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Gryphon Diablo 300

Gryphon Audio Designs’ very first loudspeaker was the Cantata, a stand-mounted two-way, released in 2002. But the Danish company had been founded 17 years before, in 1985, by Flemming Rasmussen, who retired in 2018. Until the Cantata came along, Gryphon had been known only for their massive class-A power amplifiers and other electronics. With the Cantata, an all-Gryphon system had become a reality, and to this day, many of their customers have systems in which every link in the audio-signal chain, cables included, is a Gryphon product. The Cantata was produced until 2008, and in 2009 Gryphon launched the original Mojo, which remained in production until 2016. By then the Mojo had been joined by several other Gryphon speakers, all rather large floorstanders. The Mojo S, reviewed here, was debuted at Munich’s High End in May 2016, and is the only minimonitor among Gryphon’s four current speaker models.

Gryphon

I recount the above history to point out that Gryphon is no stranger to stand-mounted speakers -- their 17 years of experience in the design and manufacture of smallish speakers is longer than many boutique brands have been in business. In that time, they tell me, they’ve learned a lot and refined their approaches, all of which has culminated in the Mojo S ($29,500 USD per pair).

The Mojo S is a three-driver, two-way, ported loudspeaker of striking appearance -- it exudes visual style and manufacturing refinement. The driver complement comprises two 5.5” woofers, one each above and below the centrally placed Air Motion Transformer (AMT) tweeter. The Mojo S is specified to play down to 37Hz, -3dB, and up to 32kHz -- a wide bandwidth for a stand-mounted loudspeaker. Its sensitivity spec of 89dB, if accurate, indicates that the Mojo S can play plenty loud with minimal amplifier power, though its nominal impedance of 4 ohms means that, to get the best out of them, they need to be driven by a moderately stout amplifier -- and Gryphon builds plenty of those. The Mojo S measures 48”H x 15.35”W x 27.16”D on the included stand. Stand and speaker combined weigh 108 pounds.

The AMT tweeter, made by German manufacturer Mundorf, is crossed over to the 5.5” SEAS pulp-paper-coned woofers at 2kHz with a fourth-order crossover slope. Gryphon says that the crossover is wired point to point with Teflon-insulated silver wire -- there are no printed circuit boards. A variety of top-shelf Duelund and Mundorf parts are standard, as are Jensen air-core paper/oil inductors. Gryphon claims that their unique crossover topology, called Duelund Constant Phase, allows the Mojo S to produce linear phase at all frequencies.

Gryphon

The rear panel is a thin sheet of aluminum bolted to an MDF substrate. On it, between the single pair of Gryphon-designed five-way binding posts and the two fabric-covered reflex ports, is a pair of Duelund graphite resistors mounted on metal clips. The owner can replace these resistors to adjust the tweeter’s level by +1, 0, or -1dB, to compensate for room acoustics and/or accommodate the owner’s taste in sound. I left the supplied Mojo Ses’ resistors in place, for a 0dB, or neutral, response, for the duration of the review period. Additional resistors for the other settings can be purchased from your Gryphon dealer if you’d like to experiment with this feature.

Each of the three drive-units is mounted on its own 1.3”-thick baffle, each baffle in turn attached to a 0.86”-thick subbaffle. The drivers are separated from the MDF baffle with rubber gaskets designed to prevent air leaks. The AMT tweeter is surrounded by a thin sheet of felt to aid in the elimination of diffraction effects. The baffles are contoured for this reason as well. An open, stringed grille gives the drivers minimal protection, and seems provided mainly to enhance the speaker’s appearance.

The side panels of the Mojo S come in ten standard colors, though custom colors are available at additional cost. Gryphon’s SideSpin feature lets the owner replace these side panels in the field -- if tastes and/or room décor change, so can the color of part of the speaker (the rest of the cabinet remains black). The contoured side panels, along with the grooved, wedge-shaped, glossy top panel, give the speaker a sculpted appearance when viewed from the listening position. My review samples had orange side panels and looked beautiful in my room. For stability, at the base of the columnar, sand-filled stand is a wide aluminum outrigger for its two rear feet; at the front of the base is a single spike that Gryphon says ideally decouples speaker from floor.

Gryphon

The fit’n’finish of the Mojo S were excellent, but I have a nit to pick. The speaker is attached to the top of the stand, and the outrigger to the bottom of the stand, with machine screws that mate with metal inserts embedded in the MDF. I’d prefer to see sheets of metal instead of MDF at these points of contact, to prevent any loosening of the inserts in the wood over time. I don’t think this will be a problem for most installations, but repeated system teardowns and setups could make it one.

Setup

Although my review samples weren’t brand new, I played them for a couple weeks in the background to ensure that they got the 100 hours of break-in Gryphon recommends. That done, I paid close attention to Gryphon’s suggested placement guidelines -- for good reason, I’d come to find out -- which dictate that the speakers be pointed directly at the listener’s ears. The Mojo Ses ultimately ended up 9.5’ apart and 10’ from my listening position, their tweeters 30” from the sidewalls and 50” from the front wall.

