Hippo Biscuit Review
You may know that I have developed a slight love for amplifiers from Jabens house brand with the cricri still being my most loved for what it is. So when I got the news that there was going to be a DAP that had pretty much the same form factor I naturally got excited…. Very excited. Introducing the Hippo Biscuit, a new micro DAP similar in idea to the likes of the iPod shuffle but obviously with an aim of sound quality being good. It may not boast a screen or file compatibility but it does boast a cheap price and allegedly a good sound and for a cheap throw around DAP for school or gym what more do you want, lets be honest you don’t want your DX100 in the gym with you. So I got this, slapped on some WAV to a memory card and got this fun underway. This device is a measly £45 so is also a very cheap option.
Design and Features:
The design is just great in my opinion, I really do love it and think for what it is made for, you cannot ask for me. It does not offer much but it keeps the size down. Now a big thing that it does not offer is FLAC. Now I can see why this is a problem and I think it would have really completed the offering by adding FLAC compatibility to it but it does accept WAV and of course MP3, not a lot but if you want lossless then WAV it is and if you don’t then its likely that you will have music in MP3 and its only a quick convert away if not.
On the face we have the navigation buttons, under the logo and the smiley Hippo face we have a whopping 5 buttons and to be honest, you do not need any more. You have the volume + and – which is quite self-explanatory in what it does as is the next track and previous track button. It shuffles your music and that’s it. However the hugely more expensive Altmann Tera Player did have a navigation to it with the same 5 buttons and does show it can be done, so maybe Jaben can make an upgrade and take a leaf out of Altmanns book and use the same technique, it would be nice to see as I found it quite functional, as long as your SD card was layered correctly but I actually shuffle on my iPod or Cowon for example so I was not too fussed. You lastly have the middle button that is the largest and it is a solid green when not playing and holds flashes when it is, this is the pause and play button and that’s exactly what it does. It does miss a on/off button and it is always on, just when its not playing music it lights up green and does nothing more, clearly not using up much power as it lasts like this forever.
The sides are not cluttered and on the bottom you have a lowly 3.5mm output and on the left side you have a micro SD slot and then underneath a reset button that I have never used and do not really see the point in it. Lastly you have a mini USB input which is for charging this with the included USB to mini USB cable and it charges pretty quickly too, in fact it will be fully charged in under an hour and a half, yes, speed charging indeed.
The playback time of this is also pretty impressive considering the charge time. Its lasts over 9 hours and I say this but I have gone over 10 hours with it surviving. These numbers are with it playing music and in paused mode it lasts a lot longer even though it is still on, just think of it as a little green torch when it is not playing.
On the packaging the guidelines say that is ideal with headphones from 16 Ohms to 300 Ohm loads and I of course put this to the test. Any little loads it deals with easily, leaving no hiss with even the most sensitive of IEMs, my Lear LCM-5 have 122 db sensitivity and the background was dead silent so there is nothing to worry about with any stuff that is sensitive or low impedance.
So lets plug in the Sennheiser HD580 with a Grado jack adapter. These are rated at 300 ohms impedance so they should be the highest impedance headphones that the Biscuit can drive. Now they do not lie, you can get the HD580 to listenable volumes but driving these headphones is no easy feat and the Biscuit is far from doing these headphones justice so do not let that put you off, I would change the specs to 16 Ohms to 75 or a 100 Ohms.
The Biscuit is really well built. It has an aluminum enclosure that is light but strong and extremely sturdy and is all tightly screwed in and plushy finished. The lack of the screen does allow it to take more of a beating and remain un-phased as well because if you drop it, what screen is there to crack? This thing will last a long time and not have any problems as far as I can forsee.
This piece of equipment sums up the meaning of portability. I use the hippo cricri, which is the same dimension as the Biscuit most of all my portable amps due to the fact that it so portable and this is a player with the same form factor, yes please. So yes, this nails portability, I like the form, nice to hold and you can swing it anywhere, one thing is though, you do not get the accessories for sport etc. that you may with an iPod shuffle. My dad also found the Shuffle to pretty much be waterproof, he swum with it….
The main bit you’re here for though is to know how this things sounds, I mean it has to have something extra for you to stray from a iPod shuffle if you want a micro DAP. I will straight up say it sounds better than a shuffle and in fact way out of its price range.
To start up I selected a few of my favourite WAV albums and placed them onto my 16gb SD card and inserted it into the Biscuit. I took out a few IEMs and begun listening and was extremely surprised. Like most of the Hippo amps that I have, it maintains a rather neutral sound, in fact surprisingly uncoloured from warmth but maybe leaning towards a brighter sound. The bass is rather soft in punch and gives no additional boost to it or warmth to the mids, there is a sub bass roll of with it however and under 50hz seems vacant in comparison to my iPhone 4 or any of my portable rigs, it not horrendous but noticeable. Mids are clear, especially transparent but easily matching some of the best DAPs in the price above like the Cowon J3 for detail and without the J3s warmth, they may be more revealing. Treble is slightly accentuated and well extended and the great detail is once again present. The overall sound is a bit grainy but this outdoes my iPod Nano 3g, iPhone 4 and is on par with perhaps my Cowon J3 for raw sound quality. It is neutral, full and detailed. The background is not as black (but still transparent) as some and something like the Altmann Tera Player really does put it through its paces but for £45 this really does sound great. Another thing about it is its ability to never distort and the whole frequency sounds very good. It is also surprisingly fast as player goes, never missing a beat, well as long as the earphones are up for it. WIth some nice WAV
Compared to Audirvana live playing the same file through my iMac too a Audioengine D1 and then an Objective 2 amplifier, you do lack a bit of bass punch in exchange for a softer, more mellow hit. The treble actually feels a bit more lively and sparkly but the soundstage very so more tightly compact. Mids maintain almost the same detail however and the sound is as forward and clear. In fact comparing the two, if it was not for a bit of bass punch and smoothness, you would not think you was comparing a £45 DAP to a well regarded amp and DAC set up.
I also tested with others ;)
These is a great product, a generally great package packing sound quality, portability and build quality all mashed together and stupendously cheap price. This is not going to replace your more expensive DAP for reasons such as its lack of a screen and UI and other extras like movie playback and EQ, the later being extremely handy. I can not really tell you how this sounds but it is good and I urge you to try it if in need of a small portable DAP.