When Zena touched down in Ireland late May 2019, that year's Munich show had come and gone. What also had gone was the brand's absence from US soil. When during 2018 Luxman decided to change their distribution focus and Vivid opted to pursue custom installers instead of high-end dealers, Philip O'Hanlon of On A Higher Note distribution house in San Juan Capistrano had replaced both brands with Gryphon. After a prolonged absence, the Danes were back in the colonial business. What hadn't gone at the Munich 2019 event was Flemming Rasmussen's ongoing design presence. Upon retirement, he had apparently promised the company another three industrial design concepts. Et voilà. The first of those testaments bowed in the new Ethos…

… which doesn't square but triangulates the circle of a CD. Looking like no previous Gryphon but still recognizably dragon, only time shall reveal what the other two designs will be. But already the mere existence of Ethos plus its name would remind us once again that Gryphon don't pander to fashion. With a proper CD transport still atop the heap of digital playback options—only SD card playback beats it in my book and then just by a small margin—it only felt proper to commence my own sessions with a quality CD transport, a Jay's Audio CDT-2 MkII. With my loaner Zena fitted with its optional DAC, it created opportunity to isolate its digital engine against our resident Denafrips Terminator. The transport would feed the latter I²S over HDMI, simultaneously Gryphon's DAC by AES/EBU. Infrared switching from the seat would make for endless lazy-man A/Bs.

Chai Baba the resident lounge lepoard granting a lazy glance from the sweet spot before returning to his midday beauty sleep to some Anouar Brahem.

To exploit Zena's unusual bandwidth and speed, the obvious matching amps just had to be our fully balanced DC-coupled 1Mhz LinnenberG Liszt monos, speakers our 4-way Audio Physic Codex with hidden 10" woofer in a tiny internal box. For preamp comparators there were our usual Wyred4Sound STP-SE II and Nagra Classic.

But first, let's get dragooned into the obligatory inspection of the innards.

Laid out dual mono, the only asymmetry is the metal channel along the right side which contains the AC input filter, then shields the power cable.

The optional DAC module with double-decker board is fully encased in its own metal shield as well.