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Blon BL-05 Review – All Show

Pros –

Quality build, Compact and ergonomic design, Removable cable, Above average technical ability

Cons –

Slightly muddy bass, Strained, Off-timbre midrange

Verdict –

The BL-05 isn’t a bad buy when taken holistically, but does receive a limited recommendation from me for its polarising tonality.


Introduction –

Blon really took the audiophile world by storm with the BL-03. Though not especially impressive from a technical point of view, the $40 teardrop-shaped earphone carried a highly natural tonality, something not frequently found at such a low price point. As such, it quickly became the darling of numerous audio forums and for many, served as a gateway drug into the world of the empty wallet. The BL-05 follows hot on its heels. Redesigned from the ground up, Blon promise a more balanced, detailed sound and improved ergonomics, all at a meager $5 USD price increase. With a stainless steel build, removable cable and CNT dynamic driver, the BL-05 promises a lot more performance than its $43 USD price tag would suggest. You can read all about the BL-05 and purchase one for yourself here.

 

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Nappoler from HiFiGO very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the BL-05 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

 

Specs –

Driver: 10mm Carbon Nanotube Diaphragm Dynamic Driver Unit.

Impedance: 32 Ohms.

Sensitivity: 108dB.

Frequency Response Range: 20Hz-20kHz.

Cable: 0.78mm Two-Pin Cable with 3.5mm Termination Plug.

 

The Pitch –

2nd Generation CNT DD

CNT drivers have been observed at the high-end of IEM design and are now filtering their way down the price ladder. The BL-05 promises strong performance and low-distortion with a new diaphragm design with a carbon-network framework serving to increase rigidity and agility. Blon also boast an almost linear impedance response.

Tuned Acoustics

The BL03 achieved notoriety for its natural tonality and smooth FR. The BL-05 promises the same with a custom-design interior acoustic chamber. Alongside its new driver, Blon promise and audiophile-orientated tuning with a natural presentation, wide soundstage and coherent imaging.

 

Unboxing –

The unboxing experience reminds me of most Chi-Fi IEMs, the earphones are showcased through a clear window while the accessories are stored in a box below. Included with the earphones is a stylish canvas pouch, not super protective but a pocketable case that will precent deep scratches. Blon also include 2 types of silicone eartips, 3 pairs of generic grey tips in addition to two pairs of Spinfits, most likely CP155’s but the material is different to the latest generation such as those included with the Fiio FA9.

 

Design –

A prime area that Blon spent refining over its predecessor, the BL-05 features a stainless steel construction with a pod-like design reminiscent of AKG’s high-end earphones. Users have the choice of black or silver chrome housings, all with premium gold accent faceplates. It’s an impressively well-realised housing, especially as they were design in-house. Of course, the finish cannot compare to higher-end metal earphones with some orange peel on the paintjob to name an example. However, they are well formed with smooth seams and very reassuring density in the hand. A thoughtful addition includes left and right markers on the faceplates.

They use a 0.78mm removable cable system that is a great luxury at this price point and will ensure a longer lifespan for the earphones. The connectors protrude with inset pins on the cable to provide additional support while still permitting compatibility with third party units. The cable itself is of acceptable quality, the jacket is tacky but highly supple and the connectors all have excellent strain relief. Unfortunately, the wires themselves are very thin which makes them more tangle-prone to most. Nonetheless, the cable is not microphonic in the slightest and the pre-moulded ear guides are comfortable and stable fitting.

 

Fit & Isolation –

One thing that can be difficult to judge in photos and renders is scale. The BL-05 is a tiny earphone and very low-profile. As such, buyers looking for an earphone to sleep on may find this a very suitable choice. The nozzle is on the shorter side so most users will have to either size up tips or just longer tips such as the included Spinfits. Combined with the small housings, this contributes to an exceedingly comfortable wearing experience with zero hotspot formation.

I also found the seal to be quite convincing and, alongside their over-ear fit, they are very stable despite being slightly heavier due to that stainless steel construction. A vent is present, though as it lies on the inner-face, wind noise isn’t exaggerated when wearing the earphones outdoors. Isolation is above average but certainly not outstanding. They will suffice for commute but will struggle in loud environments such as the metro.

 

Sound –

Testing Methodology: Measured using Arta via IEC 711 coupler to Startech external sound card. 7-9KHz peaks are often artifacts of my measurement setup. Measurements besides channel balance are volume matched at 1KHz. Fit depth normalized to my best abilities. Due to these factors, my measurements may not accurately reflect the earphone or measurements taken by others.

 

Tonality –

The BL-05 pursues a kind of faux-Harman tuning, tracking essentially identically in the lower-registers through to the lower midrange. That said, the centre-midrange is noticeably more forward as is the upper-midrange, and the treble tuning has been altered in order to compensate. The result is not as coherent nor is this a presentation that comes across to me as immediately natural. Vocals sound forward but thin and detail presentation is forward but with blunted attack. This does improve to some extent with Final Audio E-tips that smooth off the midrange and increase density, however, it hardly seems sensible to recommend a $35 ear tip for a $60 earphone (AUD). All testing below was with the included ear tips.

