Ypsilon

YPSILON - maker of fantabulous (fantastic + fabulous) to quote Dagogo mag, audio from Greece
YPSILON - "We strive to reproduce music in a way that is true to the original recording."

Ypsilon Electronics was formed in 1995. Founded by two sound engineers with vast experience in the field of live music reproduction.

It was not only our experience with live music and live concerts that provided us with the necessary conditions to gain knowledge, it was also our technical background in electronics engineering, that contributed in formatting the concept of how a high end audio device should perform as well as how reliable it should be.

It was our love and dedication to natural live music that drove us to transform our passion into technology. A technology that combines both traditional and modern ground breaking designs and techniques.

At Ypsilon Electronics "we strive to reproduce music in a way that is true to the original recording".

Our achievement is the creation of unique products that communicate to the listener the true meaning of music…EMOTION!

Our long journey evaluating nearly all available technologies and components, passive or active, in our quest to push the limits of musical reproduction, led us to the development and integration of transformers in amplification circuits. We realized that by using high quality transformers as coupling devices it was possible to overcome the performance boundaries in an amplification stage, whether it’s a solid stage or valve design. After studying the theory and gained experience from the past in transformer winding art, we are now building our own transformers tailored to the specific needs in a given design. This way we are able to optimize the end result and integrate the transformer with the active devices tubes or solid state, achieving results unobtainable without their use.

We implement the simplest possible design for a given task and we believe that single –ended class A operation offers the most transparent and musically complete sound performance.

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Featured

YP 03 CD ULT
NZ$ 76,995.00 (incl. GST)
CDT -100 
EXTENDED REVIEW: I don’t like compact discs. I don’t like them for a few reasons. First; when CD...
YP 09 PA PST100A
NZ$ 62,995.00 (incl. GST)
PST – 100 is most certainly an impressive addition to YPSILON’s 100 series. It approaches the concept of pre amplification in an outstanding way. Its heart lies in the in house made transformers used...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Though essentially a two-man operation based in Athens, Greece (thats back in 2011...
YP 15 AM AELIUS
NZ$ 66,995.00 (incl. GST)
Aelius II is a push-pull hybrid monoblock power amplifier using only two gain stages with no overall feedback providing power to drive real world speakers with unmatched transparency and musical...
ETENDED REVIEW: I knew nothing of Ypsilon when I first saw its products in a room at an overseas...
YP 17 AM HYPER
NZ$ 155,995.00 (incl. GST)
Ypsilon Audio HYPERION power amplifier is the latest addition to brand’s electronics line. HYPERION is a monoblock configuration producing 400w in 8 ohm, the first 100-120W in pure class-A, Hybrid...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Designers of hybrid amplifiers can use solid-state devices in an amp's input stage...
Ypsilon Hyperion monoblock amplifier «Demetris Baklavas, the head honcho of Ypsilon electronics,...

All Products

CD / SACD / Blu-ray & Multi-Format Players

YP 01 CD CDT100
NZ$ 42,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
CDT -100 
EXTENDED REVIEW: I don’t like compact discs. I don’t like them for a few reasons. First; when CD...
YP 03 CD ULT
NZ$ 76,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
CDT -100 
EXTENDED REVIEW: I don’t like compact discs. I don’t like them for a few reasons. First; when CD...

DACs

YP 02 DC DAC
NZ$ 49,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
DAC 100 is our D to A converter. It is a non – oversampling, no upsampling design with multi – bit dac chips. The carefully designed power supply is with shunt regulators. I / V conversion is done by...
DACs

Phono Stages

YP 05 PS VPS100
NZ$ 42,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Phono Stages
YP 06 PS ULT
NZ$ 76,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Phono Stages

Preamplifiers & Line-stages

YP 08 PA PST100P
NZ$ 42,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Conventional wisdom suggests that the most critical part of a preamplifier is the active circuit design. We, however, believe that the means of signal attenuation (the volume control) is the most...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Though essentially a two-man operation based in Athens, Greece (thats back in 2011...
YP 09 PA PST100A
NZ$ 62,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
PST – 100 is most certainly an impressive addition to YPSILON’s 100 series. It approaches the concept of pre amplification in an outstanding way. Its heart lies in the in house made transformers used...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Though essentially a two-man operation based in Athens, Greece (thats back in 2011...
YP 10 PA ULT
NZ$ 105,281.70 ea (incl. GST)
Conventional wisdom suggests that the most critical part of a preamplifier is the active circuit design. We, however, believe that the means of signal attenuation (the volume control) is the most...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Though essentially a two-man operation based in Athens, Greece (thats back in 2011...

Integrated amplifiers

YP 12 AI PHAETON
NZ$ 42,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
"In my years of reviewing, it’s rare to have had such a profound reaction to an integrated amplifier. Ypsilon has created a component that enables a musical connection that’s both intellectually and...
transparent sounding transformer attenuator only three gain stages one of them the active preamp...
EXTENDED REVIEW: If you’re an audiophile of a certain age you might well remember your first look...
Integrated amplifiers

Power amplifiers (Stereo & Mono)

YP 15 AM AELIUS
NZ$ 66,995.00 pr (incl. GST)
Aelius II is a push-pull hybrid monoblock power amplifier using only two gain stages with no overall feedback providing power to drive real world speakers with unmatched transparency and musical...
ETENDED REVIEW: I knew nothing of Ypsilon when I first saw its products in a room at an overseas...
YP 17 AM HYPER
NZ$ 155,995.00 pr (incl. GST)
Ypsilon Audio HYPERION power amplifier is the latest addition to brand’s electronics line. HYPERION is a monoblock configuration producing 400w in 8 ohm, the first 100-120W in pure class-A, Hybrid...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Designers of hybrid amplifiers can use solid-state devices in an amp's input stage...
Ypsilon Hyperion monoblock amplifier «Demetris Baklavas, the head honcho of Ypsilon electronics,...
YP 18 AM SET100
NZ$ 215,995.00 pr (incl. GST)
SET 100 Ultimate is a 120W single-ended class A hybrid amplifier. It has the magic midrange of a small S.E.T amplifier with the scale, authority, macro and micro detail that no amplifier has ever...

Reviews

.....in my experience, there are none better.
Neil Gader

SUMMARY: In my years of reviewing, it’s rare to have had such a profound reaction to an integrated amplifier. Ypsilon has created a component that enables a musical connection that’s both intellectually and emotionally rewarding. At the Olympian heights where the Phaethon resides, only a handful of amps challenge it but overall, and in my experience, there are none better.

EXTENDED REVIEW: If you’re an audiophile of a certain age you might well remember your first look at colour TV. I do. On a Sunday evening our family sat in front of a spanking-new RCA Victor console model, an enormous (for the era) 21” CRT encased in a walnut cabinet extravaganza that weighed in at a couple hundred pounds, if it weighed an ounce. What I most recall about that night was the appearance of the NBC network logo that preceded its “In Living Color” lineup. It was a stylised rendering of a peacock that famously fanned its resplendent tail-feathers, which up to that point, I had only seen in black and white. As the bird produced its display of plumage, my eyes popped and my jaw dropped (seemingly in unison) at the dazzling burst of rainbow colours that filled the screen.

What does this have to do with reviewing an audio component? Well, this memory was very much in keeping with my reaction to the Ypsilon Phaethon integrated amp. It’s a component of such musical colour that it intensifies and stimulates and recalibrates one’s audio senses and expectations like few that I’ve encountered before.

Greece is home to Ypsilon, a boutique high-end manufacturer of renown. The small firm’s output is modest, even by high-end industry standards. But since the company’s formation in 1995, and under the guidance of founder and chief designer Demetris Baklavas, Ypsilon has achieved a reputation that makes it a part of any serious conversation of what it means to be state of the art. The Phaethon is Ypsilon’s sole integrated amplifier. The look is minimalist and purposeful and elegant. In my experience, its build-quality is on a level reserved for only a handful of elite brands.

Tipping the scales at well over seventy pounds, the Phaethon’s seemingly impregnable chassis is made of 10mm plate aluminium with a 20mm front panel. The front panel features six small push-buttons to the left of a central LCD display whose brightly lit characters are readable from across the room. The top panel is well vented, with generous heatsinks adorning the Phaethon’s flanks. The back panel includes inputs for three pairs of unbalanced analog RCA jacks and a single pair of balanced XLR connectors. Top-notch binding posts are by WBT Next-Gen from Germany. The AC power inlet is courtesy of Furutech. All normal functions can also be controlled from an aluminium remote control, a veritable slab of metal that feels as if it weighs as much as some components I’ve owned.

It’s All Greek to Me

Phaethon is a hybrid tube-transistor linestage that sports technologies first observed in Ypsilon’s reference-level Aelius monoblock amplifier and PST100mk2 preamp. Rated output is a conservative 110Wpc into 8 ohms. Minimalism prevails throughout the Phaethon topology. It uses only three active gain stages, two of them with 6H30 low-noise valves operating in single-ended Class A for the input and driver stage. Its “bridged, single-ended” output stage is biased in Class A in what Ypsilon describes as the “first, most important watts.” Ypsilon posits that this arrangement offers the flavour of pure single-ended designs combined with the power of push-pull designs. The output stage uses three matched pairs of MOSFETs of the same polarity operating in exactly the same topology for the two halves of the signal. In total, the Phaethon employs eleven transformers, each one built in-house, plus separate power supplies for the tube and output stages, utilising five power supply inductors for low-noise filtering.

Paramount to the sonic reputation of any preamp stage is the volume control; this is where the delicate audio signal wins or loses. Ypsilon, rather than using the prosaic resistive stepped attenuator or potentiometer, has opted for its own in-house design. It’s a custom and costly transformer attenuator solution that is embedded in the preamplifier section using Ypsilon’s proprietary topology. Similar to the transformer attenuation in the top-line PST100mk2, the Phaethon version uses 31 taps (secondary windings) for up to 58dB of attenuation in steps that range from 3dB to 1.5dB depending on the volume control position. Unlike the typical volume control this arrangement is known for a high level of precision and is completely non-resistive.

Turning to sonic performance, the word that first came to mind was earthy. The Phaethon produced a rich, dark sound, anchored by the sort of taut foundation that seemed to extend into imagined bedrock well below the confines of my listening space. Noise was non-existent. While the Phaethon idled, a velvety, black silence prevailed until the music was cued and snapped to life as if having been released from behind floodgates. The experience was lush and expressive with a push of midrange bloom, and rippling with micro and macro energy. It was obvious from the opening of Vaughan Williams’ The Wasps Overture that the Phaethon signature would veer toward a warmer, near-romantic sound imbued with more tonal shadings than a book of Pantone colours. In keeping with the theme of an angry hive, air swirled from the orchestral stage in a flurry. String sections were intricately layered, solo instruments appropriately focused but fully integrated within the warm body of the orchestra. In particular, wood-bodied instruments such as cello, bass viol, or bassoon were fat with harmonics. But as much detail as the Ypsilon coaxed from a performance (and there was an awful lot) it never lost its grasp on the bigger sonic picture, or reduced music reproduction to an intellectual exercise or lengthy checklist of audio criteria.

The sheer quiet of the backgrounds played another critical role. Consider the backing cello in Rutter’s Requiem or the concert harp during The Wasps as they softly blend with the orchestra—low-level information like this was never smeared and never lost image focus. Rather, it was expressed in the context of its own unique radiating space untrammeled by any whiff of electronic noise or coloration that can cling like a halo at these quieter levels.

Later I moved onto selections from Harry Connick Jr., and the Manhattan Jazz Quintet. These are both good, well-engineered recordings but nothing out of the ordinary—basic 16-bit/44kHz compact discs, rather than high-resolution files or LPs. But I am familiar with them, what they do and don’t do. The player was the dCS Puccini, cabling was Audience Au 24SX. The speakers were my own, a well-broken-in pair of ATC SCM20SL compacts, which at 84dB sensitivity wouldn’t have suggested being a great match for the Phaethon. However, my familiarity with these speakers, my own sense of their capabilities only magnified my initial listening impressions of the Phaethon. The amp was clearly extracting more music from a loudspeaker that I thought I knew like the back of my hand. During the lively exchange between acoustic bass and the Branford Marsalis saxophone heard on the Connick track, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” I heard a placement specificity and depth that beckoned me into the recording studio. Similarly, the MJQ’s version of “Autumn Leaves” was no less exacting, with Lew Soloff’s trumpet solo presenting dynamic peaks with enough explosive pop to make me dive for the volume control.

The Phaethon seemed to have a special place reserved in its circuitry for vocals. Reaching beneath the actual notes, it resolved the sense of the artist’s flesh and body—the anchor that supports a singer’s performance. This was ever-present for opera voices from Renee Fleming’s honeyed soprano to a bass-baritone such as Bryn Terfel, who can shake rafters with his chesty overtones. But even on a pop/rock recording such as Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” there stood Stevie Nicks, her vocal effortless with the elasticity of her youth, the smoky rasp in her voice just beginning to tickle the edges of notes [Mobile Fidelity-012]. There was also a spatial clarity in the atmosphere around a singer’s voice, like Connick’s aforementioned “Berkeley Square” performance reproduced as if he were a hologram in physical space. I could imagine him, with feet firmly planted, head leaning into the microphone.

As I listened to Jen Chapin’s cover of “You Haven’t Done Nothin’” from ReVisions [Chesky] I mused at the responsiveness of the Phaethon to impart the texture and tonality of acoustic bass, and the throaty, burbling gravel voice of a baritone sax. This level of transparency went well beyond the general pitch of a note. It encompassed the transient strike across the string—the tonal punch, and the decaying resonances.

As I’ve often observed, the more natural and acoustic-based a recording is, the more a great amp is allowed to flex its muscles and fully strut its stuff—at least in the harmonic, timbral, and textural senses. Combine these capabilities with LP analog playback, and the Phaethon is arguably at its most persuasive. A prime example is Impex Records’ recent and flat-out remarkable reissue of Legrand Jazz [IMP 6028]. Overflowing with an all-star cast of jazz players, this LP illustrated the extent of the Phaethon’s resolution and its facility to dive deep into the timbral and textural complexities of brass and wind. During the romping “Rosetta,” Herbie Mann’s soaring flute and Ben Webster’s growling tenor suddenly materialised in my room lit by micro-dynamic and tiny transient accents. The impression was that of a three-dimensional portrait of each player immersed in the venue’s ambient environment. Even in the diminished reality of my smaller listening space, where scale is attenuated, the truth of the performance was as clear as the bell on Miles Davis’ trumpet. 

Having reviewed some pretty fair integrated amps over the years I should add that the Phaethon most nearly shares a sonic kinship with the Vitus Audio SIA-25 and to a slightly lesser extent, the Pass Labs INT-250 and MBL Corona C51. If memory serves, the Vitus matched the low-level resolving power and full-bloom tonal character of the Phaethon but lagged very slightly in areas of dynamic slam, bass timbre, and stage dimensionality. While the Ypsilon doesn’t quite have the arm-twisting, subterranean low- frequency reserves and steely grip of the mighty Pass it does edge the Pass with a heightened element of timbral naturalism that coddles the ear in its authenticity. It has some of the darker, more sensuous qualities that make the MBL so dreamy but dispenses a soothing sweetness and air in the treble that the Corona can’t quite match. This particularly addictive treble quality was ingrained in the Phaethon—that and its wideband tonal colour are certainly owed at least in part to its tube preamp stage.

But what about the price? Fair enough. Yes, it’s dearly expensive—prohibitively so for most. If it were a product that came up short of a state-of-the-art nomination then I’d have a large bone to pick with this amp. But the Phaethon is more than worthy. Frankly it looks and sounds like money. And if I had the dough I’d have no problem dropping it on a Phaethon. In my years of reviewing, it’s rare to have had such a profound reaction to an integrated amplifier. Ypsilon has created a component that enables a musical connection that’s both intellectually and emotionally rewarding. At the Olympian heights where the Phaethon resides, only a handful of amps challenge it but overall, and in my experience, there are none better.
............ 
Neil Gader

The Phaethon is a star born by the skirts of the Acropolis of Athens. It is a component that reflects the light of music which brightens our spirit as it actually is, an artisan product which topples customary beliefs.
Ahmet Kip

SUMMARY: But by far the most dangerous characteristic of the Phaethon is that it is addictive. In fact, all Ypsilon products pose this threat. If you do not have a ‘pre-power’ obsession and if you dream of owning an integrated amplifier one day which simply serves music with all of its frequencies and one which you will passionately love for many years to come, you should definitely listen to the Phaethon. And oh, if you are ready to face any weakness of your speakers.

The Phaethon is a star born by the skirts of the Acropolis of Athens. It is a component that reflects the light of music which brightens our spirit as it actually is, an artisan product which topples customary beliefs. One of the many products of Demetris Backlavas’s creative intelligence which transforms electronics into art.

