For good or ill, when it comes to audio, we live in a time of flagships and statements. There is a drive in many manufacturers to build the biggest and the best product they can, driven in part by a coterie of distributors, dealers, high-end buyers, and magazines who are perpetually hungry for the Next Big, Best Thing. In many cases, that bigger-is-better mindset that drives brands to make a statement piece ends up making a product that sacrifices all that was good about the performance of the brand in the process. We are often faced with a product that is not necessarily better than the rank-and-file cheaper models, just bigger, in looks, price-tag, and – most importantly – price.
GamuT's Zodiac floorstanding loudspeaker is one of the rare exceptions. A true statement piece by the brand; a three-way, five driver, impulse-optimised bass reflex design, tuned by ear, just 12 of these models will be made per year… hence the name ‘Zodiac’. And, as fitting with that title, each month’s model will bear the relevant astrological star sign. As a Sagittarian, my horoscope says that I think astrology is complete nonsense, but for a way to name a strictly limited flagship without using serial numbers this is a good idea. The problem with limited runs and serial numbers is everyone wants ‘007’ and no-one (in Asia, at least) wants ‘004’. By replacing that with star signs, it resolves this issue… sort of – I can see a potential problem when two people with the star sign Taurus fight over who gets this year’s model… no bull!
As with any modern GamuT design, the Zodiac is the product of Benno Baun Meldgaard, the company’s chief designer, who also stepped up to the CEO plate back in 2015. Although there is a lot of ‘because the stakes are so low’ power-plays and petty politics in audio’s high-end, Benno seems remarkably and refreshingly immune to such things. Instead, first and last, he’s a really passionate music lover: even in an industry where passionate music lovers gravitate, Benno is the kind of guy who will happily spend all day testing or demonstrating equipment, and all evening sitting back and listening to music. Which is perhaps why GamuT doesn’t just make electronics, speakers, and cables… it also makes the ‘Lobster’ listening chair! Such dedication to the Cause is actually quite rare. This constant exposure to music of all kinds underlines Benno’s design ethos – the technical development is not given a back seat, but there is a good deal of reliance on how it sounds. Benno is also an extremely nice guy, and that will become significant later in the review. That makes for consistently good sounding products, and that word ‘consistently’ is important to the Zodiac.
There is a strong, unbroken family line running from GamuT’s RS3i standmount, through the RS5i and RS7i floorstanders, up to the Zodiac. The top model adds height and is correspondingly wider thanks in part to larger bass units, but the lines are identical. In no small part, this speaks to the almost fanatical loyalty of GamuT’s user base, who are well known for only changing up through models in the GamuT range. As such, it’s likely that many Zodiac owners will be trading up from their RS7 and RS7i loudspeakers. That’s not to say non-GamuT listeners will ignore the Zodiac, but that those who already appreciate what GamuT speakers do so well will be first in line to move up to the company’s best design. That being said, GamuT’s loyalty among its clientele is predicated upon making products that live up to the company’s ethos and performance, and if a flagship was just another big sounding over-stuffed speaker design, they would likely stay away from the Zodiac.
Practically everything about the Zodiac is new, even though it seems like a distillation of the technology found in the rest of the range. It uses a new 38mm silk cone ring radiator tweeter with a neodymium magnet. This is joined by a single 178mm sliced paper cone midrange unit, which is impregnated with a custom blend of natural oils, and a trio of 254mm paper cone bass units, that are made with solid wood dust caps sourced from the same material found in the cabinet itself. The Zodiacs also have all drivers phase aligned – at all frequencies – measured from the listening position, for optimum timing.
That cabinet itself is made from real wood, hand-selected for its acoustic properties from a sustainable source, and then constructed by Kvist of Denmark. The internal construction features complex, fan-shaped internal bracing strategically placed inside the cabinet. This helps reduce the amount of internal damping inside the loudspeaker while also helping to control its vibrational energy inside and out.