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Hippo VB vs Crossroads Woodie 2 vs Head-direct RE1 {REVIEW}

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
First a little background, I won a Govibe DAC in one of the many contests that Uncle Wilson from Jaben Singapore throws on his forums. The people who participated in the contest but did not win anything received a free Hippo Boom earphone to make them feel better !

Since I already had a DAC and I wanted another earphone to play with I asked the Indian distributor Moshel if he could send me a Hippo Boom in addition to the DAC. However he sent me this $79 Hippo VB earphone instead.



I liked the variable bass feature of these earphones and decided to read up on some reviews of the Hippos. Unfortunately there were none that I could find.

I received them around 2 months back and when I first listened to them I was in for a shock ! The bass was all muddy and bloated and there was so much sibilance that my head would ache from listening to them for a few seconds ! When I came to know that these earphones cost $79 I was even more amazed that someone would pay so much for these.

Anyways since I was a believer in burn in I played some pink noise for a good 50 - 60 hours or so before listening to them again.

Once again the sibilance issue reared its ugly head and while to my ears it was reduced since the first time I heard it was still very much audible in many of my tracks. I even showed them to my friend and his cheaper Hippo Boom IEMs sounded better than this.

So I just stopped using them altogether and planned to sell them off later on. However I am a lazy bugger so I never did get down to selling them.

A few days back I got to read dkft's review of the Hippo VB here - CrossRoads MylarOne Bijou 2/3, Quattro, Hippo VB, Hippo Boom Review

And I was shocked ! How could he like these extremely sibilant crap ? Well he claimed that he did not have any sibilance issue with his VBs. He also suggested that I burn them in with normal music instead of pink noise. So I have done so and after 60 - 70 hours or so I am reviewing them.

Specs

Driver: 10mm Mylar
Impedance: 32 Ohm
Sensitivity: 105dB
Frequency response: 18Hz – 22kHz
Plug: Angled 3.5mm gold-plated plug (Fits Iphone)
Accessories: Case, 3 single flanged silicon tips, shirt clip, 3 bass ports

From the specs we can see that these are very easy to drive earphones as they have a high sensitivity. I don't give much importance to the frequency response as more often than not they are very misleading.

EDIT : I actually realized I copied the specs from the Crossroads Woodie Two above instead of the VBs. However on checking the VB box I found the specifications are the same as the Woodies. So they share the same driver.

Package and Build Quality





The right angled jack can be inserted into an iphone (at least that's whats mentioned on the box !)



The tunable bass ports



Well the packaging is sparse considering the amount of accessories you get with say the Soundmagic PL-30 or the Head-direct RE1. However on the bright side you do get all the necessary accessories like a case or a shirt clip.

And while the accessories are below average the build quality is definitely above average. The driver housing is made of metal (most likely aluminum). 3 screw-on plates are provided for screwing on to the rear of the housing to alter the sound for more bass or for more treble.

However the first port veils the mid range and treble while the final port increases the sibilance issue and thins the great bass so I will not review them. So in the end, the Hippo VB is reduced to practically a non tunable IEM as the two extra ports changes the sound for the worse.

Fit & Isolation
Decent isolation and even fitting them is pretty easy. You can either choose to wear them straight or around the ear. I prefer around the ear as it reduces microphonics. Since the rear ports are not sealed the isolation is ok but nothing to rave about. I use it while traveling by train and it blocks out most of the sound. If I use the bi flange tips from the Head-direct RE1 set, then isolation improves a bit. However for the purpose of the review I will use only the tips that came with the box.

EDIT : I used the Biflanges from the RE1 box as I misplaced one the medium original tips. The Biflanges were used with the RE1 and Woodie 2 as well.

Sound Quality

Well down to business. I used these phones directly from the headphone out of the Amp3 Pro 2 and yes there is a hissing issue thanks to the 105mW sensitivity. However its extremely slight and did not distract from the music playing. For the sake of comparison, I have added the $79 Head-direct RE1 & $88 Crossroads Woodie 2 as a reference.

1. ABBA - Lay all your love one me.

I like ABBA as a band and I chose this track since it has a lot of different instruments used.

Hippo VB - Ah great bass impact. Drums have great impact and extends rather low. The drums do not drown out the other instruments. Great instrument separation. Soundstage is wide and deep. Treble is clear & crisp with a slight harshness.No sibilance to speak off in this track.
The beautiful voices not very lush and the sound is very neutral with good detail.

Woodie 2 -Great bass impact and depth as usual but it lacks the speed of the other two. It also drowns out some of the background instruments that I could hear with the VBs.However the sound is very dynamic and engaging. The vocals sound smooth & lush but the bass does overpower the vocals a bit. Its a tie between the VB and Woodie 2 for first place.

