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Gryphon Diablo 300

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To Jeff Fritz,

I enjoyed your article in which you described your high-end setup with Magico speakers and Soulution electronics -- simple in terms of the amount of components. You are using an Oppo BDP-103 and an Apple MacBook computer in addition to your DAC.

I noticed you are using your DAC straight to your amplifier instead of a preamp. Is this a matter of subjective preference when you decided to go this route? Did you have a preamp in your chain previously?

I’m trying to reduce and go to an all-digital setup similar to yours but on a much smaller scale cost-wise with the components.

Best regards,
Michael Pappano
United States

I did have a preamplifier in my system, and a very good one at that: an Ayre KX-R Twenty. I’ve always gravitated toward the simpler system models, however, and being digital-only in terms of source components only made that inclination stronger. When I reviewed the Soulution 560 DAC-preamplifier I knew I had found the, um, solution. It produced the best sound I’d heard in my system.

So, yes, I believe you can successfully dispatch with the traditional preamplifier provided you have a DAC that was designed to drive power amplifiers directly. If the volume control in your DAC is a mere afterthought, you will be disappointed. Thankfully, more and more manufacturers are building DACs with preamplifier sections as good as what you might find in a dedicated component. When you add the fact that you do away with a set of interconnects and the connectors and circuitry required to link those components, then the opportunity for better sound quality becomes possible. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

What is your opinion of the loudspeakers from Magnepan?

In my opinion, they are one of the true standouts in all of audiophiledom. Their ability to create a large soundstage that reveals every minute detail with precision without adding any of their own character to the music is second to none. It is true that there are specific setup stipulations that the user must apply to get that result (clean, high-power amplifier; [correct] placement in the room; good source material, etc.), but this is true of every loudspeaker that is a contender at this level.

The thing that bothers me is that every time Magnepan is discussed, it is always with the inclusion “. . . for the price.” It seems to me that a loudspeaker ought to be judged purely on its ability with its price having nothing to do with it -- be it super high, super low, or average price.

When the ultra-high-end loudspeakers are being judged, it is always with the disclaimer “cost no consideration” because they are so high dollar. Why isn’t the same applied to the other end of the spectrum, where it's “cost no consideration” even though they are so affordable?

I would love to get your two cents on this. Maybe I hold too high of an opinion of Magnepan to justify this argument. My ears don’t think so. Loved your article on the Devialet Expert 1000 Pro. Well done.

Thomas Shafer
United States

Your observations are quite astute. It is true that reviewers of ultra-high-priced gear oftentimes minimize what can be accomplished at lower price points. The truth is that high price doesn’t automatically equate to high performance. There are just too many examples I could name where a lower-priced product outperforms a more expensive model. Yet some reviewers have fallen into the trap of either being biased by price, or, worse, protecting more expensive gear, possibly because they have some side deal with the manufacturer that they benefit from. Either way, it doesn’t sound like you’ve fallen for that. Good for you.

As for Magnepan, you very well may be right. I know lots of audiophiles who love them. They don’t send us review samples, though, so I can’t comment first hand. That’s the only reason you don’t see them on this or our other sites. If you really like their sound, then that’s what’s important. Enjoy. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I enjoyed reading your review of the [Devialet Expert] 1000 Pros and I know that your conclusions will be controversial to some, but then the industry needs shaking up a little.

The reason for this e-mail, however, is to ask you to do a formal review of another Devialet product in the shape of the Phantom.

I have read too many half-hearted reviews and I cannot understand the apparent unwillingness of reviewers to be objective about these speakers. I have a pair of Silver Phantoms and love, love, love what they do.

Having your type of system, where you seem to have reached a level that you are happy with, will be out of reach for many, and that’s fine; we all like things to aspire to. However, if can you just do a review of any of the Phantom range (preferred if it was the Gold) simply reporting what it sounds like would be great. Forget about the lifestyle aspects, just what it does, good or bad, from your own perspective.

The Phantom may not be all the things Devialet says it is, but it does sound, to me, ridiculously good and makes many systems sound pretty ordinary, overpriced, and overrated.

Look forward to hearing what you report.

