Most-Read Recommended References (Last 365 Days)
- Written by SoundStage! Hi-Fi Editors SoundStage! Hi-Fi Editors
- Category: Components Components
- Created: 01 October 2013 01 October 2013
Gryphon Audio Designs’ Mephisto stereo amp measures 20.5"W x 13.5"H x 28"D, weighs 238 pounds, and sells for $57,000 USD. A fully balanced, dual-mono design, it accordingly has only balanced XLR inputs and requires two power cords: one per channel. According to Gryphon, it can deliver 175Wpc into 8 ohms, 350Wpc into 4 ohms, or 700Wpc into 2 ohms, all continuously, all in class-A -- meaning its transistors are always on and running hot. The Mephisto is claimed to deliver 6000Wpc of peak class-AB power into a half ohm. The Mephisto is one of the largest, heaviest, most expensive amplifiers we’ve ever reviewed -- and, based on what Jeff Fritz wrote last month in his column, “The World’s Best Audio System,” on SoundStage! Ultra, it might also be the very best. Which is why, this month, we recognize it as a Recommended Reference Component.
The Mephisto’s technical details are too numerous to list here, but it’s worth saying that to generate the power it does, the Mephisto uses 20 bipolar output transistors per channel, and its power supply has 500,000µF of filter capacitance. It also has multiple operating modes -- Low, Medium, and High -- which affect the transistor bias. High keeps the Mephisto in class-A up to its rated power, while Medium and Low transition the amp into class-AB somewhere below rated power, to let it run more coolly and efficiently.
The Mephisto’s build quality is beyond reproach, and its finish is perfect. As Jeff wrote, “When you unpack the Mephisto from its flight case, you feel you’ve got something special. The fit’n’finish is about perfect, as far as I can see -- the corners join just right, and the acrylic is flawlessly polished.”
But what matters most is the sound, and the “Sound” section of Jeff’s review began with this: “I knew within three seconds that the Gryphon Mephisto was the best amplifier I’d ever heard with the Magico Q7s. That’s not what I wanted to hear. I own the Ayre MX-Rs ($18,500/pair), and they’d proven to be giant killers in my system -- until now. They simply couldn’t slay the huge Mephisto. As the first few notes poured forth from the big Magicos, it was as if my listening room had been expanded. The Mephisto renovated the Music Vault by seeming to stretch its boundaries in each direction by 10’ or so. I could easily hear the acoustics of recording venues in a way I hadn’t before experienced in my room. It made the sound that I’d achieved with The World’s Best Audio System 2012 pale in comparison. I’ve found the perfect match for the Magico Q7s, I thought. The Gryphon allowed these large, four-way speakers to stretch their proverbial legs and, therefore, grow the dimensions of my listening room, making it sound cavernous.”
At the end of the “Sound” section, Jeff summarized: “The Mephisto was able to perfectly reproduce anything I threw at it. One thing became clear: This was not the kind of component that excelled with certain types of music and not with others. It could easily scale the heights and play back power music like no other amplifier I’ve had in my system, with the possible exception of Musical Fidelity’s Titan, which I reviewed a number of years ago. But the Gryphon was also able to play smaller-scale material in a way that the Titan couldn’t match. Imaging was always precise, yet images of players and singers were also full-bodied, with dimensional accuracy. The soundstage on which these images appeared, however, was as if from another world. It was quite something to hear a vocalist, for instance, occupying a precise place at the center of the stage, as the space and boundaries around the singer seemed to be expanded in every dimension. I can only conclude that this information has been on my recordings all along, and that it took the resolving capability of the Magico-Gryphon combo to fully reveal it.”
The Mephisto’s high power output means that it will be compatible with most loudspeakers, but its size and weight will restrict its ability to fit into some systems and rooms. In fact, Jeff had a difficult time moving the amp into his system: “Getting the Mephisto into my Music Vault listening room was no small feat. It wasn’t large or heavy enough to justify the cost of the forklift treatment, but it was too big and heavy for just me and a hand truck to take upstairs. So I enlisted the help of a strong friend, and we schlepped the big beast into the room and into place in about half an hour.”
Of course, the Gryphon’s real limiting factor is its price -- very few people will ever be able to own a $57,000 amp, no matter how many might want to. But those who can afford a Mephisto and who buy one will own one of the very best stereo power amplifiers on the market today. They can feel confident that its superb combination of build, styling, and sound guarantee that it will remain a reference-caliber component for many years to come.
Manufacturer contact information:
Gryphon Audio Designs
Phone: (45) 86891200
Fax: (45) 86891277