[REVIEW] Hippo Shroom and VB
Dec 8, 2009 at 3:41 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 27

ClieOS

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Before the review, I want to thank Uncle Wilson @ Jaben for the samples.

[size=large]Hippo Shroom[/size] - Clean Sound in Miniature

SHR-01.jpg


Spec
Driver: Single 6mm Dynamic
Sensitivity: 95dB + 4 SPL / mW
Impedance: 16Ohm @ 1 kHz
Frequency Response: 10Hz - 20 kHz
Cord: 1.25m
Plug: Gold-Plated Stereo 3.5mm Mini-Plug
Weight: 0.8g

SHR-02.jpg


Packaging, Accessories, and Build Quality
Compared to other models of the same line, Shroom's packaging is definitely more shiny and psychedelic. Inside, you will find the IEM itself, a synthetic leather soft pouch (like that of NuForce NE-7M), three pair of different sized black eartips (small, mid, large) and three pair of different sized red/blue colored eartips - very shroomy indeed.

One of the first things you would probably notice is how small the actual earpieces are. The general shape resembles that of CrossRoads' Quattro, but smaller in diameter. In fact, the dynamic transducer used in Shroom is 1mm smaller in diameter compared to that of Quattro's. Also, the transducer is designed to be in the front of the nozzle (which is larger in diameter than the earpiece housing) for a more 'intimate' sound, but we will leave that discussion for later. Isolation wise, I find it to be above average and good enough for fairly noisy environment. Microphonics is just about average. You will want to find a shirt clip to go with it.

SHR-03.jpg


The mini plug is of an interesting design, kind of like old UE design but more rounded and smaller. I like the design but I wish the strain relief can be longer and more flexible.

One of the main features on Shroom is its transducer placement, which almost at the tip of the nozzle. As a result, the eartips used are specially made for Shroom to accommodate the extra wide nozzle, which means the possibility of aftermarket eartips replacement is out-of-question. The good news is, the eartips themselves is pretty good in quality. But due to the nozzle diameter, I would suspect people with very small ear canal size will probably have a hard time getting a comfortable fit. The design also introduces a new problem, earwax and dust accumulation. While it is not uncommon to see earwax buildup on the nozzle on any IEM, the more exposed Shroom transducer (sitting just behind the mesh / vent) is more vulnerable to such a problem. You will require cleaning it out the mesh / vent regular with a needle to make sure there won't be any obstruction - not a particularly hard thing to do but it must be done.

Overall, the build quality is similar to the latest CrossRoads MylarOne or he previously reviewed Hippo Boom. Decent, not the best there is but neither is it bad. It is not designed for rough use so some caring will be needed in order for it to last a long time.

SHR-05.jpg

Shroom and Quattro, both without eartips. Shroom has the transducer on the tips / nozzle while Quattro's is inside the housing.

Sound Quality
As usual, I gave the Shroom a standard 50hrs minimum burn-in before the review (like I did with all IEM I reviewed). Since there is not possible to use any other eartips and there seems to be no sonic difference b/w the black and colored eartips, I ended up using the stock black midsized eartips for the review.

I first saw the concept of placing the transducer as close as possible to the eardrum on one of JVC low end 'bi-metal' series. The elimination of most of the front housing and nozzle were claimed to help reducing any unwanted reverberation. In that sense, it is probably fairly effective on Shroom. Its sound, in short, is very clean and transparent.

The overall sound signature of Shroom is between neutral and balanced, but still remains largely neutral and analytical. Treble is well extended with good sparkle and resolution, but it will occasionally sound a little bit sibilant on brightest note. The mid is well presented too. Vocal is clean and a bit upfront, but not full nor sweet and can sound a little lean at time. Bass has good speed and decent impact, but not excessive in quantity. It also rolls off more significantly on the lowest part of the sub-bass region. So basshead needs not apply. Soundstage is above average, airy and transparent with good decay.

