Is Gryphon Audio’s Kalliope the Most Advanced DAC Ever?

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Gryphon Kalliope DACThe first line of the press release for Gryphon Audio Designs’ new Kalliope D/A Converter reads thusly:

When a manufacturer baptises a new audio component in honour of a Greek goddess whose name literally means “beautiful voice” and follows that up with a five-figure price tag on it, this represents a definite promise and considerable commitment.

Gryphon Kalliope DAC back panelThat’s bold. Really bold. But then again, so is the Kalliope. Billed as “future proof,” this robust DAC employs a modular design, paving the way for future hardware upgrades. It’s also firmware upgradeable via USB. Now that it’s lacking anything in the specs department at the moment, though; Kalliope is capable of decoding PCM at sample rates up to 384 kHz and word lengths up to 32-bit, as well as DSD up to 6.144 MHz.

Kalliope features eight ESS Sabre32 ES9018 DAC chips in a dual-differential, dual-mono topology with a fully discrete Class A analog output stage with no negative feedback and both balanced XLR and single-ended RCS outputs. It also boasts a rather nifty power supply design. Again, from the press release:

Gryphon Kalliope effectively removes one of the weak points in more conventional DAC designs: dependence on USB bus power, i.e., 5V fed to the USB receiver from the source computer via the USB cable’s power line which “bleeds” noise and interference into the two data lines with significant audible impact. The 12.5 Farad SuperCap dedicated power supply of the Kalliope USB module acts as a virtual battery, delivering low-noise, stable, regulated power, eliminating the computer as a power source altogether.

Kalliope should be shipping within a few weeks for €19,800 (about $27,000).

Full specs are as follows:

  • Dedicated ESS SABRE ES9018 32-bit D/A converter for each channel.
  • Each ES9018 incorporates eight individual D/A converters in Dual Differential coupling for optimal performance.
  • USB input compatible with following audio formats via PC/MAC:
    • PCM: 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8 and 384 kHz, up to 32 bits.
    • DSD via USB (DoP): 2.822, 3.072, 5.644 and 6.144 MHz.
  • BNC and XLR inputs compatible with PCM: 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1, 48, 64, 88.2, 96, 176.4 and 192 kHz, up to 24 bits.
  • User-selectable PCM and DSD digital roll-off filters.
  • User-selectable asynchronous PCM sample rate conversion.
  • Temperature-compensated, ultra-low jitter crystal oscillators with better than 5 parts per million accuracy.
  • 12.5 Farad SuperCap power supply for USB module for a true, independent battery source.
  • Balanced 110 Ohm XLR AES/EBU input.
  • Three single-ended 75 Ohm BNC S/PDIF inputs.
  • Balanced 110 Ohm XLR AES/EBU output for de-jittered signal from selected input.
  • Galvanic isolation of BNC and XLR inputs for minimal jitter.
  • 75 Ohm BNC connector for optional external word clock.
  • Modular digital audio sections for possible future upgrades.
  • True Class A, fully discrete analogue circuitry with zero negative feedback.
  • First-order PCM analogue filters and second-order DSD analogue filters with silvered Mica capacitors.
  • Analogue output stages with discrete, ultra-low noise +/- 25VDC regulated voltage supplies for best THD and noise suppression.
  • Discrete, ultra-low noise power supply for analogue section of ES9018 DAC.
  • Comprehensive noise regulation of all digital circuits.
  • Custom-built 65 VA toroidal transformer for each analogue channel.
  • 34,000 microFarad power capacitor banks for each analogue channel.
  • True Dual Mono configuration.
  • Balanced XLR analogue outputs and single-ended phono outputs.
  • Ultra-short signal path with minimal internal wiring.
  • Four-layer 70 mm thick copper trace PCB’s.
  • Personalised naming of each input.
  • Vacuum Fluorescent Display with variable illumination.
  • No drivers required for LINUX or MAC OSX.
  • Driver available for Windows XP/Vista/7/8.
  • Automatic standby mode with user-selectable interval.
  • Standby power consumption less than 0.5W in accordance with EU regulations.
  • 12V link in/out.
  • Infrared remote control.
  • EU CE approval.
  • Designed and built in Denmark.

Contact info:
Gryphon Audio Designs

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  • Marco ter Bekke

    The first part isn’t exactly right: “Kalliope features eight ESS Sabre32 ES9018 DAC chips”.
    There are 2 physical dac chips, one per channel(dual mono). Each chip incorporates 8 differential outputs, totalling 16 physical outputs per channel, 32 for stereo.
    It’s not normal for a chip to have that many outputs, so I can imagine making this mistake. Nonetheless, there are only 2 converter chips in the dac.

    • Dennis Burger


      Apologies. I got that information directly from Gryphon. Quote, “Kalliope deploys eight ESS Sabre ES9018 DAC chips in a dual-differential, dual-mono topology capable of full 32-bit processing.” That’s straight from the press release.