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Integrated amplifier
Gato Audio AMP-150

Price: 5590 €

Manufacturer: Gato Audio

Gato Audio | Hoerkaer 14
DK-2730 Herlev, Denmark
tel.: (+45) 4095 2205


WWW: Gato Audio

Country of origin: Denmark

Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Photographs: Gato Audio, Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

The Gato Audio company web page names Poul Rossing as the main person there. However it is worth to notice that Poul owns ¼ of the company and is chair of the board. He adds 50 years of business acumen and knowledge of the hifi industry to Gato Audio, but the company is run by managing director Frederik and creative director Kresten. In the 50-ties he started to work in his father’s workshop, soon he became the distributor of major audio companies. In 1973 he decided to design and manufacture his own loudspeakers under the brand name Avance. This was the first company, which profited from cooperation with the Chinese. Due to certain events the brand Avance was sold to the Chinese coworkers of Rossing, and they take care of it now. A part of the sales agreement was the design of a few more loudspeaker lines, where Poul was helped by the engineer Milad Kahfizadeh. The second person responsible for Gato Audio is Frederik Johansen. Frederik and Kresten met for the first time in the company Holfi (review of the CD player Xenia HERE), where Frederik took care of production and logistics. In the year 2001 Johansen was employed by another Scandinavian manufacturer – Thule, making amplifiers under its own brand name, as well as in OEM setting. Their amplifiers were branded as Avance, but also TEAC (for example TEAC A-BX10). But as it turned out, this was for him just another step to get experience.

In 2003, when GamuT – another Scandinavian manufacturer – had its worst times, Poul Rossing bought the company, and together with Milad Kahfizadeh sanitized it, founding the company GamuT International A/S. Both gentlemen were renowned loudspeaker specialists. GamuT on the other hand, was regarded mostly as an electronics company. To take care of that, they asked headhunters to recruit someone, who would be the head of the electronics department. This guy turned out to be Frederik Johansen, who left Thule Audio for GamuT, where he started to work in 2004. Together with the designer Kresten Dinesen they are regarded as responsible for the renaissance of GamuT. Dduring the time from 2003 to 2006 Gamut was transformed into a healthy company with full product line and established distribution network. There were no crisis in the company when Poul sold it. Poul Rossing could finally get retired. In 2007, not far from Copenhagen, in Lyskær, Herlev something happened, that changed those plans. Frderik Johansen and Kresten Dinesen joined with Rasmus Holm and founded a completely new company, Gato Audio, and in 2009 Poul joined them as the co-owner and chairman of the board. Please note, that in the team the veterans of Scandinavian audio not only engineers can be found, but also a designer. One look at the tested AMP-150 is enough to see, that he had a large influence on the final product, and that the company did not look much at the costs. It had to be an amplifier that sounds well and looks well. Mission accomplished!
Milad is an incredible acoustical engineer that helped voicing in the speakers, but as with all other Gato Audio products the making of our speakers is a team effort of the Gato Audio development team, as the old friend of Frederik from the GamuT times, Milad Kahfizadeh, who worked for some time as the head of application and engineer in Tymphany (Vifa, Peerless and Scan-Speak), from where he joined Gato Audio development team.
The tested amplifier AMP-150 is a team effort of the Gato Audio development team. It looks just brilliantly – rounded edges, wooden additions, milky white display and splendid remote controller – just to name a few items. Despite the small enclosure, the power of the amplifier is quite high – it is 150W at 8Ω and 250W at 4Ω. The amplifier has untypical descriptions of the inputs, which are explained on the back plate. It is equipped well, it has RCA and XLR preamplifier outputs, similar inputs, and one of those inputs can be placed in unity gain mode for usage in home cinema systems. One feature is interesting. This function is called heat. It is used to bring the output transistors quickly to their operating temperature. Usually this takes about two hours, after which the currents and voltages stabilize, and distortion settles on the preset level. To accelerate this process, after pressing the button, the amplifier runs high current through the power transistors, which heats them up quickly. The whole procedure takes then about 10-15 minutes instead of two hours. A heaven for audiophiles, the obsessive-compulsive type…

Kresten Dinesen says:
“If it is possible, I’d like to add a few more lines to who we are and how we work: Frederik and I runs Gato Audio. Frederik as managing director and me as creative director. After we founded the company Poul Rossing offered his assistance and he now owns 1/4 of the company and is chairman of the board. We profit from his 50 years of experience of business acumen and knowledge of the hifi industry.
All our products are the result of a complete team effort. None of our products are developed or made by a single person. The Gato Audio developement team is a group of very wide spectrum of expert knowledge. Everything from hardware and software engineers, industrial designers to musicians and audio specialists.”


