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When the Grand Poobah from overseas announced to his writing crew that in 2010 we each could only pick one—just one lonely one—discovery of the year, I started to sweat. Anxiety won me over. How in the world was I going to acknowledge all the wonderful gear that had gone through my system in 2010? And then I thought about it. Really, there was no debate. There was no close call. Although I gave a number of awards to some very deserving phono stages and acquired more stellar amplifiers than I have rooms in the house, there was only one piece of gear that could qualify for my top pick of 2010.

Yes it is an amplifier, a category that some believe contributes little to the final sound of a system (they should know, they measure stuff...) and it is indeed the component that made the greatest impression on me this year; more than the FirstWatt F5; more than the amazing Esoteric E03 phono stage; and yes, more than the Yamamoto A08s (although that one has a special place in my heart).

So my winner for 2010 is none other than the Gryphon Diablo integrated. I have tried to take it out of my system three times already to send it back to its rightful owner. Each time I have put it back. The Diablo simply has an ease, an elegance that is rarely found and which usually comes at the expense of either dynamics or resolution but in this case both are of the utmost quality. Coupled with my Zu Essence speakers the Diablo probably rarely puts out more than a handful of watts out of its 250-horse cavalry. Yet its micro inflections, microdynamics and sense of excitement are more reminiscent of a finely tuned 45 triode than of a kilowatt McIntosh. [Actual comparisons of the Gryphon to three other top amplifiers compliments of Frederic's 4 Blue Moons feature can be found here - Ed.]

Of course it is a Gryphon. Do not look for coloration, warmth, cold, bloom or distortion. The Diablo is straight and lean, fast and brutal when needed, gentle as a feather when called for, huge when the music is recorded that way and intimate when necessary. The Diablo has been in my system for a few months now on loan from Gryphon. Although my usual references aren't shabby, they lack that last level of passion and aliveness that the Gryphon never seems to run out of.

I wish I could hear the smaller Attila to see just how much of the Diablo's performance remains in the brand's entry model. I certainly would love to hear their CD players. The lack of distribution in the US simply makes those auditions challenging at best. So won't anybody step up and do the Gryphon justice by bringing it back here? I certainly wish and hope so. Our readers in Asia and Europe are far better served. Good for them. In the meantime I rejoice in being one of the lucky few this side of the pond. All my other amplifiers are taking a forced sabbatical until such day as Gryphon recalls the Diablo. That won't be a happy day.

I'll leave with a final link those of you who have embraced hi-definition downloads. Qobuz is a French site which offers a huge variety of material to either download or stream—based on your preference—with a growing proportion of high resolution files. Their prices are even reasonable, at least quite a bit more so than alternate equivalents. Embracing master quality file downloads is probably one of the most urgent things we need to do as a group or else that very promising (for audiophiles) revolution will be lost like SACD and others before it. If such sites as Qobuz or 2L are allowed to fail, we'll just have to wait for the next technology to come to hear music as it was recorded... in 20 or 30 years. Have a smashing end of 2010 and a year 2011 full of musical (high) resolutions.