Gallo Acoustics Nucleus Micro SE Speaker System
AT A GLANCE
Highly compact steel sphere enclosures
Transparent sound quality
Big soundstage with no restrictive sweet spot
On-wall or near-wall placement well advised
Tricky subwoofer mating
Likes a lot of power
A sub/sat system whose great strengths are its midrange clarity, wide dispersion, and décor-friendly form factor.
The interaction between speaker manufacturers and the public they serve has changed markedly since the days when I was a longhaired college kid buying my first speakers. Back then, design ideas flowed in one direction, from the top down, from the drawing board to the sales floor—and if you bought a speaker, you nearly always bought a box speaker. Now speaker-design imperatives flow in both directions. With a greater variety of beckoning form factors, speaker buyers influence the design process simply by choosing the products that fit into our lives.
Hence the growth of speakers that mount to the wall, from in-walls to soundbars to satellite/subwoofer sets—the subject of this review. Gallo Acoustics has a well-earned reputation for building sat/sub sets with the spherical form factor that probably inspired the company’s URL: roundsound.com. Anthony Gallo has been designing spherical satellites for 15 years, making the Nucleus Micro SE the latest in a long-running train of thought.
That Obscure Object of Desire
In consumer-driven product design, the initial impulse that drives a purchase decision may have nothing to do with sound (much to the distress of anyone who values the good stuff). People look at a cute speaker—a seductive cube, let’s say—and think, That’s how I want my speakers to look. Not all of them follow up with, But how do they sound? Nonetheless, the conscientious designer will try to give them good sound in a pleasing form factor that they are willing to live with. He recognizes that he’s designing part of a room, not just an isolated object.
It’s easy to visualize the Nucleus Micro SE satellites fitting into a room. In fact, it’s hard to visualize them not fitting in. When hanging pictures on the wall, have you ever noticed that big ones make the room seem smaller and small ones make it seem bigger? Gallo’s spherical objects are fewer than 4 inches in diameter. Devoid of hard edges, they are soothing to look at. And—as my ears subsequently discovered—they are voiced for wall mounting, reducing their footprint to zero. Thus, children and dogs can race around the room without knocking them over, and if inquisitive little fingers find their way to the fabric speaker grilles, the metal mesh beneath won’t let them get far.
The Micro SE uses a single full-range driver, avoiding the potential unevenness of sonic coverage of two-way designs with a crossover mediating between tweeter and woofer. The diaphragm is a honeycomb sandwich made of cellulose impregnated with polymer and laminated with an aluminum skin. Anthony Gallo describes what’s behind it as a “hybrid neodymium-ferrite magnetic circuit with an under-hung voice coil to reduce weight and inductance, which improves high-frequency extension and transparency. This flat diaphragm in concert with the multi-layered (variable porosity) grille assembly achieves a wide dispersion pattern evenly across the Micro SE/A’Diva SE’s full audio bandwidth.” The A’Diva SE, the Micro SE’s big brother, uses the same driver in a larger 5-inch sphere. In lieu of a pedestal, a small rubber ring serves as table mount. It’s pretty minimal, but it does prevent the steel ball from rolling around. Gallo supplies wall mounts and hip-looking curved metal-rod stands as accessories.
For a subwoofer that complements the spherical satellite without mimicking it, Gallo offers two cylindrical models. Standing on its four stubby little feet, the TR-1D resembles a Vietnamese potbellied pig. I half expected it to scoot around the room. Inside the steel cylinder is a 10-inch ceramic anodized aluminum cone woofer backed with a Class D amp rated at 200 watts RMS and 400 watts peak. An EQ switch offers 0-, +3-, and +6-decibel boosts centered at a specified 30 hertz. The crossover is bypassable, so if you choose to set it in the receiver, it won’t have to pass through a second filter.
Associated equipment included a Pioneer Elite VSX-53 A/V receiver, Oppo BDP-83SE universal disc player, Micro Seiki BL-51 turntable, Shure M97xE cartridge, and Onix OA 21s integrated amp serving as phono preamp. All movie demos were on Blu-ray Discs with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks.
Clarity and Dispersion
Unforced clarity is the Nucleus Micro SE’s strong suit. If you think a tweeter-less speaker must always sound airless and crude, you might be surprised to hear how much detail these steel balls muster in the presence region. In fact, their distinct emphasis in the upper mids makes them ideal for wall mounting, and they may sound bright when placed away from the wall on stands or a TV credenza. (I used stands and got best results with them pushed up against the wall.) The Nucleus Micro SE’s other strength is dispersion. These are true family-values speakers that provide strong imaging to every seat in the house.