During the test I used the following discs:

  • Depeche Mode, Hole To Feed/Fragile Tension, Mute Records, CDBONG42, MS CD.
  • Donald Byrd, The Cat Walk, Blue Note/Audio Wave, AWMXR-0009, XRCD24.
  • Jan Bokszczanin, Komeda – Inspirations, Zakłady Płytowe, ZP 140770-09, gold-CD.
  • Miles Davis, Seven Steps To Heaven, Columbia/Analogue Productions, CAPJ 8851 SA, SACD/CD.
  • Norah Jones, …Featuring, Blue Note, 09868 2, CD.
  • Suzanne Vega, Close-Up, Vol 1. Love Songs, Amanuensis Productions/Cooking Vinyl, COOKCD521, CD.
  • Stereo Sound Reference Record. Jazz&Vocal, Stereo Sound, SSRR4, SACD/CD.
  • Laurie Anderson, Homeland, Nonesuch, 524055-2, CD+DVD;.
  • Savage, Tonight, Extravaganza Publishing Srl/Klub80, CD001, 25th Anniversary Limited Edition, CD;.
  • Cassandra Wilson, Silver Pony, Blue Note, 29752, CD.
  • Yoko Ono, Yes, I‘m A Witch, Astralwerks, ASW79287, CCD;.

Japanese versions of the discs available on CD Japan.

AMP-150 is an uncompromising amplifier. In all meanings of this word, in design, craftsmanship and sound. About the construction I will talk later, now some words about the sound. Its uncompromising character is in the fact, that it does not try to influence the sound in any way. Or its constructors try to shape the sound in such a way, that it would not be heard. So first a definition by negation: its sound is NOT warmed, it is NOT rounded, it is NOT brightened, it is NOT slowed down, it does NOT resemble a tube amplifier, it does NOT try to get into favor. One can NOT hear, that it has such a high power, at least NOT from the very beginning.
Its special asset, the lead motive of the whole listening sessions, is the uncompromising neutrality. Attention! It is not that it massacres recordings! Like I said many times over, uncompromising devices from lower price levels, much below 10000zl, tend to despise less well made recordings. There it really does not work, and the fight at all cost for an even tonal balance and open sound, without filling it, without the proper resolution, ends in something like that – a clean, not obscuring sound, but where is not much Music. It can be heard clearly, that in the AMP-150 the idea was also to “clean” the sound from distortion – also from colorations, which are one of the kinds of distortion. But because this is a hi-end amplifier, other elements, which make something more from this frame, were not lacking.

The midrange profits most of that. On first look, we can hear the treble. But we will leave them alone for now, because while there are a part of the whole picture, yet the midrange shows, how high power, low distortion, low noise, etc, in short the attributes of a solid state amplifier, translate into a sound, which is usually reserved for tube amplifiers. And I am not talking about warmth, or anything like that, but the ability to sound with a full, incredibly saturated midrange.
The Danish amplifier surprised me mostly with that. I listened to the trumpet of Donald Byrd from the disc The Cat Walk and I froze – the intensity of the warm midrange (this is how this instrument sounds in this re-edition), combined with the ability to sustain sound, when it is not loud, but still requires lots of power, were incredible. The same thing was with a part of keyboard instruments, electronic instruments, where we have something, that is quiet, but immediately clips the amplifier and/or the loudspeakers. The instruments were at the same time very free, they had depth, breath, and although the detailness was above average, it did not cumulate in a wall of sound, but in a multitude of small events. Something similar to this is much easier to achieve in tube amplifiers, because there clipping happens in a very soft way, the signal is not cut and compressed, but only rounded at the peaks, and our hearing is fooled, that there is nothing bad happening. Only when we compare that with something as unconstrained as the tested amplifier, then we will hear, that although with a tube a given fragment, a given instrument sound very pleasing, yet a part of the spectrum is veiled, it does not have the clarity in the top range, its shape is melted into the background, etc. The AMP-150 sounds, as if power constraints would not concern it, and that without the sound getting brutal, what happens often to powerful amplifiers.

Together with detailness comes the ability of differentiation. This is an amplifier, which will show more in the recordings, as we could ever imagine. With ease and lightness it will show differences between various editions, pressings, musicians. After Byrd I played the disc Seven Steps To Heaven Miles Davis, in the splendid re-edition of Analogue Production, and it was immediately clear, that it is another musician, another instrument and a different recording. The people from AP converted the sound from the master tape without any interference, and it turned out, that the sound is much more open, with a lot more treble than we thought. Here the trumpet could sound shroud, strong. This is also a result of a different style of playing Davis has, but the tested amplifier showed the differences without hesitation.

