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Old 02-21-2010, 06:22 PM
h1a8 h1a8 is offline
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: USA
Posts: 479
Default My initial take on the HIPPO VB

I'm a total noob at doing reviews (this is my second one I think). So bare with me. I hope to improve and get on the level of the top reviewers on this site (like DFKT).

Ok they arrived a week ago, and I've started burning them (with regular music) in immediately after I noticed some harsh high mid (or low treble) going on, siblance too. But the initial bass blew me away. They came with the no dot plate installed and by the box I thought 3 dots was for more bass. I was scared to even try the 3 dot plate after hearing first the no dot plate (didn't want my eardrums to bust, lol). But to my surprised the 3 dot plate had less bass. So the box was wrong, it has it backwards.

Dfkt was right, these do sound like the initial non burned in Ultrasone HFI-780s but with more bass. I don't have an ear for treble (don't care for it much) so I'll be commenting only on bass, midrange, isolation, and detail-clarity/separation/resolution.

This review will be unfairly based off comparing them with the shure se530, sennheiser ie8, and the JVC victor fx-500. This is because they blow most (if not all) < $100 phones away, especially for bassheads.

The bass on these things are strong indeed and the best aspect of this iem. The strongest bass I've heard so far and I've tried the ie8 and the fx500 bass monsters. The bass goes very low and doesn't seem to distort the rest of the spectrum. Doesn't have the midbass hump as many other phones do (which can be a good thing).

Note: Some midbass hump phones aren't bad but actually good (like the ie8 or se530). It depends on the smoothness and other aspects of the signature though. I like both midbass hump (when done right) as well as no midbass hump with low bass.

With that said, I definitely agree these have the best bass so far of what I've tried.

I would say these have either a neutral midrange or ever so slightly recessed midrange. The high midrange or low treble is indeed forward and makes it seem as if the midrange altogether is foward (it isn't). The smoothness of the midrange is so so (not to bad and not to great either). The problem lies in the upper midrange where it is a tiny bit harsh and has sibilance. After over 50hr burn-in the harshness and sibilance went down somewhat, but a tiny bit still exists on some songs. There is a foam mod where you put a small amount of headphone foam (from cheap earphones) in the nozzle. This is suppose to tame the sibilance and harshness somewhat but I haven't tried it yet. But after burn-in I can confirm it does reduce.

After the initial 50hr burn in I compared the hippo vb with the ie8, se530, and the jvc victor fx-500. The ie8 definitely has the better midrange of the two (more forward and more smoother and liquid like than the hippo vb). It is almost tied with the se530. The victor has a similar midrange to the hippo but with a little less harshness (the victor's harshness is more in the treble I think). All in all, I would say an okay midrange in comparison to top expensive phones and great midrange in comparison to <$100 phones.

Comfort is excellent but isolation is so so and the worst of the four phones (behind the ie8 by a touch). But it isn't bad just average (or slightly below).

Details/Separation/and Resolution (or is it imagining?)
I'm no audio engineer so from HEAR on out (a joke) I'm really faking the funk. So don't take these things seriously. I'm just trying to describe best I can while maybe using incorrect terms (like resolution instead of imaging?). I'm comparing these to >$300 phones mind you (which isn't quite fair) so in comparison to <$100 phones then bump up everything I say by 1 more notch. With that said, the details and clarity of the hippo vb was again so so. Not too great but certainly not bad. The resolution I prefer to be better (just so so), but with that bass who cares. The instrument separation is pretty good though.

The ie8 had great detail, great resolution, and great separation. The fx500 had so so detail, great resolution, and great separation. The se530 had awesome detail, good separation, and great resolution. So in this category the hippo vb can compete with almost any <$100 phone but not so much the top > $300 phones.

Final thoughts
In conclusion, I like the hippo vb a lot but will be only listening to it when I'm in the mood for a special bass treat. Obviously I find the ie8 to be much better and still the best and is still my favorite iem by far. Although the bass on the ie8 is a touch less (imo still heavy but just right) it has much better mids (smoother and a touch more forward) and better resolution. I actually like the midbass of the ie8 (it makes the music sound awesome and smooth and warm with no roughness). I like the hippo vb better than the se530 on many songs but certainly like the se530 better for songs that don't need much extra bass. I find it to be tied with the fx500 though (and that's a great compliment). The bass is a touch better, both have some sibilance, but the fx500 has somewhat better resolution and seems just a touch smoother or more refined. So as far as value I rank in order of best to worst

1. Hippo VB
2. IE8
3. FX500
4. Se530

The Hippo VB is arguably the best < $150 iem for bassheads in existence. I'll probably do a follow up when I hit the 200hr mark.
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