Gryphon Diablo 300 Has Arrived: First Impressions.

After a very long and drawn out search for a new amplifier for my B&W 803 D2's, which included in-home demos of McIntosh (452/C2600), Bryston (4B3), SimAudio Integrated's, and others that I tested in-store, I finally landed on the Gryphon Diablo 300. With the optional DAC module and phono board.

I feel lucky to a short trip away from one of the seven Gryphon dealers in North America, or I would not have found my amp. Some who are familiar with the Diablo may see my list of other amps I tested and think, those brands are not in the same league as Gryphon. And, after having painstakingly scrutinizing every demo component, I would have to agree they would be right. Those other brands cannot even come within striking distance. But here's the thing: from a pricepoint perspective, I'd be spending the equivalent amount of cash with those lower end brands once you factor in a pre/power amp, power cables, and interconnects - and it wouldn't sound as good as the Diablo. So, while expensive - the value is tremendous with the Gryphon Diablo 300. Others on this board have confirmed their opinion that I'd need to spend double on seperates before I could better the Diablo's performance. Including Whitecamaross, OP of the well known and ongoing "long list of amplifiers..." thread. I recognize that my search did not include uber-integrates from T+A, Dartzeel, etc. No way to consider these were I live. But I think that the Diablo is likely better suited than these alternatives for my use-case, with the power, current, and ability to drive my speakers in a large open space with a vaulted ceiling.

So I picked up the Diablo and it came in a great wooden crate that is smaller than you'd think, and has very handy clips that allow each panel of the crate to come off one panel at a time. The DAC was not pre-installed, and came in a seperate box. The phono board was also seperate, and was sold to me at a discount as it was a pulled from the shop's demo Diablo 300. I had expressed interest in installing these modules myself, so the shop said they'd let me have the experience of opening the brand new Diablo. Having installed the module and board (without incident), it was a little tricky. I would not suggest others try this unless you have some experience working with electronic components, PCB's etc (I do). And for safety you definitely want to ensure the Gryphon's massive and many capacitors have fully discharged prior to working inside.

On to the sound, out of the box with 0 hours run-time. The Diablo was a bit of a gamble for two reasons: 1) The dealer does not do in-home demos, and 2) The closest speakers I could test with to my 803's were the B&W 802 D3's, and 3) No returns or exchanges. Having fired up the amp and connecting to my digital source, right off the bat the music was thoroughly engaging. And here's the thing: When purchasing new gear over the course of 20 years or so, I've not once purchased any equipment that I've loved in the first month. This is the first. On my 803 D2's (or Diamond, whatever B&W calls this generation), I found that for the first time in all my amp-testing I was not listening for things like "dynamics","timing", "linear response", "imaging", but rather listening to people playing music. All instruments and voices have this solid and real quality to them. An example: with the tambourine at the start of Reckoner by Radiohead, you can sense the impact of each strike of the tambourine against the musician's hand. The same effect is there for vocals, with backing harmonies having a texture to them I've never heard. Another way to describe this effect is that rather than simply hearing the instruments, you are aware the sound is caused by something physical happening. Like with snare drums, it is more tangible than with any other gear I've heard. I've always thought that trailing notes or chords at the very ends of songs are just there as musicians need to signify that the song is over. But now, there is a presence and drama and texture to these endings I've never heard before. Just as I said earlier, I'm no longer listening for things like "dynamics" and "timing", but rather hearing the musical manifestation of these things. The midrange is absolutely beguiling, as one pro-reviewer put it. I think this may be partially due to the DAC based on my in-store testing I did. So far I've only tried the USB input at home. I am quite sensitive to harsh mids and highs, especially on poorly recorded hard rock, and can find this type of music very grating on hifi equipment. But not on the Diablo. The mids and highs are smooth. There is no sign of any harshness at all. But counter-intuitively, at the same time, there is so, so much detail to the music. Everything is revealed, in a presentation that is paradoxically smooth and engaging. Is this an analytical amp, or a musical amp? It's both. Don't know how they pulled it off. The bass is one of the Diablo's most striking qualities. Just as with the other instruments, the base is tangible, highly detailed and deeply textured - it creates a groove in the music that is so satisfying. I didn't know my speakers could do this.

This amp absolutely has a voice to it - it is not a "just the facts" amp. So those who are looking for that sort of amp may not like the Gryphon. But for me, this is exactly the sound I was looking for. Some have said there is a slight "dark" quality to the presentation, and I thought that sounded negative. But I understand now and have come to realize that this dense, detailed, and rich smooth voice is exactly what I was looking for.

In terms of how it performs on my speakers vs with the 802 D3's in the store - there is quite a bit of detail, and soundstaging, that is not present now. But on the flip-side, I actually like the overall presentation at home even more, and the detail that is there is still incredible. And, I'd expect more detail to emerge through the burn-in period. Even now, I'd be totally happy if this is the best it gets. In the store, I found the high level of precision of the 802 D3's just a tad distracting. For example, in the store, if I turned my head slightly, I could hear the entire soundstage shift quite dramatically. My 803's at home don't have this issue.

I have not finished upgrading accessories yet: I am running this amp on inadequate sub $1K Van-den-hul D352 speaker wire, and my source is a Mac Mini with Audirvana/Tidal Hifi. I do have it running with a brand new AQ Hurricane power cord. My Mac will be replaced by an Innuous Zenith MKIII but it's on backorder. Might be a month or two wait. Don't know what I'm going to do about speaker wire quite yet. I'd like to try Valhalla 2 just to see if it is worth it!

