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Blasé readers will protest that 250 watts into 8 ohms versus 25 will typically do that. I would generally concur if it hadn’t been 97dB speakers and if the Diablo hadn’t simultaneously nailed the dynamic micro range. Excelling at the macro and micro both was unique in my book. The pure class A 50wpc Esoteric A03 into the same speakers for example struggled with low-levels rhythmic cues and even the 360wpc Genesis GR360 with its external MDHR power supply couldn’t quite match the Diablo at either end of the dynamic range. Percussive rise times weren’t quite as startling and micro detail blurred a little sooner than over the Gryphon.

I will spare you a disc-by-disc account of how much new detail I discovered. That list would be far too long. Scary to me was how I’d owned some of these discs for over twenty years and knew them over electronics costing upward of three times the Diablo. Still I heard new information especially on ambiance retrieval. The Diablo also gave me a renewed appreciation for the Esoteric X03SE. While I'd love to hear a good Firewire DAC and computer with this amp, based on how the Diablo responded to this source, I would not count out the X03SE disc player quite yet.

Pretending at more detail is easy with some strategic treble contouring. Where such acts usually fall apart is being faced with a live recording’s huge amount of ambience information. Recreating a credible impression of the recording venue takes true transparency across the entire frequency range plus impeccable phase and timing. Otherwise the illusion falls apart. This ability to recreate the event venue in your room as long as the information was recorded is probably the Diablo's second strongest virtue. The soundstage was huge left to right but also front to back. The Diablo projected about a quarter of the stage in front of the speakers. This took a little getting used to. Imaging was precise and defined but not in a systematic or overblown fashion.

Gardiner's recording of Bizet's Symphony with the Lyon orchestra is a perfect example of concert hall acoustics. The Lyon venue is slightly warm and reverberant and the Gryphon preserved all the small reverb that defines the hall boundaries to render the overall sonic balance quite warm. Switching to Saint Saëns' Urbs Roma Symphony recorded by Martinon at the La Madeleine church in Paris, one could also hear the hall acoustics and echoes but this time the old EMI mastering exhibited all the digital glare and brightness we've come to hate over the years. Two CDs from the eighties, two radically different sounds, one warm, one brash - the Diablo's only ‘fault’ was to not fix your or my collection of vintage recordings. If they are bright and brash, that's how the Gryphon will render them.

The Yamamoto A08s with its mighty two watts of direct-heated 45 triode goodness soundstaged just as well as the Dane and created the same 3D impression but in the end the Japanese SET was far more systematic in how it slightly overblew size and proportions and created a gentle cloud around the performers. The Diablo did not editorialize. If a cloud or blur were recorded, it would play it as such but if the musicians were recorded as discrete entities, it rendered them distinctly to a fault. On Yoyo Ma's Sony recording of Vivaldi's Cello Concerti which pushes multi miking to the point of having the various instruments not play in the same acoustic or partition at times, the Yamamoto A08s would recreate some cohesiveness that’s not really on the disc. The Diablo played it as disjointed as it is.

Why I stress this aspect—far from any fault to my ears—is because many readers have other expectations. They don’t necessarily want the truth if it renders their recordings less enjoyable. That's a perfectly valid and respectable endeavor. It’s simply not one the Diablo will support. The Diablo brings the concert into your room warts and bleached tones included. On the upside, that type of reproduction is absolutely thrilling when the recording is suitably brilliant.

I like Srajan's image of the woodblock to talk about imaging where different electronics carve out images in different ways, sometimes just as a 2D sketch, often as a slight relief, rarely as a true 3D figure that emerges from the block but never as a completely free entity whose back no longer connects to the wooden log. In this visual the Diablo was as close to a fully separated figure as I’ve heard. The FirstWatt F5 gave a good showing with fleshed-out living images but the Diablo went further by adding textures, which the F5 did not quite convey. The Genesis GR360 was more two-dimensional than either, not bad at all as far as amplifiers go. The other two and especially the Diablo simply operated in another league to be a delight for any visual listener.

The notion of textures segues into the Diablo's third virtue, which as the previous two stems from its amazing transparency to the recorded event. The Gryphon integrated could reveal instrumental textures like few others to provide tonal hues that were both vivid and nuanced. The Yamamoto A08s enhanced the tonal qualities of instruments and voices.

In my mind there’s no question that if you want that sound, the Diablo will not compete. Neither is it trying to. With the Diablo there are no enhancements. The qualities of a superior direct-heated triode cannot be beat in that realm. Conversely, the 45 triode enhances tonal qualities of everything in exactly the same manner whether you want it to or not. I still pull out the A08s whenever listening to especially older soprano recordings (older recordings that is as the singer’s age usually correlates less to listener fatigue even though the later Callas recordings do make a valid counter argument). When the recordings aren’t of the greatest quality, the Diablo's truthfulness could go too far over long listening sessions. That said, I have a similar response in lively concert halls and usually faster than at home where I can control the volume for personal comfort.