Jaben Headphone Store - Malaysia

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Hippo ProOne BA earphone review - SpringBiscuit

Hippo ProOne Single BA earphone
Type:Single Balance Armature earphone
Suitable for Music Genre:Metal, Rock, Accoustic, Jazz, Classical, Voca, Pop, Blues, Country, Indies, Instrumental.

Hey guys,

Once again so sorry for all the waiting,  I just couldn’t squeeze out enough time for my review list few months ago. However, thanks to Jaben Malaysia for letting me review the latest earphone from Hippo in first hand, I felt honored and flattered that they trust my instinct and opinion in audio, hopefully I’m able to share my experience and point of view in Hippo ProOne BA earphone.

So… Yes… History class first, in case you guys totally have no idea about Hippo brand. Hippo Audio is a Korea brand affiliate with Jaben, which currently is their only sole agent/distributor globally. They are a company who loves sound but keep the exposure and production in low profile, that’s why you can't see many sellers and ads going around the world.  Popular products such as Hippo VB, Shroom, Pearl and Biscuit Mp3 player are doing a reasonable amount of great job in other continents beside Asia, it leads to even better product R&D, the Hippo ProOne, their first BA driver earphone inthe market.

Hippo ProOne looks  similar to Westone UM1 if you pay enough attention, both of them are using the same concept of transparent housing, soft cable for flexibility and easy handling, however the ProOne seem much softer compare with UM1, it might be caused by the long period usage of UM1. The ergonomic design is quite comfortable for me, it has a slightly broader on the part which connected to tube nozzle, mainly because of the BA driver placement, which is the most unique part in Hippo ProOne. You got the most basic idea of driver placement in single BA driver earphone, a full range place in the middle of the earphone shell, however this is not the case for ProOne, the placement of earphone is absurd enough, the sound output driver is directed to the earphone tube. From what I understand, this action has the purpose of placing the driver closer to your ear, and provides a much more aggressive and forward sound signature, I did have a comparison with Westone UM1, the impression will be stated in the sound impression section.  It is the first of the kind and be frank,ProOne sounds really damn good.  
*Side views of Hippo ProOne, the driver is facing directly to the tube

There isn’t any unboxing review section as Jaben only send me the naked unit, no specification stated, only the earphone with Hippo foam on top. This is the final version of the earphone, so whatever you have seen here, it will appear as final product according to Jaben Malaysia.

The ergonomic style is comfortable, having a similar size of Westone UM1, if comparing between ProOne, UM1 and Shure SE215, I will rate ProOne = UM1 > SE215. Yes I have all of them, Shure se215 has the most awkward experience between them, big and clunky cable always get in your way, dynamic driver makes them no choice but to use a big shell for the earphone, it results in of course, not comfortable for some people.

The 3.5mm Jack of ProOne is quite a dandy, instead of using big and chunky material to protect the soldering point, ProOne focus on something more convenient and smaller, and be frank beside the disadvantage of it “might” not be durable, the smaller jack actually can fit well with most of the Smartphones in the market slotted with “big, protective, thick” case. They usually have blocked out the audio output and you know what will be the next step, extra money on the converter.
Cable slider included, nothing fancy to brag about, however I like the cable quality, it is soft and flexible enough to let me play with it for a while. Wearing experience is a total bomb, easy and fast make it less headache for fresh guy which totally has no clue on over the ear style. As mentioned above, ProOne is comfortable enough as to suppose an over the ear style earphone, it can fit in silicon and Comply without problem.


*Hippo ProOne (Top), Westone UM1 (Bottom)

*3.5mm Jack for ProOne, small enough to fit in most of protective cases
Sound Impression :

I will be comparing against Westone UM1, as both of them have the comparable traits and price range.  
50 Hours of burn-in conducted on the Hippo ProOne, countless hours for the Westone UM1, main music source will be Ipod 5th gen straight out, no amplifier and EQ used in this product review.

So… as a single BA earphone, what do you expect in the first place? Great detail, fuller mid range, lesser dynamic, Flat bass… Well, these signatures are what you might get in Westone UM1, but not a total truth for Hippo ProOne.
Hippo ProOne, it just… sounds like a dynamic + Balance armature, dynamic, impactful, aggressive and detail, more like a baby Beyerdynamic DT880, it has the same direction of the headphone, of course with more compact, straight forward and aggressive version.

Treble – It has good extension, it can go far to be exact, from mid to treble transition, it is reachable on the top, slightly added with sparkly and crispy effect. However, there is a slight mid high slope in my listening, you don’t get a rich mid high process to high, but kind of a skipping step. Other than that,instrument sounds wonderful, exciting and synergy enough to make the whole music listening enjoyable. You get power in the earphone sound presentation, compare with Westone UM1, ProOne definitely has much more dynamic, open and better expansion to the top range. Mind me, I’m using with Silicon tips, the end result might change when switch over to foam tips, as there will be small cut off at the top end.

Mid range – Vocal sound natural, it has the similar feel of Phonak Audeo  and Beyerdynamic product, light and analytical with a lean on mid to high, forward and aggressive provide engaging effect for fast music track. ProOne is not a warm sounding earphone, it doesn’t offer a thick, dark and smooth mid range, but focus on how to balance all frequency spectrums. Mid range is clean and lesser decay, you get amazing accuracy and detail without emphasizing too much on external airy and ambience effect, roll up to a nice position and depth for certain recording. Comparing with UM1, Westone has a richer mid range with tight control over mid high and low, it rendered to a much flat audio response. 
Be it or not, both of them sound great, with the tendency of “forwardize” the mid range by the placement of the driver in ProOne, it has its own unique advantage.

Bass – ProOne is still able to preserve decent amount of mid low rumble, both having the same quantity but ProOne has outstanding bass texture. It is more revealing in my experience, the speed and transparency of bass are fast and straight to my ears without much delay. The sub bass decay is lacking in ProOne mainly due to full range single BA driver, however it is not in a bad way actually, but to provide a better control over excessive bass  roll. Once again, there isn’t much emphasize in Bass region, tight and accurate without boom boom pow style, so don’t expect ProOne is a bassy earphone. 

Summary of Hippo ProOne Single Balance Armature Driver:
- A full dynamic sound in single BA earphone
- Amazing detail, clean and transparency
- Sound signature similar to Beyerdynamic DT880 and phonak audeo series
- Aggressive and forward introduce a fun sound
- Neither harsh nor sharp to your ears
- Balance in all frequencies
- Average mid high presentation


Final verdict :

Is it worth the money? I couldn’t conclude it yet, as I still don’t have a confirmation on the selling price, Jaben Malaysia told me it might be retail at a cheaper price then Westone UM1, that of course, is interesting.
Hippo ProOne is indeed a great earphone, beyond decent in my expectation, it is the flagship  of Hippo family, and their first step venture into more expensive price point earphone product, encouraging and intrigue. I have no complaints over  the sound signature, they are good for sure and  will be proofed as a good boy, I’m positive that regret is a word you won’t be needed in this product. Thanks for your time and sorry for my bad English

P/S : The sleeve is from Phonak Audeo