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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: 2TB iMac 27" quad-core with 16GB of RAM (AIFF) running OSX 10.8.2 and PureMusic 1.87g in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM, Audirvana 1.5.5 in direct/integer mode, Metrum Hex, SOtM dX-USB HD with Super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2s, AURALiC Vega
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Bent Audio Tap-X, Esoteric C-03, TruLife Audio Athena, Wyred4Sound mPRE [on loan]
Integrated amplifier: Wyred4Sound mINT, Bakoon AMP-12R, Clones 25i [on loan], Crayon Audio CFA-102 [on review]
Power amplifier: Goldmund/Job 225, FirstWatt S1 monos, SIT2, Wyred4Sound mAMP [on loan], AURALiC Merak [on loan]
Loudspeakers: Boenicke Audio B10 with SwingBase, German Physiks HRS-120, Zu Submission, AudioSolutions 200, Gallo Acoustics Strada 2/TR-3D, Albedo Audio Aptica [on review]
Cables: Complete Zu Event loom, KingRex uArt split USB cable
Powerline conditioning: GigaWatt PF-2 and Vibex Two 1R DC filter on amps, Vibex Three 11R on front-end components
Equipment rack:
Artesania Exoteryc double-wide three tier with optional glass shelf, Rajasthani hardwood rack for amps
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Art: paintings by Ivette Ebaen,
Indian bronze musicians and other Rajasthani furnishings from with jewelry from
Music sources:,,,
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review component retail in Europe: €4.250
Cool gatos. The email was from managing director Frederik Johansen. "I hope this finds you well and relaxed from the summer holidays? It's always a pleasure meeting you at the Munich show where we normally talk about sending you products for review. However we never had the time nor products available to follow up. Now I'm in the lucky position to have the new DIA class D integrateds in inventory which we showed earlier this year. Still interested? Venlig hilsen." Seeing how El Candigato Morris had never made it for mayor of Xalapa, I naturally was.

Jest aside, these Danish cats are most serious. They came to market* a few years back with sterling industrial designs and mature performance. This was noted by even the monied HongKong posters on Audio Exotics who usually believe in far longer green to get such posh sound. Post show Piano Turner wrote "the Gato room was extremely good. Pricing is too good to be true relative to performance in an inflationary world". Add that the new DIA models had gone downmarket from Gato's first models with those very cool speedometer displays.

Still their €5.990 AMP-150 had just nabbed an Haute Fidélité meilleur achat tag in this month's issue [left]. That's best buy to the rest of us. Things got even timelier. El Candigato for prez instead? With class D dominated by ICEpower and Hypex/Ncore followed by competing modules from Abletec, Pascal, PowerSoft, Tripath and TI/International Rectifier (a few companies like Arion Audio, Audio Research, DAC, NuForce and Spectron roll their own) our gators did pass on the patriotic thing with B&O boards. They favored IR transistors exactly as the very expensive Japanese SPEC Corp. integrated amplifiers do but here insert into modified Pascal modules.

The two Danish DIA models** offer 250/500 or 400/800wpc into 8/4Ω and want €3.250/€4.250 respectively. But they don't stop there. By adding multi-input D/A converters and analog volume controls, they become what Ronald Krammer of Crayon Audio thinks of as a power DAC even though it's technically just an analog amp with switching output devices and onboard D/A conversion. It's decidely not a wholly digital PMC-to-PWM affair like certain NAD or Wadia models; or a hybrid Devialet. All those use digital volume and A/D conversion for their analog inputs.

* To appreciate how this brand with electronics and speakers could possibly rise up out of nowhere to challenge the most established of catalogues on industrial design, fit'n'finish, features and sound from literally day one mandates a proper read through their website. Only then does it make sense.

** "They have the same features regarding DAC, options, design etc. The main difference is the output stage and related power supply. The DIA-400 is the more expensive and powerful of the two and also the best sounding. The DIA-250 arguably offers the most attractive price to performance package in our catalogue." [At right Gato Audio's two young founders at Munich HighEnd 2011.]

Bandwidth is 20Hz-20kHz -0.5dB or 2Hz-70kHz at -3dB. Circuit gain is 26dB. S/N is <102dB. On connectivity we get 1 x XLR and 2 x RCA in (one RCA is configurable as bypass for home theater or for your own luxo preamp), one each RCA and XLR out, 24/192 asynchronous USB with iPad acceptance, Toslink and coax digital plus a 12V trigger. Input impedance is 20/40kΩ on RCA/XLR respectively whilst the line-outs present 75Ω. In signature Gato style the gleaming and swooping case's inlaid top can be had in multiple finish options. Think black, white or real Walnut veneer all done up in high gloss finish.

The dimmable display is a stylish white dot matrix, the wand an all-metal affair and the built-in DAC with auto 24/192 upsampling of all data not a soft convenience feature but "high-end with a dedicated power supply, balanced-drive Burr Brown PCM1794 chip and high-bandwidth I/V conversion."

Gato Audio CDD-1 at Munich HighEnd 2011

Where specs become different for this high-efficiency breed is power consumption. It's a Euro green <1w in standby to appease Brussels and a friendly 35 watts at idle where a 400wpc class A amp would nearly trip your circuit breaker. The shocker is the max consumption figure. Despite a switching supply—the input stage runs off a linear variant—it's 1.600 watts! Considering the low-rider 325 x 105 x 420mm dimensions (12.8 x 4.1 x 16.5 inches) a linear-supply power transformer supporting the 4Ω rating clearly wouldn't have fit. Nor would 13kg of weight (28.7lb US). If the curvy lines had distracted you from letting it sink in fully yet, this really is quite the beauty and beast. Lap pussy plus sabre tooth. For £3.000 the 75/150wpc into 8/4Ω Roksan Oxygene integrated based on Hypex with a dual-mono linear power supply has considerably less power than the €3.250 DIA-250, no balanced i/o, no DAC, a conceptually slick user interface which in practice is less so and fêted cosmetics—here beauty is in the eye of the beholder—which Gato equals or beats. Personally I'm in no doubt which one I'd rather own. Meow.
At €4.250 the DIA-400 doubles power over the 200/400w into 8/4Ω Merak monos from AURALiC ($5.000). Whilst those could be bridged to quadruple their rating, that also nets you four boxes, a $10.000 bill and still no DAC or linestage. At €6.990 Devialet's 170 shown on the French magazine cover above does 170wpc into 6Ω and adds a DAC but again lacks a balanced i/o path and performs volume control in the digital domain to also A/D convert its analog inputs. Gato thus competes most keenly against both well-established firms and ultra-ambitious upstarts. If you were one of Gato's market competitors, you'd have to consider our Danes very dangerous indeed.