Having had limited exposure to the frigid climes of northern European high-fidelity (Gryphon is one of a very few brands), I was optimistic about seeing what a soup-to-nuts Dane system was going to sound like. Coming into the setup I was impressed by the large LED readouts, industrial design and aerospace-type materials in use all over the signal path: power supply, source, cables, loudspeakers. The impression was one of modern, resolution-focused hi-fi, which was exactly what the system delivered.
With timbral and tonal colouration, the level of saturation was tempered by the onus on detail retrieval, speed, a viselike grip on notes throughout the frequency bandwidth and outstanding imaging with impressive soundfield breadth and depth. Did I mention the detail? There was so much resolution coming off “Don’t Wanna Live Inside Myself,” one of a few super-ballads off 1971’s Trafalgar by The Bee Gees, that it was almost like hearing the cut for the first time. The separation between the three Gibb brother’s vocal harmonies was so distinct I played the track again to confirm. Weight to Geoff Bridgeford’s drum work had slam, with fadeaway/decay shimmer and sparkle to cymbal crashes that popped. But, it was Maurice Gibb’s piano that was the star alongside the vocal harmonies here; the sustained pitch and octave-mining depth of his pedal work was impeccable, with the rising, stepped notes hitting like sand bags dropped from height.
Kim Carnes could be considered a one-hit wonder, but her ’80s hit “Bette Davis Eyes” is in the upper echelon of the pantheon of solid gold sound that the decade produced. I’ve been listening to it since it hit airwaves in 1981 (side note; it was a cover of a ’74 writing collaboration between Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon). The system revealed a level of spatial information off the track hitherto un-mined in previous dives on this cut. The depth and clarity of vocal/instrument positioning and absolutely black background that the players sprung from was sobering in its abstraction. As if any trace of noise floor had been Hoovered from between each note, it was impossible to not respect the level of neutral, hyper-transparent detail being played back from the recorded event.
The more listening done through the Aavik I-280 integrated amplifier, D-280 DAC and S-280 streamer one did, the more it was apparent that this combined focus on background silence and transparency to source was holistic from AC outlet to speaker cone. With room loading that felt natural and unforced, concrete placement of voices and instruments on the sound stage, deep 3-D imaging on recordings where it existed, excellent speed on attacking notes and a demonstrably lowered noise floor, this setup revelled in showing off a level of resolution many digital systems would be envious of.
Read the next Virtual Audio Festival post covering Sonus Faber, Classe, Pure Fidelity HERE.
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