RE1 - Vocals sound great ! Drums have good impact and depth. However the treble has no extension to speak off and the song seems a little different as both the VB and Woodie have a well extended treble. A lot of background instruments that I could hear with the VB were muffled and not clearly heard. The VB sounded better here technically but I prefered the RE1 since it was a LOT smoother.

2. Queen - We are the champions

Hippo VB - Fredies voice sounds smooth but sounds a tad recessed but I put that down to 6 months of usage of the mid forward RE1. The instruments have a good definition and impact. The electric guitar has a lot of body and energy which is a treat to listen to ! The overall sound is very full and more on the warm side. A commendable performance from the VBs.

Woodie 2 -The sound is nice and airy with great bass impact (as usual). The sound is very transparent and rather 3D in nature. The electric guitar has great energy with that 'edgy' sound which really adds to this song. I would rate the Woodies 2 first, the VBs second and the RE1 last.

RE1
- The forward vocals on the RE1 makes Freddies vocals sound great - very smooth and rather lush. However the forward vocals can muffle the background instruments a bit. The electric guitar lacks that energy that was there in the VB and sounds a little too smooth. A rather mixed performance for the RE1.

3. Mr Mister - Broken Wings
One of the old favourites of mine.

Hippo VB
- Voice is slightly sibilant and harsh but not too bad and does not detract much. The VBs sound very balanced in this track with a rather wide sound stage. I could easily hear the background instruments and sounds which was very nice. While I enjoyed the song the harshness did detract just a bit.

Woodie 2 - First off the bass seems to have to a better body than the VBs. The sound also seems more lush compared to the VBs (dont these have the same drivers ?
Treble is crisp and has a bit of sparkle. However these earphones are more sibilant than the VBs and I had to reduce the volume in order to listen to this track. On a lower volume you cant hear much sibilance and I started to enjoy this song again. I feel the bass is better on the Woodie and I just love the lushness of the sound. After reducing the volume, I feel the Woodies 2 come out on top with this song.

RE1 - Ah what a soundstage ! Its the first thing that hits you once the song starts. Great instrument separation and the RE1 shows off its resolving power with the background instruments clearly heard. In the middle of the track there is a section where vocals stop and a lot of instruments are played. The RE1 handled that section with authority and none of the instruments were drowned out. The vocals were smooth with not even a hint of harshness or sibilance. A definite win for the RE1

4. Eyes on me - Celine Dion
One of my all time favourite songs. I really like Celine Dion as a singer and this is one song I really like.

Hippo VB - The instrument separation is impeccable. Celine's voice sounds good with a hint of harshness. The drums have awesome impact and finesse as it sounds powerful but doesn't drown out any other instruments leading to a very clean and balanced sound. I can close my eyes and concentrate on each individual instrument playing which is a real treat ! Treble is
well extended and there is very little sibilance in some of the brightest passages. All in all a very commendable performance by the VB on this track.

Woodie 2 -From the beginning I knew the Woodie 2 will win this track. What bass ! What depth ! What energy ! And a very engaging lush sound. I am now a fan of wood ! To come down to earth there is a slight harshness in Celine's beautiful voice but it did nothing to bring stop the Woodie 2 from winning.

RE1 - While the song sounds great - smooth vocals with no harshness and sibilance, drums having more than sufficient impact and depth, the missing treble is rather noticeable. I could clearly hear the mids and bass but the treble has no extension to speak off. The song also lacked that energy that the VB has and it sounded too smooth for my tastes. While I still liked the RE1s presentation of this song, the VB does better. For the first time I kinda wished that the Amp3 had an EQ as I would have liked to boost the treble for this song.

5. Cant lose what you never had - Westlife

I like Westlife as a band and while this is not my favorite song I chose it since the are certain passages in the song when all the band members start singing together and is a good test for soundstage and positioning.

Hippo VB - Ah great bass ! Has great impact and depth. Westlife's voices are however a bit harsh and it certainly detracts from the song. I had to lower the volume in order to listen to the song. Nice soundstage & great positioning of the voices. Good details in the instruments and vocal positioning but harsh & slightly sibilant vocals kinda ruin a good song.

Woodie 2 -The superb bass hits you first ! What impact ! What body ! I thought the VBs were the last word in bass response but the Woodies are better. And then the harshness rears its head and detracts a bit but its not so bad as to completely ruin the song. But even with the harshness I couldn't help but notice there was a certain lushness to the song (I thought lushness and harshness were completely opposite to one another ? )
The soundstage has great depth but the width is not as good as the other two.

