I think, like the majority of bass players, I have to like the look of a bass, to want to buy it. And the looks of this Gordon Smith Gryphon, certainly appeals to me. The single colour body(in this case, a lovely Dakota Red), with a pearloid, white scratchplate and matching, red headstock, are rather classic. But all three are shaped in a more innovative, contemporary way. The head has a hint of Burns about it, which is very OK by me. The extended, upper horn, giving better strap balance and retracted, shorter, lower horn, giving better, high fret access are practical and quite beautiful. Also the head is sylish with a practical rake on it, to negate the need for string trees. And to top it off, a stunning, maple fretboard, with highly practical, wear-resistant alloy, Dutch frets.
The hardware is all good stuff, with my favourite hardware company Schaller, providing the tuners and strap pegs. The bridge is a very classy Gotoh affair and the pickups are hand wound and made by Gordon Smith, themselves. A rather nice touch, is the brass nut, which is not only cut and fit to perfection but looks glorious against the red, with gold lettering, headstock.
The body is heavily contoured, back and front. Which makes it feel very snug against your arms and body and gives a lovely balance and position, with the strap. The short, lower horn makes playing without a strap and balancing the bass on one's leg, a lot trickier though.
The Gryphon came set up with very low action. It was still surpringly solid but I had to put the action up a little, for my playing style. It was nice to know it could go that low, though. The bass can get a great slap sound but with the strings being pretty close to the body and pickups, it may not suit players who specialise in that style.
The neck is wideish, more P. than J. and is supremely playable. I felt immediately at home with the neck, even though it wasn't like any of my other basses. Access to all parts of the fretboard is easy and comfortable.
Again, unlike my other basses, that have distinctive tones, with less variety, the Gryphon gives you a multitude of tonal options. With the usual, master tone and volume, comes 3, 3-way switches. One selects the 2 pickups, in the conventional manner. The other 2, 3-way switches (one for each humbucking pickup) give various coil tapping options. And so, each pickup has 1 HB and 2 S/C modes. So when you add the conventional 3-way pickup selector switch, there is a vast array of sounds to be got from the Gryphon. My favourites, at the moment, are the bridge pickup on HB mode, which is just so warm and yet punchy. And the middle pickup on either S/C mode, which gets a lovely P.bass tone. Both have a ton of definition and character. Nice to have so many choices but as usual, I tend to find 2 or 3 and stick with them. The only negative on this particular instrument's controls, is the 3-way, pickup selector switch, which is a little noisy, in operation. Oh yes, I nearly forgot, the tone knob is push/pull, to activate a treble boost. Which to me is totally un-necessary.
Overall, the finish on this bass, is as you'd expect from a handmade instrument. Really excellent. I've really scrutinised it and can find no flaws. Purely on personal taste and being totally over picky, I think the 2 back plates (neck and electrics) finish too close to the edge of their respective parts of the body.
My favourite things about this bass are: The shape, colour and contours of it's body. The total "at homeness" of the neck. And the 2 tone settings (previously mentioned) that I use the most.
My least favourite thing about this bass is: Too many switches, just look unattractive to my eyes, practical as they are. For me, just HB and 1 S/C mode for each pickup would have been enough. Possibly activated by push/pull on the tone (lose the treble boost) and volume knobs.
My other 2 basses (Epiphone Rumblekat & Gibson Grabber) are retro, with loads of period charm, in their tone and looks. The Gordon Smith Gryphon is very much a contemporary bass but sill with loads of nods to the past. Fortunately it's tonal versatility doesn't stop it from having some very characterful tones. It's definitely NOT a jack of all trade trades and master of none. More a jack of many trades and a master of some.
The quality in design and manufacture of this bass is undeniable. And when you consider it's price, it's outstanding. To my eyes and ears, it is a high end bass, coming in at a higher-mid price range. Added to which, the more I play it, the more I love it.