Gryphon Audio Designs Antileon EVO Stereo Power Amplifier
While working on this review, I learned of the passing of one of my favorite musicians, someone I’d been following since my early 20s—Chick Corea. (A 40″ x 50″ portrait of him hangs in my listening room.) I spent a day revisiting his vast and incredibly varied body of work, much of it featuring virtuoso bass players (Miroslav Vituoš, Stanley Clarke, Eddie Gomez, Dave Holland, John Pattitucci, Christian McBride, etc.). The Antileon EVO beautifully conveyed Vituoš’ inventive phrasing on Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, Gomez’s hard-driving style on “The One Step” from the album Friends, McBride’s stunning virtuosity on the recent live album Trilogy 2. The Antileon EVO was a perfect vehicle for appreciating Corea’s music, and the outstanding bass playing on all his albums.
Although I’ve characterized the Antileon EVO as leaning toward a warm and rich sound, it was also upbeat and exciting—often mutually exclusive qualities. I think that the viscerally engaging aspect of the amplifier is due to its tremendous density of instrumental color, as well its stunning speed and dynamic impact. This rich instrumental color is the result of the generous warmth in the power range coupled with the absence of the thin, dry, sterile treble sound of much solid-state. The upbeat quality is driven by the EVO’s transient speed and power. This is a very fast amplifier that can swing dynamic contrasts with startling impact, and real weight behind that impact. The snare pop on Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature—one of the best drum sounds I know of on disc—was phenomenal in its explosive energy, adding a visceral feeling of propulsion to the music. In fact, I can’t say that I’ve heard an amplifier with more startling dynamics than the Antileon EVO.
Some potential purchasers may view the EVO’s 150Wpc power output as inadequate, particularly in an amplifier that costs $39,000. But I can tell you that not all watts are created equal. Not only are the EVO’s 150 watts Class A watts, but the amplifier also has the ability to double its output power as the impedance is halved, all the way to one ohm, where it can deliver 1200Wpc. That’s a sign that the amplifier can deliver ample current. Driving the Wilson Chronosonic XVX, the EVO showed no signs of strain, or of approaching its power-output limit, on even the most dynamic and demanding material.
A more legitimate caveat is the Antileon EVO’s power consumption and heat output. The amplifier was in my system in the winter months, including February’s deep freeze, so I didn’t mind the heat it generated. That may be different in the summer, or in hot climates. The EVO’s massive inefficiency and power draw should also be considered. I get 100% of my electricity from rooftop solar, and so was not concerned about the EVO’s environmental impact and power cost. You should weigh these factors when choosing an amplifier. I appreciated, however, the ability to lower the bias with the front-panel buttons, greatly reducing the energy consumption and heat output.
Class A amplifiers are sometimes characterized as smooth and sweet, yet lacking treble openness, dynamic impact, and excitement. The Gryphon Antileon EVO’s triumph is delivering the great virtues of Class A operation—seductive warmth, liquid textures, and a sense of ease—but with tremendous speed and dynamic authority along with a visceral excitement and energy. Its warm harmonic richness and absence of grain and glare reveal the beauty of tone colors in a way that is nothing short of seductive.
Throw in stunning build-quality and striking industrial design, and you have an amplifier that pushes all the right buttons. Having lived with this third-generation Antileon, it’s easy to see why its fundamental architecture has endured for 26 years—and counting.
By Robert Harley
My older brother Stephen introduced me to music when I was about 12 years old. Stephen was a prodigious musical talent (he went on to get a degree in Composition) who generously shared his records and passion for music with his little brother.More articles from this editor
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