Sunday, 4 August 2013

BLOX BI3 Review

BLOX BI3 Review

Thanks to BLOX for the sample.

First Impressions:  Aww no case in the box, that’s a shame.  Still I recognise that cable, it’s just like the ones MEElec stuff used to have.  I liked it back then and I still like it, not only is it a visually appealing cable it feels super sturdy.  Actually that Y splitter looks familiar too.  hmm I’m thinking the same OEM is at work for these and the MEElec stuff.  It bodes well for the cable durability.  I suppose that doesn’t matter though as the cable is removable, you break it you can stick in a new one.  Not sure where as of yet you can buy a new one mind.  I like removable cables, not that I’ve ever really killed a cable bar one.  (Klipsch Custom 3, which will be no surprise to anyone who has owed one, worst cable ever.)  Still I realise I’m more careful than most and I’m not exactly using the same IEM day in day out.  Visually they look a bit weird, it reminds me of the old UE Fi range.  You know the Super Fi 3, the 5 and the TF10.  These are rather smaller but that same basic shape.

First listen and the first think I notice is the bass.  Previous BLOX things I’ve heard were buds and so the lower bass doesn’t exist.  It certainly does here.  There is actually rather a lot and I’m in my head thinking SE215 and Hisoundaudio Crystals are going to be the things to compare it to.  Bassy, dynamic, and seem to isolate really well with no driver flex or air pressure issues.  Gosh these are really good sounding, their site says 40USD but I think I want that confirmed, it’s that price is right the GR06 is in for a fight.

Source:  FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio 3rd anv., 1G Ipod shuffle, Galaxy Nexus.

Lows:   Lots and lots of bass here.  Maybe even a bit towards too much as a direct AB with the GR06 makes them sound near needle thin.  Still I like the bass.  It’s got silly good depth on it for something so cheap and hearing a double bass being plucked sounds so solid and low.  Maybe it is a touch softer than it ought to be but come on, you do abundance and a more aggressive punch then it gets wearing on the ears.  At this price you’re always trading one aspect for another to some extent but I think BLOX have really got it going well.  Pop is lively and bouncy with bass lines powerfully and deep yet relatively sprightly.  It’s make you smile kinda bass and in most pop music it feels rock solid.  Slap on a little orchestral rock and the bass feels grand and symphonic in scale, it’s as though there is same great chasm of bass laying forever in reserve, the potency is near tangible like it’s just about to tear your arm off.  I’m liking it, it’s so full of life.  All this yet it never feels oppressively bassy, nor does it feel like the bass is interjecting itself is places it shouldn’t.  Sure it’s more abundant than it should be but I find I really could not care less.  Its tonality, timbre and tangibility are superb for this price.  Super fun and excellent quality.

Mids:  Once you have let your ears and brain attune themselves the mids are rather nice.  A bit liquid, bit warm and the bass doesn’t interfere too much with them.  However should you A/B them with say the GR06 they seem hugely recessed.  That big old beastly bass does in fact dominate things a bit and the mids tend to be pushed back somewhat.  Dido for instance was rather meh.  Delicate vocal nuances are just not really all that they could be.  Still you slap on some of the Aguilera woman and they jump rather more where they ought to be.  The often shouty nature of much pop compliments the BI3’s super well.  Just with tons of bass.  Mids aside from being a few levels lower than the bass are nice tonally.  Don’t really do a lot in the way of air and delicacy but like I said these are made for pop not for the likes of Nora.  These are made to party.  One word of warning, these on a few songs did start edging towards sibilance, not a big issue but does need to be mentioned.

Highs:  Again when your ears are used to them the highs sound just fine.  They are of course rather more in step with the mids than the mammoth bass.  It’s gone for a more inoffensive highs rather than something crispy and ear sizzling.  Again I think the peeps at BLOX have looked at the charts and set out to make on IEM for it.  You don’t need crystal clear, ultra revealing etc etc.  you wouldn’t get it at this price anyway so take the best you can and making sound great, so what if that’s not strictly spot on accurate?  Make no mistake these sound great.  There may not be spades of treble energy but they have great detail and sand the edges off the ever so well mastered stuff we listen to.  Fun is really the order of the day.  Extension isn’t super but again this isn’t a monitor, it’s a party beast.

