With aesthetics from unapologetically avantgarde in full Monty to still rakish in grilled fashion on one side to classy and elegant on the other, the Hyperions -- which aren't physically overpowering by any stretch -- are positively large and chunky compared to the slender Gallos. At $4,000/pr, the 938s are a monster value while at $2,590/pr, the Ref3s are mindlessly insane. Adding the delayed $900 Reference3 SA bass amp/crossover/EQ to the latter, the resultant package still undercuts the Hyperions by $500 and also offers bottom-octave grunt and impact that goes beyond the Hyperion's passive approach sans adjustments. Without active woofer drive, the 938s edge out the Gallos in displacement and weight. By virtue of its 300º dispersion tweeter followed by the zero-diffraction midrange cluster, the Gallos set up properly are simply spooky when it comes to soundstaging especially in the lateral plane and placing out-of-phase effects far past the outer speaker boundaries. Unlike fellow reviewers who've reported on sacrificed height, the added rake I've dialed into my Ref3s to emphasize their backwards lean and thus raise the MTM array's axis up has never telegraphed anything other than realistic performance height. Regardless, the taller Hyperions add at least a good foot to this picture.

When it comes to bass textures, the sealed alignment of the Gallos comes across as more muscular and feisty while the Hyperion's vented loading is less 'obvious' as though the Gallos had a bit of a swaggering look-what-I-got attitude in that department. Especially on electronically generated bass, the Hyperions extend lower. They also instill more heft into the left-handed registers of a grand piano. With drum sticks on metal rims, hand slaps on guitar bodies or tablas and other extreme percussive noises, the Gallos have the unfair 1st-order advantage which lifts out such transients from the surrounding fabric to a higher extent and for sharper relief. In the movie The Whole Wide World on the love affair between pulp fiction legend Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja) and Texan schoolteacher Novalyne Price, the former returns to his gal's porch one day massively mustachoid. "How do you like my buttermilk catcher?" he wants to know. Imagining the piquant skin pricks resulting from kissing Vincent D'Onofrio's wild man in such facial-hair outfit illustrates how the Gallos differ in this regard - micro transient events prick and stick out while the Hyperions are smoothly shaved.

This hints at what perhaps is the greatest presentation difference between these two overachieving speaker designs: The Gallos' far greater treble radiating area, at least to these ears, produces a tensioned excitement factor while qualitatively remaining perfectly smooth. The
Hyperions are smooth and refined and finely detailed but less 'charged', more 'collected'. Their copper-horn loaded soft-dome tweeter doesn't exhibit the contoured rise my equally loaded Triangle Ventis XS did. It seems equally fast but again less 'obvious' and, in toto, more relaxed. I would conjecture that the designer of Hyperion's 938 flagship fancies classical music and is less apt to take a walk on the dark side. Don't misunderstand - the 938s don't pull favorites about what to play or pull punches when things get unhinged. But there's something about their poise and elegance and, again, purity that suggest a very cultured and sophisticated designer who'd rather listen to a violin concerto than Punk Rock. How would my 8wpc wimpy-max amplifier handle this load?

I should tell you that Kiwi reader Peter Hardie of Reference Audio Systems in Auckland became Gallo's New Zealand distributor after realizing that nobody carried their speakers in Middle Earth. He's also the Eastern Electric man and has duplicated my counter-intuitive pairing of the MiniMax amp and Ref3s to where the li'l amp now "exceeds a few $4-6K solid-state and tube amplifiers here". While Peter generally is in full agreement with my reviews of these products, he personally feels that it's the amp in the MiniMax product suite that's the real giant killer.

Perhaps Peter's right? The MiniMax amp/Hyperion pairing was completely mindblowing. Its apparently silly 8 watts of yank/shove paper power gave the 250-watt Butler Audio amp quite the comeuppance. Sitting 14 feet from the speaker, even higher-than-normal levels never exceeded what the amp could calmly sustain. Needless to say, that didn't include the Gladiator battle scene or other excessively taxing tracks. Still, on everything that I listen to for pleasure rather than destructive testing meanness, this little tube amp never telegraphed compromise which was particularly impressive considering those 4 woofers. Not having micro-power SETs on hand, I can't tell you whether my results of push/pull drive would translate into triode land. I can tell you unequivocally though that eight watts and the Hyperions cohabitate very passionately indeed. This would indicate benign phase angles and a rather easy load just as Mr. Wu had claimed.

Our own Steve Marsh is next in line to critically face this same pair for a follow-up review and report on his findings in a larger space than my own and with different electronics. But when I add up what I heard in my place with the realization that on top of it all, this speaker is an ideal low-power tube candidate -- of which, let's face it, there aren't too many full-range options in the still-affordable sector -- I can't help but feel that this glossy creation from California is quite a breakthrough in its own right. And once again, I'm not alone. While I have deliberately refrained from reading them, I am aware of prior reviews which include an Absolute Sound Editor's Choice award. I'd expect that certain details in those various reviews will diverge to reflect system interactions and listener preferences. But just as with the Gallos, the strengths of the Hyperions are far too obvious not to be noticed by anyone who's been around the block and knows what $4,000 buys you elsewhere.

To recap, the HPS-938 is a full-range, never-forward design that goes about its job in a highly invisible fashion. High-level transparency and resolution are supported by speed and precision that never intrude to speak for themselves. This is a very balanced effort that, if anything, merely errs a hair on the side of proper composure and politeness to become an asset in the present trend of audiophilia.

When I first unpacked these four cabinets, I was secretly worried that something about this project seemed nearly too good to be true. Since it wasn't anything visible in the quality of construction or finish, it had to be in the sound. Not. This US company of Taiwanese Americans has done its homework before going to market. Despite the mouthful of alphabet soup that accompanies the unique drivers' technical tidbits, nothing about my experience with them suggests anything other than honest engineering.

This speaker is equally happy with high-wattage solid state and low-wattage tube power and offers performance that should cause many of our domestic makers more than a few sleepless nights. The winner here clearly is the savvy consumer and dealer who's not afraid to give an unknown brand a chance. It's not often that a first-time effort hits so hard on all scores. Life for the demanding music lover in the US is arguably better than ever. Market realities mean that a shrinking network of successful 2-channel dealers make it more and more difficult for newcomers to build out comprehensive distribution. After all, one dealer can only support so many brands properly. The most established ones have long since committed to a product mix that works for their market and aren't keen on upsetting their apple carts. If this means that finding a Hyperion dealer will initially require some legwork and ingenuity on your part, that's simply a function of a challenged economy colliding with an oversaturated market.. But you'd be well advised to go the extra mile here - some people already have gone on record of having traded $12,000 speakers for these start-up upstarts...
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