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Compact Disc Player


Price (in Poland): 39 670 PLN

Gryphon Audio Designs
Industrivej 10B
8680 Ry | DENMARK


Provided for test by: AUDIOFAST

GRYPHON is a Danish company, a „child” of Flemming E. Rasmussen. It was founded in 1986, and its first commercial product was a „head amp” for MC cartridges. The products are quite characteristic and all belong to the top-high-end category. What catches the eye is not only an extremely solid made and finish but also a beautiful logo – a griffin, a mythical creature with a body of a lion and a head and wings of an eagle.

RYPHON is one of the few audio companies with a perfectly refined aesthetics of their products and press materials. Even less often we can read about them from illustrated monographs - and this is the case with this manufacturer: Albert L. Jones, Gryphon Unplugged. 25 Years of Gryphon Audio Designs (2010). For Flemming E. Rasmussen, form and content constitute an indivisible whole and only together they create a finished product, something really valuable, which will carry this value over time and will not let it fade.

The reason is as simple as it is complicated: Rasmussen's career is not a typical career of a technician, manager, etc. He is a graduate of Aarhus Art Academy, has a diploma in painting and photography, and after graduating he taught graphic, painting and photography students. His next job combined his graphic and business skills - he became the head of the design department of the largest Scandinavian company producing clothes for athletes.

After being promoted to the position of factory director, he quit his job and devoted himself to audio as a distributor. In an interview titled An Oral History of the Gryphon he said: "I've never been involved in reasonable matters and common sense has no place in high-end." This year, Gryphon's owner celebrates his 70th birthday.

This company's devices cannot be mistaken for any other product. They are made with the precision that we usually expect from the best components from Japan or Switzerland. They also have a vivid artistic design and a form that others can only envy. These devices resemble modern sculptures, which only by accident are also top products for playing music. Scorpio S, Compact Disc player is one of them.

| Scorpio S

Scorpio S had unique predecessors. It all began with the Tabu CDP-1 model from 1998. It was a huge player with 24/88.2 synchronous upsampling - it was something that changed later. In subsequent generations of players Danish manufacturer always used asynchronous upsampling. Nominally, it was not a CD player, but an HDCD, because it was equipped with this type of decoder. It was the first integrated CD player featuring upsampling in the world.

The next step was the model released in November 2001 in which the company used 24/96 asynchronous upsampling. As a result, separate clocks were used for the drive and the digital section, which made these sections independent of each other. After refining this technology, the Mikado model (September 2003) appeared, in which 32/192 upsampling was implemented and which was a top-loader player with a characteristic, large lid. Its artistic photo was later featured on the cover of the monograph I mentioned. The next step was the special version of this device, Mikado Signature (September 2008).

In January 2009, that is a year later, the company proposed a slightly cheaper Scorpio model. It just so happens that in Gryphon's lineup there was always only one CD player, being de facto a reference player. So for the first time we were dealing with a new situation, because the company offered two models - the flagship Mikado Signature and Scorpio. In 2017, AKM stopped the production of AK4397EQ D/A converters, and this model was designed around them, and therefore a newer version was developed based on AKM AK4490EQ chips - that's how the Scorpio S model was created.

This is a large, solid device, made of aluminum plates, with an acrylic front, under which there is a display and touch buttons controlling the device. Unlike previous players, the Scorpio S features a classic drawer as it is not a top-loader. It stands on four, high feet that give him a predatory look. The device is to visually match the Diablo and Atilla amplifiers.

In describing his designs, Rasmussen emphasizes several main assumptions. These include: class A operation, dual-mono design, selected components, wide frequency response and signal amplification in balanced systems. That's why the Scorpio S has only one pair of analog outputs - the XLR ones. Next to it there is a S/PDIF digital output, but a BNC socket, not an RCA one. It is preceded by a matching transformer, which ensures that the link has a nominal impedance of 75 Ω, i.e. required by the S/PDIF standard.

