Gale GS402 loudspeaker

885gale.promo250.jpgThe Gale loudspeaker dates back to the early 1970s. As I understand it, the basic design resulted from a collaboration of Ira Gale (footnote 1) and Sao Win, who were college classmates at the time. Their speaker proved very popular in England and was subsequently imported to the USA during the mid-1970s by Audio Technica. Recently, Techport (the folks who import the Perreaux line) has taken over US distribution.

While the Gales have undergone same changes through the years, their distinctive appearance and, according to some, their equally distinctive sonic "flavor," have continued to earn the respect of critical listeners all over the world. Nonetheless, these speakers have also sustained their fair share of criticism; not everybody likes them. This sort of continuing disagreement usually means that what is at issue is a "different" kind of sound—a product that sounds quite unlike others, yet somehow offers a high enough degree of musical satisfaction to appeal to a lot of serious audiophiles. Of such products are cults made.

Indeed, the Gale does have a "sound of its own." I didn't care for many aspects of that sound. On the side, the Gales can play very loudly without audible overload, and they image very well. They reproduce a wide, spacious soundstage with excellent image specificity and stability. Well-miked choral music is spectacular on these speakers! And the imaging remains rock solid from soft to loud.

It would also be fair to say that the Gales are very listenable; they do nothing to annoy. They have a smooth, full, and richly warm sound—but to me it all adds up to bland. The middle range is laid-back and veiled, the lower treble is darkish in nature. and the upper treble lacks delicacy, Small demiis are glossed over and transients rounded off. Overall, the whole audio range above the lower middles is, to my ears, lifeless and turgid. Brass instruments are dulled, lacking in bite, and slightly hollow-sounding as well. The dullness diminishes at increased listening levels, but has a tendency then to turn into edginess. What's left is a pleasant but fairly lifeless shadow of the original.

I also find the bass unconvincing. What there is below 50Hz lacks definition and impact. The midbass is murky and ill-defined, and the lower middle range is marred by a slight boxy coloration that is particularly noticeable as a pinched quality in the cellos.

The Gale GS402 is, I feel, a very mixed bag of virtues and faults. I can understand why some people like this speaker so much: they image remarkably well, and make reproduced music easy and relaxing to listen to as long as one does not make excessive demands on their output capability. However, that listening ease reminds me too much of the kind of opulent, murky "richness" that owners of old Magnavox consoles prized so highly (footnote 2). In terms of musical accuracy, I find the Gales simply too far off the mark to be recommendable. We spend too much money these days for components capable of great detail and tonal accuracy to be able to justify speakers that just cover it all up again.—Dick Olsher



Footnote 1: For some years in the late 1970s, my reference speakers were the chrome-ended GS401s. The late Ira Gale was one of the most extraordinary people I have ever known. Extraordinarily intelligent and inventive, musically literate (he studied percussion at London's Royal Academy of Music and was a roommate of famed classical pianist Stephen Kovacevich), he was also bombastic and abrasive—Ira was a force of nature!—John Atkinson

Footnote 2: I think Dick Olsher is going overboard in this comparison. Maybe people like the Gales for the same reason they liked the Magnavox— they are comfortable to listen to. But I spent a bit of time listening to the Gales, and there's no way they sound like an old Magnavox console! Besides, who said there's anything wrong with comfort from a loudspeaker?—Larry Archibald

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Gale Loudspeakers
Manufacturer and distributor no longer in existence (2014)
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John Mayberry's picture

The Gales are indeed amplifier sensitive as the two eight inch woofers are wired in parallel, creating a load under 4 ohms at some frequencies. As a result, amplifiers with an under-designed power supply simply do not work well with the Gales.

Coupling the Gale speakers with a properly designed amplifier is a magnificent listening experience. More at:

http://0339436.netsolhost.com/WordPress/gs401-speaker/

Mike Rubin's picture

I had the chrome ones, too, which blew me away when I heard them at my dealer's. At home, mated to a Luxman L100 solid state integrated, they always sounded muted and short on bass, both in my original apartment (with lots of carpeting and drapes) and the house into which I moved (hardwood floors and area rugs). I was using the factory stands, too. Eventually, I got so frustrated with them that I gave them away and moved to Boston Acoustics mini-monitors, which, to my ears, worked better in the home space even when used to fill a moderately large room. The wood-skinned Boston Acoustics didn't present the decorating challenges that a chrome speaker presented in a 1925 house with arts and crafts wooden decor, either.

Shame, because, at the dealer, they made the best sound I heard at that time and, as a new entrant to the adult labor field, I had to dig deeply into my pockets for the money to buy them. They certainly had striking looks, though.

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