Thursday, June 17, 2010

[REVIEW] Hippo Shroom-EB - The Real Psychedelic Punch

First, I want to thank Uncle Wilson @ Jaben.net for the review sample.

I have reviewed the original Shroom less than 7 months ago, and by all mean it is a pretty good IEM for its price. But for those who pay attention to the current IEM market, ‘moving fast’ has became almost an understatement in IEM lifecycle. The idea of Shroom-EB, as I was told, came from comments on wanting more bass in the original Shroom. So fast-forward to today, a new edition comes with an enhanced bass response to quench the need of some brain-punch, as if the original psychedelic concoction is not enough. The new Shroom has been adequately named Shroom-EB, and that is ‘extra bass’ for you and me.

Note: Since the next two sections are the same between the original Shroom and EB, I just copied them over from my old review here.


SHREB-2.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

SHREB-3.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.

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 the 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.

SHREB-4.jpg

Sound Quality
As usual, I gave the Shroom about 50hrs of burn-in before the review (like I did with all IEM I reviewed).  In the original Shroom, the sound is very clean and transparent, a bit on the lean side - somewhat Etymotic-like but with a more sparkly treble. The new EB builds on the same foundation, but improves upon it.

The overall sound signature of Shroom-EB is balanced while analytical, more forward than the original Shroom. Treble is still well extended with good sparkle and resolution, though the occasional sibilant on the brightest note also remains. The mid is slightly full and well presented. Vocal is clean and upfront in just the right amount, adding a little sweetness without being too obviously colored. Bass has good speed, impact, as well as quantity - enough to make everybody happy but does not over-flood to another region. Soundstage is about average.

To add more soundstage, you will need to get yourself some UE style bi-flange. Squeeze them in till you get about 3~5mm of space between the opening of the bi-flanges and the front of the nozzle. This will transform your listening experience with EB.

SHREB-5.jpg

Verdict
The new EB is in essence, the perfection of the original Shroom. It even outperforms the more expensive VB in many fronts and really threatens to take the crowning position in the entire Hippo line. If only it has a better build quality like the VB and I would have gladly given it a Sonic Diamond Award for the US$57 asking price.

A quick sum up can be found here.

 This above rating is for Hippo Shroom-EB only and may change without notice. Please refer to the list for a complete listing.

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Important: All postings are my own personal opinion only and should not be treated as absolute truth. I do get things wrong just like everyone else. Always do your own research!

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