Gryphon Essence

Sep 22, 2018
40
11
13
#1
After a week of listening I thought a review of my Gryphon Essence pre/stereo power amplifiers might be worthwhile. I’m a passionate music listener but this (as may become obvious) is not my day job. However, I hope the below main observations help anyone else wondering about the qualities of Gryphon’s new babies. My reference and comparison points are the Diablo 300 which I owned prior to this pair and, prior to that, Naim 252/250DR. Rest of the system is Mirus Resonessence Pro dac, Melco N1Zh server, Mojo S speakers, Gryphon Guideline Reference and VIP cabling.

Before talking about sound, a word about aesthetics. The pictures can’t do these units justice. The finish is typical Gryphon – flawless. I love the new Fleming Rasmussen design which, when it comes to the fascia layout, takes its queue from the profile of a record groove’s ‘v’ shape. It’s uber cool. The power amp sits at the bottom of my rack looking utterly menacing. Before power-up, it reminds me of the monolith from 2010 A Space Odyssey; the black, straight-edged, impenetrable block gives nothing away. It just sits there promising all kinds of awesome. Switch on and a thin blue horizontal light strip (and tiny Gryphon logo) is the only sign of life and now reminds me of Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still. (These might be references to past icons, but this has more to do with how these up-to-the-minute, super contemporary designs resonate with my sci’ fi’ past. In reality, they wouldn’t look out of place in SpaceX). Above it, the pre’ sits with stylish poise and purpose, it’s ‘V’ pointing to the warp engine, below. It has the same perfectly flat, sleek, black acrylic and brushed steel surface. There are no controls to interfere with the futuristic finish or the digital information displayed behind it; touch screen technology sees to that; that and a handset made from a collapsed star. At first it looks a bit ordinary; until you pick it up and feel the extraordinary weight and notice the beautiful black, brushed steel finish. It sits perfectly ergonomically in the hand & possesses comprehensive functionality that is entirely intuitive.

I won't list all the technical specs, either, because you can find them on Gryphon's website, too. But the headlines are that these units are true dual mono, negative global feedback, Class A (and A/B) 2 x 50w into 8 ohms, 2 x 100w into 4 ohms... and the pre' can incorporate dac and phono modules.

Sound, then and even ‘straight out of the box’ is an OMG moment. The bass. The bass is staggering. Remember, I’m coming off the Diablo 300 which is no slouch in any department, let alone bass. It’s truly palpable and provides a rock solid, iron-fist-controlled foundation to the presentation. It’s like it is at a real gig. The impact, density, weight, textural depth and slam are in an entirely different league to those I experienced with the Diablo 300 on Dynaudio Contour 60’s – 3-ways with 2 x 9” woofers compared to the 2-way Mojo’s 2 x 5.5” mid range units. That’s a pretty clever trick. And it’s fast; no overhang, no flab. Just precise, correct. My room is 12’ x 24’ with the speakers off the short wall. Previous experience suggests this is all the bass this space can take without needing room treatments. The Contour’s went down to 28hz; Mojo is quoted, conservatively I'd say, at 37hz, but it’s very rare that I notice the lowest bass to be wanting. I certainly don’t miss the endless messing about with panels to try to counter bass boom. This is great news because, until this moment, I’d been thinking I’d need to shoehorn Pantheons into my space to gain the kind of bass and general scale I really wanted. No more.

The next most obvious feature is the sheer weight and density of the sound, spread precisely about a soundstage that has grown in every dimension and direction. Essence has freed the sound and the performers from the confines of the speakers (which have disappered) to the extent that they dance about before me with more presence and realism than I have ever experienced before. There is more three dimensionality to the sound; bass notes are more holographic; the sense of the recording space is much better defined. More detail, like background crowd shouts which I hadn’t heard before, contribute to a greater feeling of realism. In this sense, I find myself drawn into the recording space and lost in its ambience, rather than listening-in from outside. The Diablo is often described as having great authority; Essence redefines authority in this context. Bass is tight and totally controlled. Highs are extended and sweet, never etched or bright. Mids are smooth, refined, coherent; live lead vocals are just as I remember from the gigs. Instruments are better defined and separated yet the whole still binds well together and remains musical and deeply emotive. Everything is in perfect balance. No one element is jacked-up for effect. Again, every element is just ‘correct’.

