What happens when you specialize in making large-sized, high sensitivity loudspeakers yet set out to design a stand mounted unit? What if all your designs are based upon dual-concentric/coaxial driver designs? What if you demanded that flea-powered five watt amplifiers make all your loudspeaker products sing? Galante Audio fits the above scenario and has been offering impressive, yet large floorstanding units for years... until now. Their new Rhapsody is only 18", 12" wide yet only 10.5" deep. A design far from their usual fare.
While this type of design in not new on the market, companies like KEF and Tannoy have been making stand mounted coaxial designs for years. i have had quite a bit of experience with these designs. The KEF's in particular seemed shouty; possibly due to the tweeter's output possibly bring into play the mid/woofer plastic cone as a type of horn. The Tannoy professional models i had hoped to purchase for my own home recording studio was not shouty, though seemed to sound boxy (closed in) with a unrealistic plastic-type sound. The Tannoy and the KEF both use non-paper based cones. Can the Galante Audio Rhapsody escape the shortfall i have felt with other similar designs?
The driver within the Galante Audio Rhapsody employs an 8-inch paper cone midrange/woofer that is mounted to a sturdy cast basket. The driver's surround, unlike KEF's and Tannoy's that use plastics, is of the classic ribbed treated cloth variety. A 1-inch compression tweeter with aluminum diaphragm reproduces the uppermost frequencies. The specialized crossover design allows for a 12dB per octave slope, yet also provides a unique adjustable high-frequency level control. This control, mounted above the loudspeaker binding posts, is a high-quality volume-type knob and allows an adjustability of plus or minus 1.5 dB of the tweeter's output. A rear firing 3" specially tuned port enhances the Rhapsody's lower frequency reproduction. High-end loudspeaker binding posts are just below the tweeter output control which are both mounted within a recessed rectangular cup (see image below). While it made attaching the loudspeaker wire spade lugs a small challenge, Galante Audio is seeking to use a less deep cup to make life easier. All this is well and good, but you need to have a well-built cabinet to keep unwanted vibrations from negatively effecting the purity of the music's signal.
Like Galante Audio's other designs, the cabinet is extremely sturdy. The Rhapsody's cabinet is made from 0.75-inch thirteen-ply Baltic Birch plywood. A Cherry veneer that is carefully selected for quality and visual beauty wraps around the loudspeaker. A unique added touch is Maple "picture framing". The lighter colored Maple gives the loudspeaker a "framed" look. As for those of us who enjoy lowish powered amplifiers, a sensitivity of 96 dB/w/m is claimed as the amplifier output impedance requirements is a normal 8 ohms. Overall frequency response is 50Hz - 20Khz. From my listening tests this seems accurate. While the unit can handle 100 watts continuous (300 watts peak), my fave 300B tubed Wavelength Audio Cardinal (eight watts) and solid-state design 47 Labs Gaincard (25 watts) were easily capable of providing room filling sound. i dare not try 100 watts at full tilt as my ears, and neighbors, would not be amused.
i positioned the Rhapsody loudspeakers about 1/3rd the way into my room and about two feet from each of the side walls. Stands used were sand filled Sound Anchors. Loudspeaker cables were the Kimber Kable KS 3035 as they provided the best balance within my mainly tubed system. The conrad-johnson Premiere 17LS took pre-amplifier duties while a few DACs were employed for front-end duties. My VOYD turntable with Audio Note silver-wired tonearm and Clearaudio Insider Reference (wood body) cartridge sang analog records along. Interconnects were the all silver Kimber Select KS 1030 with exception to the analog that is all Audio Note silver wire to the pre-amplifier. Lastly, power amplifiers were either the aforementioned Wavelength Audio Cardinal or the 47 Labs Gaincard.
Break It Down
If there is one thing that kept leaping into my mind when reviewing the Galante Audio Rhapsody's is how much they reminded me of the excellent, no longer available vintage Tannoy professional monitors. Had a chance to buy the the old Tannoys directly from Manley Labs years back and to this day i keep kicking myself in the rear for not taking them up on the offer. Why, you ask? Because...