Overall, extremely happy. Expect things to get even better with the dedicated music player, upgraded speaker wire, and some more hours of burn-in. One more thing - I don't think that Flemming Rasmussen designed this amp. Batman did. And just look at the remote - case closed.
Nyev, Kerisabe -- I can vouch for the importance of a dedicated player/streamer instead of trying to tweak a mac mini or windows box into a suitable high end front end. My choice has been the Antipodes CX/EX 2-box combination. Mark Jenkins at Antipodes has gone to extreme lengths to lower the noise generated by the power supply and motherboard without filters, which slow and/or color the music. A wonderful match with the Diablo. 
Nyev, yes completely agree with not going the usb route etc with mac as an audio source hence my choice on using optical to eliminate the ground/bad stuff coming from my mac. 

But the other day everything changed dramatically when ive installed an active grounding box to the components. Its even alot better than the time ive switched from usb to optical. Everything just got cleaned up, so stoked with the change! 

And ive upgraded my basic emk optical cable to lifatec, the sound also abit improved. But definitely an active grounding system works wonder. You should try it out! 
I didn't receive the polish either, just wondering if Gryphon forgot to put a tub in the box. I saw it in a few reviews, just got me thinking. 
Also Kerisabe, regarding your MacBook, not sure of WiFi streaming vs Ethernet.  Try it out?  Beyond that, there is a very large rabbit-hole of mods to your computer you can make to make real improvements in sound (power supply, hard disk, USB tweaks, etc).  But many who have started down that path have realized the time and money to get to a point where they have an audiophile-grade music streamer/server is not worth it when you can purchase a dedicated streamer that has all the benefits for the same or less cash.  So that’s what I did - still waiting for my Innuos Zenith MKIII to arrive.  And still using my Mac Mini with Audirvana (which I recommend) until then.

Interesting that optical from the MacBook  is better for you.  Not sure if my Mac Mini has an optical out to try that.

My packing list said it included the polish cloth, and also plastic polish as well.  However, no polish was included.  My dealer says Gryphon told them they found that the polish they were previously including "dried out" too much and they don't have a solution as of yet.  I thought they meant it dries out too much when unused over time, but my dealer insisted there was an issue once the polish was applied to the amp.  So if you have the polish, I guess I wouldn't risk using it.
No plastic polish in my box.
No I didnt get the plastic polish. The checklist with the list of items that comes in the box doesnt say plastic polish, it says “1 polish cloth”.

Did everyone get the plastic polish included with their amp? So with the accessories-

1) 1 pair of white gloves
2) Manual
3) Remote control
4) Power cord
5) blue cleaning cloth

6) Plastic Polish in a small glass tub?

Did everyone get the plastic polish? 
The vocal has improved after i left it on for almost 20 hrs on sunday. Yesterday it sounded a tad better with the vocal. But there are too many factors I think with various components are in the break in process. I didnt get the optional DAC, pairing it with the chord qutest fed using optical from a macbook pro/audirvana.

Was playing around yesterday comparing sources: 1.macbookpro/audirvana(tidal) - usb - qutest tv(spotify) - optical - qutest and last 3.macbookpro/audirvana(tidal) - optical - qutest. USB (no decrapifier nothing) sounds way noisier/not black compared to optical. And proper tidal recordings are just way more airier than spotify through a smarttv (160kbps). Was almost putting away my mbp to simplify my listening, but had to check back with the mbp and boy was it blew away the smarttv spotify streaming by far. 

Now I wonder, would it be better for the macbook pro connected via ethernet (not wifi)? Will the streaming quality improve? The main airport extreme router is located in another room, so i installed a small airport express to extend the signal, then connect the ethernet cable to it and the mbp. Pls advice thanks
Interesting comments about the vocals.  During my burn-in, I had thought at one point the vocals seemed very good, and highly detailed, but ever so slightly “back” in the mix.  Wasn’t sure if I was imagining it so I didn’t mention.  This is no longer the case and hasn’t been for a while now.  Not sure if things actually changed, or I just grew accustomed to the sound!  The effect was very minor for me.  

Do do you have the embedded DAC module in your Diablo?  The DAC requires much more burn-in than the rest of the amp does.
Nyev agree with your point of not changing the speakers until you have finished trying out cables. What made me put granite under my speakers was when I decided to put the stock spikes on. I also run my sistem in a room with hardwood flooring. So it was kind of unintentional just to protect the floor not to get more bass. Then the bass actually was tighther, stronger due to the granite base.

Im still on my 26-27 hr mark on breaking in my diablo 300. Decided to put it on standby when I left the studio just to give it a 12-18 hr break. It sounds like there is something holding back the vocal now. Im also still in process of breaking in my furutech rhodium ncf main receptacle. (Approx on 50 hr mark - 450 hrs to go 🤔)
Kerisabe, I will make a point of trying the granite thing, once I’ve sorted the direction in cables out.  I don’t want to change anything else while testing different cables.  I’ll have to stop by the counter-top store or Home Depot and see what I can scrounge.  I don’t feel I am lacking in bass currently, but now I’m curious.

Can I ask, what made you consider trying this out?  Just wanted to protect your floors, or was this approach suggested to you?  It seems counterintuitive to mate spikes with a smooth impenetrable surface upon which you would think would allow movement and thus cause some loss in control.

And yes there are a lot of well known Canadian HiFi brands.  Bryston, SimAudio, and others.  I didn’t realize Torus was.

By the way, I tried a home demo of Classe equipment when I got my speakers a number of years ago, and found that my comparatively cheap Arcam A-85 integrated easily beat the Classe stuff. Didn’t impress me at all, despite B&W owning Classe.  Although that particular Arcam amp was very highly regarded for punching way above its weight and didn’t sound anything like other Arcam amps (a good thing).  Also Bryston had impressed me a bit up until the point that I heard the Diablo!  

