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Raptgo x HBB Hook-X Hybrid Planar IEM Review

Christopher Coke Updated: Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

Influencer collaborations are the new hotness in the audio world, and we’re back with the Raptgo x HBB Hook-X, a re-tuned, custom version of the original Raptgo Hook-X we reviewed last summer.  It maintains the same hybrid planar magnetic/piezoelectric, semi-open back design but has been reworked with bigger magnets, better sound quality, and a brand new look. With its spacious and detail-rich sound, it’s a perfect choice for gaming and music alike. 

We would like to thank Linsoul for providing the sample for this review. 

Specifications

  • Current Price: $227.05 - normally $259.99 (Linsoul, Amazon
  • Driver: 14.2mm Planar driver+double-faced 12-layer PZT driver
  • Impedance: 15ohm
  • Sensitivity (1KHz): 02dB±1dB SPL/mW
  • Frequency response range: 10Hz-20KHz
  • Audio interface: 0.78mm - 2.5mm/3 5mm/4.4mm
  • Earphone cable length: 1.25m
  • Nozzle diameter: About 5.2mm

Raptgo x HBB Hook-X Hybrid Planar IEM Review - First Impressions and Key Features 

The Raptgo x HBB Hook-X is one of the most interestingly designed and unique earphones on the market today. Like the original, it uses a hybrid design, but not in the “dynamic driver, balanced armature design” that we usually see. Instead, the Hook-X uses a combination of a 14.2mm planar magnetic driver and a 12-layer piezoelectric (PZT) driver. While planar IEMs have become more popular over the last year, PZT drivers are still very uncommon and offer their own unique sound character. Pairing the two is altogether uncommon, making this collaboration and the original Hook-X before it quite unique in the audio world. 

Planar magnetic drivers only recently made their way into mainstream IEMs and the hype around them is real and well-deserved. Planar magnetic drivers work differently than a traditional dynamic driver in an IEM. Rather than adopt a conical structure with a rear magnet like a typical speaker, planars use an ultra-thin, extra-large diaphragm that is stretched flat, traced with electrical filament, and held taught by magnets along its entire surface. This change in structure allows it to have more speed and less distortion for a clearer, more articulate sound. 

Piezoelectrics, on the other hand, specialize in higher frequencies. They work differently than a traditional driver, utilizing a strip of ceramic embedded with electrodes. They’re hard to tune but incredibly sensitive, making them a good choice for higher frequencies. They’re uncommon enough that the original Hook-X was my first and only experience with this type of driver, but they definitely provide a unique tonal character. 

This new collaboration version has been tuned by Hawaii Bad Boy of Bad Guy Good Audio Reviews. He has been on a tear lately, working with multiple brands. Just last week we reviewed the Tangzu x HBB Wu Heydey Edition and checked out the excellent Yanyin x HBB Mahina several months after that. His tuning preferences are intended to cover everything from hip-hop, to classic rock, and even classical. My own preferences align fairly closely with his, so I’ve enjoyed most of his collaborations thus far. 

Compared to the original, the frequency response has been re-tuned to add a bit more bass and to smooth out the upper mids and treble. Like most collab revisions, the changes are small overall and can be EQ’d to achieve the same effect on the original, but the out of the box sound on these is very good and an improvement to the original to my ear.

There have been some other changes, too. Internally, the structure now uses more powerful magnets to increase the speed of the driver. The diaphragm itself has also been modified and thinned out, increasing its sensitivity. It’s a one-touch punch that offers modest but noticeable improvements for its higher $20 asking price. 

The other changes are mainly cosmetic. The semi-open design is consistent with the original with perforations in the faceplate.  The trim on the aluminum ear pieces is blue now, instead of green, and the braided cable matches the new color scheme. The cable features modular ends with swappable plugs for 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced connections and 3.5mm single-ended sources. The plugs are also a touch shorter, which is another very welcome quality of life update. Similar to these reskins, the included leatherette hardback is now black. Also included in the the package are six pairs of silicone eartip (S/M/L narrow and wide bore for sound tuning).

Raptgo x HBB Hook-X Hybrid Planar IEM Review - Fit and Comfort

The first and seal of these earphones is identical to the original Raptgo Hook-X. They’re a medium sized pair of earphones with a safe, rounded triangle face and smoothly contoured shell. Using a small ear tip in the left and right medium in the right, I found these to be very comfortable and secure. They didn’t cause any soreness over time, even when listening over multiple hours.  Overall, Raptgo has done a very good job here, though YMMV depending on your unique anatomy.

