AOM Logo June 1998


All The Things You Are
Anthony Kershaw experiences music and balance through Anthony Gallo Acoustics’ Nucleus Solo loudspeakers

"Mortgage the house!", "Sell the kids!", "Trade the wife!". Phrases laced with hyperbole, but these and many more were blurted out by just some of my guests as a result of listening to the Anthony Gallo Acoustics Nucleus Solo loudspeakers. Even the less boisterous audiophiles among them quietly declared them to be one of the finest sounding audio instruments they have heard to date. As for me - being careful to avoid the wrath of the great HP, who, in the twenty-fifth anniversary edition of The Absolute Sound, denigrates the gushing and fawning of audio reviewers - I am in complete agreement. These speakers redefine the state of the art.

A little luck...
I first read of the Nucleus Solos on Usenet, written mostly by contributors with sales in mind. By chance, our Editor heard that a pair was being readied for demonstration at a local dealer. Intrigued by spheres, proprietary tweeters and excited hearsay, I called to arrange a visit. The drive was not in vain. Even when not quite broken in and playing in a very large room, the Gallos shone beautifully. Frank Zappa's The Yellow Shark (Ryko RCD 40560) was playing on a Primare CD player, the results of which filled the room with some of the most musical sounds imaginable. Quickly, I arranged for a home audition. I spent four very intense days with the pair, the account of which you can read in my preamble to this main review. At that time, they revealed their secrets almost immediately which I found diametrically opposed to what one discovers usually. You know how reviewers shmooze it: "...the piece let its secrets out gradually", or "...over time, I slowly became aware of their strengths". No, their simple secret, that of stupendous sound, was unleashed at once. It was an exhilarating four days, which made for an impatient wait until the official review pair arrived.

No compromises...
Life is full of compromises, audio shouldn't be. Unfortunately, with boxes, crossovers, resonance, acoustics, let alone the foibles of human hearing, speaker designers seem to be up against a wall. Companies like Quad, Martin-Logan and Magnepan eliminated the box and produced some outstanding and unique products. Still, they all have well-documented compromises. Coloration of a different color, I guess!

I can't tell you that Anthony Gallo has ridden his Nucleus Solos of all flaws, but for my taste, they are so few and far between, it seems churlish to elaborate. More importantly, what I have found is a speaker that has very few compromises. It is dynamic, has wonderfully-articulate bass, moves air when needed, is devoid of box and crossover colorations, throws a vast, yet believable, soundstage, images amazingly well, is easy to place, and has drivers that really are on the cutting edge of audio. It also helps that Gallo knows how to voice them, and he has done so to perfection. His tweeter is incredibly fast and accurate - nothing escapes its superb abilities, and the custom-made Dynaudio 17W75XL woofer is a driver to swoon over. As such, all octaves are looked after beautifully. The balance of this speaker is a fine achievement and taken as a whole, a very significant step in the world of speaker design.

Gallo Nucleus Solo

CDT...
Anthony Gallo calls his tweeter "A tweeter without compromise". A pretty bold claim, but one, I discovered, founded in truth. His proprietary design is called CDT, or Cylindrical Diaphragm Transducer. Gallo spent eight years refining this amazing creation, which certainly follows Einstein's philosophy of making something as simple as possible, but not simpler. As the Gallo marketing literature points out: "The CDT uses no voice coil or magnets. Instead, the signal is passed across the conductive surface of the diaphragm, which attempts to expand, while the cylindrical shape of the driver supplies the necessary restorative force." The diaphragm is made from an aerospace plastic called Kynar®, coated in silver. Only high purity oxygen-free copper is used for the wire leads, soldered to each end with silver. The tweeter is surrounded by a custom made aluminum enclosure - it is most effective in providing protection from the vagaries of family life. The Gallo literature also boasts that the tweeter is impervious to electrical or mechanical damage. This quality is assured by meticulous hand assembly. Through months of use, the tweeter acted like a true gent with nary a problem in sight.

