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.
Personally not a fan of B&W speakers that I have heard, but I have not heard them with the Diablo. May just be me, but they sounded shrill to my ears.   I use my Diablo 300 with Sonus Faber Amati Traditions. Wonderful overall sound. Base is wonderful, “chest thumping”, and remains extremely tight. Much improved over my prior older and much less expensive Plinius integrated 9200 amp powering these speakers. Great overall sound with no weaknesses that I can detect with my ears (although only rated 28 - 35,000Hz).  Used with homemade speaker wire I assembled about 20 years ago
Bubb how many hours do you think you have on your speakers?  If you are not close to at least 250 hours, you've no idea how much the sound will improve.  Mine took about 285 hours before they sounded not terrible, and it happened suddenly when things finally clicked.  You need to leave your Diablo on 24/7 for a while, at least at a volume of 14, preferably a bit higher.  Component breakin is absolutely a real thing, especially for speakers.  If you need a trick to not drive yourself or others nuts with the endless sound:  connect the wires out of phase on ONE speaker - red to black and black to red.  Then, position your speakers so that the drivers face each other and are a couple of inches apart.  Start playing music.  The drivers will be utilized but the sound waves will be cancelled out by each other.
Regarding cables - yes they make a big, big difference.  Not always a good difference even when spending a lot, depending on the gear.  I've tried some speaker cables that I found to really accentuate certain frequencies, and sometimes in a horrible way. I've seen some reviews where the reviewers compare frequency response of different cables.  So there is measured proof there is a difference.  With speaker cables I've heard MAJOR differences, to the extent that I've heard some cables that can smooth over harsh equipment (at the cost of transparency).  With power cables, I've heard more subtle, but still obvious differences.  With my upgraded USB cable, I've heard minor improvements (with USB the timing of the USB clock signal between source and destination is better synchronized, ensuring bits are transmitted and received at the correct time - "jitter" is reduced).
While I am certain cables make a big difference, based on comparisons where results can be better or worse, I do think they are grossly overpriced.  For people who don't believe in it, take some demos home and try a blind test.  If you don't hear obvious differences, you've spent way too much on your hifi system :) Sorry, you have more money to spend...
It's no way near 250 hours, I would say about 20 hours if that. I have taken your advice aboard and will run in before any serious listening.

Let us know what you find with cables. I don't fancy spending £1000 plus on a cable. From the consumer unit to the ring main where the mains sockets are connected is regular electrical cable. So I don't see how changing a meter or so from the amp to the wall socket makes a difference. Not forgetting the mains wiring that is in the Diablo, is hardly going to be of the same quality. Every component is made to a budget, even the Diablo 300. The inside mains wiring isn't going to be a high priority for the designer.  Unless I re- wire from the power generator all the way to my house with the same quality cable. If noise is generated on other parts of the ring main then that noise is going to go through the supply voltage into the Diablo. Be it RF or DC might not infiltrate over this meter of wire but certainly will do on the rest of the cable in the property. I totally need convincing on this subject, so look forward to your findings. Even speaker cables, the quality of the wiring for example in the B&W 803D3 from the speaker posts to the cross over is not going to be anything out of the ordinary. So why spending thousands of pounds? Why not just source the same cable used inside the speaker and wire it externally too? Sorry but I don't get it. 

Have a listen to-

Nils Lofgren- Keith don't go (the acoustic live version)

The strings are fantastic on this, let me know what you think?
Hi Bubb, I think you are in for a shock as to how much better your system will sound after proper breakin.  Like I said my B&W's sounded absolutely terrible for the first 250 hours or so, and then things suddenly clicked.  Another thing I noticed:  the sound doesn't progressively get better over burn-in.  There are days where things can sound worse than the prior day.  So don't judge until you get over 250 hours!

The arguments you make about cables are exactly the same arguments that all cable skeptics have made for ages (quality of cable in your house to your outlet, etc).  The counter to the last meter of cable mattering is exactly that:  it is the final meter before going into your gear.  Source equipment, in particular digital equipment including computers, are VERY electrically noisy, and can pollute your entire house's AC circuit with noise.  Having an upgraded power cable connected to such equipment will help prevent (not eliminate) the noise that gets fed back into your power circuit which can degrade the power feeding your amp.  Likewise, an upgraded power cable feeding your amp will help filter out the AC noise that gets fed into your Diablo's power supply.  Also, there is a ton of electromagnetic noise around your gear.  Having extra shielding around the "final meter" will ensure this noise doesn't pollute your power entering your gear.  Also, any noise introduced before the final meter will be filtered out.
I am not expecting to like all three cables I am testing.  Just because they cost more than the cable I'm using currently doesn't mean I will like it better.  The point is, different cables sound different.  You may very well try one that costs a lot and think that it sounds worse than a lower end cable.  What you need to do is find the one that suits your system and tastes - you do not necessarily need to spend a lot.  But you absolutely have to try some different cables with your Diablo and B&W's, or you could be severely bottle-necking performance.  The thing about most cable skeptics is most have not tried different cables back to back in a controlled test.  Once you do, the differences are so obvious, and sometimes the differences can make the sound terrible, even with expensive cables!!  You just need to try a few.  One last thing:  the power cable to digital source equipment can make a larger difference in sound than the power cable to your amp.

Wow, incredible findings on my cable testing so far! I’m posting my results in the Cables forum, under this post:  Home Demo Faceoff:  Nordost / Audioquest / Transparent