Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo boost, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 12.2), PureMusic 2.04, Qobuz Hifi, Tidal Hifi, COS Engineering D1, Metrum Hex, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi La Scala MkII, SOtM dX-USB HD w. super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2s, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20, S.A. Lab Lilt [on review]
Preamplifier: COS Engineering D1, Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Bent Audio Tap-X, Vinnie Rossi Lio (TVC)
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8, FirstWatt S1, F6; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Gato Audio DIA-250; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; AURALiC Merak [on loan], SST Audio Son of Ampzilla II [on review]
Loudspeakers: Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Sounddeco Sigma 2; Eversound Essence; soundkaos Wave 40; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Submission; German Physiks HRS-120, Gallo Strada II w. TR-3D subwoofer
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event MkI and MkII; KingRex uArt double-header USB; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Arkana Research XLR/RCA and speaker cables [on loan]
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, 5m cords to amp/s and subwoofer
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves and Krion or glass-based Exoteryc stand/s for amp/s
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: Irregularly shaped 9.5 x 10m open floor plan with additional 2nd-floor loft; wood-paneled sloping ceiling; parquet flooring; lots of non-parallel surfaces (pictorial tour here)
Review component retail: €19'800

Becoming legendary and remaining so must marry quality with consistency. With any sufficient severity, a single error of judgment or execution can tarnish reputation and stature that were hard-earned over many decades. No matter your legerdemain then, the legend's legs begin to end. This could be a change of ownership. Krell without Dan D'Agostino, Thiel without Jim Thiel are mere shells of their former glory. Mark Levinson and Revox today are nothing like they once were. Nagra Audio have changed ownership but remain with and in the Kudelski family. Thus far this most iconic of Swiss hifi brands have managed their transition so well that they appear to be on an actual ascendant. That's rare. In Denmark, we've had names like ScanSpeak and Dynaudio migrate into Chinese ownership, leading original founders and key engineers to launch new and competing companies like Audio Technologies and SB Acoustics. Perhaps no other name in Danish hifi is as legendary—and long-lived at that level—as Gryphon Audio are under the literally tall and unchanged leadership of Flemming Rasmussen. Nobody disputes their standing. Nobody complains about their expense. It's par for the course whenever one deals with the best of the best. In hifi that must be based on real engineering and demonstrable performance, not runaway marketing and empty promises. Staying power is the true foundation upon which lasting legends are built.

With products, it's not only about undeniable quality though. Consistency and longevity are just as vital. Like old money, customer investments are honoured with very conservative product replacements. One doesn't refresh the catalogue annually with new models or MkII iterations. Neither does one cater to the nouveau riche's obsession with cosmetic bling; nor jumps onto the latest fashions just to keep up with the Joneses. Products gestate slowly to insure full maturity and completeness upon launch. Emerging industry trends are observed carefully and over a few years to assess their true relevance or lack thereof. It's only when PCfi with its reliance on external D/A conversion had proven itself here for the long haul that our Danes authored their first DAC. Until then and even now, they kept the faith with integrated high-end solutions for physical carriers of digital data. Fully cognizant that the PCfi scene won't ever enter a period of true stability—being tethered to computers, IT and telecom, changes occur rapidly every six months—for their first DAC they naturally insisted on modularity to insure future proofiness and peace of mind; and that both PCM and DSD were catered to. With the Gryphon name steeped deeply in myth, it's little surprise that their first DAC would be called Kalliope. That's from the Greek kallos and ops (καλλος and οψ) for 'beautiful voice', the name of an ancient goddess of epic poetry and eloquence and also one of the nine muses. A final ingredient of successful legendemaine is perfectionist branding. The best brands make all their owners feel as though they were an elite part of a very exclusive club. With two gorgeously produced coffee table books already, on their company's storied history which celebrates a 30th anniversary this year, Gryphon have presentation down pat as well. To illustrate the mind set of their founder who is a degreed painter and graphic artist from the Aarhus Art Academy, consider Benjamin Franklin's motto which is part of Flemming Rasmussen's email signature: "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." Hint: luck, coincidence & Co. have little to do with it. A bit of fishiness just might.

Another hint, on what to expect from any of their products is, again, in the company name; that is, when rendered in full as Gryphon Audio Designs. It's not Gryphon Audio Laboratory aka men in white coats. It's designs, plural. That's because industrial design plays a big part in all of Gryphon's products. Hitting upon just the right mix of luxury and understatement is another key ingredient of playing it for longevity. It's called timelessness. And only the truly best have that. Without any debate whatsoever, Gryphon are one of those few have-its.
Which segues neatly into covering just what it is that the Kalliope has which DACs from competitors may not. It all begins with the Danish back panel on the next page; and a bit of silk screen on said panel, about something Kalliope doesn't have - negative feedback.
Kalliope, eldest of the muses