Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.01, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi La Scala MkII, Fore Audio DAISy 1, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20, Questyle QP1R
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVC module), COS Engineering D1
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, F5, F6, F7; S.A.Lab Blackbird SE; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Gato Audio DIA-250; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; AURALiC Merak [on loan]
Loudspeakers: Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Sounddeco Sigma 2; soundkaos Wave 40; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Arkana Research XLR/RCA and speaker cables [on loan]; Sablon Audio Petit Corona power cords [on loan], Black Cat Cable Lupo
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, 5m cords to amp/s + sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: Rectangular 5.5 x 15 metres with gabled 2-storey ceiling and stone-over-concrete floor
Review component retail in Europe [ex VAT]: €12'800 for Diablo 300, €1'800 for phono module, €4'800 for DAC module, €35'000/pr for Pantheon, €3'000/set for optional carbon-fibre panels (be advised that local taxes will alter all of these prices from country to country)

Lead me not into temtation.
Trial. Error. Money. Time. Do you self medicate to attain ultimate playback health? Then there will be temtation galore. And despite possibly heroic commitment to these four (horsemen of the apocalypse?), you may never be certain that you've in fact arrived. For assurance, best consult a proper audio doctor; one designer whose perspective on total hifi matches your own. From him, commit to a complete system, front to back. Only that avoids dilution and compromise. Yield to an expert. That's irrefutable logic. Yet very few hifi brands are equally competent at everything one needs to build a system with. Burmester, Cary, Goldmund, Krell, Linn, Naim, Pass, Sony & Bros - none of them have really pulled off delivering electronics and loudspeakers which enjoy equal status and renown. Naim and Focal in fact became a joint entity to share their respective circuit and transducer tech. The FineSound Group strategically acquired McIntosh, Wadia, Sumiko and Sonus faber to combine amplification, digital, vinyl, subwoofer and loudspeaker expertise under one umbrella which today calls itself World of McIntosh.

Enter Gryphon of Denmark. They are that rarest of hifi companies who demonstrate equal competence at statement-level loudspeaker and electronic design. 50:50 sales prove it. For post-apocalyptic peace of mind at a very high level, we shall look at their Diablo 300 integrated; and their smallest Pantheon floorstander. Add a Mac/PC or other music streamer/server. You're done. 'Made' as the wise guys used to say. You'll be sanctified by the Gryphon gospel. You'll be guaranteed sonics exactly as their team intended. Your arrival is certain. Of course the church of playback has many mansions. Current language might simply replace the Biblical mansions with 'perspectives'. Those shape our experience. One must find a house sound or audio aesthetic which one finds worthy of emulation; which presents musical perspective in a manner one finds most compelling. Today's assignment is about capturing Gryphon's house sound. That means their DAC, their preamp, their power amp, their speakers. The first three simply reside in one chassis. That eliminates cable variables and guarantees shortest signal paths with optimal interstage Ω matches. If we disregard their small Mojo S monitors, this hardware constellation also represents the most cost-effective entry into sonic realism from this house.

But there's yet more to this approach. Like Darwinians still seeking the missing link between man and monkeys, so hifi users chase their weakest link. Unfortunately that could be anything; between mice and men as it were. Identifying it with certainty is near impossible due to hifi's interactive behaviour. Nip one thing here, pull something else out of shape over there. The underlying rules are often elusive. That makes it one of the mechanisms which perpetuate the upgrade/change game. The only one with a real chance at identifying then eliminating the weak link is the designer; if he has total control over the entirety. Submitting to this logic means assurance that a given hardware assembly has each component perform 'on the level' to arrive at a sum greater than its parts. Only that is dream team collaboration. It sidesteps the weak-link bottleneck that never lets you hear what often expensive gear can actually do. Getting only 50% performance returns on your hifi investment isn't happy math after all. Reviewers aren't immune either. Install a €20'000 statement DAC in a system of lesser ambitions. Common sense predicts that such a setup will minimize if not entirely erase any sonic advantages said machine might have enjoyed over a resident €6'000 competitor had just the rest been up to snuff. Putting together today's assignment with Gryphon's tall boss Flemming Rasmussen thus addresses most such flaws. The remaining variables are the room, speaker/power cables and power delivery. The only way to eliminate those would be to conduct a review at Gryphon's facilities. But that's not how we work. And you wouldn't expect us to.

For an assessment of just the Diablo 300, by our Australian contributor Edgar Kramer, click on the Audio Esoterica cover, a special bi-annual issue of their domestic AVHub print magazine for which he hand-picks the top reviews. For Edgar's earlier assessment of Gryphon's large Pendragon speaker, click here. For my prior review on their Kalliope DAC, click here. This gives you proper pre-trial triangulation from our team, about how individual Gryphon components performed for us. Against such a backdrop, one would expect today's assignment to fall right in line. That after all is the whole notion of a 'house sound' or 'perspective' in the first place. Given the non-diluted nature of this assignment, might we arrive at perhaps an even more elevated outcome? That promise certainly motivated this writer to requisition this loaner system.
Gryphon are purists. For electronics that's fully balanced, dual mono, DC coupled, high bandwidth and zero NFB. With 200W idle and 1'900W max power draw (standby a Brussels-correct <0.5W), the class AB Diablo 300 embodies all of Gryphon's design DNA whilst dispatching an unruffled 300wpc/8Ω and 950wpc/2Ω (!). Those are record-setting figures for any linear integrated. They also suggest class A bias into at least 10W. 38dB of gain allied to 0-350kHz bandwidth with 0.019Ω output impedance and >120dB channel separation continue the tale. Dimensions of 48x23.5x46cm WxHxD with a 38kg fighting weight end it with an exclamation mark. MM/MC or a Kalliope-derived digital module are optional. Standard are the +12dB subwoofer output, software-upgradeable microprocessor control and vacuum-fluorescent touch display. For the ported 3-way Pantheon, it means constant-phase Duelund xovers at 250Hz/2.5kHz with battery-sourced bias voltage; physical time alignment via concave baffle; and top drivers from Mundorf and Audio Technology (an AMT tweeter bracketed by dual 5.5" mids, then dual 8" woofers). Bandwidth is an all-inclusive 25Hz-27kHz, sensitivity 90dB/4Ω. Dimensions for all that are 39x149x69cm WxHxD whilst ship weight per is a colossal 122kg. Also part of any Gryphon product are high industrial design and peerless finishing. All of that costs. As such, Gryphon have always positioned themselves as a luxury brand of true substance. Luxury means elegant cosmetics, quality builds and high prices. Substance means real engineering for top performance that's been extensively documented with a pile-high collection of international reviews and distinctions.