Monitor Audio Hyphn Loudspeaker Page 2

By throwing away preconceptions of how a speaker should look – not an unknown way of thinking up here in the rarefied air of the high-end – the company has come up with a skeletal design of remarkable purity. Look long enough and it even starts to appear logical. Well, sort of…

sqnote Round One...

Naturally, all that cleverness would be for nought were the Hyphn not to deliver the sonic goods to match its striking looks, and fortunately it lives up to all that engineering promise. Used on the end of both Halcro Eclipse Stereo [HFN May '23] and beefier Constellation Centaur II Stereo [HFN Feb '23] power amps, with our music sourced from an Aurender W20SE music library [HFN Mar '23] and dCS Vivaldi APEX DAC, the Hyphn speakers rapidly set out their sonic stall. Straight out of the gate, here was a presentation that belied all those drivers doing their thing at once, for this is clearly a speaker that offers remarkable coherence and integration.

While some designs – even those with lofty aspirations – can make it all too apparent when sound is being handed over between drive units, the treble coming from higher up than the midrange, and the bass clearly being delivered from the big drivers, there's none of that going on here. Instead, there's just a sense of all the sound coming from that 'Lonsdale belt', floating free of the speakers to create an expansive, crisply focused soundstage.


Pairs of opposing 200mm RDT III bass drivers are mounted into the inside face of each pillar, reinforced by linking, semi-circular alloy braces

The bass is deep, powerful and yet tightly controlled, the speakers delivering the kind of definition some would say is the hallmark of compact monitor designs, but with all the low-end extension their size would suggest. For example, with the eponymous first album from Dire Straits [Vertigo UIGY-9032; DSD64], 'Setting Me Up' has all the freshness of much smaller speakers – which is a good thing – along with closely detailed vocal and instrumental timbres, and appreciable bass slam.

Round Two
If there's a 'but' here, it's that even with simple tracks like this the Hyphns need a good dose of amplifier power to motivate them, and one might even suggest that the Halcro amp was marginal in this respect. With bigger, more complex tracks there was some suggestion that limits were being approached, whereupon the Constellation amp successfully flexed its muscles.

These speakers have a very broad comfort zone, which includes the highest of volume levels most listeners will ever wish to encounter. With Cala's 'The Land's End', from the recent From The River release [Wee Studio Records; Bandcamp download], there's a fine breathiness to the woodwind, set against a powerful, atmospheric wash of sound with rock-solid imaging, then a real swing and drive to the track when fiddle and percussion kicks in. The sound is fast and hard-hitting while maintaining balance, even when there are two counter-rhythms going, the warmth of the presentation enhancing, rather than detracting from, the musical flow.

Change pace to the ethereal sound of Rachmaninoff's Vespers – All-Night Vigil, courtesy of the King's College Choir, London [Delphian DCD34296], and the richness of the Hyphns delivers a beautifully balanced, atmospheric listen, both intimate and with a palpable feeling of space in the sound. There's bags of detail in the voices, and absolutely no hardening when the volume swells. With another Rachmaninoff recording – this time the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra/ Eiji Oue 'Symphonic Dances' [Reference Recordings RR-96] – the same qualities are much in evidence.


In this angled picture, one of the port vents is just visible in the base of the (left hand) pillar. Terminal plate aside, the pillars are mirrors of each other with identical construction

These speakers are so good at delivering the scale of orchestral forces while still giving excellent insight – the sound is slightly warm and lush, but never excessively so, making them well-mannered and refined rather than subdued. Cultured and easy to listen to, they're totally involving, with no sense of statement speakers trying too hard.

Floating Like A Butterfly...
They're impressively punchy and substantial with the recently remastered 1974 live recording of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon [Legacy Recordings; 96kHz/24-bit], which I find somewhat more interesting than the simultaneously released 50th anniversary remaster of the studio album [Legacy; 192kHz/24-bit]. The BBC recording has just enough live ambience to set it apart from the familiar and bring the music up fresh, even with the driving, phasey 'On The Run' with all its studio effects.

The same is true of The Who's much more recently recorded With Orchestra Live At Wembley set [Polydor 4883160]. Here the Hyphns show Pete Townshend's guitar can still slam and Roger Daltrey's vocals snarl, but also make the most of the added warmth of the 57-piece 'big band' backing, whether on the opening 'Who Are You' or classics such as 'Baba O'Riley', the latter also notable for the contribution of the 'audience choir'.

With this and the classic Floyd set, the Hyphn shows it can let down its hair and rock hard when required, but then the next moment it can go back to lush and intimate. For example with Joyce DiDonato's radiant Eden recital [Erato 0190296465154] every word of 'As With Rosy Steps The Morn', from Handel's Theodora, is crystal clear, thanks to the speakers' focused, insightful view of the singer's remarkable voice, with every timbral nuance laid out for inspection. Or then again you could just enjoy the magic of the performance – these loudspeakers work on both levels.


Although the bass, mid and treble crossovers are split and mechanically isolated within the cabinet, the bass arm is separated from the mid/treble via the (very high quality) bi-wire/bi-amp cable terminals at the base of one pillar

Switch to Depeche Mode's recently released Memento Mori [Columbia; 96kHz/24-bit download] and the years drop away as the Hyphns deliver the big, anthemic 'People Are Good' and 'Never Let Me Go' like nothing ever changed. All those synths and ringing details on 'Ghosts Again' sound magnificent, while the deep chugging beat is handled with speed and dexterity by the speakers' unusual bass arrangement. No-one is making claims for audiophile quality on this recording, but it certainly delivers on sheer emotional impact.

...Stinging Like A Bee

With that caveat about not going crazy with the volume control unless you have massive power on hand, the same goes for Anna Lapwood's wonderful transcription for organ of Britten's 'Sea Interludes' on her Images album [Signum SIGCD688]. Yes, the Hyphns will shake the room, but what impresses more is the sheer presence of the great Harrison & Harrison instrument in the nocturnal space of Ely Cathedral. You can feel the air around it, and the way the notes energise the building, to thrilling effect.

Just as exciting, however, is the sound of the Hyphns doing quiet and restrained, with Australian jazz trio Trichotomy's 'Mercury', from the immaculately produced To Vanish set [Earshift Music EAR070]. It's just piano, bass and drums here, but everything is played through processors, the piano driven ever onward by the tight bass and percussion. There's a superb sense of impetus and musicianship, with great scale and precision in the piano, tight, sonorous bass and punchy percussion, as the Hyphns deliver a reliably clean, clear and generous account of the recording. These are speakers to enjoy, whatever your musical tastes.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Dashed enjoyable – that's the verdict on Monitor Audio's Hyphns. Yes, they need some hefty amplifier power to be heard at their best, so tempted will you be to keep turning the level up, but with their combination of warmth, definition, focus and insight, they belie their unusual looks with a sound that requires no allowances to be made. The Concept has become a reality – and in serious style.

Monitor Audio Ltd
Rayleigh, Essex
Supplied by: Monitor Audio Ltd
01268 740580