Following the Northwest Audio Show, an invite to Node Audio followed with the opportunity to review these stunning Hylixa Signature loudspeakers. Node Audio speak of finding ‘The Artist in the Room’; can this be possible? Here at hifiandmusicsource.com, we have our Reference Moor Amps Angel 6 which will get us pretty close to any artist. By special arrangement, with Henley Audio, we also have the new Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista PAS stereo power amplifier; if the artist is here, we will find them.
The Hylixa Signature is a development of the first iteration of the Hylixa loudspeaker, designed as a collaboration between designers Ashley May and David Evans and loudspeaker acoustic engineer Christien Ellis. Ellis has previously worked with the likes of Q Acoustics, Soundkaos as well as Rega, on their stunning RS10 loudspeaker.
The Hylixa was conceived in 2016, reaching pre-production in 2018 and launching the following year. COVID-19 slightly dented any momentum built up in the years after launch. A reflective look at the first generation of Hylixa over Covid offered the opportunity to revisit the base plate of the Hylixa and modify or rethink the central stanchion, replacing the extruded aluminium forerunner with the same glass-Nylon material used in the head of the speaker. This eliminated any metallic-induced eddy-current interference from the internal wiring and crossover.
As we saw in the Node Audio factory visit, the headshell, stanchion and crossover cassette are all laser sintered (like a 3D printer) under computer control from tiny glass nylon particles. This process enables exact design features to be made with no joints anywhere. This means the Hylixa structure is almost inert, acoustically.
The Hylixa Signature is a three-way loudspeaker with a ‘Helical Transmission Line’ (HTL) bass treatment, conceived to deliver point source performance. The three drivers consist of a 19mm ring
radiator tweeter that has a crossover near 7kHz. There is a 46mm Balanced-Mode Radiator (BMR) woofer that has a wide frequency response designed and optimised by Node Audio to avoid crossing over in the critical vocal range, covering approximately 200Hz – 7kHz. This design offers clarity and uniform sound power delivery. Below this frequency, there is a rear-firing low distortion 133mm bass driver driving the 1.6 m helical transmission line (HTL). The HTL is controlled with sheep wool.
All the drivers, externally sourced but in-house modified, are tested on-site in an anechoic chamber. They are then matched, paired, and catalogued so that if there is a failure a matched replacement is available.
In the stanchion, there is also a laser-sintered cassette for the crossovers. These are all hand-finished with channels for the wires between the components, offering an optimum solution for sound management. The speaker binding posts are to the rear of the stainless steel base.
The Hylixa are finished with an aluminium aerospace grade CNC milled facia plate and the stainless-steel machined base plate has seven adjustable spikes for optimum positioning.
At this price, you will be expecting everything to be perfect, and it is. The laser-sintered headshell and stanchion are machined in perfect harmony, as is the crossover cassette, unseen to the customer but beautifully presented on the recent factory tour.
The front facia plate can be machined and presented in a bespoke colour. We saw that the front facia is designed to show no visible screws when it is assembled. As we saw on the tour, the whole design and manufacturing process is geared to a premium finish, as you would expect, but also an aftersales experience.
The usual out-of-the-box stuff really does warrant discussion here. The speakers come in a flight box on wheels such is the weight and care required. The loudspeakers need to be lifted with care as the weight of the base may fracture the stanchion. For this reason, the stanchion slides into the base from the rear on assembly in the desired room.
The Hylixa Signature is priced at £30,000 per pair and all colours are available.
I have been using an Eversolo DMP-A6 as a digital transport or the Chord Electronics 2Go/2Yu streaming bridge into a T+A DAC 200, the T+A has Atlas XLR output to the Musical Fidelity PAS. Alternatively, with the Moor Amps, I’m using my trusty iFi Pro iDSD which has been slightly usurped these last few weeks by the T+A electronics that are clearly at the top of the game. I’m using Vertere interconnects and Atlas power leads where needed. I’ve been using both the Black Rhodium Charleston loudspeaker cables that offer more in the low end and the Atlas Mavros loudspeaker cable that does slightly firm up the bass.
The loudspeaker positioning took a good while to get right, but it was worth the fiddling about. I had the speakers set up by some representatives from Node. We set them up, left them to settle in and had lunch before positioning them correctly.
The difficulty with setting up the Hylixa was that they sounded great anyway, but it was clear after some clever noodling that an optimum place could be found where the space in the soundstage was correctly unlocked and it was just undoubtedly right. We used Dominique Fils-Aimé’s stunning version of Strange Fruit and a further track Nameless (Qobuz FLAC 24-bit, 88.2kHz) for this alignment process. These are exceptional recordings. The moment in the setup was when I heard each guitar in Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues (Qobuz FLAC 24-bit, 96kHz). When the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, you’ve got there.
