-excellent W shape tonal balance
-full bodied bass, mids and treble
-gigantic holographic soundstage
-fast rumbly and weighty bass with good control
-open and dynamic sounding mid range with good note weight
-dense textured and realist timbre
-versatile and realist tone for all type of instruments
-fast, snappy and gently bright treble
-great resolution and micro detailing
-surpass any single planar IEM
-excellent piezo driver implementation and performance
-present and bodied male and female vocal
-upper mids bite and crunch without the drawback (no sibilance, no splashyness)
-no other IEMs out of my 300 pairs sound like these
-can compete with other sub-1000$ IEMs without shame
-good modular cable included
-great sound value
-not the cleanest bass and mids
-while good in resolution, it’s no end game in term of transparency
-sparkle and decay cut short in upper treble, lack a bit of sharp brilliance
-bass extension isn’t the most flexible
-kick drum is a bit warmed
-modular cable plug can disconnect easily
SOUND VALUE: 8.8/10
Raptgo is a Chinese earphone company that is mostly known for its best-selling Hook X hybrid IEM, but they have other IEMs with different drivers configuration which include single DD, hybrid DD+BA, and Multi-BAs.
Today I will review their latest offering, the Hook X HBB which was released in 2022. This is supposed to be an improved version of the original Hook X, the main difference being a slight tuning balance change, the use of an upgraded 12-layer double-sided piezoelectric driver, and an improved open back cavity for ”less hearing fatigue and better sound performance”.
Priced 260$, the Hook X HBB is 20$ more expensive than the first version, since I haven’t tested the original Hook X, I can’t comment on potential sound upgrades and will judge these based on their price range to performance ratio as I always do.
So let’s see in this review what they are worth to my very ears and if they will be a keeper or just another chifi IEM to forget about.
The overall construction of the Hook is quite nice, it’s all metal made by a high-precision 5-axis CNC machine with an open-back design. The back is made of 2 metal part, one with a big venting hole plus a mate black metal mesh, this permit to keep sound leakage minimal while offering a wide venting property that will avoid unwanted resonance or distortion often found with a fully closed shell.
The size is a bit chunky but not too big, part of the shell that enters your ears has an organic shape and isn’t thought for deep insertion unless you use super long triple-flanged ear tips (but why?). These aren’t too heavy and I find them super comfortable for long-time listening.
Design look-wise is a matter of taste. I find them OK but would not call them eye candy.
The modular cable included is of very good quality. It has 2 thick nylon-covered cores which result in great smoothness and flexibility. Those cores are made of OCC silver-plated strands with coaxial shielding. Durability seems very promising. It does include 3 modular plugs to cover all your needs too (2.5mm and 4.4mm bal, 3.5mm single-ended).
The packaging comes in a small black box with an urban look to it. Accessories included the modular cable, a basic carrying case, and 6 pairs of silicone ear tips in a plastic case. It’s minimalist, and I would have expected more ear tips choice as well as a better quality carrying case at this price range. Yet, since we have a good modular cable included, I feel already content to not feel the need to upgrade it.
Best of both world: when musicality embrace technicalities
The TONALITY of the Hook X HBB can be summarized as a balanced W shape with a lively and weighty dynamic. It’s this kind of IEM that magnifies the best part of bass, mids, and highs and can offer a versatile performance that is never boring, unlike safer tuning that over-tamed energy of our beloved music.
It’s slightly bright, without problematic peaks, harshness, or sibilance, so smoothly bright we can say where lushness meets brightness with appealing bass warmth basis.
This results in an open holographic musicality with a great sense of speed in attack, which is masterfully balanced with the piezo driver. This is the miracle of the Hook X, to achieve the first cohesive tuning for a Planar Hybrid, which put to shame both Dunu Talos and the infamous Obravo Cupid.
The term ”fun sounding” often implies a lack of balance and maturity in sound rendering, it mostly inspires hard V shape ultra bassy tonality, so I prefer calling it engaging musicality for the Hook X HBB since the mid-range isn’t recessed, timbre isn’t thin and while treble is energic and near analytical it never feels overly in your face, it just adds an extra sense of openness and extra talent to attack speed and control.
Sure, the BASS hit hard enough with the Hook, it’s round, punchy, chunky, and rumbly, but depending on the source used, we are in quantity meet quality here and speed and control are very impressive as well as deep extension can deliver clean vibrant rumble that is very well layered with the kick drum, vocal, and instruments. It’s not a dirty boomy warmish bass often delivered from planar IEM like Letshuoer S12 or even Tangzu Zetian, it’s not what I would call a pathological-based guilty pleasure due to its flexible presentation and balanced loudness.
The contrabass sound is wonderfully textured with a linear enough extension, it doesn’t feel hard-slapped and boomy like an over-excited mid-bass boost can offer. One of the advantages of planar bass is its fast transient in layering and the Hook take full advantage of this, while just adding a hint of warmth to the lower mid-range that favor male vocal and permit low harmonic to be properly presented.
