One of the many exciting things about High End Munich is its location. Yes, Munich is a vibing city, but there’s a double whammy there. For me, it’s also a handy gateway to the rest of Europe. Man, the mere thought of traveling, in little more than an hour, between countries which are remarkably different culturally, architecturally, gastronomically and societally is so, so foreign to Aussies. We’re flying six hours and either still over Perth or above the ocean in the middle of nowhere. What? Yeah. So, post-show, it’s become a regular escapade to jump on a trip or two to Europa-at-large. Sometimes, I’m just a wonder-eyed tourist. Other times, I’ll visit an audio manufacturer… and am equally wonder-eyed. In those instances, I don’t just rock-up, the journey is usually a pre-arranged affair months in advance. A company knows I’ll be in Munich and extends a welcoming hand. This year, I synched-up with eagle keeper and lion master Rune Skov, who extended his lean-machine inked arms to a 10-dude Aussie junket. We’re to experience the machinations in the Gryphon Audio Designs’ lair. Or should I say the lion’s den… or eagle’s nest… you know, wherever the Gryphon creatures live.
Tour of Duty
Gryphon Audio Designs’ main manufacturing facility and administration HQ is in Ry, a small town in the Jutland peninsula, in sprawling flatlands surrounded by lakes. Our three hour drive from Copenhagen – and later a further 45 minutes to a secondary facility – meant an eight hour round trip so, unfortunately, there was no time for extra-curricular local exploration diversions. We were on a focused mission as per Joint Operation Planning protocols.
At around lunchtime we arrive at a semi-industrial area where a large modern building houses Gryphon Audio Designs’ administrative and manufacturing departments. It’s a small and cosy entrance with a sweeping stairwell rising beyond the lobby. Alongside, an upwards arching wall is pasted with a mosaic of framed magazine front covers, teasing glittering product reviews and accolades. Casting my eyes across the rich tapestry, I spot one or two covers of my own making – back in my print magazine days…
From there we sweep up the stairs and right into the ‘Brains’ department. In other words, in a large office space, we encounter three of Gryphon Audio’s (for short from now on) key Research & Development engineers. As Rune Skov explains, the circuits and smarts of all the company’s electronics are the result of this brains trust. And they’re a trustworthy bunch too – there’s a remarkable level of skilled engineering in that R&D office. The department is populated by Tom Møller (whom I’ve met several times before at Munich), Søren Slebo, Michael Madsen and other engineering teammates. Several generations of products, most notably the latest crop of amplification components, crowned by the no-holds-barred Apex line, has been created by this group of super engineers. The team has access to the latest computer simulation and a variety of design software while also working closely with the secondary specialist manufacturing facility (more on that below).
As we move on, we file through the administration and marketing departments while brushing past a massive wall holding Award plaques from around the world. On a dedicated space across the wall, I spot a portrait of Gryphon Audio founder Flemming E. Rasmussen, a reminder of the source, the life-spring, which started the company’s snowballing to its current position as an industry leader in the high-end audio space.
Past that point, we enter a large warehousing space where dozens of crates hold products awaiting shipment to all corners of the globe. It was eyebrow raising to see that the majority of the crates were nesting Commander preamplifiers and Apex amplifiers. This, undoubtedly, is an important detail. The mere fact that there were so many of these flagship components awaiting shipping shows both Gryphon Audio’s overall sales success and its power in the über high-end sector. Plus, it’s also strong evidence of the buoyancy and overall health of high-end audio’s upper echelons.
It's also in this warehousing area where all types of parts, packaging and miscellaneous manufacturing components are stored. That includes the substantial amounts of aluminium and acrylic demanded by the aesthetic and industrial design of Gryphon Audio products. That sizable management challenge is handled by long-timer Logistics Manager Søren Melgrrd.
Towards the rear of the warehouse is a small, dedicated workshop where a German made precision drilling/milling machine is used to actually produce specific tooling – and to machine miscellaneous small parts – which cannot be sourced directly off-the-shelf. When it can’t be sourced from specialists, it’s internally produced. “It’s a small creative corner” as Skov put it.