Soundstage:  These sound alright for stage setting but the aspect the really shine at is giving a sense of scale and power.  They are closed so airy not so much but that scale, that scale is impressive.  They feel so vast in scale with that crazy low end response.  Instrument placement is alright too, bit linear and not much height but perfectly reasonable.

Fit:  So by now you’ve seen a pic of these.  You know that these ore going to cause at least someone a problem but I can safely say I had none.  Granted I had no bother with the TF10 and I know many did but that’s what these remind me of.  Now the ear hook memory wire didn’t fit my ears well so it didn’t really support themselves well but that was the extent of my issues.  Tbh I hate memory wires, I can’t think of an IEM that they have ever made things better fitting for me.  So even with the big giant tips I used and the weird angle these sat at still were effortless to get in.  However I’d expect someone out there will have trouble.

Comfort:  So often fit and comfort go together and let’s face it these things are a weird shape.  They look like they should be uncomfortable but were actually completely fine.  I was a bit surprised but I had zero bother and was perfectly happy wearing these things all day long.

Cable:  Lovely.  Braided silvery with a transparent plastic sheath over it.  Just like the old MEElec ones.  Should last a while.  Oh and plus, its replaceable!

Build:  Well the cable looks great and it is replaceable  too.  The buds though, they look like they have a joint in them.  Frankly I don’t know what that join is and I didn’t want to force things.  I’ve got to confess it looks a bit janky.  Still the true test of build needs time so unless someone wants to lend me a time machine it’s all guess work.

Microphonics: None.  You can’t wear them down.

Amped/Unamped:  These liked getting amped.  I felt these were a bit on the quiet side compare to others and so needed to be driven a bit harder.  Then stepping up to an amp with some oomph really let them open up.  What helped even more though was adding impedance.  Even just with the Galaxy Nexus powering things they sounded just awesome with an extra 75 ohms.  Mind you it did want to then be played with the volume on the phone at max.  So my suggestion is get a little amp if you’re adding impedance.  Super fun and the highs massively clean up.

Isolation:  Really not bad at all.  It’s a big sealed dynamic so fine for on a bus, out and about etc etc.  For the Tube or flying it really wouldn’t be my first choice.  I mean it easily beats buds but still.  As always with ease enough to turn you into a road stain if you don’t look where you’re going with them in.c

Accessories:  This would be the point where I can’t actually remember what they came with.  I see a little bag of tips I can’t place so I’m going to say these come with 4 pairs of tips.  Of course they have a shirt clip attached to them also.  Oops for being less certain about this.

Value:  BLOX’s website says US$40 so that would be £26.07 which even at the suck exchange rate makes these uberbargains.  Okay adding in postage its US$47 or £30.63. Sure they are too bassy but otherwise just stunningly good.

Conclusion:  Buy a pair. 

Okay, okay I’ll say a bit more.  These as I may have mentioned are way too bassy.  These are aimed at an audience that wants a metric F ton of bass and BLOX have dished it up.  Still I’ve been listening to these for hours now and my brain/ears have largely tuned that out and these are just fantastic.  The detail they give for their price is superb.  Their tonality is a joy to hear and their detail retrieval is superb for such a sound signature.  Sure to be their best you need throw impedance at them and hook them up to a power station but should you have them then your be suitably rewarded.  Acoustically this is some of the most fun I’ve had in a while and enjoyed.  I really have had so much fun playing with them despite their bass levels.

I really don’t know what BLOX are up to with their drivers as they clearly are masterpieces and at stupid prices.  I’m still not sure what to make of that US$40 price tag.  I keep feeling it’s a mistake.  Granted you have to add 7 for postage but even still. I think I’ve enjoyed these more than the GR06.  I’m not sure I’ll use these as much as I do the 6 as it’s my “popping to supermarket” IEM.  Something that sits there and I can just grab with having to fuss about and they don’t totally block out everything.  The shape of the BI3 is a bit weird and those ear guides don’t make for fitting in a pocket nicely.  The shape is just stupid.  Well its inconvenient when not in my ears anyway.  But it’s the sound!

The sound quality here is just excellent for the price.  They are in my opinion the equals of the GR06, at a lower price just with a rather different sound signature.  The 6 is more natural and the BI3 is rather more party orientated.  The bass in particular is rather boosted but that’s hardly a detractor for many out there.  As it stands if you want something bassy right now I don’t believe there is a better sounding IEM at this price, its just superb value and I’d suggest if you’re interested get in quick.  I’d bet the price of the BI3 will start to rise as supply is snapped up.

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