Gryphon Audio Pendragon Four Chassis Loudspeaker system review

An audiophile seeking what is better…
I am not really a professional reviewer of audio components. Actually, I am just like any other audiophile in the hunt of a better audio component. I have my doors open to any audio distributor who believes that his represented audio component is the better one. I told them that the main rule of the game is that I be the final judge with the last say since it is my wallet. All agreed and I have almost every major distributor of the finest audio components come my way. So, what I have written here is the journey to a decision.

A Journey to a Decision…

It’s never easy to choose the right loudspeaker given a particular space and complimentary audio components. Many who have followed my previous write up here, knew of my current resident amplifiers, pre amplifiers, source and the cables that connect them all. The system connected here is all mainly Vitus Masterpieces and cables mainly from Skogrand (Markarian /Beethovan model) and Vertere Audio (Pulse Hand-Build model). But there are other combinations of cables involved here too. The sources are mainly analogue with the TechDas Air Force One turntable together with Vertere Reference Tonearm and ZYX Omega Gold cartridge. The digital helm is by the Vitus Masterpiece Dac MPD-201 and partnered with the Aurender W20.
I visited the Munich Hi End show for the purpose of searching what is the better and the best loudspeaker system out there. That trip opened my ears quite a bit. I have short listed a few contenders. I have to say, all these contenders sound great and my mind was imagining the rest. The trip caused me to think and (actually) believed that the available technologies and parts that are available allow each designer to build something that is to him or her how music supposed to be heard. I love to talk to designers and hear their likings in life. I find that one’s life(style) can be summed up with his or her music (or none at all). Hence, my experience (not conclusive) leads me to believe that an “independent” designer with a free hand, like an artist (some), will try to build something he or she believes in and love. Thus, the creation is the designer’s. If I can “click” well musically with the man or woman behind that product then that may be short listed for the buy. I was treated well by a number of designers at the show. Everyone is friendly and more than happy to share their ideas. In a word, “fun” is all I gathered there.

The Decision is…

Based on my listening preference and my ratio of price to performance obtained from the contenders, my decision slides to the main spot light to write. The Gryphon Audio Pendragon Loudspeaker system is my current reference loudspeaker. I must admit that I do not have much experience with four chassis loudspeaker system. I embarked to go into such system with a belief that the flexibility of tuning the system to couple with my room and all it’s modes is worth the trouble. I am blessed to have great help in the education of the necessary procedure of setting up such system and in the actual work from Rave Audio’s Mr.Han (the local Gryphon Audio distributor), Ben Chia (Absolute Sound), Touraj Moghaddam (Vertere Audio), Dietrich (Acoustical System, Germany) and Thomas (Syntax at Audiogon). To simplify the lesson learnt, the four chassis must be placed at an arch (as per in the manual). The bass tower must be treated with care as a full range speaker and that the treble (ribbon) tower must have enough space from the front wall in order to capture what I am describing below.

Gryphon Audio’s presence into my audio room…

Almost 2 years ago, I was presented with my first Gryphon products. I believe the first to come into my system was the Colosseum stereo amplifier. I was impressed with it, especially when running at class A mode,  as it reminded me of my old favorite, the Mark Levinson 20.6 mono amplifiers. I decided to wait for the launch of the Mephisto amplifier before any serious decision to be made. Within a few months, the first Gryphon Mephisto stereo amplifier in Malaysia, landed in my system and ownership. Then, a few of my audiophile friends understood and appreciated my decision, thus decided to invest for their musical gain. To me, the Gryphon Audio represent certain quality that propelled me further (and crazier) into the audio hobby.