  • EXTENDED REVIEW: Greek mythology has inspired Western culture for centuries. The richness of Antique Greek imagination has long nourished the Western world in the field of arts, philosophy, and even science and continues to do so to this day. Ypsilon Electronics, a boutique brand starting to become a legend of its own in ‘high-end’ world, undoubtedly has more entitlement to this rich source than anyone else: their production is based by the skirts of the Acropolis of Athens, right by the mythical Gods. Calling what they do production is an understatement -they are writing their own myths; overturning accustomed trends of the audio world. Ypsilon is a new brand in Turkey. I will share detailed information about the brand and my observations from a recent visit to Ypsilon Electronics in a separate article.
  • Phaethon is an important Greek mythological character. He is the son of Sun God Helios and mortal woman Klymene, and his name means “shining”. Helios drives the sun on a chariot across the sky each day. Phaeton lives with mortals alongside his mother. Unable to persuade his friends that he is the son of a God, Phaeton asks his father permission to drive the chariot with the sun to the sky. This, he believes, is the only way to convince his friends. Although hesitant, Helios yields to his son’s plea and gives the chariot to Phaethon to drive. The task though, is more than Phaethon is physically capable of. The horses are so strong and difficult to handle that Phaethon cannot control them; the sun on the out of control chariot causes enormous fires on earth, turning large parts of Africa into desert. Eventually Zeus interferes and ejects Phaeton out of the chariot with a lightening and throws his burning body into the Eridanos river. After his death, Phaethon becomes Saturn (or Jupiter according to some) in the Auriga constellation.
  • I have started the discussion with mythology because the Phaethon has been born to the marriage of Ypsilon’s 200W monoblocks the Aelius and its legendary pre PST-100 Mk.2. The word Aelius actually means “sun” in ancient Roman and is derived from the sun God Helios’s name. The musical capabilities of this incredible duo, with the exception of its 200W power, have been integrated and incorporated into a single case. As Demetris Backlavas -the brain, creative director and spokesperson of the brand- whispered in my ear, since the musical capability of the Phaeton exceeded that of the Aelius, the monoblocks had to be modified. Simply put, the Phaethon is an amplifier that carries all of the genetic specifications of the Aelius and PST-100 Mk.2. To remind the readers, the Aelius and PST-100 Mk.2 are rated Class A in Stereophile and Michael Fremer cannot sing their praises enough. He has even been quoted as saying, “… the most perfect audio component I have ever heard -or not heard” for PST-100 Mk.2.
  • The Phaethon, is Ypsilon’s first and only integrated amplifier. It was first launched in High End Munich in 2014. It produces 110W into 8 ohms and 160W into 4 ohms in an unusual band width of 11 Hz-75 kHz. Its output impedance is 0.5 ohm. Looking at these values, it is possible to assume that it can drive majority of speakers on the market; but the audio world is like black magic, technical data on paper is just meaningless until listened to (I will be discussing the listening experience with three different speakers shortly).
  • The Phaethon, is a hybrid design using three gain stages, with two valves. There is one 6H30 double triode valve for each channel. This means in each valve, there are two triodes for different driver stages. The first triode feeds into the transformer attenuator (wound in-house) working in 31 steps with a single-ended topology. This is actually the pre-amplifier stage, which in my opinion, is the most striking point. This, in fact, is a revolutionary concept. Demetris Backlavas says that no matter what brand or quality the resistor attenuators are, they cause discontinuity in the sound and make it grainier. He first came up with the idea to control sound level with transformer attenuators with the PST-100 and utilised the same technology for the Phaethon. To control the level of sound with this method causes extraordinary transparency and an impressive sound stage. The second triode in the 6H30 makes up the second gain stage. This gain stage is coupled to an inter-stage transformer driving the MOSFET output stage, which actually is a lower powered version of the topology used in Aelius. This is the second striking point. The Phaethon is a single-ended Class-A performer with the power of push-pull designs, merging the magic of this topology in midrange with a strong bass performance and control.
  • I have gone into circuit design issues in so much detail (disregarding the fact that it may not even be my place to do so) in order to give audiophiles who may have given up on power and control for single-ended class-A designs, some good news. Ypsilon Electronics, seems to have solved the issues and shortcomings of this topology. Listening to their SET 100 Ultimate monoblocks produced with similar principles, but with much more expensive materials and powerful transformers blew my mind and convinced me once again that Ypsilon has come an extraordinarily long way in reaching sound quality closest to live.
  • The Phaeton comes in a wooden case. There is no power cord in the case (it is recommended to use a power cord in audiophile standards). There is no operating manual either. While setting up, we had to phone Demetris Backlavas to ask which input corresponds to what on the screen. There is volume control, input choice, and on-standby buttons and a led screen on the front panel. You can see the input choice and volume level here. When you turn on the unit, ‘phono’ shows as first input but the amplifier does not have a ‘phono’ stage. This, like the others, is a line level input. The main ‘on-off’ switch is under the unit, by the left front foot. It is completely invisible from the outside; a minimal and aesthetic front panel indeed. There are three vertically placed RCA inputs behind the unit and an unbalanced XLR input right below them. The speaker terminals are in the middle and the power input is on the right. All terminals are of the best quality possible. Thanks to its unexpected – judging by its minimal aesthetics – weight of 35.5 kilograms and superior craftsmanship, it is obviously an heirloom. All of Ypsilon components’ aluminium cases are produced in Germany.
  • I listened to the Phaethon with three different speakers: the Tannoy Canterbury GR, the Hansen Prince and the Raidho D3. The Canterbury is an easy speaker to drive for the Phaethon with its 96db sensitivity and impedance not falling below 5 ohms. In fact, I could not go above level 10 of its 31 level volume control in a 60 square meter room. The Raidho D3 and the Hansen Prince are not easy speakers to drive. It was not possible to go above level 12 with neither of them in a 30 square meter room.
  • Not to be fooled by its elegant looks, the Phaethon has impressive driving power. Its performance with the Hansen Prince especially is surprising, given how complicated these speakers are, not the kind that can be driven by any amplifier. Obviously by driving, I do not mean creating sound -I mean playing and making sure every frequency is accounted for, that there is a strong bass performance, incredible speed and impressive dynamics. There is a strong power within this minimal and elegant case that surpasses itself. This is not all: on one hand, it gives exquisite detail over the stage and on the other, it leaves voids almost large enough for you to wander in, with no overlay from any instrument.
  • Listening to the Phaethon with three completely different speakers, its real capability became more obvious. The Canterbury plays close up microphone recordings near the front surface of the speakers, in fact bringing them forward slightly. It is actually possible to create different stage performances and different tonal balances with the Canterburys by moving them closer or apart, or toeing in our out slightly. Regardless, their performance does not place the music way behind the speakers. Even if the depth they provide is very close to reality, their stage actually elongates the sound inside the room (which I actually personally prefer). The Phaeton especially brings out this characteristic of the Canterbury. In orchestral recordings with close up microphone, the near-stage instruments on the right and left jump into the room, but the cymbals crash meters behind. The vocals are like statues in flesh. Even the most complicated trebles are not cluttered, the extending frequencies from the cymbals float in the air. Lower frequencies are as controlled as they go deep.
  • The Hansen Prince has a completely different performance and a stage that goes way back. Vocals that appear in the same level as the Canterbrys are about a meter or more behind and the instruments go deeper beyond that. The bass articulation is excellent, low frequencies rattle along perfectly (in fact, maybe slightly more than necessary). The Canterbury extends the lower frequencies towards the room, its blooming effect is strong. On the other hand, with the Hansen, all the lower frequencies are sharply where they need to be, but the blooming effect is weak. The trebles are crystal clear and dynamic.
  • The Raidho D3 has a world of its own. It is a low decibel design with quite steady impedance. Even if it is not as difficult as the Hansen Prince, it also is not for every amplifier to drive. Raidho D3 is no problem for Phaethon. The bass is so strong, difficult to contain in a 30 square meter room. They are extremely fast speakers, many amplifiers may not be equally fast and may muddle the sound, but I did not witness the slightest blurriness in even the most complicated passages. The vocals do not come as much to the surface as with the Tannoys, but they are not thrown back a lot either. The dimension extends forward and back. The stage is very wide and high (the Canterburys’ stage is also very wide, but in height, the Raidho seems a touch more successful; so much so that and I had to re position the Canterburys). Even in the lowest volume levels, the bass is where it should be and is heard in proportion. The trebles seemed a tad excessive and felt as if buzzing in my ears, but the pair I had been listening to were new speakers, not yet ‘burnt in’ and I do not want to make any misleading comments, so will not comment on high frequencies for now. As with the D3, ‘burn in’ period of ribbon tweeters are quite long, so would be better to listen again in a few months and comment then. When I listened to the same speakers in Munich High End, they did not give me that feeling.
  • I was able to make another interesting comparison: I also listened to the Raidho D3 with the PST-100 Mk.2-Aelius combination. To be fair, I did not observe a noticeable difference from the musicality point of view. Raidhos relaxed a bit more, which naturally affected the stage and detail positively. I would expect the Aelius to perform with bigger authority in a larger room. Backlavas had claimed in Athens for the Phaeton, “99% of the Aelius, with less power, with the same topology of pre stage as PSt-100 Mk.2”, he was not wrong at all. In fact, I could add that the Phaethon can be a better choice for high sensitivity speakers like the Canterburys.
  • The Phaethon laid bare all the characteristics of three speakers with completely different performances, with their virtues and sins. When I look back on what I have written, it felt like I reviewed the three different speakers rather than the Phaethon. This is actually positive, because the Phaethon is an integrated amplifier that does not have any audible character, is very dynamic, transparent in the true meaning of the word and one that performs without interfering with the music. Its controlled bass performance is of a quality that can set example to many amplifiers and it can go way deeper than its size may suggest. It is obvious that Demetris Backlavas, has not only toppled the accustomed audio trends but also the myth of Phaethon who could not control the wild horses of the sun chariot. 
  • The extraordinary staging ability, relaying the actual spaces between the instruments, bringing out the dynamic contrasts with an exciting authority, emotion and musicality that are customary to all Ypsilon products, also exist in Phaethon. Coming to the most important issue for me, in portraying the true timbres of instruments, I believe only a few products can challenge the Phaethon (and any other Ypsilon product that I have listened to so far).
  • Time for a few negatives: Firstly, there is need for a very good power cord. I have used Sablon Audio’s Corona Reserva for the majority of listening sessions in my home. I witnessed a striking difference when I listened to a different system with StageIII Kraken. Corona Reserva is a very good cable for its price but the Kraken is clearly a different animal. It is also priced accordingly, at more than four times that of the Reserva (on the other hand, probably related to the synergy created by the fact that the entire cabling at my home is Sablon Audio, I do not hear most of the weaknesses against Kraken with my own system). Phaeton needs 600 hours to ‘burn in’. The bright trebles and slightly strained lower frequencies may upset you during the first 50 hours, but after 200 hours, things start to fall in place and continue to get better thereafter. It is best to leave it in standby mode, it takes quite a bit of time to warm up and show its true performance. There is also the issue of price. It is in a price category which is quite high for a lot of people, but after having witnessed its performance it would be shame to call it expensive. The main issue is to do away with ‘pre-power’ prejudice. In fact, there is no reason why a well designed integrated amplifier should perform worse than a ‘pre-power’ combination. In addition, it also eliminates the interconnect effects and costs. But by far the most dangerous characteristic of the Phaethon is that it is addictive. In fact, all Ypsilon products pose this threat. If you do not have a ‘pre-power’ obsession and if you dream of owning an integrated amplifier one day which simply serves music with all of its frequencies and one which you will passionately love for many years to come, you should definitely listen to the Phaethon. And oh, if you are ready to face any weakness of your speakers.
  • The Phaethon is a star born by the skirts of the Acropolis of Athens. It is a component that reflects the light of music which brightens our spirit as it actually is, an artisan product which topples customary beliefs. One of the many products of Demetris Backlavas’s creative intelligence which transforms electronics into art.
  • PS: I am aware that I have written a rather technical review where I have not discussed music at all. Nevertheless, I did not want to miss this chance when I got the opportunity of listening to the same amplifier with different speakers. If I started discussing albums, it would be a very long article. I will make up for this in my article about the review of Ypsilon CD player
  • ......... Ahmet Kip
(Note: MkI review since replaced by newer MkII version) - The Aelius is yet another spectacular sonic and technological achievement from Ypsilon Electronics. I remain impressed by everything they do.
Michael Fremer - Mar 29, 2013 

REVIEW SUMMARY: "..... as a graceful, gentle, infinitesimal rounding of transients and sculpting of images that produced mesmerising three-dimensionality with zero negative consequences. It just sounded right. Instrumental attacks became alarmingly urgent and precise, but never clinical or etched. Sustain was generous and decays were effervescent, fading into pitch-dark backdrops. The Aelius was very quiet and super-transparent, and its micro-dynamic performance was as good as I've heard".

"The amplifier's proficient microdynamic expression, combined with its taut rhythm'n'pacing abilities, proved ideal..... and when he goes for the very top, where the "pingy" notes are, the Ypsilons fully fleshed them out. The sound of the hammer striking the strings, the excitation of the instrument's metal frame and the high-frequency wooden resonance of the soundboard were accurately reproduced in terms of time, space, tonality, and texture—not too hard, not too soft. If you've ever plinked those upper keys yourself, you'd recognise how right they sounded as reproduced by these amps—not that the rest of the piano sounded any less convincing."

"The overall sonic perspective produced by the Aelius was more forward than that of the D'Agostino Momentum or the darTZeel NHB-458 or the Musical Fidelity Titan—not in-my-face, but definitely more upfront. Yet compared to the darTZeels', the Ypsilons' images were somewhat more gracefully rounded, more three-dimensional, and texturally more supple.Vocal and instrumental timbres also were spot on, thanks to the Aelius's robust, full-bodied midrange. Overall, the amp's presentation of this sonic spectacular was tonally, spatially, dynamically, and rhythmically mesmerising, and its transient purity and transparency only added to my pleasure".

ETENDED REVIEW: I knew nothing of Ypsilon when I first saw its products in a room at an overseas audio show. Even though the speakers in this system were complete unknowns, I was convinced that it was the electronics that were responsible for the magical balance of what I was hearing. That was confirmed when I reviewed the VPS-100 phono preamplifier in August 2009 and PST-100 Mk.II preamplifier in July 2011.

Greek austerity ends at the factory door of Ypsilon Electronics. The luxury components designed and manufactured within are innovative, high-performance, visually elegant, and expensive. They're aimed at audio enthusiasts, mostly outside Greece, who can afford to indulge themselves. Obviously, no Greek would object—the nation's economy, and those employed by Ypsilon, can only benefit from this small company's success, however minor the contribution.

Ypsilon's Aelius monoblocks cost NZ$66,995/pair (incl GST). That's a lot of money, but compared to some really expensive gear, including the Wilson Alexandria XLF speakers ($200,000/pair) and Ypsilon's own SET 100 Ultimate amplifiers (US$125,000/pair excl tax), the Aelius may be, for some, as Ypsilon's slogan suggests, "untouchable . . . but not unreachable."

Tube-rectified tube input, MOSFET output

The Aelius is moderately large and blocky; it measures 16.6" square by 9" tall and weighs 99 lbs. It's specified as outputting 200W into 8 ohms, 380W into 4 ohms, or 500W into 2 ohms, with the first 60W in pure class-A. Its tastefully understated satiny finish, sculpted front accent, and blue LED slit match the looks of the rest of the Ypsilon line.

Electrical engineer Demetris Backlavas has designed a circuit for the Aelius that has only two gain stages and almost no passive components in the signal path. The single-ended class-A tubed input stage uses a single C3g pentode tube (rectification for this stage is supplied by another tube) transformer-coupled to the push-pull output stage of six matched pairs of N-channel polarity MOSFETs. There are no source resistors in the circuit.

An interstage transformer is unusual in a solid-state or hybrid amplifier; one is used here as a "perfect" phase splitter for the Aelius's push-pull operation, and as a step-down transformer to greatly lower the input tube's impedance to drive the capacitance of the output MOSFETs. Though the phase is split and the amp is push-pull, it's really two single-ended amplifiers with six transistors driving the plus terminal and six driving the minus terminal—a very unusual circuit.

I visited Ypsilon while in Athens a few years ago. One afternoon, using an amplifier he was designing, Backlavas demonstrated the significant sonic differences produced by swapping out various capacitors, transformer core materials, and other components. The guy is steeped in theory but, ultimately, guided by his ears. Like a great chef, he knows how to obtain and mix the best ingredients to produce a sublime dish.

Backlavas points out that, without the transformer, an additional one or two active stages would have been needed to split the phase and lower the impedance and that those additional stages would reduce the amp's notable transparency and signal purity. Of course, transformers have their own problems, and building one with a sufficiently wide bandwidth (in this case, 10Hz–70kHz) is both difficult and necessary: the transformer's bandwidth defines the amplifier's bandwidth.

Backlavas says that while the Aelius's circuit is in some ways similar to the Circlotron configuration used in some output-transformerless (OTL) tube amps, it is not a true Circlotron. Unlike the Circlotron's unity-gain output, the Aelius's output is greater than unity gain. The result, Backlavas claims, is an amplifier with the sonic purity of a single-ended design, with push-pull power sufficient to drive virtually any loudspeaker.

Easy Connections

The Aelius's flat rear panel made all connections easy. Each of the "pure copper and gold-plated" speaker terminals has a large, round, screw-in knob of frosted plastic. These knobs are big enough to produce enough torque for a secure fit with even the stiffest cable when tightened by hand, and there's enough space between them to accept spades of any size, as well as banana plugs. Don't diminish the importance of this aspect of amplifier design—there's nothing more annoying than stupidly designed and/or placed terminals that seem to have been created by people who have never actually connected a speaker cable to an amplifier. Pay attention to this when you shop.

There are both single-ended RCA and balanced XLR inputs, chosen with an adjacent switch. Also on the rear panel is a handy ground lift switch for thwarting ground loops; this disconnects the ground circuit from the chassis ground. As with all Ypsilon products I've reviewed, the On/Off switch is on the rear.

As Supplied

Ypsilon specifies for the Aelius new old stock (NOS) of the military-grade Siemens C3g tube, which has eight pins, a metal sleeve, and a minimum lifespan of 10,000 hours. Unbeknownst to me, my review samples had been fitted with a Russian-made Electro-Harmonix 6C45PiEH tube, each with nine gold pins, that had been soldered into circular eight-pin adapter plates. (More below about why the swap was made.) I didn't discover this until after a month or so of listening, during which time I was also reviewing the Dan D'Agostino Momentum monoblocks, and using as references darTZeel's big NHB-458 monoblocks.

With the 6C45PiEH tube, the Aelius produced a warm, voluptuous, somewhat darkly "tubey" sound that gave little hint of its solid-state MOSFET output (though MOSFETs are reputed to have a warmer, softer sound than bipolar devices). Yet despite the voluminous soundstage and generous bloom, instrumental attacks were precise and transients were cleanly delineated through much of the audio band, though the bass was less than taut, and not as nimble and as well controlled as I like it—and as I know the Wilson Alexandria XLFs are capable of producing.

Driving the very sensitive XLFs, the Aelius was probably running in class-A all the time, even when producing high (sometimes ridiculously high) SPLs in my moderately sized room. Considering the Aelius's class-A operation, zero feedback, and two-stage simplicity, it produced less transparency, and less of a direct, "straight-through" sound, than I'd expected. Nor, despite the use of tubes, did it produce the uncanny tonal neutrality I've come to expect from Ypsilon electronics.

My family visits during the holidays, and both of my sisters and my brother-in-law usually indulge me by spending 10 minutes or so listening to "what's going on down there" in my basement listening room. This time, the three of them sat there for well over an hour, and had to be prodded into going back upstairs. They sat through a side of Mel Tormé and Friends: Recorded Live at Marty's, New York City (2 LPs, Finesse W2X37484), and all of side 2 of the Beatles' Abbey Road. Unprecedented! What kept them sitting? The speakers, of course, but as driven by the Aeliuses, the width and depth of the Wilsons' soundstage was unusually enormous and enveloping—overwhelming, actually, and almost in our laps. Add a mesmerising ease of sound that produced both reasonably good resolution of detail and billowy amounts of air and spaciousness, and it made for a very "wow" experience for all of us. The Mel Tormé record, in particular, was as "you are there" live as I've ever heard it.

Still, to my more experienced and critical ear the sound was overripe, somewhat diffuse, and tended toward softness, both at the very bottom and in the lower midrange, despite the latter's most attractive harmonic richness and the overall sound's uncanny textural verisimilitude.

