Although I generally concur with Rega’s Roy Gandy that audio gear is best viewed as a tool for enjoying music, I also appreciate the fact that beautiful industrial design and superior craftsmanship make a fine watch something more than a device to tell time by, a beautiful chair something more than something to sit on, or a luxury car something more than a vehicle to get us from Point A to Point B.
The Danish-made gear from Gato Audio, which Michael Kelly at Aerial Acoustics is importing to the States, is not only strikingly beautiful-looking in a retro-modern kind of way—the swoop of the curvaceous chassis, fetching rounded sides, large centrally placed meters, and minimalist controls—but is built to jewelry-like standards that speak of this company’s ambition and pedigree.
The company’s dual pathways began in the 1950s, when the father of Gato’s Paul Rossing started a radio-manufacturing firm where young Paul learned the basics of amplifier and speaker design. As high-end audio began to blossom in the late 1960s and early 70s, Paul Rossing began importing to Denmark now-iconic brands such as Audio Research, Luxman, B&W, and Fidelity Research. Soon thereafter Rossing started the speaker company Avance, which crafted enclosures of a fiber-reinforced concrete material.
Fast forward to the mid-nineties, when two other key players now at Gato, engineer Frederik Johansen and designer Kresten Dinesen, met at a small audio company called Holfi, which earned a reputation for battery-driven power supplies, cherry wood front panels, and handmade speaker drivers. The pair would join forces again at Thule, when Rossing took over to revitalize the struggling GamuT brand and recruited Johansen and Dinesen to help. In 2007 that pair teamed with another engineer, Rasmus Holm, to found Gato, a company dedicated to highest-quality workmanship, design, and sound reproduction, and in 2009 their paths converged when they convinced the then-retired Paul Rossing to join the group as managing partner.
As Michael Kelly wrote in an e-mail, “What attracted me initially to Gato was the combination of top performance, European build-quality, and fresh, beautiful design. What made me want to import Gato was the solid personal character of its energetic founders, Frederik Johansen and Kresten Dinesen, and their long-term vision.”
Of course, such qualities come at a price, the AMP-150 integrated amp and CDD-1 compact disc player sell for $7990 a pop, which may not be crazy compared to ultra-high-end components but for most of us still counts as fairly serious money.