I’ve always had a sneaky affection for Crystal’s diminutive yet incredibly clever Minissimo speakers. I’ve never known a speaker this small that packs in so much material and technological innovation – and the design continues to evolve. The latest forté iteration incorporates internal changes to improve diffraction and resonance effects within the enclosure, the contoured top-cap, an elegant integral stand and most significant of all – an actively buffered input. If the notion of a loudspeaker that requires both speaker lead and a power cord fills you with confusion, rest assured that you are not alone…
Borrowing thinking from the large (make that colossal) Siltech Symphony speaker, the forté includes a zero-gain active stage at its input. On the face of it, adding an extra active stage to the signal path might seem counter-intuitive but in practice it makes a whole lot of sense, isolating the amplifier’s output stage from the vagaries of the speaker’s impedance characteristic and back EMF. The Minissimo always sounds invitingly musical but in this instance, on the end of the (admittedly pricy and super transparent) Siltech SAGA electronic it was positively singing. If you want small, elegant, super-refined and yet super capable, this latest generation Minissimo is a great place to start.
Gryphon Diablo 333
Whilst I’ve generally been a fan of the musicality and presence delivered by Gryphon systems, I’ve always had my preferred components – and the original Diablo 300 integrated amplifier was not amongst them. For me it exhibited none of the grace, warmth, body and flow that made the smaller Diablo 120 my ‘reach-for’ integrated for the almost the last ten-years.
When the Essence pre-power arrived, that was cut from the same musical cloth as the 120, so I was especially intrigued to discover whether the restyled and reinvented Diablo 300 would follow the same path. Well, now dubbed the 333 (which is, I guess, half of 666) the answer is an emphatic yes. The new amp is very much a bigger, more capable and more versatile 120, which is a great thing as far as I’m concerned. Clearly the extra power opens up a whole host of partnering options, but the larger 333 chassis also allows the bigger integrated to accommodate both a phono-stage and a DAC, rather than the either/or arrangement found in the 120. Internally, a clever cross-brace anchors the substantial power transformer, supports the low-noise fan (needed for cooling if and only if the optional input cards are installed) and stiffens the chassis, especially the heatsinks and output stage. The front-panel now sports the inverted-V styling of the Essence. The Diablo 333 will be available in Q3 of this year at a cost of €21,80.
Hooked up to a pair of Gryphon’s own compact floor-standers, playing vinyl on a Brinkmann front-end, the sound had all the presence, drive and colour and was just as appealing as the 120, but with greater headroom and a substantially more solid foundation supporting an expansive yet natural soundstage. The Kertesz ‘New World’ was suitably thunderous and emphatic and I expect great things from this new ‘super-integrated’.