Many thanks,
John Bondswell
United States

You’ll be happy to know that we have a review of the Gold Phantom coming the first part of 2017. Although I did not conduct the review, SoundStage! founder Doug Schneider did, and his write-up will include what we believe to be the world’s first third-party anechoic measurements of any Phantom model. Look for the review on SoundStage! Hi-Fi, likely in February. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I just ordered a pair of Magico M3s. I’m retired, and by selling my [Magico] Q3s, selling some stock, a credit card, and a bit of dealer financing, I decided to go ahead with the purchase without the MPods. Should I have done that or do you think the addition of that option is something I should absolutely think of doing if I can?

Thanks,
Steve
United States

First, congrats on the purchase of your M3s ($75,000/pr.). Although I have not heard that model, I’ve heard its predecessor, the M Project, numerous times and it never fails to sound amazing. The M3 looks to be packed with the latest Magico technology and is certainly one of the best-looking speakers on the market right now.

As for the MPods, I do have a set installed on my Magico Q7 Mk.II speakers. I was a bit skeptical at first, and I’ll ask you to wait until my full review for the whole scoop, but let’s just say that I would strongly consider adding the MPod option to your pair of M3s, even though the $9600 they cost may be a bit disconcerting -- admittedly, it’s a lot of money. I will say right now that they definitely make a real sonic improvement, at least on my Q7s. Furthermore, there is also some satisfaction in knowing that you left zero performance capability on the table. In for a penny, in for a pound. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

Trust you are well. I believe I read somewhere that you had some experience with the new Paradigm Persona 9H and that you liked them a lot. Not sure, so I thought I had rather approach you directly. As you may be aware, I have the Rockport Avior, which I love. The only thing against it is lack of adjustability and probably scale.

Any views how the Persona 9H would stack up against the Avior and if you think there is any merit in a change?

I have always respected your rather impartial and candid views. So I’m grateful for some advice.

Many thanks in advance.

Cheers,
Sujay
South Africa

I did write about my impressions of the prototype of the Paradigm Persona 9H, then called the Concept 4F, which was played at Munich’s High End back in 2015. It was an impressive demonstration, and left me with high hopes that the most expensive Paradigm speaker ever made would be something special. But the Concept 4F was just a prototype, and I’ve not yet heard the production version of that speaker, which is what you are considering. There’s just no telling how the 9H turned out without hearing it.

How would the 9H compare with the Rockport Avior you own now? I can only offer some conjecture based on what I’ve heard of the prototype and the Avior, so here goes: There is no question that the Paradigm will play louder, particularly in the low end, where its four 8.5” woofers powered by a 1400W amplifier would likely fill any room with ground-shaking bass. Its DSP-based Anthem Room Correction circuitry would help integrate that massive bass in your room.

However, just because the Paradigm can play louder and deeper in the bass (DSP helps in that regard), I have no idea whether you’d prefer it to your Avior. Rockport speakers are expertly voiced and meticulously constructed and tested, yielding a sound that is sublime. The Avior has been tremendously successful and, if you’re fond of its sound, would surely be hard to beat. I’d never suggest you consider changing to the Persona 9H based on my impressions of the prototype or the specs of either model. You’d have to compare them side-by-side. The Rockports you have are fine instruments that make music sound like music. I’d stick with them unless you know with certainty you prefer something else, and the only way you’ll know is by listening. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

My name is Jason Li. I’m a reader of your articles and I have a question that I hope you can answer. I’m about to purchase a set of Gryphon Mephisto Solo amplifiers. I’m hesitant regarding the choice of preamplifier. I have heard the Ayre KX-R Twenty preamplifier in a different setting and really liked what I heard. However, I have always preferred to buy amplifier and preamplifier from the same manufacturer for obvious reasons. But there is not a lot of info about the Gryphon Pandora preamplifier, and Gryphon is known more for their power amplifiers, not their preamplifiers, so I’m very tempted to go with the KX-R Twenty. But since this is a considerable monetary investment, I would like to have as much information as possible. I remember reading a review of the Gryphon Mephisto by you, and you had a KX-R preamplifier if I’m not mistaken. Could you please tell me a bit more about your impressions of the Gryphon and Ayre combination? Have you perhaps heard the Pandora/Mephisto combo?

I’m grateful for whatever information you can give me. Thank you.

