The hottest and host hyped chi-fi IEM of the past year or so has undoubtedly been the Blon BL-03. At around $30 and offering an inoffensive, relaxed and casual sound signature, it is easy to see why they were a big hit. However, they were not without their issues, most notably in their lack of technical ability as well as, poor cable, poor tips and general fit. With the BL-05, Blon has taken the “Oppoty” to improve upon the BL-03 and rectify some of these issues. Did they pull it off? Well, let’s get into it.
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I picked up the Blon BL-03 about 5-6 months ago and it has remained one of my favourite budget-fi earphones and for good reason. It’s rather relaxed sound signature is quite inoffensive and they make a great casual earphone. Most other earphones in the budget-fi price category are often quite edgy and shouty, the Blon BL-03 definitely buck this trend.
Some even made wild claims that they were giant killers despite their obvious, and understandable for the price point, lack of technical ability as well as a somewhat bloated and muddy bass and overall rather dark presentation.
Interestingly many people disagreed with me on that assessment but I’ve seen Crinacles graphs, they agree with my ears. I think the reason for the various discrepancies about the sound signature of the BL-03 is twofold. For one, there was obviously a certain amount of unit variance with the BL-03 and that has certainly been demonstrated by Crinacle. And secondly, I think some of the discrepancies are due to fit issues. The stock tips are simply awful, and the BL-03’s nozzle is really quite short. This makes it incredibly difficult to find a good fit with the BL-03. I suspect this has lead to a lot of people not getting a good seal and thus not experiencing as much bass as those who were able to achieve a good seal.
I can easily demonstrate this myself, I find it completely impossible to get a seal using any silicone tips on the BL-03. And when trying to do so, the BL-03 did sound much less bass bloated. However when fitting foam tips and getting a good seal in my ears the fullness of that bass and especially midbass is readily apparent. The BL-03 also has a rather restrained upper midrange and the result of this is a rather dark overall presentation.
I’ll drop a little spoiler now, in my opinion, Blon has managed to tweak the sound signature for the better with the BL-05 and they are now a much more balanced and even somewhat neutral leaning IEM compared to the BL-03. You might remember I recently found the QKZ VK4 to be an excellent alternative to the Blon BL-03 even at $13. However, with the BL-05 I think Blon have somersaulted back over the VK4 and back into the lead of the budget-fi top list, with a few caveats.
Impedance is 32 Ohms with a 108dB sensitivity.
There is some confusion as to the specific driver architecture used in the Blon BL-05. Most listings for the BL-05 describe its driver as a thermoacoustic driver but the one on Drop identifies this as a 7 layer piezoelectric driver (which operates via thermoacoustics). This is a similar driver configuration as the NiceHCK N3.
However at some point between the beta versions and the final release it seems they have dropped the thermoacoustic driver. So despite what it says on the various product listings the BL-05 uses just a 2nd generation 10mm carbon nanotube diaphragm dynamic driver.
The BL-05 also comes with the same small pouch as the BL-03 and of course the same meme-worthy packaging.
Tips and Fit
Unfortunately, Blon has chosen to go with the same nozzle size and the exact same selection of tips for the Blon BL-05. The fit with the stock tips is just as awful as with the BL-03 and I don’t understand how they have overlooked this. However the general shape of the IEM itself I do find fits in my ears a little better so there is some improvement to the fit at least.
Most IEMs have some kind of taper of the body leading into the nozzle. The body of the IEM fits in the outer ear with a taper leading to the nozzle into the ear canal. However the Blon BL-03 and BL-05 have no such design. That means that whilst the body of the IEM fits in the outer ear quite nicely, the nozzle ends up not being able to reach far into the ear canal. To compensate for this Blon use a slightly longer tip than your average IEM tip. In theory this is fine but the tips supplied with the Blons are not particularly stiff or have much substance to them. Therefore their ability to insert deeply and seal with the ear canal is compromised.
Therefore the fit with the stock tips is just as awful as with the BL-03 and I don’t understand how they have overlooked this. However the general shape of the IEM itself I do find fits in my outer ear a little better so there is some marginal improvement to the fit at least.
