WASHINGTON DC (PTA) — It’s our last day of the show, and I’m thrilled to have a few friends along for the Capital Audiofest adventure. One of them in particular is Mastering Engineer Dave McNair. He’s on the prowl, wandering the show, looking for an experience that embodies state-of-the-art. I reach out to him via text message and say, “Meet me at The Gryphon room.”
The room was hosted by 20/20 Evolution Systems and On A Higher Note with brands Kuzma, Antipodes, Truitt Physics, Torus Power, Artesania Audio, and Gryphon Audio showing large. In the roll of master-of-ceremonies Gryphon Audio was in control and showing off their supremely angular top-loading Ethos CD player / DAC ($39,000 USD). The Ethos is an entirely new platform, which houses a top-loading drive system, and DAC with digital inputs that include USB, AES/EBU, SP/DIF, it plays CD without up-sampling, but also includes CD up-sampling up to 32-bit PCM, or Double-DSD. In each of those up-sampling settings feature user select-able roll-off filters used for custom tailoring of the sound.
Using a pair of floor-standing Pantheon three-way passive loudspeakers in the system, each with two 8-inch woofers, two 5-inch mid-bass drivers, and a single (but large) Mundorf AMT (Air Motion Transformer) for the high frequencies.
Running the affair, a Mephisto Stereo amplifier was pushing out 180-watts per channel in Class-A at 8-ohms. Unique for this amplifier is that it’s stable down to one-quarter-ohm, outputting up to 8,000-watts peak power. In the flight case, the amplifier unit weighs 310-lbs.
Digital from Antipodes, and analog tape from a Revox PR99 with SonoruS modification. The modifications done by SonoruS are specific to the playback board, record board, and the power supply.
I won’t speak for Dave McNair but he was more than pleased, and if memory serves me right, he used the word great a few times, which is high praise from Mister McNair.
For myself, I feel that Gryphon always presents music in a masterfully controlled, tight, and focused way. It’s the embodiment of high-end in both design and execution. Sonically there’s nothing out of place, and yet there’s nothing dry or life-less about the sound. Bass has character that flirts with warmth, but everywhere else it’s neutral and delicate. The top-end is measured and balanced with the mid-range.
In most demonstrations where you switch from Reel-to-Reel and head into the digital domain, you expect there to be compromises that urge you to settle, but not in this case. Listening to the new Ethos with up-sampling engaged and a filter here or there, we never missed a beat or a step.