I adore the idea of a one-box audio solution, irrespective of the arguable sonic compromises that tend to go along with it. I've already written about several integrateds that a run-of-the-mill audiophile such as myself would be able to own, but Gryphon Audio Designs and the Jeff Rowland Design Group have brought to Munich some military-grade audio jewelry that deserves a shout-out.
I'm not sure the word beautiful could ever appropriately describe Gryphon's products, though their appeal is undeniable. The €12,800 all-black Diablo 300 integrated is a perfect exemplar of the Danish company's design aesthetic. Heatsinks adorn the top and bottom of the front panel, with larger ones lining the side panels. The four corners of the monstrous integrated are flared, which, along with the multiple uneven surfaces on the faceplate, reflects an almost brutalist approach to product design. The Diablo 300, then, is an unapologetic brute, an amp appropriate for a man who kills his own dinner and proceeds to cook it over a wood fire from a tree that he took down with an oversized axe. I've never seen anything like it in hi-fi.
The specs are Biblical, as the dual-mono, class-AB Diablo 300 generates up to 300Wpc into 8 ohms, 600Wpc into 4 ohms, and 950Wpc into a 2-ohm load, courtesy of a capacitor bank comprising 64,000 microfarads per channel. Out back are oversized binding posts, two balanced inputs, one unbalanced input, a tape input, a phono input, a tape output, and a subwoofer output. Gryphon also offers a pair of optional modules for additional flexibility, including an MM/MC phono stage, and a PCM-/DSD-native DAC. The digital module's inputs include one USB, two S/PDIF, one AES/EBU, and one TosLink. Each module retails for an additional €4800. You would imagine that with the Gryphon's imposing presentation, huge power, and stability down to 2 ohms, it would be nearly impossible to match.
Not to be outdone, Jeff Rowland Design Group released its Daemon integrated amplifier, and -- incredibly -- it's an even more intimidating proposition. Retailing for $38,800, it boasts an astonishing 1500Wpc into 8 ohms, and 2500Wpc into 4 ohms. Its class-D amplifier topology explains its relatively reasonable 99-pound weight. This gentleman-thug sports a beautifully polished front panel, and a chassis fashioned from solid bars of aluminum. On the rear are six analog inputs (three balanced, three unbalanced), as well as RCA and XLR HT inputs, and RCA and XLR line outputs. The built-in DAC has a full suite of digital connections, consisting of two S/PDIF, two BNC, one AES/EBU, one USB, and three TosLink. The front panel has a large, beautiful 7" by 5" touchscreen interface, and a discrete headphone amplifier with a 1/4" jack.
The machined aluminum remote control uses a low-energy Bluetooth connection to communicate with the Daemon, and JRDG expects mobile device applications will be forthcoming. Optional features will include an HDMI input/output module, a Wi-Fi streaming module, and an MC/MM module for use with a turntable. Ceramic circuit boards are used throughout the integrated, and independent power supplies are used for the analog and digital sections. The fit, finish, and overall polish of the entire package are excellent. While its peak output of 30 amps won't propel the most difficult-to-drive loudspeakers the way a massive class-A or class-AB design might, the Daemon is nonetheless a statement-level integrated amplifier that offers more power than, well, any other amp that I've ever come across.
Does it make sense to clutter a room with box after box after box of expensive metal to get reference-quality sound when something like the Diablo 300 and the Daemon integrated amps, with their available DAC and phono sections, are true one-box alternatives? As an avowed audio consolidationist, my answer is an emphatic no.
Senior Contributor, SoundStage!