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.
Can't disagree with that; it's a lot of cash.  Way too much.  But the counter to that:  the difference I heard, at least to me, is the same as the difference between the Diablo and the other preamps and amps I tested.  It is that large.

Cables are excessively marked up.  I do wonder what the actual cost to the manufacturer is.  With Nordost, I'd speculate that they sink a large percentage of corporate revenue into research and development.  And the cost to manufacture is probably peanuts, yielding massive margins. 

Even when you look at the Diablo itself, or any high-end equipment, I can't see how it could possibly cost more than $3-5K for them to manufacture a unit.  But on the other hand, I bet these companies spend a lot on R&D and testing.  Bringing a product to market costs a lot.

Cables and power cords are components, more so excellent ones. Signal transmission is a serious and complicated thing. Yes, it might cost $100 to manufacture $10k cable but it might also take three years of research and design to make it happen.


I take your point and will see for myself if the difference in cables is justified. That I will do once my components have run in.

But I think you are missing the biggest upgrade you will make by sorting your room out. I know you have mentioned that you do not have a problem with your room. That is what I thought, as you can tell from my cable scepticism. It was not until I tried it out and thought- Oh my God! I’m not kidding the difference is phenomenal. If I compare it to what you have said in terms of the cable improvements you have had, I would say it’s 100 times that. For a lot less cost than what your paying for your cables. The cost per performance ratio = value for money, that my friend is what you get. No BS here. This is what majority of ‘Hifi dream chasers’ miss out on, they end up buying a new component and think this will sort things. It might give a different sound but the overall potential is never realised and until room correction is made.

If I was to list in terms of ranking where cables come in, it will be as below-

1) Speakers

2) Amplification

3) Source

4) Room acoustics

5) Speaker, component - Isolation

6) Mains

7) cables

Not everyone tackles it like that, some folk are stuck on 1, 2 and 3. They keep going round and round in this cycle. It just makes dealers happy as they keep coming back, spending more. Can you imagine a professional studio mixing a record without any treatment or proper speaker set up? The technician might hear less bass where he increases it by 30 dB, thinking it’s correct. When you come to hear it in your room it might be so much bass that overwhelms the track. Putting the track out of balance. Each studios mix will be so different, the consumer will be so disappointed on the results as each will have something more or less. Thank god they have some standards, although not all artists care about recording quality or caters for audiophile folk who have very expensive systems. There is differences in quality of recordings as you can tell from playing a CD to a hi- res track etc.

My advise to you will be sort your room before you squeeze that very expensive cable trigger, as you’ll know look back. At a later date go for the cables to squeeze that last ounce of performance from your system.

Regarding manufacture costs and dealer margins, these are excessive when it comes to luxury HiFi. The Gryphon DAC module retails near £5000 in the UK, the amp is £13600 without any of the options. Now I ask how much do you think out of these is dealer margin? What is manufacture cost? I’ll not be surprised if the dealer isn’t taking a fat chunk out of these costs. The electronic components in these are manufactured in the far east at extremely low prices. Yes of course research and development and local labour charge is premium. That’s the state of the market, if the consumer will pay it why ask for less? I’m thinking £3500 to manufacture the Diablo 300 or maybe less?

I also have the Diablo 300.   Best amp I have ever had in my house and I have been through many.   I leave mine on all the time.   What do you guys think about that ? Are you doing the same thing ?   What does the manufacturer suggest ?   

No need to keep it on all the time, it takes 45m to reach quiescent temperature. 

Idle it consumes 200w, it does get hot to touch. Can heat my room up, ok for the winter.