 

Bass –

The low-end is pleasantly deep reaching, with notable sub-bass focus providing enhanced note thickness and weight. It lacks the physical slam of pricier models but still provides bold rumble and plenty of voluminous impact at the very bottom. This precedes a slope through the mid and upper-bass that ensures a fairly neutral bass tone regardless. As a result, though carrying fair bass emphasis, there isn’t any bloat or warmth colouring its presentation. Technically, the low-end is also a reasonably astute performer if not an outstanding one too.

There’s better than average driver control here, resulting in a tighte presentation than most competitors. However, the low-end has poorer organisation on complex tracks without adequate separation of its thicker notes. This is somewhat ameliorated by its slightly faster decay and there is a bit more detail retrieval than one might expect for the price. However, sub-bass does have a tendency to overwhelm its mid-bass, resulting in less perceived definition. The BL-05 certainly provides an engaging low-end with enjoyable technical ability, though I would not be mistake it for a costlier earphone.

 

Mids –

I am personally critical of midrange timbre, preferring a warm, coherent sound over a clear and thin one. Though I try to relay information accurately, naturally there will be some bias in my interpretation. The BL-05 unfortunately, falls into the latter category so it is not especially appealing for my preferences. As above, there is little bass warmth and diminished body in the upper-bass and lower-midrange. As such, the vocal presentation is thinly bodied and cool in tone. This is further exacerbated by a sizeable 2KHz peak that brings vocals to the fore of the presentation, followed by subsequent 4KHz emphasis. Such tuning enhanced clarity and openness while bolstering vocal size and intimacy.

As this comes at the expense of smoothness and body, most earphones implement a warmer bass or smoother lower-treble to compensate. This has been poorly executed here, as emphasis extends to the 5KHz region only dropping off sharply at 6KHz. As such, articulation isn’t especially smooth though sibilance and sharpness are partially mitigated. Such tuning only serves to exacerbate the BL05’s cool, thin and raspy presentation. Indeed, vocals are clean and clear, female vocals especially are showcased. However, these qualities are not enough to offset its unnatural tone to my ear; vocals are simply too strained, lacking foundation and power. Ultimately, transparency is a term that is often misconstrued, not simply the absence of warmth, but the absence of colouration. Arguably, the BL-05 swings too far in the opposite direction in its pursuit.

 

Highs –

The top-end, thankfully, is quite pleasantly voiced and, similar to the bass, is an admiral performer at such a conservative price point. Nonetheless, we are speaking in relatives as it is not especially focussed or organised relative to pricier models. Still, there’s good crispness to the foreground with above-average detail retrieval. Notes have a smoother attack, lacking aggressive crunch and bite due to their sharp 6KHz trough. But there remains a crisp and slightly forward detail presence on behalf of 5KHz emphasis, nonetheless.

Instrumentation is thin in body and decay is truncated as extension is quite limited, so you do miss the texture and realism seen on higher-priced earphones around the 3-digit mark. The background is slightly brighter than neutral, providing a bit more openness and air, and this region is both detail sparse and devoid of glare as the BL-05 rolls-off sharply through the middle-treble. The transient response remains fairly clean as well, with good separation. Of course, there isn’t any sparkle nor great resolution of fine details here. The BL-05 is firmly a superficial performer, with some layering and enough detail presence to engage.

 

Soundstage –

Even with the included Spinfits installed that usually offer a wider presentation, the BL-05 is reasonably intimate though never claustrophobic due to its thinner notes that provide a bit more air and separation. Chiefly, the earphone has quite a forward sound both with regards to vocals and highs so though it is capable of rendering some dimension, often it is close to the head. Imaging performance is quite good on behalf of a clean transient response and sharp lower-treble delivering keen directional cues. We observe strongly centred vocals and instruments spread out to the sides. Due to the lower-treble tuning, localisation isn’t pinpoint precise, though direction is easy to discern, nonetheless. Separation is good as aforementioned, there isn’t huge separation in the bass but otherwise, notes feel well isolated which no doubt plays a role in their imaging performance.

 

Driveability –

The BL05 has a 32ohm impedance and 108dB sensitivity making it quite efficient for use with lower powered sources. Indeed, the BL-05 is quite source agnostic which speaks well for those with lesser quality sources but conversely, it can be ascertained that it doesn’t scale up either. Comparing sound quality from my iPod Touch 6G to my THX 789 revealed a more authoritarian sub-bass slam alongside slightly higher definition and a wider soundstage. Still, the difference was not huge.

Suggested Pair Ups

The BL-05 is suitable for smartphone listeners being neither power hungry nor suffering from a high output impedance. However, it also does not scale well with better sources. A warmer source is advised to help smooth off its midrange. 

 

Comparisons –

Kinera Tyr ($30): The Tyr was quite an impressive affordable in-ear to me, sporting a lightly warm, balanced and simply pleasant tonality. It has a fixed cable that will hold some buyers back prioritising longevity. The low-end of the Blon extends better and showcases better control. The Tyr has a more natural tuning, with light tilt towards the mid-bass granting it a warm, smooth and full voicing. The Blon is a lot cleaner and higher energy with higher definition and detail retrieval. The midrange continues suite, the Blon being more forward, brighter and thinner. The Tyr is slightly laid-back, lightly warm and dense. It’s timbre is pleasantly natural, both instruments and vocals.

The Blon has greater clarity and definition but is quite a bit thinner and more forward, sounding a bit sterile by comparison. The lower-treble is lightly crisp on the Tyr, being sharper and more forwad on the Blon. Nonetheless, the Tyr has a bit more note attack granting its notes slightly more bite. Still, the Blon is slightly more detailed and its presentation draws more attention to this fact too. The Blon has a cleaner transient response and slightly more extension though both are very limited in this regard. The Tyr has a larger soundstage and more defined layers while the Blon has better separation and sharper imaging.

Final Audio E2000 ($40): At the same price, the E2000 provides one of my favourite voicings under $100. This comes at the cost of a thin fixed cable. The Final is more U-shaped with laid-back vocals where the Blon is more W-shaped. The Blon provides a bit more sub-bass extension and slam while the E2000 is more linear with a light mid-bass tilt granting it a warmer tone but a less boisterous bass overall. The Blon has better bass control but the E2000 has more definition through the mid-bass. The midrange is a lot more natural on the E2000.             It’s vocals aren’t as prominent, but are more accurate in size and positioning, if being a tad laid-back.

They have more natural tone, body and articulation while retaining pleasing clarity. The Blon is higher definition but not as resolving as it is rather thinned out. The lower-treble is also slightly forward on the E2000 but more linear as it doesn’t have to compensate for a shouty midrange. As such, it has more accurate attack and decay properties and more realistic body and timbre in general. That said, the transient response on the Blon is a bit cleaner, it is a touch more detailed and has a bit more resolution. The E2000 has larger soundstage while the Blong has sharper directional cues if not more accurate imaging overall.

Moondrop Starfield ($109): I’ve included this IEM in the comparison because I feel many buyers would benefit greatly by making the pricier but more long-term investment. Around this price we see a great jump in technical ability in addition to more refined tuning, a double whammy. The Starfield simply sounds a lot more complete to my ears, even coming from much pricier gear that makes the Blon sound truly crappy. The Starfield has slightly similar sub-bass extension alongside a much tighter and more controlled low-end. Though not an outstanding performer in its price range, the Starfield has better definition and separation while upholding similar levels of energy and slam. The Blon sounds larger only because its notes are sloppier. The midrange is where the Starfield jumps most ahead, though not too far off on a FR, there is a world of difference in listening.

It too is a high clarity and slightly forward sound but it showcases so much more refinement then the Blon. The centre midrange isn’t as forward and the upper-midrange has a bit more density and smoothness. As such, the Starfield yields all of the benefits, the clarity, definition and cleanliness without erring into the territory of shoutiness, strain and raspiness. This trend continues into the treble where the Starfield is appreciably more linear, especially around the 5-6KHz region. It has more accurate attack and decay, better detail retrieval and more accurate instrument timbre. As the 5KHz region isn’t as forward, it also isn’t as bright and forward here. Sure, it isn’t the most technically adept in its elevated price category, but the tonality is excellent as many have said. The Starfield has a wider soundstage with more dimension. Imaging benefits greatly from its more balanced, linear tuning and it doesn’t suffer from the same lack of separation in the low-end.

 

Verdict –

I have always sought objectivity in my reviews as this enables my readers to guide their purchase decisions according to their own personal preferences, rather than my own. In this sense, I’m sure the Blon holds appeal to a certain audience. Should you be interested in a sub-$50 earphone with strong build quality, a design compact enough to sleep on and a removable cable, your options suddenly become very limited. Those favouring clear, intimate and highly defined vocals alongside a crisp yet clean treble will also enjoy this earphone. Still, the bright, forward presentation and off-timbre vocals will heavily limit appeal, as coming from the vast majority of earphones, these simply sound a bit off. In such a competitive market, a low price is never an excuse for mediocrity. And perhaps worse than that, is disappointment – as the BL-05 is an earphone so many had high hopes for. The BL-05 isn’t a bad buy when taken holistically, in fact, quite well-rounded, but does receive a limited recommendation from me for its polarising tonality.

The BL-05 is available from HifiGO (International) for $43 USD at the time of writing. I am not affiliated with HiFiGO or Blon and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.

 

Track List –

Billie Eilish – don’t smile at me

IU – eight

Johnny Cash – The Legend of Johnny Cash

Minzy – LOVELY

NIKI – Around

OOHYO – Far From the Madding City

Radiohead – Pablo Honey

Sam Smith – In The Lonely Hour

The Cranberries – Something Else

 

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