Country of Origin


Essence preamplifer & stereo amplifier

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Denafrips Terminator+ clock-synced to Soundaware D300Ref SD transport/USB reclocker; Preamp: Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature with WE VT52/300B or Elrog 50/300B; Power amps: LinnenberG Liszt monos; Headamps: Questyle CMA-800r monos; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Aurai Audio M1 [on loan]; Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, LessLoss C-MARC Entropic cords between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room so no wall behind the listening chairs
2nd system: Source: Soundaware D100Pro SD transport; DAC/pre: Denafrips Terminator or COS Engineering D1; Amplifier: Bakoon AMP-13R or Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: Acelec Model 1 w. Franck Tchang magnesium super tweeters, sound|kaos Vox 3awf, Zu Submission subwoofer; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan];  Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~4x6m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win7/64; USB bridge: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headamp: Kinki Studio Vision THR-1; Phones: Audeze LCD-XC on Forza Audio Lab cable; Powered speakers: Fram Audio Midi 120
Upstairs headfi system: Source: Soundaware A280 SD transport; Integrated amplifiers: Schiit Jotunheim R or Bakoon AMP-13R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a, Audeze LCD-2, Final Sonorous X & D8000, HifiMan HE-1000
2-channel video system: 
Source: Oppo BDP-105; DAC: Kinki Studio; Preamp: Wyred4Sound STP-SE II; Power amp: Pass Labs XA-30.8; Loudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120; Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: €12'800 ex VAT for the preamplifier, €16'800 for the power amplifier

The essentials. Someone tells you to pack 'em. Quickly. You're to be off on an impromptu weekend trip. So you grab your toiletries, socks, underwear and a clean shirt or two. Does any of it equate to the essence of you? Clearly not. Chasing essence, we get closer with aged spirits. They represent the matured essence of the grains or fruits they were distilled from. So it's telling that Gryphon's second-last design testament from founder Flemming Rasmussen would go by Essence. The preamplifier, stereo amp and mono amps in this range must represent the perfect distillate of the company's design ethos and sonic ambitions. With their displays, these components continue the round-nosed triangle motif which the Danes had introduced with their Ethos CD player. Now only one design concept remains to be unveiled from the three Rasmussen had promised upon his retirement.

Anyone familiar with Gryphon circuits as executed by Tom Møller calls out class A bias, direct coupling for no signal-path capacitors, dual differential/dual mono and zero feedback. It's the company's four-square design base for all their electronics. The Essence joins Zena and Pandora in 2020's catalogue on the 'preamplifier' page. It adds the familiar 5-input Zena digital board option for USB, AES/EBU, BNC, coax and Toslink; and the alternate RIAA option of PS2-S MM/MC phono module.

In Hindu belief, ash represents ultimate purity. It's what fire couldn't consume. In Gryphon's Nordic religion, such purity means a sacrificial burning away of all controls for phase, balance, mono, polarity inversion or headphones. Hookup cabling too has been burnt off except for a short ground lead, display ribbons and AC power wiring in a shielded channel. Essence isn't frivolity.

User friendliness comes from a micro-processor-driven menu. It accesses input naming, max/start levels, input level matching, home-theater bypass, display brightness and green bias. With the latter, a companion Gryphon power amp's class A bias can be reduced by 25% or 50% if not all of its available power is required. Essence the preamplifier offers 18dB of voltage gain, a low output impedance of 15/22.5Ω on XLR/RCA, input impedance of 25/50kΩ on RCA/XLR, exploded -3dB bandwidth of 0.1Hz to 1MHz (!) and power supply capacitance of 2 x 26'000μF. The chassis is 47×16.5×38.5cm WxHxD and weighs 13.4kg.