The Aeliuses reproduced full-bodied, woody-sounding pianos from good recordings of solo pianos, but the attack cheated on the soft, diffuse, romantic side—too soft to correctly reproduce the attack of either startling and appropriately hard fortissimos or delicate yet well-focused pianissimos, not to mention all the dynamic gradations in between. Of course, the sound was always pleasing, but in the way that some audiophiles tend to romanticise how live music actually sounds.

It took me decades to acquire a system capable of cleanly and accurately delineating the honky-tonk piano of Nicky Hopkins (not Ian Stewart) in "Rocks Off," from the Rolling Stones' raucous Exile on Main Street (LP)—not to mention a system capable of separating out most of the parts from what most critics (with crappy systems) declared, in the early '70s, was "total sonic murk"—not that the proper playback of that particular album was my long-term goal!

Clearly hearing instruments and voices heretofore buried in the mix has always been among the more revelatory experiences of a worthwhile system upgrade, though it's not as wondrous as when a new component increases the listener's understanding of the music. The softness of that piano part clearly demonstrated the general softness of the Ypsilons' sound, particularly in the lower mids.

Switching to the admittedly more expensive D'Agostino Momentums (US$55,000/pair excl tax), or to the hideously more expensive darTZeel NHB-458s (US$150,000/pair eco tax), revealed—at least in my system—not only the Aelius's transient softness, but a dab of Vaseline on its sonic lens. This made everything sound "good," but robbed the greatness from recordings that truly were. Transparency, in particular, suffered.

Normally, I would have simply reviewed the amps as delivered, but given that these samples strayed from the preternaturally neutral, natural sound produced by every other Ypsilon product I've reviewed or heard at audio shows, I thought it best to contact the designer. Plus, last year, when a pair of preproduction Aeliuses were on the East Coast for some reason, Backlavas had asked if I'd like to hear them. I'd said I did, but that I wouldn't comment on what I heard or didn't hear.

The review samples did not sound at all like the preproduction pair. As I recall, Backlavas did tell me that for his first production run he was changing the material of the Aelius's transformer core, among other things, which would affect the sound, but the differences in sound between the two pairs of amps were so big that I called him.

After inquiring about the overall softness, and asking if that was what I was supposed to be hearing, I was told to expect another pair of input tubes. When the box arrived, I wasn't surprised to find in it a pair of C3g tubes, as specified in the instruction manual. But when I removed the amplifiers' ornately machined top plates, I was surprised to find, inside each, a 6C45PiEH instead of a C3g.

At the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, I asked Backlavas what was going on. It turned out to be a combination of designer second-guessing and bureaucratic bullshit. Since 2006, the European Union's RoHS regulations (which mandate that solder be lead free but not CRTs—a much greater source of lead contamination, you can be sure) require documentation proving that no part of a new electronic component contains hazardous metals. This essentially outlawed the use of NOS vacuum tubes, of which the C3g is but one of many models, because no documentation exists that can prove their compliance with the regulations. While many high-performance audio manufacturers use NOS tubes anyway and ship to EU countries, Ypsilon was concerned about this and sought an alternative, currently manufactured tube. The 6C45PiEH proved a good choice that produced "interesting" results, Backlavas told me, adding that the tube "has midrange energy and body but it's darker and warmer."

Currently, Ypsilon ships to EU countries Aeliuses equipped with 6C45s. More significant, the amps are manufactured with the 6C45 tube-socket base, making them incompatible with the C3g (which Ypsilon also uses in their VPS-100 phono and PST-100 line preamplifiers). Amps shipped to the US are fitted with the C3g base and are normally shipped with that tube, which Backlavas admits has "greater openness and transparency." However, he thinks which tube sounds best will depend on the system the Aelius is used in. He assumed that I'd be reviewing his amps with the less lush-sounding Wilson MAXX 3s, and so shipped the review samples equipped with 6C45s. So glad I asked!

When I'd replaced the input tubes with the C3gs and spent some time listening, I understood Backlavas's tube rolling—though I think it was an unnecessary defensive posture, even had I been listening through the MAXX 3s.

Clean and Direct

With the C3g tubes in place, and after about an hour's warm-up (both before and after the tube swap, I left the amps on continually), I sat down and listened. At first, they sounded like completely different amplifiers; later, the Aeliuses revealed themselves to be the same amps, but their soft and fluffy gatekeeper had gotten out of the way. The C3g tightened the screws on the musical framework, producing a punchier, more direct, more insistent sound. Little remained of those soft billows.

The Aelius's solid-state-ness now asserted itself more intensely, particularly on the bottom, where excess bloom gave way to grip and punch. The amps came rhythmically alive and physically assertive in a most pleasing and immediate way, yet in no way was the sound clinical or harmonically bleached.

I didn't hear the effect of the C3g as an identifiable "tubeyness" but rather as a graceful, gentle, infinitesimal rounding of transients and sculpting of images that produced mesmerising three-dimensionality with zero negative consequences. It just sounded right. Instrumental attacks became alarmingly urgent and precise, but never clinical or etched. Sustain was still generous—though not like before, when it was too much—and decays were effervescent, fading into pitch-dark backdrops. The Aelius was very quiet and super-transparent, and its microdynamic performance was as good as I've heard.

Like the Ypsilon VPS-100 phono preamp, which sounds like neither solid-state nor tubes, the Aeliuses, fitted with the same tube, sounded likewise: neither warm and fuzzy nor cool and clinical, but with a distinctly direct and upfront sound that perhaps had influenced the designer's decision to fit the amps with the 6C45 tube.

If Dan D'Agostino's Momentum amps were liquid and demanded an almost feminine listening melt, the Aelius amps produced the opposite sensation: a bracing masculine steeling and grip, a rush of adrenaline vs the Momentums' flood of endorphins.

A test pressing of Analogue Productions' upcoming vinyl reissue of Ray Brown's Soular Energy (it was reissued in 2002 on two LPs by Pure Audiophile, and before that in a Super Analogue edition from King Records Japan) produced exceptional clarity, hair-raising speed and transparency, and a profusion of accurate tonal colors from Ray Brown's double bass, Gene Harris's piano, and Gerryck King's drums, the cymbals being particularly spotlit (in a good way). The amplifier's proficient microdynamic expression, combined with its taut rhythm'n'pacing abilities, proved ideal for this trio recording. Harris is all over the keyboard in "Cry Me a River," and when he goes for the very top, where the "pingy" notes are, the Ypsilons fully fleshed them out. The sound of the hammer striking the strings, the excitation of the instrument's metal frame and the high-frequency wooden resonance of the soundboard were accurately reproduced in terms of time, space, tonality, and texture—not too hard, not too soft. If you've ever plinked those upper keys yourself, you'd recognise how right they sounded as reproduced by these amps—not that the rest of the piano sounded any less convincing.

Guitarist Grant Green's version of "My Favourite Things," from his The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark, recorded by Rudy Van Gelder (2 CDs, Blue Note CDP 8 57194 2), produced a different sonic picture. There was definitely greater emphasis of the transient pluck and less on the three-dimensional aura around each pluck. As I wrote in the Momentum review, "A faster, more clinical-sounding amp might emphasise the transient at the expense of the aura; a slower, softer-sounding one might get the aura but fail to cleanly delineate it. Given that choice, I'd go for clinical over mush. . . ."

The Aelius with C3g tube definitely sounded more clinical than the Momentum (which produced more relaxed transients). I suspect that with the other input tube the Aelius would have properly reproduced the aura around Green's guitar, but would have failed to delineate it cleanly in space, and would have softened the transient. That's why I thought the C3g tube produced better sound with my system. I prefer correct, clean attacks, and that's something at which the c3G-equipped Aelius excelled, without sounding clinical or hard—unless the recording itself did.

Closer to the Action

The overall sonic perspective produced by the Aelius was more forward than that of the D'Agostino Momentum or the darTZeel NHB-458 or the Musical Fidelity Titan—not in-my-face, but definitely more upfront. Yet compared to the darTZeels', the Ypsilons' images were somewhat more gracefully rounded, more three-dimensional, and texturally more supple.

I'm always happy to play Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra's recording of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (LP, UK Decca SET 609-11), to hear how a system handles space. This recording, engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson, produces an enormous, well-delineated space and an exquisitely well-focused orchestral picture. The solo vocalists are also well back in space on the stage, as you'd hear in concert, and superbly focused and solidly three-dimensional, surrounded by a cushion of natural reverberation. If you're trying to stop someone in his or her tracks with music, it's a can't-miss record.

After a short opening fanfare (which, years later, Charles Strouse stole for the opening of Bye Bye Birdie) that highlights the brass and percussion, there's a long solo for upright piano, the piano in the distance, on the right. The Aelius excelled at reproducing the lesser-quality piano's somewhat tinny tonality, but pushed the instrument farther forward than usual. This was more than made up for by the well-focused image of the piano and the transient clarity of individual notes. When the chorus unexpectedly enters at center stage, their "Dah-doo-dahs" hovering in space, they, too, appeared farther forward than usual. (In this opening sequence of Gershwin's opera, which includes "Summertime," you can also hear where Peter Knight got his ideas for the orchestral arrangements he wrote for the Moody Blues' Days of Future Past, and even elements of Bernstein's West Side Story.)

Vocal and instrumental timbres also were spot on, thanks to the Aelius's robust, full-bodied midrange. Overall, the amp's presentation of this sonic spectacular was tonally, spatially, dynamically, and rhythmically mesmerising, and its transient purity and transparency only added to my pleasure. However, if the other components in your system exhibit even a hint of hardness, the Aelius with C3g tubes will accentuate it.

Norah Jones's The Vinyl Collection (7 LPs, Blue Note/Analogue Productions AAPP NJBOX 33) demonstrated the Ypsilon's superb midrange palpability. These records, remastered by Kevin Gray and pressed at QRP, are so quiet, their sound so velvety, that it seems as if you're listening on the other side of the mike, hearing Jones's voice before it's captured.

The Aeliuses put Jones's voice dramatically up front, tightly focused in three dimensions and as texturally full-bodied as it needs to be to sound real. Getting that means that there can be no audible leading edges to transients, no lower-midrange emphasis that might add a chesty quality, no sustain anything less than generous, no decay into black anything less than ideal. Jones whistles in "Little Room," and through the Ypsilons I'd swear she was whistling in my room. Not an easy illusion to create.

Switching to the darTZeels produced different sonic pleasures. The perspective was a bit less forward, the overall picture somewhat more relaxed. Images were somewhat less intensely focused, yet the articulation of transients was more precise, and there was a greater sense of the space around Jones's voice—as well as around Grant Green's guitar in The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark.

Unique Circuit, Unique Sound

The Ypsilon Aelius, the D'Agostino Momentum, the darTZeel NHB-458, the Musical Fidelity Titan—all accomplished amplifiers, each with a different sound. Which is "correct"?

In the world of recorded sound and complex combinations of gear, there's no such thing as the "correct" sound. Certainly, some amplifiers are wrong, producing gross tonal colorations, transient artifacts, glaze, grain, glare, smear, etc. But at the level of the models I've just listed, none of those should be present, and none are.

The problem with absolutism in reproduced sound is that if you judge a component using your 20 favorite recordings, you're judging it against those recordings' tonal balances, and you end up in a maddening sonic feedback loop. That's why, in addition to my favourites, I include in my listening dozens of unfamiliar recordings, plus some that I know sound bad.

At an audio show a few years back, I'd just finished listening, through Krell amps and speakers, to a wide variety of sonically reliable LP tracks that I'd previously recorded to CD and that I'd already heard through dozens, if not hundreds, of good systems. They sounded superb. A guy walked in and asked to hear his favorite recording, an opera. Within a few bars, it was obvious that this recording was awful: bright, glazed, hard, and spatially compressed. This was not the inherent sound of those components in that room. Yet this was the single recording with which he gauged a system's performance. He stopped the disc, declared the sound in the room "awful," left, then spent the rest of the show telling everyone how bad the sound in Krell's room was. But what was clearly awful was his CD.

The Ypsilon Aelius's sonic character, like that of the D'Agostino Momentum, was obvious early on, but so fully realised from top to bottom as to be unnoticeable after a short period of acclimatisation. That left only the enjoyment produced by an amplifier that is unique in both design and sound. The Aelius's top-to-bottom rhythmic agility may be in a class of its own. Its bottom end was nimble, clean, and well extended, and did the best job of controlling the woofers of the Wilson Alexandria XLFs of any amplifier that's been here since those speakers arrived, though the darTZeel NHB-485 was close enough. The D'Agostino Momentum was somewhat softer, the Musical Fidelity Titan softer yet.

With the C3g tube, the Aelius's reproduction of the highs was as fast, clean, extended, and assertive as its reproduction of the rest of the audio band. It all added up to a rhythmically spectacular amplifier that was like a shot of adrenaline. That might not appeal to the Lincoln Town Car sound crowd, but definitely will to those who like to press the pedal to the metal, even when listening to chamber music. On second thought, maybe with the alternate input tube, the limo crowd might like it too. The great thing is, if you're in America, you have freedom of choice, and with it, Two! Two! Two amps in one!

Conclusions

Ater installing the stock C3g tubes, it took me a while to warm up to the Ypsilon Aelius monoblocks. But with the tubes originally supplied, the sound was too warm (though perhaps not for you). With the C3gs, the Aeliuses were definitely not too warm. Coming from the polar-opposite D'Agostino Momentums required a period of adjustment—but not because the Aeliuses were too bright, too fast, or too anything. Their sound was simply too different—but equally valid.

The Aelius amps were just right if you like a tight, fast, nimble top-to-bottom ride, if you like sounds so transparent it's almost alarming, convincingly yet not analytically precise transients, and three-dimensional imaging—all without paying the high price of too-sharply-defined edges or a clinical, soulless, harmonically bleached sound.

The Aelius is yet another spectacular sonic and technological achievement from Ypsilon Electronics. I remain impressed by everything they do.
…….Michael Fremer

(Note: Aelius MkI review - since replaced by MkII version) - I was very tempted to hold on to them and make them my new reference. That would have been a radical jump from my Soulution 710 Stereo Amp. Yes, they're that good
Marshall Nack - Sept/Oct 2014

REVIEW SUMMARY: "ever go shopping for a winter scarf? I like to test the "hand" of each offering, noting quality and price. The acrylic one would do the job, but it doesn't feel so nice. How about the wool or the cashmere blend? Silk, maybe? Any one of these materials would do the job and each has its own "hand". Don't we go through the same process with components? In this analogy, the Ypsilon Aelius Mono Amps are the equivalent of the finest silk-cashmere blend. They have the nap of lux on your ear; their sound feels good there".

"Whether the Aelius was paired with the matching PST 100 or my Trinity Preamp, the verdict was the same. These products are communication specialists. Everybody enjoyed them".

"I was very tempted to hold on to them and make them my new reference. That would have been a radical jump from my Soulution 710 Stereo Amp. Yes, they're that good,"

EXTENDED REVIEW: I'm in a smallish, wood paneled, recital hall. Perhaps it was someone's library, now re-purposed for concertizing? Mezzo-soprano Ann Sofie von Otter is telling us little stories in song. The sound is warm and inviting, the feel of the space is close.

Oh, snap out of it—I'm in my listening room, of course, and it's just another session at Nack Labs. I just installed the Ypsilon Aelius monoblocks; the matching PST 100 Mk. II Preamp is up stream and we are listening to Mots d'Amour (DG 471 331-2). The Ypsilon pair conjured this potent magic, transcending each individual component's contribution. The math in this case is something like one + one = three.

From whispers to near shouts, the system scaled realistically. Dynamic transitions were uncommonly convincing. I hasten to add this display is from an unlikely source—simply a mezzo-soprano with piano accompaniment on an average Red Book CD, nothing audiophile. For such small forces—why do you need such big, expensive boxes and so much horsepower (220 watts/8 ohms)?

If you've ever been proximate to a professional opera singer, you`ll know why. You won't have to get out the SPL meter to register her dynamic range.

And it really does show off the Aelius' range, which traveled right along with Ann Sofie. When her voice changes, you can rest assured it is generated by her efforts at vocal production, not mechanical strain or discontinuity generated by the amps. This occurs in a totally believable way.

On the flip side, the Aelius revealed in detail the many little devices she employs to communicate her interpretation. She is continuously expressive: there's not a wasted note or a dull moment. This is what makes her great.

I can't help contrasting this to Brazil, a CD I purchased recently featuring Stacey Kent as guest vocalist on a couple of tracks. Ms. Kent sings in a breathy whisper. There is no dynamic range in her flat, affectless, monotone; nor is there an attempt an interpretation. She is popularly esteemed and has found a niche among the audiophile crowd. My disappointment was deep—the attraction totally escapes me.

The Ypsilon Signature

Admittedly, what Ann Sofie is communicating are aspects of the performance best heard on gear of the caliber of the Aelius. It won't come through with most tube gear. Solid-state? Fuhgeddaboudit.

This is a subset of resolution, but not one many designers are attuned to. Indulge me for a moment, please. We all know a components voice is like a window into the designer's taste. Where one engineer may seek a clean, neutral, powerful sound, another may be after classic tube sound. The possibilities are expansive, but in all cases, the designer goes through an iterative process, refining circuits and parts until he hits upon the one that speaks to him.

The folks at Ypsilon have their ears tuned for the intimate, intensely human details of a performance, qualities that are often found in classic Japanese gear like Audio Note Japan. Both brands employ tubes, transformers and uncommon circuit design to bring out these "unspoken aspects of the performance."

They are a particular specialty of the Ypsilon sound. I'm not going to delve deeply into these soft virtues, as I'll just be repeating what I wrote recently in my PST-100 review. In brief, what these brands bring to the table is:

Wholly satisfying timbres
Proper dynamic relationships
Enhanced musical flow
Your mind goes "Ah" when it hears this. Timbres especially are complex with an accent on beauty. Perhaps they are a bit more lush and beautiful than heard live. 

Rounding out the Picture

The portrait of the Aelius I've drawn so far shows off its expertise in the soft virtues. Indeed, that is this machine's forte. (Actually, that is Ypsilon's forte.) But there's more. Time for another musical example.

I'm a fan of the Count. The trouble is he was so popular and prolific, in and out of the recording studios often, that pruning is necessary to sort the wheat from the chafe. I came across this Verve LP from 1964 by happenstance and it's a good one, easily beating the many Pablo LPs on people's lists. Plus it's available for a song.

What a band! This is the kind of playing that only gels after years on the road together. This isn't a pretty recording—I'm sure that's not what Basie wanted—and just by looking at the grooves you can tell Basie Land (Verve V6-8597) is cut hot. The brass tutti on this LP snap and sizzle. They are so hot, they can sound raw and unvarnished. However, there's a difference between these jagged brass rim effects and the distortion that an audio component produces when it can't handle signal peaks.

Those brass tutti sound like they're supposed to through the Aelius.

