Hippo Shroom and Hippo Shroom EB (Extra Bass)
When I got my Shroom last June 2010, I was impressed by the size, as it is relatively smaller than other IEMs I own or have tried before. The small cylinder housing seems to be made of aluminum, and it looks solid. Initially I had a bit difficulties with the fit, until I use the smallest tip, and it fits nicely with very good isolation. It is small, but might not fit for everyone, because the nozzle part that goes into the ear, where they put the 6 mm driver, is relatively bigger than regular IEM nozzle. So far most of my friends have no problem with the fit. To get best sound from Shroom, the nozzle must be inserted deep into the ear canal, to get the bass.
Hippo Shroom is unique. Common earphone usually place the driver in the center or back of the IEM housing, and a nozzle that goes into the ear canal. Hippo Shroom (like CrossRoads Quattro and JVC Micro-HD series), put the driver directly at the front of the nozzle, where the driver goes directly into the ear canal. This is in theory would eliminate diffused reflection of the sound wave in the IEM housing and nozzle that causes some sound distortion.
Uncle Wilson’s from Jaben said about the new design philosophy:
“The Shroom design philosophy is different from the usual earphone. It uses a very small driver/speaker mounted way up front so the distance to the ear is as short as possible. The shorter path eliminates sound diffusion. The noise isolation also improves as a result of the deeper insertion”
I think the new design philosophy works well, I can hear that Shroom is almost free from housing coloration, the sound is quite natural without any annoying peaks or pits, and unwanted resonance. The overall perceived frequency response is pretty flat, with gentle roll-off on the bass area (started from around 200 Hz).
Shroom and Shroom EB don’t really change it sounds characteristic even after 150 hours of burn-in. To me, it is good, I prefer consistent sound IEM that doesn’t change it sound over time. By the time I wrote this review, I’ve used Shroom almost everyday for about 5 months. It is one of my favorite IEM because of it’s excellent imaging, very good for classical music.
I’ve tried 3 sets of Shroom EBs so far, because I was looking for better bass from the original Shroom. Physically, the Shroom EB is identical with Shroom, the difference only in the ‘Shroom-EB’ marking on the Y splitter of the cable. From all the Shroom EBs I’ve tried, the added bass level is little when compared to the regular Shroom. With some music I couldn’t even hear the difference at all. So, unlike what the “Extra Bass” marking may suggests, the EB’s bass level is pretty much the same as the normal Shroom. Quite weird, I know.
Frankly, the first time I tried the Shroom, I was not immediately impressed with the sound quality, because the bass level is lower than what I expected. But after sometime, I began to like it more and more. Even though the bass level might be lower than what I would like, but the bass extension is pretty good, it extends low, to the low bass section, completes the whole spectrum required for good music reproduction. Most midrange and treble centric IEMs rolls off the bass rather too early that caused the low bass become too weak. But Shroom has reasonable amount of low bass, at least the low bass is quite balance with the mid bass. Instrument like double bass still sounds natural with pretty good balance of low bass.
The Shroom and the Shroom EB’s strength is in the clarity, detail, and imaging, which is one of the best I’ve heard for an IEM in this price range. Imaging is really excellent, as the IEM itself seems to be disappear, giving quite 3 dimensional imaging. When you hear a good set of stereo speakers, the speakers will seem to disappear, presenting you with realistic imaging of music. The imaging is relatively wider than other IEM in this price range, but not too wide, not as wide as full size headphones. Detail level and instruments separation is very good. I would say the level of detail is comparable with any IEM with BA driver around the price range. Combined with it’s good noise isolation, the Shroom is very good in detail. The instruments separation is maybe one factor why I like Shroom so much. I can hear the placement of the instruments quite clearly, simply excellent. High-Mid and Treble is very clear and transparent. The treble is unique, even though it is rather bright sounding, but the treble is the smooth type, never sound harsh or ear piercing. Bright recording that might sounds harsh with other IEM will be presented with bright and smooth treble.
The Shroom is better worn over the ear. The cable noise is pretty high and quite annoying, but wearing it over the ear solves the cable noise problem.
Sensitivity is rather low, only around 95 dBm/W. Despite of the 16 ohm impedance, I usually set my iPod volume at around 80-90 % of the maximum level to get normal listening level. So it is not so battery friendly. When I use iPod LOD to connect my iPod with my DIY Pimeta (Op-Amp AD8066 buffered with single Texas Instrument BUF634), I immediately hear better full bodied midrange, compared to the iPod headphone output. Direct from the iPod, the midrange sound rather thin, but my DIY Pimeta seems to match Shroom very well, giving it better midrange and bass, better vocal, a better tonal balance overall.
Compared with my favorite Superlux HD381F, Shroom is better in clarity, imaging, and transparency. Superlux HD381F has better and fuller Low-Mid and Bass. The HD381B is closer to the Shroom’s sound characteristic than the HD381F, with HD381B has a slightly better bass than the Shroom, but the Shroom is better in detail, transparency, and imaging. HD381B (they grey color) maybe is a good alternative for those who like Shroom but want better mid bass. But please note that the Superlux HD381 series is a semi open IEM, so it doesn’t have the excellent noise isolation of the Shroom.
- Relatively natural sound, without any annoying peaks or pits.
- Nice treble, rather bright, but silky smooth, not harsh even with bright recording.
- Excellent imaging & instruments separation.
- Excellent clarity & detail.
- Very good noise isolation.
- Small size.
- Bass level about 5-6 dB less than average, rather weak mid-bass impact, but with reasonably good low bass extension.
- Might sound rather cold and clinical, lack of midrange warmth.
- High cable noise (microphonic), need to be worn over the ear.
- Relatively low sensitivity, not so battery friendly, need good amplifier to sound better.
- Large nozzle might not fit everyone.
Hippo Shroom and Shroom EB are nice little IEMs with excellent imaging. They are really good for classical music, especially for orchestra, where clarity, imaging, & instruments separation are very important.
Hippo Shroom and Shroom EB is not for basshead who wants big and fat bass, with powerful midbass impact.
Driver: 6 mm Dynamic
Impedance: 16 ohm
Sensitivity: 95 dBm/W (+/- 4 dBm/W)
Cord: 1.3m length, Y type (the Y part is about 35 cm)
Pouch + 6 sets of silicon tips