Same specs as BL05 — did “NEVERGIVEUP” produce a better result?
I was really excited to receive these! I eagerly opened the shipping package, admired the packaging, took some photos, and then proceeded with carefully unboxing. I then connected the fine cables to the bold IEM bodies and began trying all of the included silicone ear tips (BLON calls them earplugs) to see if I could find a fit.
After I thought I had the best of the options, I put an excellent Diana Krall — Live in Paris jazz vocal recording in my CD player, sat back in a comfortable chair, and pushed play — expecting much.
- »Outstanding build quality, fit, and finish
- »Low physical profile
- »Secure fit
- »Extremely comfortable, even for long periods of time
- »No cable noise or interference
- »Above average sound isolation
- »High clarity
- »Tight, fast bass
- »Exceptional bargain for the quality and sound reproduction
- »Not ready or optimized for immediate use out of the box
- »Requires extensive break-in/burning
- »Instruction manual is virtually unreadable without magnification
- »Short nozzle
- »The high clarity (a strength) may also produce high treble that may be uncomfortable and fatiguing for those with sensitive ears
- »Sound reproduction varies greatly with choice of earips
- »Lack of included memory foam eartips
Just as the sound began to reach my ears, my eyes opened wide, and my jaw dropped… and out cried a yelp of pain — followed immediately by me nearly jumping out of my chair, colorful verbal expressions, and confusion. The sound was alarmingly shouty and shrill, pushing well past the point of being unpleasant.
My second reaction and thoughts:
- this can’t be right — I received a lemon (or lime because of the color), or
- user error of some type, or
- these are going to be a huge disappointment given what I know about and expected from BLON.
Given my memorable first experience, I thought best to scour the included paperwork to see if there was something that I needed to know or if I could identify my errors. As it turns out, there were some critical pieces of information buried in the microscopic manual instructions which I subsequently read thoroughly (with a magnifying glass).
Here were the gems I found, copied verbatim (including typos, grammar challenges, and all):
- Please do not wear the earphone while crossing the road for your safety.
- Please do not use the earphone for watching videos or hearing emotional music when eating for your health.
- The new earphones are not burned, there should be several hours of for break-in.
- Please kindly turn down the volumn at initial use of new earphones,and then gradually increase the volume,to protect the from diaphragm.
So what did I learn and what did I do? I got out of the middle of the road, dropped my sandwich, connected the new earphones to a music source, and let it play for a total of approximately 18 hours, slowly increasing the volume periodically. While I did listen from time to time to see if anything was changing, the review that follows is based on listening after the break-in period that I hoped was enough.
After extensive testing with the supplied ear tips, I was curious if the sound would be different with memory foam ear tips.
When I found the right ear tips, it seemed like a magical transformation! Not only was the sound exponentially better, the IEMs became even more secure and comfortable — once in, they barely budged even with substantial movement. The challenge that I faced is that there seemed to be a trade off no matter which ear tips I used.
With the supplied silicone tips, I struggled to hear noticeably present or accurate bass. The sound was generally a bit thin with too much treble. With memory foam, bass tremendously improved at the cost of losing some expressive detail in the higher end of the frequency range.
Different tips, even memory foam, altered the sound significantly for me — this may not necessarily be your experience. It is worth the time to experiment until you find what’s best for you.
Despite being very secure and light with the right fit, these are not workout earphones; unless you are walking or doing simple, smooth steady-state cardio such as elliptical or stationary bikes.
To understand and honor BLON, let’s start with their story. As found in the accompanying manual, “B-L-O-N refers to building the legend of nobles, which aims to create and pursue high-standard taste and high-quality products.” They further explain that BLON’s “…Chinese name is “Baolong”, and it is also a name that inherits the pursuit of quality in Chinese language and culture.
Despite being founded only 6 years ago, BLON already speaks of their brand as becoming a timeless legacy. Despite Chinese to English translation challenges, they have put forward an almost incredible (literally not believable) image of themselves.
The original writing was most likely penned by audio enthusiasts who took audiophile words and amped it up — all the way to 11 (YES I DID! A pun, a Spinal Tap reference, and audiophile humor all in one).
