Gallo Acoustics Nucleus Micro SE Speaker System Page 2

The sub performs well, though not outstandingly, and I used a variety of crossover settings—from 100 Hz on the low side to as much as 150 Hz—to offset the light-textured character of the speakers and adjust the trade-off between quality and quantity of bass. Higher settings filled in the bass better but also localized it in the sub. But then, this is nearly always a challenge in compact sat/sub sets. Gallo provides crossover hints in its rated frequency response for the satellites (down to 100 Hz against the wall, 120 Hz on stands). In the context of power handling, the spec sheet mentions crossovers of 80 to 120 Hz, which might be construed as a recommendation, though I thought 80 Hz was way too low. At 100 Hz, midway between those two points, obvious bass bulges disappeared from percussion instruments, and the sub didn’t strain to produce good pitch definition, though the lightweight feel of the satellites demanded a little more. I tinkered constantly.

Not for the first time, I turned to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to push the speakers to dynamic extremes. The Nucleus Micro SE’s wide dispersion suited the epic nature of the story with spatial generosity. It also made the experience relaxing: Because I wasn’t confined to a sweet spot, I could adopt a wide variety of sitting, slumping, and lying positions on the sofa, which spared my neck and back. The satellite’s light-ish tonal balance wasn’t too bright for comfort during the sacking of the dwarf kingdom—but I felt differently during the Orc campfire battle scene. The full-range driver made the song of the dwarves sonorous and surprisingly musical.

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The Tom Cruise vehicle Jack Reacher offered the five identical satellites a chance to develop full-soundfield effects as aggressive as a firing range and as subtle as rainfall. They got a lusty growl out of the motorized assault of a car chase. In quieter and more conspiratorial scenes, the satellites excelled at dialogue reproduction.

Like the other titles, Sushi Girl required a fair amount of power. Loud effects boomed, blared, and revealed the fundamentals of a compact sat/sub set. Little speakers can sound surprisingly big when spreading midrange effects around the soundfield—if they have good midrange response—but they scale back lower-frequency binges to remain within their inherent limitations. So the car crashes were just OK.

Bass Communion
The mercurial Japanese jazz pianist Hiromi leads a nimble trio on her album Voice (CD). I continued fooling around with the crossover setting to get her left and right hands in balance. The soundstage was always big, never speaker bound, and seemingly impossible to undermine with changes in seating position.

My RCA Living Stereo LP of Haydn’s Symphonies Nos. 94 (“Surprise”) and 101 (“Clock”) features Pierre Monteux conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. The 53-year-old recording has relatively little reverb, leaving the legendary string section unvarnished and unmuddled, though in danger of going bland. I chose it because I wanted to hear how this somewhat light-textured speaker system would handle a light-textured recording. The Nucleus Micro SE rose to the challenge, imparting a subtle sheen to the strings without undue brightening or emphasis.

I auditioned two albums by the Beatles: Let It Be on vinyl and Revolver on CD. The U.S. Bell Sound– manufactured vinyl is notoriously bright. I had hoped the Micro SE would sweeten it a little, as some speakers do, but instead it was ruthlessly candid. The better-sounding first-gen Revolver CD was a fairer test, and the satellites loved it, making the mids and highs crisp but not hot, just as they should be. The guitars and cymbals on “Taxman” had just the right amount of sting.

Throughout the demos, I found myself using higher volume settings than I’d expect with my reference receiver powering satellites. A late-in-the-game glance at the specs showed why: These speakers are rated at 85 dB for sensitivity, well below average for a compact speaker, and their nominal impedance is 4 ohms. I would caution against using the very cheapest receivers—these little sats need power, and their revealing mids will sound best with clean power.

The Gallo Nucleus Micro SE will please the listener who seeks its particular strengths. If you want a wall-mounted speaker to produce copious detail and spread it evenly throughout the room, this is an excellent choice. If you want those characteristics in a speaker and sub that are cute enough to raise a smile, or at least comfort the eye, you’ll be even happier. With the right placement and the right juice, this is the kind of system that gives compact sat/sub sets a good name.

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Gallo Acoustics
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