Hyperion is a hugely capable synthesizer with a complex modular heart.
Playing through the layered presets of Hyperion is like an unfolding sonic adventure of deep swells, huge synths and elegant infusions. Each of these ‘Combi’ patches seems designed to take you off onto musical journeys the moment your fingers fall on the keys. The sound design and patch creation in Hyperion are top notch and I’ve rarely felt so inspired by a new software synth. It reminds me of the first time I played a Korg M1 upstairs in the Rose Morris shop in 1988, when I was stunned by this idea of layered sounds that surrounded you with textures while supporting the melodies your fingers would find. Funnily enough Hyperion was inspired by those sorts of ’80s synthesizers, the sound of analogue washing into digital, the soundscapes of Vangelis, Jean-Michel Jarre and Brian Eno, and to my ears Hyperion nails it.
Hyperion is a modular software synthesizer but not in a faux Eurorack sense. Instead, it’s about the complex interplay of nodes within a spaghetti field of connections. While the building blocks are the same, Hyperion builds synthesis more like Reaktor than Voltage Modular. All sorts of synthesis forms are represented from classic oscillators to plucked strings, 4‑Operator FM to wavefolding, wave‑sequencing to sound‑fonts and multisamples. It’s a synthesizer workstation that blends analogue and digital forms with infinitely complex node arrangements feeding 16 layers of polyphonic sound with effects, arpeggiation and zoning by key or dynamics. Hyperion makes a good first impression.
While the building blocks are the same, Hyperion builds synthesis more like Reaktor than Voltage Modular.
The interface doesn’t sugar‑coat things for you with rendered knobs, animated modulations or slick lighting. Instead, you stare into the somewhat baffling abyss of a node environment in snazzy colours and interconnected pathways. Each node is a narrow rectangle of colour with audio and control inputs along the top and outputs along the bottom. They create a cascade of nodes from the ‘Note Input’ node to the ‘Audio out’ node. Everything in between can be scattered around however you like.
To the left is the preset browser and column of patch layers. At the bottom is an information panel with details on selected nodes, modulations and macro controls. On the right are the control panels for any nodes you’ve clicked on. However, your focus is inevitably drawn towards the brightly coloured nodal architecture in the middle window; it’s irresistible.
A node is a software expression of an intersecting function which in modular synthesis terms means it’s a module. There are several node categories. Anything that has to do with audio is blue, including sound generators like oscillators, processors like filters and effects, and mixers. Control nodes are orange and are things like note input, envelopes, LFOs and data functions like logic and multipliers. Pink nodes are for global control of elements that affect all active voices. And finally, green nodes are effect buses that process all voices unlike the blue node effects that act directly on the audio within a voice.
Connections within a category are cabled in the same colour, making it easy to differentiate the categories but not so much the connections themselves. You can drag nodes about to get a better idea of what they’re connected to and their input connections light up a very helpful yellow. It would also be helpful if the output connections lit up as well but they don’t.
The node‑based interface is not going to be thrilling for someone who’s expecting knobs and sliders to play with. However, for people who appreciate algorithms, connections and interplay it is more likely to be a deeply fascinating environment.
Each node has a panel of parameters that appears in the column on the right when you select one. Click on another node and the corresponding panel appears at the top of the stack until you have a scrollable list of more familiar synthesizer control panels. They appear in the order you click on them so you are denied any traditional sort of synthesizer layout. Hyperion is all about offering a fresh and dynamic approach and so is not going to make it easy for you. Parameters are represented by a half circle knob with accompanying numerical value and drop‑down menus for types of waveform and other selectables.
While Hyperion, like so many other software synths, claims to be intuitive there’s a fair bit of clueless fiddling about required before you start climbing up that learning curve to get some sound out. The fact that the Audio Output node has its level at zero by default had me foxed for quite some time. However, once you get the hang of the architecture and what all the little letter tags on the nodes mean (pro tip: hover your mouse over them) then you can get into some fascinating synthesis.
You can start building patches with an oscillator, patched through a filter into an Audio Out node with an ADSR patched into the level. You can add in some notes from a sequence generator and use LFOs to modulate and push in note‑advancing pulses. You can start wiring in effects and combining different sound sources and interweaving sequences and modulations to build quite complex patches with a modular mindset. However, Hyperion is coming at this from a heavy synthesizer direction and really wants you to get stuck in with a keyboard, with polyphony, with multiple layers of different textures and sound generators while building Macro controls to morph the sounds and deepen the interplay.
Any control input for a node can be connected to as many sources of control as you like. You can plumb in envelopes, LFOs, steps or whatever you like into a single pin on a node. In a modular system, you might run these through a multi‑channel VCA or mixer to blend the modulations but in Hyperion this is all integrated into the destination.
Beneath the modular environment is an information panel with three tabs. One of those tabs is ‘Mod Sources’. When you click on a nodes control pin the Mod Sources tab will display information on everything connected to it. There’s a display of the voices in use, each with its own colour, and another showing the resultant waveform at that pin. Each source then has a level control to mix in the various sources. This is a very efficient and graphical way of combining modulations.