Sphere...
Like the CDT, the bass sphere is also a superbly-considered design. With no internal standing waves, the Nucleus Solo's aluminum sphere is the model of acoustic taste, one that spouts superb coherence and tonal beauty. Spun by hand from a single pellet of aluminum, the ported bass enclosure is available in four colors: Bronze, Black, Pewter and Champagne. Upon close examination, you will discover that artisans have been at work. The balls are given an electrolytic bath which forms both a hard shell giving it the same qualities as ceramic - one of the most inert of materials. The CDT is coupled to the top of the 12" spun aluminum sphere. Some may think that the combined look is what Picasso might have imagined had he spent time at a Shriner's convention! Visually, I think they are stunning.

Gallo Nucleus Solo

Stands and stuff...
Care has been taken with the choice of stands (included in the price). The Barcelona stands add to the retro look while coupling the spheres effectively. The stands' spikes attach to carpet quite easily. Just make sure they are adjusted so that the speakers are level. If you are placing them on tile or hardwood floors, the distributor suggests adding small footers like Tiptoes under the spikes. This worked to good effect in our Editor-in-Chief's listening room. With a little tweaking and patience, the stands' stability and coupling will afford the listener a clearer soundstage and better defined imaging.

Attaching the balls to the stands is a job made simple through the use of large thumbscrews; just hand-tighten. Adding to the overall pride-of-ownership are the heavy-duty gold single-wire binding posts. Another thoughtful idea is the four, two-inch cloth strips that will reduce the tweeter's dispersion if one has to place the speakers close to a back or side wall. The dispersion of the tweeter is by far the best I have heard, and my placement of three feet from the back and side walls negated the use of the strips. My listening was enjoyed with the Solos ten feet apart and slightly toed-in.

Associated Components

Analogue: Rega Planar 3 turntable, RB300 tonearm, Benz-Micro Glider phono cartridge (.88mV)
Amplifiers: Arcam Alpha 9 Integrated, Aragon 2004 Mk.II
Loudspeakers: ProAc Tablette 50, Gallo Nucleus Solo
Cables: Audio quest Emerald, Transparent Audio MusicLink Plus, Monster Cable speaker wire.
Accessories: Black Diamond Racing cones, Townshend Seismic Sink, Ringmat Mk.II, Stylast

Music...
These speakers invite extended listening sessions. I found them to be the most involving I have yet to hear. The involvement comes from deep inside the music, much deeper than I thought possible from a transducer. I have played or conducted more concerts than I care to mention, and no speaker in my experience can match the Solos for imitation of the live event. There is such tonal accuracy that, at times, the session would become unnerving. Head shaking and sheer disbelief were very common occurrences during the time they were around.

The Nucleus Solos are revealing transducers of the best kind. Some speakers are detailed to the point of musical exclusion, demonstrating just how much information can be extruded, but at the cost of tonal beauty. Happily, the Gallos provide inner detail that can be breathtaking yet they never lose the musical ideal. This came much to the fore during very extended listening to five Classic Records' reissues, ones used in preparation for an upcoming Audiophilia feature. Each acoustic, whether the Manhattan Center or the Symphony Halls of Boston and Chicago, was heard from a natural perspective, offering a vast soundstage and reversing the oft-used axiom of life imitating art. Yes, the Gallos are a work of art, nothing trendy or garish or rude, simply helping to improve the quality of life. This they do in spades.