Macro dynamic volleys test the limits of my associated components. This was really surprising—those macros did not give up any heft compared to the Soulution 710 or the Audionet AMP monos. (Although they couldn't match the seismic shocks generated by the Tenor 175S Stereo, the CH Precision A1 in mono, or the Audionet MAX monos.)

Nor did it fall short in detail retrieval—the amount of information presented is right up there, as well. Ditto for the soundstage, which is highly dimensional and wall to wall, seamless across the width and layered in depth.

The Count and his men are full size and the brass instruments are hard left/right, located in the speakers. Alternating with the slam of the tutti are occasional soft, almost caressing, trumpet and sax solos, with Basie's piano straight down the middle sounding rather delicate. The Aelius can morph like that. It can vary style to suit whatever comes along and will not force the music into bombast.

Tonal Description

This is a great LP to demo macro prowess and to show off how well the Aelius maneuvers around sharp corners. Transients are fast moving, although with a soft edge, while decays lengthened moderately. The midrange presents a "see into" clarity that revealed tons of inner life; the bass is well represented, but could be tighter and have more texture; the treble is sweet and extended. Overall, the frequency sweep is smooth, with lots of body and flesh, and a tad warm.

A Well-behaved Soundstage

When I reviewed the PST 100, I was struck by its soundstage. It is remarkably well-behaved—it never does anything offensive. So it is with the Aelius.

There are no sharp image borders—there is no sharp anything. The stage has a soft quality and is a bit laid back. Images are diffuse with lots of air around them, defined more by timbre than by precise borders. It does not POP like some of the powerful solid-state amps I've had in lately. In this manner, the Aelius insures it will never sound harsh or abrasive.

The stage forms at the speakers, recedes from that point and does not budge. Regardless of the musical content, the front line does not advance forward from the plane of the speakers. This is how sound behaves in large spaces like rear parquet or first tier at Carnegie Hall, an ideal setting for classical music listening.

In general, those powerful solid-state amps move your perspective closer, more like mid-parquet at Carnegie. And they tend to jiggle the soundstage back and forth in tandem with the SPL or frequency. That is, it comes forward when it gets loud or has a lot of treble content.

Ancillary System: the PST 100 Mk II Preamp

Back when this review project was in the discussion phase, the importer decided to send both the Ypsilon amp and preamp and requested separate reviews. The PST 100 Preamp came first and I had time to get acquainted. It brought back fond memories of the VPS 100 phono stage I reviewed a while ago. These components make a lasting impression—they don't sound like the rest of the pack.

I had one apprehension going into this review: those two preamps had the same voicing, including some tubey colorations. Would the Aelius share that and, if so, would it compound, pushing over the edge into euphony?

That didn't happen, because the Aelius hews closer to center on the dial than the two preamps. The Ypsilon signature is more moderate. Panel mate Sheldon summed it up well: the Aelius is more of a reporter than a colorist/interpreter.

More Associated Equipment: CH Precision

For a while I had the CH Precision D1 SACD Player and C1 DAC/Pre as a two-box digital source fronting the Ypsilon PST 100 Preamp and Aelius monoblocks. WOW! This is the incredible teleportation machine I described at the top of this review. There is an awful lot of internet buzz about the CH front-end—many people think it's the ultimate. I could hear why. This system represents a benchmark in my audio odyssey.

That old stereo magic happened often now. The myth is it recreates the live event—but who knows? It is not the same as the teleportation created by SET gear, like Audio Note Japan. SET gear has even more intimacy and places you up close and personal with the musicians, like they are playing in your room, just for you. Magical, yes.

Cosmetics and Operation

Each Aelius is a large chunk of brushed aluminum weighing 100lbs. The chassis is fabricated in Germany and Italy. Everything else is made and assembled in-house in Greece.

The face plate is adorned with the Ypsilon logo engraved in the lower right corner, just like the preamp and phono. The logo appears again, laser cut into the top plate—a distinctive touch. Louvered heat sinks along the sides and top provide dissipation of the considerable warmth generated. The rear panel has the expected functional provisions and nothing more. The Aelius is understated, elegant and utilitarian; it looks different from most amps.

Installation is a snap. Place them on a good amp stand, allowing for air circulation, and plug them into the wall or a passive distributor strip. (At this performance level active conditioning should be avoided.) Set the XLR/RCA input switch on the back and push the old-fashioned On/Off rocker switch.

The blue power bar in front lights up and that's it. Wait 30 seconds for tube warm up and you're good to go. (There is no notification when it passes from warm up to Ready State.)

A couple of notes: The Mundorf binding posts are really nice—over-sized and very easy to use. I wish more manufacturers used them. The chassis, while of formidable thickness, rings when struck by a knuckle wrap. I didn't attempt to dampen it, but you may want to.

Design

The Aelius is a two gain stage, "bridged single-ended design" that possesses the musicality of pure single-ended and the power and control of push-pull. The input stage uses a Siemens C3g valve and is coupled to the MOSFET output stage with a C-core transformer of very wide bandwidth (-3db@ 10Hz-90kHz). The first 60 watts are Class A, then it moves into Class A/B for a rated output of 220-wpc into 8 Ohm.

The power supply uses an EZ81valve for rectification and a transformer of very large size and special winding techniques.

It is said the secret of the Ypsilon sound is their transformers. They are painstakingly hand-wound—a tedious, time-consuming task. Every product in the line has them: the Aelius has two transformers and three power supply chokes.

Conclusion

Ever go shopping for a winter scarf? I like to test the "hand" of each offering, noting quality and price. The acrylic one would do the job, but it doesn't feel so nice. How about the wool or the cashmere blend? Silk, maybe? Any one of these materials would do the job and each has its own "hand."

Don't we go through the same process with components? In this analogy, the Ypsilon Aelius Mono Amps are the equivalent of the finest silk-cashmere blend. They have the nap of lux on your ear; their sound feels good there.

This is my third taste of Ypsilon componentry and it has been consistent. Within that spectrum, I'd place the PST 100 Preamp and VPS 100 Phono Stage together on the musical side in their voicing; the Aelius mono amps tack closer to neutral.

Whether the Aelius was paired with the matching PST 100 or my Trinity Preamp, the verdict was the same. These products are communication specialists. Everybody enjoyed them.

I was very tempted to hold on to them and make them my new reference. That would have been a radical jump from my Soulution 710 Stereo Amp. Yes, they're that good. 
........ 
Marshall Nack

(Note: Aelius MkI review - since replaced by new MkII version) - With them, it is the sum total of everything they do -- all to a very high level -- that's distinguishing, and that so much of what they achieve is rare among amplifiers no matter the price.
Marc Mickelson - March 12, 2012

SUMMARY: 'The presentation was both truthful and beautiful…..a balance in portions so nearly ideal that any deviations are trifles in light of the totality of their performance. No amp will please everyone, the Aelius has a better chance of achieving this than any amp I've heard".

EXTENDED REVIEW: Ypsilon is the twentieth letter of the Greek alphabet and Aelius was a noted Greek scholar and orator, so it will come as no surprise that the Ypsilon Aelius mono amps come from the cradle of Western civilization. These 200-watt push-pull monoblocks are sophisticated hybrids, featuring a tube input stage using a single C3g -- a fairly obscure metal-sleeve tube -- and a MOSFET output stage. They output 60 watts of their power in class A, which means they'll run this way for the majority of listening, but perhaps even more significant is Ypsilon's claim that the amps offer single-ended sonic purity and push-pull power. While this sounds immediately like marketing hyperbole, Demetris Backlavas, the amp's university-trained design engineer, can back it up. He cites the Aelius's "balanced (or you may call it bridged) single-ended output stage," for which both phases, plus and minus, carry signal. "The difficulty of implementing this output stage," Backlavas went on, "is that it requires to be driven with a perfectly balanced signal. And this was done with an interstage transformer, which took a long time and many trials to bring it to the level of performance we wanted (-3dB@13Hz-70kHz)."

What this means in non-engineering speak is that the Aelius's circuit is sort of a double hybrid: tube and solid state, balanced and single ended -- with no feedback, an important design consideration for Backlavas. All of this makes for an amplifier that is unlike any other produced today -- at least among the ones I'm aware of. Ypsilon itself is just as unique. First, the company manufactures its own transformers. The cores are outsourced, but the design and winding happens at the Ypsilon factory. Second, the solid-silver hook-up wire used in each Ypsilon product is proprietary, drawn from bars of silver. A jeweller does this to Backlavas's specifications.

Connection to the Aelius is via RCA or XLR input, but counterintuitive perhaps to what I've divulged so far, only the former is recommended for achieving the highest performance from the amps. The balanced input for the review amps included a transformer not manufactured at Ypsilon, and this led to an obvious veiling -- with this "veiling" not being part of the Aelius's sound through the single-ended input. It honestly did sound like something additional was in the signal path, which was literally the case. Realising this, Backlavas will be removing the transformer in future production runs. For connection to the speakers, the amps use binding posts with frosted caps that look like they were made specially for the frosted-silver Aelius.

One feature of the Aelius that I applaud loudly is its ground-lift switch, which could save you the time and inconvenience of using cheater plugs if you have a ground-loop issue with your system. This is also an outward sign of one of Backlavas's preoccupations: eliminating noise. He seems to have hit his mark. After initially installing the amps in my system, connecting to the preamp and speakers, and turning everything on, I thought I had overlooked something, because there was absolutely no background noise -- not even the omnipresent tube rush I had gotten used to hearing. I put my ear up to the tweeter and heard complete silence. I hit play on the CD player, expecting nothing to happen, and music poured forth. Luckily I didn't do something dumb like crank up the volume when I thought things were amiss.

The amps definitely needed warm-up after turn on, sounding sterile when they were cold and then coming into character after 30 minutes. However, they seemed so stable, so imperturbable, that I left them on almost indefinitely, unless I knew I wouldn't be listening for days, the amps always being ready to make music.

The sound of the Aelius monoblocks embodied seeming opposites. On the one hand there was an overwhelming clarity, which mixed supreme retrieval of musical detail, transient definition, and front-and-centre tonal neutrality. On the other hand, there was an inherent robustness and density that tracked from the highest highs, through the mids and into the bass. Add in that nonexistent noise floor and you have, I'm confident, one of the most complete amps extant -- an amp whose personality was literally devoid of obvious weaknesses. This is not to say that the Aelius did everything better than all other amps -- that beast has yet to be created. However, within a broad level of performance, the Aelius competes with any amp I've heard -- and I suspect any amp made today.

Hearing familiar recordings was often an act of discovery, especially those whose sound is stellar in an absolute sense. They could sound both fresh in specific ways and true to life generally. One recent and lucky addition to my collection is the Mobile Fidelity version of Led Zeppelin II [Atlantic/Mobile Fidelity MFSL 1-065], the only one of Zeppelin's albums reissued by MoFi (thus far -- we can always cross our fingers for the future). It has become the album I play for non-audiophiles who want to either experience my system or hear the difference between digital and analog, and it never, ever leaves them in anything short of complete awe. I paid a mere $35 for my near-mint copy -- more than its original selling price, but $100 less than the going rate on eBay.

If you grew up in the 1970s or 1980s listening to FM rock radio, you know side two -- beginning with "Ramble On" and closing with "Bring It On Home" -- by heart. It was a new experience with the Aelius monoblocks. The guitars had more pummelling bite and the bass and drums were better defined and weightier. On side one, the ping-pong stereo effects of "Heartbreaker" whizzed between the speakers with dizzying suddenness. No matter its version, this LP will never be a test of dynamic range, as the music commences at loud and proceeds to louder still, but that's part of its relentless charm. As much as the Mobile Fidelity remastering, I'm convinced, the Aelius monoblocks made this blues-rock war-horse sound exhilarating.

An amp that can do that is a rare thing -- if and only if it doesn't skew the spectral balance by goosing a particular region or adding some amusical artefact that can enliven in the short term but wear thin over time. About the most that can be said about the Aelius monoblocks in this regard is that their perspective is more forward of mid-hall, giving them an insistence that imparts an agreeable vividness to the music. This is easier to appreciate at lower listening levels, where you won't have to aurally squint to discern micro-dynamic contrasts, than higher ones, but the amps' inherent grainlessness never made it an issue. When Miles Davis pulls out his mute, forwardness and especially treble grain have nowhere to hide. While Someday My Prince Will Come is not Miles at his vital best, it's still has some lovely playing, including John Coltrane's final work for the leader's first quintet. I have both the 45rpm LP [Columbia/Analogue Productions APJ 8456-45] and SACD [Columbia/Analogue Productions CAPJ 8456 SA] and, as with Led Zeppelin II, the music was rendered with such excitement with the Aeliuse that I began to reevaluate the playing. The digital version didn't have quite the same lateral spread and the treble was a little less liquid -- both of which the Aelius amps revealed.

Roy Gregory likes to talk about how great components actually make orchestras, ensembles and bands sound like they play better -- more true to the music and their own intentions. This idea popped into my head as I listened to Someday My Prince Will Come with the Ypsilon monos in the system -- the sound being infinitely well resolved for sure, but the playing also being tighter and (for lack of a better way to express it) more effervescent. This was also apparent with the 45rpm version of Seven Steps to Heaven [Columbia/Analogue Productions APJ 8851-45] -- the second incarnation of Miles' quintet and a much more formidable session. This is what great audio gear should do: make the work of great musicians sound greater still.

While the Aeliuse may have a tube in their signal path, there was nothing classically tubey about their sound -- no cloying midrange, no bass bloom at the expense of speed and slam. Perceived linearity ruled, the mids having a meatiness that, once again, is rare for an amp that's as tonally evenhanded as the Aelius. The bass was taut and muscular, more deep than bloomy and warm, and it possessed real power, especially with kick drum like that on Keith Richards' Main Offender [Virgin V2-86499]. The realism quotient of this recording is something to behold, the Ypsilon amps conveying not just the pop and sock of the drum kit but also the sharp barrage of the electric guitars. In fact, if you've heard this CD (it's also available on vinyl, but expect to pay dearly for it), you have a sense of the personality of the Aeliuse: a slightly forward perspective, vividness throughout the music's entire range, fleet transients that decay into blackness, roaring power.

And copious air throughout the soundstage. Darker-sounding amps can cramp things, conveying the presence of the musicians better than a well-rendered sense of the space in which they perform. While the Ypsilon amps leaned to the latter, they weren't devoid of warmth and dimensionality. At the recommendation of Richard Gerberg, the US ProAc distributor, I've been listening to a lot Sun Kil Moon, the moniker of Mark Kozelek, founder of the Red House Painters. His music and voice are reminiscent of Harvest-era Neil Young, and both bordered on luscious with the Aeliuses, which neither turned his singing into sugary mush nor emphasised the nasal quality that gives it character.

The presentation was both truthful and beautiful, and this is what the best components achieve -- a balance in portions so nearly ideal that any deviations are trifles in light of the totality of their performance. This is the Ypsilon Aelius in summary. While no amp will please everyone equally, the Aelius has a better chance of achieving this than any amp I've heard to date.

Hybrid hoe-down

While hybrid amps like the Ypsilon Aelius make a great deal of sense, because they hold the promise of combining tubes and solid state, there are surprisingly few of them. The dean of this select group is the Lamm M1.2 Reference (US$22,290), which, if you include its previous version, the M1.1 (and the Madison-Fielding M1 before that), has been on the market for almost twenty years. Obviously, the core design of this amp has great validity, both in terms of sonics and reliability: a tube input stage using a single 6922 followed by a MOSFET output stage running in class A. There's much common ground with the Aelius here, although Vladimir Lamm has never manufactured his own transformers or spec'd his own hookup wire.

I've used the M1.2s as my reference for over five years. For reviewing, they offer great flexibility, as they have both RCA and XLR inputs and there is no discernible sonic difference between them. You probably can guess that the Ypsilon and Lamm amps do not sound like the near relatives that they are. While it's possible to discern the tube and transistor sides of each amp's personality, the Lamm amps take on more of the traditional traits of tubes, displaying greater richness and warmth, a meatier and more expansive bottom end, and sweeter treble than the Ypsilon amps. The Aeliuses have less of an overt tonal signature, though the density of their mids might make you question this. They are faster into and out of each note, and their decay is more apparent, likely due to their lower actual and perceived noise floor.

Main Offender illustrated the differences of the two amps well, the Lamms imparting greater heft to the Richards' lead playing and that of the bassists, while the Ypsilons positively launched each drum strike into the room, portraying more skin than the Lamm amps and, once again, conveying greater decay amidst a wide, deep soundstage.

Yet, these differences don't invalidate the notion that both amps offer a wide-ranging set of strengths and a completeness of purpose. They prove once again the immutable law that similar design goals can lead to different sonic outcomes. Such is the diversity of human nature -- and the variety of sounds that can still be deemed hi-fi.

The promise of promise

Truly great amps, like their equals in other product categories, are complex sonic entities. Some distinguish themselves by pushing ahead the performance in one area, while others build on a defined set of traits, shoving them all to new heights. The Ypsilon Aeliuse fit into neither of these camps, and yet they are certainly "truly great amps." With them, it is the sum total of everything they do -- all to a very high level -- that's distinguishing, and that so much of what they achieve is rare among amplifiers no matter the price. I've heard amps that track the signal with as much speed as the Aeliuse and amps that are as quiet as the Aeliuse, but not amps that possess these qualities along with the same midrange dimension and the same bass power -- the same level of overall realism -- as the Aeliuse, all in one package.

The Greeks have been responsible for advancements in engineering, transportation, mathematics, sport, cartography, philosophy, literature -- the list goes on and on. Even more upscale in the Ypsilon lineup are the SET 100 Ultimate monoblocks, which are as large as computer servers and cost as much luxury cars -- each. Until I hear for myself that they fulfil their enormous promise, the Aelius monoblocks will more than ably represent the audio advancements of the Greeks -- and Ypsilon.

(Note: MkII version - since updated with newer version) - The Ypsilon produced more vivid colors, as well as a level of transparency and purity I'd never before experienced in my system.
Michael Fremer - Jul 22, 2011

SUMMARY: "the Ypsilon reproduced Heifetz's silky tone and shimmering vibrato with greater physicality, and an intensity of texture and harmonic completeness that made his violin sound more lifelike".

"In fact, there was no downside to the Ypsilon's sound with any genre of music. The Ypsilon's performance was equally good with rock, techno, jazz, and every other genre". 

"Through the Ypsilon, the deep-bass strokes near the beginning of the title track, and the ensuing deep synth drones and richly recorded drum wallops, were reproduced with visceral intensity and their familiar full extension, while the shimmering bell trees produced fast transient shivers, and individual percussion notes rang with pristine clarity and no unnatural etch". 

"The PST-100 Mk.II is expensive, but given how it's made and how it sounds, and assuming you can afford it, it's well worth the money. For now, the Ypsilon PST-100 Mk.II is the most transparent and, therefore, the most perfect audio component I have ever heard—or not heard".