While incredibly effusive and enthusiastic, the writing surprisingly doesn’t come across as arrogant. It feels like an affirmation. It is aspirational.
If you read the company and product descriptions before reading any reviews or listening to them, it would be easy to assume that the company age and the price tag should both have an extra zero on them.
- Transducer Driver: 10mm BLON 2nd Generation Carbon NanoTube (CNT) dynamic driver
- Impedance: 32 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 108 db
- Frequency range: 20 Hz – 20 KHz
- Style: In-ear, with earhook cable
- Connector: 0.78mm 2 Pin
- Plug Type: 3.5mm L-shaped gold-plated plug
- Cable length: 1.2m
2014 is prominently displayed in the BLON logo stamped on the box wrap. To be clear, this is the year that BLON was founded, not the manufacture date.
The packaging and product presentation mirror the language. BLON’s focus is clearly on brand, presence, personality, and unique style. In addition, their primary audience are enthusiasts, not engineers — centered around the listener experience and output of their products. Less clinical, more emotion.
The BLON BL05S IEMs come presented to you on a pedestal in a long white box with a transparent plastic cover, designed to be hung vertically on a product display rack. My questions at the time: Have they earned their lofty height? Will they live up to this pedestal on which they have been placed?
Below the logo we find the acronym BLON: BELIEF – LETMUSICBURN — OPPOTY — NEVERGIVEUP. Below that is “ANNOTATION, MUSIC AND DRIAMS.” This is likely the result of a passionate and well-intentioned English translation from Chinese. Rather than an opportunity to make fun, let’s be generous and appreciate the effort and creative spirit. As it turns out, this something that BLON has become known for and does not overshadow the product.
Inside is a small cloth drawstring pouch with a blue BLON logo. Included are the detachable cable and five pairs of silicone ear tips. A printed instruction and information pamphlet requires a magnifying glass and a dose of English interpretation, especially if you cannot read the original Chinese.
In the box
- 2 BL-05S IEMs
- 1 braided 0.78mm 2-pin cable with inline microphone (see next section below)
- 3 pairs of grey silicone tips, usual bulbous shape (sizes S, M, L)
- 2 pairs of grey silicone tips, more narrow shape (sizes M, L)
- 1 small linen type cloth bag
Despite being lightweight, the cable appears to be of excellent quality. The detachable cable is made from 4 strands of anti-tension and anti-interference wire for the main wire. It has a 90° earplug design and a 3.5mm gold plated plug. The built-in microphone employs one-button push operation and feels solid with strong positive actuation.
The cable itself is quite lovely to look at and feel. The braiding is entirely consistent and transmits zero noise when tapping or rubbing against anything. It is light, shaped well around the ear, is very secure, and is so comfortable that it’s easy to forget that they are there.
To some, the BL05S will look and feel like objects of art. At first glance, the BL05S in this shade of bright mint green have a simple retro style that reminded me of a mid-20th Century appliance. That said, it’s immediately apparent that the manufacturing quality of these IEMs is at a level of quality that was simply not possible to achieve at that time.
The stainless steel housing has a premium feel — overall fit and finish is excellent. Build quality appears to be outstanding. No variations in paint, consistent spacing where parts fit together, and secure connections of the removable wires to the IEM body.
The pictures just don’t do them justice. The more I look at them, the more attractive they become to me. The contrast of the gold and green, plus the interesting contours create a unique and artful design.
While the green may not be as jarring if you are an iguana or chameleon, they will be most noticeable on a human being of any skin tone. For those who want others to know they are wearing IEMs, these will certainly do.
The silicone ear tips easily come on and off, and hold tightly thanks to a notched nozzle. While a short nozzle allows the small body of the IEM to sit in the ear quite flush to your head, it may be a challenge for some people to achieve a good seal even while trying to press them firmly into the ear canal. This is especially true with the silicone ear tips, and potentially remedied by replacement memory foam.
What’s most impressive is that with the metal body, the BLON-BLO05S feel quite weighty and substantial.
When in the ear and seated well, that weight almost disappears and noise isolation is excellent.