Gryphon setup

I drove the Mojos with my Boulder 2060 stereo power amplifier, which provides 600Wpc into any impedance. The two digital-to-analog converters used for my listening were an Auralic Vega G2 and a Hegel Music Systems HD30, both of which have built-in volume control for direct connection to a power amp. I used the Boulder’s stock power cord; otherwise, all cabling was Siltech Explorer models.

Sound

When a reviewer says, “I listened to the speakers seriously only after break-in and final positioning,” it’s not as if they didn’t listen to them at all before then. The Gryphon Mojo Ses sounded very nice when I’d dialed in their bass by finding their optimal distances from the front and sidewalls, but when I toed them in until their tweeter axes crossed several feet behind my head, I wasn’t wholly impressed. The speakers imaged fine, but the overall sound was polite, a little unassuming. I was a touch disappointed in the sound quality of Dido’s newest album, Still On My Mind (24-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, BMG/Qobuz). In “Hurricanes,” I couldn’t hear as deeply into the vocals as I would have liked. I still wasn’t listening seriously, mind you, and I just assumed that the album was typical pop with little nuance. I’d come to find out this was an inaccurate assessment, because . . .

Frequency responseIn-room frequency response

. . . I then moved the speakers until their tweeters pointed directly at the listening position, as Gryphon prescribes. The speakers’ positions relative to the walls remained virtually the same, but now I was listening directly on the tweeter axes. Though this doesn’t work with most speakers -- many tweeters sound too hot listened to directly on axis. The Gryphons’ sound came alive -- so alive that I wanted to dive right into my best recordings to hear precisely what they could do.

But not before relistening to Dido’s “Hurricanes.” Now her voice and guitar locked in very precisely on the soundstage, and while the tonal balance leaned slightly to the warm side of neutral, the nuances I now heard in Dido’s singing revealed that this track had far more depth than I’d thought it had. As it continued, I became aware that pop processing had entered the mix, but the sound never became thin or flat or too compressed. Dido’s voice sounded clear, and densely packed with sonic information. I could hear no cupped-hands coloration or other tonal abnormalities.

Gryphon

I moved on to “Piano/Drum Episode,” from Joe Lovano’s Trio Tapestry (24/96 FLAC, ECM/Qobuz), a recording I know has layer upon layer of sonic subtleties to delight in. By now I was fascinated by the Gryphon’s tweeter -- the sound had improved so much when I was listening directly on the axes of the AMTs. With this track I especially wanted to listen to Carmen Castaldi’s cymbal work -- it’s beautifully nuanced, and I’ve now listened to it many times through a variety of different-tweetered speakers in my room. With the Gryphons, I found myself playing this track louder than I had through EgglestonWorks’ Kiva speakers, and I attribute this mostly to how the AMTs sounded with cymbals. The Mojo Ses brought the cymbals’ sound out more prominently in the mix than had the Kivas, but without their sound ever becoming hot or brittle or in my face. I could hear more detail in the cymbals’ decay than through the Kivas, but the highs were still a touch more relaxed than what I’d heard through, say, Monitor Audio’s Studios, with their Micro Pleated Diaphragm tweeters. The takeaway: The Mojo S’s almost ideal high-frequency balance superbly managed the retrieval of detail and made these speakers supremely listenable.

Gryphon

Now confident that I could listen to the Mojo Ses at fairly loud levels without listening fatigue, I tested that theory with some of the rock tracks I usually listen to in the car on my way to the gym. I cued up “Are You Ready,” from Disturbed’s Evolution (24/88.2 MQA, Reprise/Tidal), and cranked it up to over 90dB. The Gryphons’ sound remained composed -- the music didn’t fall apart, didn’t become ragged or flat. Instead, this hard-driving track rocked as it should, the voices remaining intelligible even as the electric guitars pushed the music along at a frenetic pace. The sound didn’t have the bass power of the 12” JL Audio sub installed in my Toyota FJ Cruiser, but overall it had enough energy not to water down this track’s pump-you-up enthusiasm.

I was itching to hear exactly what the Mojo S speakers were capable of in the bass. Anyone who buys a stand-mounted loudspeaker wants to know if they’ll also need a subwoofer -- and for many audiophiles, a “Yes” is a deal breaker. Even before I played any bass-heavy music, I knew that the Gryphons didn’t sound lightweight in the lows or tipped up in the highs -- if anything, just the opposite -- but I had yet to hear precisely what their midbass sounded like, or where their low-bass limitations were, with my reference recordings.

Gryphon

For over a decade, one of my references for reproduction of the midbass has been the title track of Donald Fagen’s Morph the Cat (24/96 AIFF, Reprise/HDtracks). First, its recording quality is excellent, something that’s particularly apparent in high resolution; and second, the interplay of the bass guitar and kick drum in the first 20 seconds or so can tell you a lot about what a speaker can do down low. In the case of the Gryphon Mojo S, the bass guitar had enough growl to be satisfying, and the kick drum enough physicality that I could feel it in my chest. In terms of midbass output, this put the Mojos about on a par with what I heard from TAD’s Micro Evolution Ones, which I reviewed in November 2017. The main difference was that the TADs’ sound was a touch more incisive, with perhaps a bit more midbass articulation and leading-edge definition. The Gryphons rounded things off more, sounding a little more forgiving in the bass while throwing a huge soundstage.