One other thing worth mentioning - despite being more than happy with my system’s sound now, with the 803’s I’m guessing are holding back the Diablo.  I think it likely deserves more spendy speakers.  But I’m more than happy for the time being and my system is now better than anything else I’ve heard, other than a hair of missing transparency due to my current cables which will be upgraded shortly.

Others have told me the Diablo can drive any speaker, has a more engaging and “live” sound, with better bass.
This is because of the current it can deliver into low impedances from it's BJT (bi-polar) output stage supplied from it's great power supply.

Cheers George
Nyev, your guess is right. I didn’t listen to the diablo when i made the decision to get it. This is due to the changing distributor here in Jakarta. So gryphon has just took the distributorship to their new dealer (the one i go to for my hifi stuff) and i was dealing with the new dealer, which was ordering their first batch if their Gryphon order from Denmark. 

Before the purchase I’ve home auditioned a series of amps, a vincent tube preamp/anthem solid state combo which wasnt what I was looking for but was suggested by my other dealer here. And then he brought the classe cp-800 and ca-2300 which was strong enough to push my n803 coming from a yamaha z9 int. But at the same time my gryphon dealer also let me home auditioned the unison research unico 150 hybrid int which i thought was really awesome, musical compared to the classe combinatiom without the oomph of the classe. 

And during that time I came across some gryphon diablo 300 threads, one if them was yours. Was one of the reason why i finally decided to get it. Yesterday was when I had the delivery , upon startup i was shocked by how the diablo drivo my n803! The space became ALOT bigger and bass was THERE. So smooth. Listened to it for a couple hours and decided to left it on cause the system was installed in my office at my studio. 

Regarding the granite to decouple the 803 from the hardwoord floor, you will definitely hear a significant increase of bass. Might be good for the type of room setting that you have (the addition of bass).

Audio Sensibility is a company based in Toronto. You should read into it and try their cable. I used to live there for 9 years before going back to Jakarta, and was surprised there are some amazing local GTA companies producing great quality audiophile products such as AS and Torus in Oakville. I would like to demo AS’ signature cable speakers on my diablo but on my first shipment from toronto to jakarta, shipping was quite high and i got dinged by the corrupted customs here in indonesia. So i thought the back and forth wasn’t worth it if I havent decided to keep or not. Hence I’ve decided to support a local company based in Bali who makes high end audio components, Vermouth Audio. I am currently breaking in/testing their reference top of the line speaker cables which will be released sometimes around July this year. And it sounds good so far on the diablo. I believe they also have a distributor in Canada. Met with the owner when I flew to Bali last week, some incredible bloke who knows his audio. 

Congrats Kerisabe and thanks for the tips. Yes spiking my speakers to the floor is on my todo list, but it will be the final step after I get everything else right, to ensure I only need to do it once and only need to make eight holes in my floor (and not 16 or worse!).  I will experiment with your approach as well, with hard material between the floor and speakers.  But I don’t see how this should be better....

I haven’t looked into or heard of this cable option, but I’ll check it out!

Hopefully you had a chance to try the Diablo before buying. Seems that some who read this thread are buying before listening, which is a bit dangerous. Having said that before I bought mine I think I only came across one instance in a forum where a guy bought a Diablo (could have been prior model?) based on what everyone was saying, without hearing it first, and he didn’t like it. Like I said I’ve only found one case of that happening, but still as great as the Diablo is it is a lot of cash to spend without first hearing it! For those that don’t have a dealer nearby, consider traveling to the closest dealer. Safer to spend a bit more and be sure.

For me however it is still the best thing I’ve ever bought, HiFi gear or otherwise.

Regarding the Luxman 509 comparison I don’t know. Others have told me the Diablo can drive any speaker, has a more engaging and “live” sound, with better bass. On the flip side, I’ve heard some say that the Luxman is sweeter with a slightly more “musical” midrange, but is not as engaging. I believe Denon1 has owned both, and said he prefers the Diablo. But take my comments with a grain of salt as I’ve not heard the Luxman.

nyev, and if I may suggest regarding installing your 803d2 spikes directly to the wooden floor, I’d suggest to decouple it using some hard material in between the 803 and the wooden floor. From my experience in my setup, the 803 on spikes directly on my wooder floor sounded weak in bass. It got alot better when I decoupled it using a plate of granite stabilized using some bluetacks under it and 803 sitting on top of it using stock spikes. Now Ive taken off the spikes and replaced them with stillpoints ultra SS, even more bass and everything is clean and tight. 
nyev, been following this thread for a while in excitement of my diablo 300 delivery which finally came yesterday. 

Wow, it transformed my 19 yr old b&w n803 into another whole new level. They definitely sing now. The system has been on for approximately 13 hours now, can wait to listen to it later in the afternoon.

Regarding cables, since you are in Canada, have you looked into Audio Sensibility top of the line speaker cables the signature? They have a 30 day return also. Im running their signature power cable on the diablo 300 which Steven from Audio Sensibility recommended. 

dpac996- It’s difficult to describe the 300 sound, It will be best for you to experience for yourself. It does have good power to drive any speaker. The main question here is would it drive it to your liking. That is a difficult question to answer, I’ve never heard PassLab or 509x.
Great thread. I have a mild curiosity about comparisons between the 300 and Luxman 509X. I am using my 509x with Dynaudio Contour 60’s and there is much to love about the results. I did have a Pass Labs x250.8 with XP20 just prior to the 509. Everything with the 509 is better to me except the lowest bass extension and sense of seismic impact. The 509 has very good reach here but not as good as Pass. With the Pass the 60’s sound as if a great 12" sub was also integrated into each speaker. On rock i do miss that a bit but the 509 sounds so incredibly good everywhere else its easy to forget about that. I was curious if the 300 had enough sauce to drive the Dyns with more authority but still have that incredible midrange and top end presence that the 509 has.
Thank you
thanks for your advise about these audio equipment knowlegde.
bubb24, I have a small-medium sized room, and found that 24-26 seems to be where most of my listening is best. Of course, I have less than 2 weeks experience. 
Front end: Antipodes Audio CX/EX server/renderer; Mojo Audio Mystique v3  DAC. Cabling -- Wywires USB, Analog IC -- Balanced audience au24sx - same for speaker cable. Paradigm Persona 3F speakers, REL 212SE subs. A Kuzma turntable and Herron phono pre that I don't use but can't bring myself to sell. -- David
davidz, welcome to the club!

