Interview with Flemming Rasmussen of Gryphon audio

Gryphon and his founder Flemming Rasmussen is probably not known to everyone. But those who are at least peak into high end audio, have certainly cross upon the Gryphon. Gryphon audio construct some of most striking ideas in audio and stick to their deep philosophy of sound. Matej Isak catches his busy schedule and ask him some questions.

MI: What made you move into audio and specially high end business?

FR: It was an accident, I was an audiophile and at the same time a designer. I designed some connectors for my own use, and the rest is history.

MI: Your first product Gryphon Head amp is still legendary item among audiophiles. Why and what made you design such a product?

FR: At that time I was importing high end products and was the agent for Kiseki cartridges, when evaluation the cartridges I found that all the available step ups has a degrading effect on performance, noise , dynamics ect. With a friend I designed a one/off headamp for my own use and it became a cult product.

MI: Every Gryphon product hold a certain timeless design attribute. It shows that designer behind it give a lot of importance not only to sound buy esthetics. How important is design for you?

Design is important to me as a designer but I have never realized design on the cost of performance, design must follow function. It is very easy to make a cool design if you do not care about the performance of the product. I am not a technician but I know enough about the topology to design products that also can house the right components.

MI: I very much enjoyed listening to Diablo. It reminds me on the Japanese mythological beings one hand and on the other it fully recreate the legendary atmosphere of Blade Runner. It is kind of future retro icon of timeless design. What was the idea and inspiration behind Diablo?

FR: Dart Wader.

MI: Do you think, like many like to state, that pure class A is a holly grail of audio?

FR: No, there is no holy grail in audio, trust your ears, whatever makes you happy is the best technology. Class A has a character that makes ME happy. The whole class A thing is so misused and misunderstood. 99% of the claims are BS. I saw a well know US manufacturer claiming class A and the specify 200 watt at idle and 900 watt at full power. There is no difference between idle and full power in Class A. I don´t think that anyone is interested, I have talked about it for 25 years. If you download one of our Antileon manuals we explain class A. There is only one kind of Class A. The rest are marketing BS. But class A is no guarantee for good sound, its all a matter of design. But class A is the most expensive technology.

MI: What do you think about Class D amps?

FR: Historically, Gryphon believes in class A and high bandwidth discrete designs. Class D is basically the most opposite that anyone can find. However, its all a matter of the result. The day we hear a class D design that has high end sound - as we define it - we will welcome the topology. Class D is much less expensive to make . Somehow, that does not seem to be reflected in the prices of many of the class D designs that are being offered. Most of the amplifiers are using exactly the same module from the same manufacturer (Ice Power).

MI: Why are you only use solid state technology?

FR: While being aware why people like tubes, our ideas of neutrality, bass control, deep sound staging and dynamics, can – in our opinion only be realized with solid state. But it all depends on how it is made of course. There are poor tube designs and poor solid state designs.

MI: What about balanced technology?

FR: Again, it depends how it is made. People are looking for black and white answers. A poor balanced connection based on a cheap chip is worse than a good analoge connection.. We need better XLR connectors. To make it short, its not a must but done right, it is better. We waited a long time to implement it, we didi it when we could improve performance, not to be fashionable and because everybody does it.

MI: Many like to believe that there is an everlasting battle between solid state and tube based technology. Whad to you think?

FR: I do not think that it is a everlasting battle, there are no battle between ball pens and fountain pens, they are both writing tools, and those with good time and that do not mind the refill and the splatter in the pocket, like the feel and romance of a fountain pen.

MI: Mirage is kind of next step for Gryphon. Is this a hint or direction Gryphon is going on in future?

FR: Yes.

MI: What kind of music is on your cd player when the day ends?

FR: Italian opera.

MI: Can you please describe your home system?

FR: Cantata, Diablo and Mikado with the new VIP cables.

MI: Where is the line between overpriced audio gear and quality that is must be paid to be heard?

FR: If the performance is not convincing enough to make you part with your money, it is overpriced. There are many products with very little substance but “good” stories instead, they are often overpriced.

MI: Where is the line between hi-fi and high end?

FR: By default it is a matter of price, in the USA the definition of a hi end amplifier starts with 1000 usd, in Europe it is much higher, in Asia even higher.

MI: What is high end for you?

FR: A level of performance, we believe that we introduced integrated amplifiers to high end status.

MI: Who do you respect most in the high end audio circles and if so why?

FR: I respect all manufactures with integrity and with the guts to be honest about what they do, instead of filling people with old technology in new bottles and trying to justify high cost by a self created degree of difficulty in manufacturing.

MI: What do you think about vinyl?

FR: I love Vinyl!

MI: Did you ever consider a Gryphon turntable?

FR: No.

MI: There wasn't SACD or DVD-A player from Gryphon yet. Why?

FR: We did not believe on the future – or performance – of the formats. Where are they now ?

MI: Is red book cd format dead?

FR: Absolutely not.

MI: What is the future of high end?

FR: I think that the future is bright for companies who know where to go.

MI: Is there a place for surround in high end?

FR: Not for Gryphon.

MI: Where do you see Gryphon in future?

FR: As Lamborghini in the car industry.

MI: What product you are most proud of?

FR: The Mirage.

MI: Do you have a dream product or is it realized already?

My best products are not made yet.

MI: What is coming up in near future from Gryphon?

FR: A new generation of power amplifiers matching the Mirage, not replacing, but above the Antileon

MI: Any last thought for our readers?

FR: 2 things.

1 Listen for authentic sound, not just different or “nice”. Trust your own ears
2 Have fun while you do it

With best regards

Flemming E. Rasmussen
President & CEO