As it reads in the company materials, Scorpio S inherits most of the DNA from the Mikado Signature model. Its full name is: Scorpio S Upsampling CD Player, because the 32/192 upsampling is an important part of its digital system. Cirrus Logic CS8421 was used for this - it cannot be turned off. It works with four AKM AK4490EQ stereo chips, connected in parallel to reduce distortion and noise (by 3 dB).

The device features also a nice, handy remote control – similar to the one offered by another, Swiss company Soulution.


The Gryphon Scorpio S player was compared to a reference device costing more than twice as much, the Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition (№ 1/50). The was placed on the top shelf of the Finite Elemente Pagode Edition rack and was powered using the Hijiri SM2R "Sound Matter" cable. I conducted a separate test comparing it to a two-box system, consisting of a CEC TL2 N transport and a digital-to-analog converter and file player in one, the Mytek Brooklyn Bridge.

In the "High Fidelity" reference system other components are almost always tested using an unbalanced RCA connection. My observations show that it almost always gives better results. I use three RCA cables: Siltech Triple Crown, Crystal Cable Absolute Dream and Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0 Absolute. This time I couldn't use them because Gryphon only has XLR balanced outputs. I used Acoustic Revive XLR-1.5 Absolute cables to connect the reference player and the tested player.

It was an A/B comparison with the A and B known. The music samples were two minutes long, but I also listened to whole albums.

GRYPHON in “High Fidelity”
  • REVIEW: Gryphon DIABLO | integrated amplifier

  • Recordings used for the test (a selec- tion)

    | ‘80.
    • Depeche Mode, Speak&Spell, Mute/Sony Music Labels SICP-30535, Blu-spec CD2 (1981/2014)
    • Enya, Enya, BBC Entertainment BBC CD 605, CD (1987)
    • George Michael, Faith: Special Edition, Epic/Sony Music753202, 2 x CD + DVD (1987/2010)
    • Michael Jackson, Thriller. 25th Anniversary Edition, Epic/Sony Music Japan EICP-963-4, CD+DVD (1982/2008)
    | Jazz
    • Art Pepper, Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, Contemporary Records/JVC VICJ-42524, K2 CD (1957/2006)
    • MAP feat. Krzesimir Dębski, Groovoberek, AC Records ARC 012, Master CD-R (2019)
    • Nat ‘King’ Cole, The Nat King Cole Love Songs, Master Tape Audio Lab AAD-245A, „Almost Analogue Digital”, Master CD-R (2015);
    • The Poll Winners, The Poll Winners, Contemporary Records/JVC JVCXR-0019-2, XRCD (1957/1988)
    | All the rest
    • Miracula. Medieval Music for Saint Nicholas, wyk. Ensemble Peregrina, Agnieszka Budzińska-Bennet, Tacet 213, CD (2014);
    • Leonard Cohen, Popular Problems, Sony Music Labels SICP-4329, CD (2014);
    • Radiohead, Amnesiac, Parlophone/EMI 5327672, CD (2001)
    • Royal Blood, Royal Blood, Warner Music UK/Warner Music Japan WPCR-15889, CD (2014);

    I divided Gryphon's listening session into three parts. In the first one I wanted to hear how it will handle the lower quality material. I chose albums from the 1980s, recorded on multiple tracks, usually highly compressed, with not quite convincing, contemporary remasters. In the second part I focused on high quality jazz recordings. Here, I meant to determine what the player does with the material when there are no excuses. And finally I listened to various recordings, quite randomly, to find myself in a situation typical of a classical music lover.

    | ‘80

    Gryphon's sound is not easy to define. Understanding it comes with time, and with time you can start to evaluate it. And this is because it combines several features, usually found in various products and - seemingly - mutually exclusive. It was particularly clear with recordings from the 80s. You see, it wasn't a particularly good time when it comes to recording technique, and on the other hand the music that shaped me comes from this period.

