Gryphon Pendragon ultimate speaker system - Flemming Rasmussen interview

As many people are interested and intrigued about the Gryphon Pendragon speaker system concept, I’ve asked Flemming Rasmussen to reveal the story behind their flagship loudspeakers...

First of all why the name - Pendragon?

Pendragon is a name historically associated with ancient kings of the Britons, most famously, Arthur of Camelot. The figurative title Pendragon or Pen Draig means head or chief dragon, symbolizing the bearer’s uncontested leadership.

What led to the development of these speaker system? 

We stumbled over a very large ribbon and the temptation to make a big system based on a Ribbon that covered such a large frequency band was just to big. We believe that our Duelund based x-overs are perhaps the most ideal x-overs ever created,  however no x-overs are always better - if you can get away with it, but basically impossible for a full range system. In the Pendragon we could avoid x-over points in a huge frequency band. The ribbons are lightning fast and we can make a seamless transition to the bass column because we use many small bass driver with a custom made 1000 w amplifiers behind them.

This system may look similar to the older system from infinity with a subwoofer in the background It is a very different approach and requires the woofers to be next to the HF panels.

Each of your designs seems to carry a certain aura and unique inspirational cue? What the the muse behind Pendragon?

I find inspiration everywhere and materials are inspiring me, the nature is a huge source of inspiration, but a details on a classic Ferrari can also start a chain of ideas However, I always avoid making designs for the sake of the design. We do not sacrifice performance for cool looks – and it can be combined, it just takes a little more work and respect for the mission.

What would you say differs between proceeder Gryphon Poseidon and Pendragon speaker system?

The principle alone is different, Poseidon is a point source and the Pendragon is a line source, our legendary active bass system is almost identical, but again t is not a subwoofer as we cross over at a much higher point that subwoofers do. We can do this because of our smaller faster bass drivers. The same amount of driver area represented by a fewer but larger drivers can not cross over at any high point and this often result in much too sluggish performance, with too much overhang to match the rest and meet our signature priority of very high headroom and high definition bass. Listen to a Cello on a Gryphon system and you will know what I m taking about.

This is Gryphon ultimate flagship speaker system. Is this the end of the road or you’re having any new plans for the future?

There is never any end to that road.

Where does the luxury pricing and technical merit meets hand in hand?

I see a worrying tendency ( at least in my eyes ) with products emerging ( especially speakers ) in how they trying to justify very, very high pricing, amazing craftsmanship and beautiful finishes, where a lot of effort is put into a “creative” designs that are placing the acoustic ideals on the backseat and overshadowing it with bling and basically off the shelf drivers. No other product in the chain rely more on the physical design for performance than speaker, you can not just do what you wish in making it look more interesting.

There is no Class D amplifiers for the Pendragon bass towers. Can you kindly elaborate on what amplifiers were chosen and why?

We are not ( yet ) impressed by digital amplifiers. The Pendragon is a typical Gryphon amplifier running in class A/B up to 1000 wats continuously. Any amplifier designed to drive only a specific speaker can do this better than any “one size fit all” amplifier. Nobody described the real benefits of active bass, better that Roy Gregory in his review of the Trident – he brilliantly explains why there is so much more that just an amplifier inside a box.

Pendragons are made in Denmark? This is for sure not easy to build domestically with such quality of finish and everything included?

All Gryphon products are made in Denmark, there is a very long furniture making tradition, due to the long list of Danish designers that made their historic mark in the 70´s. Denmark has made cabinets for almost all speaker manufactures in the world.

Can you kindly explain the remote functionality?

The remote allow you to sit in your listening position and adjust the level of bass allowing the ideal interface with the room. That is always the classic challenge in the rooms. Besides the level it also gives a choice of changing the acoustic Q of the system to match the room. Naturally there is also a filter to protect the drivers from turntable rumble and accidents. 1000 wats going amok in such a bass system is a earthshaking experience.
Connected with the Mephisto amplifiers, do you see this as the ultimate state of the art reproduction system?

Depends on what you wish and where your priorities are, but in terms of realism and musicality, I believe that it is. You have headroom and soundstage like nothing else but always within the musical context. Single strong features are not desirable unless they are part of a complete homogeneous musical impression.

How close to reality can we come with the speakers at this price/performance level?

That is almost impossible to answer and depends on the person who listens – even perception of reality is individual.

Full bandwidth and frequency range seems like mandatory for ultimate sound reproduction. What is your experience with low and high range. How low one has to go and where beyond 20.000 HZ to ensure the state of the art optimal performance?

The really deep bass is often not heard, but only felt, it is a foundation that many instruments are build on, it is also often an important part of the identification of the location of the recording. Large orchestral halls often has a deep frequency signature as part of describing the halls size. In the upper range we need as much extension as we possible can, again it is apart of the instruments signature because of the register of overtones that goes way up there and defines the character. From  a technical point, tweeters that goes way up there are often more superior in their audible range, it tells something about the driver. When I evaluated drivers together with Duelund, he was always much more interested in how the drivers performed outside the range that we wanted to use. Drivers that shows disasters ( breakups ect. ) just outside their ideal range  often require heavy handed x-over corrections to “tame” them. We decided to modify the drivers to make them ideal rather than “fixing” them.

Simple design with as less possible part is the best, but where can one draw the line and create aproper balance between what is desirable and what is needed?

Einstein said, make it as simple as possible, but not simpler. From the electronics we very early learned that simplicity  beats everything, but simplicity is much harder to design that complex solutions that by force is ramming a square pole into a round hole.

Is multi driver speaker system a must for state of the art reproduction?

We know of no single driver that can cover the whole range without heavy manipulation to create the illusion of what actually is missing

Where is the borderline between proper deep bass and overhyped one?

Often people simply do not realize that there are nuanced informations in bass and they settle for something undefined that provides a low foundation. It is most of the time unarticulated and sluggish. Heavy drivers are slow to start with and really do not want to be stopped when they are told so. A lot of the time they are doing their own thing, out of control and the result is certainly a massive amount of bass that will make ceilings and teeth shake. But that effect can be purchased much cheeper in PA systems.

Lot of audiophiles and manufacturers are avoiding any elaboration about the overall system phase. What is Gryphon philosophy regarding this?

Gryphon are phase fanatics, our ultra high bandwidth electronics are offering superior phase characteristics – any roll off is introducing frequency shifts way down below the roll off points

and seriously disturb the soundstage that rely on phase entirely. Its naturally the same with speaker systems and drivers as I just explained. A unique feature of the Duleund filter is that all the drivers are in phase at all frequencies at all times. The Pendragon design story found on our Facebook is elaborating on this at length and our book – Gryphon unplugged – is explaining much more.

Gryphon Pendragon is certainly a bold statement that clearly falls into the luxurious market. Do you think high-end audio is finally catching up with the rest of high-end luxurious niche markets?

If price is the definition of the membership of the luxury market, there are very expensive systems out there. The biggest challenge is for the high end market to reach enough people that can afford the products, to do that and to be a real part of the luxury market we need to see a new specialized breed of dealers. Most people outside High End audio simply do not believe that they can get anything better than Bose and when they hear about our super cables, floaters and magic stones ect., they just think that it is to weird and run away.

More and more people wants a clear distinction between hi-fi and real high-end as there are to many overpriced product not really offering a matching performance. What do you think its the right path for the industry to resolve this?

The industry need to be careful not to loose credibility with the consumers and better industry organization is really needed. Basically it is a hobbyist industry populated with likable amateurs, prophets, fanatics, and the unavoidable opportunists.

Any last words? 

Trust your ears!

Questions: Matej Isak