Max Is No More
- Pleasant and musical sound.
- Natural and smooth tonality.
- Level of construction.
- The design is not the most ergonomic.
- They feel heavy.
- Quality control: One capsule has come out of phase.
- Sound not very detailed.
- The first half of the mids is backward.
- Sinking in the second half of the treble.
- Sound not very bright.
Link to the Store
At this point, BLON, or WGZBLON, needs no introduction. Active since 2014, it is the brand responsible for creating one of the most famous Hypes of recent years: the BL-03. It is true that it is the Chinese brand of impossible shapes, heavy metallic constructions that attract a lot of attention and whose shapes are very committed to the fit and ergonomics of each enthusiast. Even so, BLON does not give up and continues to persist on this path, perpetuating its almost extravagant designs. As a further example, the current BL-Max possesses all these traits: it is relatively beautiful, metallic, heavy and with a design that makes it difficult to fit in my ears.
If we talk about its internal design, it is a dynamic dual driver, combining a 10mm driver with a carbon diaphragm and a 6mm driver with a very light diaphragm. The cavity is made of Zinc alloy and uses a 2Pin 0.78 connection. Despite all this, the tuning has not changed that much from that BL-03 or the later BL-05s. So it is not a sonic revolution, only the design is, but not so much of an ergonomic improvement.
In my opinion, BLON is still going round in circles about the tuning of its most successful model, but without taking off from it, nor surpassing the value of that time.
In the following review we will see why these thoughts.
- Driver Type: Dual dynamic driver (10mm+6mm).
- Frequency Response: 20-20kHz
- Sensitivity: 115dB
- Impedance: 32Ω
- Jack Connector: 3.5mm, straight plug, gold plated.
- Capsule Connection Type: 2Pin 0.78mm
- Cable length: 1.2m (silver-plated cable).
BL-MAX come in a classic white, medium-sized, elongated cardboard box, size 179x96x35mm. On the front side, the silhouette of the product is drawn, the model name appears in the lower right corner and the brand name in the upper left corner. On the back side are the specifications, in Chinese and English. It should be noted that the impedance is 32Ω in Chinese and 16Ω in English. Maybe it’s due to jet lag…
After opening the box, you can see the capsules fitted in a plastic holder, at the top. While at the bottom there is another little white cardboard box, with a description of the product in the middle. The complete contents are as follows:
- The 2 BL-MAX capsules.
- 1 x 1.2m silver-plated cable with 3.5mm straight plug.
- 3 pairs of dark grey silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- 2 pairs of dark grey silicone tips, more elongated and narrower, sizes SxL.
- 1 cloth bag for storing the headphones.
- 1 user manual.
For the price and as usual, the content is acceptable. Nowadays, it seems that including a pouch to store the product is something to be highlighted, when before it was very common to receive a zipped case, whose protection capacity is much greater.
Neither the pouch, nor the cable, nor the tips are anything special. Although the cable is different and looks a little better than before, its plastic coating makes it easier to shape.
Construction and Design
The capsules are made of zinc alloy for its brilliant sound characteristics. The surface has a very fine sandblasted finish and has been machined to a high gloss, thanks to its PDV plating. They are heavy and large. The outer face is a rectangle with rounded corners, measuring 20x27mm. On the underside you can read the brand, model and channel, written in white letters. The inner side has a flat outer edge, on which the 2Pin connector is mounted. On a second level there is a narrower, more ergonomically shaped box, which tries to fit into the pinna. On the opposite side to the 2Pin connection, on the skirt of the nozzles, there is a hole. Finally, the nozzles are short and slanted in the direction of the ear canal. Their length is 4.25mm and their outer diameter is 5.4mm. Whether this design manages to be ergonomic is another matter, which will be discussed in the next section.
I can’t deny that the design is striking and the construction is excellent. But the capsules are heavy, the shape is not very appropriate, the nozzles are short, the inner side does not fit easily due to its size and on top of that they came with a manufacturing defect: the left capsule is out of phase, so I had to use another cable that allowed me to turn it around, in order to solve this inconvenience.
The cable is silver plated and covered with transparent plastic. It is 1.2m long and relatively thin. The plug is 3.5mm SE gold plated. Its jacket is a silver-plated metal cylinder. The cable has a small tubular shield when it comes out of the cable. The splitter piece is another identical cylinder. The 2Pin connectors are completely covered inside an angled sleeve, which fits perfectly with the connector of the capsule. Because of this cover and this angle, I couldn’t use the cable, because the left capsule was out of phase. In addition, the cable has both over-ear guides at this point.
