1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.

    Dismiss Notice

Toneking Unicorn x Nine Tails x Shockwave III feat. Blon BL-03

  1. larry piencenaves
    The Silverbacks
    Written by larry piencenaves
    Published Nov 2, 2019
    Pros - A bunch of really amazing earphones
    Cons - Not sponsored by Linsoul :frowning2:
    Hello folks, this is my review with these great earbuds and iems from Toneking and the latest offering from Blon, the BL-03.

    Based on my personal observations, these Toneking and Blon products sound their best when burn in specially the Unicorn.

    Unicorn: 150+ hrs. Less congested and cleaner sound.

    Nine Tails: 20+ hrs. It sounded anemic in its first few hours and will sound more bassier over time.

    Shockwave iii: 350+ hrs. Fuller low end, Treble refinement, tactility (midrange will be wonky along the process)

    BL-03: 15+ hrs. Refined treble

    The sw iii keeps getting better until 500+ hrs. Im on my 650+ hrs. now and didnt notice anymore improvements, my mind is telling me maybe just a placeaboo effect. Tho I firmly believe in burn in, but for this long to take? even I find it sketchy, however my ears is telling a different story, or maybe its time to buy a measurement rig xD.

    Toneking Unicorn- Single 15.4mm Dynamic Driver

    Build quality- Very light and durable, The stock cable (silver plated ofc) however are not the same quality, easily gets oxidized and had a bit of that sticky feeling out of the box. Foamies are a must when using the Unicorns as it helps bring a more fuller sound and a better fit..

    Fit- Keeps falling out without foams depending on your ear size, and as expected, isolation is very poor, almost no outside noise blockage at all.

    Sound Signature: Stock

    Bass- Like majority of earbuds this cant reproduce subbass that well, about 30hz and below and it starts to roll off but not in a drastic way. other than that it has a very good response from above 30hz onwards, bass is snappy and has a good texture to it. Has a midbass elevation that adds warmth.

    Midrange- Warm but natural sounding have a more intimate presentation, a little muffled when compared to others.

    Treble- Mellow treble but still has good amount of air, very good for longer listening.

    Soundstage- Due to its more open presentation is has a more wider feeling and resembles a full sized headphones huge sound. Imaging is on par with the others, but because of its lack of isolation microdetails are less audible.

    The Unicorn has a huge and open sound, offers wide stereo soundstage with great imaging, though not as resolving as the other Tonekings but still retains the organic house sound. But I would not recommend it if your prefer hip-hop, edm or other similar genres that requires a hard hitting low end.

    Nine Tails/ 9way 1DD- Exclusive Design, Ultra-thick Rubidium Magnetic Reinforced Double Diaphragm Composite Full-frequency Dynamic Driver

    Build quality- The metal housing of the drivers looks and feels durable, the finish is not perfectly smooth which I personally would've wanted but nonetheless its a solid build and feels more premium compared to the others. Same with the cables (7N 4 single crystal copper silver plated + single crystal copper) however it's not soft enough nor flexible, the weave is just too tight imo. Also shows a slight oxidation after 2 months of use.

    Fit- Made my ear soar for the first 2 weeks but gets more tolerable over time, as of now my ears had almost adjusted to it, I could use it for an average of 4 hrs. before I can sense pain again. Isolation is pretty good for me personally. Could block the outside noise almost completely and could be better when using cables with memory wires as it helps a more deeper insertion and a snug fit. While using the stock cable, there are some occasions were the iem just pops out of itself.

    Sound Signature- The 9way sound signature really depends on its filters, it could go from v-shape to neutral, so I will just describe its sound signature using the Default filters and tips.

    Bass- Have a proper amount down to 20hz with natural decay and satisfying rumble but the subbass doesn't go really low like the sw iii, has a slight midbass hump that doesn't intefere too much with the midrange.

    Midrange- Recessed around 500hz-1khz making the sound thin and lacks body specially female vocals, the rest are properly tuned, very clear and resolving.

    Treble- Unstable in this department, at first it sounded relatively organic, but listening more critically, it has a spike at 8khz. This is more audible when using silicons or comparing it straight away to sw iii treble response, it starts to sound proper at 10khz above for that wider stage with good amounts of air.

