What really struck me in listening to the Hyperion was the rock-solid way instruments were grounded in the soundstage. Since I’ve been noodling around on the trumpet for decades, I’ve always had a soft spot for brass music. On that aforementioned Verdi overture (a Decca recording of the Cleveland Symphony), some of the brass choruses came through with a life-like sonority—you heard the entire chord, from top to bottom, resonating with a golden glow. On an early digital LP from Columbia that features the Canadian Brass and the Berlin Philharmonic Brass, the distinctive piping quality of the piccolo trumpets was reproduced with remarkable fidelity. One track on CD that I’ve been listening to quite a bit is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s superb live recording of Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor. The ability of the Hyperion to anchor the brass instruments in space was truly phenomenal. You can pretty much discern the size of the bores of the various trumpets and trombones and see them arrayed from left to right and front to back. When Josh Clark of Transparent Audio visited me recently, he was floored by the resonance and power of the trombones, French horns, and tuba as they chugged away in counterpoint to the trumpets. “The trumpets sound great,” he said. “But I’ve never heard those other instruments reproduced like that in the lower sonic regions,” he enthused. I understand what he meant. While the music was presented with total refinement, it also had that hair-raising quality you can experience when you suddenly hear a powerful race car engine throbbing and realize just how much of that power is waiting to be unleashed on the speedway.
At the very same time, I would caution that all its power doesn’t simply mean that the Hyperion will blow down the walls of your listening room. Even more impressive in some ways is its ability to convey soft passages without a loss of resolution or immediacy. It was quite entrancing to listen, for example, to a Harmonia Mundi CD of Javier Perianes playing Schubert’s piano sonatas in B flat major and A major. The Hyperion helped to unveil Peraines’ supreme craftsmanship in the andante movements, where the music seems to hover in the air for what feels like an eternity before resolving into a new chord. This very ability to convey the pianissimo passages with such palpability—a kind of reach-out-and-touch-me character—meant that the monumental passages (and they are there, believe you me) came across with even greater conviction and force. The ability of the Hyperion to deliver the rolling thunder of the left hand on the piano was truly something to hear. Obviously, the Wilson WAMM has something to do with this as well. But the Hyperion does an excellent job of maintaining pitch stability in the bass region, which is something that I think tends to get lost in less ambitious systems.
Something similar, I think, occurred on an Igor Levit recording of Bach’s partitas. Here I would single out the allemande movement of Partita No. 4, which seemed to flow endlessly. The Hyperion lets you discern everything—the touch of the pianist, the use of the pedal, and the lingering sense of the note decaying into space. At points, the verisimilitude is so great that you’re fooled into thinking the piece has ended, only to hear a fresh passage begin.
A lot of this has to do with an absence of noise: The equipment itself is dead silent. You won’t hear any transformer hum emanating from the Hyperion, and you can stick your ear up to your tweeter and shouldn’t hear much more than a faint buzz there, either. To put it another way, transparency has always been the hallmark of Ypsilon products. My own sense is that the company’s equipment seeks to poke into every nook and cranny of the performance space, seeking out the smallest details that it can excavate and hold up for your scrutiny. It’s no bumbling Inspector Clouseau but a dapper Hercule Poirot. Great care and attention is lavished on the most minute musical passages or instrumentation. Many years ago, TAS editor Robert Harley made an astute observation in a review of Wilson loudspeakers that has stayed with me since I read it, which is that it is the small details that our ear gravitates toward and that make an instrument sound more lifelike. The more of those details that an amplifier like the Hyperion can evoke, the more convincing a recording sounds.
But I hasten to add that this isn’t an accumulation of detail for detail’s sake. Rather, Ypsilon gear has a warm, burnished sound that may just be a pinch more beautiful than what a lot of other equipment offers. It’s not on the level of the golden glow that Conrad-Johnson is known for, but there is definitely something of a pulchritudinous touch to the musical affair when Ypsilon gear is being employed. When listening to standup bass on jazz albums, for instance, I think the Hyperion provides a tonally rich sound without sacrificing any alacrity. Since I’m in the camp that thinks that, in one way or another, all gear has a coloration, this doesn’t bother me. Quite the contrary. I’d rather that a component err on the side of musicality, bliss, and all the other things that can gently propel you into a meditative state when listening to your system. The Hyperion does this. There are other amps that will play even louder or go deeper in the bass or provide even greater grip on the notes. But the whole package that the Hyperion offers makes it quite irresistible. So if you’ll permit me a little hyperbole—and since when has that ever figured in the high end?—I’d say that Demetris Baklavas has produced something worthy of the Greek gods. If you’re currently resting in base camp on your audio journey and looking for a proper ascent, then the Hyperion may allow you to steal a march on the path that leads to that elusive sonic Mount Olympus.
Specs & Pricing
Output power: 370W RMS/8 ohms (first 100W Class A); 650W RMS into 4 ohms; 1150W RMS into 2 ohms
Bandwidth: 6Hz–80kHz –3dB
Input impedance: 47k ohms
Inputs: Unbalanced, balanced
Tube complement: 6H30 Pi or 5687 (input), 6CA4/EZ81 (rectifier)
Dimensions: 17.4" x 11.7" x 24.8"
Weight: 209 lbs. per mono amp
AAUDIO IMPORTS (North American Distributor)
4871 Raintree Dr.
Parker, CO 80134
Wilson WAMM Master Chronosonic loudspeaker and subwoofers, Continuum Caliburn turntable with Swedish Analog Technologies and Cobra tonearm, Lyra Atlas SL and Miyajima Zero mono cartridges, dCS Vivaldi CD/SACD Playback System, Ypsilon PST-100 Mk. II preamplifier (silver) and VPS-100 phono preamplifier (silver), Musical Fidelity MG8 monoblock amplifiers, Nordost QKore grounding system, Transparent Magnum Opus and Nordost Odin 2 cabling