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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Zanden Audio Model 2000P/5000S
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright SWL 9.0SE; AudioZone PRE-T1 [on review]; Music First Audio [on review]
Amp: 2 x Audiosector Patek SE run one channel each, the other shorted out; Canary Audio CA-308 [on review]; Fi 421A [on review]; Yamamoto A-08S [on review]; WRAD 300 [on review];
Speakers: Zu Cable Definition Mk 1.5; Gallo Reference 3; Ars Aures Sensorial [on reivew]; WLM Viola [on review]
Cables: Zanden Audio proprietary I²S cable, Stealth Audio Indra (x2), Zu Cable Ibis, Zu Cable Birth on Definitions; Crystal Cable Reference power cords; ZCable Hurricane power cords on both conditioners
Stands: 1 x Grand Prix Audio Monaco four-tier
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S
Sundry accessories: GPA Formula Carbon/Kevlar shelf for transport; GPA Apex footers underneath stand, DAC and amp; Walker Audio SST on all connections; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; WorldPower cryo'd Hubbell wall sockets
Room size: 30' w x 18' d x 10' h [sloping ceiling] in long-wall setup in one half, with open adjoining living room for a total of ca.1000 squ.ft floor plan
Review Component Retail: $2,800/pr

$2,800? A pair? (Insert name of favorite deity. Deliver with expletive gusto. By the hairy cheeks of Hanuman perhaps?) For a two-some of nearly 42 lbs each in the form of tube monoblocks with custom transformers, point-to-point wiring, paralleled 5Z4 hi-current voltage regulation and 18 watts of paralleled single-ended power; with a growing network of dealers and international distribution - what was Hyperion thinking by charging $2,800? Loss leader? Presumably - or close to it. There's two general strategies. One, spend the long green on massive ad campaigns. Tell everyone you're the best. Brand yourself hoping to make the big time. Two, offer the first crop of products at negligible profits. Have happy owners do far more credible advertising for free. Naturally, it's not free if you give stuff away. Still, such a tactic prevents negative cash flow. High profile PR campaigns always spend upfront banking on recouping manifold in the hazy future. Spend a lot to sell. It's a brute-force crowbar tactic. Hyperion's strategy instead? Sell low to sell high (quantities). It's a quieter and less violent way of opening doors. Or so I theorize while mulling over this -- reverse -- sticker shock.

We'll leave pontification on the relative merits to economists and marketing mavens. If notoriety was Hyperion's hoped-for payback, they've certainly done well for themselves already. Their $4,500/pr HPS-938 flagship speakers have collected five industry awards in their first year of introduction alone and now enjoy their own online owner's circle/chatroom. The new HT-88 monos seem poised to pull a similar stunt. The choice of KT88s in particular has me intrigued. Series-driven super-ultralinear strapped KT88s took pride of place in my former reference amps, the stunning Brazilian Audiopax Model 88s.

Dyed-in-the-wool triode fetishists will clamor that only direct-heated triodes deserve veneration. Kinkless tetrodes like KT88s -- a fancy way of saying pentodes -- are commoner's dirt.

I beg to differ. SEPs like the petite Decware Zen Taboo and Almarro, certain Unison Research amps and my Audiopaxes have their own virtues. As a breed, they're lower maintenance too when it comes time to replace glass or when the valve rolling itch becomes unbearable.

Combining price, an enviable prior track record, mono rather than stereo implementation, KT88s and a single-ended Class A circuit of more than micro power had me instantly sold on the concept when Albert Wu, Hyperion's marketing man, inquired about review interest.

Would these birds fly? I was keen to find out. 18 watts is realistic power for a lot more folks than 2 or 6 watts of the 45, 2A3 or PX25 variety. $3K is far from heavy if it buys you both quality and quantity, the latter all but guaranteed on specs and looks alone.

I'm always on the lookout for recommendables for the common man - the music lover/ess who wants performance for a relative song. Let's face it, most must successfully juggle far more important monthly bills than audio stuff. If audio gets too expensive, it's either terminally postponed or handled with a quick'n'dirty trip to the local Circuit City. However, the speciality market of late hasn't been exactly stingy with high-performance value-priced offerings. Just think gain clones, T clones, the Onix/Melody SP3, the Easter Electric fare, the perennial bedrock of Music Hall and Epos, ProJect turntables, Rocket loudspeakers and more. It's as though the "make one deep margin sale to pay rent for 6 months" mentality of audio pricing has created a vacuum. Sufficient suck factor has built up to now fill itself up with champions of the opposite tactic - sell more at lower margins. This rebuilds trust and accessibility in the sector that needs it most: the so-called entry-level. Here newbies brave the transition from cheap & cheerful to serious but aren't prepared to throw reason to the wind. Enter the HT-88s in all their massive aluminum blackness, with 4/8/16-ohm taps 'round back, 90 volts on the plates and 80mA of bias current. Granted, I haven't received the review loaners yet so you could call the above nothing more than a puff/fluff piece (but they're already on the FedEx truck to Taos). Alas, having personally reviewed Hyperion's flagship to affix a Blue Moon Award on 'em, I'm predisposed to believe in the substance of this new offering here. What seems to be on offer looks remarkable enough to warrant a teaser notice - in case you're in the market (tubes, monos, 18 watts) and prepared to spend in excess. I'll tell you more when these 13.4" square and 7.8" tall beasts actually get here (I'm told the Plexi casings in the above images aren't tube shields but shipping protection). And this isn't vaporware, by the way - these monos are in full production and have been shipping for four months.

About Hanuman's hairy cheeks: Once Shiva and Parvati, ever the adventurous lovers, decided to transform themselves into monkeys and indulge in amorous games in the dense Himalayan forests. During a climactic moment, the seed of Shiva found its mark and impregnated Parvati. Since they were in simian form, it was but natural that the offspring born of such a union too would be a monkey. Not desiring to go against the laws of nature, Shiva directed the wind god Vayu to carry his semen from Parvati's womb and deposit it into that of Anjana - a female monkey, who at that very moment was praying for a male child.

Another slightly variant version of this story in the Shiva Purana states that when Vishnu once disguised himself as the heavenly beauty Mohini, her charms so impressed Shiva that he could not restrain his seed. Vayu then carried the seed and deposited it into Anjana's womb. There was no question of Shiva's potent discharge resulting in an offspring less than extraordinary and the child conceived under such exceptional circumstances

was bound to be especial, and so it was. The resulting bundle of joy was none other than Hanuman, one of the most celebrated and worshipped figures in Indian thought. Two exceptional traits further marked his birth. The first was that unlike ordinary children, Hanuman was born wearing a loincloth. This was an early pointer to his life-long pursuit of a celibate, almost ascetic lifestyle. The other significant occurrence was the presence of elaborate earrings adorning his ears. The latter has an interesting piece of legend explaining it.

At the time of Hanuman's birth, the undisputed leader of the monkey-world was Vali, a strong and powerful ape. When Vali came to know that Anjana was pregnant with a child who was bound to develop into a powerful rival, he decided to end matters in Anjana's womb itself. He created a missile using five metals: gold, silver, copper, iron and tin. When the unsuspecting mother was asleep, he directed the missile into her womb. A normal child may have succumbed to this dastardly attack, but not one born of Shiva's fiery seed. The missile as soon as it touched Hanuman's body melted, and transformed into a pair of earrings. Thus wearing the trophies of his first battle, fought while still in his mother's womb, Hanuman gloriously entered this world.

With such auspicious myths surrounding Hanuman's birth, let's hope that the genesis of Hyperion's HT-88s was likewise blessed with "unusually potent missiles"...