Gryphon Diablo 300 Has Arrived: First Impressions.

After a very long and drawn out search for a new amplifier for my B&W 803 D2's, which included in-home demos of McIntosh (452/C2600), Bryston (4B3), SimAudio Integrated's, and others that I tested in-store, I finally landed on the Gryphon Diablo 300. With the optional DAC module and phono board.

I feel lucky to a short trip away from one of the seven Gryphon dealers in North America, or I would not have found my amp. Some who are familiar with the Diablo may see my list of other amps I tested and think, those brands are not in the same league as Gryphon. And, after having painstakingly scrutinizing every demo component, I would have to agree they would be right. Those other brands cannot even come within striking distance. But here's the thing: from a pricepoint perspective, I'd be spending the equivalent amount of cash with those lower end brands once you factor in a pre/power amp, power cables, and interconnects - and it wouldn't sound as good as the Diablo. So, while expensive - the value is tremendous with the Gryphon Diablo 300. Others on this board have confirmed their opinion that I'd need to spend double on seperates before I could better the Diablo's performance. Including Whitecamaross, OP of the well known and ongoing "long list of amplifiers..." thread. I recognize that my search did not include uber-integrates from T+A, Dartzeel, etc. No way to consider these were I live. But I think that the Diablo is likely better suited than these alternatives for my use-case, with the power, current, and ability to drive my speakers in a large open space with a vaulted ceiling.

So I picked up the Diablo and it came in a great wooden crate that is smaller than you'd think, and has very handy clips that allow each panel of the crate to come off one panel at a time. The DAC was not pre-installed, and came in a seperate box. The phono board was also seperate, and was sold to me at a discount as it was a pulled from the shop's demo Diablo 300. I had expressed interest in installing these modules myself, so the shop said they'd let me have the experience of opening the brand new Diablo. Having installed the module and board (without incident), it was a little tricky. I would not suggest others try this unless you have some experience working with electronic components, PCB's etc (I do). And for safety you definitely want to ensure the Gryphon's massive and many capacitors have fully discharged prior to working inside.

On to the sound, out of the box with 0 hours run-time. The Diablo was a bit of a gamble for two reasons: 1) The dealer does not do in-home demos, and 2) The closest speakers I could test with to my 803's were the B&W 802 D3's, and 3) No returns or exchanges. Having fired up the amp and connecting to my digital source, right off the bat the music was thoroughly engaging. And here's the thing: When purchasing new gear over the course of 20 years or so, I've not once purchased any equipment that I've loved in the first month. This is the first. On my 803 D2's (or Diamond, whatever B&W calls this generation), I found that for the first time in all my amp-testing I was not listening for things like "dynamics","timing", "linear response", "imaging", but rather listening to people playing music. All instruments and voices have this solid and real quality to them. An example: with the tambourine at the start of Reckoner by Radiohead, you can sense the impact of each strike of the tambourine against the musician's hand. The same effect is there for vocals, with backing harmonies having a texture to them I've never heard. Another way to describe this effect is that rather than simply hearing the instruments, you are aware the sound is caused by something physical happening. Like with snare drums, it is more tangible than with any other gear I've heard. I've always thought that trailing notes or chords at the very ends of songs are just there as musicians need to signify that the song is over. But now, there is a presence and drama and texture to these endings I've never heard before. Just as I said earlier, I'm no longer listening for things like "dynamics" and "timing", but rather hearing the musical manifestation of these things. The midrange is absolutely beguiling, as one pro-reviewer put it. I think this may be partially due to the DAC based on my in-store testing I did. So far I've only tried the USB input at home. I am quite sensitive to harsh mids and highs, especially on poorly recorded hard rock, and can find this type of music very grating on hifi equipment. But not on the Diablo. The mids and highs are smooth. There is no sign of any harshness at all. But counter-intuitively, at the same time, there is so, so much detail to the music. Everything is revealed, in a presentation that is paradoxically smooth and engaging. Is this an analytical amp, or a musical amp? It's both. Don't know how they pulled it off. The bass is one of the Diablo's most striking qualities. Just as with the other instruments, the base is tangible, highly detailed and deeply textured - it creates a groove in the music that is so satisfying. I didn't know my speakers could do this.

This amp absolutely has a voice to it - it is not a "just the facts" amp. So those who are looking for that sort of amp may not like the Gryphon. But for me, this is exactly the sound I was looking for. Some have said there is a slight "dark" quality to the presentation, and I thought that sounded negative. But I understand now and have come to realize that this dense, detailed, and rich smooth voice is exactly what I was looking for.

In terms of how it performs on my speakers vs with the 802 D3's in the store - there is quite a bit of detail, and soundstaging, that is not present now. But on the flip-side, I actually like the overall presentation at home even more, and the detail that is there is still incredible. And, I'd expect more detail to emerge through the burn-in period. Even now, I'd be totally happy if this is the best it gets. In the store, I found the high level of precision of the 802 D3's just a tad distracting. For example, in the store, if I turned my head slightly, I could hear the entire soundstage shift quite dramatically. My 803's at home don't have this issue.

I have not finished upgrading accessories yet: I am running this amp on inadequate sub $1K Van-den-hul D352 speaker wire, and my source is a Mac Mini with Audirvana/Tidal Hifi. I do have it running with a brand new AQ Hurricane power cord. My Mac will be replaced by an Innuous Zenith MKIII but it's on backorder. Might be a month or two wait. Don't know what I'm going to do about speaker wire quite yet. I'd like to try Valhalla 2 just to see if it is worth it!

Overall, extremely happy. Expect things to get even better with the dedicated music player, upgraded speaker wire, and some more hours of burn-in. One more thing - I don't think that Flemming Rasmussen designed this amp. Batman did. And just look at the remote - case closed.
Congratulations on your purchase Nyev.

I’ve just recently took delivery of a 300 without any demos! My speakers are 803D3, I’ve got roughly 2 hours on it. It sings just as you have mentioned above. I’m hearing things from the 803D3 speakers that I haven’t heard before. I’ve been listening at volume 25, it only goes up to 42. I’ve set my safety volume control limited to 32. What volume do you listen at during normal listening?

Don’t worry about power cords, make sure your room acoustics is sorted first. Sort the big elephant in the room before you start tinkering with “snake oil”. I’m playing my source through an Audyssey Pro equaliser, there is a night and day difference in sound. As every sound coming out of the speakers is given equal chance to shine. Maybe try a Dirac processors, you’ll no regret it!

“And no, unfortunately my dealer did not inform me that my demo Gryphon phono board was discontinued”

It might be an issue if you come to sell it (if you ever do), the buyer might be looking for the current version of the phono stage.

“In short, I am enjoying this amp so much that I find myself wanting to buy another just in case something happens to it after it is eventually discontinued”

This amp will last you a life time, don’t worry you’ll be six feet under before you need another one!

“Maybe the D’Agostino Momentum integrated but that is far more expensive.”

Don’t go there! Don’t listen to it if you can’t afford it, you’ll want to buy it! The sound will haunt you forever until you get one- so don’t do it!

“When my Innuos streamer finally arrives (hopefully in early May), I may experiment with a lower end power conditioner”

I’ve tried a power conditioner briefly- Isotek Titan 2, it seems to throttle the dynamics of the 300. I need to have a extensive listen. But from first listen that’s what I’ve experienced. Maybe better on streamer as you have mentioned. I will try there next…

I will investigate the ‘pop’ issue.
Although it is built like a Sherman tank there might be the display and the bulbs on the front which might fail over time.

Just wonder about the fluorescent display, are folk turning this off after adjusting volume etc. This can be set up via menu. Just that it doesn't last very long roughly 30,000 hours, about 3.5 years of continuous use. Over time it will start to dim and need replacing.
NYEVIf you want an even better combo than the Luxman 900 pre/power then you should look at the Gryphon Zena pre with the Antileon EVO power amp; better again - undoubtedly, considerably more expensive, indeed.The Diablo 300 is a runaway success worldwide  as it offers terrific performance for the $$.
BTW, its worth pointing out that an upgrade for the optional phono stage is available at moderate cost.  The original PS2 had two loading options, the PS2-S has five loading options & a sixth option is to request custom resistors, almost any loading up to 1k from the factory. The upgrade kit is $300.
I heard an opinion that Diablo 120 sounds even better than Diablo 300 at low and moderate levels with more sensitive speakers. Just a thought for those considering Diablo 300.
Congrats Bubb!  While the current D3 generation B&W's are fantastic, they may not be my first choice for my tastes.  But I don't know of any amp they would sound better with than the Diablo 300!  So far I've not felt a need for any EQ, I've tried to find equipment that avoids the need for tone controls, and haven't missed them since I was young when I did need it to compensate for poor equipment.  Not that I have anything against EQ's.  Maybe one will come in handy as my high-frequency sensitivity of my ears inevitably starts to degrade with age!
I listen at different volumes for different contexts - if I'm working at home I'll set it at 15-16, after 10pm I'll even go lower so as not to bug the family, and on weekends typically I'll have it anywhere from 23-26, with 25 being the start of what I consider to be "loud".  Never really felt the need to go beyond 26 although I've tried going to 28.  Still can't believe how all sonic qualities are maintained even going way, way down to 11 or so - you can still easily pick out the "groove" and impact of the bass and all other details transients and dynamics.  Inna if the Diablo 120 is even better at low levels, that would really be incredible.  But I think I need the power too with my big room :)
Bubb regarding the display bulbs, do you know they are specc'd to 30,000 hours continuous use? Is this at 100% brightness?  I had previously set my brightness at 75%, but I'm now thinking about lowering to 50% (which is a bit difficult to read across the room)!  My last amp had a similar display with individual lights making up the volume readout.  On this amp over 20 years I noticed some bulbs were dimmer than others, for volume settings with numbers that were commonly used.  Actually I noticed that dimming fairly quickly into the 20 years.  But none went out or anything.

Regarding my phono board, good point, but I'm not too worried as I can't see myself selling the Diablo.  And I don't think it is worth double the cost I'll need to pay now to get the new one - I got the board at 50% off and it is never actually been connected to a turntable (including in my system as I currently have no turntable).  So I can't really justify paying a bunch more for the new board which actually won't provide any material added benefit.  Pohanlon thanks for notifying me of the upgrade kit for the phono board - my dealer had not mentioned that! I will ask.
Also for anyone reading this interested in the Gryphon or other uber-integrateds - in retrospect I would to have liked to have tested the Musically Fidelity Nu-Vista 800, which I think is similarly priced.  While all the reviews of that amp are very positive, I'd be surprised (or shocked) if it beat the Diablo.  But this amp somehow escaped my list of candidates and there is actually a dealer that stocks it near me.  There are just a ton of positive reviews for the Nu-Vista 800 amp and the sonic presentation is described similarly to the Diablo, but again, just one that might be good to try but I wouldn't expect to top the Diablo.