One Night With Pandora
By The Sound Environment’s Doug Robinson
Pandora was the first human woman created by the gods, on the instructions of Zeus. As the name translates she was “all-gifted” as each god endowed her with special gifts. Forget the “box,” that was a later story tagged onto the original myth, and concentrate on the gifts, as Pandora has many!
The Pandora is a statement two chassis preamp from Gryphon. From its five umbilicals to its two power cords, this preamp attempts to define what’s possible from a preamp, without compromise. I was reluctant to consider a preamp for my system requiring two expensive power cords, with no polarity switching and the need to be on two shelves. It had better be very special to get my attention! I won’t waste time and space describing the features of this great preamp. You can go to the Gryphon website and get lots of info. So on to my experience, my short “date” with Pandora.
When we got the Pandora into The Sound Environment we did a three preamp comparison keeping things as equal as possible. All were warmed up, all on the same shelf or shelves, same wires, same AC, etc. The system, at this time in the store, was using the Gryphon Colosseum stereo amp. DCS Vivaldi front ended the system, the speakers were the Wilson Alexx. What struck me was the other two preamps had a sound, a filter it seemed to be putting over the music. Subtle indeed, but quite audible. More than the others, the Pandora just sounded like music. No sweet, not soft, not weighty, not edgy — just music. The soundstage is spectacularly big and open. That alone could get your attention. But the rhythm, pace and intent of the music was there in a very natural, like-live way. Low frequencies were more highly informative. You got more of the space of the studio or concert hall.
That experience made me want to try it in my own system. The importer was nice enough to let me have one more day before we sent it on to the next dealer who would be previewing it. I have had plenty of ambitious line stages in my system. In the last couple years, I’ve had the good fortune to audition at least five I can remember. All have characteristics to highly recommend them.
The Gryphon Pandora replaced my current preamp in my home reference system – Avantgarde Trios/bass horns (time-aligned thru the lower midrange) in a complex but carefully set-up system. I heard the exact same thing at home that intrigued me at the store. Huge soundstage (and I thought my current preamp was doing that very well), natural, rhythmic listen-through-to-the-music bass. Oddly, though the bandwidth of the Pandora exceeds that of the preamp it replaced, it sounded more natural in the highs. A friend listening with me exclaimed “Wow!” when we first played music through it.
I’ve heard “neutral” preamps and amps and thought they sounded a bit threadbare and bright. That is not as all what the Gryphon Pandora does. You feel your body relax when you listen to it, but you don’t hear this “sweet, slightly less then resolving” compromise. It’s wide open and fast without the usual compromises of wide open and fast. In such a short time I can’t declare the Pandora the very best I’ve ever heard, but it might be. It does the job of making music sound more like music and less like a reproduction of a musical event, and it does this without compromising speed, transparency, or tonal balance.
That’s a very short description of my brief but exciting time with Pandora. Is she “all-gifted” as the gods endowed Pandora of legend? Fortunately, The Sound Environment and I will have one around so you can find out if you haven’t yet heard it. It’s a “special audition” item and a financial stretch, but like the music played through it, it has incredible gifts that keep on giving.
Learn more about Pandora on Gryphons Website