It's time! SO many of you wrote me that you really wanted me to do a comparison post of my three interchangeable needle sets, and here it is!
First, I'd like to say that I bought each of these sets with my own money -- none of them were a gift from the companies that make them, and an experiences I have had with the companies as far as customer service, etc., was just the same experience they would give any other customer.
The three sets that I have to compare are the Knitter's Pride Symfonie Dreamz interchangeable set ($100 retail), the Knit Picks Caspian interchangeable set ($59.99 retail), and Hiya Hiya's original stainless steel interchangeable set ($79.90, now comes with a different color case.) Something important to note is that the original Knit Picks sets were made by Knitter's Pride, but are now made by a different company in China. Therefore, Hiya Hiya & Knit Picks sets are made in China, while Knitter's Pride sets are made in India.
Each of the three companies has taken a different approach to the method of storing and packaging their needles.
The Hiya Hiya case is fabric -- printed silk and black canvas, with a few zipper pockets for minimal storage of the needles. Each needle has a slot, with the smallest needle offered in my set being a US 2. This is one of the smallest available sizes for needles. The set that I have goes up to a US 8. The cords come in individual baggies, marked with the length. However, after having a set for the year, I find that I never use these baggies and never seem to know what the length of my cords are. Other, more organized individuals probably don't have this issue! The needle set did not originally come with the adjustment pads (for screwing in the cords tighter), but I was able to get them at a show from Hiya Hiya.
The Knit Picks case is malleable plastic. The set goes from size US 4 to size US 11. The front part of the case holds all of your needles in individual slots, whereas the back of the case has two snap-closure pockets that hold your cords & tools (keys, stoppers.) This set includes all of the individual pieces you need, plus a few replacements in case you lose the tightening keys.
The Knitter's Pride case is extra-fancy, because this is considered a deluxe product from Knitter's Pride. It is a faux-leather bound box that has a sort of brushed lining. The top tray holds all of the needles in individual elastic bands. Lift the top tray to discover a bottom compartment that holds all of your cords, tools, and accessories, plus a bonus gift and a rose-scented sachet. This set goes from size US 4 to US 11.
Of the three, I believe the Knitter's Pride case is my favorite, since I can store it in my studio. If I was looking for portability, I believe I would pick the Knit Picks' case, since the Hiya Hiya needles, which are super smooth, tend to slide out of their holders.
Of the three, the Knit Picks needles have the pointiest tips, as you can see from the photo above. The Knitter's Pride are in a close second and the Hiyas are third and most blunt. I like a variety of tips for a variety of projects, so this is great for me -- but if you prefer a certain type of tip, I'd consider the differences.
Again, this is a category based entirely on personal preference. I, for one, can't knit with a super-short tip, so I avoid them at all costs. The Knit Picks tips are the longest, followed by Knitter's Pride (very close in length), and the Hiya's are about 1/2" shorter.
The cords on any interchangeable set, for me, are one of the most important aspects. The cords for both the Knitter's Pride and Knit Picks sets have the same attachment -- the screw in portion is on the end of the cord, you screw it into place and tighten with a tiny wire key. The Hiya Hiya set has a swivel feature for the cord and the screw placement is on the needle tip. You screw into place and tighten with soft rubber pads. In all three sets, you must tighten extra -- if you just screw in, it will come undone.
The cord for the Hiya Hiya set is the lightest weight and most flexible of the three. However, since the cord is smaller, there are some issues at joins, especially when working with delicate yarns or the smaller needle sizes. I have not had any issues with joins on either the Knit Picks or Knitter's Pride sets, not even with fuzzy, heavily-haloed, lace-weight yarns.
Quality Control / Issues
It is almost impossible to have a high-use item without any issues. All three of these companies are wonderful about standing by their product and replacing parts as needed without charge.
Knit Picks' sets are notorious for coming out of their joins -- the wooden laminate needle part comes away from the metal casing. Some folks on Ravelry have seen success with superglue or Gorilla Glue to re-join and fasten the casings and tips, while others have just returned to the company for an exchange.
Knitter's Pride sets are, perhaps, more fragile in the smaller sizes, and I have seen someone break a tip off at the join by putting too much pressure on it. If you are a tight knitter, you might consider being extra-delicate with your smaller tips, or think about getting a harder material needle (like stainless steel.)
Hiya Hiya's swivel cords routinely break away from their needle joins. I have had this happen on two separate occasions. If you mail the cord back to the company, you will be sent a replacement. Still, this is an annoying event when you are mid-sweater and suddenly you have 20 live stitches floating in space!
While I will not stop using any of my sets, and I am happy with each of them as a purchase, I believe that the set I am most pleased with is my Knitter's Pride. I think it is truly worth the price I paid, and I would buy another again in a different 'base' and will extend the cord selection over time. My least favorite set at this point is the Hiya -- I find the tips a bit blunter than I care to work with, and the breaking swivel cords have been a bit frustrating over time.
I would love to hear feedback you have on the needle sets and your experiences with them in the comments!