I was bowled over by Anthony Gallo Acoustics' original Reference Strada when I heard it at a hi-fi show a few years ago. The small speakers projected a sound that rivaled the scale of big, flat-panel speakers, like my Magnepans. I never got around to reviewing the Strada, but when I heard that the Reference Strada 2 was coming out I let the company know I wanted a pair ASAP.
Unboxing the speakers it was impossible not to be impressed by the solidity of the cast-aluminum chassis and brushed stainless-steel spheres. The Strada 2 is 13.5 inches tall, and when I held it in my hands the speaker felt surprisingly heavy -- it's 13.5 pounds. My review samples looked great decked out in stainless steel with a black frame, and Gallo also offers them in an all-black finish. The Strada 2 can be oriented horizontally and used as a center channel speaker in a 5.1 channel system. Gallo also offers floor stands and wall brackets designed for use with the Strada 2s.
The Strada and Strada 2 look the same, but the 4-inch carbon fiber drivers have been redesigned to play louder with the same amount of watts, and the blend between the drivers and the tweeter has been improved. The Strada 2 features Gallo's proprietary cylindrical tweeter that projects high-frequencies in a uniform 180 degree arc; no conventional dome tweeter can do that. The speakers produce a larger, more "open" sound than most box speakers, even much more expensive box speakers.
The Strada 2 is the rare high-end speaker that can serve equally well as a desktop/computer audio speaker, hi-fi, or home theater speaker. With desktop speakers you hear a lot more of the sound directly from the speaker than you do with hi-fi speakers. That "near field" approach pays big dividends in clarity, resolution, and precise stereo imaging. Even when you're sitting just a couple of feet away from the Strada 2s the sound floats in free space in front of them. True, these speakers don't make a lot of deep bass, but I didn't feel a strong urge to hook up a subwoofer when I used them on my desktop. For home theater I added a Gallo TR-1D sub, but I'm sure some folks will want a sub for desktop duty.
The Strada 2's astonishing clarity on drums and other percussion instruments is unmatched by any other desktop box speaker; the Magnepan Mini Maggie flat-panel speakers might be in the Strada 2's league, but I didn't have them here to directly compare. Even so, the little, 14-inch tall Maggies need a lot of space around them to sound their best, whereas I had the Strada 2s just a foot away from the wall behind my desk. The KEF LS50 monitors can't touch the Strada 2's transparency and spacious imaging, but the bigger LS50s make a lot more bass.
The Strada 2s also shone in my two-channel home theater. The speakers looked awfully small next to my 6-foot-tall Magnepan 3.7 flat-panel speakers, but the Strada 2s sounded almost as big. Again, their clarity trumps that of most of the box speakers that have passed through my listening room. Dialogue sounds natural, and large-scale home theater explosions and other special effects sound good, but fall short of what you'd get with big towers and larger subwoofers. Then again, most folks are looking for smaller rather than larger speakers, and the Strada 2s are worth considering.
As hi-fi speakers the Strada 2s sounded refined and natural with classical and all types of acoustic music. Rock was not far behind; the Strada 2 speakers and TR-1D sub make for a potent combination.
Gallo sells direct and through dealers. The Strada 2 runs $999 each, and that price includes your choice of a wall-mount bracket or table top stand. I will review Gallo's smaller and more affordable satellite speakers in April.