With exceptional sound quality and an attractive design, it’s hard to imagine a better place to start your IEM journey.
Do you remember your first time? There’s a first time for everything. And the first time you heard a life-changing piece of music on an outstanding system – it probably established a lifelong memory.
Today I want to tell you about my first time… with IEMs. Popular with stage musicians since the mid 90s, IEMs have earned their place in the audiophile world thanks to the incredibly intimate way they deliver their music directly to your ear canal. Suddenly all the physical limitations of speakers, rooms and headphones are gone, and you’re left with nothing but the music.
That’s the theory, anyway, and although I had been curious about IEMs for years, I’d never got around to trying them, until I was sent a pair of BLON BL-03s to review. I couldn’t wait to hook them up and start listening.
- Great bass extension
- Smooth top end
- Amazing detail at this budget price
- Fit can be challenging with stock tips
- Midrange slightly recessed
- Struggle with complex rock music
What’s in the Box?
The IEMs come in a neat package complete with fun marketing legends on the box, and a delightful user manual.
Inside are a generous 5 sets of different sized ear-tips (more on those next), a wound cable with 90 degree 3.5mm jack, a handy carrying pouch, and the gorgeous looking heart-shaped IEMs. Mine came in an attractive metallic purple color, and they’re also available in a silver or light brown finish.
The monitors themselves are made from a material called Kirsite, a metal alloy that’s easy to form into curvaceous shapes, and used to great effect here, being both light and strong.
It’s probably also worth mentioning that there’s an option to buy these with a microphone, useful for pairing with a phone, or joining Zoom calls.
- Drivers: 10 mm carbon diaphragm dynamic
- Impedance: 32 ohms
- Sensitivity: 102 dB/mW
- Frequency response: 20-20KHz
- Plug Type: 3.5mm Gold Plated L Type
- Cable length: 1.2m±3cm
- Earphone Interface: 0.78mm 2pin
Fitting in the Ear
Let me get my one issue with the BL-03s out of the way first. There’s a lot to like about these miniature wonders, but fit, at least into my relatively narrow ear canals, is definitely not one of them.
Despite trying each tip size multiple times, I genuinely struggled to get the supplied eartips settled into my ears in the correct position. They were either applying too much pressure, or refusing to sit still in the sweet spot for any length of time.
In the end, I got them where they need to be, or this review would be over before it started, but it took some time and caused some frustration. The stock eartips might work for you, but I’d be forced to find something from the aftermarket to turn these IEMs into a daily driver. Of course, every ear is different, so your mileage may vary.
The Listening Test
With the BL-03s fitted correctly, the listening began. First, it’s worth pointing out the effectiveness of the passive noise reduction, and the sound isolation these (and I’m sure other) IEMs provide, thanks to their moulded shape and tight fit. These are perfect for private listening if you have roommates.
Not only do they isolate outside noise very effectively, certainly as well as many budget noise cancelling headphones will, but others can’t hear your music either. Gone is the maddening audible tshh tshh tshh sound associated with so many earbuds and portable headphones. Your cohabitants and fellow commuters will thank you!
Listen to almost any well-produced, dynamic recording through these and you’ll be smiling.
Describing the sound quality of the BL-03s is easy, especially when you factor in the modest price: they sound fantastic. Now let’s break that down. Firstly, how these sound to you will certainly depend on how well you’re able to insert them in your own ears. The sweet spot is quite small, but once you hit it you’re rewarded with something really special, especially if you’ve never experienced IEMs before.
The bass extends nice and deep, and has enough definition to let you enjoy the subtle note changes from a jazz double bass, that are often washed out and blurred on speakers.
That deep bass defies belief considering the size of the tiny drivers in these IEMs, and I was able to enjoy bags of it on some of my favourite electronic music. Four-Tet’s Baby, with its luscious bass blooms, was a joy to listen to with these.
Whilst I enjoyed the extension down to the lower regions, the mid lows definitely seemed forward or neutral, as is common with many popular consumer headphones. How you like this will depend on your taste in music, and there’s always EQ if you need it.
The BL-03s are an enjoyable listen, but nothing’s perfect, and I was less impressed by the midrange, which sounded recessed to me. So vocals, in particular, lacked some of the sparkle and grain I’m used to on my own reference headphones.
Where recordings got more complex, as on Radiohead’s Bodysnatchers, I felt the BL-03s started to struggle. The mix sounded muddled and I was losing some of the detail I’m used to hearing, admittedly on headphones costing a lot more than these budget IEMs. Not a deal breaker, but if rock music is your thing then these may not be the way to go.
Back to the positives, I was very impressed with the top end, which never seemed overly bright or harsh to my ears. Without measuring equipment to hand, I’d guess these have a pretty flat frequency response from the mids up, which means the BL-03s lend themselves well to long, fatigue-free listening sessions. Detail on jazz and classical was a joy, and I was easily able to place instruments across the soundstage.
When it comes to dipping your toe into the world of IEMs, the BLON BL-03s are simply the perfect way to see what all the fuss is about.
Where to Buy
These IEMs are a real pleasure to listen to, and will provide you with an intimate connection to the musicians playing for you, in a way speakers and regular headphones can struggle with. Fit is an issue, but that’s highly personal and can usually be remedied with aftermarket tips.
When you factor in the price – and I’ve seen them as low as $22 on Drop and not much more on Amazon – they enter no-brainer territory, and every niggle about the fit or sound feels ridiculous. You won’t find better, more musical sound quality, or more smiles per mile, at this price. Listening to these was a first time I’ll surely remember. Highly recommended.