If you’ve never heard of Hypex, you are forgiven. Something in hi-tech syringes? No. A PR company? Maybe, but not here. Hypex Electronics BV is in fact one of the most influential suppliers of power amplifier sub-assemblies in pro audio, and ‘sub-assemblies’ gives the game away about why the company has hitherto flown below your radar. It makes amplifier modules and, while other operators in this field have begun to badge their work on the open market (Pascal and Linea Research particularly), Hypex remains confidently quiet in the twilight world of OEM, somewhere among the daffodils between Vlissingen and Kiekaaste.
“We specialise in amplifier modules, not off-the-shelf rackmount products,” confirms Thomas Vaneman, Hypex account manager, “but they are 100% built by ourselves. Recently we made a switch from separate power supplies and amplifiers to integrated, multi-channel options, but still only as modules.”
Jan-Peter Van Amerongen, who owns the company, started out at home in 1996 as a small business making Class A-B amplifier modules and was soon swamped by orders – adding first Jorrit Mozes as R&D manager, and then Niels Burema as operations manager (pictured top left with Van Amerongen). Consistent growth was followed by a sea-change when Van Amerongen met a Philips engineer called Bruno Putzeys who was developing a technology called UcD, or Universal Class D.
“At first Jan-Peter assumed that Class D could never match Class A-B for quality,” explains Vaneman, “but Bruno invited him over and proved that it could. So Jan-Peter hired Bruno as chief R&D engineer as soon as he could. UcD makes such a light, small yet efficient amplifier that it was easy to sell. On the back of this success Bruno began to develop Ncore technology.”
By 2008, Ncore was emerging as the next generation after UcD, claiming even greater performance characteristics and propelling Hypex into several professional and consumer audio markets. Larger premises have been established in Groningen and Eindhoven, with warehouse locations in Groningen and Hong Kong and factories in Nanjing, China and Penang, Malaysia – the latter wholly owned by Hypex since last year. It now covers 2,000m² and has doubled its SMT production capacity eight times since the initial manufacturing partnership was begun in 2012.
Hypex caught the shift to Class D in pro audio early, helping to transform it from a low-end corner of the amplifier business to the high-end application of today’s perceptions. “UcD was the first Class D amplifier to compete seriously with Class A-B,” Vaneman claims, adding that it’s important to remember that these are purely analogue amplifiers and the designation ‘D’ in no way means digital.
But what makes them ‘Universal’, as the nomenclature has it? “Bruno was trying to develop a new standard,” explains Vaneman, “something everyone could reference and acknowledge. Plus, of course, it can be applied to almost any audio application in every market from bars to mastering studios. We’re aiming to leave no sonic footprint at all: they add nothing, they remove nothing; they just amplify. Some of our customers are using them in scientific measurements under laboratory conditions.”
Having already added DSP modules and speaker management to the product portfolio, the long-term evolution of a business like Hypex would suggest a move eventually into badged, rackmount amplifiers and other units featuring full connectivity. Vaneman agrees with this assessment, but adds: “the secret of running a good business is taking things gradually and going at your own tempo”.
There are now several Hypex customers in the rental sector, adding the technology to their own systems just as Jan-Peter Van Amerongen’s very first customers did back in the ’90s – a two-man Dutch PA supplier called JMP. The studio and consumer sectors continue to beat a path to the Hypex door, and the reach is now global with a busy ‘WebShop’ supplying much of the output in kit form. With no distributor network, all sales are direct.
“Most of our ‘promotion’, if you can call it that, is word of mouth,” says Van Amerongen, “walking around a lot of trade shows and exhibiting ourselves at ISE and Prolight + Sound. Most customers come to us, and so far we haven’t needed distributors!
“Seven years ago we did about €1 million turnover; last year we did €7 million – that really is double-digit growth, without any layers of representation in different countries or any complicated dealer relationships. The market knows what we are doing, and every new customer has the potential to generate new business by using our product and showing their competitors something advantageous. They see Hypex in competing products, and they drop us an email!”
As the touring market accepts Class D, Hypex is in a good position to drive innovation as this technology dovetails into environments populated by networking and DSP. “But UcD and Ncore won’t, by themselves, influence how people in pro audio use the IT infrastructure,” Van Amerongen points out. “It’s just amplifier technology. We do have a 2-in, 4-out DSP platform that will be connected to our new digital networking system that’s in development now. It’s still OEM; what we do is sub-assembly, but who knows how people will adapt our modules to suit the market requirements as they happen…”