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Hyperion Sound HWS-586 Loudspeaker
high-end musical bliss at Circuit City prices

 

June 2006



I’d like to thank the Academy….
If Hyperion Sound wins any more cyber awards for sonic excellence, somebody over there’s gonna have to make a run to Comp USA and pick up a bigger hard drive on which to store them. The product most responsible for all these virtual laurels is of course, the by now very well known in audio circles, HPS-938. Weighing in at about the size and shape of a Watt/Puppy 23.5 (or whatever iteration they’re at now), and according to many, sounding about as good, this much celebrated, lustrously lacquered champion has now stepped into the number two position in the Hyperion hierarchy (dynasty?), with the new 968 moving in to occupy the top spot. To this end, the 968 certainly has a big pair of shiny black moccasins to fill and I don’t envy the new guy’s task.

Though, in addition to that oil-slick-black lacquer finish, part of what makes Hyperion Sound loudspeakers able to pull off Watt/Puppy sonics at Cerwin Vega prices (other than that ol’ China connection), is their proprietary driver technology, designed (and built!) in-house. The 968 as I understand it, contains drivers which represent somewhat ‘next level’ thinking as compared with the original designs, causing me to be nearly certain it will be yet another source of pride and joy for the boys (and girls?) over at Hyperion. Those of you who can afford a pair will definitely have to send me a review of them tout suite. And while you’re at it, since you’re so well off, how ‘bout some Cuban cigars or a bottle of Lafitte?

S.V.F., M.F.D.S. and other acronyms

Since you can read about Hyperion’s home-grown driver designs in excruciating detail in nearly every other review penned about this brand and on their website, I’ll spare you the complete and total egghead description and offer you the lower I.Q., made-for-TV one instead. [Mock Editor’s Warning: the description you are about to read was not written by an engineer, but rather by a former English major with a poetry concentration. Read at your own risk].  Each Hyperion midrange/woofer utilizes two technologies which are, in principle, perhaps mildly derivative of prior work, though novel in this implementation (much like my description of them). S.V.F. stands for Synchro-Vibrate Flattop, a name that makes sense when you take a look at the dust-cover portion of the Hyperion mid-woofer. It is indeed flat and moreover, it is not a dustcover. It is actually an integral part of the cone (vibrating in synch with it, if you will), responsible as much for the production of sound as the cone surrounding the dust cover is on a conventional mid-woofer.

This essentially allows for the voice coil to be attached directly to larger part of what now is a more uniformly moving structure, rather than a smaller part of a structure (i.e. a conventional cone and dust cover) the whole of which does not produce sound. This, Hyperion Sound theorizes, results in less non-linearity in overall cone movement and thus, purer sound. The M.F.D.S. concept is for me a bit easier to understand, in that it quite straightforwardly allows Hyperion to do away with the ‘spider’ part of a conventional woofer. If you’ve ever re-coned a woofer, you’ve likely gotten a good look at its associated ‘spider;’ that white or black, thick fabric ridging that’s underneath conventional driver cones and is attached to them in order to help limit excursion and damp cone motion. The Hyperion Magnetic Fluid Damping System does away with the need for a spider, relying as you might have guessed, on fluid dynamics and magnetism instead of on direct mechanical coupling for this task. This technique has as its primary advantage, reduced effective woofer cone mass (no spider along for the ride) and therefore, presumably, an increased ability to respond to transient information, while still retaining enough damping not to fly out if its cabinet during the 1812 Overture or Terminator 2.

And the tweeters are really neat too.

The business at hand… of set-up and such

My self-defined beat is relatively affordable ‘real world’ audio gear (well—it is until I get that much anticipated call from Dave Wilson inquiring about a Maxx 2 review). Until then, since I probably couldn’t fit a pair of 968’s in my apartment, and given that the 938’s have been reviewed to death, I decided to review one of Hyperion’s more modest offerings.

“What?” I can hear you say—“they make another speaker?” Albert Wu at Hyperion seemed mildly surprised himself about my request. Yep, they do make ‘another speaker’ thank you very much—several in fact, and you wouldn’t be alone in your ignorance thereof, because the reviewing community at large hasn’t seemed to realize it yet either. I mean, despite the fact that the Gallo Reference 3.1 has been singularly hailed as “All Things to All Men,” I’ve actually seen quite a few reviews of their other products. Same goes for Totem—yes the Model One is stellar, but everyone, reviewers included, is aware they too produce other products. I’m here to tell you Hyperion also has some other speakers in its line-up and I have, in true real-world fashion, chosen to review the second one up the Hyperion ladder, the 600 dollar a pair (!) HWS-586; a two-way stand-mount that sports all the fancy acronyms in terms of driver design the big boys in the line do.

Plus—its been twice-dipped in that same sexy lacquer. But unlike its pricier siblings, this speaker actually is not black, but a very dark grain of ebony infused walnut; a detail I only noticed after I opened my blinds and the sun’s rays caught the lacquer just right. Something to note should you look to put together a matching Hyperion-based home theater set-up. Once noticed, I now notice this finish all the time and I happen to think it’s lovely. I also happen to be the kind of man who isn’t afraid to use a word like ‘lovely.’ Your adjectives may vary.

