Quick Look: Hippo 10, Epic, Epic Sparkle, Groove, Pearl, White
A quick overview over the multitude of Hippo IEMs that I didn't cover in a front page review yet. To be honest, there's not a huge difference between several of them anyways - the biggest differences appear to be from which OEM factory they were sourced from. (EDIT: They all come from the same factory.)
Even if pretty much all of the Hippo IEMs are a good bang for the buck, delivering satisfying sound quality for the price - their habit of releasing a few new IEMs each month is just overwhelming. They may be cannibalizing their own market share by making the selection so confusing, with no clearly communicated focus on the differences between the phones - or rather, by releasing so many phones with different housings, yet similar sound signatures. Seems Hippo is doing some kind of trial-and-error approach in their production and release schedule - not quite something that inspires much confidence. Then again, they're affordable and, as already said, sound really good for the price in general.
As usual, I've used all IEMs with Super.Fi silicon tips, didn't try the stock ones. I'm going to sort them by personal preference, starting with the one I like the most.
The Hippo 10 have really decent build quality, especially the cable with its transparent PVC coating, showing off the metal shielding inside. It's soft and flexible, and the angled plug is a clone of the best of the best - the very one used on Ultimate Ears, Westone, EarSonics custom IEMs.
The shape of the ear pieces is a bit like the Sony IEMs, or the Radius DDM. They're "anatomically" shaped, made for being worn with the cable hanging down. This results in horrible cable noise/microphonics, but luckily they can be worn over the ears as well. I use Phonak ear guides for that, but it works without them as well. They're still very comfortable when worn over the ear. The housing is made of plastic, unlike most other Hippo IEMs, but it feels very solid. Strain reliefs seem to work well, too.
Sound-wise, the Hippo 10 are really nice dynamic driver IEMs. They're not quite on par with the Panasonic HJE900 or Sennheiser IE8, but they sound more dynamic and precise than any other Hippo IEM so far. They are natural IEMs - not basshead IEMs like the VB or analytic/flat-response IEMs like the RE0. Throughout the frequency range the Hippo 10 sound nice. There's nothing to complain about, be it bass, midrange, treble, or dynamics. They're fast, snappy, well balanced. Soundstage is ok - nothing special, but acceptable.
The Hippo 10 I would highly recommend to the audio aficionado on a budget.
The Hippo Pearl are from an older batch of released Hippo IEMs, and from the series of phones with the nicest housings (same as the VB, the Boom, etc). The Pearl sport a full anodized aluminum housing, with laser-engraved letters and no cheesy Hippo logo like the newer ones. Cable is ok, it's not the most flexible PVC, but usable. The right angled plug and strain relieves are fine. They can be worn either way and are tiny and comfy.
Sound-wise the Pearl are similar to the 10, with just a tad less dynamics, transient response, and "oomph". They're natural too, with a slight V-shaped response, with decent clarity and precision.
If you want a really nice, minimalist looking IEM for a low price, the Pearl are for you.
The Hippo Groove are similarly built as the Epic and Epic Sparkle. Build quality doesn't seem that great. When putting them in the ears, they display some driver flex, some crackling, crinkling noise in the ears. Cable is too stiff, and the straight plug is the cheapest one could find (as seen on DealExtreme). The Y-splitter is a clone of the Ultimate Ears/EarSonics one, and very nice.
Nevertheless, they sound good. They're not as refined as the 10 or Pearl, with a tad grainy and hot treble, and somewhat loose bass - but they're still pretty clear and exciting sounding. The Groove are still a nice pair of phones - and for their price of $38 they're great.
Well, they sound better than they look. Nothing says, "I proudly listen to overpriced Apple stock earbuds" like white cables and housings. Build quality of the housing is a tad better than the Hippo Groove, though. But the cable is still too stiff and the plug is cheap. The Y-splitter is the same as on the Hippo Groove, and very nice.
First thing one notices with the Hippo White is the really forward treble. It's very hot, and often rather sibilant. The midrange sounds a bit recessed or hollow in comparison. Bass is deep and reasonably tight - all in all, an "exciting" yet a bit unrefined V-shaped frequency response. Not bad for the price, but I've heard better. Maybe the right choice for people in the 50+ age range, who are looking for bright treble.
Hippo Epic Sparkle
I think the Epic and Epic Sparkle have been discontinued already, but since I have them here, I thought I add them nevertheless.
The Epic Sparkle have rather sub-par build quality. Driver flex/crinkle is really obvious when putting them in, the housing is metal, but ostentatious like a Christmas tree, and the cable is covered in a cloth sleeving, which doesn't do any good for flexibility or microphonics, it's just for looks.
They're not particularly precise or fast, they're a bit on the muddy side - but they sound rich and full. Vocals often sound a bit nasal with them. Treble is rather good though - never sibilant, yet a bit sparkly. Midrange lacks some detail, and the bass is a bit overbearing and loose. They're maybe a bit like the Brainwavz Beta, or a not so good variant of the Sennheiser CX300.
Pretty much the same thing as the Epic Sparkle, just without... sparkle. Meaning, a bit less treble, a bit less refinement.
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