Hey there PAR fam and guests. In this review, I’m taking a look at the BLON BL-05 in-ear monitor. The BL-05 features a single 10mm carbon nanotube driver and is the long-awaited follow-up to the legendary BLON BL-03.
BLON is a name that hardly needs any introduction if you’ve been following the Chi-Fi scene for any length of time. But for those that don’t know, BLON is an earphone and headphone manufacturer that previously had little exposure on the western market until the release of their BL-03 IEM. The BL-03 shook the budget enthusiast community with its natural, engaging sound and price to performance ratio.
Since then, the company has been on everyone’s radar and looks set to be another staple Chi-Fi brand such as Tin Hifi and LZ.
Disclaimer:This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Solid build quality
Small and comfortable housings
Thin and shouty midrange
Lacks naturalness and dynamics
Package and Accessories
Just like the BL-03, the BL-05 comes in an elongated box with a clear plastic front and the now-famous “BELIEF, LETMUSICBURN, OPPOTY, NEVERGIVEUP” (BLON) acronym that has inadvertently helped boost the brand to stardom.
Inside are the BL-05 earphones, detachable 2-pin cable and 6 pairs of silicone eartips. There is also an upgrade cable available and I highly recommend you grab that if you are an existing BL-03 user or a prospective BL-05 buyer.
Design, Comfort and Noise Isolation
The BLON BL-05 has classy-looking metal shells with gold trim. Compared to the BL-03, these certainly look more premium in terms of build. They feel reassuringly robust so there should be no concerns about durability.
The 0.78mm 2-pin sockets are the same type as the ones on the BL-03 which makes for a secure connection with the stock cable but they lack stability with standard 3rd party 2-pin cables.
It might be hard to tell but the shells are really quite small. Due to the small size and rounded surface, the BL-05 is very comfortable to wear even for prolonged periods. However, the nozzles are fairly short so it can be tricky to get a stable fit until you find the right eartips.
Noise isolation is moderate so don’t expect to completely shut out the world with these in your ears. Having said that though, once the music starts they fare just as well as most average earphones in blocking outside noise.
The stock cable is the same as the one that comes with the BL-03. It’s pretty much a consensus among owners that this is not a fun cable to use. It’s very thin above the Y-split and with the pre-formed ear guides in place, tangles are a common occurrence. Handling is decent once the tangles have been sorted and there isn’t any noticeable microphonics or stiffness.
The BLON BL-05 has a really clean, clear sound with a fairly neutral presentation apart from an upper midrange boost. It’s a high-fidelity type of sound that aims for technical prowess more than outright musicality or naturalness. In doing so, it achieves superb clarity but only moderate resolution. In addition, it has a tendency to sound shouty and even sterile on some recordings.
Bass has moderate texture and is boosted just a hair above neutral in quantity. There is more emphasis on the sub-bass with the mid and upper bass fading off fairly quickly to make way for the midrange to come forward.
One of the selling points of CNT drivers is their speed and the BL-05’s bass is a good example of this. There’s no bass bleed present here: it’s all very tidy with a fast attack and decay. In short, the BL-05 has a nice bass but one that lacks real character.
The BL-05 is biased towards the upper midrange. It sounds great with acoustic guitars making them vivid, very clear and detailed. Vocal lovers should take note too: this is an IEM that pushes vocals way out front, However, midrange notes are on the thin side and somewhat lacking in body.
The lower mids and male vocals lack warmth and essence. Female vocals are very forward and can sound thin and nasally. In Sza’s “Go Gina”, her vocals dominate the track and are so forward as to sound shouty.
The BL-05 has a sweet, pristine treble. It’s crisp and lively but lacks outright extension and struggles to gain a foothold under the oppressing upper midrange. I actually like the sound of the BL-05’s treble but it simply gets lost behind the shouty 2-3kHz region.
When it comes to soundstage, the BL-05 shows a fair amount of depth but limited width. Vocals dominate the soundscape, bringing that center image right into your face and even then, there’s little in the way of layering behind that central, forward position. Imaging and positional cues are limited which tends to happen when the signature is so fiercely dominated by a single portion of the sound spectrum.
BLON BL-03 ($28)
The BLON BL-03 (review here) skyrocketed the brand into everyone’s awareness. It delivers a sound that is incredibly natural, organic and downright enjoyable for a very low price. Compared to the newer BL-05, the BL-03 has more bass impact and more bass texture.
The midrange of the BL-03 is more even and natural – it was this organic quality that endeared it to so many. In comparison, the BL-05’s midrange is thin, bright, shouty and not necessarily any more resolving. At the upper end of the spectrum, neither IEM has great extension but the BL-03 again sounds more natural, taming the upper midrange and letting the treble come forward in a lively but non-fatiguing manner. There’s no nice way to say it: the older and more affordable BL-03 is much more pleasing to the ears.
Moondrop SSR ($39)
The Moondrop SSR (review here) achieves a much more natural tonal balance. It may look awkward in the measurements but the SSR goes for a more conventional V-shape with less emphasis on the upper midrange and more on the lower treble and ultimately sounds more lifelike.
The SSR has less sub-bass emphasis but more of a mid-bass hump. This won’t be enough to please the bassheads out there but it does lend warmth to the lower midrange which is lacking on the BL-05. Both IEMs sound too thin in the lower mids but it’s nitpicking on the SSR and a major flaw on the BL-05.
When it comes to treble, the SSR sounds more even and isn’t overshadowed by the upper mids like the BL-05. The soundstage has more even dimensions on the SSR, compared to the BL-05 which is limited in width due to the aggressive 2-3kHz region.
The BLON BL-05 is mostly what I expected but not what I was hoping for. It was pretty obvious since the main criticism of the BL-03 was its mid-bass hump; when the BLON engineers asked for advice from the ‘experts’ they were universally advised to make the BL-05 sound like its predecessor but with less mid-bass. The result was predictable and disappointing; you can’t simply scoop out part of the spectrum without having widespread effects on the overall sound signature. If it were that simple, everyone would be a sound engineer.
The end result is an IEM that lacks tonal balance and the natural tonality that made the company’s previous model such a winner. It’s an earphone that can sound good on certain songs and very underwhelming if not downright unpleasant on others.
However, the improvements to the fit and comfort are substantial, even if the nozzles still ended up being a little too short. The stock cable is still unappealing but the available upgrade cable is really quite nice and recommended. As such, the BL-05 is an earphone that might appeal to a certain niche audience but isn’t likely to find favour among the wider community.