Gato Audio DIA-250 S Integrated
High End Class D Integrated Amplifier
"So anyone who runs screaming in horror at the very thought of a Class D amplifier can hang up their Nikes now – there’s nothing to see here, people, and much to enjoy"
ANDREW EVERARD, HI-FI NEWS
The Gato Audio DIA-250S is the best-in-class example of how to merge excellent sound quality, perfect design, profound electrical circuits and aptX Bluetooth technology. This bestselling integrated amplifier/DAC, once combined with our NPM streaming solution – offers fantastic sound quality, 250 Watts of power and lossless wireless streaming ... in one beautiful cabinet !
S stands for "Super"
This brand new amplifier may look like the standard DIA-250 amplifier we introduced three years ago, but in fact we put more than a years work into improving every part of the DIA-250's already fantastic award winning performance. We changed and improved the electrical circuits and layouts in more than twenty ways, the most significant being :
Optimized 'mains filter
Improved general and local power supplies
New input stage
Improved output stage
New analogue stages in the D/A converter
Improved digital signal routing
Incorporated aptX Bluetooth module
These improvements result in More detail. retrieval, better micro dynamics, and more "air" around the performing musicians. Everything is served up with naturalness, and a musicality normally reserved for big, expensive class A/B amplifiers ...
... the result is stunning!
Class-D with smooth Analogue Musicality
The DIA-250S amplifier offers a state of the art Class-D output stage with dedicated and optimized switch mode power supplies. The multiple stage power amplifier is built around proven technology from International Rectifier, optimized with a precision high frequency oscillator and PWM modulator. A pair of precision switching MOS-FET transistors, with super low on-resistance ensures that the high frequency switching is done perfectly and with as little loss as possible.
The output filters are made from quality PP capacitors and low DCR coils, converting the high power PWM signals back into detailed and smooth analogue music.
More than just an Amp
The built-in D/A converter offers real high end performance, enabled by the use of a dedicated power supply, a balanced-drive Burr-Brown PCM1794 D/A converter, an optimized high bandwidth I/V converter, and an analogue stage with low-Q, low pass filters. All digital inputs are upsampled to 24bit/192kHz. This D/A converter will upgrade any digital source - such as wired or wireless streaming from your computer or CD drive - to a high end level of detail and musical performance.
Versatility and Connectivity
We had our eye on versatility and connectivity when designing this amplifier. The DIA-250S offers not only a wide range of digital and analogue inputs, but also line outputs, a trigger signal for external power amplifiers, and a configurable home theater input.
The HT input can turn the amplifier into a fixed level power amplifier for use in a surround setup, without compromising the sonic performance
Unlimited Digital Music Sources
This amplifier can be "bent" in more ways that you can imagine. With AptX Bluetooth, USB or Toslink input, you have direct access to all the music services the world has to offer.
Turn your DIA-250S into a High Performance Roon Ready Network Player
Adding a Network Player Module to your DIA-250S is a powerful way of transforming your amplifier into a High Performance Roon Ready network streamer NPM - Network Player Module. It connects to the network by Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi, and is controlled by a smartphone or tablet app or as a Roon endpoint. The following services are supported:
Summary of Main Features
2 x 250W@8ohm / 2 x 500W@4ohm
Class D output stage
Built in 24bit/192kHz D/A converter with upsampling
Coax and asynchronous USB digital input up to 24bit/192kHz, optical up to 24bit/96kHz
aptX Bluetooth receiver, supports 24bit/48kHz
Accepts digital streaming directly from Apple iPhone or iPad
Two unbalanced and one balanced inputs
Direct function; enables use in home theater systems
Network Module Features :
Built in Roon Ready Network Player, App controlled with integrated Tidal,
Qobuz and Deezer
Network connection with Ethernet cable or WiFi (WPS supported)
Audio formats: MQA (Roon), AAC, AIFF, MP3, FLAC, WAV, WMA, Apple Lossless, OGG, Monkey's, Supports gapless playback
Designed, developed and built in Copenhagen, Denmark
2x 250 W RMS 8 Ω - 2x 500 W RMS 4 Ω
20 Hz-20 kHz - 0.5 dB, and 2 Hz-70 kHz - 3 dB
TOTAL HARMONIC DISTORTION
< 0,01% at rated power
< 0,001% pre out
SIGNAL TO NOISE RATIO
> 110 dB
20 kΩ RCA or 40 kΩ Balanced
RECOMMENDED SPEAKER LOAD
4 -16 Ω
LINE OUT MAXIMUM LEVEL
13V balanced, 6.5V unbalanced
BALANCED ANALOGUE INPUTS
1 x gold plated XLR Neutrik
UNBALANCED ANALOGUE INPUTS
1 x gold plated RCA
1 x USB type B, 1 x Toslink, 1 x RCA, 1 x aptX Bluetooth
BALANCED ANALOGUE OUTPUTS
1 x gold plated XLR Neutrik
UNBALANCED ANALOGUE OUTPUTS
1 x gold plated RCA
2 pair of WBT NextGen
12 V 1 x mini jack
SIZE AND WEIGHT
115 VAC/230 VAC, 50 Hz/60 Hz, 1000W max
STANDBY / IDLE / MAX : < 1W / 23W / 1000W
DIMENSIONS (W x H x D)
325 x 105 x 420 mm / 12.8 x 4.1 x 16.5 in
10 kg / 22 lb
While the DIA-250S NPM did not quite meet its rated 250W/500W 8/4ohm power output, the figures of 2x240W and 2x480W into 8/4ohm, respectively, still suggest a perfectly understandable rounding up of the actual output of only 4% . These power levels still unquestionably demonstrates the perfect ‘stiffness’ of its regulated PSU.
