Ask our editor Neil McCauley: GALE: 401 & 402 speakers – how far could (and should?) they be tweaked beyond the original spec?

K40 Front

Howard Popeck asks: I note Dave that you only return a customer’s loudspeakers to original specification. However you strike us as an innovative man with a strong sense of curiosity. So our first question is primarily theoretical. How might a pair of 401 or 402 speakers be taken (in theory) to a higher level? For example, bi-wiring, taking the crossover out of the cabinet and placing it in a non-resonant box, by-passing the back panel controls and so on. Any thoughts you’d like to share?

Dave Smith of www.vintagegale.com replies: The initial answer is yes they can be taken to a 'higher level' as you put it but that does not mean they will sound better, they will sound 'different' and the more modifications or tweeks you do then the further you are getting away from the original and distinctive Gale sound. The distinctive Gale sound comes primarily from the combination of the Peerless KO-40MRF midrange and the Celestion HF2000 Tweeter both of which are no longer manufactured. Substitutes can be used with decent effect but essentially they then no longer become original Gales. One of the long standing loudspeaker repair companies in the UK has been doing this for years by refilling the cabinets with Vifa tweeters / Peerless or Monacor bass drivers and Peerless or Morel midranges and other makes. These sound ok but 'different' and lacking the distinctive sound that goes with the original, this of course applies to all makes of loudspeaker if you start modifying them.

As you say being inquisitive over the years I have tried almost every modification you can think of and a couple of things are worth doing without altering the basic sound. The 5k variable wirewound potentiometers corrode and become troublesome very quickly. They can be replaced with fixed ceramic resistors without altering the sound dramatically and replace all the ceramic resistors is a good idea as they corrode on their mounting pillars. The fuses can be taken out of circuit but obviously at a risk to the user especially if you are using a high current amplfier. Other things that can be done but will start to take you away from the original sound are replace some or all of the capacitors baring in mind even individual capacitor manufacturers products sound different and then lastly the tweeter and midrange can be replaced with a modern equivalent and again there is a large difference in sound between manufacturers drivers.

After all these were an iconic and futuristic design on their introduction in 1973 and sounded like nothing else available at that time and they still sound very competitive against a lot of very mediocre (and very expensive) modern day equivalents. As with all HiFi you can 'tweek' to your hearts content but surely that is all part of the never ending upgrade quest for Nirvana. There is a huge amount of excellent sounding loudspeakers out there and from the outset Gales never did pretend to be anything but 'different' you either like them or not like most HiFi really.

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