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[REVIEW] Hippo Cricri+: What More Could You Ask From This?

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

Hippo Cricri + Headphone Amplifier/DAC Review

 

Introduction:

 

Jaben’s house brand Hippo maybe known for its rather impressive budget orientated IEMs but to me I know and love Hippo as the company that brought my current go to and most used portable amp, the cricri. It is cheap, tiny and feature packed and most importantly, it just sounds absolutely great. Now the cricri also has another version and that is the cricri+ with the + simply meaning, it has more. So yes they have gone and equipped more to my favourite portable amp and that is by adding a 24/96 USB DAC to it. So this actually got me quite excited. For portable amps I do not have anything extremely expensive but I have had a few and as for USB DAC I will only have the Audioengine D1 to stack this up against. The amp has been in my possession for over a month now but I actually have sent this out on loan to my friend SwimColeby until know. He was mainly using it as a DAC with his Objective 2 and Sennheiser HD650 and he said it destroyed he PCs soundcard and he knows that he is going to miss it.

 

So I have put this amp through its paces so enjoy my findings.

 

 

 

 

Accessories:

 

What you get with these is the necessities and a nice extra. You get a well-built USB to mini USB cable that doubles up as the charger cable and how you will be able to connect it to your computer as a USB DAC. I say it is well built because it has strong connectors with nice strain reliefs, a fairly thick cable that is really strong and a nice connector in the middle that is super chunky.

 

 

You also get a real handy pouch to store that amp in and protect it from scratches. It is well sized from the amp and is opened and closed with a drawstring. It is not the most protective but pleasing seeing as it comes with an amp.

 

Lastly you get a mini to mini (3.5mm=mini) cable for connecting it to what you want. I have actually found it to sound rather good, nothing special but no faults with it and a clearer sound than my Monster mini to mini that I used before. The build of this is also not to bad with two gold plated jacks both paired with a nice strain relief. Also one jack is a straight plug and the other right-angled.

 

 

Design and Features:

 

The design of this like the original is minimalistic and ergonomic. There is nothing flashy about it, it comes in two colours, black and silver and while I have a silver original, I have this in black that looks really nice with its brushed metal effect. Other than that design is to the point with its name in the middle and a small hippo logo next to the hippo web address at the bottom, the only other writing is the labels for all the features it has. I say that it is ergonomic and that is for building am p stacks or pairing it with an MP3 player on the go. It is flat so it easily will be able to sit on the back of whatever you use. It is also able to sit nicely on your desk if you’re using it as a USB DAC.

 

As for features it has what is needed which is still good as it is a portable amp and USB DAC but I cannot help but going back to this versus the original because it does lose two of the options that you had with the original (bass boost and gain). For the portable amp section we have the 3.5mm line in so you can connect whatever your listening device is in. That sits neatly next to the headphone out which is also 3.5mm. On the bottom we have the volume control which a wheel, which is easy to use, but I would like some sort of marking to know how far it has been turned. This is used both when connected to a MP3 player through a LOD and being used as a USB DAC. On the other side we have a little button, which clicks it on and off, and a blue LED lights up when it is on.

 

On the other side we have the USB in and a switch. The switch changes it between charging mode and non-charging mode. The switch sits next to a red LED that lights up when it’s getting charged. The USB in also sits next to a red LED that lights up when it is connected to a computer. I have not detected any noticeable differences between when it is on charging mode and when it is off which is good.

 

You have also got the ability to chose how you will take the music out of it when your using it as a USB DAC which opens up a lot of options. If you leave the amp switched off and plug your headphones in to where the source would be connected when using as a portable amp, you will only be using the cricri+’s DAC section that makes it really handy when connecting to another external amp. I would also like to point out that when your using just the DAC you cannot take advantage of the volume control.

 

If you do switch the amp on though and plug your headphones into the headphone jack you will use both the internal DAC and the internal amp the cricri has.

 

Because of these two options it accommodates those who have an external amp whose sound they really like and just want an amp upgrade as well as those who do not and will make the most of both the amp and DAC inside.

 

With the cricri

 

Compatibility and Set-up:

 

First I am going to talk about compatibility with the device as a portable amplifier and that is not too great unfortunately. I say this because of the amount of people who are making a portable rig with there smart phones. These are just not able to work with smart phones because of there problems with EMI which is just the interference that the radio transmission that your phone give off cause. They cause you to get a horrible screechy noise when they are close together and that ends with the amp cutting out. They only way to combat it would be a huge interconnect or LOD with the phone in one pocket and the amp in the other but that I just not practical is it.

 

As for the USB DAC you will have no problems and this will easily set up with whatever your planning on using this with. To set it up you connect the included USB cable into the USB port of your computer (in my case a iMac) and then you will connect the cable to the cricri+. For mac users go into system preferences and then sound. After that, select output and then TI usb Audio. I doubt that it will be any different and surely not harder for PC users.