I placed the ‘lovely’ HWS-586 on a solid sand-filled pair of 24” high Studio Tech stands approx. 7 feet from one another, 2.5 feet out from the front wall and gave them a bit of toe-in. More or less, this is the position they assumed, with minor tweaking, throughout their time with me (which fortunately has yet to end!).  They were connected to my Absolute Reference system, which absolutely consists of a Lector CDP 0.6T CD player, a ModWright Instruments SWL 9.0 SE pre-amp and a Bel Canto eOne S300 amplifier, all lashed together with Stereovox HDSE interconnects. The amplifier now gets its power via a VH Audio Flavor 4 power cord (a fine thing, this cord!) and subjects itself to speakers via an 8-foot pair of Audio Art’s SC-5 speaker cables. I also tried mating the speakers to the sonically excellent and affordable Aperion Audio S8-APR 150 watt subwoofer during the review period, which sports a similarly dashing lacquer finish.

Sound for Pound

For once in this industry, someone’s managed to come up with technological acronyms that pretty much describe the sound of the product they’ve been attached to. Namely, Synchronous and Fluid (see above). You might want to throw ‘Magnetic’ into the mix as well, ‘cause the little 586’s kept me stuck to my listening couch for many an hour, causing quite a dent in the faux-suede upholstery.

I told Albert Wu of Hyperion during our initial phone conversation that I used a pair of Totem Arros as my Absolute Reference speakers and he responded that, on hearing the 586’s, I might be “surprised.” That was his exact word; “surprised.” Owing to job-related responsibilities on both sides of the phone lines, our conversation came to an end shortly thereafter before I could ascertain his meaning. No matter; on first hearing them, my questions were swept away in a big mental “Aha!”

Right from the offing as the Brits like to say, the Hyperions sounded large and in charge as compared with the little Arros. Don’t get me wrong, one thing that makes the Arro special is the decidedly un-miniature sound these mini-floorstanders can conjure. In fact, the cognitive dissonance there from has caused many a skeptic’s jaw to drop. Dissonance notwithstanding, the Hyperions simply sounded bigger in a natural sense, producing what I surmise to be a more true-to-life portrayal of the ‘size’ of recorded sound sources. (Of note, I cannot strictly attribute this to the larger driver diameter employed in the Hyps, as not all speakers better endowed in the driver department have managed to pull off this trick)!  In addition, the Hyperions had a more effortless sense of what I like to call ‘flow.’ That is, the ease with which music spills out of whatever monkey coffins I’m listening to and onto my listening room floor. Perhaps because they represent a relatively easy load, or perhaps because the mid-woofer takes no woofer-spider along for the ride, the Hyperions were simply less ‘restrictive’ than my Arros, causing me to feel as if someone had opened a valve on my SC-5 speaker cables a bit wider.

Tonally, the Hyperions wasted little time in revealing an Arro Achiles’ heel; namely, a bit of ‘insistence’ in the lower treble region (penultimate octave on a piano, for example). On the whole, Arro listeners know this to be the case and usually don’t care, as they do so many other things well, and to boot, it is readily compensated for by careful system synergizing. On the plus side, the degree of lift in this region is relatively slight and as such, can make them sound subjectively a bit more detailed or exciting at times. But it isn’t strictly “neutral,” whatever that means for you.

Wonderful piano recordings, such as Yundi Li’s Vienna Recital [Deutsche-Grammophon 477 557-1], recorded in the refulgent space that is the Musikverein in Vienna, had a touch too much ‘pingi-ness’ in the piano’s upper echelons via the Arros. I felt this had the effect of causing them to sound a bit less like life and a bit more like Hi-Fi. The Hyperions on the other hand, presented Li’s piano evenly up and down the scale. And speaking of scale, their way with life-sized imagery went a long way toward generating for me the feeling a large Steinway and its dashing ivory-tickler really could be at the other end of my apartment. I was simply able to suspend disbelief more readily. In fact, I came to regard the little Hyperions as something akin to piano specialists. Arthur Rubinstein: Ludwig Van Beethoven Piano SonatasThey were superb all around sonically, but there was something about their reproduction of piano that was a bit special. My remastered (1999) recording of Rubinstein’s Beethoven sonatas [RCA Victor Red Seal 63056], was stunning—powerful and romantic, with big piano thunder and sparkle. I smiled throughout the CD from behind my NY Times on a lazy Sunday and really felt like shouting ‘bravo’ at the end. Didn’t wanna annoy my neighbor though; he just moved in. Let him find out I’m nuts in due time. That’s the plan anyway.

Enter The Maggon (err… Magnepan)—a brief and torrid love affair
Think your box speaker sounds pretty good? Well the Maggie Multitudes will tell you you aint heard jack until you’ve heard what a planar can do. They’ll also tell you once you go planar, you never go back (or words to that effect). Those guys are part right. While I’ve heard planars before plenty of times (I’ve owned Dynastats, Quad 63’s, Apogee Stages etc.), I haven’t had my hands on any recently. And so, I got the itch to try a pair of MMG’s in my home on that great 60 day risk-free trial Magnepan offers. Since this isn’t an MMG review, I’ll give you the short version; the Maggies went back ‘cause I didn’t want to have to start paying them rent to live in their apartment. It was simply not a good thing aesthetically—sonically yes; aesthetically, naught.

