A friend of mine,Wallace bought Hippo CriCri from Jaben Malaysia was not satisfied with the performance of the Hippo CriCri headphone amplifier(and the incredible crosstalk when pairing with his Iphone 4 as he described),and he keep saying that he is actually love my JDS Labs CmoyBB V2.03R more,I am really curious to audit one, so upon some special opportunity, Wallace extended his kindness to let me have them for few days. Maybe after sometimes,he will let me audit his Goldring DR150 as well.
First of all,this review won’t be written in long wind form like seperate each of the session but i will focused more on the listening impression (In fact,I might do this in future as well).
Description and Specification
This is a solidly build headphone amplifier and it is indeed small in size,and fulfill the portability factor,surprisingly it is almost the same size as my Hippo Biscuit(Biscuit is thicker). It has gain feature and bassboost function, bass boost function is a bonus that i will add mark for it. The connectivity is simple and along with the purchase you will also get a short 3.5mm male to male cable.
Features that I copied directly from Jaben store:
-Powerful Amplifier enhanced
-Gain feature enable
-Bass adjustable feature included
-Sleeky, Flat, Portable, Rugged design
-Responsive Volume control and powerbutton
-Long lasting Battery which lasted 30 hours per charge
-Clear features indicator
-Hi End Audiophile Hi-Fi sounding
Very Initial Sound Impression
While he complained Cricri is not meeting his humble expectation, I have to tell you that his setup is an Iphone 4,Hippo CriCri and a Goldring DR150 (with some DIY cable).
So initially me too,thought that this is a lousy amp that everyone just exaggerated so much on them,kept in mind that I am in my office that time and I plugged it directly to my Creative Sound Blaster Go! USB Dac,tested with RHA MA350 and the sound came out with a lot of noise. Frankly,after that I don’t really have interest to try CriCri more.
You need a good DAC to bring the sound out,seriously!
But I understand that a good and fine DAC will make a whole new sound,so when I back to my place I plugged connected the Hippo Cricri with the Stoner Acoustic UD100 (Connect through Black Octagon Bos2 instead of the original cable at office) and I am WOW! This is not the sound that I listened in the office,this is another sound,it is clear and transparent with significant less noise,better separation and overall sound when pairing with UD100 Dac is different to when I paired it with Creative Sound Blaster GO!.
So I am pretty sure that CriCri do has its strength but it is the DAC in my friend’s fruit phone is awkward or not that good. I am not saying that DAC is the most important part (For me,every part played the role),but I am just pointing out that this is a good amp,but just don’t come to conclusion so fast when you are connecting it to a bad DAC.
Sound Quality and Comparison
Hippo CriCri has been tested with Yu Long Audio D100II (DAC) and Stoner Acoustic UD100,connected via Black Octagon Bos 2 and a 3.5 to RCA cable,with RHA MA350, JH Audio JH5 Pro and NuForce Ne700M,play through Foobar 2000,and with Hippo Biscuit.
High/Mid/Low and Sound Signature : To my ears CriCri is quite a neutral and transparent amplifier with clean sound,I can’t said it is balanced in 3 of the basic spectrum,because it has somehow enhanced treble response (Not really bright) to give you sense of ’Detail’,while it is not bad in retrieving the details in the music track,but it is also nothing really impressive(Respectable for the price). Bass lack some depth and ‘bass boost’ function don’t really helps things much,turn on the bass boost only have some more ‘noticeable’ low response,but sacrifice some of the openness and details.
Soundstage : Soundstage is just average,but do have good openness.
Compared to JDS Labs CmoyBB V2.03R : Both of them have quite a different sound signature,while Cmoy give extremely warm and smooth,depend on which you light,Cmoy won’t have the ‘balanced’(Overall) of the CriCri,but do have better and thicker mid,and the bass boost,is at least 100 miles ahead of the CriCri. Portability factor,CmoyBB lose to CriCri by 101 miles however.
Compared to JDS Labs Objective 2: This is not fair,O2 is way larger than CriCri but i just add in the comparison for reference purpose. Generally, Objective 2 has more refined and lusher sound,darker background,soundstage and detail is better as well. O2 also give deeper and refined bass with better extension. However,they do performed quite close in transparency.
Compared to Govibe Minibox : While Minibox boost more in mid and give overall weighty and lusher sound,I think overall I like CriCri more than Minibox,needless to say that CriCri has better control,soundstage,openness,detail and cleaner sound.
It paired quite well and fair with all the earphone I tested with it,but I do think RHA MA350 do made the best pairing for me. While I don’t have the Yamaha Eph-100 with me,but I do think that it will be a good pairing as well.
Good : Overall more towards neutral sound signature,Open and comfortable sound,build,control,Good sound for a super compact size headphone amplifier,Cheap price tag.
Bad : Crosstalk performance,Lack refinement,Disappointed bass boost features, Competitors, Power, Overrated battery life
This is quite a performer in the price range,price at just RM350 (100USD),you can get a good portable amplifier that will works nicely with your portable player and IEM.
While control is good,although I am not complaining but when no music playing,it exhibits some minimal noise,and when you turn the volume (while music is not playing),there is some audible noise as well. Nothing bad,I just mentioned it.
It sound good for the price and when paired with my RHA MA350,I am enjoying it in my office,the portable setup do thrilled me,and seriously I enjoyed the portability of it,without complex connection,good music just came out. I have to admit that I am one of the guy that appreciate simplicity.
If you are not really into audiophile world,you just need somehow better headphone amplifier others that just plugged your earphone/headphone into a portable device,Cricri deserved a serious consideration,but do noted that the crosstalk/interference are quite a issue for Cricri (Noise when incoming call). Besides that, I think this is a awesome match for the portable device.