The same year I bought the Gryphon Mephisto stereo amplifier, Mr. Flemming E. Rasmussen was on an Asian tour and by some good fortune, he visited me. He listened to my then audio system with only one component from Gryphon Audio. He was extremely generous with his comment on the performance of my then audio system. I remember the comment centered around the word “presence” of the musical presentation. He added that not that many audio system in the world that he visited command such “presence” in the presentation (as I have said, he is generous). That comment brought some smile but also have me thinking what is that “presence”. In an attempt to understand “presence”, I was contemplating to upgrade my then audio system with Gryphon Pandora pre amplifier, instead I opted for the Mephisto Solo (mono) amplifiers. Therefore, there was that opening for the pre amplifier and phono stage. As some would have guessed, that is where and when the Vitus Audio’s Masterpieces came for the challenge.

Even though I was treated with an audio system of great musical playback capability, my mind still seek what can be better; is there more in “presence”?

Presence…equal, can play loud and…?

When Flemming was at my place, I did play certain and suitable tracks at high volume (peak above 100dB). He was nodding his head in agreement with the tunes and shared to me that he does listen to music loud too, at certain times. I have always wanted my loudspeaker system being able to play loud without any loss of detail, control, finesse, energy, dynamic and musicality. There, the transient of the energy and all nuances of textures must be cleanly and clearly delineated. Ultimately, nothing must be lost at any volume level. First pick is an old vinyl title from Reference Recording, Blazing Redheads’ Crazed Women (RR-41), to check out how the system hold up at peak volume around 100dB with multiple musical instruments played at the same time and space.

I would summed up that every instrument at play maintained its independence, freedom and coherency at sizzling hot tempo. The pace, rhythm and tempo of the system is so good that the feel of the music comes at you unhindered. I can hear and feel the free flow of each instrument at play. The energy of different instrument is clearly portray, and each in its own space. The last track of side two, “Tiananmen Square” will have a gong that this system will allow you to experience so low the frequency and to hear it to the last stop.

Presence…That piano at the back…

My next in play is a Toshiba Direct Cut Pro Use Series vinyl record from Eiji Kitamura & All Stars’ 30 years in 30 minutes ( Toshiba LF 95012 ) where I am amazed how the Gryphon Audio Pendragon is able to capture the three dimensionality of the piano at play in the background amidst the many other more prominent instruments. At my previous reference loudspeaker system, I will hear the piano at play but not with such vividness and weight that constitute the essence of each note clearly play out to its respective stop. This is my first with my current set up!

Presence…in a space…

Quality Pressing under the light of Chad Kassem produces some of the finest reissue around and almost always I will play their Living Stereo’ Offenbach-Gaite Parisienne, Boston Pops Orchestra, Fiedler ( LSC-1817 ). Here, I would like to add that the space and air surrounding each instrument and the atmosphere of the play in the venue is so much more present with certain tangible weight compare to most other loudspeaker that I have had the pleasure. This also add up to the clarity and clear delineation of each tone played. To my ears, I can more easily follow and enjoy the music being played, even in the most congested play.

Presence…One Night at…

A few friends who visited me will attest that I love to end our listening session with the vinyl single of Murray Head’s One Night in Bangkok (RCA Chess PD-13959). At high volume level, even the best audio system may suffered in more than a point. The mess that come out is so difficult to decipher and our brain can easily dismiss all as noise. The Gryphon Audio Pendragon display great control here that you do not feel the above 100dB. Many attendees actually ask me to play again and louder. At this (almost) discotheque level, we can hear distinctly the different musical element at play. The vocal is clearly separated with his own space from the electronic music. The same treatment on the background opera singing, music and voices from all the main “ho hah”. The whole presentation is so control and in order that is so enjoyable and have you listen to again and again. This is a good test for any mega audio system and my good testament is that I sent a few running out to buy a copy of the same vinyl to run their audio system.

Presence…Blue Notes at play…

Play any good recording from the Music Matters’ reissue of the Blue Note titles and read up the liner notes of that date. If you are able to understand and feel the comment of the critic of that date as you listen to that record then I would say that you are hearing that record. The Gryphon Pendragon allow me a door to the date of the recording session that I am able to hear the breath taken by the musician(s) before each stroke or blow or brush on his instrument, and feel the strength of it. In addition, the air that moves as each movement made by the musician can be experience too. I believes that the treble ribbon employed in the Pendragon should take the credit for this. I am a believer of the advantages of ribbons that they are fast enough to capture the tempo of the musical instrument and the skill or artistry of the musician. The whole package of the Gryphon Audio Pendragon involved dynamic drivers too and if they are not in “speed” or in sync with the ribbon then it will be a failure.