 

 

Size and Portability:

 

We do understandably take a size increase from the original cricri as a DAC chip has been added but we still maintain a stupidly small size, I just can not grasp it is packing and amp and a DAC, its only like 1 and quarter time the original. So yes for that reason I will say it is in the super portable category and although there is smaller (GoVibe Mini Box, the original and the Fiio E5/6) it is still not going to cause any size problems. It also weighs little more than nothing and makes my iPod Nano 3G seem heavy which is saying something.

 

 

{left to right} Objective 2, cricri, Mini Box, cricri+, MRB

 

As for the actual size the dimensions are:

·      Length – 3 inches

·      Width – 1.75 inches

·      Depth – 0.5 inches

So as you can see it really is small.

 

 

 

 

Driving Power:

 

Now to test how well they can driver more power hungry I bring out my big guns, the Sennheiser HD580. They do not need as much power as some headphones of course but still have a impedance of 300 ohms which is not shabby and not just anything can drive them to listenable noise levels efficiently, in fact the cricri didn’t quite manage. Luckily this has the addition of a few things so lets have round two on Hippo driving challenge.

 

I will be straight up and say that it didn’t do to well. Yes it can get them as loud as anyone could want but it is so fuzzy and rough sounding no one could enjoy it. Unfortunately they do not pull it off and I will not try and say that they do. However it is far from being there aim so it is no crying shame but do remember that if you want an amp for your new supper powerful full sized open headphones, you want something a bit bigger.

 

With the Denon D2000

 

Hiss:

 

Now hiss as I have found out pretty recently is something that can really cripple an amplifier for use with IEMs of a high sensitivity as the MiuAudio MRB amp I have just got my hands on (yes I DIYed it myself) is just way to powerful because of how much it hisses. This when playing music with a high sensitivity IEM such as the Fischer Audio DBA-02 has no apparent hiss at all. I also tested stopping the music playing and listening and at low volumes there is nothing but as you turn its up you go from a little hum to a full blown hiss at max volume. Overall though it is not a problem in any way so do not concern your self.

 

With the Heir 4.Ai

 

Build Quality:

 

The build quality seems good and has little to worry about (if anything). The main construction seems to be from an aluminum that is light and not the strongest but at the end of the day it is made of metal that is good. Everything is held together with some screws and this is all flawless and tight. Although it is only aluminum the construction does feel really solid and all tighter and stronger than the original.

 

Sound Quality

 

As A Preamp:

 

This is actually my main use of the cricri+ when I am home. I love the sound of my Epiphany Acoustics EHP-O2 amplifier and it does have an amazing sound in which I prefer to that of the cricri. However, it is 1000x the size so that is not really bad going on the cricri. So I am just using the DAC section of the cricri+ and feeding it through the included interconnect to the EHP-O2. Now while it was on loan (cricri+), the preamp role was dedicated to my Audioengine D1 that is a dedicated USB DAC with loads of features. So I have to compare compared the sound quality of the two (using the EHP-O2 in both set ups). Believe it or not I actually prefer the sound of the cheaper and smaller cricri+. Mainly because it has better clarity and is more neutral in presentation to the warmth that D1 has. The cricri+ also feels more open and free and is clearly more transparent and detailed than the D1. So it does very nicely as a preamp sounding clearly better than the soundcard in my iMac and also better than the DAC in the more expensive D1.

 

As a Portable Amplifier:

 

As a portable amplifier this is where the device really shines and were I fall in love with this as much as the original. I was expecting that same sound I got with the cricri and just adding a DAC to that, but no, this is a different monster. Now we do not change the sound signature that the cricri has but we just making more cohesive and just generally more refined. It is a clearly better amplifier. This amp knows what it is there to do and does that well and that is make your headphones sound better. However in the experience of amps that I have owned there has been three main categories of sound. First you have warm amplifiers which includes the likes of the GoVibe Mini Box, then you have neutral and well balanced like my Objective 2 and then finally I have come across bright amps and this is were this sits. However, some bright amps can have a sibilance caused with certain sources such as iPhone 4’s (a bright source) because the brightness and treble energy is being generated from both devices. However this manages to have a bright sound without the sibilance being cause because although highs have great prominence they are very smooth and not spiked. Bass on the other hand is refined largely and the quantity is clearly lowered while extension is still maintained and punch and speed is increased. In fact on the subject of extension, this actually improves headphones in which it synergizes well with and creates more rumble (mainly with my Denon D200). Now the main thing that I like about the amp is the effect on the mids. Transparency levels are sky rocketed making some veiled headphones not really struggling with mid details. Details are presented on a silver platter in which it is actually hard to take them all in and it creates already revealing headphones such as the Fischer Audio DBA-02 and Heir 4.Ai to turn into the next league of greatness. The whole sound increases in terms of airiness and although soundstage is not really directly affected the whole sound is generally more open. The texture of the amp is on the thinner side of things but not in a bad way by any means. It just makes the whole sound a lot less fatiguing and lighter on the ears.

