The Gryphon Audio Diablo 300 Integrated Amplifier with DAC Review
The prospect of Lockdown made better
Gryphon Audio Designs make some of most aspirational HiFi components across the whole world. There is something very special about their products, how they look and definitely how the sound. When Nintronics HiFi and AV dealership told me they would be stocking Gryphon products I was extremely excited as it likely meant I would have a chance to spend some real time with a Gryphon amplifier, DAC and or speakers. However this didn’t happen certain events they hosted passed me by and I missed my chance to have that special listening session I had been desiring.
A few days before the UK went into lock down I happened to be at Nintronics to shoot a KEF event, at this time part of Europe was in lock down but the UK hadn’t announced or done anything, however I knew the chance of a lock down was probable so I seized the moment. I told Nintronics I was taking one of their Diablo 300 demo models home because I could wait no longer to listen to it, I can be forceful when I need to be. In reality I had 3 other very exciting products to review and I knew they would all benefit from each other being in my review system and these products would likely move the sound quality on and a great amplifier would be essential to allow that to happen.
Sometimes its good to justify your personal desires with professional reason
Taking the lid off
I am not an engineer, often I wish I was and sometimes I am glad I am not so when I take the lid off of a piece of HiFi and look inside I do so with very amateur eyes. I cannot look at the circuit and make a judgement on it for good or for bad but its very easy even for non trained eyes to see when something is built to an extreme high quality. Looking inside the Diablo 300 was very interesting, its as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside.
Huge Norotel torodial transformers, big Sanken transistors and capacitors, lots of very big capacitors. This Diablo 300 happened to have the DAC module installed in it which is an upgrade customers can choose to have installed as well as a phono stage and it was interesting to see the DAC module had its own housing which I assume is there to act as a shield.
Everything is huge in the Diablo 300, it all looks massively over specified to do its job which often means its built to fully do its job and do it for many years. It also often means a lot of weight and the Diablo 300 weighing in at around 84lbs or 38kg definitely gets a tick in that box.
Big in size Bigger in Spec
The Gryphon Diablo 300 is a large integrated amplifier in terms of its physical size, it fitted onto my HiFi rack ok but it was a tight fit using a stiff power cable such as the exceptional Tellurium Q Statement, however in good Audiophile fashion I made it work. The rear layout of the amplifier is very impressive with the speakers, analogue, power and digital connection positions being very well thought out keeping things nicely separated and making it easier to install your cables neatly. I was particularity impressed to see line level subwoofer connections as these could be very useful to some Audiophiles.
The Diablo 300 is also a very large amplifier in terms of raw power, its capable of delivering 300 watts into 8ohms, 600 watts into 4ohms and 950 watts into 2 ohms. It does this with zero negative feedback through a dual mono configuration design using a Microprocessor-controlled 43-step fully balanced relay volume attenuator for the best sonic performance based on a minimalist contingent of ultra-precision resistors. It has Military specification dual-layer and four-layer printed circuit boards with up to 105 micron copper traces, new, high-speed, discrete single-ended Class A input buffer again for the best possible sonic performance and more and more. Its a hugely impressive specification list and I would urge you to read up on this incredible amplifiers design.
Even Bigger in Sound if you want it to be
I am very glad I got to review the Diablo 300 with its internal DAC module upgrade because this helped me to find the truth about how this amplifier really sounds. I used two different DAC setups for the review and comparing the sound from one to the other really couldn't have been anymore chalk and cheese.
The Gryphon internal DAC makes the Diablo 300 sound big and bold, dynamic and very expressive with a little edginess some would say is a "live" sound. Using a Chord Electronics Hugo TT2 with Chord Electronics Hugo M Scaler pairing linked together using Wave High Fidelity Storm Reference SPDIF cables and connected to the Gryphon through Tellurium Q Statement RCA phono cables the sound was fast, tight and focused with exceptional timing and clarity and better than the Gryphon DAC in all these areas but it was missing the drive and scale and "live" sound. Two very different presentations from the same amplifier and same speakers and same room.
Taking this further I used the Tungsten Grooves W70 Vibration Isolation Feet with the Chord Hugo TT2 / M Scaler pairing and that helped to add more fullness, richness and especially bass to the sound of the Diablo 300 through my review system but not to the same level as using the Gryphon internal DAC. Going the other way using the Chord Hugo M Scaler to upsample the music to 176khz hugely improved the timing, clarity and focus of sound from the internal Gryphon DAC, not to the same level as the Chord Duo pairing but much better and combined with the very "live" energetic big sound this made for a very compelling overall presentation.
Again this is two very different ways to enjoy music from the same amplifier and same speakers and I dont recall having experienced this degree of difference before. I took a lot from this, firstly in how clean the input to output is from the Diablo 300, its very clearly not imparting its own sonic amplifier signature on the source material which is very impressive and commendable. I can also take away from this how important it is having not only a very high quality source but one you very much like the sound of because the Gryphon Diablo 300 will show you it for all its worth.
Secondly and again extremely worthy of note is that the internal DAC within the Diablo 300 with the help of Chords outstanding Hugo M Scaler sounds truly fantastic if you like a big and live full energy musical presentation.
Its all a learning curve
Spending time with the Diablo 300 was very interesting, I feel I learnt a lot from my time with it in how I want a HiFi system to sound and how to better review components. I spent days working with Dirac Live fine tuning the sound from my KEF Reference 3 speakers putting into practice what I learned from making a video about how much bass a HiFi and audio system needs to sound balanced and it definitely is much more than you think. The sonic feedback I was able to get from my review system thanks to the outstanding control of the speakers from the Diablo 300 was incredible and I appreciate many may not understand why that is important and impressive but hopefully you trust me that it is.
As an amplifier the Diablo has a smooth and refined treble even when pushed hard and it never loses its composure keeping the treble shimmering even when music is complex. The mid range and vocals are depending on the source / DAC either ultra focused, clean and tight sounding with incredible resolution or big and lively and full of energy and expression. I loved them both and or either ways.
The bass quality was the first thing I noticed from the Diablo 300 and its a very standout sonic character, bearing in mind what I have explained about the transparency to source. As I have also mentioned I used Dirac Live to ask for more bass from my KEF speakers than I have ever asked of them before and they delivered it to me fast and nigh on instant start and stop thanks to the outstanding driver control of the Diablo. The KEF are not the fastest speakers in the world for their bass delivery but being powered by the Diablo 300 was the fastest, biggest and boldest bass I have had them deliver thus far, by quite some way.
But how much does it cost?
The Gryphon Diablo is a very premium product and it has a price tag to match of £13,600 and with the DAC Module it takes the price to around £18500 which makes it the most expensive product I have reviewed thus far
The Gryphon Diablo 300 is a very impressive HiFi Integrated amplifier which is hugely capable and a joy to listen to, it offers unrivalled authority in how it drives and controls speakers without putting any of its own sonic character on the music and it offers Audiophiles outstanding sound quality and speaker drive capability from a single chassis solution.
For a lot of audiophiles the Diablo 300 represents very much an aspirational end game integrated amplifier and you can count me in that category. If an Audiophile worked hard and saved their pennies to buy a Diablo 300 I think they can own one with real pride and sit safely in the knowledge they have one of the best integrated amplifiers available, its certainly the best I have reviewed thus far and I happily award it our highest "Special Performer" honour
A Special Performer Award is Pursuit Perfect Systems highest accolade and is in recognition of exceptional product performance regardless of price