Moving across to another portion of the building sees us land in the Gryphon Audio Museum. On multi-cell shelving, we see just about every product the company has produced across its long and illustrious timeline. Of course, that includes, as shown below by Skov, Gryphon Audio’s very first product – the item which launched the electronics powerhouse. It’s the famous The Gryphon Head Amp, which even back then was not only gorgeously styled but also performed at first-tier level. From there we scan eyes across the deliciously styled preamplifiers and amplifiers of yore. I spot a personal favourite, an item which, as a much younger audio enthusiast, I so lusted… the inimitable DM 100 pure Class-A amplifier. Man, I wanted that thing…
Rune Skov proudly shows Gryphon Audio Designs’ first product: The Gryphon Head Amp
Back in the ‘90s, oh how I desired this glorious DM 100 full Class-A amplifier
On the opposing wall and standing proud are some of the company’s best loudspeaker designs, including Pendragon, Poseidon, Trident and more. Strutting along onwards from the museum, we enter a spacious dedicated listening room. It’s smartly-designed, near-ideally dimensioned and is acoustically excellent, making for a terrific evaluation tool. At the time of our visit, a prototype speaker was in the latter stages of being fine-tuned prior to sign-off for production. A sneak peek – or listen, I should say – provides a very positive preview of what will come once further refined. As it is, it already sounded powerful, detailed and with terrific command of the low-end (no doubt helped by the superb amplification at the controls).
What just looks like picture-printed room treatment pads actually slide across to provide access to a small adjoining anechoic chamber. In there, a single EOS 2 speaker is placed on a stand, post-measurements activity.
Finally, a last stop at this facility, before driving to the next one, sees us landing at a general assembly area where a variety of components – at the time, crossover componentry for the new EOS 2 loudspeakers – are partly assembled while also being tested. Terminal soldering, metal panelling polishing, parts population and other lighter duties are also performed here. As an interesting, and somewhat humorous side bit, a staff member who is in the midst of assembling a speaker crossover’s cable loom has an added small duty: randomly through the day, she opens and shuts a top cover assembly for the remarkable (and so coveted by this writer) Ethos CD Player/DAC. She has been doing this for weeks, with the count amounting to several tens of thousands… totally glitch free.
Ethos CD Player/DAC’s lid under constant random tests
Near Pole Position
Gryphon Audio’s second facility is the result of a partnership with Scandinavian electronics specialist Selektro A/S. It’s a 45 minute drive to Møldrup municipality, as we drive further north towards the top of the peninsula. I break-off from my travel companions, hitching a ride with Skov in his sprinty ‘Beemer’. Actually, “sprinty” puts it mildly; that thing flies. Exhilarating. As was Rune and I sharing our enthusiasm for the amazing music of art-rock band Tool. Needless to say, we smashed a few tunes at high SPLs through that 45 minute road trip. Visceral… and awesome. A reflection of the intensity of the company’s creations?
Gryphon Audio and Selektro’s partnership sees the former commissioning the latter to produce many of the circuit boards and electronic circuitry for a number of products. On the day we visit, there are dozens of Diablo 300s being assembled, tested and soak-power-tested. As a showpiece, an Apex amplifier is neatly ‘deconstructed’ in order for us to gawk at the OTT internal layout. Wow! (Note the massive bank of high quality Toshiba transistors used in the Apex, now trickled down to the new Diablo 333 über integrated amplifier).
The arrangement between the two companies is actually a really clever strategy. Selektro provides the foundations and the means for sophisticated circuit production. These skills are employed in the production of products by a wide variety of companies from around the globe. That’s Selektro’s core service. It’s the company’s central specialist expertise, and the production floors are manned by highly trained and skilled craftspeople. Selektro provides services in partnerships with varied super-precision industries, including scientific entities and the military.
Selektro’s Simon Lassen showing a freshly baked circuit board
So, Gryphon Audio has built a sympatico relationship with experts at the leading edge of electronic circuit and board design. It follows then, that Selektro runs the latest Swiss and German apparatus for circuit board component population and management, including large scale solder bath processes, cable cut and strip machines and much more. Of course, the various production and assembly systems operate at a highly refined level of efficiency. This places Gryphon Audio at a slight edge over many competitors who have to develop tooling and invest in costly equipment – introducing possibilities for compromise due to relatively modest production scales – and who may not have the breadth of proficiency a super-focused specialist has. Win, win for Gryphon Audio and Selektro.
This was a factory visit with a twist. While much of the manual assembly and more delicate, time consuming processes are handled in-house, the bulk of the really nitty gritty, super-specialised component and circuit board-level production is handled off-site by a leader in the field.
That leaves a lot of the fun stuff at Gryphon Audio’s own headquarters. Yes, the engineering and design, the Research and Development, the in-house fine tuning of every aspect of every product. And the final arbitrator, the way a product, be it electronic or acoustic, performs its duty of recreating music as close to the real thing as possible. And in that one most important factor, Gryphon Audio Designs has always hit it out of the park.
Yes, believe the myth… lions and eagles can truly fly.
… Edgar Kramer
Gryphon Audio Designs
Australian Distributor: Kedcorp
PH: +61 2 9561 0799
Gryphon Audio Designs
+45 86 89 12 84