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Old 09-25-2010, 04:47 PM
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Default 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.

Hippo 10




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.

Hippo Pearl


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.

Hippo Groove


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.

Hippo White


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.

Hippo Epic


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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  #2  
Old 09-25-2010, 05:08 PM
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Man, just hadda be first to comment...Clearly the Hippo 10s would be the most interesting to me, especially with the less common design. Would be, were it not for the Panas...

Excellent dfkt, thanks a ton!

EDIT:
Those Hippo Epics look suspiciously like that free pair of Maximo i490s I snagged. Your description of their sound sig is almost exactly how I feel about the i490s.

This makes some sense if the are the same - Maximo admits that the i490s [and earlier] used common OEM housings/designs.

Still really love the i590s though ;P
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Last edited by lestatar; 09-25-2010 at 05:25 PM.
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Old 09-25-2010, 08:55 PM
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Nice to see that Uncle Wilson is growing their business, I definitely agree with you on the multitude of iemís and different names they have introduced over time. Seems like a lack of direction and natural progression rather than growing and improvement one of their lines over time. Itís like letís throw up as many as we can as see what sells the best Ö Certainly a huge difference from the progression of the CrossRoads brand (mfg) and their progression from the X3, XB, Bijou up to the Woody Two.

Thanks for the update, beautiful pictures as always
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Old 09-26-2010, 08:41 AM
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Uncle Wilson just told me they all come from the same factory... seems to be a factory "specialized in all styles".
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Old 09-26-2010, 09:21 AM
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Nice review dfkt. What's the Hippo 10's going for?
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Old 09-26-2010, 09:40 AM
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Current Hippo prices are here: http://jaben.net/shopping/index.php?manufacturers_id=26

The Hippo 10 go for $70, which isn't really cheap - but both their sound- and build quality are worth that price, in my opinion. Of course since the HJE900 can be had for only a bit more at the moment (at least in the USA), all is relative...
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Old 09-26-2010, 10:06 AM
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dfkt, I was also wondering if it was easy to get a good seal with the Hippo 10's? I was only wondering because of the design.
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Old 09-26-2010, 10:09 AM
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Yes, fit and seal are fine with the 10. I do the old "twist to fit" - I insert them with the cable down, then I turn them so the cable exit points upwards. Gets me a perfect seal every time.
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Old 09-26-2010, 10:43 AM
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Amusingly, a Head-Fi member did a very similar review as this one, just a few hours after I posted mine: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/...nd-hippo-white

His conclusions are pretty much the same as mine, except for the Hippo White, which sound like a whole different phone from his description. I wonder what could be the reason for such a different perception of their sound signature?
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Old 09-26-2010, 02:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dfkt View Post

His conclusions are pretty much the same as mine, except for the Hippo White, which sound like a whole different phone from his description. I wonder what could be the reason for such a different perception of their sound signature?
Because everyone hears differently? Or, it could be the reviewer has a touch if tinnitus.
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Old 09-26-2010, 02:43 PM
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Of course everyone hears a bit differently. He however came to pretty much the opposite conclusions as me, so the issue is probably something else.
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Old 09-26-2010, 02:52 PM
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Maybe he is 50+?
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Old 09-30-2010, 04:27 AM
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Have Hippo Pearl and Epic-Sparkle for a while now, though I haven't listened to them enough.

Pearl, I thought was a nice balanced IEM that didn't do any thing wrong. But I felt that Epic-Sparkles were more sibilant than VB (I had less complaints against VB's sibilance than many others though). May be it's time to try them again .

Last edited by esanthosh; 10-01-2010 at 10:45 AM.
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Old 10-01-2010, 10:47 AM
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@dfkt,

Did you observe any changes in Hippo Pearl with burn-in? If yes, how many hours do you recommend? What tips did you like with them?
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Old 10-01-2010, 11:56 AM
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I hooked them up to an MP3 player for 50-60 hours before listening to them. I only listened briefly to them when they were fresh and can't really remember if they did change, or in what way they did change. I'm using Super.Fi tips on all IEMs that take 5mm inner diameter tips, they're the best fitting and most comfortable to my ears.
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