RE1 - The groups vocals sound amazingly smooth and lush with zero harshness and zero sibilance. The RE1 soundly trounces the VB and Woodie 2 in this song. The wide soundstage of the RE1 makes for impeccable positioning of the different voices in the song. The bass impact and depth is more than sufficient for this track but is lacking compared to the other two earphones. The RE1 comes first in this track with the other two a distant second and third.

6. Roxette - Come back before you leave

Another favourite of mine.

Hippo VB - Very fast bass section. The VB stamps its authority on this track. The bass is very quick and handles the fast pace of the bass with authority. Treble extends pretty high, vocals sound smooth and the VB resolves the finer background sounds very well indeed. I could easily hear the faint background instruments and the drums did not drown out any of the other instruments or vocals. Excellent performance by the VB.

Woodie 2 -Ah what bass, I could be wrong but it seems deeper (than the VB) and it definitely has more body and impact. Vocals sound great no harshness or sibilance to speak off. Good amount of detail and I am really liking the bass impact even though its not as fast as the VBs bass. It feels almost like I have a subwoofer in my head ! Soundstage is also pretty average with sufficient width and depth. Good performance but not the best.

RE1 - Ah ! What smoothness ! While both the VB & Woodie 2 have awesome bass & treble, the RE1 is a completely different IEM. The sound is so smooth and the vocals sound awesome ! The treble lacks any crispness or sparkle that both the other earphones have. The bass is there & it extends rather deep but the impact is much softer which adds to the smoothness. The soundstage also impresses as its really wide but does not have much depth. The sound is also rather warm and the RE1 (IMO) sounds the best with this track.

I also tested the VBs with my Meier Porta Corda III to see if amping can bring any benifit to the sound.

1. Abba - Lay all your love on me

A wider soundstage. Bass has more control. The wider soundstage however makes the sound seem a little laid back. I somehow did not like this track after amping. However with amp this song is very neutral without being warm or cold nor is it bright or dark.

2. Queen - We are the champions

The wider soundstage is again immediately noticeable. Freddies voice is more forward with amping. Amping definitely helps with this song.

3. Mister Mister - Broken Wings

Very wide sound with plenty of detail. Harshness still prevalent but reduced.

4. Celine Dion - Eyes on me

Sound gets a bit wider. Bass starts to reverberate like the Woodies 2 now. Ah the energetic presentation is contagious and I started to shake my head to the beats. But I still prefer the Woodies purely for the lushness in the sound

5. Westlife - Cant lose what you never had.

Bass depth and impact has improved. So has the soundstage (much wider now) and very noticeable. Voices has lost a LOT of its harshness but some slight harshnes & sibilance prevail in certain bright passages. I could be wrong but I believe that I can hear more detail in the song that I could not hear without the amp. (Or is it because of the wider soundstage ?). The sound has definitely improved over running the VB unamped. But I still prefer the Woodies sound because of the lushness it has while the VBs still sound rather neutral.

6. Roxette - Come Back before you leave.

The song seems a bit smoother and again the soundstage is much wider. Again the bass has speed and impact making for an engaging sound. I feel the amped VBs sound better than the Woodies as the sound is much wider and the bass is much faster.

Conclusion

The VBs are pretty neutral earphones with deep tight bass, extended treble & rather smooth mids and so will appeal to a very large audience. They have good resolving power but at the same time there is a bit of harshness and sibiliance.

However for a price of $79 they can easily punch above their weight and I wont hesitate in recommending them if are looking for a well built neutral sounding IEM with great treble and deep tight bass.

If someone wishes to reduce the treble, he/she can stuff some foam down the ear canals of the VB and the harshness/sibilance becomes negligible. However the sparkle and crispness of the treble is reduced. However the mod is completely and easily reversible so its worth a try if you dont like harsh treble.

So which one is the clear winner of this 'test' ? Well none of them ! They all have their own strengths and weaknesses. The VBs are by far the most neutral of the three. The RE1s dont have the sheer bass impact as the other two but are very smooth and easy to listen to with the best soundstage. The Woodie Two are very lush with deep bass and slightly harsh treble.

That said the I prefer the Woodies over the VBs. The lushness that the wooden housing brings to the sound is something appealing to me since I listen to music with a lot of vocals. The RE1s are also special to me as I can listen to them for hours and hours without any fatigue. However they need an amp to shine.
post #2 of 31
Great review - I think given my leaning towards trance, you have all but sold me on them....

I just wanted someone who has heard both these and the Klipsch s4 to comment on them... they are both available for around the same price here.
post #3 of 31
I'm slightly confused though. It almost seems like you have a different model than what dfkt has, or your taste is vastly different than what dfkt likes. I guess I'll make up my mind about whether to try a pair of these once a couple more reviews hit this forum.

