During my time in the Magic Bus listening to hi-rez with Jon Whitledge, he mentioned that Phillip O’Hanlon, President of On A Higher Note Audio was in town and had setup one of his legendary rooms at a nearby hotel. Early on day two, I took a break from the show floor and made my way over to the Hilton Bayshore across from the Convention Center. Based on the Facebook event details, I was looking for Presidents Suite 458 and was ready to listen to some Gryphon Audio. To my surprise, room 458 doesn’t exist at the Hilton Bayfront and some customers on the 4th floor were looking at me cautiously as I walked in circles at the wrong hotel. Apparently, there are two Hilton’s across the street from the Convention center. Kicking up my Fitbit steps, I worked my way back the Hilton Gaslamp Quarter Hotel.
I was anxious to what all the excitement was about and to get some quality time with some of Europe’s finest audio from Gryphon. Gryphon Audio is one of the few audio companies that builds every component of a music system: CD Players, DACs, pre-amplifiers, amplifiers loudspeakers and even cables. As I walked into Suite 458, sweaty from taking a Hilton Hotel tour and carrying my overweight and un-necessary DSLR, I was greeted by a special surprise, Joseph Cali. Cali a renown recording engineer for Lori Lieberman (who is also his wife) and for an acting career including his appearance on “Saturday Night Fever” as Joey.
Cali honored us with past recordings of Lori Lieberman played directly from Pro Tools on his laptop. Original 24/192k hi-resolution content filled the suite with music and Liberman’s signature sound. I settled into the sofa and forgot about the hustle of the show floor. The tonality of the system was outstanding and it was almost as if Lori was with as the system demonstrated beautiful imaging.
In addition to being a recording engineer, Cali also serves up high-end audio to the LA scene as a Gryphon dealer. I asked Cali how he got started with Gryphon. He told me a story of how he borrowed a Gryphon integrated amplifier that he brought home one evening and connected to a pair of Vivid speakers. As he listened to some of Lori’s tracks, Lori entered the room and commented that it sounded different. Specifically that she really liked what she was hearing. From that moment, Cali became a dealer and Lori become a Gyphon lover. Cali shared that they keep a Gryphon setup at the studio in a second room adjacent to the recording booth to allow Lori to listen on a set of speakers that she loves. After my 30 minutes with Cali listening to Liberman, we understand why.
After sharing half a dozen tracks, Cali had to leave but I had no intention of leaving my comfortable listening position. For the next 30 minutes, I continued to get comfortable as Phillip allowed me to take a tour of his collection of reels that he had brought to San Diego.
Memorable was a collection of music from the Tape Project. Nat King Cole brought goosebumps to my arms as if Nat was right there with us just a few feet away. The tiny Hilton Suite felt gigantic as Nat’s voice filled the room just like he did the night that recording was made.
Also memorable was Rimsky-Koraskoff-Dance of Tumblers from “Exotic Dances From the Opera” , it demonstrated the incredible dynamics the Gryphon system could deliver.
The system was made up of the Gryphon Pandora Pre-amplifier ($32,000 USD)
The Gryphon Antileon EVO Stereo amplifier (39,000 USD)
and the Gryphon Kalliope DAC ($25,000 USD) and Gryphon Scorpio CD Player ($9400 USD)
All driving the Gryphon Pantheon loudspeakers ($54,000 USD)
Hands down the best room that I experienced at CEDIA 2018, and an experience that will I will remember for a long time. If you ever have the chance to hear a room setup by Phillip O’Hanlon, don’t miss it.