The cable also seems to be the exact same cable as the BL-03, again this is an odd choice as this stock cable was almost universally hated. However, there is a widely available upgrade cable this time around. Most sellers seem to carry this cable so it shouldn’t be hard to get hold of and whilst it is only a 4 core cable, it is much much nicer than the stock cable.
There seems to be a few bundle deals around for the BL-05, when mine arrived they came with the upgrade cable, 3 pairs of foam tips and a small carrying pouch.
The connector in use here is the same as the BL-03, a recessed 0.78mm 2-pin connector similar to a QDC but with squared edges rather than rounded edges.
Regarding the build, look and feel of the BL-05. They appear to be made of the same material as the BL-03 which was Kirsite, a cast Zinc alloy, however, the internals of the BL-05 are said to be carved out for more precision.
These are not quite as slick and understated looking as the BL-03 which may be a bit polarising. I will say that they do look much better and more compact in person than they do in pictures.
The weight is 8g per ear without tips.
I will start this section with a disclaimer:
Budget-fi earphones are often known for unit variance and this might be true of the BL-05 just as it was with the BL-03 but I can only report my experience with this one specific pair.
Also, I found it impossible to get a seal with silicone tips both the stock ones and some others I had here. On many IEMs I can get a seal with silicone but they fall out too easy. With these, I cannot get a seal at all with silicone tips, I think that’s a result of the weird fit and short nozzle just like the BL-03. I usually try to give an overview of the sound with both foam and silicone but in this case, I simply cannot use the silicone with the BL-05 and therefore I did all of my listening with foam tips. It is what it is. But be aware that it is entirely possible that the sound signature could change quite a bit when using silicone tips but I cannot comment on this.
All listening was done using lossless sources from my PC through an O2/SDAC or over Bluetooth using the Fiio BTR3. This is to simulate listening using a solid desktop source as well as mobile usage.
I’m going to be making comparisons with the Blon BL-03. As well as the Tin T4 which is my current chi-fi benchmark IEM. Both of which were used with foam tips.
First thing I want to point out, contrary to what I have read elsewhere, is that the BL-05 actually has a decent sense of staging, much to my surprise. I didn’t think the BL-03 was particularly special in this area at all, however, the BL-05 are not just better than the BL-03 but actually pretty good in general.
However, imaging isn’t a particularly stand out feature and is instead about average with a slight improvement over the BL-03. Again, that wasn’t especially a good point of the BL-03 but I think the QKZ VK4 just does this better.
In terms of overall sound signature, the BL-05 has a much more neutral leaning presentation than the BL-03. In fact, I would say for my tastes, that Blon has done exceptionally well with the tuning of the BL-05.
Bass is a touch more elevated than the Tin T4, particularly in the low and sub-bass area below 100Hz so they do have a decent amount of that sub-bass rumble. Sub-bass is similar to the BL-03, however, the BL-05 is a good deal less boosted throughout the rest of the bass than the BL-03. That might upset the bass-heads however it is certainly not lacking in the bass department and for people liking a more neutral leaning earphone, this will be much more suited. I find the BL-05 to be a bit more punchy than the BL-03 which gives a good impact to toms and snares.
One of the weak points of the BL-03 for me was the somewhat excessively boosted midbass that extended deep into the low mids. This meant the BL-03 had a much warmer sound but unfortunately meant the mids were quite coloured and indistinct. The bass on the Blon BL-05 is much cleaner, tighter, quicker and more punchy. And the mids are also much cleaner and more detailed as a result.
I should note that whilst the BL-05 is less warm than the BL-03, neither the T4, Starfield or BL-05 follow the Harman curve in the upper bass to low mids, all of them are a few dB above target at around 200Hz in a similar way to the Sennheiser HD600/650. So all of these earphones have a good familiar warmth in their low end. Seems like an improvement on the BL-03 to me.
The mids actually present quite similarly to the Tin T4 and Moondrop Starfield. Neither earphone I consider to be v-shaped, so I’m not sure why I’ve seen so many people refer to the Blon BL-05 as v-shaped. For my ears, they are just right and have a much more natural tonality than the BL-03. Timbre wasn’t really an issue with the BL-03 but just lack of clarity and that muddiness. Vocals have much more definition on the BL-05, where they were often lost on the BL-03.
