|Anthony Gallo Acoustics Reference AV On-wall Speaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers On-wall Loudspeakers|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Sunday, 01 October 2006|
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The days of floor-standing speakers are numbered. I’m sure this statement is going to be met with a barrage of e-mails to the contrary, but alas, it’s true. The end may not be tomorrow or the next day, but it is coming. When that day comes, there will be two schools of thought: embracing the growing trend of satellite/subwoofer or on-wall/in-wall speaker systems and not embracing it. To all those who haven’t gotten with the program: you’ll only have yourself to blame. And here’s why. While home theater is a booming business with seemingly everyone wanting and/or having some form of AV system in their homes, whether it’s a dedicated room or a living room system, one thing remains constant: it’s the more lifestyle-oriented products, specifically flat panel displays and pint-sized speakers, that are truly driving the marketplace. And why shouldn’t they? More often than not, satellite speakers are better-looking, more budget-friendly and fit within a broader range of system parameters without taking up or becoming the focal point of the room in which they reside. To make matters better or worse (depending on which side of the fence you’re on), technology has gotten to the point where these speakers are beginning to sound as good if not better than their floor-standing counterparts. I’m not saying that every satellite/subwoofer combo or on-wall/in-wall speaker system is fantastic. In fact, a lot of them are still rather horrible-sounding. However, there are a number of highly reputable manufacturers, including Anthony Gallo Acoustics, Definitive Technology, Morel and Paradigm, to name a few, that have the proper formula of style and substance and are on the cusp of giving the once untouchable floor-standing speakers a serious run for their money. I use the running analogy loosely, for once consumers discover these gems, you’d better believe the race for the finish line is going to be a quick one.
One such gem is the new Reference AV Speaker system from the ever-popular Anthony Gallo Acoustics. The concept of small speakers isn’t new to Anthony Gallo. Indeed, they’ve built their entire company on the shoulders of some of the smallest speakers available on the market today. Unlike companies like Bose, Gallo’s satellite/subwoofer systems actually sound good. Scratch that, they sound great. Gallo isn’t the only manufacturer building small speakers, but they are arguably the most successful. While the new Reference AV speakers aren’t as compact as their Nucleus Micro siblings, they are still relatively small and quite stylish, yet another Gallo signature.
The Reference AV speakers are an on-wall or tabletop design (via optional table stands for $200), retailing for $1,200 each and measuring in at a little over 25 inches tall by six inches wide and six inches deep, tipping the scales at a respectable 23 pounds each. The Reference AV speaker’s above average weight is due large in part to the speaker’s attractive aluminum and stainless steel construction. The main speakers themselves are somewhat cylindrical in shape, with a cage-like grille bowing over the four bass/midrange drivers and tweeter. The grill itself is somewhat transparent, as you can still see the drivers behind the perforated metal sheeting, giving the Reference AVs a stylish albeit distinctive modern look. The Reference AVs come in a variety of finishes, which consist of matte black, matte white, or silver-gray. My review samples were silver-gray with matching silver-gray subs, which I found integrated into my Pottery Barn meets DWR listening room quite nicely. Now would be a good time to point out that the entire Reference AV system consists of five seemingly identical speakers, with the center channel varying ever so slightly, the tweeter being positioned horizontally as opposed to vertically. Speaking of the tweeter, it’s probably the first thing potential buyers are going to notice, in that it’s quite unlike any other tweeter I’ve come across. The tweeter, like the speakers themselves, is cylindrical in shape and is made up of a film-like material Anthony Gallo calls Piezo. The basic concept behind the tweeter isn’t unlike an electrostatic diaphragm from the likes of MartinLogan, in that it’s very fast, very articulate and seemingly free from box-like resonances. That’s where the similarities stop. Where MartinLogan electrostatic speakers can be a bit tricky as far as placement goes, due to their limited sound dispersion, the Reference AV’s tweeter dispersion is rated at a whopping 300 degrees, due in part to the tweeter’s curved shape. Apart from the tweeter, the Reference AV speaker also has four four-inch bass/midrange drivers made of carbon fiber, with neodymium magnets behind them. The Reference AV speakers have a stated in-room frequency response of 55Hz to 35kHz at 88dB efficiency into a four- or eight-ohm load. Turning the speakers around, you’ll find the Reference AV’s included mounting bracket and single pair of recessed gold plated five-way binding posts. The mounting bracket is rather ingenious, as it places the speakers an inch or two out from the wall, which allows for potential buyers to take advantage of a variety of speaker cables without punching excess holes in their walls. Also, Gallo includes the necessary hardware to mount the Reference speakers to the wall, but I’ll get to that later.