EXTENDED REVIEW: Though essentially a two-man operation based in Athens, Greece (thats back in 2011, since grown in size), Ypsilon Electronics has been, since 1995, turning ears and eyes throughout the audiophile world with purist, hand-crafted electronics whose sound seems to defy characterization. Even under audio-show conditions in difficult hotel rooms, and often driving unfamiliar loudspeakers, the sound of Ypsilon electronics seems to evaporate in ways that few products manage, leaving behind less residue and more music.

That may sound like fan hyperbole, but it's what I immediately heard a few years ago, when I first encountered Ypsilon gear at a hi-fi show. Though the company was then new to me, nothing I've heard since, at shows or at home, has deviated from that very first impression.

Ypsilon models look beautiful, even dramatically so, in their cases of thick, milled aluminum, and perhaps that's what first drew to them the reviewers and civilians who attend audio shows. What kept them there was the sound, or the lack thereof.

Many listeners tempered their initial enthusiasm with caution: A sound that good must be based on sonic tricks that only time will reveal. I found myself almost wishing that to be true, given what Ypsilon products cost. But having spent a great deal of time with Ypsilon's VPS-100 phono preamplifier (I reviewed it in "Analog Corner" in August 2009 and March 2011), I'm convinced there are no tricks.

As is often the case in high-performance audio, less artifice comes at a high price. Ypsilon's products are very expensive, and deceptively simple in design. The PST-100 Mk.II will set you back US$37,000 (excl tax). If you don't need the active stage, the completely passive PST-100 TA can be had for US$26,000 (excl tax). (The active tubed stage can be retrofitted at the factory.) But either way, and considering that a preamplifier's basic job is to switch and route low-level audio signals without adding to or subtracting from any signal fed to it, these are high prices to pay for what is, essentially, nothing.

Of course, there's more to a preamp's job: It must also provide signal attenuation and, usually, gain, as well as an output impedance low enough to drive cables and interface with a power amplifier of high input impedance.

A Purist Approach

Over the past year or so, a few impressively neutral, dynamic, quiet, wide-bandwidth tube preamplifiers have passed through my listening room that rival the quiet and tonal neutrality of my reference, the solid-state darTZeel NHB-18NS. The best solid-state and tubed preamps these days are more sonically alike than different, though of course the subtle differences are the basis on which listeners who can afford such products choose.

Ypsilon's co-owner and chief designer, electrical engineer Demetris Backlavas, believes that the key to a preamplifier's sound is the means by which it attenuates the signal it's fed. Instead of the more commonly used resistor attenuation, Backlavas uses what he says is a very linear, 31-tap transformer that Ypsilon winds in-house. By comparison, he says, attenuators that use even the finest-quality resistors tend to sound grainy and discontinuous because the in-series resistor converts voltage into current, while the parallel resistor turns current back into voltage.

Not that Backlavas and his partner, Andy Hassapis, didn't try to build a better resistor-type attenuator, using a variety of materials. The problem, according to Backlavas, is that, in order to resist, a resistor must be made from a bad conductor of electricity. Copper and silver are good conductors and small-value resistors can be made from these metals that, not surprisingly, can sound very good. Unfortunately, it's impossible to use copper and silver to make high-value, wideband resistors because of the parasitic inductance that goes along with the need to use coils of very many turns. In addition, resistor-based attenuators waste signal energy by turning the attenuated energy into heat.

Nonetheless, Backlavas admits that attenuators of reasonably high quality can be built using carefully chosen resistors. You're probably listening to such a device as you read this. And, as anyone who has spent time listening to transformers (and Backlavas has spent more time listening to them than most) knows, even those with identical specs can sound remarkably different from each other, and some can ring unpleasantly or sound bad for a variety of reasons.

In fact, transformer-attenuated preamplifiers—or, more precisely in this case, autoformer-attenuated preamps, in which the primary and multi-tap secondary overlap—aren't new. Hobbyists have advocated and built them over the years, but few are commercially available. The advantage of such an attenuator over one that uses resistors is that energy is transformed and not lost as heat. Backlavas gave an example: starting with a source impedance of 1200 ohms, attenuating the signal 10dB (or 3.16 times), produces an output with lower voltage and higher current and an impedance of 120 ohms (1200/3.162), which has an easier time driving loads, unlike the less amplifier-friendly results produced by a passive-resistor attenuator.

That said, of course, transformer attenuators have their own problems that must be solved before they can produce good sound. The core material must have low hysteresis (hysteresis being like unwanted "magnetic memory") at both low and high frequencies, and linear magnetic permeability with flux and frequency.

So, in audio as in life, execution is as important as design—and the PST-100 Mk.II is, per Backlavas, a "fairly simple design."

The volume control output transformer, "painstakingly designed and optimized," is custom-wound at Ypsilon on an amorphous double-C core, itself chosen via listening tests. The impedance of the output stage, which is hardwired with fine, custom-drawn silver wire, is around 600 ohms. The active stage is essentially a small, single-ended amplifier.

However, there is more to know about this microprocessor-controlled circuit, which features both active and passive modes of operation. In active mode, high-quality silver-contact relays route the input directly to the transformer volume control, up to step 6. The controller then routes steps 7–37 through the active stage, to produce a maximum gain of 17dB.

When the PST-100 is set to passive mode, its active stage never kicks in. (The PST-100 is available in a less-expensive TA version that only operates in passive mode.) Instead, the signal is routed only to the transformer volume attenuator, bypassing the active stage altogether, with step 31 producing 0dB (unity) gain. In order to drive the transformer efficiently, the manual suggests not running the system in passive mode with sources whose output impedance exceeds 3k ohms.

Regardless of mode, attenuation is 3dB per step up to step 5. Between steps 5 and 10, each step is 2dB, and steps 10–28 are 1.5dB each. The final three steps (35–37) offer 1dB of attenuation each.

In addition to transformer-based attenuation, the PST-100 features 6CA4 tube rectification, choke supply filtering, and a zero-feedback active stage based on a carefully selected Siemens C3m pentode tube configured as a true triode and transformer-coupled to the output. The power supply uses Mundorf and Jensen four-pole electrolytic caps, chosen based on listening tests.

Designer Demetris Backlavas told me that, other than the silver-plated relays and transformer, the only components in the PST-100's signal path in active mode are a resistor bypassed with a Silmic2 capacitor in the cathode, and a grid stopper resistor—and, of course, the C3m tube. He also told me that he'd kept control circuitry to an "absolute minimum" in order to avoid high-frequency noise, and that, to avoid introducing noise, control signals within the preamp are static and not clocked.

No knobs, no switches

The PST-100 Mk.II's chassis, milled from thick panels of satin-finished aluminum, has no switches or knobs. The remote control handles all functions—don't misplace it. Fortunately, it, too, is milled from a hefty chunk of aluminum. If you sit on it, you'll know it—and if you don't, you'd better get to the gym.

On turn-on, an LCD screen on the front panel lights up, and for 30 seconds identifies the unit as the "Ypsilon PST-100 Mk.II," after which it changes to "Volume 00, Input 1 CD." At that point, or whenever you set the volume to "00," you can use the remote's topmost button, labeled "S," to toggle between the PST-100's active and passive modes; your selection is indicated on the display. At any volume level other than "00," this button acts as a Mute control. The next button down extinguishes the rather bright screen, while the center two buttons control volume, and the lower pair handle source selection. The inputs are preprogrammed with identifying labels (CD, Phono, Cinema, etc.) that can't be changed.

On the rear panel are six pairs of chassis-mounted inputs, five of them RCA jacks. Input 6 is unbalanced XLR. Next to the inputs are RCA and unbalanced XLR outputs. A pair of Tape Out RCA jacks is located above Input 4's RCA jacks. As on the VPS-100 phono preamp, the PST-100 Mk.II's On/Off switch is on the rear panel—less than optimally convenient, but not a real problem.

Sublime nonsound

If the Ypsilon phono preamp is any indication, the PST-100 Mk.II requires a very long break-in period. There's a lot of wire in those transformers. Even after the PST-100 had spent a few months in my system, I still wasn't sure it had fully broken in by the time I had to write this review. But even raw out of the box, the PST-100 Mk.II produced that Ypsilon "nonsound" heard at audio shows throughout the world. Still, the sound continued to open up and become more dynamic as time passed, but with little change in its tonal balance or transient performance.

While I listened in both active and passive modes, the latter's output, even with the attenuator well down from its 0dB maximum level, was more than enough to drive my Musical Fidelity Titan amp and my relatively sensitive Wilson Audio MAXX 3 speakers In passive mode, there was literally nothing but the silver relay and the step-down transformer between the incoming signal and the interconnect to the power amplifier. The PST-100 sounded about as close to the source as can be imagined. All sources, analog or digital, were steps more transparent, three-dimensional, and closer to sounding "live"—or at least closer to the source going directly to the amplifier—than I've otherwise heard in my listening room.

One of the last records I played before switching from the darTZeel to the Ypsilon was a 45rpm, single-sided, four-LP reissue of Jascha Heifetz's recording of Bruch's Scottish Fantasy and Vieuxtemp's Violin Concerto 5, with Sir Malcolm Sargent conducting the New Symphony Orchestra of London (RCA Living Stereo/Classic LSC-2603-45-200G). While it's considered to be one of RCA's best Living Stereo recordings, it's licensed from the UK and was originally produced by Decca—the engineer was the great Kenneth Wilkinson. The recording of Heifetz's violin is particularly exquisite, and a good test of a preamp's ability to convey instrumental attack, textures, and harmonic structures, not to mention precise imaging and dimensionality.

The PST-100 Mk.II managed all of those things with a purity, delicacy, and verisimilitude that surpassed the performance of any preamplifier I've heard—and I've heard and owned some very good ones. When Heifetz plays spiccatp (light, staccato bowing), each time his bow bounced off a string, the Ypsilon reproduced the character of that physical contact—its texture and tonality—with glistening transparency and physical dimensionality. The only word appropriate to describe my first hearing of this album through the PST-100 Mk.II is thrilling. This familiar recording sounded more "real" than I'd ever heard it, with Heifetz more clearly delineated in space in front, and the orchestra arrayed behind him.

Against the darTZeel

After the PST-100 Mk.II had been installed, two EMI Classics recordings arrived, in a recent reissue by Esoteric Remasters (SACD/CD ESSE-90048): Otto Klemperer and the New Philharmonia Orchestra performing Franck's Symphony in D, at Abbey Road Studios in 1966 (originally EMI 5276); and Schumann's Symphony 4, recorded at the famed Kingsway Hall in 1960 (EMI 2398). I was familiar with these works, though not these recordings of them, but after numerous plays I had a pretty good handle on their sounds. The Kingsway recording was more spacious, and done from a mid-hall perspective, but both are very fine "vintage" symphonic recordings, and the 2010 transfer from analog tape to DSD, made at the JVC Mastering Center, was pristine.

Through the Ypsilon in passive mode, particularly the Schumann sounded moderately three-dimensional, with a wide stage perspective that was somewhat out of character for what, given the mid-hall balance. The same recording through the darTZeel NHB-108NS produced a fine but less transparent sound that was tonally cooler but equally spacious and precise. The strings were somewhat drier and the perspective slightly flatter, but the resolution of detail, particularly low-level information, was equally good. The stage width was identical, as were the dynamics. The biggest differences were in terms of harmonics and transparency: The Ypsilon produced more vivid colors, as well as a level of transparency and purity I'd never before experienced in my system.

I don't mean to exaggerate these differences—the sonic distance between the darTZeel and the Ypsilon wasn't enormous. Once my ears had settled in with either of these artifact-free sounds, I was always musically satisfied. But when I went back to the recording of Bruch's Scottish Fantasy, the Ypsilon reproduced Heifetz's silky tone and shimmering vibrato with greater physicality, and an intensity of texture and harmonic completeness that made his violin sound more lifelike.

In fact, there was no downside to the Ypsilon's sound with any genre of music. While in the UK recently, I picked up an original German pressing of Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays' intensely atmospheric As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls (LP, ECM 1190). (A few weeks later I found myself in Wichita, on my way to Salina, Kansas, to visit Quality Record Pressing, Chad Kassem's new vinyl pressing plant—see this month's "Analog Corner.") Through the Ypsilon, the deep-bass strokes near the beginning of the title track, and the ensuing deep synth drones and richly recorded drum wallops, were reproduced with visceral intensity and their familiar full extension, while the shimmering bell trees produced fast transient shivers, and individual percussion notes rang with pristine clarity and no unnatural etch. Transformers can ring and produce a hazy aftertaste, in my experience, but the PST-100 Mk.II produced no such.

And when "As Falls Wichita . . ." explodes about three-fourths of the way through its nearly 21 minutes, the Ypsilon did not restrain that macrodynamic thrust—there was nothing polite about this preamp's performance. But when called on to produce great delicacy, it did that as well. Active electronic stages often trade a modicum of transparency for a worthwhile increase in musical grip. In its passive mode, the PST-100 seemed to produce unprecedented transparency while exhibiting complete control and speed. Rhythm'n'pace were as honest and natural as the recording allowed.

Through the darTZeel NHB-18NS, the well-recorded Metheny-Mays LP sounded equally dynamic and wideband, but was slightly less transparent and spacious, less harmonically full-bodied, and sounded a bit grayed-out by comparison. Was that because the darTZeel doesn't pass along colors, or because the passive Ypsilon was adding them? I have no idea.

Going Active

Switching to active mode and raising the volume above the switchover point after the first six control steps to ascertain the sound of the Ypsilon's tube amplification section meant playing music loud, but I'm okay with that. (I used an SPL meter to match the levels, and never let the volume go above 95dB.)

Not surprisingly, the PST-100 in active mode sounded similar to the VPS-100 phono preamplifier. While the PST uses a different Siemens tube, the two components are more similar than different in design—and, of course, their transformers use similar technology, and are wound at the Ypsilon factory by the same team.

There was remarkably little difference between the PST-100's active and passive stages. I wouldn't want to be forced into a double-blind test here, but the active stage was just slightly darker, and more liquid or soft. Noise was nonexistent in passive mode, inaudible in active.

Going from the very fine solid-state darTZeel to the tubed Ypsilon and, months later, back again to the darTZeel, produced no surprises and only minor disappointment. Each is a world-class preamplifier: quiet, transparent, dynamic, and with a pure sound. Both handled the incoming signal precisely. They were more alike than different, but every difference favored the Ypsilon.

The Ypsilon's performance was equally good with rock, techno, jazz, and every other genre. XX, the Mercury Award–winning debut album by The XX (LP, XL LP450), aside from being very well recorded overall, contains some of the deepest notes I've ever heard from a record. The Ypsilon passed them along as well as the darTZeel does, with full extension and intensity. It also presented equally well everything else on XX, but with that bit of added transparency and clarity already noted.

If there was any downside to the Ypsilon PST-100 Mk.II in active mode, I didn't hear it—whatever faults JA's measurements might show were inaudible. Ypsilon specifies no signal/noise or harmonic-distortion specs for the PST-100 Mk.II, but based purely on what I heard, the preamp was essentially free of noise in passive mode, and equally quiet in active mode. In passive mode, if output-impedance variations reached the point where frequency rolloff occurred, I didn't hear it. In either mode, music erupted from jet-black backgrounds. If the measurements show any nonlinearities, they surely must be minor; the Ypsilon was as airy and extended and spacious on top, and as tight-fisted and extended on the bottom, as any preamplifier I've heard.

Conclusions

Ypsilon's PST-100 Mk.II is a full-function preamplifier that can drive most amplifiers in its passive mode, but can add a remarkably transparent, tube-based active stage when needed. It is beautifully and simply built using custom-designed transformers wound in-house, point-to-point wiring with custom-drawn silver wire, and hand-selected tubes designed for long, quiet, trouble-free use.

The PST-100 Mk.II is, as designer Demetris Backlavas modestly claims, "a fairly simple design." Simplicity can have definite benefits and equally definite costs—yet despite its minimalism, the PST-100 has no sonic or functional disadvantages that I could hear or experience. It seemed to add nothing to and subtract nothing from any signal it was fed. It didn't add noise or etch or edge, nor did it subtract transient clarity, dynamic slam, or frequency extremes. What it sounded like in active mode was the mythical straight wire with gain.

The preamp's six inputs should be enough for most audio enthusiasts, and its Tape Out is a useful addition for recording to any format. In the interests of sonic purity and circuit simplicity, the PST-100 Mk.II lacks a Mono switch or a Balance control—but if you're interested in maximizing transparency and accurate-to-the-source pass-through with attenuation and no resistors in the signal path, the Ypsilon PST-100 Mk.II is the best preamplifier I have ever heard.

The PST-100 Mk.II is expensive, but given how it's made and how it sounds, and assuming you can afford it, it's well worth the money. For now, the Ypsilon PST-100 Mk.II is the most transparent and, therefore, the most perfect audio component I have ever heard—or not heard.
….. Michael Fremer

After an extensive auditioning period, the Ypsilon DAC 100 is, in my opinion, the most serious contender to emerge in the high-end DAC arena in recent years.
Constantine Soo

SUMMARY: "what the Ypsilon accorded was not enhanced effects and flavours from powerful computational algorithms, but more developed and extended reconstitution of the human vocalisation, sounds of instruments and ambience of the venue. Whereas I was frequently left more dissatisfied and unfulfilled in the end with artificially enhanced sonics, I was at once mesmerised and happy about what the Ypsilon was presenting: complex and rich harmonics, a sonic canvas seemingly much larger than what is needed to portray any performance".

My interest in the Ypsilon DAC 100 from Greece stemmed from several factors. First, its primary technological makeup was very similar to that of the $49k Audio Note UK’s DAC5 Special, my reference for over seven years. For instance, the Greek DAC uses the 24-bit Burr Brown PCM1704K, a chipset from the late 90s and not the latest, 32-bit designs, while the DAC5 Special uses the Analog Device AD1865, which is also from the 90s. Secondly, neither DAC has oversampling or upsampling processing. Thirdly, all major components of the Greek DAC are manufactured to such high standards as seen only in very few products, such as the DAC5 Special. Lastly, contrasting most digital companies in their use of the most sophisticated and advanced chipsets for the highest available computational power, in removing noise and artificiality from the converted signal, both Audio Note UK and now Ypsilon make heavy use of multiple transformers to perform the electrical filtration process, one that when implemented carefully and correctly is supposedly more benign to the signal than digital processing. Lastly, both DACs aim at reproducing the highest level of fidelity by providing the most electrically pristine environment for the older but musically renowned DAC chipset to operate in, albeit at much lower processing power.