It's not like a normal amp as you have gathered. When quite pieces are playing you end up turning it, only to be caught out by a loud parts. You can even play low quality music through it and even those tracks are listenable, unlike other amps. It never ever sounds harsh or clinical, it has a warm organic analogue sound to it.

What volume you listening at? What's your other components?
I'm a newbie Diablo 300 owner and a newly baptized fanboy of this amp. You aren't kidding. I was listening to a piano recording of Shostakovich's preludes and fugues last night by Tatiana Nikolaeva. The performance had me glued in place, and at some point it occurred to me that I could sense the whole piano in my room. Total cliche, of course, but I've been in this hobby for 30 years and didn't know what I was missing til the Diablo delivered it. 

Of course, I made the traditional rookie mistake right away of playing it too loud, and this amp will make you pay for that. The "presence" it delivers across the whole frequency spectrum is such that it begs to be played softer than other amps. At the right volume, the low level music just seduces you and the climaxes build in an organic fashion. But you guys know all that. Just had to put my two bits in. ;<]
Not to worry I can advise as I have been through a similar exercise. This is what it's all about sharing knowledge and helping each other. (:-

My room correction consists of some material on the walls, ceiling, bass traps. The more you can get away with (partner dependent) by sorting this way the better. That means the electronic side of things can use its resource to fix problems that the acoustic material can not sort.

Audyssey don't make my pro processor anymore. The good thing with this processor is that I can measure 32 different points around my seated position. Or I can set up different zones. I'm going to split it into 2 zones. One for my serious listening with Diablo (2 channel) and the other for my 5.1 setup. In both cases correction is applied.

Things to look at-

1) Minidsp- For electronic room correction, uses Dirac live for room correction.
2) For room measurement, use the minidsp umik-1 microphone

Download software for free-

3) Room treatment, many available-

The above two even help with what to apply where. If you send them a plan of your layout.

Hope this helps.

" The difference with the cables was WAY beyond what I'd call squeezing the last performance out of my system. "

I think you need to keep this in context, I meant in comparison to room correction.

Are you not going to get two sets of speaker wire to bi- wire the B&W speakers? I'm using two sets, at the Diablo end they connect to one set of terminals. I'm not sure if this makes a difference, as I've never used the jumpers.
I won't be leaving mine on all the time, although I have been through burn-in, which is done now!
Bubb the hifi market is comparatively small.  Many dealers and distributors are not selling expensive equipment on a daily basis, so I'd expect they need to make a lot of margin when they do sell stuff.  That's the way it goes I guess.....
One of the things about my room is, I don't know what treatment you could even do.  My system is literally in a wide open space.  Room corners are far away from both the speakers and the listener, and then I have the vaulted ceilings.  There are no walls nearby to apply treatment to within reasonable proximity the way things are.  Not to mention, where I live it is not like I could get anyone qualified to assess my room for improvements.  I know room treatments make a difference, as I've had unworkable rooms in the past where it was impossible to get the sound right without treatments.  But I just don't know how to go about it considering there is no one local that I could consult with and, there simply is not a lot I think you even can do with my room layout....
The difference with the cables was WAY beyond what I'd call squeezing the last performance out of my system.  Both the Transparent and Nordost cables were a complete overhaul of the sound, in a positive way!
Having heard what this can bring to the system, it is not going to be possible now to unhear this, and be happy with the sound without the upgraded cables!  As I said, the magnitude of difference was the same as I noticed with the Diablo over other preamps and amps.  Complete overhaul of the sound.  But only if power cords AND speaker cables are part of the equation.
The one thing I am doing to see if I can take SOME cost out is one more test:  Instead of using the Valhalla 2 biwire jumpers for the 2nd speaker terminals, I am going to try the Nordost Reference jumpers, which cost way, way less.  Dealer says he thinks both jumpers are just as good but have difference style of sonic presentation.


No need to keep it on all the time, it takes 45m to reach quiescent temperature. 

Idle it consumes 200w, it does get hot to touch. Can heat my room up, ok for the winter.

I also have the Diablo 300.   Best amp I have ever had in my house and I have been through many.   I leave mine on all the time.   What do you guys think about that ? Are you doing the same thing ?   What does the manufacturer suggest ?   


I take your point and will see for myself if the difference in cables is justified. That I will do once my components have run in.

But I think you are missing the biggest upgrade you will make by sorting your room out. I know you have mentioned that you do not have a problem with your room. That is what I thought, as you can tell from my cable scepticism. It was not until I tried it out and thought- Oh my God! I’m not kidding the difference is phenomenal. If I compare it to what you have said in terms of the cable improvements you have had, I would say it’s 100 times that. For a lot less cost than what your paying for your cables. The cost per performance ratio = value for money, that my friend is what you get. No BS here. This is what majority of ‘Hifi dream chasers’ miss out on, they end up buying a new component and think this will sort things. It might give a different sound but the overall potential is never realised and until room correction is made.