Many other LPs as well as CDs were enjoyed during the two months of auditioning. Several displayed a less-than-perfect recording heritage that on other speakers sounded quite fine. With the Solos, each hearing becomes an event, all of which yield untold pleasures as they strut their stuff. Some great events included: Café Blue (Premonition Records 737) with Patricia Barber's trio three-stepping through some new and not-so-new charts. Barber's piano tone was rich and full of character, correcting my wrong assumption that CD is the best medium from which to hear a piano. Continuing the jaw-dropping experience was the replication of Mark Walker's drum solo in the trio's version of Miles Davis' Nardis. This was spectacular. One guest listener decided it was the closest he had yet heard to a live drum set! I agreed. Each of the toms, cymbals, snare and kick drum was captured vividly, nothing being left to the imagination. And air was being moved in significant ways, as always, an important test for the hi-fi inclined among our readership. But wait! This speaker highlighted many purely musical events just as vividly. One that stood the test of time was the glorious Chicago Symphony Orchestra string tone on an original shaded dog of Strauss Waltzes (RCA LSC-2500). How that old autocrat, Fritz Reiner, - he, of the minuscule beat - coaxed echt Viennese music-making from such an American institution still amazes. Here it is, though, produced magnificently by Anthony Gallo's creations. Sweetness personified.

Delving through record after record was fun and enlightening. I am always attracted to Deutsche Gramophon cover art. However, sonics can vary wildly. The Claudio Abbado/Vienna Philharmonic version of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony (DGG 2530 651) is such a record. It revealed itself to be a worthy contender as one of the greatest of all Tchaikovsky performances. Interestingly, other speakers have interpreted the sound of this DGG as bright but lifeless. Through the Gallos, the recording was energized, with all the glassiness erased, replaced by the warm and inviting acoustic of the Vienna Musikverein. The superb tonal quality continued during the pizzicato Scherzo. Here, the Vienna strings sounded peerless, interrupted only by a plangent oboe signaling the terrifying woodwind writing to come. On another DGG, and in stark contrast to the Tchaikovsky, the Berlin Philharmonic's fabulous performance of Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony (DGG 139020) - surely, our century's greatest - was ruined by the constant glare afforded by inconsistent vinyl. A real shame, as there is no greater performance.

At 90 dB, the Solos are very efficient and were driven easily by a 75W Arcam Alpha Nine integrated amp and the 100 Watts of an Aragon 2004. Efficiency such as this lent the speakers a feeling of effortlessness. They certainly did excel in conveying great energy from little power. The wonderful Athena reissue of the Dallas Symphony's traversal of Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances (ALSW-10001) drove this point most emphatically. In fact, the ƒƒƒ orchestral staccatos at the outset of the first movement proved to be the only piece that clipped both amps. When playing well past comfort level, the Gallos didn't flinch. Many speakers lose definition just before the soundstage implodes - the Nucleus Solos gave no such indication of a black hole. Crescendos, even of the most ominous kind, were handled with aplomb. Conversely, playing at low levels also demonstrated their superb balance, as late night chamber music was to prove. A great Phillips recording of the Debussy and Ravel String Quartets (LY 835 361) was invaluable in testing this parameter. The Quartetto Italiano's suave tonal characteristics only served to flaunt their musical and technical prowess, demonstrating that in this repertoire, it has few peers.

In summary...
Before auditioning the Nucleus Solos, the Gallo Acoustics' website is an excellent way to do some personal research. While there, you will find a well-written white paper explaining the technicalities and philosophy of the Nucleus design. Required reading, I suggest.

For the two months they were offered for review, I became very spoiled by the excellence and unique qualities offered by the Nucleus Solos. That they do such amazingly musical things at the absurdly low price of US$2495.00, is staggering. Unquestionably, I consider them to be one of the great bargains in high-end audio and superior to many of the "A" list products foisted before the public. Indeed, I do feel fortunate to have experienced these masterpieces. My sincere congratulations to Mr. Gallo for his insight, design brilliance and for having the acumen to bring the Nucleus Solos to market.


Gallo Nucleus Solo Loudspeaker
Manufactured by Anthony Gallo Acoustics
78 Rapelye Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11231
phone: (718) 237-1000, fax: (718) 596-4402
web: http://www.roundsound.com, e-mail: nucleus@roundsound.com
Price: US$2495
Source of review sample: Manufacturer Loan
Copyright © 1998 Audiophilia Online Magazine Home