    The sound from this period is usually bright and irritating. Not always, but it often is - especially in the CD version. The Gryphon player played these discs without trying to eliminate these problems. I mean - it showed them as they were. It was faithful to the signal it read and I did not have the impression that it was trying to manipulate me, modifying it so that I "liked" it, so that it was "pleasant". So there was a tonal balance shifted up on George Michael's Faith, a hard attack on Michael Jackson's Thriller and clear details on Depeche Mode's debut album Speak & Spell.

    It's just that Scorpio S did something with these discs that made me listen to them with curiosity, interest, and then - when I turned off the "reviewer" mode for a moment - also with pleasure. At first I didn't know what was going on. The "naked truth", that is, how usually the disadvantages of these recordings are exposed, if the device can not put them in context, is deadly for them. The Danish player did a trick, which I know from devices directed towards music, not technique: it did not bring out problems, and civilized them.

    This is not a device with some outstanding resolution - in which it resembles the dCS Rossini - and it is focused rather on the music as a whole, not necessarily on the details. Despite this, we get an open and rhythmic sound with it. Photographic from the Depeche Mode's album, Billie Jean from Jackson's, or One More Try by Michael had a beat, power, rhythm. The treble was strong, clear, not foggy, which gave them a glow. On the one hand, its sound is open, and on the other, it seems to show us the better side of these recordings by rounding the sound attack, by sweetening it.

    Along with this there was also high dynamics, which is rare when an attack is “polished”. You will never get bored with this player. This smoothing, which I could compare to the transition from standard aluminum discs to gold ones, however, resulted in a smooth, pleasant presentation. It was full, clear and slightly soft sound. It turned out great with Enya's music from her debut album (which was released in the same year as George Michael's Faith). I got a wide perspective with it with the stage expending deep behind the speakers.

    | Jazz

    Everything I wrote about above repeated when I listened to jazz. First of all, I received the rhythm as convincing as with previous recordings. This is especially important when we are dealing with the best drummers in the history of popular music, because problems in this respect mean cutting out half of the emotions from this type of music. The Gryphon makes the music vibrate, in the sense that it saturates it with small emotions that make up the sound that "pulls" forward.

    The tonality has also been very well preserved. This is smooth, very smooth sound with an open treble. Now I could however hear better that it was "gilded" and smoothed. The The Polly Winners album was recorded with a lot of noise, which Alan Yoshida remastering the material for the XRCD release, fortunately, did not cut out. Gryphon presented this feature, but slightly withdrawn. There were still strong cymbals, a lot of air, but it was also easy to understand that this is a device that tries to show a better world than it really is. without being pushy, without imposing its perspective on us, but still proposing it.

    I assume that the thing is how the leading edge is shown - it is slightly smoothed, and the lower the band, the softer, more pleasant it is. The player sounds open on one side, which was perfectly demonstrated by Art Pepper's album entitled Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, with an explosive treble, on the other hand, sounds soft and forgiving, which was again confirmed by listening to the Master CD-R with Nat 'King' Cole recordings. The vocal was large and full on it - as I expected, and the orchestra was slightly warmed up and smoothed, which made it work well with the voice.

    Three-dimensionality with lots of air – that's what comes to mind after few days of listening to the reviewed component. At the same time, it preserves a large volume of sound and perfectly shows the strong foreground – like on the aforementioned Cole - it also offers an excellent sound stage, deep and wide. The size of the instruments is preserved really well and only the most expensive players do something more, showing the body of the instruments better, going into details more without taking them away from the main sounds.

    | All the rest

    Gryphon turned out to be a very coherent device - it plays all types of music in the same way. It does not choose and uses its measure both with jazz recordings and strong rock under from the Royal Blood, and with electronics by Radiohead from the Amnesiac, and even with the classical music. It shows a great rhythm, has a deep, full sound and builds deep soundstage. The whole has a low center of gravity, although it does not go very low in the bass. This range is dense and warm rather than tight. The tonal balance is captured really well, it's just a nice sound.