If I was to list in terms of ranking where cables come in, it will be as below-

1) Speakers

2) Amplification

3) Source

4) Room acoustics

5) Speaker, component - Isolation

6) Mains

7) cables

Not everyone tackles it like that, some folk are stuck on 1, 2 and 3. They keep going round and round in this cycle. It just makes dealers happy as they keep coming back, spending more. Can you imagine a professional studio mixing a record without any treatment or proper speaker set up? The technician might hear less bass where he increases it by 30 dB, thinking it’s correct. When you come to hear it in your room it might be so much bass that overwhelms the track. Putting the track out of balance. Each studios mix will be so different, the consumer will be so disappointed on the results as each will have something more or less. Thank god they have some standards, although not all artists care about recording quality or caters for audiophile folk who have very expensive systems. There is differences in quality of recordings as you can tell from playing a CD to a hi- res track etc.

My advise to you will be sort your room before you squeeze that very expensive cable trigger, as you’ll know look back. At a later date go for the cables to squeeze that last ounce of performance from your system.

Regarding manufacture costs and dealer margins, these are excessive when it comes to luxury HiFi. The Gryphon DAC module retails near £5000 in the UK, the amp is £13600 without any of the options. Now I ask how much do you think out of these is dealer margin? What is manufacture cost? I’ll not be surprised if the dealer isn’t taking a fat chunk out of these costs. The electronic components in these are manufactured in the far east at extremely low prices. Yes of course research and development and local labour charge is premium. That’s the state of the market, if the consumer will pay it why ask for less? I’m thinking £3500 to manufacture the Diablo 300 or maybe less?

Cables and power cords are components, more so excellent ones. Signal transmission is a serious and complicated thing. Yes, it might cost $100 to manufacture $10k cable but it might also take three years of research and design to make it happen.
Can't disagree with that; it's a lot of cash.  Way too much.  But the counter to that:  the difference I heard, at least to me, is the same as the difference between the Diablo and the other preamps and amps I tested.  It is that large.

Cables are excessively marked up.  I do wonder what the actual cost to the manufacturer is.  With Nordost, I'd speculate that they sink a large percentage of corporate revenue into research and development.  And the cost to manufacture is probably peanuts, yielding massive margins. 

Even when you look at the Diablo itself, or any high-end equipment, I can't see how it could possibly cost more than $3-5K for them to manufacture a unit.  But on the other hand, I bet these companies spend a lot on R&D and testing.  Bringing a product to market costs a lot.

Well then, there is only the final chapter of this left - paying for the Nordost, unless you want to try it first with your coming streamer.
Sorry, man, it's a hell of a lot of money any way you look at it.
Thanks all and I cannot argue with any points/suggestions/advice. What I can do is ignore it :)
Much to my families annoyance, my amp and DAC module are fully burned in having about 425 hours on them now. Someone else said that Gryphon told them the amp requires 50 hours and the DAC module requires 200 hours to burn in. So yeah, I think I’m past that point now. According to my dealers who loaned the cables, they promise that the demos are all fully burnt in, but I can only go by their word of course.

Making cables is an option, but you can only go so far, and certainly not as far as building something like the Valhalla’s with their use of airgaps as dialetrics, silver-coated solid core, etc...

I don’t disagree that ALL of the cables cost way too much, even including the Frey’s. But hey, all audiophile gear is insanely marked up. Take Gryphon’s phono board for example, not to pick on them. There is NOTHING on that board that should make that board cost more than $500, yet they charge over $3K (CAD) for it. However part of the cost is for R&D spent on designing and testing of course.

Inna, you are spot on with the Valhalla 2’s filtering out SOME of what my Gryphon can do. On the other hand, I don’t think the Transparent Reference’s filter out anything at all, and presents the sound in its full unadulterated glory.
I would call both the Transparent’s and the Valhalla 2’s "hifi" cables intended for audiophiles. But, I would say the Valhalla 2’s sacrifice a tiny bit in terms of filtering, in return for making the experience more musically engaging.
What I am saying is I think this is a matter of taste. I suppose I can be called an "audiophile", but only because I started out with an enjoyment of music. For those who value transparency above all else, of the cables I tested the Transparent References are for you. They present a grand soundstage, ultra-clean sound and solid bass, with perfectly presented tones. You get a sense of the blackness behind the music.

But if you are the type that is willing to sacrifice SOME of the accuracy and transparency for musical engagement, then I say the Valhalla 2’s are for you.

If all I cared about was technical "performance" of my system, the Transparent would win hands down. These are not just sterile analytical cables either - they are highly enjoyable as well. But, I can’t imagine finding a cable that increases my enjoyment of the music as much as the Valhalla 2’s. And,many qualities of the Diablo are still present - the "physicality" of the instruments, the detail, the impact of tones, the dynamics, the rhythm and pace. All of these items cannot be added by the Valhalla if they weren’t there to start with in the amp, and with these qualities in combination with the velvety smoothness, high-end openness, and driving pace, are accentuated more than with the Transparents which translates to more enjoyment for me.  There is something magic about the combination of the fine inner detail combined with the warmth.  Not to mention, you get the illusion of vocalists being in the room with you the most with the Valhalla's.

So Inna, I can see how you and others may pick the Transparent’s. It is my tastes that just make it an easy decision to go with the Valhalla’s.

And Bubb - you need to get some demo cables. I think hearing the differences, even if it goes in the wrong direction, will be an eye opener. At the level of your gear, in my opinion you should be carefully considering cables or you will be potentially missing out on a massive amount of performance your system can offer.
Both the Transparent’s and the Valhalla’s were almost the equivalent of changing a key system component like an amp or source. I think it is Nordost that are always telling people to treat cables as if they are components like a source or amp, and after hearing the difference their stuff makes, I agree with this even if it is marketing BS.

