If high-end audio is about the uncompromising pursuit of high-fidelity sound, then no component epitomizes that quest more than the class-A power amplifier. These are the unyielding and unapologetic monsters of audio -- they are usually large and, because their transistors are on all the time, they run extremely hot. In a day and age when cool-running class-D amps in smaller, more efficient chassis are de rigueur, the few class-A beasts still found on the market make no excuses for their break with convention.
Is there a king of class-A? Perhaps. One company still refusing to yield to today’s trends is Denmark’s Gryphon Audio Designs, which has been building class-A power amps for over 25 years. Their rich history of class-A amplification has won Gryphon an enviable place in audio folklore, and established them as a de facto reference for the technology.
The Colosseum ($43,500 USD) is one of the best class-A amps Gryphon has yet made -- a work of industrial art that may be the crowning achievement of the company’s visionary designer, Flemming Rasmussen. It looks like no other audio component ever made, and it’s beautiful, with sculpted heatsinks, touch-sensitive buttons, Gryphon’s custom-made binding posts, and on and on. But the whole eclipses the sum of even such very impressive parts. The Colosseum’s power rating into 8 ohms is 160Wpc, though this is misleading -- class-A watts are somehow different from other watts, often sounding richer, deeper, more authoritative, more golden in tone than the same number of class-AB watts. The Colosseum’s spec of 5400W into 0.5 ohm should give a hint as to its inherent power, as should its weight of 175 pounds. All practical considerations have been left aside -- this is cost-no-object, tour-de-force amplifier design. In short, Gryphon designed the Colosseum to make a statement.
That statement is the Colosseum’s sound. When Jeff Fritz reviewed the Colosseum along with Gryphon’s Mirage preamplifier for Ultra Audio in March 2011, he stated, "The music was presented as huge, bold, and oh so grand. The low-frequency foundation was as unyielding as an iron peg driven into the frozen ground, as Winston Churchill once said -- the massive sound of the pipe organ seemed to underpin my entire house, making the soundstage absolutely magnificent when organist Mary Preston pulled out the 32’ pedal stops. Clearly evident to me when listening to this recording were the tremendous headroom and reach of the Gryphon combo, which made Richard Strauss’s Festival Entrada both utterly dynamic and majestic. The Gryphons could easily and simultaneously reproduce the wide dynamic swings and full audioband captured on this wonderful high-resolution recording."
The overall ownership experience brings even more to the table than a checklist of audiophile traits. Jeff concluded: "Describing the Gryphon Audio Designs Mirage and Colosseum as functional or industrial art, or some other such term, seems to minimize just how special they are. I prefer just art. They will grace a listening room with sculptural beauty, provide tactile pleasure in use, and make your music sound as real as reproduced music can. I simply adored them. If you have the money, seek them out for audition, even if you have to travel across land and sea to do so. You’ll be richly rewarded by the experience, in the ways that only great art can reward." Gryphon’s Colosseum bettered and, ultimately, replaced Jeff’s Boulder 2060 stereo amplifier, his previous reference.
Can there ever be a perfect audio component? Conventional wisdom says no. But experiencing the Colosseum leaves little to be desired. It is a rewarding component to listen to, to interact with, and to gaze on. For its considerable price, the joy it brings its owner is substantial, and such joy is a prerequisite for any product’s being named a Recommended Reference Component. The Gryphon Audio Designs Colosseum is such a component, and more.
Manufacturer contact information:
Gryphon Audio Designs
Phone: (45) 86891200
Fax: (45) 86891277