Tapping the Diablo's USB input caused it to very logically show up as Diablo 300 USB [see below]. Whilst it should be no big deal, one routinely encounters even costly converters whose designers couldn't (bother to?) write a line of code which identifies their source as something other than a generic 'XMOS 2.0 USB' or 'Amanero Combo384'. The Gryphon display also suddenly added two unexpected lines to indicate sample rate, format, filter and connection lock. If the devil's in the details, the Diablo had the horns and hooves to prove it.

Again, the Fore Audio DAISy1 DAC from South Korea is my favourite DAC which I could actually afford. It thus tops my hierarchy of <€10K decks and is immediately followed by the Aqua Hifi LaScala MkII. Comparing the Diablo's digital board to the silvery low rider thus set the standard as high as my hardware inventory could. If we subtract a posh enclosure and analog output socketry which the Diablo DAC module doesn't need, its €4'800 sticker is probably closely on par with the tubed Sabre ES9018-powered DAISy1. Of course the latter needs an extra power cord, analog interconnects—I used silver/gold Crystal Cable XLR—and another tier in a rack. So it's really more cashish no matter the difference in cosmetic and socketry hardware. Yet the inherent promise of an IQ advantage to integrate circuitry and eliminate the variability of unknowns could well hit harder. Which way did these tables turn?

To keep it terse, offboarding netted greater tone density and even more capacious staging with greater depth specificity. The sonic panorama grew even bigger and bolder. I obviously couldn't sort out whether this was due to a larger completely dedicated power supply; or the 6922/E88CC output buffer. Just so, the DAISy1 had an unfair advantage over the Diablo DAC just as the Kalliope had had over the Fore Audio. This suggested that Gryphon have priced their DAC module spot on and exactly where it competes. That shouldn't surprise but prospective shoppers still enjoy independent verification. However, returning to the complete Gryphon system decided against the DAISy1 whose additional meatiness now registered against it given the Pantheon's intrinsic mass from big cone area, paper-based drivers and strong low bass. Where the perhaps tubular contributions had played to the smaller and ceramic transducer's specific spot on the yin/yang scale, with the Danish towers the more quicksilvery built-in module slotted itself more elegantly into the signal path. This once more spoke to front-to-back synergy. As such, it stood Alan Watt's "wisdom of insecurity" axiom on its head. When it comes to audio hardware, a full Gryphon stack is about the wisdom of security. It makes for results of certainty!

Integration. There are two core rationales to pursue it. One is cost reduction. That's often allied to miniaturization. The integrated chip aka IC best illustrates that concept. The second is superior performance. In hifi, proper integration shortens signal paths, eliminates lossy cable connections and optimizes/simplifies the interfaces between gain stages and processes like digital and analog.

The obvious enabler? Sign over complete control to just one designer or R&D team. That's the €17'600 Gryphon Audio Diablo 300 when fitted with its optional digital module. At 0.3/0.6/0.95KW into 8/4/2Ω, it's more powerful than some of the most accoladed class D monos for equal coin but still adds a remote-controlled preamp and comprehensive DAC. At its plateau of peak performance, that means fair value. Now integration isn't synonymous with the cheaper route of reason #1 (though in practice, it is that, too). Now integration equals higher design IQ. From it spring not only better sound but a physically simpler system with fewer variables and built-in guarantee of expert optimization. What's more, so dominant and assured is the Diablo's sonic imprimatur or action, it delivers Gryphon's signature qualities of intense presence and liberated dynamics quite regardless of speaker. In my book, that makes it more universal than the Pantheon. Not only does Gryphon's smallest tower need the right amplifier to fully control its potent bass array, it already—given my familiarity with mega monitors of EnigmAcoustics M1, Apertura Kalya and Kaiser Chiara calibre playing 90-100m² rooms—is quite a lot more than the vast majority of listeners could accommodate properly or need in the first place.

For speakers, I expect that it's really Gryphon's new Mojo S which should mean the end of the road for most reasonable purposes. Alas, we don't assign awards in absentia. For today then and between the Diablo 300 and Pantheon, it's the former which walks off with a very well-deserved award. I don't see how for the same coin you'd equate its performance with separates and all the additional cables and cords that entails. If your budget for a DAC, preamp and power amp plus wiring is €20'000, the Gryphon Diablo 300 would be my top choice. To see that light simply means to stop thinking of integration as a filthy word. Such an outdated connotation must be overwritten by superior design smarts for guaranteed sonic ROI. Once you've got that rusty mental penny polished up to a shine so it finally drops, you're ready to build your hifi the correct way: by handing it over to a designer who is far better at it than you.

If you still think yourself smarter at navigating the hifi mine field of poor choices for all manner of sub-optimal combinations, you plainly haven't suffered enough from what our intro called temtation: too much waste of endless trials, errors, money and time. In that case, go forth and sin some more. But if you've grown dead tired of such folly—or are smart enough to bypass it altogether—go forth and integrate. Make a Gryphon Diablo 300 your final port of call. After 14 years of doing this, I can't say it any plainer than that...

Gryphon Audio website