Raptgo x HBB Hook-X Hybrid Planar IEM Review- Listening Impressions 

In terms of sound signature, the HBB Edition makes some minor changes but they amount to a noticeable difference in flavor. You can EQ them in yourself, but if you don’t have EQ or don’t want to take the time to dial it in yourself, it provides a good out-of-the-box alternative for slightly more bass, a bit less sharpness in the high end, and a bit more clarity and detail. 

Bass: Bass performance was one of the high points of the original and that’s even more so here. HBB turned up the sub-bass a touch and provided a hair more mid-bass at about 125Hz. The result is more low-end rumble and punch without the bass becoming bloated or boomy. The planar driver does expectedly awesome, offering great speed and texture to bass notes. Even with the thinner diaphragm and more powerful magnets, I struggle to hear any additional speed, but what’s here was already high quality and enjoyable. So, you have more of a good thing that exemplifies the potential of a well-tuned planar magnetic driver. 

For gaming, bass performance is excellent. It offers all of the cinematic and immersive rumble and depth you would hope for without devolving into muddiness like most gaming headsets. You’ll find that this is a pair of IEMs that does gaming bass “right.”

Mids: The mids are very good, though demonstrate that this is very much a u-shaped tuning. Vocals sound a bit closer but it varies track to track. Either way, there isn’t a big difference here. There’s plenty of texture and detail, and I find that I can hear the unique timbre of instruments and sound sources a bit better, which I believe is a result of the slight bump near 2kHz. The mids are very good, natural, and true to life.

Treble: The highs have seen significant changes from the original Hook-X. The ultra-highs have been tamed down, removing some of the sharpness that would sometimes be audible, though we still size peaks in that region to maintain clarity, air, and detail. In fact, I would say that HBB’s revisions here maintain a lot of what was great about the treble on the original while removing most of the downside for treble sensitive listeners. I didn’t find the original to be overly sharp but some people did and this revision sufficiently addresses that while also presenting brightness to cymbals and hi-hats and preserving the airiness of upper harmonics.

This tuning is also good for gaming. Rolling back some of the elements some users found fatiguing and repositioning those peaks (tamped down) makes for longer listening sessions between breaks. I didn’t find that I needed a break at all due to the tuning, even in intense games like Battlefield 2042 where the cracks of gunshots otherwise would elicit plugging between matches.

Technical Performance, Soundstage, and Imaging: The semi-open back structure of these earphones leads to more open sound than most earphones are able to provide. It means less isolation, yes, but I didn’t find this to be an issue as long as sound was playing. They don’t reach the level of earbuds or true open back headphones, but they are certainly an improvement on traditional designs. The frequency response rework here impacts the soundstage in the negative slightly, making these sound a touch more constrained than the original Hook-X, but only slightly. Performance is close overall.

I found the layering and imaging to be quite good on the HBB Hook-X. Planar magnetic drivers are good at this in general but in combination with the spacious sound signature, every layer of sound has room to breathe. You can pick out individual elements, such as vocals being mixed together alongside the sides, guitars being doubled up, footsteps and callouts amid the cacophony of intense first-person shooter gameplay. Positionality is also quite good, so identifying the location of instruments and sound sources is easy.

Gaming: All of that adds up to an earphone that’s excellent for gaming. Between its detailed yet impactful sound signature, more spacious soundstage, good detail retrieval and positionality, and comfortable fit, this is a set that doesn’t need Dolby Atmos to work great for gaming. 

Overall Impressions and Final Thoughts

In my original review of the Raptgo Hook-X, I scored it a 7.5, which is “Good” and noted that it lacked some detail you could find from other competing planars at the price point. The change in tuning works to address this, bringing out a bit more midrange detail while also removing some of the more fatiguing elements of the high-end. Its U-shaped tuning bucks audiophile preferences but for normal listeners and gaming, but I think the changes here (and yes, the great new aesthetic) elevate this over the original. And since it’s only $20 more, the cost increase is also quite palatable. If you’re in the market for a bassy yet detail rich IEM, the Raptgo x HBB Hook-X is absolutely worth considering. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. Articles may include affiliate links from which we may earn a small commission to help support the site. Authors do not earn affiliate revenue or commissions.     

8.0Great
Pros
  • Beautiful blue design
  • Great for gaming
  • Improved bass response
  • Tamed upper treble
  • Comfortable fit
Cons
  • Tuning won’t be a fit for all


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight