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.
Sorry to hear you are disappointed in your system’s bass.  Just be careful not to overcompensate on the amp for a deficiency that is in all likelihood with your speakers.  Also I’m not sure you are actually supposed to “feel” that kick drum on The Chain...  You don’t want to add something that is not supposed to be there.  That said, your speakers are known to be light on bass.  Whitecamaross, OP of the “long list of amplifiers...” thread mentioned that to me about the 803’s, and he specifically suggested the Diablo to help with the bass.  Many others have said the Pass integrated doesn’t compare with the Diablo.  But maybe the Levinson would?  Maybe the Levinson pairs better with your speakers than the Diablo?  Is it possible to try the Levinson at home?  Or buy and return?  Beyond that, I’d be looking at new speakers.  I think that is likely your main problem as no one ever has said anything about the Diablo’s bass presence or slam being anything other than class leading.  But, I’d be interested in hearing if you could directly compare the Levinson at home!

One other thing - I really don’t think you need more power. More power will not give you more bass at the volumes you listen at and with your room size. And, the Diablo is known for supplying massive power especially at lower impedences.  It is often said that the Diablo has no problem driving any speakers.

I do not doubt the diablo, it is an outstanding amp. It's either the room or my speakers. I did ask Whitecamaros about the 585 he didn't rate it highly. The bit I don't understand is the visceral output at the dealer, the sheer dynamics I experienced with the 803D3 speakers. The slam is totally different compared to Diablo, I don't think it's got the midrange & treble of the diablo. The delivery is different, it still has the- turn the volume up and the ”catch out” of the Diablo.

My room walls / ceiling is plasterboard, the dealers walls were brick. This too can have an impact on absorption and reflection of sound.

The kick drum in the chain will produce the punch in the chest if the conditions are correct (setup, power etc).

As I mentioned in my previous post the two bass drivers are small 6.5 inch? B&W use some jiggery pookery to play about with the bass response in the cabinet. To compensate for these minuscule drivers and to try and shift volume. Physics of it is you need large drivers to shift air and have that impact. Think about the size of drivers used in a concert / club. Together with the power used to move vast amounts of air. I know they don't have the quality and finesse of of an audiophile system. They can easily create the punch in the chest. I've even heard the 800D3 although better bass response can not produce this sort of bass. 

My dealer doesn't have the 585 anymore. If I was to order it, I will have to buy it. There will be no home demo & return. The good thing in owning the diablo 300, I can put back in the crate and take to dealers. At least I will have a known quantity to compare with different speakers. Maybe a pair JBL 4355 will do the trick.
Maybe you should ask the Levinson dealer if you can bring your Diablo in to the brick room to try with their 803 D3’s?

It’s a bit of work but you would get valuable results you can learn from.  If I were in your position I’d start there.  Offer to compensate the dealer for their time since you aren’t likely buying something.  If the speakers still lack the slam then it must be something to do with the pairing of the Levinson with your speakers.  If the slam IS there, then you can be confident the problem is your room.  That seems like the most valuable place to start.

The other thing I’d repeat is that I tested the Diablo at my dealer with the 802 D3’s.  And THEY were slightly thin sounding to me with the Diablo, so I can imagine how the 803’s would really not do the trick.  If I were to look at speakers I’d want to test Focals, Sonus Faber, Magico, based on what is available near me and of interest.

But taking your Diablo into that brick room with a pair of 803 D3’s will get you concrete results and point you in the right direction.

That's a good idea.

I've heard the focal utopia 3 evo when I was buying my 803D3. They lacked the b&w sparkle and the excellent midrange. Other than that they were similar sounding.

In comparison to 803D3 do you think your 803 D2 lack bass impact? If not how much more do you think they have? Are you happy so far with the sound?

I don't want to hi- jack your thread. How is your listening getting on with the Diablo?