    If you want to know what Im trying to say please listen to Sistar- Ok Go! around 2:39-2:40, at that moment you will notice the peak and its pretty sharp. ()

    This is my listening observations from all the filter combos using spinfit tips cp100 (m) which I use rather than its stock tips since it somewhat fixes the mids but not the treble issues, might be not accurate since some of the filter combos I only spent a few minutes of listening.

    1. bronze rear + bronze front/ Default tuning- midrange still needs more body, vocals are forward sounding, has the right amount of bass with a slight midbass hump.

    2. bronze rear + blue front- same to default but better treble response and lesser forwardness in vocals.

    3. bronze rear + red front- same to default with more midbass hump, recessed mids and treble.

    4. blue rear + bronze front- adds a few db between 2khz-4khz, adds more clarity and forwardness to vocals, not shouty but can get too energetic, reduces midbass hump

    5. blue rear + blue front- Similar to blue rear + bronze front with lesser coloration to midrange. (More balanced tonality but vocals have a closer presentation)

    6. blue rear + red front- Similar to red rear + blue front, but a bit narrower sounding, almost similar in bass response, darker treble.

    7. red rear + bronze front- More bassy vs. Default, a bit v-shape in sound.

    8. red rear + blue front- Very similar to blue rear + blue front but a bit laid back vocals and treble, midbass should be more prominent but I cant audibly hear the difference (Good for longer listening)

    9. red rear + red front- Elevated lows with a huge midbass hump, recessed mids and darker treble vs. Default.

    Sounstage- Less wider than the sw iii, but it's more immersive and engaging. Imaging is great but the sw iii still delivers the most accuracy on microdetails.

    The Nine tails gives an immersive listening experience. Delivers fun bass response, midrange with great clarity, the music is more engaging and exciting. Any tuning issues, whether dips or peaks can be solved using the tuning filters itself or tip rolling so its not a major problem. It's a modders delight and nightmare at the same time.

    ShockWave III- 1 Dynamic Driver+ 4BA Hybrid (fixed cable ver.)

    Attention: If you plan on buying the sw iii, make sure to buy the fixed cable version. For what I've read not long ago in Tonekings taobao page on sw iii, they changed the tuning of the sw iii to a more v-shape signature in the detachable mmcx version. Unfortunately they took it down so I can't present a frequency graph comparison.

    Build- Durable yet light, so light that it felt cheaper when compared to the Nine Tails, almost the same weight to the Unicorn, the fixed cable (6N Single crystal silver plated ofc) is average, quite flexible and sturdy but has microphonic issues, also showed oxidation near the part of the cable where it touches the ears after a month of use. I also think the seller might gave me the older batches of sw iii since it doesn't come with the shark fin tips.

    Fit- Since my ear canals are small for the stock tips, the foams wont fully fit in my ears leaving the sw iii to somewhat float and doesn't have the best seal, fortunately the lightness helps to keep it in staying. Isolation is average considering my ear canal issues with the foam tips. So for anyone who have smaller ear canals like mine, get some smaller foam tips.

    Sound Signature: (Mods are already applied)

    Bass- Contradictory to its name, it ain't a Bass-oriented iem (the mmcx ver. might be more suited for that). It has the most accurate reproduction and can go ridiculously low when the music only requires it to, much like how good speakers could do, with no audible distortion or excessive decay, very controlled and dynamic with excellent texture.

    Mids- One of the most realistically tuned midrange, and very well distinct, super consistent vs. the others specially at more complex songs and louder volumes were the vocals could get more shouty, no noticeable coloration, no dips or peaks.

    Highs- Best resolution and extension, totl tuned treble, neutral and airy with perfect finesse. One of the best cymbal crashes reproduction. Burn in will help reduce the initial treble harshness/grain, giving an overall smoother sound (toneking said themselves that burn in adds 10% more smoothness, although its true, I'm just not so sure about that 10% :) ), slight sibilant and harshness occurs when using majority of the silicon tips so foam tips is more preferred.

