POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 17
as reviewed by John Zurek
My Spidey-sense was tingling
I was at work one day and had simply had enough. My poor brain was full, and I was not going to do one more thing except surf the web for anything audio related. After a few Googles, I came a across a show report that mentioned speakers by a new company, Hyperion Sound Design. The more I Googled, the more comments I found about these speakers. To make a long story short, all the comments were great. The speakers had managed to impress many audiophiles in show conditions, and were a very reasonable $4K. This is not something you see very often, but from a new company showing a new product, almost never. Hmmm…
When I found a picture, I almost lost interest. Though the looks were a turnoff, I felt that these guys must some cajones to design a speaker that looks like this. If it sucked, they'd be laughed out of business. I contacted Dave Clark to see if he could help procure the shiny black boxes for me to review. I said I wanted to be the first kid on the block to review them. Dave got right on it, but there were delays, as always. By now, just about everyone in the audio world has reviewed the 938s, so poor John is more like the last kid on the block to hear them, but that's okay. It was worth the wait.
The Hyperion 938s are three-way, two-cabinet floorstanders. Each bass module houses two 8-inch spider-less woofers with an unobtrusive port in the middle. The mid/tweeter cabinet includes a 1-inch horn-loaded tweeter, with the horn a striking gold. The spider-less mid sits below the tweeter. Each cabinet sits on four spiked legs. Hmmm… the 938s have eight legs? The cabinets are finished in a high-gloss black lacquer. They are striking, but they do seem to attract finger and handprints. I also get the impression that they scratch easily—just an impression. The Hyperion website says that the 938s will soon be available soon in a wood veneer. It would be nice to have a choice other than black.
You have the option to single-wire, bi-wire, or tri-wire. The speakers come with jumpers installed on the mid/high cabinet and a set of external jumpers should you need to attached the woofs. Hyperion states that they build all the parts for their products. Reversing the trend followed by many audio manufacturers, the parts are built in China and designed and assembled in the US. Whatever works.
The two technological advancements that set these speakers aside from others are the Magnetic Fluid Damping System, which replaces the conventional spider, and the Synchro-Vibrate Flattop, which replaces the conventional dustcover. Here's how Hyperion explains them:
The Magnetic Fluid Damping System (M.F.D.S.) is another innovative design for our revolutionary speaker drivers. The S.V.F. driver does not have a spider, which is an essential part of conventional speaker drivers for holding and stabilizing the sound coil. Although the spider is important for conventional speakers, it is also considered as a source of vibration and sound coloration. Our M.F.D.S replaces the spider completely, increases the driver speed dramatically, and enables the purity of sound reproduction.
The Synchro-Vibrate Flattop (S.V.F.) system is a revolutionary speaker driver invention from Hyperion. Unlike the conventional dustcover, the S.V.F. is an actual sounding device in our speaker driver. It produces the most direct and purest sound reproduction without passing any intermediate material, and minimizes distortion at high volume.
I bi-wired the Hyperions using Acoustic Zen Satori for the high/mid module and PS Audio Statement xStream for the bass module. I used the 150-watt PS Audio HCA 2 for amplification. I ditched the jumpers that came with the speakers and switched to some generic AudioQuest bi-wire. Before the switch, I thought there might be some problem with the midrange-tweeter integration. After the switch, passages in the 3000 to 4000Hz range immediately sounded much less confused.
When I talked to Mr. Wu at Hyperion he recommended twenty hours of break-in. My experience was that the low end did not bloom until after 200 hours. Once broken in, they were relatively easy to set up for most parameters, although I'm not sure I ever really found the optimum position in my room. Using my Argent Room lenses helped.
Spider strength and speed, and other descriptors
The 938s had clarity and definition in the midrange, with sparkling highs that were easy to take. Dynamics were excellent, although not the last word in jump. They were accurate at low and high volumes, and could play quite loud before getting edgy. The Hyperions absolutely excelled at low-level resolution. Little details in so many tracks put real meaning into the music. So many speakers gloss over these details, or just omit them. Attention to detail constitutes quality, and the 938s delivered low-level detail at all volume levels. Bravo!
I once got a chance to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn in a small, 2000-seat auditorium. It was heaven. The CSO is noted for its strength and pace, but it can also play an Impressionist work like this with proper emotion. I listened to Michael Tilson Thomas' recording with the London Symphony Orchestra on the Hyperions. Although quite different, this rendition still impresses. From the opening lonely flute motif to the velvety mixture of harp and strings, the 938s conveyed the free reading of Stephane Mallarme's poem upon which this piece is based. I was glued to my listening chair.
I couldn't stop listening to the track "Situation" on Jeff Beck Group's Rough and Ready, which I recently rediscovered on my vinyl pile. Rediscovered is right. Clive Chaman's Fender bass and Cozy Powell's (we miss you, Cozy!) drums were spot on, and drove the tune with just the right amount of edge. The PRAT was almost perfect. Most people think Jeff Beck's Blow by Blow era was his best. Not me. This disc, and the self-titled Jeff Beck Group (the one with the orange) are his most outstanding.
(1) I liked the bass slam that the 938s gave me. Bass guitar, drums, and acoustic bass sounded full and fleshed-out. The problem was that the lowest notes were a little loose and flabby, hanging on a little too long. This may be due to the fact that I have never had a ported speaker in my current room, and it's possible that my setup expertise needs some tweaking. It may also signal the need for some tube traps. I don't use any.
(2) While trying to adjust the height of one of the speakers, one of the spikes came loose, and I was never able to get it back into the cabinet properly.
(3) Again, it is imperative to get rid of the cheesy jumpers. If not, you'll hear congestion and confusion in the 3-4KHz region. Bi-wire and use a quality jumper, and tri-wire if you can.
The Hyperion HPS-938s are built for pure listening pleasure. They are get-off-the-merry-go-round speakers. They are not analytical transducers, although they are fast and clean, and have great highs. The HPS-938s will provide a great deal of delight. They sound great with all kinds of music, and are friendly to most amplifiers.
The 938s have some significant competition in this price range: the Von Schweikert VR4 Jrs, the Usher CP-6831s, the Thiel 2.4s, the Gallo Reference 3s, and the Dali Helicon 400s, among others. They all have strengths and weaknesses, but the Hyperions may be the most balanced of the lot, though I haven't heard them all. It's great to be an audiophile right now, and be able to choose among so many overachievers. The spider-less technology works. The 938s are highly recommended. They are speakers even Spiderman (or your dog) would love. John Zurek