This was not a show for itself, it was not about bragging with those details. This effect was often amazing, but I have the idea, supported by a few weeks of listening, that detailness was a side effect of neutrality, of the lack of manipulation of the signal. Different details of the recordings, extra musical elements, like pedaling of the piano, squeaking of a stool of one or the other musician, noise of the note pages turned, etc, often lost in noise or too weak, to be reproduced by other amplifiers, were clear here. Those things did not cover the main event, the music itself, but attribute to its perception, tried to convince us, that that what we hear is not only a mechanical reproduction, but the real event.

After talking about the midrange and resolution we come to the place, where we need to make a decision – is it an amplifier for me? I am of course talking about a potential client, because I would like, if my personal preferences would not influence your perception of a given product, or at least, that their influence would be minimized. The information what a reviewer likes better, or less, what is his vision of the absolute sound, etc, is of course important, but this is a “post” element, and not “ante”; it should help to make the decision, but it should not replace it in any way. And you have to make the decision, because this is not a sound, that will satisfy each and every music lover and audiophile. Like I said, this is a very open and clean sound. It resembles a bit the sound of the system Krell EVO222+EVO402 with a slightly higher saturation of the midrange and even better differentiation. On the other hand it is a completely different kind of sound, than the Atoll INT400, I just tested for “Audio”, and different to the sound of the Mark Levinson power amplifier No531 (“Audio” 12/2010). In the Gato Audio the saturation of the midrange happens through clearing the sound from distortion, high linearity and phase coherence, and not by slight rounding of the treble and boosting of the upper bass. The AMP-150 sounds in an open way, it does not hide the treble, and a lot of loudspeakers will not bear that. At least you should not try loudspeakers like the German Physiks HRS 120 Carbon, but rather something in the direction of Avalon Ascendant or Isophon Berlina RC7. I am talking about loudspeakers, which can play with a creamy sound, without hardening the attack.

The treble of the tested amplifier is incredibly clean and resolved, and this is why it may seem, that there is too much of it. This is no brightening, or glare. The amount of information in the upper part of the sound spectrum is so high, that in a distance of 2-4 meters away from the loudspeakers, it can seem to be higher than in reality. The problem is of course the way the sound is reproduced at home, and not the amplifier, but the result is just as I mentioned.

The bass is presented completely different to the treble. It is different than in the Krell, and I would say, that it is closest to tube amplifiers (in terms of timbre), or BAT solid states. The attack is slightly softened, and the bass is not very strong – there is for example no underlining of its middle part. I understand it in such a way, that with stronger, harder bass (of which Krell amplifiers are often accused) the sound would become too contoured. The amount of information in the treble and contoured bass would result in a contoured sound – tiring in longer timeframes.
However the recordings have internal pulse and pace, so this is not related to slowing down or washing out. I verified this using the club re-mixes: Depeche Mode maxi-single Hole To Feed/Fragile Tension and Yoko Ono from Yes, I’m A Witch…. The rhythm was fantastic. No slowing down, no streaking. But when I played the disc Homeland Laurie Anderson, you could hear what I am talking about: the bass was not very tight, visibly its attack was slightly rounded.

The amplifier brilliantly defines the instruments in space – in front of us, behind us, to the sides, etc, everywhere, where the producer and the sound engineer planned them to be. Gahan’s voice from the mentioned maxi-single reached me from a “dome” ABOVE me, I could not pinpoint its source, but I had the impression of being in some kind of ceremony in a large church. I had similar impressions with the recording A Love Again from the disc Tonight Savage – it is incredible, how this simple music in fact, is made, how much effort went into creating the sound!!!
This is why the modern fakes sound in such a plastic way – as I was told by the two people responsible for recording this disc, Rafał Lachmirowicz and Damian Lipiński, to make a drum kick sound as it should, eight bass drum kicks were needed. Gato showed it well and reproduced the very big volume of those recordings – Savage probably imagined that this way… The instruments are rather brought into our acoustics. This is not a “window” to another acoustics, but rather an effort to place the events in our room, just in front of us. The volume is very big, but is also very well differentiated – with the disc …Featuring Norah Jones it was smaller, while with the mentioned Savage or Byrd much bigger.

