WesAudio _Hyperion by Arthur Stone
The _HYPERION is a 2-channel 4-band parametric EQ in ng500-series format; it has a few tricks up it's sleeves.
Reviewing gear is an education; especially comparing and contrasting hardware. The _HYPERION is amongst the best gear I've tested: the design, features, and sonics, mark it out as high-end, professional studio equipment. The rest of Wes Audio's range has the same vibe.
In Greek mythology, Hyperion, son of the Titans, understood the movement of the stars and planets through time; in technological form _HYPERION is understanding your audio resonances and keeping everything in (or out) of phase.
Probably a familiar name to many due to their analogue outboard: Timbre vari-mu and Beta76 FET compressors; LC-EQP passive equalizer; DUE-PRE 500-series preamp; and SUPERCARRIER 11-slot 500-series chassis.
A theme in my reviews is that manufacturers have a house sound that is consistent across all their gear or instruments; and this is generally, a good thing: Wes Audio's founder, Radoslaw Wesolowski, cites his 'sonic signature' as a reason for moving from custom-built gear to establishing the company in 2010. Later, Michal Weglicki joined Wes Audio bringing expertise in designing the _TITAN rack with it's ng500 format and GCON protocol.
The company now has two departments: all-analogue and hybrid digitally-controlled analogue. Wes Audio have adopted the ng(next generation) 500-series system that adds bi-directional data transfer between hardware and software (e.g. allowing the analogue signal path to be automated from a DAW) and Wes have further developed the GCon software control protocol for use with the _TITAN rack and hardware/plug-in ecosystem.
Price: £1199 (£999.17 w/out tax) UK; EURO 1419; $1399 US.
Beautiful plug-in interface; not glitchy. Bi-lateral comms with hardware; recall of presets per DAW track or session.
The GCon protocol network installed easily and was a real eye-openener into the potential of the hybrid analogue-digital system. It saves time and flows with the workflow.
On delivery I was up-and-running in 10 mins, never having used a 500-series or Wes gear previously. The units were pre-installed in the rack (and installation is apparently very straightforward).
The first thing I noticed was the weight of the small-form power-supply. Very re-assuring. I immediately knew we were dealing with pro gear. It had that feel. The build quality did not disappoint at all and the experience was as good as the Sound Devices 7-series although the Wes Audio gear is designed for studio rather than the field.
The other immediate impression was that although any racked device can be plumbed in and utilised in many studio roles, the design and facilities on the _HYPERION and all the Wes gear (especially when combined in the _TITAN rack) encourage this. It's no hassle to change the role with a few button clicks.
The _HYPERION also is a perfect example of a new generation of gear designed and built with integration to other devices in mind, and again this increases the utility and ease-of-use that racked gear and a patchbay cannot provide.
The _HYPERION is fun to use musically. I checked a few mixes: DAW (stems) > iZ RADAR digital-to-analogue, summed externally in a DAV Electronics passive mixbus > BAE preamp (make-up gain) and then _HYPERION on the 2-bus followed by the Dione SSL-style VCA compressor. The audio signal improves as soon as it passes through the _HYPERION.
Two notable first impressions: the _HYPERION EQ adds a heartbeat to the music and makes it come alive. That is no gear pimp advertising cliché – it's a fact.
When using the bypass it is surprising how little the original sound is affected; the _HYPERION can reinforce the existing content rather than adding too much of it's own colour or character.
The _HYPERION brings that character more to the fore with it's THD analogue harmonic distortion. Without the THD switched on, the *_HYPERION has an admirable clean character that reminds me somewhat of the pure tone musicality of a bell. It's not as if the _HYPERION needs the THD to cover some deficiency – it's just extra flavour(s) and timbres. The THD is adding some subtle weight or density but not distorting unless used aggressively to tip an already coloured source into harmonic overdrive.
The 4 EQ bands plus high-pass filter offer a lot of coverage (with switchable 5 or 15 dB gain range) although quite not as precise as a good ITB EQ (e.g. SSL-style channel strip EQ) but maybe I needed longer with the unit to gain familiarity. Whereas an ITB EQ 'pushes' or 'sucks' the _HYPERION reinforces or leaves silence. The per channel bypass (push-button gain pot) is very useful in practice as is the A/B comparison function.
I found myself listening more rather than looking and the LED metering gave some feedback even if it's brightness obscured the panel legends completely. There's probably a way to turn it down but I liked the method of listening anyway.
The three EQ modes are: standard ganged stereo, independent dual-mono; and mid-side (MS). THD can be applied independently to each channel. MS mode is a great utility: on tracks e.g. stereo acoustic guitar, and mix e.g. electronic track with centre kick and arpeggiated synths and reverb on sides. Mid-side can really open up the soundstage or fix instruments onto shelves in a complex mix.
During the review period I used the _HYPERION for tracking and mixing/2-bus and connected to a patchbay this is a very flexible unit.
The Poet Speaks: By chance, around this time of year, in 1818, the poet John Keats was writing 'Hyperion' (in the context of historic Greek mythology). Keats's words are surprisingly applicable in describing the _HYPERION EQ.
This is what the _HYPERION sounds like to me: “...This cradle of my glory...soft clime...calm luxuriance of blissful light. These crystalline pavilions, and pure fanes...lucent empire...The blaze, the splendor, and the symmetry...”
And without it: “...I cannot see – but darkness, death and darkness...shady visions come to domineer, insult, and blind, and stifle up my pomp...” Low-mids mud eh?
For a hybrid analogue-digital studio, it's an attractive proposition to be able to store track, mix or 2-bus hardware settings in the DAW session and automate them. It saves a lot of time. Equally, the _TITAN system appeals to an ITB workflow in being able to incorporate outboard seamlessly into the digital workflow and, to be frank, I've never heard any plug-in and seldom hardware, that sounds as good as the Wes Audio gear.
Quite simply it breathes life into music – you hear the sound in a morphic sense. You can feel what the _HYPERION does in your bones.
Sound quality 5/5: Exceptional audio quality. Improves the source or mix naturally enhancing presence, distinguishing sources, and adding euphonious air in-between. The THD is well-judged. Health spa and beauty treatment for your music.
Ease-of-use 5/5: Good balance between (the many) features and control. Clear visual feedback. Short learning curve. The software side is a doddle; the recall and bypass functions very useful.
Features 5/5: Full compliment of state-of-the-art control and feedback. Good ergonomic/functionality balance. High-quality encoders and buttons. Built to last.
Bang-for-Buck 5/5: Seriously good value and prime position on the cost/benefit curve. You need this.
Video review here:
Links and credits:
_hyperion – www.wesaudio.com
_titan – www.wesaudio.com
Hyperion (poem - Wikipedia)
Photos used with permission of Wes Audio;
additional photos by Arthur Stone.