I would not say this is all perfect since the definition is a hint warm and the kick drum lack well-textured presence and can be more felt than perceive in some track, yet, this never goes too dark or muddy and the dynamic is hefty, well articulated, and layered. Leaner bass would have an effect versatility of its performance in fact since these can deliver engaging listening with anything from beat-driven electronic like IDM, EDM, Drun&Bass to rock to jazz to world music, name it, Hook X will take care to magnify its musical energy.
I like my mid-range between vivid lushness and warmth with a good note weight dynamic and this is near exactly what the Hook delivers in a very open way. What I dislike is mids that lack versatility, are thin in timbre, and doesn’t have a natural tone for a high variety of instruments, and Hook X doesn’t deliver that.
These are a rare mid-range that feels gently bright with a hint of extra low harmonic warmth that thickens the timbre. No instrument sound wonky or out of phase and the definition is not too edgy nor too dark. What stand apart is the holographic sense of layering that put forward mids in the center stage without being too compressed. Both male and female vocals have a bodied presence that is well extracted for the rest of the instrument. This isn’t ultra clean or detailed mid-range, yet it’s very rich and immersive, just not crisp-analytical.
The attack is quite fast with a soft sustain, so while the piano is well-bodied, has a realistic tone, and has good definition enough, it doesn’t deliver natural decay. I would not call the mid-range crisp sounding even if it the above average in resolution, it does lack a bit of liquid transparency to permit proper high-fidelity listening.
Nonetheless, the balance between low and upper mids is very well rounded here and permits a highly addictive mix of smoothness of attack edge while keeping an energic sense of dynamic. Nothing sound boring with the Hook, yet, nothing sound overly offensive too, this is one of its multiple talents.
The treble is another highlight of the Hook, this piezoelectric is like no other I Iave listen to and mis ore on par with ttop-of-the-lin magnetostatic drivers, but it seems even cleaner and less noisy-grainy-fuzzy than that. The transient speed matches perfectly the one of the planar used, its dense timbre too, so timbral balance is excellent here and we don’t feel it’s a hybrid with 2 very different drivers type. Yet, this piezo driver permits to deliver a way more open spatiality as well as adding much-needed treble snap authority that all single planar is lacking to my ears. Single planar often sound overly condensed in layering, which affects separation space between instrument as well as attack definition that can feel blunted or foggy, with the Hook X this problem is solved gloriously.
Not only violin sound marvelous, well resolve, and full-bodied but even the harp is properly presented, sure to achieve perfection I would have added a hint of brilliance and perhaps more boost past 10kz, but the notes well define, and pulling of strings have this clean snap and sense of openness permit long resonance enough, it’s a realist and very musical, without overly boosted texture that would ruin the listen by adding an unwanted patch of string rubbing or vibration noise artifacts.
Again, we are into a ”king of versatility” approach here, where the treble is crunchy, dense in timbre, energic in attack decay, and never saturated or compressed even with a busy track.
While detailed, I would not call the treble analytical, it’s even softened in texture presence, yet, not to the point of making electric guitar sound plain dull or lacking in abrasiveness. If I can nitpick something, I would say cymbals crash can feel tamed and blurred. As well, their something about background noise being a bit overly extracted with the Hook, so bad recording can be hit or miss, and sense of clarity lacks a bit of ”perfectly crystalline silence”.
The soundstage is another highlight of Hook X, it’s very open wide, and tall with more than decent deepness even if slightly opaque timbre interferes with psychoacoustic traveling of this depth. Most of all, it’s very holographic, so hey, VR-approved too? Why not!
This huge spatiality sure favors the sense of imaging, because we have a mix of great layering capacity with the planar and great static positioning with the piezo driver. Yet, the warm bass stole a bit of positioning precision, so it’s not above average in its price range in terms of instrument placement precision and accuracy, lack of transparency is again to be pointed out.
In terms of technical performance, attack speed and transient are excellent
VS BQEYZ WINTER (1DD+1BC)
Ok, these are 2 very different hybrid techs, but 2 very capable contenders too. The bone conduction driver of Winter sure tends to focus our attention on the treble more so than the Hook, and this is not the only difference. Winter is more neutral and smooth when it comes to bass and mids, while the overall presentation is more of an energic W shape with the Hook. Dynamic is leaner with Winter too, and less bassy, the bass being leaner and warmer, less hefty and weighty in impact than the Hook which has a faster attack too that permits better layering with mid-range. This mid-range is a hint warmer with the Hook, not as clean as the Winter, and not as transparent too, it has a thicker presentation as well as lower mids so male vocals are more bodied and forwards, while female vocals just a hint less upfront than the Winter. Treble is more bright and crunchy with the Hook, it sounds thicker and fuller too, while the Winter offers a cleaner and crisper presentation that has more brilliance and sparkle, it’s sharper yet less prompt to fatigue at high volume. Spatiality too is very different, the Hook sound taller and wider but not as deep as the Winter. Imaging feels notably better for bass and mid-range with the Hook, layering being better separated and more accurate in positioning while Winter feels a bit compressed in layers and lacks wide spacing between instruments, only percussions will be easier to pinpoint with the Winter, but it’s not very realist in rendering.
