Article by WL Low
|The Magnet Hyperion Reference One amplifier, looking dignified in my man cave surroundings.|
Earlier on Lam Seng Fatt reported on the Magnet Hyperion Reference One as a somewhat “succulent amp”. I would agree on that sonic description but would like to reveal more here. The Hyperion Reference One sits on top of the Magnet range and comes naturally built like a flagship product too. It’s kinda like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, dressed in his best tuxedo. Weighting in at 34kgs, and pumping out 250 class AB watts, it certainly screams muscle amp spec. However, the Magnet is priced attractively enough not to require one to lie to your significant half upon purchase, at about RM$18,000/unit.
In compliance with today’s CE certification, the heat sinks are built inside the amplifier body, and breaths through vents on the top panel. A chic blue LED lights up when switched on, but turns blinking red when amp is overheated, armed with subtle and slightly curvy at the sides front panel softens the masculine lines of the box. I think too many Europeans may hay complained to their regulatory body about finger cutting heat sinks built at the side of amplifiers perhaps?
On the busy back end, the Hyperion Reference One provides the full complimentary of switch-able RCA/XLR inputs, remote trigger in/out, and last but not least, 2 pairs of speaker outputs for those who wish to play bi-wire. An IEC input accepts power from the wall, by the way each Magnet amplifier comes with it’s own power cord, (not the el’cheapo standard variety mind you) but a very well constructed and high end looking one too.
|The rather busy back end of the Magnet Hyperion Reference One.|
With the Magnet Hyperion Reference One replacing my ever faithful Plinius SA250 MKIV(usually operating in class A mode), I felt the sound quality never so close, yet some what different to what I usually hear. Yes, the Hyperion Reference One has class A kinda warmth in spades, there’s a ying rather than yang(softly-softly quality) to the mid range so alluring, especially when playing back female voices(try Jennifer Warnes, she a beauty heard through the Magnet!) that we should perhaps just call it a “Magnetic Quality” (as my buddy Wong sifu use to say “got Magnet?”) in describing sound attractions? All the above, combined with a rock hard, and solid bass response is hard to beat. When operating the Magnet feels rather hot on the top panel vents, which I suspect that it’s running on high bias class A/B mode.
Ya, ya, the top end could be a bit more refined compared to the highest of high end, but it has all the airiness of the highest of end too, which I love especially with good “live” recordings that captures all the spatial cues and ambiance of the performing venue. I played Arrested Development’s Everyday People “live” 1990’s style(a bonus track on their Best Of CD), and was totally transported back in to a typical 90’s Hard Rock Cafe style concert environment, where one is pushed up front, close to the performance. Feel all the transient qualities of the musical instruments, the power of vocal chords and the energetic timing of the drummer. Did I also mentioned the adrenaline sweat and the smoke smell that accompanies such concerts too?(well I could almost imagine those too!) Ha! Ha!
Ooh….. need I say more about that succulent mid range? I guess I do. Put in any nice female vocal recordings such as Jennifer Warnes, Stacy Kent, Lisa Ono, Diana Krall, and certainly Tsai Ching, good times, great taste guaranteed(now this is an audio component review, where did great taste came from? Ah….. that Big Mac beef patty melting in my mouth, oh shit, my hunger knows no bounds!) sorry, did I just digress? eerr….. back to those female singers, every single breath, moist lips, teeth, and tongue technique is exposed with the Hyperion Reference One. Male vocals are great too, but I now somewhat have a fetish for female vocals since this amp came in to my man cave.
Bass is big, bold, solid and bad ass even, the Hyperion is in full control of the 10 inch Volt woofers used in my PMC IB2i speakers. If there’s tuneful bass, this is it! My only wish is that if it could just go lower and hit harder, I told Victor(boss of Hifi Creations) over a cuppa one day, in the process of the review. Victor swears he got a solution for me(a Soulution amp? WOW!) no, a solution in the form of running two Hyperion Reference One! A bi-amping solution.
Before we go in to Victor’s solution, let’s get on with the Magnet. I love the way the Hyperion One presents the little details in the name of transparency. A gentle touching of the cello strings as the performer bows, a subtle pluck of the violin strings and piano pedals all add to the realism of the performance. It’s the little things that make the big picture whole and cohesive. It’s what separates the so-so and So Good! Jennifer Warnes singing “And so it goes” on The Well CD is one of my longest serving, and still favourite reference track. In this case, I only heard a smudge of pedal work on the accompanying piano previously. Playing the same track through the Magnet, I heard much, much more leg movements in the pedals. Funny that my previously higher end brand name amplifiers glossed over those tiny, tiny details, not important to some people, but to others, a world changing experience. Once you’ve heard more, less would just NOT do. Despite it’s warmness in tonal quality, transient and dynamics doesn’t need to suffer like some older class A amplifier designs. The Magnet plays as fast as rise and fall time allows and punched as hard as dynamics could be hit. Did I also mentioned that this amp is relatively quiet on the noise floor front too? Sometimes there’s a few pops and a bit of white hash upon initial switch on, but give it a few minutes of warm up time and the noise floor starts to fall and disappear wholesale.