That is the game with four chassis loudspeaker system. After much play with the placement of them, I found out that strict adherence to the recommended position as per the manual yielded the best result with coherence approaching two chassis loudspeaker system. To test this further, I share to you that as the tempo picks up in any of these fine recordings, the Gryphon Audio Pendragon system is able to carry you without any hint of any loss of breath (unless the musician(s) does). The challenge does not stop here, many of times, I notice that the leader of that date loves to carry you on a musical wave to a great height and then let you off. Many of loudspeakers will not be able to follow through such a roller coaster ride as the Gryphon that have the braking system of a formula one ride.

Presence…what more?

I was advised that ribbons does not and will not sound hard or bright thus it is also the case that they do not equal the pin point imaging like a dynamic driver and tweeter. I do agree (in part) of the above assessment in the case of the Gryphon Audio Pendragon. When I was in the course of finding the best placement position for them, I found myself comparing the imaging of the Gryphon Pendragon with my previous reference, the Egglestonwork Ivy Signature and other two chassis loudspeakers. After much work and help from friends, I decided to placed the Gryphon Pendragon around the same distance from the front wall as my previous Egglestonwork, that is 8 feet. I was seated slightly above 11.5 feet. The bass towers are toe in at the sweet spot, and the treble towers are toe in less. Here, I manage to obtain the cleanest and clearest low bass with treble to match thus a tonal balance of my objective.

Presence…vocal? Let us welcome Ms.Lyn Stanley…

I played Ms. Stanley’s Potion-From the 50’s (A.T. Music LLC 3103) vinyl album. I find that through the Gryphon Audio Pendragon, this recording capture the atmosphere of the recording venue and the space between accompany musicians and their respective musical instrument. I love the captured (or recorded) energy of each musical instrument throughout. Hearing this vinyl album through the Gryphon Pendragon find me not missing the imaging of my previous reference loudspeakers. I am really impressed with the ability of these loudspeaker in reproducing the tones of the piano. I can clearly hear the different key being played and the different strength applied and for how long. The start and stop of each key is so apparent, and all with the right tonality. It does not stop at the tones, the Gryphon Audio Pendragon is able to convey the weight of the piano, even in those difficult and congested passage. I am fooled into believing that an actual piano is in my audio room. The star lady, Ms. Lyn Stanley’s voice was captured with flesh and breath. I can vividly imagine her lips pressed towards the recording mike. I would say that her artistry is capture clearly here. Comparing with her previous album, “Lost in Romance”, which is another great audiophile album with much care and effort spent, Ms. Stanley is so much more confident in her artistry here and more relax to explore the different styles in portraying the fine selection.

Another observation from this recording is that Ms. Stanley’s vocal is capture in the right balance with the accompanying musicians. I find that most recordings almost always give too much prominence to the lead vocalist (which is not wrong) but I believe that the right balance provides the nearer experience of the actual session. My hope is that there will more of such great recording.

Presence…Distance…recording mike?

The Gryphon Audio Pendragon is an extreme transparent transducer. Do expect to hear the different distance between each artist with the recording mike and all movements made by the artist. Everything recorded will be played back more vividly here. I hear Ms. Stanley’s voice became more chesty and breathy as she is nearer to the recording mike and I notice she like to start each song near to the recoding mike. The shifting of her head and movement of her lips affect the space her voice occupied in the soundstage, will be vividly portrayed through these loudspeakers. In comparison with some other loudspeakers, I only hear a hint of such shift in the space between the source (vocal) to the recording mike. Most of the times, many audiophiles may even dismiss such phenomenon as an instability of the imaging. At first, I have the same conclusion but was later came to the above deduction as I noticed how densely and palpable the imaging is, even as it moved. It is an eerie feeling with the hair over my hand stands up.


