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November / December 2004
Superior Audio Equipment Review

Hyperion Sound Design HPS-938

All Substance And No Hype. 

Review By Steven R. Rochlin
Click here to e-mail reviewer.

 

 

Hyperion Sound Design HPS-983  It is no secret that i am a loudspeaker junkie. There must be at least eight pairs of loudspeakers here. Correction (as i start to count in my head) there is actually ten pairs of loudspeakers here. Wait, i mean eleven pairs. Oops i forgot to count the Aperion sat/sub system in the garage for when i am working on the Ferrari. Well, you get the point my friend and this is far from unusual for a Rochlin. My brother got dibs on my 'old' hand me downs (the three pairs of legendary Infinitys i sent out for his surround sound system). Dad is no different as if he finds some old purple tweeter Wharfdales he buys them, or perhaps a pair of Stantorians(!), and we shall not forget the pair of circa 1969 Tannoy Gold Monitors we hand carried on the airplane (in 1970) back to the States from England.

Over these many years some of the most legendary loudspeakers have graced my ears within my home. Avantgarde Acoustic (both the Uno and Duo), Audio Note's ANJ/SPx and Lexus, Aperion's sat/sub system, the KEF 104/2 (my audiophile teething 'love children'), Gallo Nucleus, three different incarnations of the Reference 3a... Oh heck, below is a partial listing of others:

Aliante Pininfarina One
Duevel Bella Luna 
Linn Sizmik 10.25
Linn Kan
Earthworks Sigma 6.2
Electro-Voice (various vintages)
Galante Audio Buckingham and Rhapsody 
Genesis Technology APM-1
Infinity (various, including the RS1B and RS6001)
Gaylord Audio The Legend
Magnapan 3.6
Martin Logan (various)
M+K MX 2000

 

Did i mention it is no secret that i am a loudspeaker junkie? Oh yeah, it is the very first sentence in this article! Still using the same Wavelength Audio Cardinal X-1 monoblock 300B single-ended tube amplifiers (over seven years running) and Voyd turntable (eight years running), so what is it with my loudspeaker fetish? The reason, my enthusiastic reader, is that loudspeakers and one's room are the two main principles that change the way a music reproduction system performs. Anyone who suggests otherwise should be highly scrutinized. Enough with the rambling and let us get to the device under review here.

 

Finally, Something Different In Driver Design!
Frankly, loudspeaker design has not changed much in the past eight decades or so. You can bet i do indeed have an old Atwater-Kent radio that employed a sprung metal plate where electricity running through it allows it to make sound. Then we have dynamic (cone) drivers as found in most loudspeakers today and of course tweaky and generally hard to drive electrostatics/ribbons. Sure there have been variations on the theme, and here we have Hyperion Sound Design who have chosen their own alteration. These two technologies are Synchro-Vibrate Flattop (S.V.F.) and Magnetic Fluid Damping System (M.F.D.S.).

Raw Dynamic Driver Diagram
       Conventional Dynamic Driver

Hyperion Sound Design Synchro-Vibrate Flattop (S.V.F.)S.V.F. is, to quote Hyperion Sound Design "Unlike the conventional dustcover (dustcap as seen in the diagram above), the S.V.F. is an actual sounding device in our speaker driver." While the tweeter within the HPS-938 appears to be the usual silk soft dome, it is the 6.5-inch midrange and pair of 8-inch woofers that take advantage of the S.V.F. technology. Basically the center piece is the main activating force of vibration for the cone. In standard designs the voice coil is connected to the small center of the cone, which may lead to nonlinear movement (distortion). Hyperion Sound Design's construction reduces distortion by assuring a larger and more uniform actively moving structure. S.V.F. also must assure the coil remains centered in the driver's magnetic gap.


            Hyperion Dynamic Driver

Hyperion Sound Design Magnetic Fluid Damping System (M.F.D.S.)Hyperion Sound Design's (M.F.D.S.) eliminates the spider as found on most conventional dynamic drivers. Please note the difference between the two dynamic driver graphics. The advantages here are that a spider is another mass that needs to be moved. As in racecar technology, you want to reduce mass to insure the highest performance, yet without sacrificing rigidity or operation. The lack of spider reduces weight, inherently increasing the speed and reaction time of the driver's movement, thereby reducing the driver's electrical reaction time lag (distortion).