|Now, 2 become 1. The pair of Magnet Hyperion Reference One doing bi-amping duty. Note cables snaking all over?|
Now, we come to Victor’s solution for a bass quality that dives deeper and whacks harder. He suggested a two power amp approach, in other words bi-amping, since my Pass Lab X-0.2 pre-amp has 2 pairs of XLR outputs. Victor promptly turn up at my door step the very next day with a second Magnet Hyperion Reference One! Like Lam Seng Fatt, I initially went for the horizontal bi-amping route, due to a shortage of XLR cables. I had only enough length runs to do horizontal bi-amping, meaning using one Hyperion Reference One amp in stereo to run both the left and right channel mid driver and tweeter. Then using an identical second amp to run in stereo, just for the both the left and right channel bass driver, a 10 inch Volt unit in this case, on my PMC IB2i speakers. And so it goes, Jennifer Warnes sings again, but only this time, the scale of the imaging, sound stage in the performance opened up, and it was larger then life! The effect of running horizontal bi-amping is like listening to music while one is on an emotional enhancing substance, not the performer mind you, but the listener. Every detail is magnified and super up sized for surreal reality. As a self confess bass gorilla, I played some bass heavy tracks, and here’s where bi-amping shows it’s mettle. When on a single amp, and the music gets too demanding and it the bass player starts to sound like he’s not getting paid enough, the bi-amping monster remains steadfast and solid. It’s like as if the very same bass player had just gotten his big fat year end bonus and his energy levels after downing a can of Red Bull or so!
The sound staging and imaging factors are now beyond room filling, it’s now room busting! Some years ago, I sneered at those people who used brute force factor to play music. I think I may now eat my own humble pie and go for the brute force factor too! But wait, a chance cable purchase during the Raya holidays now allowed me to do vertical bi-amping. Now how’s this different from horizontal bi-amping? you asked. That means I could now use one channel Hyperion Reference One in mono to the left channel mid driver plus tweeter, and the remaining channel of the stereo amp just to run the 10 inch bass driver. I will use the remaining identical amp in the same configuration for the right channel speaker, forming a mono block kinda bi-amping route.
And just like Lam Seng Fatt had reported on earlier, I experienced much more seamless and coherent top to bottom octave presentation. Gone are the hyper magnified and larger than life scaling, replaced by a more life like proposition. Room busting is one thing, but on “live” recordings, venue spatial cues are now very realistic indeed. Royal Albert Hall(Adele Live at Royal Albert Hall) and Carnegie Hall(Dave Brubeck Quartet Live At Carnegie Hall) are very different venues and their acoustical reverb and spatial cues are all very different indeed. The recording techniques used to capture the two events are very different too, to qualify as an high end audiophile system, one’s hifi components must have the transparency factor to reproduce all of these subtle cues with care. With the pair of Hyperion Reference One in vertical bi-amping mode, I am told that aside from the different venue, the Adele concert is a recent recording, done with multi miking method, mastered on digital consoles and the final mix compressed for the MP3 format, while the older 50’s Dave Brubeck recording is done with dual mono microphones set up, mastered and mixed on full spectrum using tube based consoles of the yore. Having said that, the concert photos and Blu-ray concert disc sleeves have already given one some idea, but nothing beats being able to relate the sonic idea to visual cues with such conviction as the bi-amping Hyperion amps proved.
The vertical bi-amping route has one other significant advantage, in the very sense that it sounds very much like a match pair mono block, but only with more power and control, waiting on demand by the changing speaker loading on the amps, depending on the music being played at the time. It’s like having unlimited reserved head room in one’s audio system, one can play as loud and party as hard as one likes. Just make sure one’s neighbours are forgiving. With so much head room, yet all is not about power and control, the lumbering amps are never driven to distortion, resulting in smoother and more refined and smoother highs, yet maintaining it’s bite when the music calls. There is unprecedented roundness in the imaging that makes vocals more real and breathing, like flesh and blood.
This has been a long review in the making, my apologies to Victor for delaying the review date time and again. However the truth is, I am having so much fun doing audio threesomes(if there ever was one), it feels like I am on a never ending gang banging session(every sex crazed guy’s wet dream extreme?). To be honest, I’ve tried that wet dream extreme once, and can always remember that life changing audio experience. My aspiration now is to aim for that ultimate gang banging experience of using 2 pairs of high powered mono blocks to F…, err to whack the pair of PMC IB2i speakers into submission.
For now, I am happily doing the Thai thing with a pair of the Magnet Hyperion Reference One as my long term companion, for those deliciously sinful, dirty, illicit yet fun evening sessions. Hell, I only live once, and all this while, wondering perhaps one day, if I could make my goal of the ultimate gang banging session sustainable?
It’s hifi days like these that I live for, and so should you, if you’re reading this review.
Magnet is sold by HiFi-Creations
Contact Victor Pheh at 012-2962799.
Article by WL Low