Finally as I said in my other thread I actually am very happy with the sound with the Diablo/Valhalla 2 combo. I no longer feel any need to upgrade my speakers. That will probably change but for now, I think I’m more than okay with my system! Even if I do upgrade my speakers, these same cables would likely be what I’d be able to try with them in my area.

nyev, I have been following your thread with interest, please take what I write with a grain of salt.  Are you sure that your diablo is fully broken in?  After a significant purchase like this I would wait a few months to make sure I have a baseline of what I want to accomplish.  The cables and speakers you may want are not going anywhere and will be there.
Yeah, though I am a cable guy, I think that is too much. I would start with upgrading speakers and then cables. But everyone has his own crazy ways. Based only on the OP's review I would take Transparent if I had to, Nordost doesn't seem to have good enough balance and harmonic correctness and it doesn't seem to have the power of delivery, it would to a degree block what the Diablo is capable of. Another consideration is that when you run a comparison like that you want the strongest source possible, mini Mac is not that kind of source. And of course, one must be absolutely certain that all the cables are fully burnt-in, this means playing each for at least 250-300 hours before doing any critical listening.
Speaker cables in my system did cost as much as the speakers, but that was only $1500 new twenty years ago and I paid $500 for each twenty years ago.

Just read your post on cables, ouch, ouch, ouch! Nordost Valhalla 2 - £4,100 for a 1m mains lead! If I went for 2m which I need. That is £4900, £100 less than my Naim NDX2! No way, I don't care how good it sounds, I refuse to pay that much for a piece of copper wire. The profit margin on this must be astronomical, I wouldn't be surprised if it's 90% - 95%! This is crazy!

Don't get me wrong, I don't doubt your findings. I can't pay that for a cable period. Day light robbery! These companies are taking people for mugs! Just did a search on the auction site and there is one going for £1550 used plus £10 postage.

My solution is to create your own, buy some heavy gauge twisted pair cable and just add the plugs of your choice. It's not rocket science to make, the only thing is the sound, would it sounds as good? Who knows, but it's worth a try!
Wow, incredible findings on my cable testing so far! I’m posting my results in the Cables forum, under this post:  Home Demo Faceoff:  Nordost / Audioquest / Transparent
Hi Bubb, I think you are in for a shock as to how much better your system will sound after proper breakin.  Like I said my B&W's sounded absolutely terrible for the first 250 hours or so, and then things suddenly clicked.  Another thing I noticed:  the sound doesn't progressively get better over burn-in.  There are days where things can sound worse than the prior day.  So don't judge until you get over 250 hours!

The arguments you make about cables are exactly the same arguments that all cable skeptics have made for ages (quality of cable in your house to your outlet, etc).  The counter to the last meter of cable mattering is exactly that:  it is the final meter before going into your gear.  Source equipment, in particular digital equipment including computers, are VERY electrically noisy, and can pollute your entire house's AC circuit with noise.  Having an upgraded power cable connected to such equipment will help prevent (not eliminate) the noise that gets fed back into your power circuit which can degrade the power feeding your amp.  Likewise, an upgraded power cable feeding your amp will help filter out the AC noise that gets fed into your Diablo's power supply.  Also, there is a ton of electromagnetic noise around your gear.  Having extra shielding around the "final meter" will ensure this noise doesn't pollute your power entering your gear.  Also, any noise introduced before the final meter will be filtered out.
I am not expecting to like all three cables I am testing.  Just because they cost more than the cable I'm using currently doesn't mean I will like it better.  The point is, different cables sound different.  You may very well try one that costs a lot and think that it sounds worse than a lower end cable.  What you need to do is find the one that suits your system and tastes - you do not necessarily need to spend a lot.  But you absolutely have to try some different cables with your Diablo and B&W's, or you could be severely bottle-necking performance.  The thing about most cable skeptics is most have not tried different cables back to back in a controlled test.  Once you do, the differences are so obvious, and sometimes the differences can make the sound terrible, even with expensive cables!!  You just need to try a few.  One last thing:  the power cable to digital source equipment can make a larger difference in sound than the power cable to your amp.

It's no way near 250 hours, I would say about 20 hours if that. I have taken your advice aboard and will run in before any serious listening.

Let us know what you find with cables. I don't fancy spending £1000 plus on a cable. From the consumer unit to the ring main where the mains sockets are connected is regular electrical cable. So I don't see how changing a meter or so from the amp to the wall socket makes a difference. Not forgetting the mains wiring that is in the Diablo, is hardly going to be of the same quality. Every component is made to a budget, even the Diablo 300. The inside mains wiring isn't going to be a high priority for the designer.  Unless I re- wire from the power generator all the way to my house with the same quality cable. If noise is generated on other parts of the ring main then that noise is going to go through the supply voltage into the Diablo. Be it RF or DC might not infiltrate over this meter of wire but certainly will do on the rest of the cable in the property. I totally need convincing on this subject, so look forward to your findings. Even speaker cables, the quality of the wiring for example in the B&W 803D3 from the speaker posts to the cross over is not going to be anything out of the ordinary. So why spending thousands of pounds? Why not just source the same cable used inside the speaker and wire it externally too? Sorry but I don't get it. 

