One area where I think the Reference Strada 2 has clearly improved on previous models is in extracting considerably more low-level information from recordings, yet without upsetting the underlying smoothness that has long been a hallmark of Gallo designs. In practice, the Strada 2 is arguably the most information rich Gallo we’ve yet heard, delving deep into textural and transient details to give you a clearer picture of what’s happening in and between the notes. With that said, however, let me add that I do think the passive woofer system used in the Nucleus 3.5 offered a smidgeon more tautness, definition, and control than the Reference Strada 2 system’s TR-3d subwoofer. But please don’t misunderstand me; the TR-3d is quite clean sounding and well controlled as powered subs go. It’s just that the sub’s amplifier tends produces a slightly warmer, more rounded, and more full-bodied sound than strict accuracy would require. Even so, the Reference Strada 2 system is right in the thick of the hunt amongst the higher-resolution speakers in its price class, although top honours in that department might rightly go to hybrid electrostats from MartinLogan or to one of the planar magnetic models from Magnepan. What the Gallo does so beautifully, however, is to find a fine balance point between resolution on the one hand and gracefulness on the other.
Whilst the Strada 2s are obviously very compact they nevertheless are capable of surprisingly vigourous output levels and demonstrate the sort of turn-on-a-sixpence dynamic agility that allows them to track with sudden changes in musical energy levels. A good example would be the at times fierce and always exuberant horn section swells heard in Clark Terry’s Chicago Sessions 1995-96 [Reference Recordings, HDCD], where the horn section often operates in subdued “cruise mode” during the body of a song, only to explode into the musical foreground with almost shocking force. Similarly, some of the oblique percussion notes captured on the eponymous new age/jazz recording Gaia [Windham Hill, CD] leap forth from the speakers with startling realism, making it a gripping experience to hear the Gallos at play, even at low volume levels. It is one thing to hear relatively large speakers handle these sorts of material well, but quite another to hear small satellite-type speaker pull off the feat. I credit the Strada 2’s expressiveness and agility partly to its rigid enclosure design, partly to its innovative S2 damping materials, and partly to Gallo’s OPT technology. In any event, the Strada 2 speaks with a more muscular, definitive, and dynamically incisive voice than its diminutive size might lead you to expect.