Panasonic HJE900 vs Hippo VB, with tip comparisons
I’ve a long history of being a basshead – the fact that I owned a Future Sonics Atrio, own a pair of Hippo VB’s, and recently auditioned a series of IEMs and headphones that mostly have large bass quantities. Additionally, I am moderately deaf in both ears – which might have resulted in my ears having a pretty flat frequency ‘response’ versus the normal V shaped frequency response of a normal person. This should be taken into consideration when you read the below.
Given how much praise the Panasonic HJE900s have been given, I set myself off the track by seeking to get one in Singapore, where no retailers or local online stores stock it. However, I’ve recently come into possession of a pair of Panasonic HJE900s, and decided to type my impressions of these pair of IEMs.
Currently, on the go, I favour using my Clip+/Fuze and the HJE900s.
At the end, there’s a short section that details the difference in sound I’ve heard from using three different tips with the HJE900s – mostly because many tips have been recommended for them, with no one actually bothering to state the benefits of using tip so-and-so.
PC -> HA INFO NG27 with dual OPA627 -> Hippo VB/Panasonic HJE900
Files used to test
Epicon - Globus
2) Mighty Rivers Run
3) Prelude (On Earth As In Heaven)
8) Orchard of Mines
13) Sarabande Suite (Aeternae)
Remastered Tracks Rockman Zero - Idea
1) L’oiseau du Bonheur (EX track)
Tommy Emmanuel - Dare to be different
10) Blue Moon
Impressions : Physical
The Zirconia housings really do feel solid - and given how both sides of my VB have had a divorce between the front piece and the second piece (I will be getting my pair replaced tomorrow), the HJE900s just take the trophy home with scant competition from the VBs.
The glossy Zirconia housing does love fingerprints, though.
I must say that the meshes on my unit has yet to come off, despite me switching tips in excess of twenty times already - and quite carelessly too, seeing how I now just force the Sony-styled Hybrid tips on. Perhaps Panasonic used a stronger glue on my units?
The HJE900 boasts removable cables, using a ‘standard’ 2mm tip as the connector. In case one wonders why I call this ‘standard’, the tip is the same tips Sleek Audio uses, so this means that their excellent Sleek Wireless unit is compatible with the HJE900s – I am now attempting to find one in Singapore, myself – and other Sleek Audio replacement cables. This tip is a coaxial power connector, which is the same type used by Nokia (and other companies) in their older phone models, an example of which would be the N95.
The cables on the HJE900 are thick and oozes quality – they’re very tangle free (although not to the extent of the QuietCables II used on the Future Sonics Atrio – those have never tangled.), and feels to be covered by a high quality plastic sheath. The cables used by the VB’s pale in comparison, feeling cheap, and easily tangling up. The cable used in the HJE900 is generally, always 0.5mm thicker than those on the VBs. In AWG terms, the main cable on the HJE900 is an AWG11 cable, and after the branching, each ‘sub’ cable is an AWG13 cable. For the VB, the main cable is AWG12 while the ‘sub’ cables are AWG20. (Above is measured without a micrometre, take with a small dash of salt on the exact AWGs.)
The HJE900 is better than the SoundMAGIC PL30, Hippo Shrooms EB and Hippo VB in terms of microphonics, but the Atrio still wins it in terms of how little microphonics is there – I’m not sure if it’s because the Future Sonics Atrio has a gigantic rubber stress relief near the units themselves, or because of the QuietCables II, though.
The HJE900 has a total cable length of approximately 1 metre, while the VB’s are 1.2 metre long. At least the cable is user replaceable on the HJE900s, so if it’s not long enough, you can find a longer one from Sleek or other sources. With my 1.83m (6 feet?) frame that’s not an issue, but some might take issue with it.
It must be noted that the stock HJE900 has a straight jack, of quite a large size – as a result, it does protrude much more than the VB’s does when attached to my Clip+.
Given that I’m using the same Sony styled Hybrid tips on both, comfort from both is similar. However, the long cable connectors on the HJE900 means that over the ear style is inconvenienced, in my experience.
The HJE900s came in a nice pleather case, which is large enough to keep a Clip+ and the HJE900s inside. The VB’s hardcase could too fit the Clip+ and the VB inside at the same time, but the pleather case does take up lesser case. A hardcase does offer more protection, though, so it depends on what sort of protection you want – it’s not like you’re stuck with a case. Overall, I do prefer the pleather case for day to day carrying, as it is smaller and flatter.
Not to mention how more convenient it is over a zipper system.
Impressions : Audiological
(I will be using the Sony styled Hybrid tips for the two.)
All opinions expressed below are that of my own – my ears are not the same as yours.
Overall, as one could tell from the Overview, I prefer the sound the Panasonics have. I’d be hardpressed to say if I’d prefer the HJE900’s sound over the FutureSonic Atrio’s, to be honest – despite the two having very different sounds. Overall, the smooth smooth smooth FutureSonic sound still has my favour generally – mostly because I don’t like sibilance, and that’s something the Atrio has never displayed. It must be noted that the darker sound presentation of the VB’s will lead you to think that there’s a veil over the music when you switch over – I’d say that’s mostly because of the less prominent mids of the VBs.
On Preliator, the bass on the VBs is noticeably more prominent. Due to the nature of the track, it makes it more majestic and more impressive. Sibilance is more prominent on the VBs, though. Overall, the VB’s have a darker presence, which suits the track most of the time, but when the highs come the sibilance gets a bit too much. Either way, I’d be perfectly happy listening to both tracks with either of them – just happier with the VBs, because it just feels so right. The visceral feeling of such a track demands bass, and the VB delivers.
