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Gryphon Diablo 300

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To Jeff Fritz,

I have been itching to rebuild a system from scratch and the story about your new system build inspired me. A lot of the things you said on this and on current hi-fi trends resonated with me. I wanted to ask you, now that you have spent more time with your system, if you are still as enthusiastic? If I’m correct, you are running the Auralic Vega G2 as a streaming DAC-preamp into the Boulder 2060 driving the Vimberg Tonda speakers?

I really like the simplicity of this. I’d like to build a system that’s like this bottle of wine that you open, and it’s directly enjoyable and pleasant and not this fussy-elusive wine that has to have the right temperature, the right glasses, and you have to concentrate to find the notes. I think wine and hi-fi have a lot in common in the sense that there is a lot of snobbery and mine-is-bigger-than-yours kind of thing.

Anyway, I am living in the South of France and don’t have many options to listen to systems: shops don’t carry this or that and the audio shows aren’t necessarily the best for this. And if you ask ten people, you’re gonna get ten different opinions. Similarly to you, I had a crush on Vimberg and wanted to have your opinion since you can’t review your own speakers.

I would be looking at the Vimberg Mino since I have a smaller budget and room and had several questions, if you would be so kind.

Did you have a chance to compare the speaker with and without the diamond tweeter? Which model do you actually have? What do you think the diamond tweeter brings over the standard one (since it is a pricey upgrade)? You essentially have a powerhouse amplifier driving your Vimbergs, but did you experience driving them with less-powerful amps? How hard do you think the Minos are to drive since they’re 4 ohms? Are they fussy to place or no more or less than average? Do you find them to be versatile with different kinds of music? How would you characterize their sound? Which cables are you using and find satisfactory?

My build idea would be similar to yours: Auralic Vega G2 (or similar concept) DAC-preamplifier, Constellation Inspiration Mono 1.0 amplifiers, Vimberg Mino speakers. What do you think about the synergy of these elements? I would probably be running Roon from a MacBook Pro to mostly stream.

Alternatively, would you have any other system recommendations with a similar spirit? I want a pleasant, simple, versatile, resolving, and good bang-for-my-buck system where I can listen to music instead of listening to cables or components.

Thanks for taking the time to read and for your kind input.

Kind regards,
Stephane
France

My current system consists of the Vimberg Tonda speakers, a Boulder 2060 stereo power amplifier, a Hegel Music Systems HD30 digital-to-analog converter with integral volume control, and an Apple MacBook Pro laptop running Roon and streaming Qobuz. Wire is Siltech Explorer and the rack that supports the Apple and Hegel is an SGR Audio Model III Symphony. Simplicity is very important to me, sound quality is paramount, and I value superior engineering supported by measurements and immaculate build quality.

As such, I can easily see the system you describe being an amazing one. Very rarely would I give a “go for it” right out of the gate from a reader’s letter, but in this case I can’t imagine this setup not being fantastic. There is no question that the Constellation mono amplifiers would drive the Vimbergs with ease, and the Auralic would provide a super-quiet, transparent source signal. If you add good cabling from any of a multitude of brands and a solid rack, you’re in business.

As to the sound quality of the Vimberg Tonda, I’m exactly a year into ownership so it is probably time for an update on that front. Although sometimes you start to get itchy around the year mark to look at something else, I can say with sincerity that I appreciate the Vimberg speakers I own more now than when I originally bought them. The pair of them sound lightning fast, play deep in the bass and with visceral impact, are transparent and neutral to the source signal, and image with great precision and focus. The Tonda is truly a world beater as far as I am concerned. What I know of the smaller Mino model is that it is essentially the same speaker only with smaller drivers. I would assume you could achieve about the same sound quality as with the Tonda, as long as the space is not too large you have enough power -- the Constellation monos would ensure the latter.

As far as my decision to purchase my Tondas with the ceramic tweeters instead of the diamond versions, it came down to a couple of things: first, cost; second, looking at measurements of the Accuton ceramic tweeter I could see that it is capable of solid extension into the very high frequencies and is quite linear. I’ve been happy with that choice, as the HF performance of my Tondas strikes a perfect balance between extension and air, and listenability. I’ve not been tempted to have my pair upgraded. Lastly, placement is no more or less fussy than other speakers I’ve had through my system this past year.