My listening position has ended up being around 2.8m away from the Hylixa cabinet and they are fractionally less than this apart. I feel quite close to the loudspeakers, however, it is a comfortable position and prolonged listening has been simply joyful, lengthy and not fatiguing.
The first thing you get from these Hylixa loudspeakers are astonishing levels of detail, intakes of breath in the recording are clearly heard, as are returning piano pedals. There is a sneeze and a sniff in the left speaker that I have not heard before in Wish You Were Here (Qobuz FLAC 24-bit, 192kHz), it is so clear, this is ridiculous detail; you are getting everything from the T+A DAC 200 source. The same detail is on offer from the peerless Carnegie Hall recordings by Ryan Adams from 2014 (playing the vinyl on a wired Cambridge Audio ALVA TT2).
Next, it is time to listen to The Stone Roses’ Shoot You Down (Qobuz FLAC 16-bit, 44.1kHz). Reni’s drums and percussion are crazy and so beautiful in these loudspeakers, they are absolutely on point as the cymbals crash and decay in rhythm and time. And I absolutely dare you not to tap your feet to Bye Bye Bad Man (Qobuz FLAC 16-bit, 44.1kHz) near the beginning of the same album.
Switching to Atlas Mavros loudspeaker cable, there is a more immediate soundstage offered that sets Dominique Fils-Aimé further forward in the soundstage, the detail is retained of course but there is a notable shift in the purity on offer. This is interesting as I have enjoyed the Charleston cable for its clarity, precision and wider bass response.
Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista PAS stereo power amplifier
This is pure music, pure pleasure.
Where the Moor Amps offers 150W/ch into 8 Ohms the Nu-Vista claims to offer twice as much, let’s take care then. The Nu-Vista PAS features their valve-based hybrid Class A amplification. The Musical Fidelity should be a good match as the Hylixa needs a bit of a shove with an apparently low 82dB (2.83V/m) sensitivity. I’ve retained the Atlas cables at this point.
Using the same streaming transport and DAC, the Nu-Vista offers a fraction ‘more’, but it is by no means night and day which is rather reassuring having bought the Moor Amps Angel 6, costing less than half as much as the PAS. The Nu-Vista PAS features eight (four per-channel) 6S51N nuvistor valves in a discrete, Class A amplifier buffer stage. This fully balanced and very low noise platform is perfect for the Hylixa and the delivery is crisp and on point.
I am concluding at this point that these may well be likened to fine dining speakers. Why? Often, Radiohead offers complex percussive pieces. Like fine dining, these Hylixa can deconstruct these tracks. The placement of instruments is clear, open, but cohesive and literally, Everything (is) in its Right Place (Radiohead, Qobuz FLAC 16-bit, 44.1kHz).
Reference pieces like Subterranean Homesick Alien (XL Download FLAC 24-bit, 192kHz), are to die for, for me. Codex (Qobuz FLAC 16-bit, 44.1kHz) simply haunts the room and House of Cards (Qobuz FLAC 16-bit, 44.1kHz) still sounds like the woofer is being ripped from the cabinet. The transmission line bass response here from the Hylixa is sublime, deep, and effortlessly controlled. This is pure music, pure pleasure.
Finally, from the sublime to the ridiculous, if we’re looking for a bit of fun and spine-tingling excitement there can be nothing better than childishly turning up Money for Nothing (Qobuz FLAC 24-bit, 192kHz) on the intro, the Hylixa are made for this crescendo of noise.
Here’s the Qobuz Musical Interlude Playlist with the listening tracks used in this review.
This is the Tidal HF&MS Radiohead Playlist that is required for certain moments!
…the bass response here from the Hylixa is sublime, deep, and effortlessly controlled.
Node Audio refers to feeling the ‘Artist in the Room’, this is as close as I am ever likely to get with these speakers driven by twenty thousand pounds plus of amplification.
The key bonus though with these loudspeakers is they are a piece of art in their own right. Let’s face it, most speakers are more often than not dormant, yet these loudspeakers offer a presence in the room, everyone who has seen them whilst they have been here has stroked the headshell (and I’ve run in just after with a cloth to clean them).
I feel bound to say, that as much as the Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista power amplifier is singularly stunning in its delivery, I personally have ended up listening for the balance of the review period with my own Moor Amps Angel 6 power amplifier. When power delivery is as effortless as this, this is an easy choice to make in the end.
Whilst I have high levels of separation and engagement, I can’t help thinking I’d like to combine this Hylixa with the recent experience I had with the REL Carbon Special, probably in an array. This sound is special but that really would be something to behold.
Have I found the Artist in the Room? I missed Ryan Adams earlier this year at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham but his Carnegie Hall recordings on Vinyl put him IN this reviewer’s room. I will not forget this time with such exceptional engineering and art and emotional engagement.
Clean controlled bass response
Solid Stainless steel base
The flight case
For a lottery win or a really good idea
Full details are on the company’s site.