SHR-04.jpg


Conclusion
Clean, transparent, and analytical sound is where Shroom's strengths lie, but in a sense it can be too lean for those who prefer a warmer, sweeter vocal or big bass. Shroom is more in line with ADDIEM's sound signature, but slightly better on overall performance. I consider the overall SQ to be about the same as iM-590 - just that iM-590 has better bass and mid while Shroom is better at treble and transparentness.

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[size=large]Hippo VB[/size] - Customizable Fun

VB-01.jpg


Spec
Driver: Single 10mm Dynamic
Sensitivity: 105dB + 4 SPL / mW
Impedance: 32Ohm @ 1 kHz
Frequency Response: 18Hz - 22 kHz
Cord: 1.30m
Rated Power: 2mW
Max Input Power: 10mW
Plug: Gold-Plated Stereo 3.5mm Mini-Plug
Variable Bass Tuning

VB-02.jpg


Packaging, Accessories, and Build Quality
VB's packaging is similar to that of Hippo Boom, just black paper box. Inside, you will find the IEM itself, a hardcase, a shirt clip, three pair of different sized eartips and of course, the three pair of bass tuning plates. Despite the printing on the paper box, the bass tuning plates are marked wrongly / in reverse. Instead of no dot representing the weakest of bass, it is actually the strongest, and so on.

The hardcase is pretty decent in quality, which is expectable since Hippo started as a headphone case brand. The earpieces resemble that of the Denon C700 series, but with rear exchangeable bass plate. The nozzle is filter-less. The main housing is made out of anodized aluminum which has a solid feel and weight to it. The bass tuning plates concept is similar to that of Quattro's, but improved in the sense that VB's bass plate has rubber o-ring to hold the plate in place so it won't get unscrewed accidentally.

VB-03.jpg


The only complaint I have is about the stock eartips, which have a rather springier inner core that isn't as soft as it should have been. It is just not as comfortable as normal single flange. I end up swapping them with the regular Audio-Technica style single flange which is much comfier in my ear. Isolation wise (on the swapped eartips), the two dotted mid bass plate is about average. The dot-less big bass plate is slightly below average since it turns the IEM into a full opened-back design, while the triple dots small bass plate give above average isolation. Microphonics issue is decent.

Overall, I find the build quality to be slightly better than Shroom due to the more robust design, but it is still not the kind of headphone that you can / should abuse.

VB-04.jpg


Sound Quality
Like Shroom, I gave VB a standard 50hrs minimum burn-in before the review (like I did with all IEM I reviewed). The eartips of choice, as mentioned above, is a pair of generic Audio-Technica style single flange due to comfort issue.

The overall sound signature of VB is lively and on the warm side. On the triple dotted / small bass plate, bass has a decent impact but less in quantity and more toward neutrality. Mid and treble are drier and brighter. Soundstage is also noticeably narrower. On the two dotted / mid bass plate, bass has a very good body and depth, especially on the mid-bass region (and it does go down deep). Mid and treble have better resolution due to better airiness which also give a better soundstage. This by far is the best sounding bass plate. On the dot-less / big bass plate, bass is noticeably more boomy and much warmer, which in term floors over the detail and mud up the mid, treble and soundstage.

Regardless of which kind bass plates, the treble does get sibilant from time to time on brighter music (except it is less noticeable in big bass plate due to the excessive warm muddiness). I listened to VB under a quick frequency sweep and it performs surprisingly well from top to bottom, but there are a few spikes on the upper region which probably is the reason of the sibilance issue. As a result, sometime there can be too many sparkles in the treble which sounds too 'busy'. However, the sibilance is not to the level of annoyance as long as you keep the volume to a reasonable level. Shroom has a better control on treble in comparison.

VB-05.jpg


Conclusion
In many ways VB sounds like the CrossRoads Woody 2 without the wood lushness, while tuned more toward a livelier, focus sound signature (and no doubt both have been benefited from the larger dynamic transducer). It might have minor issue here and there, but VB has outperformed its price tag. For those who enjoy a warm, musical, and lively sound, VB is a great sub-$100 option.