This involved the use of tightest-spec’d parts that cost as much as an entire machine of many makes, and considerably more than what most companies would use. For instance, inside the Ypsilon DAC 100 is the lone circuit board, the epoxy type and plated in silver, housing the twin DAC chips and the SPDIF receiver with double-thickness copper traces, which reinforces dielectrics between traces on board supposedly. Ypsilon is of the opinion that all dielectrics induce coloration, and the silver-tin plating yields the purest sound. Furthermore, the DAC and receiver chips are Surface Mounted Device (SMD) components, mounted by hand with silver solder. No silk screen layer is used. Parts for the analog stage are mounted in an aluminium sub-chassis, hardwired with in-house manufactured pure silver wire. Four Siemens C3g NOS metallic-can tubes provided for the single-ended class A transformer-coupled analog stage.

Construction-wise, I have never seen anything like the Ypsilon DAC, for the entire enclosure of the unit was constructed of thickly milled aluminium, supposedly shielding the innards from the external environment. There was no ventilation on the top but at the back, and the aluminium chassis did feel more than just warm to the touch. At the factory, it takes three to four days for completion of the assembly of the heavier parts, such as the power supply transformer, power supply choke, output and input transformer. The Ypsilon featured only a single SPDIF as digital input, which worked flawlessly with the PiTracer via the Aural Symphonics Echelon Digital ($1,200, 1.3m) coaxial cable. The DAC also saw action with laptop iTunes™ music files via the Lindemann USB-DCC 24/96 (previously $650, now $495) digital-to-digital converter, again connected to the DAC via the Aural Symphonics cable. Connecting the laptop to the Lindemann was a 5-meter run of the Aqvox USB HighEnd Audiocable (EUR 159). After having been using the Lindemann for more than six months now, I am of the opinion that unless one is willing to spend serious money on a reference CD transport, using the Lindemann USB converter in conjunction with Apple™’s iTunes on a laptop is the most economic way to enjoy quality digital, regardless of the caliber of your DAC.

Complimenting this digital front-end was the pair of Rockport Technologies Mira Grand II loudspeaker system (US$35,500/pair), driven by the 200-pound Win Analog S-series 833- equipped 100-watt monoblocks (US$75,000/pair) and the accompanying Z845 preamplifier (US$45,000). Two pairs of MIT Oracle V1.3 Proline interconnects (US$9,399 per pair) and a pair of the Oracle V1.3 Wide speaker cable (US$27,799 per pair) completed the system.

For me, it would also seem that the lure of high-resolution formats had run its course after spending time with the Ypsilon. I had missed the considerable dynamic scaling and vast harmonic richness of the $26,000 Accuphase DP-700 that I reviewed in March of this year, a trait all the more prevalent in its SACD playback. The PiTracer/DAC 100 system cured me of it, albeit at a much costlier $59,000. Using the same Telarc SACD sampler I used in the Accuphase review, this time via only the redbook layer, I was once again privy to a rare portrayal of massive dynamics and recreation of deep tonalities. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

The sound of the Ypsilon was easy to grow accustomed to unnervingly, an experience not completely similar to listening to the Audio Note UK DAC5 Special, and the wealth of resolution from the Ypsilon was unprecedented. The British DAC had an easiness to its sound, while the Greek DAC had an allure that drew you in. Its rendition of the Steinway piano in the RCA Victor 20-bit recorded and mastered CD, Chopin’s 24 Prelude, for example, was the most satisfying to date, portraying a three-dimensionally concise image of the instrument, and I remained transfixed on the Ypsilon’s translucent depiction of the tone of the instrument. I normally jump tracks to listen to the individual numbers, but the Ypsilon’s portrayal of the recording compelled me to listen through the entire 24 pieces and more. It was not just the music and the psychological and intellectual nourishment that it provided which we all crave for, it was the concordant beauty of tone that held me captive. Whereas one always gives up certain aspects of sound for the others in every component choice he makes, for the first time, I can have extreme audiophile parameters fulfilled and yet not giving up that intangible and elusive living sound. The Ypsilon has shown me that music listening through a high-end audio system is not just about realism, it can also be about ravishing inside music itself.

I am also compelled to pester you, our readers, on the other performance parameters, such as how the soundstage became deeper and more hollow amidst the Ypsilon’s shocking feat of stacking layers upon layers of details. In the midst of this was the ambience. The airy ambience! It was like a DSD-upsampled redbook signal further cleaned up, exponentially extrapolated bit by bit, and each resultant shred of data resampled by another megabytes of order. All this without the benefit of third-party reclocking devices. The machine did not know any better but to function in accordance to its design; yet when I listen to such performance I hear so much more my brain just places the main instrument to the front and moves the accompanying groups behind it, and it was magical. This DAC’s extraction of minute details against the vast sonic landscape was unbelievable. There was so much detail being propelled against an unrelenting flow of music, I was smiling and nodding during many a listening session.

The quadruplet of Siemens C3g NOS metallic-can at the Ypsilon’s analog stage played a significant role obviously, but I heard glare-free, pristine tonalities and texturing of such finesse that I thought was unattainable from all but the best solid-state SACD machines. For my experience told me that tube DACs would sacrifice that tiny teeny amount of ultimate definition so as to rid itself of the listening fatigue-inducing digititus. Yet, there it was, communicating an engaging realism I have not heard from any other DAC, solidstate or tube. In this regard, the Ypsilon was on par with the $40,000 Audio UK DAC5 Special, and then some.

The Ypsilon’s extraction of resolution from signals handed over by the PiTracer was spectacular, but only when also appreciated alongside its seemingly unlimited dynamic. In this area, I am now more alert than the past of the reality that all DACs are not created equally, and that is manifested repeatedly in how they handled the fortissimos of pianos, most notably in the degree of dynamic truncation manifested. I hadn’t realised this phenomenon until the Ypsilon displayed its prowess. The Rockport speakers provided firsthand testimonials on the immensely satisfying dynamic fullness of the Ypsilon’s recreation of the Steinway piano, prompting a realisation in me that I was hearing such complete musical presentation for the first time. SACDs were surely known for a more encompassing in the area of dynamic contrasting as well, but the machines were compromised in the relatively cost-conscious applications of internal components, which represented severe injustice to the format. The supremely resourceful corporate conglomerates’ decision to adopt the solid-state architecture is to be respected, for it allowed for a more viable scenario of widespread adoption of the format. But it is also indicative of the continuously escalating costs of producing a superior tube SACD DAC, one that is not hindered by the less exacting tube sonics compounded by suboptimal component matching know-how. In a word, there is nothing like the Ypsilon, until we talk about the much more expensive Audio Note UK DAC5 Signature.

Likewise in its handling of the pipe organ in the LIM K2HD disc of the audiophile classic, Cantate Domino, the voluminous cathedral ambience rushed to my very self in the listening space amidst the immersive choir. The DAC’s definition of dimensionalities and separation of bodies were beyond first-class, a true masterpiece of electronic engineering that infused the strengths of tube circuitry and averted the fuzziness. 100+ piece orchestral pieces, such as the big and bold Bruckner No. 9 from a remastered Bruno Walter Sony Classics, carried a weight and immediacy that imparted authority to the reading sans sonic sluggishness, another testimonial to the pseudo intelligence of the machine. Many of my favorite CDs are from the 80s and 90s, and what had been disappointing sonics via other DACs has turned out to be refreshing through the Ypsilon. It was as if the signals went through a DSD-remastering process inside the Ypsilon.

What the Ypsilon accorded was not enhanced effects and flavours from powerful computational algorithms, but more developed and extended reconstitution of the human vocalisation, sounds of instruments and ambience of the venue. Whereas I was frequently left more dissatisfied and unfulfilled in the end with artificially enhanced sonics, I was at once mesmerised and happy about what the Ypsilon was presenting: complex and rich harmonics, a sonic canvas seemingly much larger than what is needed to portray any performance.

In today’s digital converter marketplace, products costing from less than $1,000 to well over $20,000 are a dime a dozen. Even more exotic are those priced well above the US$20,000 mark, such as the Ypsilon, although it only does digital-to-analog conversion, and you have to spend an extra $26,000 for the matching Ypsilon transport.

The digital audio landscape is so well traversed by companies big and small since the 80s to the present day, that all there is to know on making a machine sound good is open secret. After all, we are talking about a marketplace where, with notable exceptions like Wadia whose communications industry-originated engineers approach digital audio with massive computational power in its proprietary DSP designs, everyone else builds their players around commonly available chip sets from any of the Big Four (AKM, Analog Devices, Burr Brown, Cirrus Logic). It is from this realisation, in my opinion, that a handful of companies began to compete more on not just which chip set to adopt, but on how robust a peripheral circuitry they can formulate around the chip sets so as to extract the most data out of it.

After an extensive auditioning period, the Ypsilon DAC 100 is, in my opinion, the most serious contender to emerge in the high-end DAC arena in recent years. In addition to employing the highest-grade components in an expertly engineered design, the Ypsilon also boasts of a fortified chassis worthy of industry accolades. The sound of this DAC can only be described as exciting and extreme, and the user experience invigorating. To spend US$30,000 on a DAC is unimaginable in any economic weather, and even more so in today’s terms. But my ears have been spoiled by the likes of the US$49,000 Audio Note UK DAC5 special and the $29,000 Wadia Reference Series 9. Therefore, for my 47 Lab PiTracer, the Ypsilon is the only other DAC worthy of consideration. Dispensing with word mincing, I consider the Ypsilon DAC 100 the ultimate tube DAC to audition and invest in under US$30,000.
........... 
Constantine Soo 

If you've got the money, I wholeheartedly recommend the Ypsilon Hyperion. However it measures, it's among the handful of the best-sounding power amplifiers I've heard, and it's the most musically enjoyable of the lot.
Michael Fremer - Mar 22, 2018.

SUMMARY: "The Hyperion strikes the ideal balance between tube-amp richness and flow and solid-state quiet, authority, and dynamic swagger. And it does this without making you conscious of each technology's contribution to the whole". 

"When you make your living by listening to audio gear, at some point you inevitably suffer burnout. While I can't live for long without hearing music in my listening room, there are times when I crave silence to avoid such a burnout. But during the time the Hyperions were here, I think I did more listening for pleasure alone than I've done in years".

EXTENDED REVIEW: Designers of hybrid amplifiers can use solid-state devices in an amp's input stage and tubes in its driver and output stages, as Music Reference's Roger Modjeski did in his RM-200 Mk.II—or they can use tubes in the input and transistors in the output, as Ypsilon Electronics' Demetris Baklavas prefers.

The advantage of solid-state at the input stage can be lower noise. In the RM-200 Mk.II's fully balanced design, carefully matched input devices result in high common-mode rejection and low-noise operation close to the levels achieved with the best input transformers. The RM-200 Mk.II's signal/noise ratio measured a healthy 95.4dB.

In Baklavas's original hybrid monoblock amplifier, the Aelius, the first gain stage was a new old stock (NOS) C3g pentode tube operating in single-ended mode and transformer-coupled to the output stage. The Aelius II added an input transformer, then newly developed, that permitted balanced input operation and the use of longer interconnects. The input stages of both Aeliuses featured tube rectification.

Obviously, the quality of transformers is key to power-amp designs from both Music Reference and Ypsilon. Modjeski offers an upgrade to a hand-wound output transformer, and Ypsilon specializes in designing and manufacturing transformers.

209 lbs of push-pull

Ypsilon's new Hyperion monoblock, like the less powerful Aelius II, is a hybrid design with two gain stages. The first stage uses a single low-impedance dual-triode tube—either a 6H30 or a 5687 will work. The Hyperion comes with the former—a Sovtek 6H30 Pi—but to allow tube-rolling, there are separate sockets for the two tube types, which have different pinouts. Also included is a 6CA4/EZ81 rectifier tube.

The input-stage tube's bias is fixed. Its dedicated negative power supply includes a custom C-core input transformer, wound with silver wire, that eliminates the DC bias voltage bypass and produces a true balanced input. The two halves of the input tube are paralleled via separate coil windings to provide independent paths for each half's bias current.

The interstage transformer is a step-down that couples the input triodes to the output devices and includes phase-splitting windings that drive each pair of MOSFET output-stage devices in opposite phase to each other. Using the interstage transformer, Baklavas avers, lowers the tube's output impedance, which better drives the output stage while providing a perfectly balanced, floating signal. Not using the transformer, he says, would require at least two additional gain stages plus power supplies, making for a more complex circuit. He prefers to keep things as simple and elegant as possible.

As with anything in life or audio, there's a drawback to such a design: the difficulty of producing a transformer with wide bandwidth and integrating it into a solid-state circuit requiring unconditional stability. But transformers are Baklavas's game, and the time I've spent with his trannies has convinced me to unconditionally trust them.

The Hyperion's output stage is biased in class-A for its first 100W into 8 ohms, and can output a total of more than 370W into 8 ohms, 650W into 4 ohms, and 1150W into 2 ohms. Each of its two stages has its own power-supply transformer, and both the tube input and solid-state output power supplies use inductive chokes, built in-house, for filtering. A great deal of attention was reportedly paid to the design, construction, and materials of the cores of these power-supply transformers, to minimize mechanical, magnetic, and electrically induced noise.

In addition to the chokes, the power supply incorporates 112,800µF of capacitance to keep ripple voltage negligible at all power-output levels. Internal connections are made with Ypsilon's own specially drawn silver wire, coated with Teflon.

As in the Aelius, the Hyperion's output "floats"—neither the plus nor the minus terminals are grounded. The amp is well protected using a "crowbar" circuit. There's no output relay, though there is a circuit breaker on the rear panel, and inside the Hyperion's case is a fuse for the input transformer. If the output shorts, or sees a load of less than 1 ohm, or there's excessive DC offset, the Hyperion automatically shuts down. Once the problem is fixed, turning the amp back on restores output.

Roll 'em in, set 'em up

Each Ypsilon Hyperion weighs 209 lbs—moving and unpacking the pair of them was a multiperson operation. The installation of a lawn-sprinkler system chez Fremer the day the crates arrived provided the necessary manpower—after the guys had washed their hands of topsoil.

The Hyperions arrived having been burned in for only 100 hours. I found that, even after they'd been broken in, they required at least an hour of play to develop their full potential. For the first hour or so, they sounded somewhat dynamically constricted and not entirely transparent.

I first ran a long pair of TARA Labs Zero balanced interconnects between my darTZeel NHB-18S preamplifier and the Hyperions. A few weeks later, I swapped out the darTZeel for the Silver edition of Ypsilon's PST-100 MkIIline preamp. So often, when swapping out familiar gear for new, there's a period during which my brain accentuates or exaggerates the differences between the old and new sounds. At such times the new can at first seem like an uninvited guest disrupting my system's musical harmony.

That wasn't the case here. Sure, it took me some time to get used to the Hyperion's sound, which was richer, fuller, creamier, more full-bodied than that of the darTZee NHB-458 monoblocks—but that sound was also immediately familiar because it meshed well with the sound of Ypsilon's VPS-100 phono preamplifier. That model arrived here for review some nine years ago and never left—except briefly, to be upgraded to its Silver edition (footnote 1). Big hybrid amps running in class-A for the first 100W are good company during a record cold snap!

Power, Grip, Depth, Delicacy

No doubt the single tube in the Hyperion's signal path subtly greased the musical proceedings with a smooth yet transparent overlay of richness. Having become acclimated in recent years years to the sound of the darTZeel NHB-458, which is less generous in the upper bass and lower midrange (detractors of solid-state designs might describe its sound as "thin") and is faster in the transient realm (detractors might say "overly and unrealistically sharply drawn"), the gross distinctions between these two great performers were easily audible for the first week or so of listening.

But even while the contours of the new sound were still easily definable and the differences between the two amplifiers were still clear, the Hyperion's "additive" quality wasn't immediately—or ever, for that matter—identifiable as what's usually thought of as tube sound, but rather as a subtle harmonic and textural generosity that I think most listeners would find very pleasing and desirable, regardless of on which side of the tube/solid-state divide they stand.

At the high performance level of my reference amps, and because of what I'd assumed I'd hear from the Hyperions, based on my experience with other Ypsilon gear, I expected to draw equal amounts of pleasure from both, and hear no new revelations.

Because of the immediately obvious added harmonic and textural richness, subtle though it was, once I'd begun listening critically, I found myself playing mostly classical and jazz. I'd received in the mail a two-LP set of pianist Daniil Trifonov, then 21 years old and the recent winner of the 14th International Tchaikovsky Competition (among many other awards), performing Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto 1, with Valery Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra. Disc 2 features Trifonov playing mostly Schubert songs, arranged for solo piano by Liszt (Mariinsky MAR0530-LP).

This is a prize-winning soloist and a world-class orchestra, well recorded in a fine-sounding hall. Whether on the vinyl (which had what sounded like a few "non-fill" problems) or the free 24-bit/96kHz FLAC download, the balance of direct to reflected orchestral sound was, for me, ideal, and the perspective was positively grand, à la recording engineer Dr. Keith O. Johnson. Not everyone likes this kind of somewhat distant sonic drama, but it went perfectly well with Trifonov's grand, sweeping, romantic playing, and left enough room for Gergiev's dramatic orchestral swells not to overwhelm the soloist.

The recording sounds simply miked, à la Decca's microphone "tree," with a strong, stable center image: the piano was locked firmly in place, despite the rich field of reverberation surrounding it, and presented the orchestra convincingly arrayed behind and to the sides of it. The Hyperions' presentation was intensely holographic, and harmonically generous and convincing without sounding overripe. The sensation of "hearing" the air in the recording space produced a strong feeling of being in the Mariinsky Theater during these performances.

Playing an original pressing of Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's justifiably legendary 1954 stereo recording of Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra (LP, RCA Living Stereo LSC-1806) produced many rewards: the opening low C on contrabassoon, double basses, and pipe organ, the lush strings, the well-focused solo trumpet pealing out the famous three ascending notes appearing in three-dimensional space, and all the other sonic wonders this recording provides, were more richly and fully drawn than I'd ever heard them, yet with the bite of the brass still fully intact. The sound was richly drawn yet light on its feet and absolutely explosive, the weight of the orchestra's low end reproduced fully and well controlled. And that was just side 1!

Side 2 was mind-bogglingly better than I'd ever heard it, all of the inner instrumental voices clearly revealed. Especially amazing was the return of the trumpet call, backed by delicate, barely audible woodwinds that were now clearly delineated—and, a few minutes later, the triangle, each stroke's attack, sustain, and decay convincingly reproduced with great deliberateness and delicacy. And string pizzicati were perfection.

We interrupt this review for a word about power cords . . . 

As I listened to that LP of Reiner's Zarathustra, I realized that the piccolo, clarinets, oboes, bassoons, trumpets, and horns all sounded more recognizably "right" than I'd ever heard them. Each was individually well defined without pulling apart the sound of the entire orchestra, and within and among the various sections there was instrumental dimensionality and separation. Succumbing to temptation, I removed my reference power cords, AudioQuest's Dragons, and replaced them with a pair of stock molded-rubber cords. Though the Hyperions have the fairly rare 20A IEC AC jack, they are not supplied with cords.

