Jump the jumpers
The Hyperions' three speaker terminal pairs allow for a variety of connections. The easiest one is a single-wire connection from the amplifier. This leaves the provided metal straps of the head unit in place, jumpers from the mid to the woofer terminals via the included cable tails and then simply decides which of the three terminals to use for connection of the speaker cable. The most upscale scheme is discrete tri-wire. The in-between solution is to bi-wire. This either leaves the straps installed or replaces them with the included cable jumpers. Giving laziness and a lower cable budget the benefit of the doubt, I initially single-wired via one leg per speaker of my customary Crystal Cable Reference. I quickly suffered an intuitive suspicion. Things especially in the areas of bass intelligibility and ideal separation of the LF from the higher frequency bands were not as good as they could or should have been.

I quickly tore out the metal straps between the tweeter and midrange terminals. Such devices at least in the past have proven fairly inferior to either a direct cable connection or a better cable jumper. While I was at it, I went full-hog and tri-wired the whole affair. Significant improvement, James - so jump the jumpers at your earliest convenience. If you go biwire, experiment two ways: attach your speaker cable to the head unit while jumpering to the woofers; or attach it to the midrange/woofer terminals while jumpering to the tweeter. These speakers are so resolved that such 'audiophile' decisions become critical. They are well worth experimenting with to obtain the best results for your system.

Jump the moorings
Besides their svelte and very living-room-friendly appearance -- which elicited many unprompted favorable comments from Ivette who tends to remain mum about audiophile hardware aesthetics unless directly inspired otherwise -- the first thing that struck me about the Hyperions was a very balanced combination of speed, top-to-bottom articulation, very finely-tipped resolution and overall coherence. Once one gets over the initial impotence of successfully latching onto anything in particular, to stand out as either proudly shouting 'yeah' or sending signals of 'nay' distress instead? You'll marvel at the utter lack of bass boom, prominence or bloatedness while observing with distinct pleasure how even far-below-the-belt assaults on those dual woofers are portrayed as cleanly and evenly as everything else. If by now your audiophile pride feels a mite queasy for not finding anything to complain about, you might reach for that old trick of goosing the volume. See whether things will scale in linear fashion or start to diverge into individual but dissimilar threads. When nothing gets hairy, grating, shrill, strident or out of control. When the tonal axis doesn't tilt. When musical molecules don't being to clump together. When nothing whatsoever comes apart at the seams... then you might finally be willing to admit that despite their middle-of-the-road pricing, nothing about the Hyperions' performance indicates anything other than high class. Now you begin to feel assured that you're walking the camino real - the royal road.

Let's digest this initial reaction and tease out which, if any, quality shall rise to the surface to become the all-encapsulating description: Purity. This purity is similar to a particular quality of outdoor lighting. It let's you see far into the distance without effort, with no stark shadows obscuring details, with no bright glints washing out color, with nothing being emphasized. All that remains is the raw quality of seeing everything equally and simultaneously. Needless to say, this makes it easy to talk about what you see in musical terms. It's also far harder to reflect on the cognitive process of seeing, to disassemble it into parts and mechanisms and 'how does it work' observations. This process of dissection becomes easiest then in the negative. What don't you notice? For one, the Hyperions don't portray dynamics in the hyper-fast, charged near-field atmosphere of Wilson Audio presentations I've heard that, in certain
regards, were more real than reality itself - unless you sat very close to the performers. While any speaker can be set up in numerous ways to prompt different audience responses, Wilsons sport measurably low distortion figures due to their ultra-inert hi-tech cabinetry. They can thus be set up to emphasize transient attack and wickedly fast rise times to become too dynamic, intense and sharp for my personal notion of reality. Although they are clearly endowed with fast reflexes, suffer no discernable cabinet talk and thus operate with very potent resolving power, the Hyperions never cross that line into über-resolution.

While they're dynamically astute especially in the micro realm, the Hyperions don't portray jump factor or excitement in the lit-up fashion of the French Triangle speakers I'm fond of. Alas, let me qualify that remark with a reminder. My triangular familiarity of ownership has been with the XS series. The whole lineup has since been superseded by newer, Magellan-derivative models. Their voicing qualities could have changed. The Hyperions don't telegraph warmth the way my Avantgarde Duos can when you voice them like US distributor Jim Smith does and how I have followed suit. Yet these gleaming boxes don't seem cold or boring at all. While holographic in their own way, the Hyperions don't cast the same aroma of tacit spaciousness as my Gallo Reference 3s do. The Hyperions don't displace as much subterranean energy as my Avantgardes but go nearly as low and are just as taut and well-damped while avoiding overdamping and that stark, dry and unnaturally chiseled quality that results from it.

