I'll come right out and put the horse before the cart: The Gallo Acoustics Reference III forces me to create a new award category. To do this breakthrough invention justice, I  needed something more rare even than a Blue Moon. As vampires and werewolves know full well, that refers to the once-every-three-years occurrence of two full moons falling within a single month. I needed something less regular still. I thus present our first-ever and exceedingly rare Lunar Eclipse recipient. Why? That's as plain as hitting a gold mine in your backyard: This speaker combines so much unconventional thinking, novel applications and build quality in such a balanced, physically compact but sonically gargantuan and full-range design, and for such an exceedingly fair price that some drastic measure of formal recognition was required to truly separate it out from the crowds that make up the $3,000 - $10,000 floorstanding speaker field.

For the time being, I've crated my DUOs - I don't have sufficient room in our small house to enjoy my pair of Ref IIIs in the main system while parking the horns somewhere on the side. Never mind video system and occasional amplifier review duties - the Gallos are staying in the main rig. They don't have me lacking for anything. That doesn't mean they're the same as the Avantgardes - more on that later.

You see, being human and excitable, variety is the spice of life also for your scribe. For the foreseeable future and until the DUOs return from their crated hiatus for a change of pace, the $2,590/pr Ref III take up pride of place in a preceding system that was assembled around the hornspeakers and consequently clocks in at about $50,000. This figure isn't mentioned to brag - hell, considering my overall life style, it suggests a most serious, nearly pathological imbalance of questionable priorities. It's to create context. Put differently, the diminutive Gallos are so transparent and accomplished as to not be considered the weak link when replacing universally acknowledged German hornspeakers retailing for about 10 times their asking price.

Nor do they suggest anything of compromise when fronted by the kind of choice hardware you wouldn't conventionally mate with a $2,500/pr speaker. Are you beginning to comprehend the necessity for a lunar eclipse? It signifies without a chance of misunderstanding that something truly exceptional stands before us now in the petite form and rakish angle of Anthony Gallo's latest effort.

To appreciate the sonic comments to follow, it will help to know something about the house I live in. It isn't big but, except for the bathroom, completely without doors. That means that its 60' length (subdivided into 30' upper and 30' lower sections) and depth of 18 to 25 feet essentially constitute one single space. With ceilings sloping to 10' height, the overall cubic volume that is facing what plainly is a small speaker is rather considerable. That makes the Ref III's performance doubly remarkable. The following images will give you a visual idea of the space. The first strip shows one half of the upper level on the left, one half of the lower level on the right; the second strip the second half of the upper level on the left and the sound room as viewed from the bedroom half. The arch and steps connect the levels. An antique brocade curtain can visually close off the lower level but presents absolutely no barrier to bass frequencies below 200Hz.

The superimposed in-line low-pass filter is an FMod by Harrison Laboratory and spec'd as 50Hz @ 12dB/octave. Gracias to Kalman Rubinson of Stereophile for sharing the Crutchfield connection from whence I purchased this little $29 gizmo. I'd experiment with bi-amping the side-firing woofers' second voice coils. As my reference, I'd leave the DUO subwoofers in the room. This would allow for convenient A/Bs between the reach and displacement capabilities of four 10-inch woofers each with a 19-pound magnet and combined 20Hz response; and the Ref IIIs' own very serious 10-inch drivers with massive roll surrounds but backloaded by only a very small air cavity of canister enclosure and hollow stem.

Dedicating two eVo 4 GenII channels to the Gallos' regular full-range inputs as you would any ordinary speaker, the two others were preceded by the 50Hz networks to power the woofers directly in parallel. While I was ready to take notes, I was not entirely prepared for what was to follow. In a nutshell, 'unassisted' and despite their brute appearance, these woofers began their roll-off around 40Hz. Some of this is clearly a slightly variable function of boundary reinforcement which was sorely lacking in my case. It will enter the picture in a regular, fully enclosed room of more common dimensions. However, with the twin-drive scheme in my unusually open environment, the drivers' roll-off was distinctly retarded. Response now extended fully audible to a shockingly taut 25Hz. How do I know? Look at the Avantgarde woofers above. Ask me how I wouldn't know!

Let's backtrack. Before the FMods arrived, I had run the Gallos off my 30-watt tube monos. Despite earlier comments, they proved perfectly copasetic once I remembered that, for use with the DUOs, I had reset the 0dB reference point on my PRe6 preamp. Resetting it gave me plenty of gain for all but the rare recordings whose median level is uncommonly low. Inserting the higher-gain Eastern Electric MiniMax tube preamp addressed those few occasions in a heartbeat. Being thus able to listen to my usual valve setup, I paralleled the mighty Avantgarde subs from the Audiopax outputs as I do when the DUOs are in the system. I merely changed their low-pass settings to 60Hz, the lowest possible option. Using specific bass test tracks I'm intimately familiar with, I then merely opened the sub attenuators 3 clicks up from mute. Gallos plus German subs now equated the bass performance of the Avantgarde DUOs. This confirmed that the Ref IIIs went very low on their own but attenuated by just enough dB below 40Hz to want a small bit of augmentation.

