyo TX-SR805 AV receiver.

You can park Micro SEs or A'Diva SEs on any flat surface and use the rubber "O" ring that's packed in the box to keep them in place so they don't roll around, or buy Gallo's wall-mount brackets, table stands, or the matching floor stands.

I started listening to the Gallos on my desktop where their imaging focus and specificity were awesome; thanks to their spherical enclosures the Gallos don't have the diffraction/reflection problems common to box speakers. The Gallos reveal soft-to-loud dynamics with rare precision, and their low-level resolution is quite good. Using a 3-inch driver the bass wasn't deep or punchy, though bass definition was superb, so I didn't use a sub for the desktop sessions, but I'd guess most folks will.

Relocating the Micro SEs to my hi-fi to rock out with the White Stripes' "Under Great White Northern Lights" concert CD was a different trip. Jack White's guitar onslaught wasn't the least bit inhibited by the Micro SEs, but they were ably assisted by the TR-1D sub. Meg White's drums -- especially her big bass drum -- made a strong impression on my eardrums. The bass was nice and tight, no boom or bloat down there. Switching over to the big Classico CL-S 12 sub made the room shake a bit more, without losing definition or finesse.

Stereo home theater trials again defied my expectations; the little speakers virtually disappeared as sound sources. When I watched "Hitchcock" with Anthony Hopkins starring as the famed director, I immediately forgot all about the Gallos. That's a good sign, as the best speakers don't call attention to themselves. The "phantom" center channel's dialogue sounded natural.

Jazz singer Patricia Barber's phenomenal "Modern Cool" high-resolution audio Blu-ray blew my mind. Barber's vocals and the band's solos popped out of the mix with startling realism. Percussion instruments' detailing and air are excellent. Looking across the room at these incredibly tiny speakers it was hard to believe they could sound this good.

What's better, the Micro SE or the A'Diva SE? I can't say there's much of a difference between the two -- the A'Diva SE is a little more fleshed out and fuller sounding, but you can make up most of that difference with the sub. The A'Diva SE's biggest advantage is its more open quality; it "disappears" more than the Micro SE.

The Anthony Gallo Acoustics' Micro SE and A'Diva SE are, pound for pound, the best sounding miniature speakers I've heard to date. They redefine the performance standard for very small speakers.

About the author

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Home Theater, Inner Fidelity, Tone Audio, and Stereophile.

 

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