Split tease. To tease out who was doing what, the twins had to split up. First up was preamplitude, contrasting Hestia's contributions against those of the Wyred4Sound STP and April Music Stello HP100 MkII. Hyperion remained the constant. As a fully balanced circuit, the Wyred used XLR on its inputs and outputs. With only RCA inputs for the April Music, during the Stello/Hestia session the Terminator fed both of them a single-ended input to keep things consistent.

These comparisons drew a horizontal line whose left end was airy, spacious, lean and most resolved whilst the right called it robust, substantial, warm and dry. The black Wyred occupied the far left, the petite April Music the far right. The Denafrips set up shop in-between. E.J. Sarmento's actively buffered deck with zero voltage gain at my levels acted like a quasi passive. It was the most quicksilvery, explicit and lean. Simon Lee's ultra compact with headphone facility played it warmest, most chunky and dry like a northern summer's day without any tropical humidity. Zhao's machine mirrored the chunky, robust warmth of the Stello but injected some of the STP's more lit-up ambient recovery for greater depth of field and more virtual venue sound than the Stello could unearth.

On featurization, the Stello was the only 3-in-1 with a powerful headphone socket and basic USB DAC; the Wyred the host with the most socketry. On opulent metalurgy, the Denafrips topped the bill. Sonically I'd consider these three in the same league but with individual wrinkles. The Wyred injected into Hyperion's bloodstream some caffeine and adrenaline to quicken the action whilst simultaneously thinning it out some. The Stello dried out some of its wetter fruitier organic aspects for matter textures. Hestia seemed very much voiced like its companion amp but to be certain, I next had to isolate the Hyperion amp vis-à-vis our Job 225 and Stello options.

Job 225 versus Hyperion had the Swiss occupy Wyred's prior spot. Its reading was leaner, brighter/coarser in the presence region and up, lighter in the bass and a bit paler on overall colorization. I was surprised by how much of Hestia's fingerprint showed on the Job 225 which I know very well. That made the delta of difference somewhat narrower than expected but still easily tracked.

The Stello amp hooked into the same balanced feed off the Hestia preamp as Hyperion did whilst the Job 225 had needed a single-ended run of the same Allnic ZL 3000 cable. The Stello was nearer the Denafrips on fullness and saturation but perhaps due to Zhao's true balanced drive, the Chinese amp exhibited more forward propulsion in general and particularly so in the bass. That lower register was the most driven and ballistic of the three amps, combining raw mass with crunch to energize rhythmic elan and feistiness. Strategic cross-breeding to minimize differences would pit Hestia/Job 225 against Wyred/Hyperion for an equalizer. Still, I'd give the latter combo the lead on tonal sophistication and woofer control.

Based on these sessions, I'd call the Hyperion amp voiced very much like its Hestia preamp mate for a like+like rather than opposites-attract effect. That put the combo on the right of our prior line as the dense very material slightly opulent and warm end whilst the Kinki EX-M1 integrated belonged on its left to sound quicker, wirier, shinier and more separated out. A such, the Kinki would usurp the placement of a Wyred+Job 225 combo as a more refined take thereof. With these coordinates established, it was time to throw some other loads at the Denafrips contenders to mix things up.