As with most lifestyle or satellite speaker combos, the need for a separate subwoofer isn’t really an option so much as it is essential. The Reference AV system is no different. Anthony Gallo Acoustics recommends their TR-2 subwoofer. I must say, subwoofers are becoming more and more of a visual statement, moving past the old days of looking big and boxy. The TR-2, with its tube-like shape and diminutive size, is no exception to this trend. Retailing for $700, the TR-2 measures in at 11 inches wide, or diameter, by 12 inches tall and 13-and-a-half inches deep. It weighs a surprising 36 pounds, given its solid steel construction, and comes in either a black or silver finish. The TR-2 features a 250-watt internal power amplifier with a frequency response of 22Hz to 180Hz. Taking a look on the back of the TR-2, I found the usual host of controls and connection options. For starters, there is a small knob for subwoofer volume and another for crossover frequency adjustment. The TR-2’s crossover frequency is completely variable through the sub’s five-way binding post inputs and fixed at 80Hz through its high level or LFE input, which you can use in tandem with your surround sound processor or receiver. There is a Bass EQ switch, which can be set to 0 (which I did for the duration of the review) or toggled between +3dB or +6dB to give the lower regions an added “bump” if you desire. Lastly, there is a three-way power switch that can toggle between auto, on and off, as well as a detachable power cord.
I set up the Reference AV speakers in my new dedicated home theater, which features a 120-inch projection screen video system and some pretty solid but not insanely expensive electronics. For the duration of the review, I mounted the main speakers on either side of my projection screen with the center channel resting just below the bottom edge. I mounted the rears on the side walls just behind the main listening position with the tweeters at approximately ear level. I connected the Reference AV speakers to my Outlaw Audio 970 preamp/processor and 7200 amplifier (review forthcoming) via Monster M Series speaker cable. I set up the TR-2 subwoofer using its LFE input, with the crossover setting falling to my 970 preamp/processor. Gallo sent me two TR-2 subwoofers for this review and I experimented with having both in operation with rather impressive results. However, I couldn’t help but try to get the most out of a single TR-2, for I felt that a single sub set-up would be more in line with the needs of potential buyers. Keep in mind that the ability to easily and affordably include more than one sub into your multi-channel system is something the TR-2 makes easily possible, and if you have the means, I strongly recommend giving two subs a whirl, for the overall sonic presentation will benefit from it. For multi-channel music and movies, I used my Toshiba XA-1 HD DVD player in tandem with my Panasonic AE-900U HD LCD projector, with my trusty Denon 3910 Universal player handling all two-channel music. All power filtering and cabling came by way of Monster Cable.
A quick note on mounting; the Reference AV speakers are easy enough to mount and I applaud Gallo for including the requisite drywall anchors to help in mounting when a stud isn’t present. However, the drywall anchors I received with my review samples were a bit defective, in that the screws were too long for the anchor casing and were ultimately unusable, which forced me to use my own screws that I had on hand. It’s a minor oversight that resulted in momentary inconvenience. Truth be told, I would have gone with my own drywall anchors to begin with had I not been in such a hurry. As with anything, patience is a virtue and I can not stress enough to adhere to proper mounting and safety procedures when positioning the Reference AV speakers, as the last thing you want is for your new speakers to come crashing down around you in the middle of a movie. Lastly, you’ll want to make sure the tweeters are positioned as close as possible to ear level; while the Reference AV’s horizontal dispersion is good, its vertical dispersion (in regards to the tweeter) is not. In a little under two hours, I had everything done and mounted and was ready to enjoy the show.