Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hippo Box+ (Box Plus) Headphones Amplifier Review

Before this review, I had:
- Used this amplifier for more than 200 hours.
- Used the default interconnect
- All songs are ALAC format
- Paired up with Hippo Shroom EB
- Source is a PCM2704 USB DAC

Unfortunately there are no technical information about this amplifier yet.
This is my first review on an amplifier so do give me some correction if I state anything wrong here. :)

Retail price: RM300


Design
There are 3 colors available on the market if I'm not mistaken. Those 3 are silver, black and red. It is cased with a aluminum case and it feels very solid when you hold it in your hand, this is probably an improvement for the previous Hippo Box. If you all know, the previous Hippo Box Amplifier's input and output is on the same side, but in this Box+, the output is opposite of the input. I personally don't like the Box+ design, cause if you are going to put it in your pocket and your earphones' plug is not 'L' shaped, it might not suits well.

It charges with it's mini USB port which is quite standard on all portable amplifier. It has a gain and a bass switch. It's quite tricky, it only labelled bass and gain on the amplifier case, but it does not label which is high gain and which is low gain, and it's same goes to the bass.
Note: '=' is the switch

The diagram below shows low gain and low bass
[= ] [ =]
bass gain
And this diagram below shows high gain and high bass.
[ =] [= ]
bass gain

It can be quite confusing but after testing out, I'm sure you can figure it out. Besides, there are 2 light bulbs beside the mini USB port, the blue bulb indicates the power and the red indicates the charging status, when it's charging, the red light will lights up and will went off after it finishes charging. This box+ cames with a very big advantage, which is it does not have a power switch, it turns on when you plug in your earphone into the output and turns off when you unplug it. It's kind of disappointing because there are times where I don't like to disconnect my setup when I wanted to keep everything in my bag.

The Sound
I'd say it's awesome, it does pair up very well with almost all the headphones and earphones I had at my home, I had tried it on a Sennheiser HD202, Beyerdynamic DT440 and of course Hippo Shroom EB. But in this review, I will just stick to my Shroom EB. At first, I turned on the gain without the bass, it was impressive, the mids in Shroom EB improves alot, soundstage widen and it seems to make Shroom EB more musical. I used Muse Hysteria to test, the intro, all the micro details it shows up, usually the intro part I couldn't really determine every notes the guitar and bass player hit, but now everything seems to just shows up. Volume of course it does increase, I do not have the technical specification but it increases 3 levels in my macbook. As I change my track to Eagles - Hotel California Live Version, I can notice the hall is widen alot, some of the instrument placing is abit further but it does a very good job, I really can enjoy my musics with this amplifier.
Now, with the bass turned on as well. Shroom EB's bass improved abit, enough to bring the feel during rock and fast tempo musics but it does not make the bass feel muddy and surprisingly, it does not affect other frequency. I must say that this amplifier really did a great job to improve the sound signature of Shroom EB.

Recommendation
It's highly recommended you to try it before you buy because my review might not be 100% accurate and might not able to suit your music taste. Besides, try it with other better cable, while I paired it with my Shroom EB, I kinda prefer paired it up while using a pure copper interconnect, it reduces the brightness of the Shroom EB making the sound more relaxing.