(Would you believe I spent one hour listening to Preliator on repeat thanks to these two? I sure did.)
On Mighty Rivers Run, the sibilance in the VBs rears its ugly head when the singer and/or the song hits the high notes. The HJE900s reveal more detail in the audio this time round, but the sound representation makes the singer sound as though she’s singing at a tad higher pitch than the VB’s. Sibilance on the HJE900s is mostly absent on this track, where instead treble sparkles, until the song hits the ueber (yes, there’re two e’s in über) high notes. Noticeably faster decay than the VBs, and owing to the higher pitched nature of the song, the HJE900s sound better than the VBs on this song for the vocals.
On Prelude, generally it’s the same case as in MRR, where the bass of the VBs give the song a more majestic feel, but the sibilance makes it less suitable than the HJE900s, because apparently the male singer has a very sibilance-inducing voice.
For Europa, which is considerably a more ‘modern’ song than the above 3, as it has a much more prominent vocal than the above 3, HJE900 simply makes the song sound livelier and more punchy versus the VB’s, where the increased bass is simply insufficient to balance out the sibilant trebles. Also, as the track lacks the extreme highs present in MRR, the HJE900s don’t exhibit sibilance.
Orchard of Mines is quite a ‘epic’ track, but the HJE900s have sufficient bass quantity to allow the track to shine, unlike in Preliator. The VBs do make it sound grander, and more ‘epic’, as it were. The bass on the VBs linger a tad longer in this track though, whereas the bass from the HJE900s was crisp and quick. Sibilance is present on both, and again, the HJE900s display lesser sibilance than the VBs, but either way, this is one track I prefer my old Atrio’s lack of any sibilance a lot, since the male singer has a very sibilance-inducing way of saying any word with a “S” inside.
Sarabande Suite was outstanding on the VBs – in the later passages of the sound, the VBs really give the sensation of urgency with the deep thump of the low end, and the track is sufficiently ‘dark’ for both VBs and the HJE900s not to exhibit sibilance. The HJE900s are more detailed, though, and show much more difference in sound changes – the change is noticeable on the HJE900s, whereas on the VBs they just blend into each other. It is sufficiently different that I suspected that I was hearing a different song when I heard the first ‘passage’ of the track. The HJE900s tries it’s best to produce the bass, but at this point, the VBs simply can’t be beat. The HJE900s do produce sufficient bass though, it’s just a matter of, again, ‘epic’-ness.
L’oiseau du Bonheur is a French song sung by a Japanese singer (Rie Tanaka), so while the pronunciation might be off, etc, it is still, a song. The vocals are sweeter on the HJE900s, and the bass quantity of the HJE900 is sufficient for the track. The trebles sparkle on the HJE900s, and the breathy portion of the track gets pulled off better by the HJE900s. The VBs darken the sound, which arguably does fit into the theme of the game, but it doesn’t mesh with the lyrics.
Blue Moon was a treat to listen to on the HJE900s – it was by far more realistic than the edgy VB presentation. Well, it can’t be helped – the VB over represents the bass lines – although it must be said that unless you play an acoustic (I play a ****ty acoustic, but an acoustic nonetheless.) you won’t find anything wrong. The HJE900s are also more detailed and can be considered more accurate than the VB in representing the timbre of a guitar. The bass is also considerably more snappy on the HJE900s, which makes it more realistic to my ears. I must say however, the sound of sliding one’s fingers along the strings to change frets that audibly is a tad amusing considering exactly who the player is.
Some other tracks like Can't Take My Eyes Off You by Lauren Hill is simply unbearable on the VB’s due to the sibilance, whereas on the HJE900 they are tolerable.
Overall, the sibilance in the VB’s are quite a troubling issue, and the Panasonic HJE900 does enough better – or good enough – for me to more or less use the HJE900 mainly now.
The HJE900 comes with rather subpar tips, that despite being of similar size as the Sony styled hybrid I’m using right now, is considerably less comfortable, and Panasonic has seemingly decided to bundle XS, S and M tips instead of the standard S, M, L, as far as I can tell. Either that, or Panasonic tips are smaller than normal tips.
All three tips I’m comparing are all very comfortable to use, where neither offers a sufficiently significant advantage in convenience.
The UE Super.Fi tips (which dfkt recommends), have this odd-ish looking flare at the end of the tips. It doesn’t affect anything, as far as I can tell. Out of all three, it coaxes the most sibilance out of the HJE900s, and results in a lessened bass quantity, and as a result, I really don’t like them myself.
The Complies (besides their exorbitant pricing) enhance the bass, but cause a slight decrease in perceived soundstage (more like the Shrooms EB now) and a drop in treble. They are now like an upgraded VB with the Complies, with an acceptable decrease in bass response, lack of sibilance and improved mids and treble.
However, they cost a pretty penny, and need to be changed once per month. In one year, I’d be spending close to S$72 on tips alone, and that’s assuming I buy from Jaben, the cheapest source. From other sources, one pair is generally about S$8.00 - $96 per year. I could buy a brand new VB which comes with a FiiO E3 free for that money.
The Sony tips are the favourite as a result, for it is the best compromise within the three. More bass than the UE’s, less sibilance than the UE’s, and much cheaper than the Complies in the long run.