Good luck with your system build, and do write back once you get further along in your buying process. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

First, I want to thank you for the many great reviews you have been providing enthusiasts (including myself!) for years.

If I could ask you for a small request with a simple, honest question. Would Jeff Fritz trade in a Simaudio 700i integrated amplifier for a T+A Elektroakustik PA 3100 HV integrated amplifier? Hoping that the PA 3100 HV is better in all aspects. Much Appreciated.

Thank You,
Pat Del Sordo
Canada

What would Jeff Fritz do? Hmm, that’s a bit different than what would I advise you to do. But here goes: I would not make the trade, and here’s why. First, the Moon Evolution 700i retailed for $13,000, and has now been superseded by the v2 version. That means its trade-in value is not as great as it might be if it were a current product. The PA 3100 HV retails for $23,500. That means your out of pocket for the “upgrade” is likely to be well into five figures. If I were putting that kind of money into my system I’d look elsewhere. The 700i is a terrific integrated amplifier and, honestly, probably holds its own versus the T+A in most ways. Might the T+A edge it out in certain respects? Sure, but I’d have to hear a clear advantage in favor of the German amp before spending that kind of money, and I’m not confident that’s what I’d hear.

If it were me, and I had the space, I’d look at separates -- a power amp and a preamp. That’s probably the best way to get a sound-quality upgrade commensurate with the money outlay we’re talking about. So that’s what I would do, but I’d love to hear back when you know what you’re going to do. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Garrett Hongo,

I read your reviews with interest. I’m currently looking for a mono cartridge, and trying to read between the lines, you seemed to like the Ortofon Cadenza perhaps a little better than the Miyajima Premium BE? How would you characterize their sonic differences? Is the Miyajima bolder/more robust? Any other recommendations around this price point or a little above, but not in the $3k-$5k range, which is too rich for what I want to spend?

Many thanks
Stephane
United States

Thanks for your question and appreciation of these two old reviews of mine on mono cartridges!

To answer you truthfully, “it depends.” If your mono collection is mainly of contemporary reissue material, I can heartily recommend the narrower, line-contact-stylus Ortofon Cadenza Mono cart. If you have more vintage LPs dating from pre-1958, I’d recommend the larger, oval-profile Miyajima Premium BE cart.

For a cartridge equally adept at both eras of LPs, though, pre-’58 vintage and contemporary reissue, I recommend another cartridge completely -- my reference Miyajima Zero ($2150). Mind you, I still have the Cadenza Mono and also an Ortofon SPU Mono CG 25 Di MkII cart and its companion dedicated step-up transformer. I listen to them all. But the Zero is my all-around. I think you’ll be happy with it.

There are also two other versions: the Infinity version that’s $3375 and a 78rpm version for $2250. . . . Garrett Hongo

To Jeff Fritz,

Thanks for your great review of the Auralic Vega G2 DAC. I have had one in my system for a year and am in firm agreement with your observations.

I did take the plunge and added the Leo GX clock. I wanted to demo the unit and see if there was any noticeable difference. I don’t want to disappoint you, but the improvement is just night and day -- as great as the G2 was over the Comet that I used previously, [this is an even greater improvement].

I don’t really understand why, but there is even more clarity and air around instruments, yet the musicality is front and center. Too often I have auditioned equipment that is claimed to be revealing, only to hear that etched, clinical presentation that drives me from the music.

The Leo GX is a revelation and worth an audition. You have to change the interior clock cable in the Vega G2 to use the Leo, but otherwise, it just fits in.

Rodney
Canada

To Jeff Fritz,

I trust you are keeping well. If you were in my place and ever got the itch to upgrade from [my Rockport Technologies] Avior, what direction would you take? I am considering the Rockport Technologies Cygnus and the Tidal Contriva G2.