On power - anyone looking at power output and worrying that it might not be enough can rest easy. The power amp holds a massive 440,000 micro farads in its capacitor bank, which is constantly available. Gryphon say it's enough to drive the most demanding loads and I believe them. It fills my space in a significantly more potent way than did even the Diablo 300 with its 300w into 8 ohms; and it maintains 100% coherence and integrity at volumes I couldn’t listen to for more than a minute.

Music notes : Nanci Griffith’s beautiful voice brought a tear because she was right there in front of me like she was in the Albert Hall 30 years ago. Gary Numan’s live electronica from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery thundered and shook its way through my lounge with the force of an Aussie 64-wheel, 3 trailer road train. The bass guitar line in Costello’s Watching the Detectives was a more textured, gripping and present foundation to that track than before; the opening, crashing drums were breathtaking, such was the weight. I’m surprised, verging on shocked, at what the Mojo S is capable of, driven by Essence. I had no idea. The piano notes of Claire de Lune timed perfectly and fell beautifully, delicately with richly textured decay; the best representation of piano I've heard. I listened to Swan Lake and heard tiers of wind and string instruments which had previously not been as distinguishable and percussion that was so fast from start to stop and had so much slam, it made be jump; then the harp with such beauty and delicacy. I could also sense the great scale of the orchestra and the space it occupied like never before. Gilmore’s guitar highs on a live Comfortably Numb were thrilling; fully extended but not shrill, textured but not dampened. Lofgren’s guitar plucks had more body and substance, putting him right in front of me, but still held onto their raw energy. If there’s texture in the recorded note, Essence reproduces it. All this extra detail retrieval and weight combines to recreate performances in a way that is utterly convincing and musical.

Essence also plays low volume exceptionally well. No recessed vocals; no dominant bass – or disappearing bass. Just the same, perfect balance. Then, at the loudest level I’m likely to want to play, there’s not a hint of any kind of degradation. Just more and more emotional connection as the soundstage fills the room. There’s no fatigue, either. I can listen for hours.

A word about Gryphon Class A and Essence. You can run the amp, fully, in either Class A or A/B. But if you connect the Green Bias cable between pre and power, the amp will automatically assign, from one of two selectable bias programmes (High or Low) Class A or A/B across three volume ranges. I’ve been listening exclusively in High Bias which, as I understand it, gives me A/B from volume 1-14 and A from volume 15 upwards. In practical terms this means I’m using quite a bit less electricity when listening at non-critical low levels and permanently drawing max power only at volume levels where I’m listening seriously. I can’t comment on sonic differences between A and A/B because I haven’t judged them, yet. But I can refer you to the comment above re: low level listening. Oh and whilst the amp gets pretty warm, it’s not as hot as I was expecting. My room was not uncomfortable during last week’s hot weather. With both doors open.

I’ll hang up my laptop there. IMO Gryphon have hit a home run with Essence. I moved from Naim because I wanted to reduce box count and because I wanted a different, perhaps more truthful, present, less frenetic kind of presentation with deeper insight. The Diablo 300 was the perfect move and is a magnificent integrated amplifier. I could have lived with it forever. But then Gryphon made their Class A more affordable and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to try it, albeit adding another box. The Essence pairing is a monumental leap in performance in every way. 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. Essence creates a more visceral, honest and truly lifelike representation of performers and instruments in my room than I have previously experienced. I can’t imagine what Antileon and Mephisto can do. Thankfully, I don’t need to. I’m in musical Nirvana. An excellent moment to queue up and listen to what Essence does with their MTV Unplugged in New York. I can't wait.
 

Attachments

BruceD

VIP/Donor
Dec 13, 2013
1,163
179
285
#2
Indeed Excellent review!--big Gryphon fan here!-- the cleaner lines are big plus in the Industrial design there --I felt the

overly use of buttresses and seemingly add on protrusions of some of the previous Units were just too heavy and unnecessary.

I felt they were over designed visually--IMHO!