 

Speed, Accuracy, And Smoothness

These three words continually entered my mind when reviewing Hyperion Sound Design's HPS-938. Transparency is yet another word i would add to the list, yet lets not get ahead of things. The promises of this new design do indeed appear to be true as the ability to quickly act upon an incoming signal, both initial attack, sustain, decay, and at rest were along the lines of what one usually attributes to electrostatic designs. Due to the extremely nimble qualities of the critical midrange (that constitutes approximately 70 percent of acoustic music), the sound produced was extremely accurate. This inherent speed and nimble abilities naturally leads to transparency, as they are 'sisters' in producing certain sound reproduction qualities. 

With some designs, what may sound like accuracy comes via a tilting up of the upper midrange. This usually leads to a 'wow' factor initially, yet to my ears becomes fatiguing within 30 minutes. Hyperion Sound Design's HPS-938 was enjoyed hour after hour, day after day, without a hint of fatigue. Bravo Hyperion Sound Design! On more than one occasion my work stopped as i basked in the glory of the music.

Many dynamic driver based loudspeakers do indeed color the sound. Earlier Martin Logan loudspeakers are an example as are the old Infinitys. If you love to have lightness to the sound, akin to a lack of fullness but great for small stringed instruments, some of the former Martin Logan designs may be to your liking. In fact a few years back during the $250,000 room at a show using huge amounts of tube amplification to drive extremely large Martin Logans, my techno and bass heavy CD of Prodigy Fat Of The Land sounded like distorted mush, but sure enough they were playing light stringed instruments nearly every time i passed by the room.

If there is one thing that rings true with my old Infinity loudspeakers (RS1B and RS6001), they sounded awesome with techno music (Kraftwerk, etc). In fact the Avantgarde Acoustic Duo hornspeakers lacked that very last essence in techno that the Infinitys got right (perhaps a natural attribute of the Emit tweeter and ribbon midrange?). The Infinity loudspeakers could also rock with the best of them at the time. Stringed instruments were wonderful and mass orchestra was equally impressive, yet there was something lacking in the lower midrange to my ears. 

Since nothing is sacred here, my dad's circa 1969 Tannoy dual concentric Gold monitors (12 inch with original crossover, custom cabinet) reproduce pipe organ with a realism that is startling, but fall short with techno or rock music. In this world of music reproduction nothing is perfect no matter how well it measures on test instruments. It appears there is an 'X Factor' scientists and engineers have not discovered. If we had a complete understanding of all factors, then nearly all properly engineered CD/DVD players would sound alike, but we audiophiles know otherwise.

Hyperion Sound Design HPS-938Getting back to the HPS-938, midrange clarity was along the lines of the Magnapan 3.6 i reviewed a few years ago. Saxophone had a natural fullness with reed and rasp when presented within the music. Inner resolution was on par, and in some ways exceeded, that of the Avantgarde Acoustic Uno and Duo. The advantage of horn loudspeakers is due to less driver movement to achieve a certain volume level. Less driver movement usually equals less distortion. With the HPS-938 i found that human voice, no matter if it was Billie Holiday's sorrow, ol' Blue Eyes smoothness, Geddy Lee's nasal quality (and what a schnoz he has!), Roger Water's angst, or DMX's strength came through. It was all there for me to hear. It is the type of transparency where you can imagine the expression on the singer's face.

Small stringed ensembles are easily discernable, but this is not really anything overly special. The real test in resolution is with such things as mass choir or big classical music spectaculars like Beethoven's "Ode To Joy" or "1812." The more instruments/voices that are clearly rendered within their recorded position the more we can determine resolution, speed, and accuracy. With the previously mentioned music the HPS-938 passed with flying colors. At one point i played amplifier swap out to achieve a higher volume level than allowed with the Wavelength Audio Cardinal X-1 to verify there is not a large amount of driver break up (distortion) at higher-than-sane volume levels. For those of you wire nuts, loudspeaker wire was bi-wiring with Nirvana S-X Ltd. for the upper cabinet (highs and midrange) and  S-L for the bottom ( bass).

The lowermost frequencies were the fastest i have heard in my system. In fact i wish the Silbatone C-102 battery powered pre-amplifier was still here to further verify the full ability. This is not to say the conrad-johnson Premier 17LS preamplifier is a slouch, far from it! Yet the Silbatone was without a doubt the highest resolution preamplifier, including passive units, for bass rendering. Anyway, the point here is that these loudspeakers kept me on my toes seeking to find their limits as every change was discernable and as a diligent reviewer i desired to find exactly where the limits were. So you could say these loudspeakers tested my own ability as much as i was testing theirs!

Soundscape freaks will be very pleased with the laterally wide, extremely deep, and into the room bloom produced by the Hyperion Sound Design HPS- 938. Within my listening room, slightly toeing in to the listening position created the most natural sound. If i left them firing straight forward, the vertical spread was impressive yet the bloom into the room was shortened and there was a lack of sound behind me. We must keep in mind one's listening room needs to be acoustically balanced for various audiophile 'behaviors' to be achieved. As a side note, in 2005 a new listening room will be built to my specifications to allow for further explorations with equipment.