Cheers,
Sujay
South Africa

Those are certainly two fine loudspeakers you’re considering. They are both topflight full-range floorstanders, and neither could be considered a bad choice by any means. That does not mean they are interchangeable, however.

The main difference will be in the tonal balances presented by the two speakers. In short, the Cygnus will sound fuller in the bass, and perhaps play a touch deeper into the low frequencies. Rockport is known for its generous bass response, and the two 10” woofers in each Cygnus are very capable in this regard. And although the top end of the Cygnus sounds more open than Rockports past, it will still sound a tad subdued when compared with the way many speakers present the treble. On the other hand, the Contriva G2 will sound more precise, with more finely delineated images placed on a more pinpoint-precise soundstage, due in part to the perception of increased treble information. The Contriva G2 will sound more airy and holographic in the highs, and faster in the bass.

These two speakers are both built to the loftiest standards, and are engineered to the highest degree possible. In those areas they are more alike than dissimilar. However, both products reflect the priorities of their designers, and which you’ll gravitate toward is very much a personal choice. Good luck and let me know what you ultimately choose. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Garrett Hongo,

I read your review of the Esoteric K-05X on SoundStage! Ultra. Thank you and great job in comprehensively covering a complex machine. I had an impression that the Mac is not compatible with Esoteric DACs. Did this change only with the K-05X and its siblings, or could the earlier K series (without the X factor) also have Mac-based feeds? And how was the setup process with a Mac? Many thanks for your attention.

Best Regards,
Giri
India

Thanks for your question. I’ve no knowledge of or experience with how the prior Esoteric K-series DACs may have interacted with Macs. But, as I wrote in my review, even Esoteric acknowledged that the K-series DACs prior to the K-05X tended to fall more on the analytic side of the sonic fence. It’s why the X-iteration came about. That said, setting up my Mac was a cinch.

The K-05X has now gone through yet another iteration in the K-05Xs, said to be even more smooth-sounding without loss of detail. But I’ve not yet heard it myself, much as I was tempted to buy it outright. . . . Garrett Hongo

To Jeff Fritz,

I’ve been reading your articles for quite some time now, and was hoping I could bother you with a question. I have been gradually upgrading my system over the past year and it’s time to get new speakers. My current setup is a pair of B&W CM9 [speakers], ARC DS225 [amplifier], and an ARC SP20 [preamplifier], so I’m sure you’d agree that my speakers have fallen behind. I’m looking in the range of $10-15k [per pair] and have been eyeing a pair of B&W 802 D2s, but have always been really keen on Wilson Audio, so their Sabrina would be a consideration for me. Alternatively, I could also hold on a few more months and shell out the $$ for Wilson’s Sasha 2s. What do you think? I am open to any suggestions! Thanks in advance!

Kind regards,
Dan Nathan
United States

I’d expand your horizons some, Dan. If it were me, I’d look toward some other brands -- you’ll find that there are some outstanding models out there that may have flown under your radar. Here are the brands and models I’d try to hear if I were in your shoes.

Since I just purchased the Vimberg Tonda, and am thrilled with my set, I’d suggest you look into the smaller Mino. The Mino is still a three-way speaker and is built to the same high standard as their larger stablemate, but is better suited to mid-size rooms. A pair of them will cast a soundstage the likes of which you will not believe is possible until you hear it in person. The Magico S3 Mk.II would also be a fine choice. This three-way speaker has the proprietary drivers Magico is known for and, as a result of these fine drive units, is super resolving. Another solid choice would be the Rockport Technologies Atria II, which features the company’s new waveguide-aided tweeter for an open, expansive sound (not to mention that great Rockport build quality). Lastly, I love what Focal has been doing with their Sopra line -- this is another beryllium-tweetered speaker series that sounds sweet yet detailed, and of course the styling of the models is great, too.

In summary, get out there and hear some new stuff. And keep in touch -- I’d be interested to know what you eventually choose. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jason Thorpe,

A brilliantly written review. From your review, I see we have a few things musically in common, one being enjoying “The Musical Box” at the Danforth Music Hall. I can’t help but write to suggest you watch at least the opening of a recent Nicolas Cage film called Mandy. It’s a pretty violent horror film and may not be to everyone’s tastes, but you may find the first few minutes interesting.

