Munich Preview Exclusive: Gryphon Diablo 120 Amplifier and Mojo S Loudspeaker system

Integrated amplifiers
Gryphon Audio Designs Diablo 120,
Gryphon Audio Designs Mojo S

The final part of the system equation was a complete set of Gryphon’s silver/gold alloy cables. I highly recommend their inclusion in your budgetry calculations, as they are both surprisingly affordable when compared to the competition and extremely effective when it comes to unleashing the performance potential of the Gryphon components. Past experience with other cables have shown the Gryphon electronics to be particularly cable sensitive, so the availability of a credible in-house solution is particularly welcome. There may be those who might suggest that the Gryphon cables bear more than a passing resemblance to high-end Siltechs, even if Siltech no longer makes cables for Gryphon.

But the biggest surprise with this system was just how easily it all went together. The amp is (just about) light enough to pick up and the loudspeakers were a joy to work with: I can’t recall the last time I got a set of speakers set up and singing so quickly or easily. The bass tuning is self-contained and room friendly, the large adjustable feet on the stand made dialling in attitude and rake angle a matter of moments – and once you’ve paid attention to that, these speakers and this system surely do sing. Just drop that virtuoso slab of instrumental excellence, Sly, Wicked and Slick [Virgin] into the transport to hear the Compass Point all-stars seriously doing their thang. The Gryphons latch onto the rhythm with authority, capturing its lazy yet insistent quality, yet without letting it slip any further behind the beat. There’s no shortage of weight, heft, or attack here, no slowing or rounding, just utter temporal security. Sly’s cascading drum patterns have the dynamics and impact of a cannonade and when he sets the beat with his snare the almost mechanical drive it establishes makes it seem like somebody started a mad professor’s oversized metronome: the perfect precursor to Mikey Chung’s outrageous bass solos. Once again, there’s no missing that tactile sense of diameter and weight to the strings, but the guitarist’s speed and attack give the riff its unique, rasping, explosive quality, the notes almost sucking the air from the room.

From which we can safely deduce that this Gryphon rig ‘does’ dynamics. Play a range of material and you’ll also discover that these speakers like to be shown the stick – a stick that the Diablo 120 is perfectly equipped and only too willing to apply. Just listen to the massive closing crescendo to Sibelius’s Second Symphony; a passage that starts loud, eases back but keeps coming back stronger and louder than before, building and building until you start to wonder how much longer the orchestra can maintain it. Live it’s exhilarating: at home it all too often provokes an undignified lunge for the volume control as either the speakers or the amp fail to stay the course. But not this time: the beauty of a single-brand system like this is that it allows the designer to match the load characteristics of the speaker to the power delivery and headroom of the amp. Listening with the Diablo 120 and Mojo S, it wasn’t the fact that I didn’t have to trim the output level, even as the final crashing climax approached – it was the complete confidence that I wouldn’t have to that matters. Instead I could simply sit back and let the system carry me through this most monumental of musical moments. True shades of Gryphon’s bigger systems, an experience I’ve enjoyed, and one that’s not easily forgotten!

But Sibelius Two also highlights what the smallest Gryphon rig gives away compared to its bigger and (much) more expensive siblings. Listen to the second movement and the extended pizzicato string passage that opens it: now try and pick where the melody passes from basses to celli… Hmmm – not that easy. In fact, even knowing where the baton’s passed, it’s hard to detect the shift in tonality and harmonic signature between the two string instruments. The Diablo 120 (yes, I couldn’t resist firing up the Mojos with some of the other, heavyweight amps I have in house) lacks the uncanny ability to texturally and harmonically separate instruments that comes so effortlessly to Class A designs. Having said that, what it does deliver in combination with the Mojos, is the same sense of unburstable musical enthusiasm, dynamic headroom, and rhythmic authority – in a package that’s easier on the wallet, considerably easier on the running costs, and demands a lot less real estate. 

You could be forgiven for assuming that this Gryphon system is better suited to rock, pop, or jazz, rather than classical music: forgiven because, in part you’d be right. The dedicated classical listener would ask for greater tonal range and a greater sense of scale. The Mojo S chooses to deploy its bass weight in a more emphatic and propulsive fashion, one that certainly suits rock and pop, from Edwin Collins to Laura Cantrell, Joe Jackson, to the Jackson Five – with more than a bit of Milt Jackson or Sonny Rollins waiting in the wings. It’s not that it doesn’t do classical – just that it’s going to favour Berglund over Ashkenazy, Amandine Beyer, and Gli Incognito or La Petit Bande over Sir Neville and the Academy. Personally I can easily forgive the subtle tonal homogeneity if the other end of the sonic see-saw is giving me the warm overall balance and absence of edge and glare that deliver real world dynamics, and musical impact from a system this compact and this versatile.

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