Funny how some products cause a huge splash early on in their lives, yet go on to sink into relative obsolescence after they are discontinued. The Gale GS401 speaker is just such a design, having won the prestigious CES Design and Engineering Excellence Award back in 1978, then fading into obscurity a decade later. As well as its striking looks, the 401 was famous for being a big, powerful and punchy sounding loudspeaker with a very clean monitor sound that didn’t distort even at high levels.
It came in three versions, the A being the glamorous chrome-capped model you see here. Reputedly, this version was the brainchild of Australian industrial designer Jon Bannenberg, who later went on to design luxury yachts. This aside it was electrically identical to the 401B and C. The C had a curved grille, the B didn’t. The range was launched in April 1973, with the speakers being hand-assembled at a factory in Bruton Place, in London’s prestigious Mayfair district. The price was initially £180 per pair, although it rose quickly due to the inflation endemic to the UK back in the nineteen seventies.
The design was unusual at the time for using two 200mm bass drivers (single, larger woofers were the norm) working in parallel. The manufacturer claimed a frequency response of 55Hz to 20 kHz (+/- 3 dB), with the drivers crossing over at 475Hz and 5kHz. All models had level controls to vary the contribution made by the Celestion HF2000 tweeter and Peerless K040 midrange driver; the Acoustic Research style-woofers were left to their own devices.
The 401 had a highish power handling of 60W by the (admittedly low) standards of the day, and poor sensitivity not least thanks to its infinite baffle cabinet design – at the time some called it “the amp killer” due to the low impedance loads it exerted on the partnering electronics. The 401A’s 330x270x605mm enclosure was made from high density 18mm fibreboard, with extensive internal bracing. Other variants of the 401 had slightly different cabinet dimensions due to styling differences.
In its day, Gale’s 401 was a radical loudspeaker. You only need to consider that you don’t get many three way, infinite baffle loaded stand mounters on sale nowadays to realise how out of the ordinary it was and is. It’s now passed the stage of a junk shop find, and more and more good restored examples are popping up. If you’re looking for a retro futuristic batchelor pad companion, or simply want something that sounds different to how speakers are made now, this is a must.