After spending five days in Las Vegas this past January 2002 covering CES, I had a major headache. No, not from the overly loud home theater demonstrations that had me reaching for a nightcap of Nyquil and Tylenol, but from all of the nonsensical marketing malarkey that was spewing from just about every manufacturer that I spent time with. If you can't explain how your product works, how if differs from the company across the hallway, and why it will make my listening experience better in less than five minutes... find someone who can. Over the years, I have met a lot of interesting and passionate people in the audio business. Most of these people actually have a clue as to what they are doing from a design standpoint, but when it comes to "selling" their product to the general public (excluding reviewers and hard-core audiophiles), they fail miserably. They lack both the marketing and "people" skills required when selling something as specialized as high-end audio equipment.
Why does someone like Pat McGinty of Meadowlark Audio succeed? Quite simply, Pat knows how to talk to people and doesn't make you feel like an idiot when you sit down and ask questions about his products. Meadowlark's absence from CES was a major disappointment for me, so I had to find someone else to bother for five days. It is always a no-brainer to spend time with Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio or Eli and Ofra Gershman of Gershman Acoustics, but this year I set my sights on the unsuspecting people in the 47 Labs and Galante Audio rooms.
Brian Galante, had no idea that I was going to subject his flagship Buckingham's to a diet of Tool, Green Day, and Nirvana in the 47 Labs room, but after two listening sessions that left me rather impressed, I requested some private time with his entry-level Rhapsody monitors, as his flagship loudspeakers are a tad too rich for my blood. Brian, unlike many of his competitors, did not subject me to a thirty minute monologue and bombard me with marketing material. After quickly explaining the rationale behind the use of a dual-concentric/coaxial driver, the construction of the cabinet, and why it would sound different to other speakers using a similar driver, Brian handed me the remote and disappeared.
I rarely listen to an entire album while drifting through an audio show, but the combination of the Art Audio PX-25 and the Galante Audio Rhapsody was so thoroughly satisfying that I listened to all sixteen tracks from Béla Fleck and the Flecktones Outbound [Columbia CK 62178] and blew my entire afternoon.
After three days of similar behavior, I begged Brian to send me a pair and spent the better part of three months with them, subjecting them to numerous system changes and just about every genre of music in my collection.
Yeah... Pretty Much What He Said!
If you look back into our review archives, you will discover that Steven R. Rochlin gave the Rhapsody a rather glowing review when he covered them in 2001. While I don't disagree with his general observations about the Rhapsody, I would like to add my 4.9 shekels and offer a slightly different opinion.
Over the past four years, I have had more than two dozen pairs of speakers in my listening room (either my own or in for review), and none of them have elicited any form of praise from the significant other in my life, as far as their visual appeal is concerned. In fact, the most strikingly beautiful speakers that I have ever owned (MartinLogan reQuests) were banished by my wife, even before I had the opportunity to blend them into the décor of our new apartment. My wife is not an audiophile, and therefore sheds few tears when a tube blows or a transport dies. In fact, I think she does a little dance out in the hallway, but am still waiting for the building to hand over the videotape so that I can see for myself.
When Brian Galante explained the finish options available for the Rhapsody to me at CES, I thought that he was kidding when he said that women really liked the cherry veneer and the maple picture framing. The maple framing is rather attractive, but I still think that it is more pronounced on the larger Galante models and not something that would alter my buying decision one way or the other in regard to the Rhapsody. Hey, didn't you know that when you let a man watch twelve consecutive episodes of "Trading Spaces", he becomes a decoration expert?
Forget about Norm Abrams... I am huffing and puffing for Amy Win! She can adjust my tool belt anytime she wants.
So, it should come as no surprise that when I took delivery of the Rhapsody loudspeakers that my wife took very little interest in the new "speaker" in the listening room. I spent the better part of an hour setting up the Rhapsody, adjusting the degree of toe-in, moving the speakers closer to the front wall, further away from the side walls, and finally settling on a position that was 30" from the front wall, 24" from the side walls, and pointed almost straight ahead. I had promised to take my wife out to a movie that same night, so I shut the lights (not like I turn any equipment off…I have no idea why our ComEd bill was so large last month dear) and I left the speakers for the rest of the evening.
The Morning After Pill...
Sarah and I never discuss my audiophile meshugas, so it was a great shock when she mentioned over breakfast the following morning that "she really liked the new speakers".
Not only was she very impressed by how little space they took up, but she really liked the cherry veneer and the beautiful maple border. Did I mention that my wife dragged me to see Jimmy Buffet one summer against my will?
The construction quality of the Rhapsody's cabinet is very impressive. Fabricated from 0.75" thirteen-ply Baltic Birch plywood, the cabinet responds with a dull thud when you wrap your knuckles across the sides. It is not a "dead" resonance free cabinet, but certainly quite inert. A carefully selected cherry veneer that Brian handpicks wraps around the cabinet and certainly deserves high marks for visual appeal. The icing on the cake is the maple framing, which gives the rather simple looking design an elegant look.
