The first leg
If you pay attention to the news, you’ve no doubt been alarmed if you have travel plans booked that involve multiple flights and tight connections. The number of flight cancelations reported in the past several months is enough to make even the most seasoned travelers nervous—especially if you have a tight itinerary booked once you arrive at your destination. When my wife, Andrea, and I made arrangements to travel to Europe in July with our two teens—Abigail, 17, and Ian, 16—we experienced some skepticism that it would all work out, particularly since we had a packed schedule once we landed.
Our travel plans would take us from our home in Wilmington, North Carolina, to Copenhagen, Denmark. We’d spend the day in Copenhagen, and from there we’d travel by train to Aarhus, a distance of roughly 190km.
Much to my delight, we arrived at Copenhagen Airport via John F. Kennedy Airport in New York right on time, which was around noon on Saturday. We couldn’t check into our hotel in downtown Copenhagen until 3:00 p.m., so we had about three hours to kill. As we traveled via the Metro from the airport to downtown, a nice local lady told us about the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series that was taking place in Copenhagen Harbor from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. We were all into that idea. So we dropped off our bags at the hotel and headed straight to the water. No, there are no cliffs (that I know of) in Copenhagen, but there is a fairly tall building—the Copenhagen Opera House—with a large overhang that stretches out over the water. The roof of that facility apparently made the perfect platform for the thrilling competition. We had a blast watching the thrill-seeking divers while eating ice cream. We checked into our hotel after the competition and headed back out for dinner.
A trip to Tivoli Gardens amusement park in the evening—this must be the greenest setting for an amusement park anywhere—was the perfect end to our first day in Europe. The Health app on my daughter’s iPhone 13 clocked us in at 11.1 miles of walking by bedtime. We all slept like rocks—not surprising since it was the first real sleep we’d had in about 36 hours.
Our train ride from Copenhagen to Aarhus was about 2 hours and 45 minutes with one stop in Fredericia. Our hotel in Aarhus was unlike anything I’d ever seen.
The Hotel Guest Apart is built, as my father would say, parallel and perpendicular, with concrete walls and exposed metal beams everywhere. The nooks, crannies, and unique spaces provided the designers with ample opportunity for creativity. Whether it was exposed-chase lighting or chalkboard signage on the bare concrete walls, we all appreciated the atmosphere.
Tour of Gryphon
Rune Skov, marketing manager for Gryphon Audio Designs, picked us up from our hotel at 10:00 a.m. sharp and took us to what he likes to refer to as “Gryphon HQ.” This name is apropos, as Gryphon Audio Designs operates in 40 countries and makes components that span the entire high-end-audio spectrum—with the exception of turntables, something I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gryphon producing within a couple of years (no insider info here).
Pulling into the Gryphon parking lot is like walking onto the home field of your favorite sports team: it’s enveloped in rare air and inhabited by beasts you’ve mostly seen from afar. This was not my first trip to Gryphon, however. I’d been to Denmark in 2004, when my wife was pregnant with Abigail. Gryphon has grown by leaps and bounds since then, and the location they currently inhabit has been their home since 2014.
The majority of the Gryphon staff had just begun their summer vacation when we arrived, so things were fairly quiet the day we visited—perfect for a private listening session. But first, Rune showed us around the facility. Gryphon doesn’t have a single wall relegated to housing the company’s awards—they have walls, hallways, and stairwells devoted to them. Gryphon’s award displays are mind-blowing in their breadth—gazing at them all gave me a sense of history and a legacy that may be unmatched in ultra-high-end audio.
Gryphon is not done growing, though, owing in large part to the completeness of their current product line. Take for example the Diablo 300 integrated amplifier (approx. $20,000 USD for a base model), Gryphon’s best-selling product for several years running. Rune told me that sales of this product have continued to grow year over year. The strength of the Gryphon brand has necessitated many recent changes at the company, all in an effort to become even more responsive to dealers and distributors, and ultimately end users. The company opened a new building in 2021—right next door to the building that opened in 2014—which includes the new listening room seen in this series of articles. Construction will soon begin again on an addition that will span the 30m gap between the two, joining the existing facility to the new building. Gryphon currently produces approximately 40 products and employs 23 people.
Assembly of most of Gryphon’s electronics is outsourced to highly trusted local partners. Still, on the day I visited, there was a lot to see, including product parts and subassemblies. Seen above is the base of an Ethos CD player. Gryphon maintains an ample inventory of parts for repairs, though I noted few products in need of service while I was there.
Testing and research and development are ongoing in the Gryphon facilities. I was able to see the measurement references for both the Antileon Evo power amplifier and the Commander preamplifier on the bench in the R&D area. This room had everything from computers to Audio Precision analyzers to prototype circuit boards that were populated by hand.
Gryphon believes in using both measurements and listening tests in the design of their products. They also put great thought into the robustness of the physical design, knowing that their equipment will be shipped literally all over the world and subjected to various environmental conditions, not to mention rough shipping.
Speaker cabinets are built by a subcontractor in a shop that’s located just 500m away. Still, I saw prototypes of new speakers in an R&D area and they, um . . . well, I can’t say, sorry! Another area was under renovation for Gryphon’s thriving cable business—all of their Vanta cables will be produced in-house. I saw lots of silver-and-gold wiring, insulation materials, and sheathing all waiting to be assembled into final products.
I praised Gryphon’s packaging in my review of the Apex Stereo amplifier. The company’s wooden crates with their snaplock assemblies could be seen in droves. Tons of products were awaiting shipment to their lucky owners, all stacked and stored neatly in an inventory room.
Not done yet
I was more than simply impressed by what I saw at Gryphon HQ. I saw a company that has scaled their operations to an impressive degree, but one that is simultaneously as aggressive and fresh as an upstart. Gryphon is poised for the next decade of growth, I’m convinced.
In the next part of this series, I’ll give you an account of my listening session in Gryphon’s new listening room and let you in on my conversation with Rune Skov about all things Gryphon. If you’re a fan of the company, you won’t want to miss it.
. . . Jeff Fritz