Next up was another long-standing favorite for bass -- make that very low bass. Through the years I’ve regularly turned to “Norbu,” from Bruno Coulais’s music for the film Himalaya (16/44.1 AIFF, Virgin), for its substantial reach and power in the very lowest frequencies. I’ve found that if a speaker can reproduce the thwacks and decays of the huge drums linearly and in their totality -- the decays give the sensation of rolling from the front to the back of the room -- that speaker is fully capable into the lowest octave. The initial impact of the drum thwacks in “Norbu” through the Mojo Ses was a touch less visceral than I’m used to hearing from the most potent stand-mounted speakers, but the decays of the notes remained audible longer than I’m used to with those same speakers. A bit perplexed, I listened to this track over and over. I finally concluded that the Mojo S is very linear down to its lower limit of bass reproduction -- about 35Hz in my room -- with no audible midbass hump designed to make the speaker sound super visceral. The Mojo S did go pretty low in the bass, which gave most music satisfying weight, and it was fairly honest bass, with no overt contouring to make its sound seem bigger than it was. As always with bass, your mileage will vary depending on room acoustics.

Gryphon

The Mojo S may be a stand-mount, but it’s not a small speaker. With its 108-pound weight, fairly substantial cabinet volume, and excellent-quality drivers, the Mojo S can play comfortably in a larger room than can the vast majority of stand-mounted speakers. It’s not voiced to sound super-incisive or unnaturally punchy, but its sound is a touch warmer than strictly neutral. The sweet, nuanced sound of its AMT tweeter should reproduce copious amounts of air and detail when the recording contains it, but the Mojo S doesn’t wear that detail on its sleeve, and it’s balanced with enough bass and midbass to sound full and rich -- again, unlike many stand-mounted speakers. In that sense, the sound of the Mojo S is similar to that of Gryphon’s famous Antileon Evo power amplifier. When I reviewed that amp in March 2017, I described its sound as “easygoing,” and said: “Though the Antileon Evo has impressive resolving capabilities and admirable speed and agility, those traits didn’t stand out and call attention to themselves; instead, I simply appreciated how natural the Evo sounded with any music I threw at it.” I could easily say the same of the Mojo S. With this speaker, Gryphon hasn’t veered away from its house sound -- the Mojo S sounds like a Gryphon, and that is a very good thing indeed.

Conclusions

If you buy the Gryphon Mojo S, you’re buying more than just a really good stand-mounted loudspeaker. It’s all of that, but it’s also more. When guests enter your listening room, they’ll be taken with the speaker’s distinctive look. This is bold loudspeaker design that refuses to disappear into the background -- it wants to be seen, even talked about.

Today, one of my son’s friends walked into my listening room. Even with three pairs of loudspeakers, a couple of big power amplifiers, and electronics of other kinds all over the place, it was the Mojo S that this 13-year-old was immediately drawn to. “Those look expensive,” he said. He was right -- but the fact that he ignored everything else in the room and wanted to know about the Gryphons was telling. The Mojo S wants to be the centerpiece of an audio system.

Gryphon

Its sound is the antithesis of that. It’s not forward, and no area of the audioband stands out from the others. The highs are sweet and airy, not tipped up or calling attention to themselves. The bass is full, with enough punch when you need it -- the tonal balance leans to the warm side of neutral -- but the lows are more rounded than tightfisted. With any decently recorded music I played, the Mojo S proved an easy speaker to listen to, with no egregious errors in its sound that would indicate anything other than more-than-competent engineering.

If you can see yourself spending $29,500 for a pair of Gryphon Audio Designs Mojo S speakers, you’ll likely revel in the experience of listening to them. Ownership will begin with choosing the color of the speakers’ side panels, and when you’ve set them up, they’ll deliver to your room the classic Gryphon sound: warm, expansive, detailed but not bright. And when friends visit and make a beeline for them, these speakers will demand that you tell their story.

If that experience sounds like your cup of audiophile tea, you’ve found your mojo in the Gryphon Mojo S.

. . . Jeff Fritz
jeff@soundstagenetwork.com

Associated Equipment

  • Amplifier -- Boulder Amplifiers 2060
  • Sources -- Auralic Vega G2, Hegel Music Systems HD30 digital-to-analog converters; Apple MacBook Pro laptop computer running Mojave 10.14.3, Roon 1.6, Qobuz; Oppo Digital BDP-103 universal BD player
  • Cables -- Siltech Explorer interconnects, speaker cables, power cords

Gryphon Audio Designs Mojo S Loudspeakers
Price: $29,500 USD per pair.
Warranty: Three years parts and labor.

Gryphon Audio Designs
Industrivej 10B
8680 Ry
Denmark
Phone: (45) 86891200
Fax: (45) 86891277

E-mail: sales@gryphon-audio.dk
Website: www.gryphon-audio.dk

North American distributor:
On a Higher Note
PO Box 698
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92693
Phone: (949) 544-1990
Fax: (949) 612-0201

Website: www.onahighernote.com