A quick sum up can be found here.
 
Dec 8, 2009 at 3:54 PM Post #2 of 27

bcpk

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Would you still consider the RE0s the sub-$100 champs? I guess these are probably a good option for people unwilling to add an amp into their setup.

[size=xx-small]PS : First! :p[/size]
 
Dec 8, 2009 at 4:56 PM Post #5 of 27

ClieOS

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Quote:

Originally Posted by bcpk /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Would you still consider the RE0s the sub-$100 champs? I guess these are probably a good option for people unwilling to add an amp into their setup.


I think the more important question is, 'which fits your own preference best?'. That said, RE0 is still one of my all time favorite.

Quote:

Originally Posted by prone2phone /img/forum/go_quote.gif
wow, so Eterna has better bass?


Eterna has bigger bass, VB has better control.
 
Dec 9, 2009 at 6:00 PM Post #6 of 27

daouda

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Hi Tai, first post here, many thanks for this review (and all the other ones you've done so far), i can tell you for sure that many people, including me, were eagerly waiting for it!

Just a few questions :

-Have you tried the foam mod (suggested by dftk and brendon who reviewed the phones as well) to temper the potential treble harshness/sibilance and what do you think about it? Would you recommend it? I'm really close to ordering the VBs and i think i'm pretty sensitive to both treble harshness and sibilance. How fatiguing do you find the VBs to be compared to other IEMs? (i can sometimes listen to a lot of bright music like latin jazz, salsa, merengue and cuban timba where the horn sections, violins, percussions, cowbells & cymbals need their sparkle but too much of it can be ear and brain-piercing)

-What would be the places of both those phones in your personal IEM ranking now? http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f103/r...ml#post6149493

-This is for all of those who own the VBs right now, Clieos included :

-I listen to a VERY wide range of music, so i really need good all-around, jack-of-all-trades, phones. I like full, lush & sweet mids for vocals when i listen to vocal jazz, gospel, soul & neo-soul music -and probably also for acoustic, instrumental piano pieces and "intimate" jazz. I absolutely need good bass quantity and quality when i listen to hip-hop and reggae (including dancehall reggae), neo-soul ,but also some jazz styles & probably afro-beat. I also need good soundstage and instrument separation when i listen to orchestral or "crowded" pieces - be it classical, symphonic orchestras, jazz big-bands, latin-jazz & salsa bands, timba, some afro-beat, etc.
I am also much more of a music lover than an audiophile : i dont care that much for clarity but need to feel emotionaly involved by the music : blues, soul & gospel need to move me all the way to tears/goosebumps if they're supposed to ; salsa, timba & other latin or african musics have to make me get up and move my feet against my own will, etc...
The only kind of music i NEVER listen to is electronica, techno, trance etc.

I realize that at this price range, the VBs are probably master-of-none but do you think they would be agood choice for my needs or would you advise another IEM in the same price range? (knowing that i will NEVER use an amp - this would be straight out of my clip+ or sony s639 - and that i live in france, europe)

I already ordered the pl21 as a "disposable" fun pair, and i was considering the VBs or ai-M6 (for good bass but also decent all-around performance), and also the pl50 or re1 (for mids - vocal genres) and the cyclon pr1 pro or re0 (for clarity, accuracy & relaxation - classical, accoustic musics)

Thanks for your time and please excuse the crappy english, i think if this is too much i will start a thread to get some answers.

Thanks again to everybody in head-fi!
 