Have a listen to-

Nils Lofgren- Keith don't go (the acoustic live version)

The strings are fantastic on this, let me know what you think?
Bubb how many hours do you think you have on your speakers?  If you are not close to at least 250 hours, you've no idea how much the sound will improve.  Mine took about 285 hours before they sounded not terrible, and it happened suddenly when things finally clicked.  You need to leave your Diablo on 24/7 for a while, at least at a volume of 14, preferably a bit higher.  Component breakin is absolutely a real thing, especially for speakers.  If you need a trick to not drive yourself or others nuts with the endless sound:  connect the wires out of phase on ONE speaker - red to black and black to red.  Then, position your speakers so that the drivers face each other and are a couple of inches apart.  Start playing music.  The drivers will be utilized but the sound waves will be cancelled out by each other.
Regarding cables - yes they make a big, big difference.  Not always a good difference even when spending a lot, depending on the gear.  I've tried some speaker cables that I found to really accentuate certain frequencies, and sometimes in a horrible way. I've seen some reviews where the reviewers compare frequency response of different cables.  So there is measured proof there is a difference.  With speaker cables I've heard MAJOR differences, to the extent that I've heard some cables that can smooth over harsh equipment (at the cost of transparency).  With power cables, I've heard more subtle, but still obvious differences.  With my upgraded USB cable, I've heard minor improvements (with USB the timing of the USB clock signal between source and destination is better synchronized, ensuring bits are transmitted and received at the correct time - "jitter" is reduced).
While I am certain cables make a big difference, based on comparisons where results can be better or worse, I do think they are grossly overpriced.  For people who don't believe in it, take some demos home and try a blind test.  If you don't hear obvious differences, you've spent way too much on your hifi system :) Sorry, you have more money to spend...
Personally not a fan of B&W speakers that I have heard, but I have not heard them with the Diablo. May just be me, but they sounded shrill to my ears.   I use my Diablo 300 with Sonus Faber Amati Traditions. Wonderful overall sound. Base is wonderful, “chest thumping”, and remains extremely tight. Much improved over my prior older and much less expensive Plinius integrated 9200 amp powering these speakers. Great overall sound with no weaknesses that I can detect with my ears (although only rated 28 - 35,000Hz).  Used with homemade speaker wire I assembled about 20 years ago
The other thing that has dawned on me is that my speakers might not be run in. As I haven't been listening to the system as much as I should be it's a track here and there. Nothing religiously.

One of the things I like about the amp is how it 'shows' different layers of music without any strain. It is very easy to follow different instruments in the mix. It isn't analytical to a level where you are just analysing the music rather than enjoying it. This is the way amplifiers should sound- truly amazing! 

It will be interesting to see if any of the cables you have listed makes a justifiable improvement to warrant a purchase. I've always been sceptical with cables and such. Always thought of these as being the 'icing' on the cake once the rest of things have been sorted. Like speaker placement, positioning, room acoustics- bass traps, first reflective points etc.
nyev,  A great list of cables you are going to try out!   Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
No worries, this is still about how the Diablo sounds with our respective speakers so it is still valid for the thread I think.

To my ear, my 803 D2’s sound like a totally unrelated to the D3 line.  The entire presentation is different.  I’ve pretty much said this above, but I just find the overall sound of the D2’s far more satisfying, even if they are far less “capable” than the D3’s in terms of transparency and soundstage.

Before I had the Diablo, I found my bass to be lacking.  Of all the amps I tested, only the Bryston 4B3 addressed the lack of bass.  But compared with the Diablo’s bass, the Bryston’s bass sounds muddy and bloated with little detail in comparison.

With the Diablo, the bass is great.  It actually took me by surprise (in a good way) for the first little while, with the new highly detailed “groove” that was added to the sound of my system.

That said, my speakers are not known for having a whole lot of bass either, so I’m sure other higher end speakers would have even better bass.  And keep in mind my room is very large, open concept, and with high vaulted ceilings.

Overall I am still very happy with the sound.  I’ll be testing demo cables starting next weekend.  Very high end cables, including Nordost Valhalla 2, Nordost Frey, AudioQuest Firebird Zero, and the biwire version with Firebird Bass, and Transparent Reference.  These are pretty much all the cables of interest that I have access to try near me.  I expect the cables to help improve transparency considering the cables I’m currently using are not that transparent at all.


That's a good idea.

I've heard the focal utopia 3 evo when I was buying my 803D3. They lacked the b&w sparkle and the excellent midrange. Other than that they were similar sounding.

In comparison to 803D3 do you think your 803 D2 lack bass impact? If not how much more do you think they have? Are you happy so far with the sound?

I don't want to hi- jack your thread. How is your listening getting on with the Diablo?

Maybe you should ask the Levinson dealer if you can bring your Diablo in to the brick room to try with their 803 D3’s?

It’s a bit of work but you would get valuable results you can learn from.  If I were in your position I’d start there.  Offer to compensate the dealer for their time since you aren’t likely buying something.  If the speakers still lack the slam then it must be something to do with the pairing of the Levinson with your speakers.  If the slam IS there, then you can be confident the problem is your room.  That seems like the most valuable place to start.

The other thing I’d repeat is that I tested the Diablo at my dealer with the 802 D3’s.  And THEY were slightly thin sounding to me with the Diablo, so I can imagine how the 803’s would really not do the trick.  If I were to look at speakers I’d want to test Focals, Sonus Faber, Magico, based on what is available near me and of interest.

But taking your Diablo into that brick room with a pair of 803 D3’s will get you concrete results and point you in the right direction.


I do not doubt the diablo, it is an outstanding amp. It's either the room or my speakers. I did ask Whitecamaros about the 585 he didn't rate it highly. The bit I don't understand is the visceral output at the dealer, the sheer dynamics I experienced with the 803D3 speakers. The slam is totally different compared to Diablo, I don't think it's got the midrange & treble of the diablo. The delivery is different, it still has the- turn the volume up and the ”catch out” of the Diablo.