There is no denying that the upper mids are a fair bit more emphasised than on the BL-03, however that’s mainly due to the fact they were a bit recessed on the BL-03. Some people may have liked the relaxed upper mids of the BL-03 and I count myself as one of those people when I want a more casual and relaxed sounding earphone. However, they were a bit dark for more critical listening.
Despite this extra energy, I don’t find the upper mids to be harsh, and there’s a surprising level of detail to be found within. For me, this is really quite a pleasant and a welcome change from the BL-03. I think Blon have aimed for more of a Harman style tuning this time. In many ways, the BL-05 reminds me of the tuning of the Moondrop Starfield more so than the Tin T4. However, I think it sits somewhere in between, a bit brighter than the Starfield but not as much as the T4. The T4 has that 5kHz glare which can definitely be a bit too much on some tracks but there are no such issues with the BL-05. However, the BL-05 has a bit of shout at 2kHz. I generally don’t find this extra energy to be too excessive but it is definitely noticeable on some tracks.
One point that really stands, out versus the BL-03 is in vocal performance. Not only in the lower mids but also in the presence region, female vocals, in particular, pop much more than on the BL-03.
Whilst I do find the extra upper mid energy gives the BL-05 a much more lively and energetic feel than the BL-03, it is fair to say they are a fair bit more grainy, less refined and less resolving than the T4 and Starfield. But I think when we factor in price, they do a respectable job.
Treble seems very similar to the BL-03, whilst it doesn’t have the best definition it is respectfully restrained with no areas of peakiness or harshness and I didn’t have any issues with sibilance.
All in then the standout improvement over the BL-03 is in the midrange. A lot of that might be to do with Blon toning down a lot of that midbass and lower mid bloat that made the BL-03 so thick sounding and allowing some of the detail in the mids to come through. But this is certainly a change for the better in my book. Diehard fans of the BL-03 might not be all that impressed with the BL-05, the overall tonality has taken a tilt towards a brighter and more energetic sound versus the laid back sound of the BL-03. But for those who found the BL-03 a little too relaxed there is a lot to like about the BL-05 and Blon may find a whole new audience with this model.
It could certainly be argued that with this change in tonality away from a warmer and more relaxed tuning has made the BL-05 sound somewhat similar to a lot of other IEMs and thus it has lost some of the uniqueness that the original had. And with that, it also hasn’t gained all that much in terms of technicalities beyond what has been exposed by the change to the tuning. And there is something to be said for that standpoint. And with that in mind, if it no longer stands out all that much then it becomes a question of value and where its technical performance fits in in terms of price point.
Value and Conclusion
So let’s talk value. And at around $40 I think the BL-05 still represent good value for money. Sure the stock cable is poor, so are the tips, but you can say that about all budget-fi earphones under this price. But in terms of technicalities, Crinacle recommends the Urbanfun Yiss and I trust his recommendation, he’s certainly heard a lot more earphones than me. However when I went looking for the Yiss it was $70, that is quite a price jump from the BL-05. At that point you’d have to ask, is it not just worth going straight for the Moondrop Starfield or Tin T4? I’m sure there are plenty of other options too. And yes I will have a Starfield review coming out soon. There are certainly a lot of other earphones in this price range and a lot of competition and there’s a lot I haven’t heard. In fact, I just picked up a Tin T2, because I feel that this was a gap in my knowledge and that I should really have one here as a reference for this price point. Many people still hold this up as a good earphone today and perhaps at this price point it could be seen as an alternative to the BL-05. You also have the super-budget-fi earphones like the QKZ VK4 which on tuning and technicalities is probably a match for the BL-05. But in the BL-05 you’re getting a much nicer metal build rather than a cheap plastic feeling IEM. For some that extra $30 might well be worth the cost for that.
I’m going to say that I think the Blon BL-05 is fairly priced but that this is a very competitive price point so shop around before you make the leap. For my tastes, the tuning of the BL-05 is a welcome improvement on the BL-03 and this is one I will definitely be keeping around.