Dec 9, 2009 at 6:22 PM Post #8 of 27

ClieOS

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Haven't really thought about mod'ing VB yet. As I mentioned, VB sibilance is most noticeable on higher volume, so the problem is minimum to me since I don't usually listen on high volume. But from past experience on foam mod (on other IEM), I would imagine it will cut down some treble and gives more body to the lower frequency. The main concern is whether it will mud up the mid and bass which are pretty well unmod'ed, which might end up not worthing the effort of modding. As far as fatigue goes, it is also a volume issue again. On my normal listening volume (which isn't very loud), I find VB to be just fine.

As for ranking, check out the link at the end of the review.

Personally I find VB to have a fairly versatile sound signature on two dotted / mid bass plate. It is the most balanced sound among the three bass plates selection.
 
Dec 9, 2009 at 6:59 PM Post #9 of 27

daouda

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Thanks for the surprisingly fast reply!

I have already read you multiple iems shootouts threads many, many times and pretty much know them by heart right now. I was referring to the ranking you provided in the thread i posted a link to. I guess that ranking was based on the SQ rating and not the value rating then. Am i right?

Actually (this is a suggestion to the mods) i think that this thread was a great idea and that it would definitely deserve to be stickied and updated each time the head-fier who posted in it got a new iem or changed his mind about the ranking he provided. This would be really helpful to a lot of people if enough head-fiers with different sound signature tastes/different iems participated in it.

From your reply i guess the VBs would be a good choice for me for a versatile pair of IEMs then. But what do you think of the idea of also getting 1 or 2 more relatively cheap iems for different musical genre/ different signatures?

More precisely, for instance :

Would getting the pl50 as well give me something that the VBs cannot (better mids, more clarity?) , especially for vocal genres?

I'd rather get several, cheaper headphones with different sound signatures, than one more expensive pair since i KNOW i will destroy or lose a unique pair in less than a year, no matter the built.
 
Dec 9, 2009 at 7:12 PM Post #10 of 27

ClieOS

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Quote:

Originally Posted by daouda /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I guess that ranking was based on the SQ rating and not the value rating then. Am i right?


Yes, it is.

Quote:

Originally Posted by daouda /img/forum/go_quote.gif
From your reply i guess the VBs would be a good choice for me for a versatile pair of IEMs then. But what do you think of the idea of also getting 1 or 2 more relatively cheap iems for different musical genre/ different signatures?

More precisely, for instance :

Would getting the pl50 as well give me something that the VBs cannot (better mids, more clarity?) , especially for vocal genres?



If it is for vocal only, I think I can be happy with PL-50 alone. I would think VB will complement PL-50 well on different genre of music- then again, you are asking a person with over 50 pair of IEM, so obviously I am biased
wink.gif
 
Dec 9, 2009 at 7:53 PM Post #11 of 27

daouda

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Thanks. I think i will probably be getting the VBs as my main, versatile pair (versatile means also good bass for me and im afraid pl50 doesnt have good enough bass to render a wide range of musical genres lively enough) , and probably the pl50 for vocal-centered genres......... and/or the cyclon pr1 pro, for clarity, soundstage on acoustic, orchestral, well-recorded-music?...... Hmmm, seems i will have to start a thread to help me figure this out. It would greatly help if you could review the cyclon pr1 pro as well! I'm broke!
 
Dec 10, 2009 at 8:04 AM Post #12 of 27

ClieOS

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There are separate arrangement / discussion I am currently involved in which might allow me to review PR1 Pro, PR2 or something even better. However, there will be a re-organization within the Cyclone company very soon to strengthen their branding and product line so I'll have to wait till afterward for any possible review (likely to be early next year).
 
Jul 5, 2010 at 12:44 PM Post #15 of 27

TheMiddleSky

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when there are 99% people said that a thing is awesome, there's always 1% people feel the opposite.
 
It's not your fault nor your ears, they just not your preference.
 
[size=medium]


Quote:
 
But that's not all...
Do any of you also have comfort issues? The removable bass platter touches my ear. It's scratchy as hell. When I smile it really hurts!
Wearing them upside down seems to help, though. Can't explain why, though.
 
 



How you can do that? 
[/size]

 

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