The IEMs are small with a flat outer surface, helping them sit flush and in the ear. The lack of any buttons or touch controls make them easy to press in and secure. Noise isolation is excellent with the right seal.
The cord is easy to forget as well. Extra wrapping to hold the shape around the ear is excellent. It holds well and confirms around the ear without exerting any noticeable pressure.
Notably, this is a single dynamic driver earphone. BLON has redesigned the Carbon Nanotube (CNT) diaphragm with a new carbon network framework that increases the rigidity and speed of the membrane. While traditional drivers use moving parts, the BL05S uses thermoacoustics to create soundwaves generated by incoming currents through the carbon nanotube.
The BL05 interior chamber was carved out to feature an acoustic canal that accurately mirrors the sonic properties that the natural ear picks up in an orchestral hall.
BLON claims that the BLO5S employs a much faster diaphragm response that is unparalleled among dynamic drivers, with incredibly low distortion and an almost entirely linear impedance response. They also claim to have invested as much time in designing the interior acoustic chamber as in tuning the new CNT driver.
BLON BL05S Sound
For evaluation, I listened to a great variety of music from numerous sources to see how they would react. Using the provided silicone ear tips and before extensive burn-in, I could not find enjoyment in what I was listening to and fatigued very quickly. Fast forwarding to the time of this writing, I would have easily believed that I was listening to an entirely different pair of IEMs than I had plugged in the first hour.
With a very high sensitivity of 108db and an impedance of 32ohms, these IEMs are easy to drive with virtually any source.
The result of the BL05S’ tuning is a balanced sound with accurate sound reproduction. Clarity is high and detail is a strength.
I noted excellent channel separation with a spacious, above-average soundstage. The reproduction sounds well distributed and relatively flat across frequencies with no obvious distortion, coloration, or over-emphasis in any one area. Perceived separation of frequencies is good and transitions seemed to become smoother over time.
Bass and sub-bass generally feel robust, tight, and fast. The lower frequencies sound natural and are most certainly not overwhelming. It will be adequate and satisfying to most listeners of most genres. Even when pressed with very low rumbling, they were not overwhelmed to the point of distortion and they will not rattle your skull.
Mid to mid-upper frequencies can be highly prominent and forward depending on the source. This is especially obvious when listening to any music with high dynamic range — meaning large variations between low and high volumes and major differences in frequencies. It is generally not distracting, though some may feel that it occasionally overpowers the bass.
Treble started off shrill and sharp. Over time, it began to smooth out to produce bright and crisp sound. This is drastically influenced by choice of ear tips, as is the bass. If you have sensitive hearing and are not partial to this type of sound, you will most certainly want to use a memory foam eartip.
The BL05S version I tested had a microphone with a one-button/function control. While testing with both mobile phones and a computer using video chat, clarity and sensitivity were excellent and clear, both receiving and transmitting.
It is important to note again that these IEMs must have a burn-in period — they got remarkably better over time and with more use. It’s also critical that you find a proper fit and seal, and tips that really work for you to bring forward the best that these IEMs can offer. For my pair, I have come to appreciate them more each day and they may just continue to improve.
Slightly more warmth, depth, and resonance with slightly less high-frequency sharpness will be welcome in their next generation. In addition, I believe that many buyers will greatly appreciate the inclusion of memory foam tips in addition to the silicone set provided.
I believe it will serve BLON well to clearly emphasize the required burn-in in the instructions. This may prevent many initially negative reactions, impulsive poor reviews, and possible returns. Adding a QR code to the manual where buyers can access a digital copy will also be a valuable addition.
The BL05S are an exceptional bargain for their build quality and output. These IEMs do make a statement and are sure to gain a fan base, especially those who appreciate high clarity and tight, crisp sound.
While it may be a stretch to proclaim these are audiophile-grade, the BLON BL05S is certainly a significant step above average — a welcome upgrade for casual listeners who are really into music and have not experienced much beyond entry-level earphones in the past.
I sincerely hope that BLON keeps up their energy, passion, and dedication. If so, I’m confident that they will progress on realizing their lofty aspirations. I, for one, am now a fan and looking forward to what’s to come as BLON aims to fulfill their destiny.