As expected, there is very little extra headroom under dynamic conditions, but the 243W, 505W and 860W into 8, 4 and 2ohm loads is still a lot of bang for this elegant form factor. The maximum (protected) 20.7A current yields 415W/1ohm.
Distortion climbs gently with power output from 0.001%/1W to 0.005%/10W, 0.017%/100W and 0.06%/200W through bass and midrange, and more steeply at higher frequencies up 0.08%/20kHz/10W. This is not atypical of Class D architectures as the amplifier’s output impedance rises from 0.02ohm through bass and midrange to 0.2ohm/20kHz and 2.5ohm/100kHz as a function of the output filter’s
Noise is much lower than measured with the more powerful DIA-400S amp, and the A-wtd S/N is wider at 83dB (re. 0dBW), despite it sharing the same +29.6dB gain.
Gato’s digital board features TI’s PCM1794A DAC with its linear phase/fast roll-off filter offering a full 99dB stop-band rejection. Tested via its balanced preamp (2.06V at 0dBFs, Vol = 66), distortion is uniformly low at 0.002-0.006% (20Hz-20kHz), reaching a minimum of 0.0005% at –20dBFs, while the A-wtd S/N ratio is a ~17-bit 101dB.
Jitter is fabulously low at <10psec while the DAC/preamp response is flatter than the amp’s Class D output at –0.7dB/45kHz and –2dB/90kHz (96kHz and 192kHz media)
GATO DIA-250 S
GATO DIA-250 S NPM
What they say ...
"Those who run from Class D amps can hang up their Nikes"
ANDREW EVERARD - Hi-Fi News
"a little history"
A lot can happen in three years, and while the amplifier we have here
is very much the smaller sibling of the DIA-400S , it’s also boosted by the inclusion of the company’s NPM module, a complete network audio solution giving access to a wide range of streaming options.
There’s something else new here, too : until recently the price of the DIA-250S NPM was in the region of £4900, which is what you’d pay through UK distributor Elite Audio. However, in June this year, the Danish manufacturer instituted a direct selling policy -- that is nonetheless supported by a select network of dealers -- with a substantial 40% not so much shaved as lopped off the price across its range. Look online and you’ll see that the DIA-250S NPM is now just €2995.
Having spent some time with the DIA-250S NPM, I’d say that if its facilities and performance made it a great buy at the previous price, then the new ticket makes it nothing less than a stone bonker of an absolute bargain.
Permit me to explain why. Like other Gato Audio products, this one has its roots in Scandanavian company GamuT, where Gato co-founder Frederik Johansen ran R&D and production before linking up in 2007 with industrial designer Kresten Dinesen, responsible for the not inconsiderable style of the new company’s products. PM explains the technology behind the amp
design but in short, the Gato amplifiers are built around a desire to take a cool-running Class D topology and make it sound more like a conventional Class AB amplifier.
So anyone who runs screaming in horror at the very
thought of a Class D amplifier can hang up their Nikes now
– there’s nothing to see here, people, and much to enjoy.
"a whole new world"
So, housed within the sleek ‘figure-of-eight’ casework that’s become a Gato hallmark, complete with its clever use of slatted side panels for heatsinking, we have an amp able to accept both analogue (on two sets of RCAs and one pair of balanced XLRs) and digital sources (coaxial, optical and asynchronous USB-B, plus Bluetooth). The latter are all upsampled to 192kHz/24-bit before being passed through balanced Burr-Brown PCM1794A DACs.
There’s also the facility to designate one of the RCA inputs as ‘direct’, bypassing the volume control, for use with a home cinema processor – just select input 1 and hold the button down for four seconds, and the display to the left of the volume control changes over to ‘HT’.