AMP-150 is a beautiful amplifier, with uncompromised sound. We have to try it out with our speakers, because this is not a plug & play solution. Beside the loudspeakers I mentioned, you should try it with Spendor, or Harbeth, or Sonus Faber. The Gato Audio also has fantastic loudspeakers in their catalog, which may be the natural partner for this amplifier. Its sound is open, free from distortion, clean and dynamic. It follows well what comes from the source. It plays clearly better with the unbalanced input, so there is no pressure, to have a CD player, file player or phonostage with XLRs.


The amplifier AMP-150 Gato Audio looks incredibly good. This is the only audio product besides the loudspeakers Franco Serblin Ktêma which impressed my family lately. Its assets are the modest external dimensions and brilliant external design. The front is made from a very thick slab of aluminum. It has a different shape, to the typical rectangular ones we are used to, as its sides are half circles, and the top and bottom slightly dished. To the sides we have two big metal knobs – the input selector and volume control. Between them, there is the dominating item for this design, a round window, with milky white background, indicating the inputs. The volume indicator (Power) has the shape of a needle, reminding somewhat the Avantgarde Acoustics Model 5. In this window, there are no classic input descriptions, only pictograms, attributed to specific inputs on the back plate. We know that from other Scandinavian devices. The pictograms are backlit red when selected. Only the Heat function is backlit green when activated. The intensity of lighting can be adjusted by a potentiometer on the back plated. To make the unit work, we should press the button “Heat”, what lights a bonfire pictogram. Finally there is a “Mute” button. The activation of this mode is indicated, by the LED of the selected input flashing. On the back there are some splendid sockets. We have four RCA (unbalanced) inputs and one balanced (XLR) – all are high quality, the RCAs look like Neutrik or WBT made. There are also two outputs – XLR and RCA from the preamplifier section. The “Tape” input can be changed into a “Direct” input – this is done by selecting it and holding the Mute button for over 2 seconds. In the middle there is an IEC power socket with a mechanical power switch, and to the sides there are single loudspeaker terminals WBT0765 Safety Line. Let me add, that the top cover is made from a shaped piece of wood. The side panels are half circular, nicely looking heat sinks, running over the full length of the unit. They are rounded off, so we can move the device without getting cut.

Special attention needs to be devoted to the remote controller. It looks as beautiful as the amplifier. It is made from metal, but is not overly heavy, while the front and back are sloped. The buttons are small, we can use them to operate the amplifier and Gato Audio player. However the volume control is perfect – this is a small wheel with a rubber ring, which is operated like a normal volume control knob. The handling is nice and easy.

The circuit is split on to a few PCBs. Near the back plate we have a PCB with the inputs. There are NEC relays and an integrated, but analog, Burr-Brown PGA2320 resistor ladder. This is a stereo unit (two channels), so the balanced inputs and outputs should be regarded as optional – the signal is (de)symmetrized in the TL07a chip. All sockets are really splendid, and are soldered directly into the PCB. From there, via short shielded cables, we go to the power section. A part of the circuit is surface mounted, another part is classic. The control transistors are bipolar and mounted to the same heat sink as the power transistors – those are very modern transistors MOSFET PolarHT HiPerFET with splendid parameters. They are mounted to the heat sinks with metal clamps. The heat sink is actually a half cylinder, milled in such a way, that the heat emitting surface is maximized. This explains the high weight of the amplifier. The power transistors work in push-pull class AB.
Most space is occupied by the power supply. In the middle there is a toroidal transformer from the company Noratel, with four secondary windings – for the preamplifier, control section, digital circuits and power section. All voltages, except for the power section, are stabilized. For the latter, for the power filtering, we can see two enormous capacitors, with bolted contacts, covered with a shield.
This is a quite simple, but extremely well finished up construction, without special excess related to usage of overly expensive components, but with a worked out power supply and beautiful enclosure. Beauty in simplicity!

Technical data (according to manufacturer):
Output power: 2x 150W RMS (8Ω)/2x 250W RMS (4Ω)
Input impedance: 20kΩ (RCA)/40kΩ (XLR)
Frequency response:
20Hz-20kHz at ± 0.5dB
2Hz-100kHz at ± 3dB
Preamplifier output impedance: 100Ω RCA and 200Ω XLR
THD: < 0.05%
S/N ration (weighted ‘A’): > 100dB
Gain: 27 dB (+10dB overhead)
Recommended amplifier load: 4 Ω-16 Ω
Short circuit protection: < 1.5Ω
Power consumption: standby <1W, no signal < 40W, in heat mode <200W, max 600W
Weight: 13.8kg

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