Gato Audio DIA-250S NPM Amplifier/Network DAC Page 2

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.

sqnote 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.

120gato.remWhat'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 [Fresh! FR-733; DXD 352.8kHz/24-bit], 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 [Sound Liaison SL1028A; DSD 256], 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 [Divine Comedy Records Limited; DCRL112CDX]. 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 [Decca 4850020; 96kHz/24-bit].

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 microdynamics 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.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
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!

Gato Audio
Supplied by: Elite Audio (Distribution) Ltd, London
0203 397 1119