Gryphon Essence Preamp and Amp Combo vs Diablo 300 vs Antileon EVO/Zena – First Post

PC IanLishman Essence4 on rack

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We have been quiet during the #stayathome order as we took a deep dive into finishing projects, knocking down the “it’d be nice to…” list, and tons of dedicated listening time.  The only silver lining with audio show cancellations is that most of our demo gear are back at the ranch and we have been able to swap units around, explore different music formats and sources, discover tons of music, making more playlists and taking loads of listening notes.

Gryphon released their first production shipment for the new Essence Preamplifer and Power Amplifier(s) into the U.S. and Canada end of March this year, just in time for the lockdown and show cancellation (sigh).  We received our units on the 7th of April and dealers received them from us a week after that.

Many people have asked us how the Gryphon Essence Preamp, Stereo Amp (or Mono) combo sound when compared to the Gryphon’s famed Diablo 300 and to the beloved Antileon EVO/Zena Preamp combo.  This would be at least a 2-posts blog article, updating as we continue to refine our opinion and collect dealers/users/industry insiders’ opinions.  For now…

Pure Class A vs Class AB.    The Diablo 300 is regarded as one of the best integrated amplifiers; loved by many, and a very well implemented Class AB design.  The Essence is a pure class A experience, delivering a resolute midrange with a very well defined soundstage.

Power and Wattage.              There is no doubt that the Essence outperforms Diablo 300 on all parameters except for watts as the Diablo 300 is the most powerful Gryphon amp in terms of watts.  However, in terms of power reserves, the Diablo 300 cannot be compared with the Essence mono or even stereo as the Diablo 300 “only” has 136.000 microfarad (in total) and the Essence (stereo version) has a total of 440.000 microfarad.  This gives the Essence in terms of woofer control a massive advantage. As a comparison, the Antileon EVO is 670.000 in total for the stereo version and 2×150 watts, pure Class A.

Tonality.   The overall tonality of the Antileon EVO leans towards the warmer side than the Essence and often when compared to the Diablo 300 as everything the 300 is, except it is even bigger from every sense.  Essence’s tonality is much like the Mephisto with timbre very much on par.  It is a tad sweeter sounding than the Mephisto and a fantastic balance with great resolution.

Bass.        There are lots to be gained with the Essence.  The bass response is much faster and deeper and even more timbrally correct than the Diablo 300, simply a superb performance. Its firm, well-defined, with massive attack in a pure demonstration of power.  The wealth of detail and fine handling of bass and high frequencies contribute to the preamplifier’s ability to render the width and depth of a soundstage with three-dimensional realism and instrumental placement with great precision and realistic size.

A forum user who have been into high end audio for decades posted his experience with the Essence combo.  It was well written and thoughtful.  He upgraded from his Diablo 300 integrated, driving his Mojo S loudspeaker system.  You may find it an interesting read here:

How much of the experience is due to the Preamp and how much is from the Amp.       The Zena preamp and the Essence preamp are exactly the same other than the case design to provide for the two different amplifiers so an Essence vs Antileon EVO comparison with their matching preamps is ALL coming from the amps, all else being equal.  Comparing that to the Diablo 300 is not something we can indulged in (yes, we were asked that question).  While it is technically possible, Gryphon frowns on tapping into the Diablo 300’s preamp to drive another amp as it was not designed for that purpose.

Preliminary conclusion:

The Antileon EVO + Zena combo is everything the coveted Diablo 300 is about and more in every way, an all in all, the more of everything in every way experience.   If you don’t play your music very very loudly and if your speakers are reasonably efficient, then this Essence pre/power combo at 50 WPC dual mono is a fantastic way to open up the famed Class A pleasure from the House of Gryphon to your home without the extra $16k price tag (Essence stereo amplifier is $22,990 vs the Antileon EVO is $39,000.  The two preamplifiers are $17,500 each).

Here’s the conclusion from the whatsbestform post we referred to above:

“The Essence pairing is a monumental leap in performance in every way”… “With Gryphon making its Class A more affordable”…”It’s a high-end, ultra stylish combination which I can’t recommend enough as an obvious move from the 120 or 300; or from anything else in anywhere near its price point, for that matter.  The performance of Gryphon’s new Essence undeniably offers a fantastic next step for Gryphon Diablo 300 owners…”

Call to Action:

If you are a current Gryphon integrated amplifier owner and want even more out of your music experience, Gryphon has just made it easier to do that and given the offerings, the options are multiple.  Don’t forget this post hasn’t covered the performance of the Pandora Preamp in the mix.  Sound is personal and Gryphon’s Essence offering made it all the more customizable to bring the sound from the House of Gryphon to your home with a palpable upgrade path.  Visit your nearby dealer or contact us for more information here.


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