The following is a review of the new Glow Audio Voice One speakers, especially as they relate to what I consider to be one of their closest competitors, the Gallo A’Diva Ti orb speakers. Secondarily, I consider the Glow speakers alongside Rega’s R1 speaker.
Up front, I should acknowledge my biases. I am a dealer for Glow Audio and Rega in Oakland, CA. But, on the other hand, I may yet become a dealer for Gallo. So, make what you will of this precondition, but I think I went into this comparison with an open mind, in order to see what the new Glow product could do and couldn’t do.
In an effort to correct for my failing short-term and long-term memories I tried to set up this test in a way that would allow me to eliminate mental shortcomings as much as possible. That is, I used a speaker switch box that allowed for immediate a/b changes of speakers. Equipment and cables were exactly the same for all speakers involved, and included modestly priced (budget) components, as probably befits the price range of speakers tested: a prototype Glow tetrode integrated amp, Audioquest FLX speaker cable, DH labs copper locking bananas, Heartland Cable RCAs with solid conductors and Eichmann bullets, and a range of sources, including Oppo DVD player, Technics SP25 with Rega Rb301/Bias cartridge, Cary tube phono, etc. Most of the test was done using cds in the Oppo. Also, notably, all speakers were tested in conjunction with a Glow Sub One subwoofer (set at the same levels for all speakers).
Room is a 14’ x 15’ room with 8’ ceilings.
Vinyl tunes included:
Les McCann’s live version of Outro: Memories compared to what? (for drums at start)
ZZ Top LaGrange and Blue Jean Blues (for rock n’ roll and amplified guitar)
Replacements Achin’ to Be (general good songiness)
Cd tunes included:
Feist’s When I was a young girl (atmospherics and imaging)
La Mala Rodgriguez’s La Nina (bass and sound on a less-than-stunning recording)
Ani DiFranco’s Angel Food and Up up up up up up (great recordings, staging, imaging, vocals, etc.)
And some others I can’t remember (see above comments on memory).
Anyway... I should start by saying that both the Gallos and the Glows are really good at what they do for their respective prices ($700/pr and $348/pr). The Gallos put out an amazing amount and fairly decent sort of sound for their tiny size. The Glows also impress with their ability to create a roomful of music out of very small, stylish enclosures. Both speakers create a rather convincing soundstage and have decent to very good imaging. Both speakers more or less “disappear” in use creating a stable image, and don’t draw attention to their physicality. Both are very small speakers, even if the Glows are 2-3 times the size of the Gallos (Regas are about double the size of the Glows, or… um…4.75…um…times the Gallos).
In any case, the Glows win!
Sorry to just blurt it out, but they do (IMHO)…
To my ears, the Gallos do great work at making something out of almost nothing, size wise. They actually have a fairly balanced sound with a good amount of bass and don’t seem to overemphasize anything in particular. Soundstage is relatively deep and high and extends in width at least to the speakers themselves. Images are generally distinct, with relatively decent air and special relations intact. And they are a fairly forgiving speaker in the sense that they seem to mute some of the harsher bits of digitalia and whatnot that are fed to them. But, they don’t quite glow like the Glows glow.
In comparison, according to what I hear, the Glows simply do the highs better. But it’s not just the highs that are involved. The Glows have a more extended high end, which lifts them above the Gallos in almost every way. By comparison, the Gallos sound thinner, more 2d than 3, and even a bit on the grainy side. The Glows, put simply, are not veiled sounding, and neither are the Gallos, until you listen to them opposed to the Voice Ones.
While the Gallos do a good job of creating a soundstage, the Glows go deeper by far and farther into the room. The Voice Ones’ soundstage extends at least 2-3’ behind the plane of the speakers and considerably higher than the A’Divas. There is quite a bit more “air” to the Glows too.
So the Glows win! But they are not perfect...... neither Gallos nor Glows create an absolutely real life musical event like better (more expensive) speakers can. They just don’t quite have the guts that bigger, badder, pricier speakers do. But they do come close, especially the Voice Ones. A further shortcoming the Glows might have for some is a bit of tilt toward the high end. It doesn’t bug me, but some might say that the Glows accentuate the highs a bit much. As I said, I think it’s the highs that make them shine in relation to the Gallo Tis, so I wouldn’t want to temper that shimmer. They sound really good, ESPECIALLY for the money! But I suppose there’s a reason why $10,000 speakers exist, …um…right?
On the Rega front things get more interesting (and please note that the following regards the older Rega R1s and not the new RS1s, which I haven’t heard yet).
Interestingly enough, the Regas and Glows are really close competitors, despite the fact that they are further apart in design. Unlike the Gallo/Glow single driver orbs, the Regas are fairly standard 2-way box speakers. The Regas are nowhere near as cool looking as the other speakers. That needs to be said plainly. But they sound very like the Glows on the whole.
The Regas have almost all the strengths of the other two: good soundstaging, balanced sound, competent imaging, good “air,” substantial bass in a small room, etc.
The Regas have a little “rounder” sound to them. They are not quite as edgy sounding as the Glows. Some might like the sound of the Regas insofar as they are a bit less bright, perhaps. But, once again, to my ears, the “brightness” of the Glows makes them special. The Regas are just a bit less “open” sounding than the Voice Ones. Less edgy, but less open. The Regas are not veiled like the Gallos, but they lack a bit of the clarity of the Glows. On all other counts, the Regas and the Glows are neck and neck. By the way, all these speakers sound good with the broad range of music noted above.
Importantly, I think all of these speakers demand a subwoofer. But if I couldn’t have a subwoofer, the Regas would be my choice as they can go deeper and louder without any edginess. But, for roughly the price of the Regas ($600), you can have the openness of the Glows with a subwoofer. So there you have it. What? I don’t know. My two cents…
[As a side note, I think these speakers might respond well to other electronics. The prototype tetrode Glow amp I have been sampling is really cool and I don’t know just yet how good it is, but I was also listening to the Regas for a bit with a pair of big ICE amps and a really nice one-off West. Elec. Pre.(~$5k for the pair, I’d guess), and I had cymbals 7 or 8 feet high off to the left of my head and other soundstaging feats that I wasn’t sure budget speakers could pull off. I have no reason to believe that the Glows (and maybe Gallos) couldn’t do similar tricks if asked.]
I think most of these differences are, as I suggested, due to the better treble extension of the Glows, but I also think that there is a general qualitative difference. For instance, on Di Franco’s “Up, up, up…,” the bass notes just plain sound more real. So if cymbals and the like are airier and more lifelike, this realness extends to other regions as well.