It's the music stupid! Once broken in (about 100 hours), the Rhapsody provided smooth and very extended highs. Unless the recording was harsh, the tweeter never became shouty unlike other coaxial designs i have heard over the years. In fact the highs were, in some ways, better than my reference Avantgarde Duo loudspeakers. While the Duos are considered by many to be a state-of-the-art design, the Duos in general seem to paint with quick and fast brush strokes. At times this can lead to the highly criticized aggressiveness as reported by some. This is where system matching, room integration and synergy are key! The Rhapsody seemed more forgiving while still offering detailed, if a bit lowered speed, sound.
This is not to say the Duo's are harsh and bright, it is more like the difference of using natural sugar in your coffee versus processed white sugar. Both are wonderful, though natural sugar seems to provide me with a bit smoother, more satisfying beverage. The Duo does edge out the Rhapsody in overall detail and definition, yet with the price difference of around $15,000 a pair for the Duo loudspeakers versus the Rhapsody's $2,400, there will surely be some gains accordingly. Still, very impressive for this price range.
As for the midrange, here is where the magic of music lives. In fact, with acoustic music, over 65% of the sound is within the midrange. If a relative full range loudspeaker does not get the midrange right, all else is worthless in my opinion. Here is where using a paper cone with the classic treated cloth ribbed surround seems to be King. Most well-seasoned audiophiles have long seen the rise of aluminum cones, polypropylene cones, carbon fiber cones, aerogel cones... Yet in the end it occurs to me that high quality paper cones provide a realism naturally which other materials may have to be more tightly controlled to equal. Exotic materials can yield excellent results, yet they appear to take much more effort to provide a musically enjoyable experience.
Here we have a midrange that has such a high degree of ease that the natural sound it produces leaves one with an organic feeling. Many people who own or have heard the early 1970's legendary paper coned Tannoys can easily relate here. The Rhapsody's have the same design with ribbed cloth surround and paper cone. Maybe this is where the Rhapsody gets it's magic? As for the lower frequencies, do not expect prodigious amounts of lowermost octave pipe organs notes, though very usable bass for acoustic stringed bass. Rockers and alternative fans may also enjoy the relatively full bass. Fans of "drum & bass" and techno might desire a subwoofer for the synthesized deep sounds. Most audiophiles who love acoustic music and have an appropriately-sized room, such as myself, may not feel the need for a subwoofer when playing "normal audiophile music".
Someone at Galante Audio was doing their homework as the crossover gave an incredibly smooth mating of the two drivers. In fact i settled on a tweeter adjustment of neutral as best. While some multi-driver speakers have audible frequency reduction or augmentation in the crossover range, there seemed to be a excellent matching in the crossover region. Being of coaxial design, there was no horizontal discontinuity from driver to driver.
Bring In The Music
Playing the recently reviewed Ani Difranco Reckoning CD [Righteous Babe Records RBR024-D] showed how well the Rhapsody loudspeakers were capable of reproducing guitar and female singer. Good dynamics coupled with solid center imaging. As this CD does not have much happening in the imaging department, it was a good opening test to see how well centrally located images were reproduced. This also gave me a chance to hear not just the inner resolution and overall dynamics, but harmonics as well. In a word, impressive. Especially within this price range. While not cheap at $2,400 per pair, we have not crossed over into the hard fought by tooth and nail $5,000 range. As i said earlier in this review, there is a naturalness to the way music is brought forth and presented to the listener.
Moving to SuperstereO fun, on went Roger Water's Q-Sound recording Amused To Death on rare vinyl pressing [Sony 468761 0]. While i make no excuses for the artificial super wide soundscape presented all around (and behind) the listener, there is no doubt that any faults in imaging or phase can be heard once you know what things should sound like. This is a category that monitors, and especially coaxial loudspeakers, seem to generally excel at. i was not let down as there was a wide, deep and "in the room" presence as the music was reproduced. Dog barking to the far right, TV to the far left, with Roger Waters and company playing all in-between. The great news is that the rarely reproduced height artifacts also came through. Most loudspeakers, including the Avantgarde Duos, seem to miss this. My longtime favorite KEF 104/2 that use a D'Appolito design get the height sensation going too by the way.