Great products tho --Enjoy and Kudos

BrcueD
 
Likes: eagle3333

GSOphile

Well-Known Member
Sep 4, 2017
277
116
113
#3
eagle3333, thank you. Outstanding review and right on the money for this Diablo 300 owner. Question: How does the Essence pre differ from the Diablo front end? Or is what you're describing really the whole amplification subsystem since your point of reference is the Diablo integrated?
 
Likes: eagle3333
Sep 22, 2018
40
11
13
#4
eagle3333, thank you. Outstanding review and right on the money for this Diablo 300 owner. Question: How does the Essence pre differ from the Diablo front end? Or is what you're describing really the whole amplification subsystem since your point of reference is the Diablo integrated?
Thanks GSO. Your surmise is right - the sound I'm describing is the product of the two Essence units together and I couldn't tell you the attributes specific to them individually; only the combination against the whole of the integrated. For me, I'm sold on Gryphon's presentation and by keeping amplification, speakers and cables exclusive to the brand, I guarantee myself maximum joy and none of the past horrors of endlessly trying to match different components to get the sound I want :)
 
Last edited:
Likes: Musicguy
#5
eagle333 congrats on a great write-up. Just one small correction - the Essence preamp can accept a fully balanced DAC module or the PS2-S phono stage with variable loading, but not both. If an audiophile needs both, then we suggest that he goes with the internal DAC and either the Sonett or Legato external phono stages. Happy Listening.
 
Last edited:
Sep 22, 2018
40
11
13
#6
eagle333 congrats on a great write-up. Just one small correction - the Essence preamp can accept a fully balanced DAC module or the PS2-S phono stage with variable loading, but not both. If an audiophile needs both, then we suggest that he goes with the internal DAC and either the Sonnet or Legatto external phono stages. Happy Listening.
Ah, thanks Philip!
 
Sep 22, 2018
40
11
13
#8
@eagle3333 did you order the Zena DAC module as well with the Essence pre? Loved the Resonessence DAC when I heard it at RMAF a while back, curious how they compare.
No I'm still using the Mirus. There was no opportunity to hear Essence' on board dac and the Mirus is just such a superb dac I wasn't going to risk changing it 'blind'. I did a/b it with a Chord Dave months ago and found the Mirus to be superior. I'd be pretty surprised if the Gryphon DAC module bettered it. But the Ethos CD player/dac.. That would really be an interesting comparison and likely the only thing I'd change the Mirus for - but it's out of my price league.
 
Jun 13, 2020
19
9
5
43
New Jersey
taww.co
#9
@eagle3333 very cool. My only experience with the Mirus was in Duke’s AudioKinesis room @ RMAF2018:
https://taww.co/post/182173319702/miy-taww-rmaf-2018-audiokinesis

It seems like these small pro-style DACs started becoming popular when Benchmark made a splash in the audiophile market but they never appealed to me. When I saw the Resonessence and learned a bit about it I thought oh great, another thin-sounding, unnaturally detailed Sabre DAC. Wow was I wrong... I do like the Chord DAVE a lot but not shocked you found the Mirus up to snuff given how fantastic it sounded to me even with the unfamiliar setup. (Helps that Hans and Duke were so gracious and let me play whatever I wanted.)

Is Resonessence still around, btw? The Mirus struck me as a real sleeper that should have caught on more.

Anyway, back onto the original topic - I should have my own Essence set in-house soon for review, just deciding on the DAC option vs. my PS Audio DirectStream...
 
Sep 22, 2018
40
11
13
#10
@eagle3333 very cool. My only experience with the Mirus was in Duke’s AudioKinesis room @ RMAF2018:
https://taww.co/post/182173319702/miy-taww-rmaf-2018-audiokinesis

It seems like these small pro-style DACs started becoming popular when Benchmark made a splash in the audiophile market but they never appealed to me. When I saw the Resonessence and learned a bit about it I thought oh great, another thin-sounding, unnaturally detailed Sabre DAC. Wow was I wrong... I do like the Chord DAVE a lot but not shocked you found the Mirus up to snuff given how fantastic it sounded to me even with the unfamiliar setup. (Helps that Hans and Duke were so gracious and let me play whatever I wanted.)