However, when I bi-amped the Gallos for 'active woofer drive', the only thing missing vis-a-vis the German monster subs was raw air displacement. That's no surprise. Any child would see that four sealed woofers driven from 250-watt dedicated high-current amps couldn't help but move more air. The Gallos also lacked the last word in infrasonic shudder on certain synth pedals of Trance/Ambient fare. However, the word 'lack' in this context is really a very feeble $2,500 joke. For all sane intents and purposes, the bi-amped Reference III is a bona fide full-range speaker that reaches to 25Hz in honest fashion. For obvious reasons, I cannot comment on the relative need for bi-amp augmentation in spaces smaller than my own. What I can stress unequivocally is to not use a higher low-pass filter value. You merely want to augment the woofers from the point at which they begin their natural roll-off. The next filter value in the FMod line is 70Hz. This will likely be a little higher than ideal and cause minor midbass fattening. That could be great shakes for movies -- and indeed was the case with the 80Hz THX-style sub-out from my modest T 751 NAD home-theater receiver -- but is far less desirable for linear 2-channel music with the greatest possible transparency.

By virtue of being mirror-imaged, the Gallos can be positioned woofers-in or woofers-out. In my long-wall setup, woofers-in created a bit more midbass heft and warmth, woofers-out was more linear and my preferred poison. The Ref IIIs can be pulled unusually far apart without abandoning center fill. Think 9 to 10 feet if you're into truly broad soundstaging. That's how I set them up, and with a very modest degree of toe-in. They also do well within two feet from the front wall. That naturally relinquishes some apparent soundstage depth but not nearly as much as conventional wisdom would predict. This becomes an unexpected boon for real-world listeners who, for all the usual reasons, cannot place a speaker far into the room (something which, incidentally, the original double-ball Gallo Reference required and wouldn't take 'no' for an answer about).

The new Gallos image about 6 feet tall which, considering how their tweeter is only about 29.5 inches off the floor, is a very surprising feat. To avoid lobing and radiation issues, Anthony insisted on having the tweeter in a d'Appolito array. But how to get realistic image height without either growing the overall height to move the array farther up the stem but away from the woofer, or raise the woofer farther away from the floor - two scenarios involving potential handicaps?

The close-up shows both the angle of the stem and the angle of the inset MTM head unit (which, with one more sphere on either side, will eventually become a new Reference Center and Reference Satellite model). This head unit is aiming upward at the listener to compensate for its height disadvantage. Furthermore, the included floor cones are already shorter in the rear than the front. This invites further experimentation with increasing the speaker's overall rake and hence the upward rise of the MTM cluster. As our story unfolds, you will discover more and more elements of the unusual - unusual like the cosmetics of the Indigo 90 transistor amp below which might be introduced to the US market once Tsuda-San's tube amps have established themselves.

The absence of any crossover above 150Hz and the minimum-phase 6dB filter which is on the woofers bring the Ref IIIs very close to the single-driver ideal of direct-drive phase coherence and the audible immediacy that results from it. That immediacy and lack of fuzz or veiling is blatantly obvious and a very distinct calling card of these speakers. However, they do not couple to the air the same way that my horns do. Their unique horn quality is very hard to describe but something you can already hear from another room. They energize the air differently. The Gallos also do not 'bite' the air like the Second Rethm by which I refer to the latter's bluntness that truly seems to strip sounds of all intermediate layers for a very naked, honest and dynamically highly energetic sound. The Gallos are very immediate but more relaxed and far fuller and warmer than the lean and mean Indian Lowther design.

That very appealing but minor degree of warmth is a function of the shallow woofer slope. It subtly augments the 4" mids well above 500Hz. As a sealed alignment operating in a counter-intuitively tiny cubic air volume, everything should conspire against the kind of bass reach and exceptionally well-damped performance of fast transient rise times and no overshoots that your ears tell you is blatantly the case. Your eyes would like to negate your ears when staring at the nearly grotesque Sunfire-type rubber roll surrounds of these drivers.

The secret lies in the three socks - not sea shells if you've ever seen Stallone's hilarious Demolition Man flick. Dirty socks? Clean socks. It's Gallo speak for the encased 'popcorn' bags which completely stuff the hollow stems and rear cavity of the cylindrical woofer enclosure (which is another reason for the structure's truly inert response to the usual knuckle rap). Unlike wool, poly fiber or any number of conventional speaker stuffing materials, Anthony has come up with a pebble-like material that significantly increases air density to become a very efficient shock absorber and tighten woofer control. It is this ingenious loading that gets away with such a small chassis without having the woofers flop hopelessly on their spiders like a jalopy car with its springs shot. There's nothing at all sloppy, boomy, ill-defined or grotesque about these transducers except for their very macho monster-stroke appearance.

However, their bass prowess story doesn't quite end there yet. What would happen if I used my Audiopax monos on the full-range Gallos, then bring in the eVo 4 below on the second voice coils in either 120-watt stereo or 360-watt balanced-bridged mode? While regular bi-amping mandates identical amps for equal gain and shared tonal signature, today's 'twin-drive' scheme below 50Hz wouldn't be as critical about amplifier matching. Sonically, my full-range amps' signature would dominate the woofers' main range of coverage. The auxiliary amp would merely sneak in at the very bottom of their band to lend a helping hand. Would a bigger stronger hand reap worthwhile dividends? Would it make no appreciable differences? Would it foul things up?