Gryphon Essence Line-Stage and Power Amplifier

Reaching for something smaller, I settled on the debut disc from the young Spanish Cellist Pablo Ferrández (Reflections, Sony 19439853782). Accompanied by piano, he works his way through a selection of Rachmaninoff pieces, including the G Minor Sonata and a wonderfully lyrical Vocalise. But the core repertoire is interspersed with short pieces of Spanish origin, such as Falla’s ‘Asturiana’ (transcribed from the Suite Populaire) a little over two minutes of deeply expressive introspection. The pace and weighting of the piano part, the soulful, elongated phrases of the cello perfectly encapsulate the ability of these amps to maintain both clarity and natural tonal warmth, so often mutually exclusive qualities. There’s no ponderous bottom end to the piano or thickening of the cello’s plaintive tones, familiar flaws in amplifiers that claim to sound warm. This is just honest to goodness harmonic color, texture and body. Combine that with the Gryphon’s expressive range and rhythmic articulation and you have a recipe for prolonged musical gratification. I’ve long enjoyed the sound of the Diablo 120 – not least because it’s simply so darned listenable. I enjoy the Essence amps considerably more!

The Essence power amp doesn’t just look solid!

With all that warmth, body and clarity, you’d expect voices to be the Essence amplifiers’ star turn – and you’ll not be disappointed. Time and again I marvelled at just how naturally and expressively vocals were rendered, the clarity of diction and their articulation. Familiar voices were exactly that – familiar – while the way a singer worked a lyric wasn’t just more obvious, it was more effective, the results more affective. I could list a string of vocal performances, but in many ways the single most
impressive turn the Essence amps put in was hooked up to the TV!

Tinker, Tailor…

Quality acting in quality drama, streamed or from Blu-ray disc took on a whole new weight and impact. Not only were voices more distinct, mumbled lines more clearly understood, but the emotional range achieved by great actors was significantly more obvious, be it Al Pacino in Scent Of A Woman, Alec Guinness or Gary Oldman, both in decades separate versions of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Pacino’s performance in particular can seem abrasive and two-dimensional, but the Essence amps revealed the depth and textures in his voice, the wounded bitterness behind the bravado. Suddenly you realised why he got an Oscar for the part – and why it was fully deserved. Back in the day, I sold more AV systems off of the tango scene in this movie than I care to count – but I never got results like this. Okay, so I never used amps like these, but that’s exactly the point – the Essence are not just a cut above, they’re really quite special in the degree to which they can communicate the humanity in a performance, whether that’s an actor in a movie or the players creating a musical performance. Guinness, talking about the role of Smiley in the BBC Tinker Tailor…series, explains that all he had to act with were his stillness, his glasses and his voice. Of course, it’s quite a voice – but the Essence bring home just how nuanced and textured it really is, how vivid a window it offers onto the character’s motivations and soul. It’s no mean feat, just as it’s no mean performance – one that the Essence makes all the more arrestingly compelling. Rest assured, singers benefit to the self same extent, whether that’s Robert Smith, Muriel Smith or  (Lord help us) Sir Tom Jones.