Thanks for sharing your audio experiences.

Mike Brown
Canada

Thanks very much for the high praise, Mike. I’ll check out that movie on your recommendation, although my tolerance for horror movies has diminished since I became a father. I’ll try to get through it! . . . Jason Thorpe

To Jason Thorpe,

Very nice review of the Vivid Kaya 45 loudspeakers. As a Torontonian now living in California, I enjoyed the Canadian references throughout the review.

I wonder if you can give me a little bit of advice. I am narrowing down on three speakers for my smallish office, 12’L x 11’W x 9’H: Paradigm Persona 3F, Vivid Kaya 45, Yamaha NS-5000.

I have heard the Paradigm Persona 5F and feel that the smaller Persona 3F with an Anthem STR preamp with ARC3 DSP would work. The same preamp [paired] with Vivid Kaya 45 [speakers] -- I am not sure because of the side-firing woofers. I have not heard the Yamaha yet since it is not available yet in the USA, though I understand it may be in the summer. I may come up to Toronto to have a listen this summer whatever the case.

I have heard the Vivid Kaya 90s, and liked them a lot, and the Vivid Kaya 45s are supposed to play in smaller rooms and can be placed closer to the back wall, due to the canceling of some of the rear sound waves.

My office is treated with acoustic treatments and it sounds real good now. Can you give me some feedback as to whether the side-firing woofers are a bad choice for such a small room?

If you have heard the other two speakers on my list, do you have a favorite amongst the three?

Regards,
Manoj C.
United States

Dimensions of 11’ x 12’ x 9' make for a fairly small room for the Kaya 45s -- it's also quite square. But if you do have it well treated, you might be fine. Also, if you’re using Anthem Room Correction (ARC), you may well be able to ameliorate any nasty standing waves. I also don’t believe the side-firing woofers will cause any problems, since low-frequency sound waves are so long, though the only way to be sure is to listen to them, unfortunately. I also suggest you contact Vivid themselves, as they can likely give you some further insight.

Regarding the Personas -- at the Toronto Audio Fest this past year, I had a chance to hear the Persona 9H loudspeakers driven by the Anthem STR integrated amp, and they sounded fantastic, so I think you have a hard choice ahead of you.

I also had the chance to hear the Yamaha NS-5000 speakers, but they’re large boxes, and might well overpower your room. But again, maybe ARC will be able to help.

In the end, though, if it were my money, I think I’d choose the Vivids. . . . Jason Thorpe

To Hans Wetzel,

I’ve read your article about the Gryphon Diablo 300 and you wrote that you used Sonus Faber’s Venere S to test, among other speakers. I want to ask if [the] Diablo 300 and Venere S speakers were a good match? I got the Venere S speakers and am going to change to the Diablo 300 or the T+A 3100 HV. Home demo is not available in my country, so I’m [wondering if the] Diablo 300 would be a good match for my Venere S speakers. Thank you.

Hieu Nguyen
Vietnam

I think Gryphon’s Diablo 300 is a fantastic amp, and with its massive power reserves, would work well with just about any loudspeakers, including a pair of Venere Ses. As you can tell from my reviews of both the Diablo 300 and the Venere S, products that I used in tandem with one another for each review, I certainly liked what I heard. I think you will, too.

I will say, however, that the Diablo 300 is probably overkill for this application, as is the T+A 3100 HV. Something like Gryphon’s Diablo 120 or T+A’s PA 2000 R, the latter of which I reviewed back in 2016, should have no problem driving the Venere S speakers to their full potential. With a 90dB efficiency rating and a nominal 4-ohm impedance, the S should be a breeze for either amp to drive, since each offers at least 200Wpc on tap into a 4-ohm load and plenty of current. Personally, I’d opt for one of these amps and pocket the difference for upgrading my DAC, turntable, or speakers going forward. Should you decide to plump for the Diablo 300, however, you can be secure in the knowledge that you’re buying one of the very best integrated amplifiers out there. Good luck! . . . Hans Wetzel