 

Now there are types of headphones this really synergizes with and they are the more balanced and neutral headphones like the Sony MDR-EX1000 and Heir 4.Ai in which it boosts there performances on the go a real nice amount. On some others though it can have a disastrous effect on and they are the more bass dominated headphones such as the AiAiAi TMA-1. Although the TMA-1 bass was stopped from being boomy and the trebles is smoothened out, the mids just become horrid and this can happen when the mids of a headphones are heavy and thick in texture and they get stuck in no mans land and sound almost distorted. What I am saying is that if you link these with a headphone of a bassier signature or one that is far apart from the cricri+’s, they will clash and it is noticeable. So this is an amp for your detailed headphones and those for more analytical headphones. However is you do just want a bit more clarity in your headphones then these could also do the job and the clashing rule does not always work because the Denon D2000’s which I think are on the muddy side, really come on some with this amp.

 

As a USB DAC:

 

As the DAC it follows suit to the sound this has as a portable amplifier. It is on the brighter side and clarity is excellent. All of the above information applies here and this does sound great as a standalone USB DAC and I could happily use this for always instead of my computers headphone jack but I will always have an external amp such as the Objective 2 just because I need some output power to drive some of my headphones like the HD580s.

 

With the Audioengine D1

 

Conclusion:

 

This took the great sound from my beloved cricri and improved it when used as a portable amp and as well as that added a full 24/96 USB DAC as well which turns this into a device with so many options of use. I raved about the sound of this as a portable amplifier but is this the best amp on the market. I doubt that almost 100% just because it is a cheap amp and I loved the sound of the original and that is clearly improved on this amp so I am sure more expensive amps with similar signatures will be so much more refined and opened. However for the price you can not go wrong and you will be able to notice the difference extremely clearly with what ever headphones you decide to pair with it.

 

So if it is a cheap USB DAC or portable amplifier your looking for then I would say why not to this amp.

 

It can be purchased from Jaben online in a fair few bundles as well as on its own for roughly £100 (without postage). It can be purchased here:

 

http://jaben.net/shopping2/Cricri_Plus.html


Edited by Swimsonny - 9/7/12 at 11:12am
post #2 of 27

how do you find the 02 pairing with hippo cricri+?

post #3 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mussicc View Post

how do you find the 02 pairing with hippo cricri+?

very nice when taking the line out of the cricri plus, for the price you can not go wrong, beats the Audioengine D1 in sound and Fiio E17. AND.... it backs up as a portable amp as well that is small and awesome!

post #4 of 27

=) Exactly! This is my current set up actually. Personally i feel the is 02 even better than the m-stage. My friends and I did a blind test and we consistently picked up the 02, much more clarity and detail compared to the m-stage. Not to mention 02 is half cheaper compared to the m-stage

post #5 of 27

While it's by no means bad, and I thought it was a nice, little, cute package, but I found the Cricri+ a little grainy when I tried it out a few months ago, in comparison to my iBasso D7. JM2C

post #6 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mussicc View Post

=) Exactly! This is my current set up actually. Personally i feel the is 02 even better than the m-stage. My friends and I did a blind test and we consistently picked up the 02, much more clarity and detail compared to the m-stage. Not to mention 02 is half cheaper compared to the m-stage

The Objective is amazing indeed, just wish it was a full desktop amp. When you say you use this set up, is that including the cricri+.
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomscy2000 View Post

While it's by no means bad, and I thought it was a nice, little, cute package, but I found the Cricri+ a little grainy when I tried it out a few months ago, in comparison to my iBasso D7. JM2C
How was you using it by the way? It is a tad grainy and less refined to some other stuff I own but it's lack of coloration makes it very nice! I also think although it I likely the iBasso is better but then this does have a few more uses (and lack some others) so swings and roundabouts between the two. I don't think this is the best USB DAC in its price range but a great multi use device, I mean its better than the very popular e17.
post #7 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Swimsonny View Post

How was you using it by the way? It is a tad grainy and less refined to some other stuff I own but it's lack of coloration makes it very nice! I also think although it I likely the iBasso is better but then this does have a few more uses (and lack some others) so swings and roundabouts between the two. I don't think this is the best USB DAC in its price range but a great multi use device, I mean its better than the very popular e17.