I gave the Ypsilon amps some time to again warm up and listened again. Anyone who claims that power cords can't possibly make a difference in the sound is wrong. Especially at this level of sound quality, the wrong cord (and/or speaker cable) can ruin everything. In the past few months I've heard two great systems—one costly, one moderately priced—whose sounds were destroyed, tonally and spatially, by unbearably bright- and hard-sounding speaker cables.

The rubber power cords produced a glaring overall brightness that bleached the harmonic structures of instruments and flattened what had been three to little more than two dimensions. The nuanced orchestral balance the Hyperions produced with the AudioQuest Dragons was messed up, and the Ypsilons' convincing reproductions of attacks, sustains, and decays were smeared.

The best I could say for what I heard with the stock cords was that the opening trumpet call was big and gloriously bright, but incongruously so—it sounded as if it had been added in postproduction.

Under favorable conditions, the Ypsilon Hyperions could put on a spectacularly realistic, impressively well-balanced display of power, grip, depth, and delicacy, and do all of the right things for acoustic music, whether performed by full orchestra or small scale chamber ensemble. You need to hear what they can do with the new 45rpm edition of Duke Ellington's Masterpieces by Ellington (2 LPs, Columbia Masterworks ML 4418/Analogue Productions AAPJ 4418-45).

What about rock?

Some ripe-sounding amps can be wonderful with acoustic music but won't do rock. Once I'd been floored by the Hyperions' reproduction of recordings of acoustic music, I moved on to the Who and homed in on Who's Next, comparing an original UK Track pressing mastered by "Bilbo" (Denis Blackham) with Classic Records' 2005 reissue, mastered by Chris Bellman from the original master tape. In 2005, people complained about this reissue's price: $30. Today, a copy will cost you a few hundred.

The Classic toasts the Track original, as well as MCA's mid-1990s "Heavy Vinyl" edition I was involved with. While Keith Moon's drums in "Baba O'Riley" are disappointing in every edition, "Bargain" is stupendous in every way, especially on the Classic reissue. Through the Hyperions the kick drums on this track had believable texture, tonality, and especially drive, and John Entwistle's bass had great growl, extension, and definition. But what really stood out were the handclaps and, most particularly, the tambourine, which sounded as if it was being played by someone standing in the room. The wet reverb around Roger Daltrey's voice was presented with the same well-defined clarity, transparency, and balance of direct and "reflected" sound as was Trifonov's piano in the Tchaikovsky concerto. This rock album confirmed that one the Hyperion's greatest strengths was its midrange transparency. Its sound was remarkably transparent throughout, but especially from the lower to the upper midrange.

With its generous, powerful, well-controlled bottom end, its extraordinary midband transparency, its high-frequency delicacy and airiness, its ideal attacks, sustains, and decays at all frequencies, and its richly drawn harmonic palette and dynamic authority, the Ypsilon Hyperion amplifier did justice to every genre—from the string-driven subtleties of Willie Watson's Folk Singer, Vol.2 (LP, Acony 174LP), to Ogilala, the edgy new album by confessional solo rocker William Patrick Corgan (LP, Martha's Music 538321011), produced by Rick Rubin and mixed by Jan Erik Kongshaug, best known for his engineering and mixing for ECM —to, of course, the grand orchestral recordings cited, and many others.

Some amplifiers that sound as lush and beautiful as this one are simply not useful as reviewing tools. But I found the Hyperion as reliable in that regard as the most "analytical" amplifiers I've used, while giving me far more musical and sonic pleasure from both analog and digital sources.

Rolling tubes and preamps

I used three different input tubes in the Ypsilon Hyperions: two pairs of 6H30s and one pair of 5687s. Unlike with the Aelius amplifiers, in which different tubes produced profoundly different sounds, here the differences were more subtle. The stock Sovtek 6H30 Pi's sounded great, while a set of Balanced Audio Technology 6H30pDRs (NOS) notably improved the already impressive bottom end, widened and somewhat deepened the already finely drawn soundstage, and improved instrumental focus.

Both the darTZeel NHB-18S and the even more costly Ypsilon PST-100 Mk.II Silver Edition preamplifiers are impressively transparent and quiet. I was able to use the Ypsilon in passive mode, which made it essentially invisible. (When, in July 2011, John Atkinson measured the PST-100 Mk.II Silver in passive mode, it was flat from 10Hz to 200kHz!) Equally impressive was the transparency of the active darTZeel. Either would make a great mate for the Hyperions—though if I were buying, I'd opt for a preamp and monoblocks of the same brand.

Conclusions

Ypsilon Electronics' Hyperion is a powerful, cannily designed, exquisitely voiced monoblock power amplifier. Inside and out, its construction quality is as impressive as it should be for the money. Because of its tubes, its distortion spec of 0.7% at 100W into 8 ohms will probably freak out the measurement fetishists, to whom I say: Just listen to it, and keep in mind that the tube microphones used in the making of many of your favorite recordings probably measured similarly.

The Hyperion strikes the ideal balance between tube-amp richness and flow and solid-state quiet, authority, and dynamic swagger. And it does this without making you conscious of each technology's contribution to the whole.

When I first heard, and then bought, the Ypsilon VPS-100 phono preamplifier, I concluded that its designer, Demetris Baklavas, was some kind of genius. His PST-100 preamp didn't shake that conclusion. With the Hyperion, I must again characterize Baklavas as an electronics design genius whose name deserves mention alongside the more familiar names you probably know. He's seriously underrated, and deserving of greater acclamation.

When you make your living by listening to audio gear, at some point you inevitably suffer burnout. While I can't live for long without hearing music in my listening room, there are times when I crave silence to avoid such a burnout. But during the time the Hyperions were here, I think I did more listening for pleasure alone than I've done in years.

If you've got the money, I wholeheartedly recommend the Ypsilon Hyperion. However it measures, it's among the handful of the best-sounding power amplifiers I've heard, and it's the most musically enjoyable of the lot.
.......... Michael Fremer

I’d say that Demetris Baklavas has produced something worthy of the Greek gods.....the Hyperion may allow you to steal a march on the path that leads to that elusive sonic Mount Olympus."
Jacob Heilbrunn - Jul 03rd, 2018

SUMMARY: "The equipment itself is dead silent. You won’t hear any transformer hum emanating from the Hyperion, and you can stick your ear up to your tweeter and shouldn’t hear much more than a faint buzz there, either. To put it another way, transparency has always been the hallmark of Ypsilon products. My own sense is that the company’s equipment seeks to poke into every nook and cranny of the performance space, seeking out the smallest details that it can excavate and hold up for your scrutiny.Great care and attention is lavished on the most minute musical passages or instrumentation. Many years ago, TAS editor Robert Harley made an astute observation in a review of Wilson loudspeakers that has stayed with me since I read it, which is that it is the small details that our ear gravitates toward and that make an instrument sound more lifelike. The more of those details that an amplifier like the Hyperion can evoke, the more convincing a recording sounds.Great care and attention is lavished on the most minute musical passages or instrumentation. Many years ago, TAS editor Robert Harley made an astute observation in a review of Wilson loudspeakers that has stayed with me since I read it, which is that it is the small details that our ear gravitates toward and that make an instrument sound more lifelike. The more of those details that an amplifier like the Hyperion can evoke, the more convincing a recording sounds.


But I hasten to add that this isn’t an accumulation of detail for detail’s sake. Rather, Ypsilon gear has a warm, burnished sound that may just be a pinch more beautiful than what a lot of other equipment offers. It’s not on the level of the golden glow that Conrad-Johnson is known for, but there is definitely something of a pulchritudinous touch to the musical affair when Ypsilon gear is being employed. When listening to standup bass on jazz albums, for instance, I think the Hyperion provides a tonally rich sound without sacrificing any alacrity. Since I’m in the camp that thinks that, in one way or another, all gear has a coloration, this doesn’t bother me. Quite the contrary. I’d rather that a component err on the side of musicality, bliss, and all the other things that can gently propel you into a meditative state when listening to your system. The Hyperion does this. There are other amps that will play even louder or go deeper in the bass or provide even greater grip on the notes. But the whole package that the Hyperion offers makes it quite irresistible. So if you’ll permit me a little hyperbole—and since when has that ever figured in the high end?—I’d say that Demetris Baklavas has produced something worthy of the Greek gods. If you’re currently resting in base camp on your audio journey and looking for a proper ascent, then the Hyperion may allow you to steal a march on the path that leads to that elusive sonic Mount Olympus."

EXTENDED REVIEW: This past January the discerning cultural critic David Denby wrote an essay in The New Yorker about high-end audio. It was called “Audiophilia Forever.” In it, Denby explained that he had recently rekindled his passion for the high end by visiting several stores in New York to audition a variety of new equipment, ranging from entry-level to quite pricey. He loved what he heard, but never got frustrated that it didn’t quite match the sound of the real thing. Instead, he took it philosophically: “The sound of live music is ineffable. The goal can never be reached. The quest itself is the point.”

Amen to that. Over the past decade or so, I have very much enjoyed following the evolution of Ypsilon electronics, both at audio shows and in my own system. Ypsilon, which is manufactured in Athens,Greece, is essentially a bespoke operation—all transformers are wound by hand—that has steadily been attracting more attention. TAS’ Neil Gader, no newbie when it comes to judging audio equipment, declared in December 2017 in these pages that the Ypsilon integrated Phaethon is a component that “intensifies and stimulates and recalibrates one’s audio senses like few that I’ve encountered before.” It would be difficult to disagree.

I first listened intently to the full Ypsilon rig at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest several years ago, where I was most impressed by its suavity in disentangling complex musical passages. There was a lissome quality to the music, a lack of grain and an abundance of tonally purity, that took my breath away. The first piece of Ypsilon kit, as the Brits like to say, that really impressed me in my own system was the Aelius monoblock amplifier, which I coupled to my beloved Magnepan 20.1 loudspeakers. I was smitten by the Aelius’ speed and clarity, particularly in the treble. But after I moved to the Wilson XLF loudspeaker, I took a deep breath and the sonic odyssey continued. I switched to a very different amplifier in the Ypsilon line—the much more expensive and elaborate SET Ultimate Mk. II that outputs about 120 watts. It coupled very well to the XLF, which presents a fairly benign load to amplifiers. The SET version, which Ypsilon chief designer Demetris Baklavas has upgraded several times over the years at my home (including replacing the copper with a silver interstage transformer), has a very continuous, for lack of better word, sound that I ascribe to the fact that it is always operating in Class A. When it comes to improvements, Baklavas, for the most part, has ensured that buyers of earlier versions are not left out in the cold, as it were, but can upgrade their respective components if they wish. 

When it came to the SET amplifier, the move from copper to silver did not result in a faster but more strident sound, as often seems to be the case with high-end gear that uses silver wiring. Instead, the switch actually created an even more mellifluous and supple presentation. Now Ypsilon’s Baklavas has introduced a new monoblock Class AB amplifier with transformers wound entirely with silver wire. It outputs around 100 watts in Class A before switching to Class B and boasts an overall 370 watts into 8 ohms. All that Class A power, friends, means that this hefty amplifier runs pretty darned hot. It’s a hybrid design, as are most Ypsilon amplifiers, with a stout 6H30 or 5687 tube on the input (there are two sockets, so you get to choose which you want to employ), along with an EZ81 rectifier tube. So the obvious question for me was: Was it time to make the move to the Hyperion? Or would the SET amplifier continue to rule the audio roost?

Upon inserting the Hyperion into my system, I enjoyed the sound but was not overwhelmed. It was a little grainy and closed in. But I quickly realized it was going to take a lot of break-in to hear what the amp was capable of. After a couple hundred hours and some tube fiddling, it became apparent to me that Ypsilon had hit a homerun with its new statement amplifier. When it comes to continuity on vocals, there is still something about the SET amp that I don’t think the Hyperion matches—a kind of ineffable (there’s that word again) quality that is hard to describe but definitely there. Overall, however, the Hyperion is hands-down the superior amplifier. Put bluntly, it is one of the very finest I have ever heard. Uniting power and finesse, refinement and seductiveness, this magnificent amplifier offers an enticing blend of the virtues of the Aelius and SET that my Wilson WAMM Master Chronosonic loudspeakers positively feast upon. There is a lucidity and lack of midbass bloat with the Hyperion that makes it an excellent match with the WAMM. I definitely preferred using the 6H30 to the 5687 because it added a good deal of slam and drive to the presentation.

Because the WAMM is harder to drive than the XLF, one advantage that the Hyperion had going in was extra power. The SET amplifier was able to drive the WAMM, but the added wattage of the Hyperion meant that the WAMM was a lot more relaxed on demanding passages, particularly in the nether regions. Plop on a big Mahler symphony, a Verdi overture, or a sassy Count Basie number, and the Hyperion sails right through it.

What really struck me in listening to the Hyperion was the rock-solid way instruments were grounded in the soundstage. Since I’ve been noodling around on the trumpet for decades, I’ve always had a soft spot for brass music. On that aforementioned Verdi overture (a Decca recording of the Cleveland Symphony), some of the brass choruses came through with a life-like sonority—you heard the entire chord, from top to bottom, resonating with a golden glow. On an early digital LP from Columbia that features the Canadian Brass and the Berlin Philharmonic Brass, the distinctive piping quality of the piccolo trumpets was reproduced with remarkable fidelity. One track on CD that I’ve been listening to quite a bit is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s superb live recording of Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor. The ability of the Hyperion to anchor the brass instruments in space was truly phenomenal. You can pretty much discern the size of the bores of the various trumpets and trombones and see them arrayed from left to right and front to back. When Josh Clark of Transparent Audio visited me recently, he was floored by the resonance and power of the trombones, French horns, and tuba as they chugged away in counterpoint to the trumpets. “The trumpets sound great,” he said. “But I’ve never heard those other instruments reproduced like that in the lower sonic regions,” he enthused. I understand what he meant. While the music was presented with total refinement, it also had that hair-raising quality you can experience when you suddenly hear a powerful race car engine throbbing and realize just how much of that power is waiting to be unleashed on the speedway.

At the very same time, I would caution that all its power doesn’t simply mean that the Hyperion will blow down the walls of your listening room. Even more impressive in some ways is its ability to convey soft passages without a loss of resolution or immediacy. It was quite entrancing to listen, for example, to a Harmonia Mundi CD of Javier Perianes playing Schubert’s piano sonatas in B flat major and A major. The Hyperion helped to unveil Peraines’ supreme craftsmanship in the andante movements, where the music seems to hover in the air for what feels like an eternity before resolving into a new chord. This very ability to convey the pianissimo passages with such palpability—a kind of reach-out-and-touch-me character—meant that the monumental passages (and they are there, believe you me) came across with even greater conviction and force. The ability of the Hyperion to deliver the rolling thunder of the left hand on the piano was truly something to hear. Obviously, the Wilson WAMM has something to do with this as well. But the Hyperion does an excellent job of maintaining pitch stability in the bass region, which is something that I think tends to get lost in less ambitious systems.

Something similar, I think, occurred on an Igor Levit recording of Bach’s partitas. Here I would single out the allemande movement of Partita No. 4, which seemed to flow endlessly. The Hyperion lets you discern everything—the touch of the pianist, the use of the pedal, and the lingering sense of the note decaying into space. At points, the verisimilitude is so great that you’re fooled into thinking the piece has ended, only to hear a fresh passage begin.

A lot of this has to do with an absence of noise: The equipment itself is dead silent. You won’t hear any transformer hum emanating from the Hyperion, and you can stick your ear up to your tweeter and shouldn’t hear much more than a faint buzz there, either. To put it another way, transparency has always been the hallmark of Ypsilon products. My own sense is that the company’s equipment seeks to poke into every nook and cranny of the performance space, seeking out the smallest details that it can excavate and hold up for your scrutiny. It’s no bumbling Inspector Clouseau but a dapper Hercule Poirot. Great care and attention is lavished on the most minute musical passages or instrumentation. Many years ago, TAS editor Robert Harley made an astute observation in a review of Wilson loudspeakers that has stayed with me since I read it, which is that it is the small details that our ear gravitates toward and that make an instrument sound more lifelike. The more of those details that an amplifier like the Hyperion can evoke, the more convincing a recording sounds.


But I hasten to add that this isn’t an accumulation of detail for detail’s sake. Rather, Ypsilon gear has a warm, burnished sound that may just be a pinch more beautiful than what a lot of other equipment offers. It’s not on the level of the golden glow that Conrad-Johnson is known for, but there is definitely something of a pulchritudinous touch to the musical affair when Ypsilon gear is being employed. When listening to standup bass on jazz albums, for instance, I think the Hyperion provides a tonally rich sound without sacrificing any alacrity. Since I’m in the camp that thinks that, in one way or another, all gear has a coloration, this doesn’t bother me. Quite the contrary. I’d rather that a component err on the side of musicality, bliss, and all the other things that can gently propel you into a meditative state when listening to your system. The Hyperion does this. There are other amps that will play even louder or go deeper in the bass or provide even greater grip on the notes. But the whole package that the Hyperion offers makes it quite irresistible. So if you’ll permit me a little hyperbole—and since when has that ever figured in the high end?—I’d say that Demetris Baklavas has produced something worthy of the Greek gods. If you’re currently resting in base camp on your audio journey and looking for a proper ascent, then the Hyperion may allow you to steal a march on the path that leads to that elusive sonic Mount Olympus.
..... Jacobs keilbrunn

Ypsilon CDT-100 is hell of a fantastic CD player and should be considered amongst a very few that carry CD playback to the highest echelon of the audio experience.
Ahmet Kip - Senior contributing writer

SUMMARY: All good things have an end. As I was ecstased with rediscovering my CD collection during the review period, that sinister phone call came from the distributor saying that a customer was interested in buying the review sample as it was the only one in stock. In panic and without any consideration of how to budget it I said, “No! This machine is not going anywhere!” 

If there is no suffering, there is no love. When a reviewer falls in love with the review component, the story ends up either with a sour farewell or with the sour experience of paying the invoice. What always remains in the end is the suffering.

EXTENDED REVIEW: I don’t like compact discs. I don’t like them for a few reasons. First; when CD was launched as the new and revolutionary music reproduction format, I thought it would come up with a sound quality far better than vinyl. No ticks and pops ha? That simply means better sound. Wrong! The sound was unquestionably inferior. Ok, I have to confess that I was initially fascinated by my first CD player’s ticks and pops free performance, but I soon k that it was not capable of conveying any emotion. It simply didn’t draw me into the music. I felt as if I were cheated. Second; the music industry gave up vinyl and focused on producing CDs. I felt as if I were confined to inferior living...downtrodden and hopeless. Third; since there were almost no new releases on vinyl and my collection had become the victim of my divorce –I was only 28 and had no clue how cruel a broken hearted woman can be– I had no objections in selling many of the LPs that survived to friends (?) who had their eyes on some rare pieces and persistently making offers to get them. Should I blame CDs for that? Sure, because many rare recordings I had in my vinyl collection were being released in CD format, so I let them go without any hesitation. I felt as if I were tempted by the Devil of the age, the so called DIGITAL. What an unforgivable sin! I was left alone with a handful of LPs, say 20 or 30 whilst the number of CDs at home increasing deviously. 