My next pick is another vocal album by Ms.Cecile McLorin Salvant’s “Woman Child” (Mack Avenue MAC1072LP), where her diverse styling and artistries are vividly exposed through the Gryphon Audio Pendragon. Here in this recording, at the track, “Mean to Me”, the vocal floated behind an extremely quiet background with only the accompanying bass, where to me all are exposed, are being presented most naturally and in the right balance. This is an area where smaller or mini monitor speaker usually strive well against the bigger loudspeaker. The right tonal balance of the Gryphon Audio Pendragon (when properly calibrated) will play with precision like a mini monitor and with certain weight that is not necessary more bass but in full(er) bandwidth or totality.

Is it “totality” that Flemming is seeking in an audio presentation that meant “presence”?

I believe that his vast experience in audio design and voicing coupled with his exposure to listening to much reel to reel tapes (I was told he used to own a sizable collection of original reel to reel tapes) have given him certain set of parameters that he coined as “presence”. My little experience with reel to reel tape is that the good tapes and recordings almost always sound fuller throughout the entire bandwidth. To simplify, the low bass will go to the extreme low (depends on the capability of the loudspeaker in use), the mid is weightier and sweeter and the high is filled with energy and detail, all under tight control. Even with familiar recording, I find the reel to reel tape version gives me a totally different feel to the presentation. I hear more into the music and find the music more enticing and catchy. I found the same (or near) experience with the Gryphon Audio Pendragon loudspeaker system. Whether the Gryphon Audio Pendragon has given me the “total” amount of detail buried in a recording or presented me the “total” experience of a recording as intended by the recording engineer, I can never give an affirmative at this (or any) moment. I will testify that it does give me more listening detail, feeling, experience and “bang” for the music with attributes that have similarity and familiarity to that playback of reel to reel tapes, than any loudspeaker system that I have had the pleasure. I believe that “presence” is not a factor or a particular audiophile point but the “totality” of all the audiophile points and the end result thereof.

If an audio system is able to present the essence, meaning and intention of the musician(s) or artist(s) at play at that time in that space, as recorded and intended by the recording engineer, then that audio system has played out the “presence” of the recorded music.


The Gryphon Audio team under the light of Flemming have created a loudspeaker system that allow the listener to hear, feel and experience more into the music and at the same time, bring forth the education and meaning of “presence” to an audio system’s playback presentation. I am still amazed  and digesting what I am hearing from these loudspeaker. This is a high achievement in all audiophiles’ book!

Dato’ Danon Han – Mono & Stereo contributing editor

  • Three-way, four piece loudspeaker system
  • System response 16 – 32,000 Hz, + 3 dB (depending on Q setting and room size)
  • Separate active crossover network for each channel isolated in bass tower
  • Four dipolar AMT (Air Motion Transformer) super-tweeters per channel in vertical array
  • Wideband, dipolar thin-film planar magnetic, line source ribbon driver
  • Linear, push-pull ceramic magnet system
  • Reinforced, low-diffraction open high frequency baffle
  • Custom designed Gryphon Class A/B bass tower amplifiers, 1000W continuous, 4000W peak
  • Eight custom-built 8” bass drivers for extreme speed and precision with massive air displacement
  • Integrated Linkwitz-Greiner Q Controller with preset and custom Q settings for ideal low frequency integration in any room
  • Triple-magnet bass driver motor system for maximum force and precise focus
  • Sealed bass enclosures with extensive internal bracing
  • Combination of pure wool and synthetic interior damping materials
  • Gryphon internal wiring
  • Remote control for Mute, Q setting, Bass Level and Low Cut
  • L link remote start-up circuitry
  • Non-invasive protection system
  • Stylish string grille for driver protection
  • Virtually unlimited custom finish options
  • Designed and built in Denmark