The cable is a little above average, but it has a tendency to get a bit of shape due to its unique plastic coating.
Overall, the construction is very good, the design is bold and eye-catching, but the performance is compromised, due to the ergonomics.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
The capsules are heavy and I have had a lot of difficulty finding a durable fit. The nozzles are short and none of the standard tips work for me, because they fall out, they don’t reach the ear canal properly. Even with my large foam-filled tips, I have had problems, because of the short size of the nozzles. The fit is very shallow and they can only be held in place by minimal contact and thanks to the over-ear anchorage. So I don’t recommend it for use on the street or on the move, unless you are lucky enough to get a better fit than mine.
It’s not normal for me to have problems with the ergonomics of IEMS, almost all of them fit me well and I have very few problems with them. Using the larger tips in my collection I have achieved a more durable fit, but the best sound is very position dependent, the slightest misadjustment and the seal disappears and the perception of the music changes, especially from the low end. So ergonomics is critical.
BLON persists with the idea of a soft V-profile, trying to stretch the extension of the treble, although it remains soft, with a point of clipping due to a clear drop before the air region. The mids feel moderately delayed in front of the bass and first treble, which impoverishes the overall tuning result.
When a good fit and a better level of canal occlusion is achieved, the quality and perception of bass is enhanced. Thanks to the use of my large, foam-filled silicone tips, the surface fit allows the sound to be sealed inside the ears and that is when the bass is maximised. The sensation, then, is of a powerful sub-bass, linear down to the mid-bass, but above all, very physical, with an ability to move quite a lot of air. It has a nice level of roughness, with a good descriptive level and an eloquent texture. The timbre of the lower notes is quite realistic and the low-frequency oscillations develop with naturalness and appropriate colour. The BL-Maxes pass the 20 to 50Hz pure note reproduction test with a fairly high rating. And it is in the transition from the sub-bass to the mid-bass that they are at their most violent. This characteristic offers a sense of sluggishness that weakens the whole, being less agile to follow fast bass lines, as their power exceeds the dynamism needed to pick up in due time. It’s a bit like between waves there is no return to the sea and the LFOs collide with each other, as one goes forward and the other picks up. Then, there is too much air in the environment and a feeling of continuous magma. I think the bass notes are fast only on the go, while the decay is slower, giving a wet bass feeling. This is the negative note at the lower end. On the other hand, the colour, power and texture can become quite pleasant, at times, for a bass-lover like me.
In short, the low end is a mixture of mixed feelings, some very enjoyable, others more diffuse, less well defined and of lower resolution. One misses a point of greater overall dryness.
The first part of the mids is perceived as relatively distant. The body of the male voices and instrumentation in this area is lighter and thinner. This has an impact on the appreciation of texture and details/matices in them. The rendering is simpler and flatter, with little three-dimensionality. The best thing remains the timbre, which feels very appropriate and natural. The sinking of this area is evident when the musical passages have bass, also the first treble predominates over this area. The result is an impoverishment of this first half, in an IEMS whose tuning in comparison to previous models should improve in this area. And this has not been the case. My assessment in this respect is critical: having to turn up the volume to perceive the closeness of the mids is not a solution when the bass remains in the room for a long time. So I am disappointed to have found this initial gap, even though the price level is so low.
The second half is slightly compensated for and the gain of the bell emancipates the female voices and brings a degree of clarity and cleanliness, but pushes the first half even further away. There is a steep rise and this contrast disturbs a quiet, calm listen, as balance and equilibrium are lost. On the one hand there is a bass stage that can become massive and then a high mid-high and early treble enhancement. The sensation of hollowness can become apparent.
The descriptive ability of the mids also feels minimised, when with more presence, this power would surely have been greatly improved. I think that the dynamic capacity of the drivers would be able to contribute more in this sense, but again it remains a sketch, a good approach that leaves me with the honey on my lips: I want more mids! The BL-Max have the qualities to offer them, but they don’t, so we have to be satisfied with a marked V in this first half.
