“For good or ill, when it comes to audio, we live in a time of flagships and statements,” writes Hi-Fi Plus editor Alan Sircom in the magazine’s December issue. For the most part Sircom remains relatively unimpressed, having found that many such bigger-is-better products, while certainly big on size and price, don’t necessarily deliver a commensurate peak in terms of performance. Gamut’s flagship Zodiac loudspeaker, however, “is one of the rare exceptions. A true statement piece….”
As befits a true statement piece, the Zodiac will never go into mass production. Gamut’s chief designer (and now CEO) Benno Baun Meldgaard builds his Zodiacs as Steinway build their pianos: one at a time, by hand and as a labour of love, with complete attention to each tiny detail at every step of the way. Just 12 pairs will be crafted each year – one per month, each bearing the relevant sign of the astrological zodiac (hence the name which, regardless of your views on horoscopes, certainly beats a boring and unmemorable serial number!).
Meeting Benno proves to be a refreshing experience for Sircom, who discovers that even in an industry packed to the gills with music fans, Gamut’s head honcho truly is “a passionate music lover” who, having happily spent all day testing or demonstrating audio equipment will then spend the evening kicking back and listening to music of every conceivable genre. “Such dedication to the cause is actually quite rare.”
While there’s a clear family line running through Gamut’s range of louspeakers from the RS3i standmount to the RS5i and RS7i floorstanders, “practically everything about the Zodiac is new.” Not new in a gimmicky way, however, as Sircom is reassured to learn. “Gamut’s product line contains no devices that are the result of a dream or hallucination. They are built along strict objective and observational lines, drawing upon decades of psychoacoustic research, measurement protocols… and great attention on the listening test.”
Speaking of attention, “the Zodiac is a loudspeaker of details.” Take for example the ports custom-built in brass and stainless steel: they not only look stunning but also help air-flow dynamics. “You could point to almost every corner, curve, foot, grill section, or driver layout and find the same almost obsessive attention to detail.”
“Installation is easy – Benno does it!” The price of the Zodiac includes installation by Benno personally, who will fly to wherever in the world the customer happens to be. Fortunately he’s “a really nice guy and fun to be around… expect long nights of listening and about 30 new ‘must-own’ albums on your wish list.”
Speaking of listening, Sircom then puts the Zodiacs through their paces with “a huge range of music,” spanning everything from the pomp and bombast of Queen to Richmond Fontaine’s modern murder ballads, from Mozart piano concerts to smoky 1950s jazz, and much more.
The first thing to note is that “there are no 20m wide pianos or 10m tall singers in the room,” referring to what Sircom calls ‘big loudspeaker syndrome’ where large loudspeakers scale up the sound “in an impressive, yet ultimately incorrect, manner.” With the Zodiacs, scale and size are entirely natural. “With this comes an excellent sense of overall timing and coherence.” At this level one would of course expect outstanding coherence, yet even so, Sircom is impressed: “the Zodiac stands out as exceptionally fine.”
“Of course the test discs come out,” and while the Zodiacs tick off all of the audiophile benchmarks with flying colours (“glorious, shimmering highs, dark, brooding lows, and open, natural mids…an open and impressive soundstage, and sublime micro- and macrodynamic contrasts and shades…”), Sircom begins to realize that he doesn’t really care. He’s having way too much fun.
“Ornate and and clichéd audiophile terminology be dammed… You stop playing what you think you should play and get on with playing music you want to play… That’s the real part of the Zodiac magic.”
“The Zodiac is the perfect superhero. Very highly recommended!”
Find out more at www.gamutaudio.com
Read Alan Sircom’s full review in the December 2017 issue of Hi-Fi Plus – which also features the magazine’s 2017 Awards.