Is Resonessence still around, btw? The Mirus struck me as a real sleeper that should have caught on more.

Anyway, back onto the original topic - I should have my own Essence set in-house soon for review, just deciding on the DAC option vs. my PS Audio DirectStream...
Yep, what I love about the Mirus Pro is it's the complete opposite of 'thin-sounding and unnaturally detailed'. it did make the Dave sound thin by comparison, though. I got into it a few years back because the littler chatter I found on the 'net referred to an analogue feel; which was what I wanted. It produces great detail but also great weight and body. About as natural as digital can get, perhaps. I agree with you, too, about it being a sleeper. Perhaps because Mark didn't have the marketing dollars to get the magazines to review it. It's hard to find a UK dealer whose even heard of Resonessence. Yes, I think they're still around and producing. Gryphon's Ethos has the next-gen' Sabre chips and is getting rave reviews everywhere; so I guess it's in the implementation/shielding..

Great news re: your demo'! Do leave some feedback and about the internal dac.. I'm beyond stacks of boxes these days so any opportunity to drop one is worthwhile in my book. Assuming SQ isn't hurt.
 
Sep 22, 2018
40
11
13
#12
Nice one Taww :). What do you make of it?
 
Jun 13, 2020
19
9
5
43
New Jersey
taww.co
#13
Nice one Taww :). What do you make of it?
The pre sounds incredible out of the box. The amp seems like it will need some time but it was hardly warmed up even when I gave a first listen. I’ll do some power draw measurements but it runs cooler than I was expecting in low bias mode which is nice. I’ll of course light it up for serious listening in full class A glory, but it’s nice to have the option.
 
Sep 22, 2018
40
11
13
#14
The pre sounds incredible out of the box. The amp seems like it will need some time but it was hardly warmed up even when I gave a first listen. I’ll do some power draw measurements but it runs cooler than I was expecting in low bias mode which is nice. I’ll of course light it up for serious listening in full class A glory, but it’s nice to have the option.
I think it’s hard not to be impressed.

I’d be very interested in those power draw figures. My findings on heat match yours. I really appreciate the fact that I can, if I want, leave the amp on but with volume level down and so into A/B so there’s much less draw on idle. Without that I’d have to be turning off/on every day with attendant 45 min warm-up time - don’t feel good about drawing a lot of current, permanently..
 
Jun 13, 2020
19
9
5
43
New Jersey
taww.co
#15
The Essence combo has been running for 24 hours and the amp definitely needed the time to settle in, understandable for a big Class A amp with tons of capacitance - Pass XA amps also sound very sleepy for a day after being powered down. I’ll save the detailed comments for the upcoming reviews on the blog after more time and listening, but some initial thoughts...

The clarity and natural realism are outstanding. The ultimate arbiter of musical realism in my house is my wife, a professional oboist with extremely sharp ears. We played some orchestral recordings (e.g. Chicago Symphony Resound) with principle oboists she’s studied with and knows inside out from real-life encounters - their unique tone, their mannerisms. She was pretty floored by how much more the Essence combo lets you listen into the recording and hear all the nuances of their performance - the vibrato, the breath technique, the subtle phrase inflections and yes the technical blips. Recording after recording, she was deeply impressed.

I’ve heard the Diablo 300 on my speakers, and the Antileon EVO + Zena at RMAF2018. I’m interpolating a bunch, but I think Philip characterizes the difference in character between the amps quite well. The Diablo is the boisterous and fun one, with a chocolatey midrange, bit of mid bass bloom and the punchy dynamics that you get from great Class AB amps that tend to have a bit more speed and slam than most Class A due to lower quiescent current and thus having more power reserves on hand. The EVO had all the purity and linearity of Class A but with an almost romantic richness to it. The Essence amp strikes me as the most even-handed of the three, with the least of the characteristic “darkness” that many love about the Gryphon sound. At first blush this may be slightly disappointing, but listen more closely and you’ll quickly appreciate the accuracy and realism. It has an extremely open and transparent top end that gives violin and woodwind solos appropriate delicacy, but when the left hand of a piano accompaniment comes in it has the requisite weight and density. Much of the credit for this goes to the Essence pre which had a transformative effect on the frequency extremes even when plugged into my other amps (Valvet A4 Mk.II) - bass took on newfound depth and triangles sounded like altogether different (and more realistic) instruments. I know the preamp is critical to a system but I was simply blown away by the improvement over the Pass XP10, which is by no means the greatest pre but has always been a sizable improvement over directly connecting DACs to amplifiers. The extreme accuracy and naturalness of the amp also allowed me to put the Furutech DSS-4.1 speaker cables back in, which are very transparent but revealed a bit too much electronic grain from other pre/amp combos which necessitated falling back to the Audience Au24 SX, also a terrific cable but a bit more forgiving.