Looking at the frequency response, the first treble is the highest part of the graph. Are these IEMS for treble-heads? Not at all. The treble is quite controlled and the first cymbals are present, but there is no flashy brilliance. There is clear control and smoothness. I like the initial level of extension because they don’t have the classic steep drop, at 6kHz, to offer a more pronounced, quiet control. Against that, this part is sustained and it’s beyond when the valley gets deep. Good and bad. Musically it’s good, because it’s pleasant and keeps sibilance very much at bay, offering excellent control over it. This benefits the reproduction of bad recordings, those with uncontrolled brightness in this area. But, on the other hand, this exaggerated valley seems to limit more sparkle in the final notes, impoverishing the harmonics and reducing the level of detail, nuance, even texture. Expressiveness and assurance are always tricky to marry, and the BL-Max have tried to bring something different to the table, and half-heartedly succeed. But, on this occasion, I applaud their daring and insight, because they still have a good representation of first treble and a slight sense of air, though not enough. Perhaps that’s why the timbre remains realistic, if, at times, underdeveloped or expanded, like the vast majority of the notes. Good is not superior, but it’s better than overdone, in this case.
The scene has a large width component, even a good sense of envelopment. But I don’t find it has much three-dimensionality. There is a good level of depth, but less height. Overall, I think it lacks air, the separation is not very high, and the bass, with its magma, is able to coalesce the scene and the provenance of the elements. The micro-detail is very shaded, even hidden. This is a thick-brush representation, there is not much room for the tiniest nuances, which impoverishes the listening experience, especially if you play music that you know down to the smallest details. Little dark background is observed due to the complete softness of the sound. There is a low level of complexity and little analytical feeling. The BLON BL-Maxes are characterised more by musicality than by technical capabilities, the latter being relatively withdrawn.
TFZ Live 1
If the need is to look for V-U IEMS, it is best to play it safe and buy, for example, a TFZ. The direct consequence is clear, the bass is deeper, more powerful, relatively as fast or slow, depending on how you look at it, but cleaner in its tuning. I prefer the roughness and texture of the TFZ bass, as well as its characteristic darker sonority. It is true that, perhaps, the BL-Max’s bass is technically more defined and the TFZ’s depth dulls that definition. But their rumble is still shocking to me.
The highs are also more prominent, offering a superior presence of detail by emphasis rather than technical skill. At least, they are more coherent overall, in this upper zone. In this way, micro nuances are not as masked and more of them can be discerned in the Live 1s.
In the mid-range, the lower V of the Blon offers a somewhat fuller sound, with a timbre that I prefer as natural, more musical and pleasant. The TFZs are cooler in the mid-range and the sag is there, even slightly higher. They receive less warmth and body from the bass, but there is a higher point of cleanliness, although they are also lighter and thinner, offering a less representative area.
True, the BLONs are tonally more satisfying, even more musical, but there is more sparkle and life in the Live 1s, and not just because of their name. The tuning of the TFZs is more polarised and that has an impact on the stage, somewhat less so. A larger oval is perceived in the representation of the BL-Max, improving its image and gaining a more enveloping sensation.
The TFZs are smaller, lighter, there are more colours to choose from, they have better ergonomics and are more comfortable. I prefer fun to a «I want to and can’t get out of the vicious circle of the BL-03». Although, as I like the mids and they also have plenty of bass, it is possible that at other times, I would look for that comparative superior point between the two, in favour of the BL-Max, although I still think that they could have given more.
I have the feeling that BLON is flying in circles, as if they were vultures on the lookout for the carcass of the best-selling BL-03. They change the design, even create new drivers, improve the cable and adjust to a price range. But they still have fit problems, they are heavy and the tuning is based on that successful model, without providing superior improvements. Tonally I still like them, at the stage level they have some strong points. But they are sparse in detail, the bass decay is slow, the first half of the mids is pushed back, as is the second half of the treble. With all this, in a price range with so much competition, they can’t pretend that every model they put on the market is going to be a big hit, just because it’s Blon. On the contrary, I expected much more from them.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- HiBy R3 PRO.
- Tempotec Sonata E35.
- Earmen Sparrow.
- Earmen TR-Amp.
- Hidizs DH80S.
- Hidizs S9 Pro.
- E1DA #9038D.
- Burson Audio Playmate.
- S.M.S.L Sanskrit 10th MKII + iFi ZEN CAN.
- ACMEE MF02S