One question though, could you describe the way this headphone sounds (compared to others) by telling us how certain aspects of a song sound? What I mean is, how does the sound of a cymbal appear, the sound of a(n electric) guitar, a piano or the (kick) drum? (just some examples) Do they sound natural? Aren't they (too) overshadowed by the other instruments? I'm just asking, because things like that makes it a little easier for me to grasp what these might sound like to you. It will never give me a proper idea of what they are like for me, but I would still appreciate it.

Nice review to be honest though .
post #4 of 31
Actually it would be nice if you listed a sampling of your test music.
Quote:
If I use the bi flange tips from the Head-direct RE1 set, then isolation improves a bit. However for the purpose of the review I will use only the tips that came with the box.
Does the sound improve with any other tips ?
post #5 of 31
Thread Starter 
Thank you both for your kind comments. I love constructive criticism so I will accept your feedback and ill update the review to give my impressions on some well known songs.

I am however browsing my dads music collection for some orchestra tracks to test the VBs instrument separation as I dont have any music to properly test that in my own limited collection.

Regarding the tips. Besides the bi-flange tips, using foam tips really makes these earphones rather laid back and really changes the sonic character. However they lose their neutral sound as the treble seems a bit lifeless then. Stuffing foam into the canals has a much lesser effect than using foam tips.

These tips that come with the VB are unique and it results in a better fit (for me).
post #6 of 31
I just got my HippoVBs, but bear with me since I'm no audiophile. So far listening to them outside the box, I like my Atrio M5 better. The VBs are kind of bright, so I had to shove some cotton in the driver to help that. I'm still not getting that bass I want compared to the M5. I'm gonna order some comply tips since the Shure Olives will not fit on these and I will not go through the process of stretching those out again.

Gonna burn them in for the next 2-3 days then I'll come back with my results. Maybe those comply tips might provide a better seal.

The main music I listen to is trance.
post #7 of 31
Thread Starter 
^^ Dude burn them in for at least 100 hours. I absolutely hated them out of the box.

Will update this review by tomorrow. Going to add the Crossroads Woodie 2 to the mix.
post #8 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by brendon View Post
A few days back I got to read dkft's review of the Hippo VB here - CrossRoads MylarOne Bijou 2/3, Quattro, Hippo VB, Hippo Boom Review

And I was shocked ! How could he like these extremely sibilant crap ? Well he claimed that he did not have any sibilance issue with his VBs. He also suggested that I burn them in with normal music instead of pink noise. So I have done so and after 60 - 70 hours or so I am reviewing them.

[...]

Treble - What hits you first is the harsh treble. The sound is bright and the treble is a bit too aggressive for my tastes. However the sibilance issue I had faced earlier is almost completely gone. (Explain that burn-in naysayers !!! ).
Hahah, sometimes miracles do happen.
post #9 of 31
Thread Starter 
Well I took my own sweet time, but I have finally updated the review.
post #10 of 31
Thread Starter 
Well I took my own sweet time, but I have finally updated the review.
post #11 of 31
Thread Starter 
Well I took my own sweet time, but I finally updated the review.
post #12 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by brendon View Post
Well I took my own sweet time, but I have finally updated the review.
Quote:
Originally Posted by brendon View Post
Well I took my own sweet time, but I have finally updated the review.
Quote:
Originally Posted by brendon View Post
Well I took my own sweet time, but I finally updated the review.
I get that you are enthusiastic about it, but isn't a triple post a little over the top . Just kidding.

Nice review, really like it . Get's me a better idea of what the Hippo VB's are like.
post #13 of 31
post it on TE as well :@
post #14 of 31
Aaah !! Finally the review's up . The friend he is talking about in the review who didnt like the Hippo VBs out of the box is most probably me
Brendon I need to try out your VBs now .Seem to be very interesting and somewhat similar to my sonic taste. Will see you soon with my new Quattros and PL-50s.

Now since we have a Jaben reseller in India please do post this review on TE as well . It should help lot of members looking for IEMs in the 70-90$ range. This reminds me , I have to complete my pending reviews as well.Will start with the Hippo Boom .
post #15 of 31
Thread Starter 
^^ Oh yes you have a lot of work left !

And yes I was referring to you only.

I took forever to finish this review and now I have to do the Beta Brainwavz as well. I certainly do not envy you now !

@Helmore - Sorry about that. I posted that with my phone and somehow it gave me an error message whenever I clicked submit ! I tried it thrice before giving up. Now to my horror the post actually showed up three times !!!
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