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Monitor Audio Hyphn

It must have been with a giddy mixture of excitement and trepidation that Monitor Audio decided to put its ‘Concept 50’ passive loudspeaker into production. Originally, a concept designed to showcase the company’s engineering and design prowess on its 50th birthday, Concept 50 was so very well received at the various hi-fi and audio shows that Monitor Audio decided to take it one step further. To launch what is about as radical a reimagining of the passive loudspeaker as it’s possible to conceive. To stick an almighty price-ticket on it and, yet, at the same time, hope that it doesn’t bankrupt a company that has, until now, been a model of probity.

‘Concept 50’ is now called ‘Hyphn’. In architecture, a hyphen is a link joining two separate structures. In Monitor Audio-land, ‘Hyphn’ is such a statement of intent that there is, apparently, no money left over for vowels. If it’s possible to radically reinvent such a long-established technology as the passive loudspeaker, that is what Monitor Audio set out to do.

Each Hyphn loudspeaker consists of two separate cabinets, connected by the ‘M-Array’ driver enclosure. The cabinets are built of thermoformed mineral and acrylic stone, milled by hand in order to ensure a smooth, seamless surface that is not - I repeat not - to be compared to Corian kitchen work-surfaces (I made that mistake in the presence of Monitor Audio employees and it took quite a while for us all to get back to civility).

The internal and external wall thickness is between 12mm and 24mm - and it is absolutely rigid. So, to all intents and purposes, is immune to vibration. Each cabinet has a pair of 203mm bass drivers (the third and latest incarnation of Monitor Audio’s Rigid Diaphragm Technology) facing inwards, aiming at each other. This ‘force-cancelled’ arrangement means each driver creates an equal and opposite force, with equal and opposite reaction force. This ensures no vibration force from the drivers and a cabinet that’s unaffected by the prodigious, low-frequency activity it’s hosting. 

The ‘M-Array’, meanwhile, is a compact multi-driver arrangement of the simultaneously ‘brilliantly simple and massively complex’ type. Positioned precisely in its centre is the latest version of Monitor Audio’s ‘micro-pleated diaphragm’ high-frequency transducer. It’s surrounded by six carefully positioned midrange drivers, each a 51mm version of the RDT III cone originally developed for the third generation of the company’s ‘Platinum’ range of loudspeakers. Using six small midrange drivers rather than one big one provides the largest possible surface area with the smallest possible footprint. This, in turn, means the sort of directivity and outstanding room integration that a single larger driver can’t achieve. Plus, a bit of visual drama too, of course. 

Sound quality

The Monitor Audio Hyphn is a potent, thrillingly direct and assertive listen – although, you might say that the look and the asking price demands that as a minimum, doesn’t it? They’re so prodigiously talented, though, that to describe the minutiae of their performance would take up the rest of the space that’s available on the internet - and so here, by way of a taster, are the highlights of the notes I took when giving the Hyphn a very thorough listening:

“Rapid in the manner of a whippet, and yet burly and punchy to an almost unlikely degree. Control, authority and an utter lack of apparent effort, and yet a degree of power and intensity that’s almost intimidating. They’re even-handed and deft, though, just as willing to soothe as to overawe.”

“Dynamism like you wouldn’t believe, both the broad stuff and the minor, and more subtle variations - these speakers are so attentive to harmonic differentials it’s almost funny. Every single scrap of information is revealed and contextualised - but they’re a spirited, engaging listen, no mere tool of analysis.”

“Silences are inky black, while sounds are beautifully natural in colour and texture. Staging is solid, wide-open and brilliantly defined at the same time, and the distance from left-to-right and front-to-back is considerable. Exquisite midrange fidelity, utter naturalism and immediacy. Sweetly realistic tonality, but happy to grind and crunch as and when required. Straight-edged timing, attack and decay of complete positivity.”

“Did I mention ‘texture’? ‘Edge definition’? There’s just extraordinary grip and low-end command here, with momentum and rhythmic certainty to spare. These speakers are just as poised and as eloquent as can be - they communicate like you wouldn’t believe.”

I could go on (and on and on), but I think the point is made by now…


Unlike the vast majority of ‘statement’ or ‘flagship’ loudspeaker designs, the Monitor Audio Hyphn is neither especially massive nor especially difficult to accommodate. It seems fairly certain that anyone with £70K to drop on some nice new loudspeakers is going to have: a) some high-end electronics with means to power them, and b) a large space in which to position them - but neither of these things are essential.

Perhaps, the 107kg each speaker weighs will mean that you’ll probably want to position them on a nice, robust surface - ideally on the ground floor. At 1392 x 502 x 520mm (HxWxD), though, they’re of unremarkable dimensions. And while they, obviously, give off their best when driven by some similarly wallet-bothering amplification, they’re not snobby – they can make the best of being attached to, say, a £1K Cambridge Audio integrated amp rather than complaining about it. It goes without saying, though, that you’ll naturally get better results by deploying amplification at 10 or 20 times that price from the likes of McIntosh, Michi or Moon - just to name a few of the possibilities beginning with ‘M’.

Choosing your preferred finish might be the trickiest part of living with the Monitor Audio Hyphn. Your options extend to ‘matte black’, ‘pure satin white’ or ‘matte heritage green’ - and you can be sure that this green finish is the only thing that’s even remotely retro or ‘heritage’ about these loudspeakers.

At the risk of labouring a point, £70K is a lot of money to spend on a pair of passive loudspeakers. The fact that this sort of money buys astounding sound quality should really be a given and, sure enough, the Monitor Audio Hyphn are capable of making a grown-up weak in the knees. But, in addition to that, these loudspeakers are also notable - and admirable - for their design and their engineering. For many companies, passive loudspeakers reached perfection many decades ago, but Monitor Audio is here to prove otherwise.  

Listening notes

Big Star The Ballad of El Goodo
There’s rarely a hiding-place where power pop is concerned, and this peerless example of the form lets the speakers display their mastery of tonal precision and sound-staging. This recording should flow rather than stomp, and that’s exactly how the Hyphn presents it.  

Mavis Staples Pick Up the Pieces
Dynamism of every type, a fast-moving and complex bass-line and, most of all, thrillingly direct midrange communication, all make this an ideal recording for the Hyphn to demonstrate their control and positivity.

X-Ray Spex Oh Bondage Up Yours!
As rough and ready as they come; as punky as all hell (except for the anomalous saxophone of course); and still hair-raising at almost 50 years old, Oh Bondage Up Yours! is a remarkably stern test of staging, authority and straightforward attack.

What the press say

The press, naturally enough, are agog at the sheer presence Monitor Audio Hyphn. Despite this, this is the only place you can currently read an in-depth review. You’re welcome. 

Why you should buy it

You admire some original and uncompromised engineering; you enjoy a touch of visual excitement; and because you, like us, are bored of 10-foot speakers with a hundred drivers and the price-tag of a modest semi-detached in the Home Counties.  

Video review

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