But boy that box-less sound! Open as the sky over Brokeback Mountain with a similar air of gaiety (mirthfulness). Sopranos like Cecilia Bartoli, singing with James Levine accompanying on the Italian Songs CD [Decca 4555132], were simply meltingly beautiful. No honk, no edge, no shout—just a ribbon of pearls streaming from the speakers. Yes, they had their problems. Not terribly much bass for starters (DIY vertical stands helped a great deal though!), and of more concern for us apartment dwellers, they lack a certain liveliness at the lower end of the volume spectrum, even with my 300 watt/side ICE power Bel Canto pushing ‘em. They simply aren’t efficient enough I guess. My beloved Totem Model Ones are similarly low-volume-challenged, losing out on bass and dynamics at lowish levels, (but frustratingly, retaining that gloriously dense midrange!).

Now hear this; when I switched from the broken-in and well set-up MMG’s on diy vertical stands to the Hyperions with Cecilia Bartoli cooling her jets in my Lector CD player during the swap, I heard—nearly no difference in the critical midrange! Now either I’m deaf (possible- I’m a reviewer), or the friggin’ Hyperions are that friggin’ good! Don’t get me wrong, the MMG’s excelled the Hyps in both detail (hearing string sections bowing etc.) and instrumental texture (distinguishing violas from violins and such). They also surpassed them in perceived treble extension.

But vitally, the little Hyperions, much more so than the Arros (which are possessed of damned fine mids in their own right), managed to sound almost exactly like the MMG’s in the one area on which there is near universal agreement the MMG’s really strut their stuff; the all-important midrange. Equally as impressive, while lacking the perceived bass wallop of the MMG’s (planar bass just feels deeper and bigger than it measures), the Hyperions rendered images with nearly the same size and height as the physically much bigger MMG’s. Additionally, the slightly diffuse way (a good and natural thing as far as I’m concerned) in which the Hyperions sculpt images (as opposed to the laser-like, slightly artificial way the Arros do) again felt closer to the wide-open MMG presentation than to some puny mini-monitor. High praise indeed!

Concluding Remarks; Mr. Speaker if you please…

The Hyperions HW-586’s are a bit on the soft side tonally. Not really a Spendor-like warmth to be sure, but just a wee bit soft—pleasantly soft, if you will. And, in comparison with such speakers as the Maggie MMG and the Totem Model One, they lack the both the textural detail, physical bass presence and dynamic punch these designs can generate. Matter of fact, the little Arros are more detailed as well. Also, while the 586’s definitely pull off a ‘vanishing act’ soundstage-wise, they lack the nth degree of image density vis a vis a Quad 63, or again, the Model One. However, as compared with many other mini-monitors, I felt their somewhat less than razor-edged way with image outlines worked in their favor, making the presentation seem more ‘natural’ when called upon to render the sound of real music in real space (as opposed to electronica or some such thing).

Re-capping, the Hyperions grab you initially with their gorgeous finish, keep you cool throughout the set-up process owing to their relative indifference to it, disappear sonically into a vast and amply sized sound-space, and do nothing strange tonally to call attention to themselves, save for a bit of overall ‘softness.’ Plus, when you swap ‘em out for a well-known pair of admittedly ‘baby’ planar speakers, you’re hard-pressed to point out any glaring differences in the mids between them. What’s more, they’re easier to drive than the planars, easier to place, more dynamic at low levels, and present a nearly similarly sized sonic landscape for about the same sized wad of greenbacks. So, surprised? Yep Albert, I was certainly ‘surprised’ by your lovely HWS-586’s. I don’t think you’ll be surprised though, when I pronounce these little wonders highly recommended if you’re looking for a goodly dose of high-end musical bliss at Circuit City prices. Not only highly recommended, but nominated by yours truly for a ‘Most Wanted Components 2006’ award. Yep—someone over at Hyperion is definitely gonna have to make a Comp USA run for a bigger hard drive. The speakers may be yours Albert, but the sonic pleasure has been all mine.

Peace.

David Abramson

                             ________________


Specifications:
Frequency Response: 50 Hz to 20k Hz.
Sensitivity: 89 dB
Impedance: 6 ohms, 3.8 ohms Minimum
Power Requirement: 10 W ~ 100 W
Woofer: 6-1/2” Carbon Fiber, S.V.F. & M.F.D.S. Driver
Tweeter: 1” Silk Dome
Crossover: 2.8k Hz
Finishes: Dark Sandalwood Piano High Gloss
Dimensions: H 380 x W 228 x D 262 (mm)
Weight: 7.6 Kg / 16.7 lbs
Price: $760.00/pair

Manufacturer
Hyperion Sound Design
Distribution: Studio Acoustics, Inc.
20529 Walnut Dr. Unit B-7
Walnut, CA 91789
Tel: 909-598-2535
www.hyperionsound.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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