There are other reasons too, like for example, the fall of the Micro Seiki. Sounds weird? No! Micro Seiki was a legend –and still is for many including me– and I had made myself believe that I would own a Micro Seiki turntable one day. But like many analogue brands devastated by the digital revolution, Micro Seiki too withdrew from audio business, and turned back to its origins, which is micro engineering, to operate in other sectors. 

My dreams were shattered. If you want to kill a person’s soul, kill his dreams.

ACQUIESCENCE

Ok, I will stop here. There is a time for every man to face the reality and learn not to blame others for what has happened to him, and this we call maturity. Nobody had pulled out a gun at me to impose to sell my beloved LPs, right? Or, nobody had forced me to dream about owning a Micro Seiki turntable one day. All were my choices. A mature man should also learn to comply with the Zeitgeist. That is, to accept the fact that the world is digitalising. So I ignored all the arguments I made against compact disc in time and continued my audio journey by placing the CD player at the centre of my system as the main source. 

For the last 25 years I owned many CD players, from moderately priced ones like NAD, Denon or Marantz to some exotic ones like Meridian, Audio Aero and so on. Although I never gave up keeping a turntable in the system, CD playback dominated the listening experience. And in years, still not managed to like CD sound, I lost my interest in high end audio, so that until the industry decided to go back to black. What an unexpected retroactive move! Were the betrayers forgiven? Probably yes. I changed the whole audio set up, putting analogue back to where it once belonged, just at the centre as the main source. CD player? An Oppo 95 blue-ray player was more than sufficient to play some background music in low volumes when we had guests over or when I was busy writing up my articles and essays. Speaking within the limits of CD playback, Oppo is a remarkable player, a very reliable and versatile one at least, of course with some reservations, though not very major. And if you consider its price, you can easily shut your eyes to them. No more chasing after better sounding CD players, no temptations. Keep Oppo until it stops playing. Music and peace at home again. 

TEMPTATION OF AN ANALOGUE LOVER

Last year in Munich High End 2015, Ypsilon Electronics room was my first stop. As all the amplification in my new set up was from Ypsilon, I wanted to meet Demetris Backlavas and say hello to him. The demonstration system in Ypsilon room comprised of CDT-100 CD player (used as transport), DAC-100 D/A digital to analogue converter, PST-100 Mk.2 pre amplifier driving the Aelius monoblocks.  On the analogue side a Bergman turntable was accompanied by VPS-100 phono pre-amplifier and MC transformer. Speakers were Perfect8 Point MkIII. And the sound? 

Disappointing! There was an impressive sound stage, incredible amount of detail, but the overall sound lacked body and impact. A more modest version of Ypsilon gear at home sounded unquestionably more convincing compared to what I was hearing. Second and third days, the sound improved, but still far from what it is supposed to be, or should I say what I was expecting it to be. On the third day, I had a chance to listen to the analogue and digital front ends consequently and surprisingly couldn’t point out the difference. Or did I? Did the digital front end play with more impact? 

Then last year in December, I had the chance to make a critical listening in George Heropoulos’ house in Athens, as mentioned in a previous article. There I witnessed the impressive and tempting musical power of Ypsilon CDT-100 - DAC-100 D/A combo. They played so impactful, so real, so out of the digital play back experience that I hardly believed it was not analogue play back. Hard to confess, but actually Ypsilon digital front end performed better than Thorens Prestige - Fidelity Research FR-64S - Shelter 901 combo.

MOISTEN WITH SPITTLE

During the listening session in Athens, one little case gave me a significant hint on how an ingeniously designed and meticulously manufactured CD player/transport is capable of sucking out the musical information from those little stupid silvery-shiny plastic discs. We were 6 people ( including Demetris Backlavas and Fanis Lagkadinos of Ypsilon Electronics and a boy, my son at 13) listening to a live jazz performance from LP (Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall, if I can remember rightly), my son who plays piano and saxophone, turned to me and said that there was something wrong with the sound of the saxophone at a certain passage. I told him that I didn’t hear anything wrong. As he insisted on his claim, I asked him to tell what he thought was wrong to Demetris. We listened to the same passage of the track for several times and we all heard a very tiny distortion on some certain notes, a kind of rustle or crackle, not distinct though, clearly audible with a some attention. We couldn’t decide whether it was sourced from the audio chain or the performance itself as it may sometimes happen with the brasses or the winds. We were about to convince ourselves that it could be the rustling sound of the mouth piece moistened with spittle as my son reacted and said, “No! Moistened mouth piece doesn’t sound like that. This sound we heard doesn’t belong to the music.” What a presumptuous behaviour!  

This discussion could have lasted for hours if George had not appeared with the CD of the same album in his hand. So we gave a listen to the same track with pure attention and surprisingly didn’t hear a hint of that rustling sound; clearly no moist in the mouth piece. And there is more. The sound was so open, so charming and so close to the real thing that we preferred to continue the listening session with CD.

CDT-100 AS A STANDALONE CD PLAYER

Ypsilon CDT-100 is intended to be used as a CD transport in combination with DAC-100 D/A converter. But probably for the ones who would not be able to afford the two, it comes equipped with a modest (?) internal DAC unit so that it can be used as a stand-alone CD player as well. Contrary to the market trends, CDT-100 reads red book CDs only.

It is not an easy task for a reviewer to describe the external and internal designs of CDT-100 separately since its construction is an extension of the top loading disc drive, the good old and highly acclaimed Philips Pro-2, a rarely found mechanism, modified due to the construction needs. I don’t know if Ypsilon supplies this unit directly from Philips or from some intermediary dealer who holds a stock. All I know, using rare devices in the circuits is something very typical of the brand and they have enough of everything in stock and if you consider the very limited amount of production, this is not a big deal. The Pro-2 disc drive is mounted on massive sandwich assembly made of aluminium and stainless steel which carries the vibration and resonance of the mechanism to the pillar like feet with spikes, located at the corners. Beneath the stainless steel feet are four matching spike dampers again in massive stainless steel.

Attached underneath the drive block, a rectangular aluminium box houses the electronic circuit and the power supply. On the front side of the aluminium box, a thick acrylic window display is mounted.  In the back panel there is an IEC socket with power switch, an S/PDIF output terminal, a Neutric 5-pin output terminal (to use with DAC-100 D/A converter) and a pair of RCA analogue output terminals. That’s it. No control buttons, no nothing –you should control functions using the heavy solid aluminium remote.

This is how the CDT-100 is constructed and how it looks. The outlook is an integral part of its mechanical and electronic design. It looks simple and pristine except the heavy milled aluminium lid on top that you have to lift to place the CD. This wouldn’t bother me if my wife, who is also a chef, hadn’t made fun of it saying that it looked like the lid of those cast iron pans she used in the kitchen. She asked me laughingly if I needed a torchon to grip it. Funny ha? In fact you need to have a space on your rack to place the lid during loading your CDs as you also have to place an aluminium magnet weight on the CD before you operate.

Inside the electronic box there is a custom made toroidal transformer; a simple circuit board to control the drive mechanism; and next to it the D/A converter section comprising of two Burr-Brown PCM 1704 24-bit chips acting as a ladder network. Digital to analogue conversion is done with no oversampling and up-sampling, thus accepting 16-bit signals and no digital filters are used. Demetris Backlavas claims that digital filters that are done by oversampling in a DAC or decimation in A to D are the cause of so called “digital sound”. The sound produced by non-oversampling high quality multi-bit DAC chips has an “analogue like” character compared to the sound produced by an over-sampling DAC. Sounds very simple and straightforward ha? Not that easy actually. Since 1704s do not carry any voltage, two in-house built C-core transformers coupled with single low noise J-fet gain stage feed the Mundorf power supply caps that form the output stage of the CDT-100. In short, CDT-100’s DAC section is one good example to Ypsilon’s “simpler is better” philosophy but at the cost of expensive parts and labour for the sonic edge it provides.

Overall, either in terms of mechanical or electronic design approach, CDT-100 is a retroactive drift towards the basics, the good old days when the industry had not chosen the path of avoiding costly operations like trimming of internal resistors for high accuracy of ladder networks (i.e. R-2R) and so on. Business wise it may not seem logical to be an opponent to the mainstream design approaches but Demetris Backlavas has a solid argument against Sigma-Delta modulator DACs dominating the market as sonic performance is concerned and it sounds convincing, at least in theory. He says, “Even the swanky 32-bit Sigma-Delta modulator DAC chips of today are internally 1-bit in fact. Sigma-Delta DAC’s sound more processed most probably because of the non linear (digital) feedback involved in the modulator itself.  The length of the data (24-32) has nothing to do with the mechanism which is responsible for the sound character.” So the fuss about high digit bits seems to stand for creating a marketing edge rather than a sonic one as my listening sessions inarguably proved.

LISTENING

Recommended burn in time for CDT-100 is a frustrating 1.000 hours and I strongly recommend not judging its performance before 400 hours of playing time. My impression during the first serious listening session in the distributor’s demo room was quite disappointing. When it arrived for review it had already spinned 400 hours and I spent another 200 hours with it, just playing music in the background. So this review is written on its performance approximately after 600 hours of playing time.

If there is one thing to emphasise on the CDT-100’s sonic performance, it is the “out of the digital” listening experience that it provides. It plays with a graceful authority, attracting the listener to its presentation from the first moment of listening. Its transparency and timbral accuracy are of a standard to be associated with the analogue of the very high echelon; and so is the soundstage that it creates. Underneath the rich and finely woven sonic texture lies thrilling dynamics with deep and articulate low end. However, CDT-100 has absolute control on instant ascents, so nothing slaps on your face, but rather touches deep into your heart, so you don’t feel harassed at all. How can a CD player perform relaxed and immediate at the same time without a single hint of harshness or stress? My prejudice on digital playback aside, it is a quality that you can rarely experience even with high-end analogue playback. I guess it is because of its speed revealing the inner detail and micro dynamics of the recording. And it is also the air that comes infused into every single note. This may be a result of its straightforward and no-nonsense circuitry as well as the pains taken with controlling the mechanical vibrations. Whatever the reason is, the sound produced by CDT-100 flows with profound ease and authority on music. 

Listening to Mahler’s Symphony No.5 (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Chailly, DECCA) made it clear how skilful the CDT-100 is to reveal the space between every pulsation of musical notes. Dynamics come without any hint of strain, crescendos raise with thrilling reality. Micro dynamics and inner detail are exemplary. CDT-100 portraits the cymbals in a crystal clear way, especially with the harsh strokes in fortissimos where most CD players fall short. The music comes with a rich texture, palpable nuances and an enveloping sound stage. Reflections in the recording environment are subtly revealed providing a more believable musical experience. Presentation of double basses has depth, articulation and a sense of “thereness”. But CDT-100 never attracts your attention to all these attributes, unless you try to analyse what’s going on as there. It just lets you to listen to music only.
 

Yon Sun Nah’s Bitter Ballad, one of my favourite songs of her, appears both in vinyl (Voyage) and CD (as a bonus track in The Same Girl), so it was a good opportunity for me to test the performance of the CDT-100 against my analogue front end, which comprises of a Thorens TD-550 turntable-Ikeda IT 407 tone arm and ZYX Omega Premium Gold cartridge feeding Ypsilon step-up transformer and VPS-100 phono stage. 

Through the CDT-100 the music came with more energy, more timbral reality and better articulation in the bass region. Actually the sound was so captivating that through the end of the track I gave up with the comparison test and switched to the CDT-100 to continue with the rest of the album just to listen to music. It was that good! In the track Peace, the acoustic bass was enchantingly rich in harmonics and I got the feeling that only a pair of speakers with matching harmonic richness (i.e. Raidho D level to my experience) would do justice to its presentation.

Another side by side comparison I made was with the MSB Universal Media Transport-Platinum Signature DAC IV-Signature Power Base combo from 2013. MSB has upgraded the components to series V a while ago (Universal Media Transport is still built around an OPPO disc drive mechanism though) except the Signature Power Base and this combo costs EURO 42.000 currently. I saw no harm to compare the CDT-100 with the older version of the MSB combo since the CDT-100’s launch already dates back to 2009 (it was introduced as a transport only in 2006) and to my knowledge nothing has changed in its circuitry since then. I listened to the same tracks one after the other on both. Well, as being convinced with the Ypsilon’s musical performance during the early review period, I was expecting it to perform quite close to the MSB, but I was surprised with what I heard. Ypsilon not only did perform better, but it also outclassed the MSB combo in terms of emotional impact. The difference was so evident, evident as dead and alive. So what is the reason for such intriguing distinction? MSB’s DAC unit seems to be based on a similar principle in design as the Ypsilon’s, even carrying it to a step further (in theory of course). Should we therefore blame the transport rather than the DAC? Well, not easy to guess as I did not try the MSB DAC separately with the CDT-100. Even if I did, it wouldn’t make much sense because I wouldn’t be able to use the Ypsilon’s recommended 5-pin output (see next paragraph). To my understanding, a significant portion of Ypsilon’s sonic edge comes from the care taken to minimise the noise caused by electromagnetic and mechanical resonance. Less function means less circuitry, hence less resonance. Same principle is valid for the rock solid mechanical design. And this in practice seems to be working.

My final attempt was to test the CDT-100 as a transport, connecting it to NAD Master Series M51 DAC (which I use at home for computer audio) via its S/PDIF digital output. This would give me the chance to compare the Ypsilon’s internal DAC with a highly acclaimed external DAC unit based on a completely different topology via its standard digital output. Between two components I used Acoustic Revive DSIX 1.OPA digital cable with digital signal isolation exciter. My listening proved that these two components clearly belong to different leagues.

Through NAD M51, the low end lost its articulation, somewhat softened and blurred. The vocals lost their believability and overall the sound lacked impact. Ypsilon’s internal DAC was unquestionably far more musical bringing lots of air and energy. I really don’t know if the result would have changed if I had tested with another digital cable, but having heard the synergy with between the CDT-100 and the DAC-100 connected with Neutric 5-pin digital cable before, I understand that using its dedicated 5-pin output is mandatory for carrying its performance to another level.

WHO NEEDS A CD PLAYER?

Really, who needs a CD player, especially a this price, one in the age of high-rez down-loads? That was my first question when I started reviewing the CDT-100. Then I realised I had more than 1.200 CDs, most of which I was not listening to. I wasn’t, because I could not stand the harsh and superficial sound that my previous CD players reproduced. What a redundant investment. Until I heard the CDT-100 at home, I had put the blame on the CD medium. Towards the end of the review period I realised that I preferred to listen to the CD versions of the same albums because the CDT-100 performed unquestionably better than my analogue front end. I was surprised to hear how much musical information was buried into those shiny little discs. I wish I could have also tested it with the Ypsilon DAC-100 D/A to hear how far the musical feast would go with the set up at home. But I can easily make a guess as I heard how it sounded in Athens. Also in this year’s Munich High End I witnessed the audience visiting Ypsilon room being tricked into an innocent cheating that supported my findings in Athens. While the Döhmann Helix1 turntable was spinning with the Schroeder tone arm on the vinyl (it was not possible to detect under the dimmed light that the arm was raised so the stylus was not touching the groves), the music in fact was being played from the CDT-100 and DAC-100 D/A combo and everybody, including me, thought it was the analogue front end playing. Funny and provoking!

As I was about to finish this write up, Raidho XT-2 speakers arrived for review and I connected them immediately to the system to speed up their burn in period (they arrived with only 50 hours burn in vs. the recommended 250 hours). Now as the CDs spin all day long, I’m also realising that CD players are not the only suspects for the so called “digital sound” but it is also the speakers, at least the ones that visited my home during all those years. Yes, during the review period, CDs sounded great through Tannoy Canterbury and Wilson Sophia 2 speakers, but now I see they sound vibrant and fascinating through Raidho XT-2s. The string instruments appear in the sound stage not as strings and fiddles only but also as resonating wooden bodies, creating a listening experience much closer to live. And as I witness how much musical information the XT-2s suck from the system and how musical the CDs sound even with my veteran OPPO through XT-2s (though not comparable to CDT-100), I tend to put a good portion of the blame on the conventional speaker design as with the most CD players. I guess what disturbed me in most cases during the past was the noise caused by electrical and mechanical vibrations. Although their design philosophies are totally different, Ypsilon and Raidho have a very similar obsession with releasing these vibrations and letting only musical information to flow. Now more and more I get the feeling that we are still not hearing a significant amount of this musical information. And it is not because that they do not exist in those little shiny discs but because that they are blurred by the noise in the whole circuitry of the audio system.

My very personal observation in the above paragraph aside, the Ypsilon CDT-100 is hell of a fantastic CD player and should be considered amongst a very few that carry CD playback to the highest echelon of the audio experience. Despite its profound musical performance, it also cured my feeling of regression by showing the unconscious investment I made on CDs in years was not as stupid as I thought. And this I credit more than anything else.

END OF THE STORY

All good things have an end. As I was ecstased with rediscovering my CD collection during the review period, that sinister phone call came from the distributor saying that a customer was interested in buying the review sample as it was the only one in stock. In panic and without any consideration of how to budget it I said, “No! This machine is not going anywhere!” 

If there is no suffering, there is no love. When a reviewer falls in love with the review component, the story ends up either with a sour farewell or with the sour experience of paying the invoice. What always remains in the end is the suffering.
...........Ahmet Kip - Senior contributing writer

Awards

YPSILON AUDIO ELECTRONICS: THE ONE AND ONLY WITH TWO (2) ABSOLUTE SOUND’S 2017 GOLDEN EAR AWARDS!

Ypsilon Hyperion monoblock amplifier

«Demetris Baklavas, the head honcho of Ypsilon electronics, has been steadily refining his products over the past decade. The results speak for themselves. His latest creation, the 400-watt monoblock Hyperion, named after the Titan god of heavenly light, is a high-powered, hybrid amplifier that combines the finesse and alacrity of his previous low-powered design with tremendous clout.

The transparency, detail, and delicacy of this amplifier are indeed quite divine, but its ability to control the bass also rivals, and may even exceed, some of the most high-powered purely solid-state designs. The depth of soundstage is stunning and the treble region is seldom less than seductive.

If you’ve always yearned for high power, but shied away from it for fear of sacrificing refinement on the altar of high wattage, the Hyperion may prompt you to think again.

With the first 120 watts running in pure Class A, sonic purity is almost a given.

Jacob Heilbrunn, - The Absolute Sound, September 2017