Gryphon. OMG, Gryphon!

Located by itself in the Orange County Hilton’s Dana Point room, half-obscured beyond a display of several luxury cars, Joseph Cali System Design's Gryphon Audio Design System put on a show all its own. That it sounded as good as it did in a hotel space formerly occupied by a hair salon—hair salons are hardly prized for their acoustics—was a near miracle. Everything from recording studio Gobos and ASC Tube Traps to Vicoustic Diffusers and black draping (covering floor-to-ceiling glass windows) was employed to deliver sound that, if at all bettered at T.H.E. Show, will have to be sensational and then some.

That's another way of saying that Joseph Cali (left in photo) and Rune Skov (right), had every reason to be proud of their accomplishment. On the same LP that I heard at High End Munich on the new, entry-level Gryphon integrated, of Dvorák's Symphony No.9 performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Istvan Kertesz on LP, the contrast between the final movement's soft opening and first forte was so huge that it inspired me to scribble down a single four-letter expletive that begins with "F." As loud as the orchestra played, the sound never grew harsh. Instead, what stood out was the beautiful cushion of sound that distinguishes Gryphon's unique and memorable midrange. The ebbs and swells were maximally thrilling.

"This really is the essence of the grand high-end experience," I noted. "Will any system top this? How can I adequately describe the cushioned core of very precise sound at the heart of this system?"

Digital was a bit less impressive. Although we could only find it in 16/44.1 in both Tidal and Qobuz, I requested the same music I heard on my reference system in 24/96 the day before I flew to S. Cal. Listening to the opening of the new Pentatone issue of Rafael Payare and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra performing Mahler Symphony No.5, I was surprised that the deep bass drum wasn't as profound as through the amps I'm currently listening to for review. (Sorry, I'm not spilling the beans.) Since I can't imagine the Gryphon Apex stereo amplifier ($103,500), Gryphon Commander two-piece preamplifier ($67,000 total)—Gryphon Commander PSU ($29,000), Gryphon Trident II loudspeakers ($139,500/pair), or the very same Innuos Statement Next-Gen Music Server I use at home was responsible for the lack of bass (unless for some reason it isn't the Next-Gen model), the mind wonders.

The last track I heard, at the welcome insistence of Joseph Cali, was the Sonny Clark Memorial Quartet performing the title track of the LP Voodoo. Skov performed a bit of voodoo all his own when he waved his hand in front of the Gryphon Legacy SA phono preamplifier ($23,000) and the volume changed. Very cool. As for the sound of high-hat, percussion, and horn, the word is marvelous.

Also in the system: Gryphon Ethos CD player (reviewed by moi—now $39,800), Gryphon cabling and equipment stands, MSB Reference DAC ($49,995) and Digital Director ($25,000), Innuos Network Switcher ($3495), and Shunyata Everest power conditioner ($9500) and Typhon T2 power conditioner ($7500). And awe. Lots of awe.

Allen Fant's picture

Great coverage and pics! JVS
And yes, that System is not complete w/o a Gryphon Ethos CD Player.