With kind regards,
Jason Li
South Korea

I did pair the Gryphon Mephisto stereo amplifier with the Ayre KX-R preamplifier. In fact, this was the primary way in which I auditioned the Gryphon, and you’ve obviously read my very positive impressions. I have no doubt that the combination of Gryphon Mephisto Solo monos and Ayre KX-R Twenty would be outstanding, likely eclipsing what I heard with the stereo Gryphon and original Ayre KX-R. If you choose to go this route I’m sure you'll be thrilled.

Still, I am of the school of thought that great manufacturers -- and make no mistake, Gryphon is one -- optimize their amplifiers and preamplifiers to perform best when used together. I have heard of several audiophiles around the world who have Mephistos and Pandoras and seem to love their systems. There is a predictability to the sound when the preamp and power amp are produced by the same company.

Of course, the expected answer is to “go hear them for yourself,” but I realize this could be difficult if Gryphon is not sold near you. For example, Gryphon is not sold in the United States, where I live. I am not sure of your situation in South Korea. If you cannot listen, I would advise you to buy the Gryphon set and be done with it. Good luck and let me know how it works out. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I enjoyed reading your article addressing Doug’s concern about the future for audio, let alone high-end audio. I have been an audiophile since high school. I have worked at a large university since graduating college. The reason why the future is grim is because the current generation of college kids, for the most part, are not collectors of physical mediums. Remember when you were in college in the ’70s or ’80s and went to a party? Your host would not only have an audio system, but also books and records in his or her living room. This is not the case anymore with college-age students. Everything is online and most listening is personal through earbuds.

However, there is a future for audio in general with those small groups of music lovers that are LP or CD collectors. It will be much smaller than previous generations, but they will ensure the future of audio. Indeed, it is these groups of young people that have embraced the LP once again. Those college-age students who do collect CDs and LPs will be those people who will get into high-end audio. Remember, however, this is a smaller group than previous generations. Companies like Rotel and Pro-Ject, among others, are catering to this market with their very reasonable prices for the quality of sound.

Sincerely,
Dr. Ross Scimeca, Head Librarian
USC Libraries
United States

To Jeff Fritz,

Just the other day you responded to a letter from Ilona from Switzerland about upgrading from Dynaudio Confidence C2 speakers to Magico S3 speakers. If possible I’d like to expand on that question simply because I am also planning to upgrade from my Confidence C2 loudspeakers in the spring, but want to upgrade a little higher than the S3.

I recently started the audition process, having spent one-and-a-half hours this past Saturday playing my music (LPs and CDs), listening to the Rockport Technology Avior speakers (Boulder electronics, Feickert Woodpecker turntable, Ortofon Cadenza Bronze cartridge). The other brands I plan to audition include the Magico S5 Mk.II (I recently heard the new S7 at a Colorado Audio Society meeting and thought they sounded absolutely tremendous), the Kharma Elegance dB9-S (heard them at RMAF last year and was very impressed with their musicality), the new Wilson Audio Specialties Yvette (yes, I know Wilson is not your favorite brand and I think I understand why), and have decided to include the Vivid Audio B1 Decade (largely based on Doug Schneider’s extremely positive review). These all seem to be in the same relative price range.

My first takeaway after listening to the Aviors is that they might be a little bass heavy in my room (but then again my reference point is the Dynaudios, which I’ve owned for seven years and they tend to emphasize the mids, which I have become very accustomed to). That the sound from the Aviors was so much fuller than what I hear from the C2s leads me to know that I am on the right track. The Aviors’ soundstage was far broader and deeper than what I am used to, but I am wondering if I can get that and even more resolution and clarity with another brand.

I do plan to carefully listen and make my buying decision based on what sounds best to both me and my wife, but I have tremendous respect for your practiced and critical listening ear, so consequently, I’d love to get your thoughts about how these speakers might compare with one another and possibly how one or two might fare when paired with what I own -- I guess what I’m really asking is if you think there’s a clear winner. And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask if there is a brand I’ve neglected to include in my search that should also be considered.

In terms of electronics, the new speakers will be paired with the new Ayre KX-5 Twenty preamp and VX-5 Twenty amplifier, combined with assorted other mid-level sources (EAT C-Major turntable, Ortofon Cadenza Bronze cartridge, Parasound phono and CD player). My room is fairly small (approx. 13.5’ x 14’) but does yield a pretty good sound when the speakers are well positioned.

