Spoiled by choice as we are, it's easy to forget low-profile brands. Gryphon suffers from this syndrome simply because there are far too many companies producing high-end amplifiers, and a mere handful probably accounts for 90 percent of the market. And that's a pity: Gryphon equipment, which I seem to revisit every four or five years, deserves much, much more of our attention. Now that they're back in the UK, we have no excuses.
Gryphon, has always behaved like a major brand, reminding me in particular of other Danish companies like Primare and Densen, which also refuse to emulate the still-extant British practice of making equipment built like your worst DIY nightmare. Even in 1985, when the company's only offering was an 'extreme' phono pre-amp, Gryphon understood that most people want 'high perceived value'. Only the most masochistic of audiophiles will still put up with garbage which smokes, belches, farts and then draws blood with its unfinished edges.
Beyond offering terrific build quality and gorgeous styling, Gryphon has also managed to be innovative, while sticking to a philosophy of dual mono construction, huge and well-managed power supplies, and - more recently - extreme user friendliness. The Callisto 2200 integrated amplifier, one model above entry-level, encapsulates all of this. And I have to tell you that it is - like the SME 10 turntable, Stax Omega headphones, Dyson vacuum cleaners and Aurora fountain pens - a product which seems 'right' straight out of the box, before you even use it for its designated purpose.
Dimensioned a t175x480x420mm (HWD), small for a product yielding 200W/ch and thus reminiscent of Krell's KAV300il, the Callisto 2200 (and its 100W/ch sister, the 2100) exudes modernity: mixed black surfaces, no rotary controls, no clutter. Indeed, Gryphon is so thoughtful that it managed to continue using black Perspex while at the same time preventing the curse of fingerprints by placing the row of eight buttons in a part of the fascia made from a different, non-glossy material. Then again, the unit is fully remote controlled, so fingerprints need never mar it.
As the photos show, the front control panel is flanked by two plain black sections which correspond to the left and right power amp sections. If you remove the cover, as I did when installing the optional phono stage, you see internals consisting of a massive motherboard with a vast toroidal power supply in the middle. The sides consists of heat sinks running the length of the unit; because Gryphon is so 'new age', those heat sinks will never slice flesh as they're hidden by the non-magnetic, non-resonant aluminium cover. Attached to the heat sinks are daughter boards containing the amplifier stages, which connect to the main board...and, I might add, you can barely see as it's filled with big fat capacitors.
Gryphon has employed a double push-pull configuration of complementary high-speed Sanken transistors for each channel of the power amp, with high slew rates to ensure 'correct handling of ultrafast musical transients, even at high levels. Its wide power bandwidth extends beyond 350kHz to guarantee linear phase across the audible frequency range and the absence of negative feedback completely eliminates intermodulation distortion'. Gryphon rates the unit conservatively at 200W/ch into 8 Ohms, 400W in 4 Ohms and 600W in 2 Ohm loads; 1 ohm Apogee Scintillas presented no problems whatsoever, but the amp was more comfortable - sonically, that is - with the Sonus Faber Guarneri.
As with previous Gryphons, Callisto features the company's 'True Dual Mono' configuration, zero negative feedback, a dual mono Holmgren toroidal transformer which benefits from extensive mechanical decoupling, a passive preamplifier stage, carefully selected bipolar transistors, military spec double-sided printed circuit boards and PCB-mounted socketry to eliminate wiring and to shorten the signal path.Read more about the Callisto 2200 on Page 2.