By the way, the Green Bias feature is great but there’s no doubt the amp sounds better fully ablaze in Class A. :) It still sounds excellent in low bias mode, but loses some of its full-bloodedness and immediacy. One thing I need to improve on is the stock power cord - I‘m currently running a full set of Furutech DPS-4.1 (excellent, btw) but I need to retrofit once with a 20A IEC plug. I have a feeling I’ll be able to improve on the bass and dynamics substantially once I get that set up.

This weekend I’ll install the Zena DAC and measure the power draw, which is rated at 350W at idle which is a shade more than a Pass XA30.8 but considerably more than the 180W I measured from my XA30.5. Due to the efficiency of the heatsinks on the Essence the temperature feels quite a bit more comfortable. Low bias is said to cut the power by half which is still 175W but it seems like much less - it runs only slightly warmer than a Bryston 4B Cubed at only 60W. I may actually be able to run my home theater through this thing too!
 
Last edited:
Sep 22, 2018
40
11
13
#16
Very articulate first impressions, thank you. Vibrato In voices which I previously had no idea was there was one of my first and most obvious discoveries, too. Elsewhere, all is in line with my own observations; especially the remark you make re: dac direct vs pre. I‘ve always found a pre amp superior; though I’ve limited experience with different dacs.

On power cords I bought the Gryphon Headline for convenience - couldn’t find a cord with that connector and too impatient to retro-fit to existing. For the same reason I can’t compare it with anything but I’m perfectly happy with the sound.

Enjoy and I’ll look forward to your power stats :)
 

Lagonda

VIP/Donor
Feb 4, 2014
1,451
1,329
560
Denmark
#17
I am truly impressed with the quality of reviewing by “private” Gryphon owners since Phillip took over ! You guys are almost to good to be true :rolleyes: Is there a requirement of reviewing skill needed when becoming a Gryphon owner ;)
 
Last edited:
Likes: GSOphile

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
11,500
471
628
#18
Agree...fantastic write ups and comments. I look forward to reading more as a big fan and owner of Gryphon for many years.
 
Likes: Lagonda
Sep 22, 2018
40
11
13
#19
I am truly impressed with the quality of reviewing by “private” Gryphon owners since Phillip took over ! You guys are almost to good to be true :rolleyes: Is there a requirement of reviewing skill needed when becoming a Gryphon owner ;)
They say there’s a book in everyone.. But I defer to Taww whose initial notes, to me, come across with more gravitas. I thought I’d done quite well until I read them and felt my own relegated to the realms of over ‘colourful’ and sentimental. Perhaps in combination they’ll cover all the bases:)
P.S. I really am totally ‘private’. Just brand-smitten - plus the people at head office, especially Rune, are as I’ve never come across in 30 years of business. A more passionate, professional, devoted and caring team who go above and beyond, you could not wish to meet. Ownership is to be part of a family. There, too much emotion again..
 
Last edited:

Lagonda

VIP/Donor
Feb 4, 2014
1,451
1,329
560
Denmark
#20
Agree...fantastic write ups and comments. I look forward to reading more as a big fan and owner of Gryphon for many years.
And i have always enjoyed the reports on your gear and system progression. Even with your more average reviewing skills:), i am personally filled with inferiority complex when i read these latest reviews:rolleyes:
 

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high-end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. A place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss existing and new audio products, music servers, music streamers and computer audio, digital to audio converters, turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel to reel, speakers, headphones, tube amplifiers and solid state amplification. Founded in 2010 What's Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing