The Pearl actually has quite a good soundstage that’s better than a lot of IEMs more expensively priced than it. In this instance I’m comparing it directly to the Westone 1. Sure, it may not compete to the precision separation of the balanced armatures, but the soundstage of the Pearl is significantly bigger, and big enough for enjoying classical recordings on an IEM.
The Pearl actually is one of the few IEMs that’s worth to add an amplifier to. The sound is good straight from an Ipod, but it’s much better when amped. The most noticeable aspect that improved with an amp is the treble presence. Straight from an Ipod, I thought that the Pearl sounded a little to the lifeless side, but when amped, it became much more alive. I had a chance to listen to the Pearl from the TTVJ Slim, before the TTVJ was shipped to its new owner, and I thought that the TTVJ has a great sinergy to the Pearl. A $25 IEM with a $350 amp? Well, if you happen to have one laying around, why not? Anyway, I don’t think that you need to pair the Pearl with a $350 TTVJ. Something like the GoVibe Derringer or the upcoming Hippo Amp may be closer to the Pearl’s budget, and though I haven’t tried the Pearl with those, I suggest you give it a try. You don’t need a high gain amp, just something that can deliver more current than the Ipod.
Being an entry level product, there are some things that is not on the same quality as higher priced products. The build quality, though very good, is not in the same level as the Westone. Another issue that I’ve mentioned in the beginning is also the ergonomics, or fitting. Also, while the cable is fairly thin, the insulation material is not very flexible and does create some microphonics when you walk around walking it. Good thing the Hippo Pearl comes with a shirt clip that helps to reduce the microphonics. One thing that I like with the Pearl is that you can wear it straight on or over the ears. Driver sensitivity is a little on the low side compared to other IEMs, but it’s nothing that the Ipod can’t handle. On the SQ side, it can’t compete to the speed of the balanced armatures, and the timbre is not that accurate, but I’ll give it some slack, given the price of this IEM. What headphone is perfect anyway?
Overall I find the Hippo to be a great entry level IEM because of its neutral sound. Something that’s definitely a rare for this price range. I do think that given the entry-level pricing, the Hippo Pearl actually may not fit well with newcomers, but rather, experienced listeners with discerning ears. If you’re one of those, do give the Pearl a try, and you might find the Pearl very delightful to the discerning ears. Neutral and slightly laid back, non emphasized treble, non emphasized bass, yet possessing enough of everything that you never find anything to be lacking.