The basic specification of 250W/8ohm and 500W/4ohm, and RCA/XLR line pre-outs to feed external power amps, active speakers and subwoofers, has not changed from the original DIA-250S amplifier. Similarly, the controls are minimal, with nothing more than that large central volume control, input selector, plus a standby button, on the front panel. The display shows volume and input as standard, but when playing digital sources the right-hand panel can be set to show input sampling rate, either for a few seconds via remote control, or by default using the display dimmer button on the rear panel.
Crucially, Gato has now added its NPM (network player module) to the DIA-250S, opening up a whole new world of digital streaming to the user. Inserted into the upper part of the rear panel, where once was just a screw terminal to connect a Bluetooth stub antenna, this adds an Ethernet port and a USB-A socket into which can be inserted a supplied Wi-Fi dongle, and upgrades the Bluetooth provision to aptX HD. Now you have a single-box solution for your conventional hi-fi components and streaming, both from local music storage (for example a NAS unit) and from online services. These include Apple Music and Google Play, Qobuz, Spotify, Tidal and many more, including TuneIn Internet radio, all controllable using Gato’s preferred mConnect app on Android and iOS devices. The DIA-250S NPM is also Roon-ready, and thus able to be ‘driven’ using any Roon remote device via a computer running Roon Core software.
"grip 'n' grunt"
Starting with the basics – its performance when fed via its analogue inputs – this is a very fine amplifier, requiring no allowances to be made for its compact size. It’s easy to use, either via the front-panel controls or the remote – the latter showing the wisdom of the large, clear, white-on-black display readouts – and proves fuss-free when driving speakers, as you might expect from that healthy output rating.
What’s more, the manufacturer’s claim of a more ‘organic’ sound is borne out in use. There’s nothing mechanical or clinical here, despite the highly detailed presentation, there being plenty of ambience on offer and a fresh, clean overall balance. Playing music in through the balanced inputs from the Mola-Mola Tambaqui DAC, the DIA-250S NPM really got to grips with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/ Manfred Honeck recording of Bruckner’s Symphony No 9, with both speed and sheer grunt in the bass deployed to fine effect, plus a lovely sense of dynamic freedom allowing the music to breathe. And with the bouncy guitar-led jazz of Tettero’s Plays Eddie Harris & Les McCann set, the crispness with which this Gato amplifier rocks along, while keeping a close eye on all the elements of the mix and revealing their timbral textures, is entirely gratifying. The amp is equally adept when playing music in through the digital inputs, especially the USB-B from my Mac mini running Audirvana. Excellent though the 192kHz/24-bit capability here sounds, showing a clean pair of heels to CD quality when delivered by the clear, precise and gutsy Gato Audio amplification, it may yet be something of drawback for those having a collection including higher bitrates or DSD files. Oh well, there’s always Roon, with its built-in downsampling for that.
"at your service"
On which subject, good though the amplifier is when used entirely conventionally with ‘physical’ inputs, it really comes into its own when you use it to the full extent of its NPM-equipped capabilities under the control of that familiar mConnect app or, even better, Roon. Do this, and the wide-ranging service compatibility (subject to the appropriate subscriptions, for course) is a major feather in the cap of the DIA-250S NPM, as is the slickness with which it operates.
This may be an existing model with a network module bolted in, but that’s not how it feels in use, for it’s much more integrated than that.
The sound is crisp and precise, and particularly clear with well recorded rock and pop such as The Divine Comedy’s Office Politics. In this case, the assurance of the musicianship is as obvious as the cleverness of the lyrics, while the whole is underpinned with a bass that’s taut, yet has richness and convincing textures. Yes, it may be a little dry for some tastes, but what it lacks in absolute warmth it more than makes up for in the way rhythms are played, and the amp keeps even weighty-sounding speakers under firm discipline, propelling the music relentlessly. That rhythmic drive is obvious with anything backed by drums and bass, but also in the rigorous timing of a set such as Isata Kanneh Mason’s beautiful overview of Clara Schumann’s piano music, Romance. Not only does the DIA-250S NPM’s measured presentation make an excellent job of resolving the balance between pianist and orchestra, it also has the slickness and micro-dynamics to make every note clearly apparent, even given the speed of the Rondo of Schumann’s Piano Sonata in G minor. Whether playing bass-heavy music from the darker recesses of the Tidal catalogue, or exploring the huge range of pop, jazz and classical recordings available on the end of a Qobuz Studio subscription, this amp gives just as good an account of itself as it does when used with traditional ‘physical’ sources.
This is a remarkably "well-sorted" and extremely flexible amplifier, with a sound treading a confident path between power and poise, drama and delicacy. It’s easy to set up and use, has the ability to drive a range of loudspeakers with confidence, and is a real looker, too. That would make it a
fine buy at the previous UK price, but at the new, lower one, it’s a no brainer
There’s simply no excuse for not trying it !