Have i forgotten anything? Hmmm. These loudspeakers easily reproduced small ensembles, handled majestic/grand classical pieces with aplomb, rock 'n' rolled on nicely, and techno was fast and furious. Even now i am still trying to find a major weakness with the Hyperion Sound Design HPS- 938 and my gripes would be the lack of high sensitivity and a higher, more straight line impedance. If this was accomplished, 2A3 or 300B single-ended triode amplifiers could join the game with some headroom to spare. And before i forget, these loudspeakers come in any color you like provided it is piano black. A pair in Ferrari red, Jaguar race green, or Mercedes/Porsche silver would be nice additions.

 

Indefinable Sound

Ok, so the paragraph header here is not quite accurate. Sure i have defined what this loudspeaker is, yet changes in cables and amplification also altered the character of these loudspeakers to a higher than usual. This change was not huge, yet i would not say it should be minimized. It is also not a fault of the loudspeakers, but proof that they are very transparent. Basically, like i have experienced with the Avantgarde Acoustic Duo hornspeaker, whatever changes are made can be more readily heard than with less than accurate loudspeakers. My ears tell me the Hyperion Sound Design HPS-938 is more transparent, smoother, and with a more expansive soundstage than the Duos. This is quite an impressive feat, and all the more impressive when one considers the over $15,000 price tag on the Duos versus $4,000 for the HPS-938. We must also remember that a 2.5 watt amplifier will drive the Duos -- with 18watts is generally plenty -- since the Duo include an actively amplified woofer system. The HPS-938 just gets going with my 12.5 watt, 300B-based Wavelength Audio Cardinal X-1. i can only wonder what a 25+ watt OTL design would do, let alone something as definitive as my previously owned Audio Note Ongaku.

Summing it all up (and shame on you if you are glancing at this last paragraph first, before reading the review), the smoothness of the highs combined with amazing midrange clarity and speed are joined by well-defined bass. Since i am (literally) moving to my new humble abode with six days of this writing, the plans were to send these loudspeakers back to the manufacturer. The last thing i need is an eleventh pair of loudspeakers (or is that twelfth, or thirtieth...) here in my home. Reality dictates that a reviewer must have the best system he can muster to properly evaluate equipment, and as such there was no choice but to purchase these loudspeakers. While some may hint at the obvious comparison, or avoid saying it, allow me to be perfectly clear here. If i was Dave Wilson of Wilson Audio i would be very nervous. Yes these loudspeakers look in some ways like the over $20,000 Watt/Puppy 7, but my ears have never heard any version of the Watt/Puppy that comes close to the smoothness and ultra-transparency/accuracy of the Hyperion Sound Design HPS-938. Perhaps this is a challenge for Mr. Wilson to send a pair of Watt/Puppy 7 loudspeakers my way for the real comparison to commence. Alas, i have a feeling Wilson Audio has already seen the writing on the wall since The Absolute Sound magazine has bestowed the HPS-938 with their 2004 Editor's Choice Award. Sure we have all read reviewers that state 'must audition' or 'highly recommended,' yet if you are looking to spend from $3,000 to $20,000 on a pair of full range floorstanding  loudspeakers, it would be (frankly) stupid not to audition the HPS-938. Yes, they are that impressive!!!  (Note the three exclamation points) And please remember my friend, i am far from being a newbie or loudspeaker neophyte.

 

Specifications

Type: Three way, four driver floorstanding full range loudspeaker

Frequency Response: 30Hz to 22kHz

Sensitivity: 90dB/W/m

Impedance: 6 ohms, 3.8 Ohms minimum

Power Requirement: 5 watts minimum, 200 watts maximum

Tweeter: 1 inch silk dome

Midrange: 6.5 inch carbon fiber, S.V.F. magnetic fluid damping driver

Woofer: Two 8 inch P.P. graphite S.V.F. woofer

Crossover: 230Hz and 3,000Hz

Finishes: Piano high gloss varnish

Dimensions ((HxWxD in mm):
Upper Cabinet 390 x 300 x 365
Lower Cabinet 650 x 300 x 465

Weight:
Upper Cabinet 25.3 lbs.
Lower Cabinet 63.8 lbs

Price: $4,000 per pair

 

Company Information

Hyperion Sound Design, Inc.
205029 Walnut Drive
Unit B-7
Walnut, California 91789

Voice: (909) 598-2535
Fax: (909) 598-0525

Website: www.hyperionsound.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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