The binding posts allow for single-wiring (hey, only one driver), and are relatively well-spaced. Located just above the binding posts, is an adjustable high-frequency level control which allows you to adjust the tweeter's output by plus/minus 1.5dB. After three months of use, I never found a reason to move the dial from its neutral position. My advice is to leave it where it is.
The magic behind this speaker is its 8" coaxial paper cone midrange/woofer and 1" compression tweeter with an aluminum diaphragm. I was very skeptical about how clean this speaker would sound at really loud levels and whether the bass would wimp out when I used my Wavelength Duetto (8 watts) and Blue Circle BC6 (25 watts), but I proved to be overly pessimistic on both counts. At 96dB, the Rhapsody are a dream come true for those who have been seduced by the dark side of the force and who would rather die than give up their single-ended amplifiers.
Yes, we are a sick and twisted group of individuals.
For Those About To Rock…
While AC/DC are not what I usually play when I want to dissect the tonal ability of a pair of speakers, it did allow me to determine if the speaker could be pushed past a certain limit and how the entire package stays together. In non-audiophile terms; does this speaker perform with less than stellar recordings and can it serve as a party speaker if required by the user? While the temptation was there to put on Back in Black, I chose The Razor's Edge [ATCO A2 91413-786921T] and crossed my fingers as the opening notes from "Thunderstruck" filled my room.
If that collection of magnificent adjectives doesn't make you run out and buy a pair right away, I will be astonished.
What struck me right away about the Rhapsody was how similar it was to many outstanding satellite/subwoofer combinations that I have heard over the years, with its clean midrange, outstanding imaging capabilities, and thunderous bass. While not quite in the class of a REL, Paradigm, or M&K subwoofer, the Rhapsody's bass response is uncharacteristically potent for such a small speaker and capable of overloading a room unless the speaker is positioned well away from any corners. This speaker can play at levels that would drive most head bangers from the room and without becoming congested and overly bright in the high frequencies. One characteristic that I noticed is that the bass seemed to lose some of its "meat" in exchange for greater extension. The bass was certainly tight and agile, but it lacked a certain amount of body on some recordings.
Listening to bands such as Green Day, Tool, Radiohead, The Who, and Rush was extremely gratifying as the Rhapsody, even with a single-ended amplifier such as the Wavelength Duetto, can play well beyond any tolerable listening levels. At many points during the review, I found myself reaching for the volume control as I needed to turn it down.
Having established that the Rhapsody were potent in the bass, extremely confident in their ability to handle massive dynamic shifts in the music, and capable of extreme volume levels, I lowered the lights and checked out their softer side.
Sam Cooke's Night Beat [RCA 07863 68098-2] is a wonderful collection of tracks from the late singer, and extremely well recorded. Listening to Cooke sing "Lost and Lookin" made me comprehend just how large a loss, his untimely death really was. The Rhapsody were beautiful in the way that they brought his words to life. There was something so visceral about the experience that it sent chills down the back of my spine every time I played the track. This quality was evident with almost every vocal recording that I used; everything from Elvis, Sarah Vaughn, Tori Amos, Dido, the Spice Girls, Johnny Cash, and Tom Russell. If you cherish jazz vocals, choral, opera, and soul, then you will love what this speaker can do.
The midrange clarity of the woofer is well beyond what I have heard in speakers that are two and three times the price. One characteristic that I did pick up on is that the fullness of the midrange is most certainly "amplifier" dependant. With the Duetto in the chain (and depending on my choice of the WE300B, Sophia 300B mesh plates, or AVVT 300Bs), the midrange sounded slightly cooler than when I substituted the Blue Circle BC6. The BC6 also produced more satisfying weight in the bass.
Comparing the Rhapsody to my Spendor SP2/3 was slightly depressing because I realized how much low end extension and pace I am sacrificing with my oversized British monitors, in return for a warmer midrange and sweeter top end. The Rhapsody certainly gets the nod as far as clarity, pace, low end extension, and imaging are concerned. The Spendors, however, have something about them that stops me from replacing them. I do not know if I am just getting old and prefer their more mellow presentation, or is it their superb tonal balance that makes me want to hold on for dear life.
No matter how you slice it, the Galante Rhapsody are truly wonderful sounding loudspeakers with far too many good qualities to ignore. With the exception of a slightly cool tonal balance, depending on your choice of amplifier, and a lack of some body in the low end, the speakers are one of the best choices for single-ended users and sub-fifty watt amplifiers around. Combined with a decent subwoofer such as a REL Strata III or a Rega Vulcan, the Galante Audio Rhapsody is definitely approaching the status of Giant Killer.
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