When playing Hyperion the interface feels a bit static and there’s little indication of signal flow or visual hints at the enormous sounds being generated. Modulated knobs don’t move, neither do those tied to MIDI‑controlled Macros. It’s a shame because it’s something I look for in software, being one of its advantages over hardware synthesis. However, you can add displays to the output of any node which can help visualise what’s going on. The Displays are for viewing control data either as a waveform or numerically. The only option for viewing audio waveforms is via the little short oscilloscope up at the main outputs. It would be great to be able to trace the evolution of your waveforms before they are mixed and routed through effects.
Along the bottom of Hyperion are eight Macro knobs with corresponding MIDI CC numbers. These enable you to tie a single mapped hardware knob into all sorts of different nodes. Drop a Macro node onto the grid and connect it to whatever you want to control. You can tie a single knob in to control a whole raft of filter cutoffs or the levels of different modulations or a whole collection of different things.
While the Macros make MIDI control easy, you can also drop in MIDI controller nodes anywhere you like and map more controls to them. You can use them to bring in automation from your DAW or to send and receive MIDI data to other plug‑ins.
Things get even more exciting when you start breaking the boundaries between layers. Each patch is a layer and you can stack up to 16 layers in a single Combi instrument with level, note range and transposition controls. Using a pair of pink portals called the Macro Send and Macro Receive nodes, you can feed control data from one layer to any other. Plug a modulation into a Macro Send on one layer and it appears out a Macro Receive on the other. Or you could use it pull Macros across multiple layers controlling different things in different patches.
You can do the same with audio, effectively creating layers that act as effect buses. In the most recent update, they’ve added an Audio Input node so you can use Hyperion as an effects processor.
The analogue‑style oscillators come with 18 waveforms, including Moog squares, Buzz Waves and Super Saws. It has wavefolding or pulse‑width modulation built in depending on the waveform. You can pull in up to four oscillators for unison and some rather delicious detuning. Combined with the circuit emulating drift and randomisation from the Note Input node these oscillators sound fantastic.
Hyperion has several other sound generators covering a variety of synthesis forms. There’s a 4‑operator FM node; a Wavesequence node which is essentially a configurable and sweepable wavetable; a sample player and multisample soundfont player; and a pair of acoustically modelled plucked string and blown flute nodes.
For the FM and Wavesequence nodes it would be convenient to be able to save them as presets within themselves because they have many parameters that you’ll have to manipulate into some kind of sense every time you load the node. This goes for all the nodes really; it could be a useful feature. You can copy and paste nodes between layers, so it would be possible to build a patch that contains various versions of generators you’ve edited and paste them into patches you’re working on but that’s a bit long‑winded. Otherwise, you can combine any number of generators within a patch to build up a vast array of possible textures and oscillations.
The sound design and patch creation in Hyperion are top notch and I’ve rarely felt so inspired by a new software synth.
There’s a generous amount of effects inside this machine, both as regular audio effects and as voice processors. The Voice Processors are part of the blue family because they are applied per‑voice and include nodes such as the filters of which there are 10 types covering all the usual forms, including Moog and Oberheim models. There’s also a bit‑crusher, Ring Modulator and Distortion but it’s the Tube Resonator and the Granulator that are particularly special.
The Tube Resonator lets you play with the length and radius of up to five tubes with feedback and mic position adding to the possibilities. Patch in some LFOs and you can pull out some fabulously fluid and resonating sounds. The Granulator is an entire synth all to itself. It’s nice and simple with sliders to pull in the grain lengths, play speed, randomisation, rates and shapes and it sounds fantastic.
The more conventional audio effects are all in green and create an effects bus after the Audio Out node. While the list includes the ones found in Voice Processing we also get echo, flanger, chorus, EQ, more distortions and some rather nice reverbs.
Hyperion is a full‑course meal of a synthesizer with an infinitely tweakable heart of modular possibility. While the modular complexity can seem boggling, the quality of the presets keeps you enjoying the sound of it all until you feel the need to start digging into what’s going on.
The downside perhaps of all its versatility is that you can’t just reach out and grab the filter like you normally would on a synth. There could be many filters in many places doing many different things, although pulling them into conventional controls is what the Macros are for. It’s unconventional in places, a little light in documentation but is extremely powerful and begs to be continually dismantled and re‑patched. The interplay between the layers is fantastic and opens it up to some massive textures and very performable combis. It’s delicious from the generously seasoned generation of sound, through the savoury modulations and into the ample desserts of the effects engine.
- Sound quality.
- Fabulous presets.
- Multiple layered combis.
- Endless modular architecture.
- Inter‑layer signal routing.
- Wide range of available nodes.
- Not enough explanation.
- Difficult to see what’s doing what.
- Unconventional terms.
- Could do with node presets.
- No undo/redo.
Hyperion is a great‑sounding multi‑layered synthesizer for big sounds and combi performances that features a comprehensive and versatile modular heart.