Again, your view on these alternatives will be greatly appreciated,

Karl
United States

My biggest concern with most of the speakers you’ve chosen is that several of them might overload your room in the bass. All of the speakers you mention are capable of very-low-frequency response, some right down to 20Hz. Although you may get proper integration in your room, you might also get a boomy mess of a sound that is hard to live with. I’ve been there and done that. About 15 years ago I had a room approximately the size of the one you have. Despite my best efforts, I could never reliably predict how a speaker would sound in the bass in that room. For instance, EgglestonWorks Rosas and Wilson Audio WITTs completely overloaded the room, yielding an unlistenable sound. Some even larger speakers I had in there sounded terrific, however. Like I said, hard to predict.

As for the brands and the specific models, of course I like most of them. I think the Avior is a terrific buy and offers tremendous full-range sound and build quality to die for. If you’re set on a Rockport, you should also listen to the Atria to see if that is a better fit for your room. The Kharmas are fresh on my mind after my recent very positive review; however, the dB9-S has the most pronounced bass of the bunch, so that might be especially problematic in your room. The Vivids would likely be a pretty good match for your space, as they are on the smallish side compared with the other candidates you mention. The Magicos might also work well due to their sealed design and, in my experience, the very linear way that they load a room in the low frequencies. I have no experience with the Wilsons, though I have heard others say the Yvette sounds good.

Overall, I like the speakers on your list and could see you liking them, too. Of course, you will have to listen to each to really know. It has been my experience that once you do that, one of the models will appeal to you more than the others and it will make the buying decision relatively easy. Window-shopping online rarely offers clarity on a purchase of this magnitude. Good luck with your decision and please do let me know how it works out. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I would like to get your opinion about a possible speaker upgrade. I found a couple of useful articles on SoundStage! Ultra regarding the comparison between the Dynaudio C2 and Magico S1, but unfortunately not the S3.

I own a pair Dynaudio Confidence C2 speakers in combination with a Vitus RI-100 integrated amplifier. Overall, I really like the sound of my speakers. The only thing that I miss a little bit is the punch of the bass.

My question to you is: If I upgrade from my two-way Dynaudio C2 to the three-way Magico S3, would I gain deeper bass and more dynamics, but still get the lovely vocals that I hear from my Dynaudio C2?

I mostly listen to female vocals, jazz, and folk.

Kind regards,
Ilona
Switzerland

The biggest advantage of going from the Dynaudio C2 to the Magico S3 is the fact that you are upgrading from a two-way design to a three-way loudspeaker. Moving to a three-way from a two-way generally means deeper bass and more dynamic range, all other things being equal.

In this particular case, however, you are also dealing with two very differently voiced loudspeakers. The Dynaudios have a soft-dome tweeter and a sound that will be slightly more forgiving, whereas the Magicos, with their beryllium dome, will be more resolving, displaying more apparent detail in the upper registers. While I would expect the Magico to play lower in the bass than the Dynaudio C2, I am not sure it will be punchier in the midbass; the ported Dynaudio will sound very different in the bass versus the sealed Magico.

Although I think the Magico is an upgrade over the Dynaudio in this case, you really should try to hear a pair of S3s before you make your decision. The Dynaudio speakers that you own are no slouches, and the Magicos you are considering will give you a totally new sound. How will that shake out in your room, with your gear, and your musical preferences? You will simply have to try it to find out. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

What are your thoughts on pairing the Magico S7 with the Devialet 800? I mostly enjoy indie rock like Grizzly Bear, and electronic music like Lorn. I definitely want full-range sound with plenty of slam, wide and deep soundstage, and low-end extension that overall is not fatiguing. Also, do you think it would be a huge difference between pairing the amp with the S5 Mk.II?

Thanks,
Aaron
United States

Unless you are buying used, the new Devialet you would be looking at would be the Expert 1000 Pro. This model replaces the previous 800.

As for paring the Devialet monos with the Magico S7, I think it would be a stunning combination. Not only would you have full-range response with plenty of slam, but you’d have a system that is incredibly low in distortion, too, which should lead to the fatigue-free sound you’re looking for.

As for the S7 versus the S5 Mk.II, I think the larger model just offers a bit more of the things that make the S5 Mk.II a really popular choice. It’ll likely play a little louder and a little lower in the bass, attributes that, based on the music you’ve cited, might make the S7 the better choice for you. Let me know what you choose and how it sounds once you get it set up! . . . Jeff Fritz