All in all, I enjoy the Hook X HBB both tonally and technically, it’s more energic and more balanced in its muscular dynamic. The bass hit harder and add more fun to an engaging mature enough sound signature. Winter is cleaner, crisper, and leaner sounding and will please those seeking near analytical neutrality.
VS DUNU TALOS (1planar+2BA)
Ok, for this comparison, I will focus on the hybrid mode of the Talos. In Balanced armature mode, the Talos offers a brighter hard W shape signature with thinner and more distant bass and mids and more shouty treble. The hook sound fuller and more balanced as well as smoother as a whole, treble isn’t as detached and in your face as the Talos too. Bass is more about slight mid-bass punch with the Talos, it cut short in the rumble and lacks any proper sense of slam and weight the Hook offer in plenties. Mids are intensely more sibilance with the Talos, pina gain is high and fatiguing too and vocals are thinner, more compressed, and less dense and open. And now this treble disaster…hum, even 2 BA can achieve proper definition, which seems dirty in sustain lacking proper edge, aka it’s a shouty fest. As well, the piezo of the Hook is faster and more controlled and snappy in attack, it offers more natural brilliance too so acoustic guitar and clavichord will sound both fuller and crisper. The hook treble is more open, airy, crisp, and detailed, it doesn’t struggle to render the harp properly, which can go up past 20khz, Talos harp sound is boxier, suffer from timbral imbalanced that over boost texture of slapping and lack natural resonance as well as low harmonic when it comes to a lower range. The soundstage is way more open wide and tall and holographic with the Hook. Imaging is better layered and less prompt to saturation in busy tracks.
I think it’s evident that the Dunu Talos is a joke compared to the Hook X HBB. No more comments apart that planar mode is good and offers a smoother leaner and more neutral tonality than HBB, with inferior technicalities and less dynamic and engaging musicality.
VS TANGZU ZETIAN HEYDAY X HBB (1planar)
Ok, another HBB collab, and this time it goes for a smooth neutral signature. So, the Heyday sound is leaner and more organic, less energic and W shape, and less bassy too. Hook is just a hint brighter and crunchier. Bass is notably less bodied and impactful with the Heyday, it’s less well defined in roundness too, and doesn’t move a lot of air compared to Hook’s deep rumble. Mids are leaner, smoother, and more transparent with the Heyday, timbre is less bright and more liquid too, its more refined mid-range yet less energic and lively too and male vocals are more thin and recessed. Treble is leaner with the Heyday, it feels more compressed and less open too, we have a hint of more texture and overall cleaner more organic cohesion, but the attack is less snappy, more softed in impact yet more resonant, and the violin lack bite and energy too compared to more energic highs of the Hook. Spatiality is notably more intimate with the Heyday, less wide, tall, and open, similar in depth. Imaging is a hint better with Heyday due to superior transparency.
All in all, today act like a good student her, but lacks persona . It’s more maturely tuned and neutral but has a rather lifeless dynamic and the attack feels overly softened in impact in all frequency ranges. Not only the Hook X HBB is more engaging, but it’s more musical and has a superior treble performance and a more dynamic presentation.
2022 wasn’t the most exciting year in terms of the Chifi IEMs release, and safe tuning begin to ruin the listening fun we are seeking too. As if dynamic rendering always implies bad tonal loudness balance.
The Raptgo Hook X HBB is a fresh breath of air in this IEM world invade with Harman and DF neutral tuning and offers a muscular musicality that doesn’t bet on one specific frequency range and delivers full-bodied dynamic for bass, mids, and treble.
These are among my fav 2022 IEMs and deliver a very versatile tonality with impressive technical performance. Their holographic spatiality is sure to immerse you for long listening pleasure.
Yes, its possible to mix fun with mature musicality, and this alternative to bassy V shape is certainly more needed than ever.
The Hook X HBB nail both musical balance and wow effect technical performance and merit to be applause for that.
PS: I want to thanks Linsoul for sending me this review sample which i personally requested . I’m not affiliated nor compensate in $ by this audio distributor and my opinion are 100% honest as always.
You can buy the Raptgo Hook X HBB exclusively at Linsoul for 260$ here (non-affiliated link):https://www.linsoul.com/products/raptgo-x-hbb-hook-x
This IEM was part of my Top 10 IEMs of 2022, you can give a look to the youtube video HERE