    Although with the Gryphon we do not get the deepest bass, like with the dCS Vivaldi player or reference player, you can't really hear it - due to a slight lowering of the midrange and smoothness of all subranges. These are well-chosen features that result in a beautifully presented music. Without being to analytical, that is, without going into details, and yet offering us a full satisfaction. This is an extremely well made and beautiful sounding device from a man who combined art and engineering. In a unique form - it will be the ornament of any system, both in terms of sound and appearance.

    The Gryphon Scorpio S Compact Disc player is a product by Flemming E. Rasmussen, no doubts about it. It is black, massive and looks "militant". Made of aluminum plates, the chassis is reinforced from the inside with additional aluminum panels (bottom) and a screen that separates the display and its logic circuit from the audio systems.

    Front and rear | The front is made entirely of acrylic plate in an aluminum frame. There are no manipulators anywhere, and this is because all of them are hidden under the acrylic – there are touch buttons and the information can be read on the VFD (vacuum fluorescent display) display with four lines and twenty characters. In the middle, quite low, you can see a CD drawer. It is retracted relative to the front and has a characteristic ribbed reinforcement – the idea was to lower the center of gravity of the drive and strengthen this part of the housing.

    The back is almost empty. There are only the analog XLR and BNC digital outputs, both sourced from the Swiss company Neutrik; XLR pin 2 is hot. On the other side, as far away as possible, there is an IEC power socket integrated with the fuse. The mechanical power switch is placed underneath, at the front edge - just like in my Ayon.

    Inside | The device features beautifully made, thought-out electronics. The drive was placed in a part of the chassis that is lowered in relation to the rest. As I said, I assume that it was on the one hand to shield the electronics that is underneath the drive, and on the other to lower its center of gravity, which always has a good effect on mechanical stability.

    The drive was prepared by the Austrian specialist StreamUnlimited and is exactly the same as the one in the dCS Rossini. This is the JPL-2800 SilverStrike model, in which the body is plastic, but was fastened with a metal shield. What's more, the drawer tray is cast and has steel pins on the sides that stiffen the whole and move inside Teflon guides. The rigidity of the tray is crucial, otherwise it vibrates and interferes with the signal reading. Mechanics come from the Taiwanese company ASATech.

    All electronics, including the power supply, are mounted on one PCB. The company says it uses plates with a very thick copper layer. After reading the signal from the disc, it is sent to the upsampler section. You can see here the Cirrus Logic CS8421 chip and two beautiful, mechanically and thermally stabilized clocks. The PCM 32/192 signal prepared in this way is sent to four AKM AK4490EQ stereo D/A chips. This is the top chip from this manufacturer, belonging to the "Velvet Sound" series. And there are four such chips because they work in parallel, reducing quantization distortions and noise.

    This type of solution is found from time to time in high-end products. What's interesting, however, is that in Scorpio S the signal is not added up right after the DAC section, but is processed in eight separate runs and is summed up only at the very end, before the outputs. The I/U conversion, gain and filtration are performed in transistors operating in class A, without feedback. The output features a simple, 1st order analogue filter. The transistors, although surface mounted, heat up a lot - so a large heat sink was installed especially for them. The system also features very good capacitors, for example, silver-plated, polypropylene Wima.

    The power supply is based on three toroidal transformers from the renown Noratel company. Two of them feed the analog part, one the digital and the drive. The power supply of the analog section is provided separately for the left and right channels, thus creating a dual-mono system. You can see there are fast Shottky diodes and a lot of capacitors smoothing out grid ripples. There are also separate, advanced power supplies for a display, drive and upsampler.

    Remote | I have already mentioned it - it is a handy unit. Access to the buttons is convenient. In addition to the basic commands, the remote also controls the brightness of the display and can also control the amplifier of this company.

    Great job!

    Technical specifications (according to manufacturers)

    Nominal output signal: 4 V
    Nominal output impedance: 20 Ω
    S/N (A-weighted): < -107 dB
    THD + N: 0.0035%
    Frequency range: 0-96 kHz (-3 dB)
    Power consumption: standby 5 W | max. 40 W
    Weight (W x H x D): 480 x 135 x 453 mm
    Weight: 9.6 kg


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