Getting back to acoustic music, on went the vinyl reissue of Miles Davis Kind Of Blue [Classic Records Quiex SV CS 8163]. While the recording itself is merely outstanding, the way Coletrane's saxophone sounded was airy yet full of body and soul. i especially enjoyed the way James Cobb's drums and cymbals were reproduced. Good attack and decay while the cymbal's sheen and shimmer had life. Of course one can not mention this album without commenting on the Master himself, Miles Davis' trumpet. Miles' unique signature trumpet sound was so good it made me rethink this whole Duo thing. Still, there was some lack of ultimate inner resolution which i missed, though no loudspeaker is perfect. As for the pace rhythm and timing (PRAT) department, we have a winner here. Of course that is to be expected if the drivers are time aligned correctly. With the tweeter centrally located inside the midrange/bass driver, one should expect such timing accuracy.
Various orchestral music used during the review process allowed me to hear how violins and cello had a wonderful woody sound. It could be, as mentioned before, that in using a paper cone gives a more natural sound. This may be especially true for wood-based instruments.
Tackling the Rhapsody's weak spot, i went to my Dido No Angel CD [BMG/Arista B00000IAU3]. While not an audiophile recording, it does have some good merits. The main caveat is the deepest bass. Here is the one main weakness i heard when playing electronica/techno music as well. On a lark, and because it was easy to do in my circumstance, i decided to try a few subwoofers. Namely the Linn Sizmik 10.25 self-powered subwoofer, a pair of SUB 225 CTRL PRO subwoofers that come with the Avantgarde Duos, and also my old fave no longer made M+K MX2000 (new electronics by M+K installed last year). The Linn sounded a bit dry here while the M+K was merely good, if a tad bit slow overall. Guess being an audio reviewer has benefits as the SUB 225 CTRL PRO subwoofers mated exceedingly well. So good that this system appeared to give the Duos a run for their money! Now i do not expect people to run out an expect any dealer to have this type of mating setup for audition, it is just one of those crazy reviewer ideas after one too many cups of coffee (with natural sugar... naturally). In fact adding a subwoofer is very optional and only for those who have a deep octave desire which no monitor loudspeaker i know of it capable of reproducing. The Rhapsody on its own goes deep enough for, i would estimate, 85% of acoustic music lovers.
Lovers of classical music and acoustic jazz who desire a highly efficient monitor size loudspeaker may rejoice when auditioning the Galante Audio Rhapsody. In fact comparing them to loudspeakers that are five times their price as done here may give you an idea how impressive they truly are. With the common sense exception of super deep bass reproduction, the main criticism would be with the lack of ultimate resolution and speed. While the Avantgarde Duos do have the edge on transient speed and overall transparency, both of these speakers provide an open and enjoyable musical experience... and a different yet enjoyable musical presentation. The Galante Audio Rhapsody's excel in imaging, pace, rhythm, timing (PRAT), harmonics and ease of reproducing acoustic instruments. From small jazz to full orchestral music, rarely was there anything missing to any real degree as to sway me away from enjoying the music. If only my car engine's crankshaft did not break earlier this month i would buy the Galante Audio Rhapsody loudspeakers now. i only hope to get another chance for purchasing them in the future. Of course in the end what really matters is that you...
Crossover Design: 12dB per octave with adjustable high-frequency level control (+/- 1.5 dB)
Speaker type: Bass reflex with tuned 3" rear firing port, stand mounted monitor of high sensitivity coaxial design
Sensitivity: 96 dB/w/m
Impedance: 8 ohm nominal
Usable Frequency Response: 50Hz - 20Khz
Enclosure Construction: 0.75" thirteen-ply Baltic Birch plywood with select and hand applied cherry veneer and solid curly maple "picture framing" in satin lacer finish
Power Handling: 100 watts continuous program (300 watts peak)
Recommended Power: 2 - 100 watts each
Dimensions: 18" x 12" x 10.5" (HxWxD)
Weight: 30 lbs.
Warranty: Five year USA
Price: $2,400 per pair