Overall, the intent behind the Reference Strada 2 system is for it to provide much performance comparable to the now-departed Nucleus 3.5 floorstander, but in a more compact and less expensive format that gives a greater variety of placement options and is, thanks to its powered subwoofer, comparatively easy to drive. By design the Reference Strada 2 monitors can be wall-mounted, tabletop-mounted, or placed on optional floorstands (£400/pair). If placed within about a foot of an adjacent wall, the Strada 2 enjoys a significant degree of bass reinforcement and offers surprising low-end extension, whilst when stand-mounted the speaker delivers less bass extension but superior imaging, soundstaging, and overall transparency. In short, the Reference Strada 2—like all Gallo speakers in my experience, benefits from being given plenty of breathing room. Accordingly, our review samples were mounted on matching Gallo floor stands and placed well away from nearby wall surfaces.
How does the Reference Strada 2 system sound? Four observations that come quickly to mind are that the system sounds highly three-dimensional, is rich in musical detail and information without sounding analytical, offers unexpectedly muscular and incisive dynamics, and generally sounds “bigger” than it appears. Let’s explore each of these qualities in turn.
The almost eerie three-dimensional quality of the Reference Strada 2 system hinges, I think, on its rigid and diffraction-resistant enclosure design and the exceptionally broad, 180-degree horizontal dispersion of its CDT3 tweeter. Together, these design features enable the sound to break free from the speaker enclosures in an unusually compelling way. Visually, you register the fact that the stand-mounted speakers are positioned several feet from your listening chair, but the soundstage seems to lead a completely independent life of its own—as if the soundstage were a freestanding entity and not an illusion being created by the speakers at all. On well-recorded material, such as David Chesky’s Jazz in the New Harmonic [Chesky, Binaural+ CD], the Reference Strada 2 system can and does transform the acoustics of you listening room into those of the recording venue itself. This, I think, is the epitome of “disappearing act” imaging, where the key is to keep the listener’s attention firmly centred upon the performance and the space in which it unfolds—and not upon the speakers. It’s a difficult trick that the Reference Strada 2 system somehow masters with ease.