I come back to the word purity for other reasons, too. In conjunction with water or atmospheric conditions, it suggests an absence of effort, tension or charge while the opposite -- limpidness -- doesn't even enter the picture. Further, the transparency that results from purity is an absence of impurities. Those take the form of debris or even microscopic dust that would otherwise insert a filter into the portal of purity through which one looks in on the proceedings. If there's one speaker in my experience that speaks with a similarly uncolored, non-mechanical voice of suchness while perhaps not being quite as resolved overall, it's the DeVore Fidelity Gibbon 8. Needless to say and as a two-way, it's less extended in the bass nor will it play as loudly before compression sets in. But yeah... calling the Hyperion HPS-938s a truly full-range Gibbon 8 to convey a general feel of their nature does really sit well with all of my sensibilities.

If you've read the latter's review -- more a poetic ode really than a nuts'n'bolts review -- you'll sympathize with my predicament. In fact, you'll have predicted it the very moment I mentioned that little monkey from Brooklyn: An essentially neutral device like the HPS-938 is hard to describe by way of the usual shopping lists of audiophile attributes. Those presuppose discernable qualifiers to cross off. What if those are essentially lacking? What if there's nothing spooky or apparently extraordinary about a speaker that isn't neutral in the sense of being trite, aseptic or uninvolving either?

While anything but scientific, this term 'involving' is useful to describe one's personal reaction to a loudspeaker. Are you drawn into the music? Do you observe it from afar? Does it come to you or do you move for it? Does anything move at all? Time and again, I found myself in the same position which never changed regardless of mood or approach. I always found myself as though sitting on the porch of a late summer day. I was gazing over an extended landscape far toward the blue mountains on the horizon. If there's a party and you stand aloof, you feel like an uninvolved dorky observer. But if there's nothing to do, no action to partake in except to sit silently and gaze into the distance, then this act of observing doesn't smack of cold and safe distance at all. Rather, it becomes its own activity. And that perhaps better than anything else describes my reaction to the Hyperions: one of purity and transparency, with an ability to see far and wide and feel completely unobstructed nor motivated to 'do' anything. No movement coming or going; sitting suspended in silence, observing things unfold: that was the essence of the Hyperions for me - a cool stance not of detachment but of a more passive, contemplative participation than I get from my Avantgardes or Gallos. I found it most interesting that this particular response remained a constant regardless of amplifier changes. In fact, that's why I feel compelled to spill ink on it in the first place. There's something very non-pushy, lithe yet properly weighty, refined yet powerful about the Hyperion 938. It is extraordinarily ordinary. And in a Zen kind of way, that's a very boffo thing indeed.

Okay, but what the hell does that really mean? What kind of effing review talks about Zen and emotional or contemplative responses which, by their very nature, must be different from listener to listener? Allow me to suggest that to have both feet on the ground, this approach does have it own merit and sheds some light on subjective performance. However, I'm also with all of those readers who might expect more. Back then on solid audiophile ground where the counterpoint of my Gallo Reference 3 might distill specific attributes by comparison rather than by operating in contextual limbo. But first, a trick question. What kind of speaker do you think the Hyperion is competitive with despite its $4,000/pr price tag? Like the power transformer and face plate in amplifiers, the cabinet is by far the most expensive part of most finished speaker products. In my Rocky Mountain Audio Fest show coverage, Mark Schifter of Sound Art China went on record to say that their facility produces OEM speaker cabinets at an average of 1/3rd their US or European build cost. I dare suspect that a fine piano-gloss lacquer finish as we have here skews this equation even further in off-shore favor. Via the usual build-cost-to-retail math, now extrapolate from such a landed cabinet cost what a US maker would have to charge to build Hyperion's equivalent exclusively on our shores. Do the math. Tell me what the 938 should really cost and thus competes against far outside its price class! Let's just say that I wouldn't want to be a domestic speaker manufacturer right now...