Essence the stereo power amplifier generates 50wpc/8Ω in pure class A. That doubles to 100w/4Ω. It just about doubles again to 190w/2Ω. It's testament to a very stout power supply with 1'350VA  transformer supplying 10 high-current bipolar Sanken transistors per channel. It's why the IEC is of the mechanically more robust 20A sort. Output impedance is a low 0.015Ω, input impedance 20kΩ and -3dB bandwidth a once more very high 0.3Hz-350kHz. Voltage gain of 31dB too is high as is 440'000µF capacitance and 45kg mass from a 47x24x46cm WxHxD enclosure. When it comes to class A, there's no free lunch. Whilst classic, it's a heavy-metal recipe. It's the antithesis of lightweight high-efficiency class D with fast-switching transistors, switch-mode power supplies and zero serious iron. Class A output devices never turn off. They don't switch. They consume exactly the same power at idle as they do under full load. That stubborn behavior of being always 'on' avoids zero-crossing distortion between on/off states and switching noise. In trade it requires copious thermal dissipation. That equals lots of radiated heat to need plenty of radiator fins. For dissipation, surface area is king. Green Bias triggered by a Gryphon preamp can set the amp to behave like a 50-watt class A/B specimen. Now only the first 6 watts operate in class A. Reduced heat dissipation and AC draw is the gain. Hello happier utility bill. For more on power dissipation and heat sinks, see John Atkinson's article. For bias/power conversion, Riviera's switchable Levante integrated makes 30wpc in class A, 120wpc in class A/B. It's a fair assumption that in class AB, the Essence too could generate up to 4 times its class A power so 200wpc. That's simply not the purpose of Green Bias.

According to Gryphon, the Essence power amp is unconditionally stable. We're promised an end-of-life acquisition relative to not having to change amplifiers should our appetite for bigger tougher speakers increase. Do it right the first time to be set no matter what. That would seem to be the underlying premise. Which segues back to the name. If you have the essence, what more do you need? By default and definition, all else becomes non-essential. Why bother?

Ouch. Did the competition with less poignant names just become irrelevant?

No but…names with actual significance do make a difference even if for gear, it's ultimately totemic.

Just so, envision a friend asking what amp you have. Don't claim that "a Gryphon Essence" doesn't sound a lot better than "a GRS Group S36K MkIII". If a design team claims to truly consider each and every detail, why don't meaningful names matter? I've never understood that. Hello Ford Mustang. Good-bye Subaru WRX STi. For those interested in amplifier measurements, here are Stereophile's for the Essence mono amp. Above we see that even though the Essence Preamp accommodates RCA inputs and adds an RCA output called 'sub', the main outputs are on XLR to match the XLR-only inputs of the amp.

These are fully balanced components with 'twice of everything' where their circuitry is concerned. That treats all incoming signal accordingly. Class A and fully balanced are costlier ways to execute fine hifi. Their enduring popularity simply shows how discerning listeners continue to appreciate the difference. Which makes for the perfect segue to our listening impressions. From experience with Gryphon's Diablo and others like it, I knew that proper integration of a good digital module inside a preamp or integrated can give far pricier external DACs the fantods. A built-in module eliminates external S/PDIF over a typically 1m cable with solder joints, connectors and all their associated challenges of added jitter, noise and mismatched Ω.

So the retrofittable Zena DAC shouldn't be underestimated just because it doesn't come in its own full-sized box. For those who prefer one, Gryphon of course have Kalliope. Zena's box-in-a-box  circuit—add dual-mono, DC-coupled class A balanced—centers on one Sabre 32/384 ES9018 with support for DSD512 via DoP. It's surrounded by "heavily regulated fully discrete ultra-low noise ±22VDC supplies. It draws no power from USB but generates its own from a 12.5 Farad super capacitor to act as a virtual battery." The photo shows that the Zena DAC is properly shielded from the rest of the Essence Preamplifier. It's integration Gryphon style.