 

I agree, the Cricri+ is a much more versatile device. I was using it as a USB DAC/amp, so no secondary device, to compare apples-to-apples operation against the D7. At the same time, the D7 was a surprising device with way more resolution than I'd ever hoped for and a surprising smoothness that I didn't find in other devices. It's a bit too smooth for me, actually. Very slightly too warm for my tastes. Contrast that with the Cricri+, which I believe is slightly on the bright side of neutral.

 

The E17 can be a little dull sounding (most FiiO devices are pretty dull, I actually think the E17 offends me least), and it doesn't impart a lot of resolution, but I think its functionality and versatility trump the Cricri+, with the ability to control L/R balance and bass/treble boost. The Cricri+ wins on size/weight.

post #8 of 27

yupp i'm using the cricri+ and 02 =)

post #9 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomscy2000 View Post

 

I agree, the Cricri+ is a much more versatile device. I was using it as a USB DAC/amp, so no secondary device, to compare apples-to-apples operation against the D7. At the same time, the D7 was a surprising device with way more resolution than I'd ever hoped for and a surprising smoothness that I didn't find in other devices. It's a bit too smooth for me, actually. Very slightly too warm for my tastes. Contrast that with the Cricri+, which I believe is slightly on the bright side of neutral.

 

The E17 can be a little dull sounding (most FiiO devices are pretty dull, I actually think the E17 offends me least), and it doesn't impart a lot of resolution, but I think its functionality and versatility trump the Cricri+, with the ability to control L/R balance and bass/treble boost. The Cricri+ wins on size/weight.

I have always go back and forth whether or not i think it is that bright, sometimes it really shows brightness but it really depends on synergy.

 

It is the only Fiio i have heard and why i thinks its a nice entry product with its design and the sound lets you hear it making a difference, i still prefer the cricri+ for both sound and its size. The D7 does look nice however, i still want a nice DAC too feed my O2 for now and whatever desktop amp i decide to get! (I really wanna LCD-2 ;)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mussicc View Post

yupp i'm using the cricri+ and 02 =)

AWESOME!!!!

post #10 of 27

I just bought an E17 and now I'm second guessing myself

post #11 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by SodaMeiser View Post  I just bought an E17 and now I'm second guessing myself

 

You'll be fine, don't worry. Second-guessing will always be there. The Cricri+ works, and the E17 also works. That's what's important.

post #12 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomscy2000 View Post

 

I agree, the Cricri+ is a much more versatile device. I was using it as a USB DAC/amp, so no secondary device, to compare apples-to-apples operation against the D7. At the same time, the D7 was a surprising device with way more resolution than I'd ever hoped for and a surprising smoothness that I didn't find in other devices. It's a bit too smooth for me, actually. Very slightly too warm for my tastes. Contrast that with the Cricri+, which I believe is slightly on the bright side of neutral.

 

The E17 can be a little dull sounding (most FiiO devices are pretty dull, I actually think the E17 offends me least), and it doesn't impart a lot of resolution, but I think its functionality and versatility trump the Cricri+, with the ability to control L/R balance and bass/treble boost. The Cricri+ wins on size/weight.

I didn't find the D1 mentioned in the original review noticably warm so your description of the cricri+ as as slightly on the bright side probably fits. Player SW etc can affect our perceptions here.

post #13 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by goodvibes View Post

I didn't find the D1 mentioned in the original review noticably warm so your description of the cricri+ as as slightly on the bright side probably fits. Player SW etc can affect our perceptions here.

 

Hmm, I was interested in the D1 at once point, but the Zo at 10 ohms made me lose interest, as I have nothing that over 50 ohms (HD598)... my D7 sounds perfectly neutral out of the line-out, while the OPA1611 of the headphone output stage makes it very slightly warm but also U-shaped.

post #14 of 27

Is it still grainy? Does the signature changes with burn-in noticeably?

 

Thanks for the review, I might be in the market for just that combo.

I wonder if it's going to have any kind of synergy with my GMP 8.35 though. They can give out quite a bit of bass when asked, but it's very tight and controlled, not boomy or muddy or anything. Overall, they're pretty resolving, yet very classy and musical. Not grainy at all.

post #15 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hoichi View Post

Is it still grainy? Does the signature changes with burn-in noticeably?

 

Thanks for the review, I might be in the market for just that combo.

I wonder if it's going to have any kind of synergy with my GMP 8.35 though. They can give out quite a bit of bass when asked, but it's very tight and controlled, not boomy or muddy or anything. Overall, they're pretty resolving, yet very classy and musical. Not grainy at all.

not much and it is grainy only in a way it is not gonna be as smooth as more expensive stuff!

 

I have not tried them headphones and this emphasis little bass so it will be even tighter and more controlled with this! I think this is a good option unless it requires a lot of power, i am not to aware of this model!

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