My room walls / ceiling is plasterboard, the dealers walls were brick. This too can have an impact on absorption and reflection of sound.

The kick drum in the chain will produce the punch in the chest if the conditions are correct (setup, power etc).

As I mentioned in my previous post the two bass drivers are small 6.5 inch? B&W use some jiggery pookery to play about with the bass response in the cabinet. To compensate for these minuscule drivers and to try and shift volume. Physics of it is you need large drivers to shift air and have that impact. Think about the size of drivers used in a concert / club. Together with the power used to move vast amounts of air. I know they don't have the quality and finesse of of an audiophile system. They can easily create the punch in the chest. I've even heard the 800D3 although better bass response can not produce this sort of bass. 

My dealer doesn't have the 585 anymore. If I was to order it, I will have to buy it. There will be no home demo & return. The good thing in owning the diablo 300, I can put back in the crate and take to dealers. At least I will have a known quantity to compare with different speakers. Maybe a pair JBL 4355 will do the trick.
One other thing - I really don’t think you need more power. More power will not give you more bass at the volumes you listen at and with your room size. And, the Diablo is known for supplying massive power especially at lower impedences.  It is often said that the Diablo has no problem driving any speakers.
Sorry to hear you are disappointed in your system’s bass.  Just be careful not to overcompensate on the amp for a deficiency that is in all likelihood with your speakers.  Also I’m not sure you are actually supposed to “feel” that kick drum on The Chain...  You don’t want to add something that is not supposed to be there.  That said, your speakers are known to be light on bass.  Whitecamaross, OP of the “long list of amplifiers...” thread mentioned that to me about the 803’s, and he specifically suggested the Diablo to help with the bass.  Many others have said the Pass integrated doesn’t compare with the Diablo.  But maybe the Levinson would?  Maybe the Levinson pairs better with your speakers than the Diablo?  Is it possible to try the Levinson at home?  Or buy and return?  Beyond that, I’d be looking at new speakers.  I think that is likely your main problem as no one ever has said anything about the Diablo’s bass presence or slam being anything other than class leading.  But, I’d be interested in hearing if you could directly compare the Levinson at home!


So I've tried a few things as you have suggested. 

The amp and all below is connected direct to the mains, no conditioner in its path.

1) Audyssey Pro processor.
2) Power cod- Wireworld Stratus 52.
3) Naim NDX2
4) Naim 555 PS DR

Room size 5.7m x 3.8m x 2.4m

Volume 27

If I stick to the "Chain" at the moment, when I play it through the processor- micro dynamics, strings definition and bite, bass layers, decay, separation and focus. Is all there clearly- three dimensional image. The string plucking has bite to it, you can hear it getting plucked clearly and the decaying notes too. If I remove the processor, the sound turns flat, it's like if it goes back into the speakers. It is all good with the processor in place, I'm loosing a lot without it. The bass is clearer with definition and notes are projects into the room.

Lets look at the bass

When the track starts the kick drum doesn't have authority, slam, chest hitting punch. I found that with the Mark Levinson 585, but not here. When that tish part ends then silence the impact is missing here. After that the bass comes in, there is bass there but not what I heard with the 585. Even if I turn it louder to 30, everything is clear and no strain or fatigue. But the bass never gives you that kick. it just gets louder, not in your face loudness, it's loud (just difficult to explain if you haven't experienced this before). Nyev you know what I mean when I say it gets loud but not compressed or anything. 

I've tried the DB1, it either is un- noticeable when it's integrated and balance with the 803D3 speakers. Or you start hearing it over taking the rest of the sound. It starts to unbalance the sound. It never gives the kick in the chest I heard from the 585.

From this I conclude that Diablo 300 outputs it's power in a different way to the 585. More natural and not in your face type, it doesn't create something that isn't there. The thing is I never got to listen to the 585 at home, even the Diablo 300 was a gamble as I've bought it blindly. As I mentioned in my previous post it could be that the dealers room had an emphasis of that bass region. I was impressed by the 585 amp, my question after a short listen was can I live with this? Then i started doing more research and found out about the Diablo 300, PassLab INT 250. These dealers and amps are so rare in my neck of the woods, I would not be able to listen to one of these amps with my speakers period. 
The other thing that could be going on is that the room is sucking my bass impact. I have measured the room and I could not see any 'suck outs' or dips. Maybe I just need more power and bigger drivers to physically move that air. I'm lost!

The Prince track was just to see what the system can do, I don't think this is the best. There is still a lot of potential to be explored and I haven't found a track that will bring out 100% from the system. It was merely for you to see the kind of layered bass that is going on in the background. I had a listen to Billy Eilish, it does pressurise the room. I bet the bass your speakers are producing is a lot different to mine. :-(  Your daughter has good taste, I can't believe you let her play music on your system. (:-

You should try this album which has great recording and dynamics-

Breaking Silence- Janis Ian
Listened to “The Chain” again. When you say the kick drum at the start of the track, do you mean before or after the bass kicks in?

Before the bass kicks in I’d say I can just start to “feel” the kick drum in the chest at a volume setting of 27. After the bass kicks in you can easily feel it at 25.

As for the Prince song, it sounds amazing but these sort of highly produced pop tracks don’t really impress me with any system. It is too easy for sound producers to include sonic pyrotechnics with big dynamics and transients when producing electronic pop and/or dance oriented music. My daughter was listening to Billy Eilish “You Should See Me in a Crown” on my system. Wow.... Try that track if you want to make your system put on a fireworks show while fully pressurizing your room to the max with crazy amounts of bass. Again not the sort of track I’d use to test HiFi gear. But, holy crap. And keep in mind my system is in a large open concept area with very high vaulted ceilings...