Hippo Shroom / Shroom-i Review

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Hippo Shroom
Reviewed Sep 2010

Details: Micro-driver earphone from Jaben’s house brand, Hippo
Current Price: $50 from Jaben (MSRP: $57.00) (discontinued); Note: an updated Shroom EB model is now available.
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16 Ω | Sens: 95 dB | Freq: 10-20k Hz | Cable: 4.2’ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 6mm | Preferred tips: Stock single flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

Accessories (2.5/5) – Black (3 sizes) and color-coded (3 sizes) single flange silicone tips and soft carrying pouch
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The slim housings of the Shrooms are mostly made of metal and the micro-driver is positioned at the tip of the nozzle. The cable is rubberized and resists tangling well but feels a bit cheap. The low-profile L-plug is quite nice, however
Isolation (3.5/5) – Quite good due to the slim housings and forward driver placement
Microphonics (2.5/5) – Bothersome when worn cable-down; not too bad otherwise. The omission of a shirt clip doesn’t help
Comfort (4/5) – The tiny housings of the Hippos are light and fit quite well but are let down by the huge 6mm nozzle, which holds the driver. Those with smaller ear canals might have trouble getting the Shroom to fit comfortably

Sound (6.4/10) – The Hippo Shroom is my third micro-driver earphone, the other two being the budget-oriented JVC HA-FXC50 and the slightly more upmarket HA-FXC80. The Shroom, like the two JVCs, is a light on the bass, heavy on the treble earphone with a few aces up its sleeve. In general, the sound of the Hippos amazes most with its quickness and transparency. The bass is tight and accurate but low on impact. Extension is good but the miniscule quantity of sub-bass put out by the drivers results in a lack of low-end rumble, which some may find disconcerting. The midrange is slightly forward and boasts great clarity. Transparency is excellent and the tonal character is quite realistic. Though a small amount of sibilance is present on certain tracks, for the most part the Shroom’s midrange is silky-smooth and extremely pleasant. As with the older Head-Direct RE2, the smooth, clear, and detailed mids are the real strength of the Shroom despite the treble being most gripping and vociferous element of the signature. The detail carried by the microdriver won’t quite compete with the Head-Direct RE0 but gets far closer than a $60 dynamic-driver earphone should.

The treble itself is sparkly, crisp, and extended. There is some unevenness lower down which results in mild sibilance with certain tracks and can make the treble somewhat piercing at times – those who are sensitive to treble artifacts will probably want to give the Shroom a pass as it can be a bit fatiguing. In terms of presentation, the overall brightness of the Shroom makes it sound airy and lightweight. The soundstage boasts surprisingly good width but lacks slightly in depth, which results in a wide but not particularly well-spaced sonic image. All in all, while the Shroom certainly won’t be a perfect match for every listener and music genre, it is a very impressive implementation of the typical microdriver sound signature and comes highly recommended as an upgrade for earphones such as the JVC HA-FXC50 and Head-Direct RE2.

Value (7.5/10) – Yet another impressive midrange entry from Jaben’s house brand, the Hippo Shroom is a small-and-slim earphone that should be comfortable and well-isolating enough for most users. Its top-heavy sound signature and capacity for clarity and detail put it on-level with the likes of the JVC HA-FXC80 and RadioPaq Classical. In a nutshell, the Shroom is all about combining strong and smooth vocals with crisp and sparkly treble. The usual caveats are, of course, in full effect and those sensitive to strong treble need not apply. Taken for what it is, however, the Shroom is an impressive earphone and a good budget buy.

Pros: Impressive clarity and detail, small and comfortable, good isolation
Cons: Microphonics can be bothersome, distinctive sound signature not for everyone


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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