Anthony Gallo Acoustics A'Diva Ti Speaker System
Anthony Gallo Acoustics' speakers had me thinking about the old Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme. If you'll recall, after Humpty took a nasty fall and was smashed to pieces, all of the king's horses and men could never make him whole again. Following my cracked-up analogy, two- and three-way speakers break up the sound, sending it through woofers, midranges, and tweeters (and still sound great), but they can't ever really make the sound perfectly whole again. That's why full-range, single-driver speakers are the Holy Grail for some audiophiles. Enter Anthony Gallo Acoustics' latest set of balls, the new A'Diva Ti satellites, which get awfully close to that ideal. Heck, the wee A'Diva Ti is almost full range. Its 3-inch titanium/paper driver covers all frequencies from about 90 hertz to 22 kilohertz!
The A'Diva Ti system I'm reviewing here comes with five A'Diva Ti satellites and Gallo's new TR-2 subwoofer. (Extra satellites go for $275 a pop.) It's truly amazing how big this little speaker can sound, but Anthony Gallo has been refining "round" sound longer than anybody. He had, well, the smarts to go where other designers feared to tread and promulgated the advantages of spherical speakers. The gambit wasn't just to look different—round speakers get around many of the inherent structural and acoustical problems of boxes, which, in varying degrees, adversely affect the sound. Gallo's hardened-steel, spherical cabinets are incredibly rigid, which minimizes their impact on the sound of the A'Diva Ti's 3-inch driver. The A'Diva Ti system goes for $1,975, but Gallo's standard A'Diva, Nucleus Micro Ti, and Nucleus Micro systems are more affordable alternatives.
The A'Diva Ti is an upgrade from the original and still-available A'Diva. The prime difference is that the new speaker uses a paper-damped titanium driver developed by Gallo that delivers deeper bass and higher highs and has a larger voice coil for improved power handling. Internal wiring is pure high-end nirvana—the Teflon-coated, silver-clad, oxygen-free copper cable is silver-soldered to the driver and the five-way binding posts. The 3-inch driver is precisely torqued into place with a bolt from the rear end of the sphere. The A'Diva Ti's other big advantage over two- and three-way speakers is that it doesn't impose a maze of resistors, capacitors, and inductors between your amplifier and its titanium/paper driver. The A'Diva Ti has remarkable transparency—you can hear that in the way it reproduces the sound of drums and percussion instruments. Treble air and sparkle are first rate, and the A'Diva Ti reproduces the tactile qualities of the transient attack and the impact of drums' resonant bloom in precisely the right proportions, so you don't just hear drums—you feel them.
Gallo's patented S2 technology allows the A'Diva Ti speaker and the TR-2 subwoofer to produce more bass than conventional designs. Here's how it works: The cabinets of the sats and sub are packed with polyolefin flakes (they look like snow flakes) that absorb more energy than commonly used wool or synthetic stuffing materials. The flakes' density causes them to mimic a volume typical of a much larger enclosure, which allows the driver to produce deeper bass, and the flakes minimize the performance-degrading reflections within the cabinet itself. The A'Diva Ti speaker is fitted with a stainless-steel grille. The speaker is available in black, white, silver/grey, and brushed stainless-steel finishes. Gracefully curved floor stands, on- and in-wall brackets, as well as on- and in-ceiling brackets cover all installation contingencies.
Anthony Gallo used the same form-follows-function design approach for the TR-2 subwoofer and nixed the standard cube shape in favor of a cylinder. The steel cabinet feels positively inert. It has a front-firing, 10-inch woofer and a 250-watt-rated amplifier. The manufacturer designed the TR-2 to sonically match the A'Diva Ti.
I assembled the A'Diva floor stands in less than 10 minutes and wired up the entire system in another 10. Due to the speaker's tiny size, clearances around its gold-plated binding posts are pretty tight but workable. The trickiest part of the setup was achieving a smooth blend between the A'Diva Tis and the TR-2. You know how that goes: Over the first couple of days, as I played tons of CDs and DVDs, I was constantly tweaking the sub's volume level, crossover setting, and bass-equalization switch, which lets you run the sub flat or with 3 or 6 decibels of bass boost at 35 Hz. I have a large room, so I started with the 6-dB position, and it certainly sounded powerful, but the bass gap between the A'Diva Tis and the TR-2 was impossible to smooth out. A setting of 0 dB felt lightweight, and 3 dB was the best compromise, but the midbass gap was still there. Then Anthony Gallo suggested moving the sub from my usual spot in the left corner of the room over to the middle, between the left and right front A'Diva Ti speakers, and that perfectly smoothed out the blend. Once I nailed it, the synergy between the A'Diva Ti speakers and the TR-2 was exceptionally good. I also discovered that the balls sound best when I aimed their titanium/paper drivers directly toward the listening position.
On a Roll!
The stainless-steel spheres orbiting my home theater really came to life when I played the final installment in the Star Wars epic, Revenge of the Sith. The continuousness of the imaging between the five A'Diva Tis was evident as the full-throttled starships flew seamless arcs around my room. Imaging was razor sharp, and the delineation of layered depth in John Williams' bombastic score was superb. Their microstature notwithstanding, the A'Diva Tis rolled through the terrifying opening assault on the Saving Private Ryan DVD without a scratch. Dialogue was completely free of any overt chestiness but was resolutely full-bodied and natural. George Harrison's 1971 Concert for Bangladesh set the standard for benefit concerts over the following decades. George and Ringo were there, along with Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and an all-star band. The five A'Diva Ti speakers unfurled a vast soundstage, and the applause sounded especially realistic.
The TR-2 subwoofer perfectly reproduced the growling texture of Viktor Krauss' bass on jazz guitarist Bill Frisell's new East/West CD. This live recording sounds incredibly live, and Frisell's nimble-fingered fretwork dazzles at every turn. But, hot damn, when Krauss' bass dips way, way down to the lowest registers, the TR-2 really delivered the goods. Acoustic or electric basses have a vivid, palpable presence that you rarely get with sub/sat–based systems. Music and home theater chops sounded equally impressive.
When I stop and think about the A'Diva Ti system's spectacular sound and look at the tiny, jewellike speakers, I just have to scratch my head. How all that sound comes from something that small is beyond me. Anthony Gallo is awfully good at what he does, and I have the feeling that his best works are yet to come.
• Gallo's mini balls' spectacular soundstaging abilities approach state of the art
• Audiophile-grade, lifestyle-friendly speakers