    Soundstage- The widest out all the earphones in this review, but its spaciousness really depends on the song itself, there are times that it sounded narrow other times you will amazed how far the sounds are coming from. Imaging is super accurate and easier to determine where the instruments/voices are coming from, down to the very little details on the background.

    The Shockwave iii is an enlightenment to me to what a true high fidelity audio is like, a reproduction much faithful to its source. Well controlled, perfectly textured low-end, flat midrange and a very smooth and clean treble presentation yet still not forgiving in poorly recorded tracks, its a step ahead in almost everything; resolution, imaging, microdetails, instrument separation, consistency, transparency, dynamics, speed, you name it, the sw iii can do it. This is the best iem Ive heard so far in terms of sound quality and technicality.

    My personal modifications:

    Since I like modding stuff, I've created a few simple tweaks that could even make these earphones sound better. If you are willing to add a few more bucks, I can guarantee you its worth it and please write your feedbacks in the comment box below If you happen to follow this, I'm very curious to your own findings and other suggestions.

    Tip rolling is one of the easiest way to change the sound signature of any iem, for better or worse. And because of that, I have bought all cheap aftermarket memory foams that I know of (kz, newbee, trn, qkz, and other non-branded tips), Only invested few on silicons tho, I might try to buy more of it in the future but I already find the Spinfits are already a good investment. While most of them have the same effect, one slightly better than the other, until I recently found this;

    Menthon tp-45 Magic Spiral tips (s)- Produces the least reverbation, no detail overlapping, no microdetails getting blurred out, little to none bass coloration or over smoothness of treble. This produces the most accurate response for the iems. A must for Shockwave III as it effectively releases the full potential of it. Deeper lows, flatter midrange (not recessed or warm unlike the stock foam tip or other aftermarket tips) and deliver that natural sharp and sparkling highs.


    On Nine Tails, it effectively reduces the 8khz peak, while perfectly maintaining the imaging and treble sharpness, lows might sound soft compared to cp100 tips but the texture and resolution is still intact. On BL-03, Lows are more controlled, the roughness of treble is gone and mids are more pleasurable to listen to but still has that cold tonality.

    These things don’t like rubbing alcohol so much, so better to avoid it while cleaning this tips, it does goes back to its original shape however but who knows, it might alter the molecular structure of the foams xD.
    IMG_20191102_153425_compress96.jpg IMG_20191102_153445_compress65.jpg IMG_20191102_153506_compress33.jpg

    For Nine Tails- I was obsessed at experimenting with the Nine Tails for a long time, might be the longest attention I gave to any head gears I've owned, tried almost every filter combinations with different cables and tips to get the best tonality. I was satisfied at using Spinfit cp100 (m) via blue+blue filters at first, but then I got an idea, could I make the Nine Tails sound close to Shockwave iii? So...another month wasted trying other things which led to this review getting held back, and after countless times of doing different configurations….I failed to fully mimic the sw III because of one reason. The 9ways driver itself cannot give you a true neutral sound, the bass will always have this midbass hump, midrange are livelier, and highs are more forgiving with exception to that 8khz spike. But getting that aside, Ive made a configuration that I personally think gives the best sound of the 9way.

    Bronze rear filter with a small amount of rolled cotton inside, dont make it dense, make it as porous as possible this will affect the mids and vocal placement and basically a trial and error too much cotton and it will ruin the overall soundstage and too much midrange, my reason with this is that bronze rear filter deliver great low-end but recessed mids while the blue rear filter delivers leaner bass, better midrange (but more forward)

    IMG_20191023_094653_compress46.jpg IMG_20191023_094611_compress11.jpg

    + Blue front filter + Menthon tp-45 Magic Spiral tips (s) + Yinyoo 2 core single crystal copper silver plated cable- Overall cleaner sound, Reduces midbass hump, adds treble extension quantity.


    For Unicorn- Aside from the hiegi foamies (https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32753761717.html)
    btw the white variant sounds more balanced I dont know why but based on my experience (memory foam tips included) white variants delivers more neutral sound while black variants sounded darker or boomier.
    one more important thing to swap is the cables, the stock sounded narrow and muffled. Now changing the cable with same Yinyoo cable I swapped from the Nine Tails makes this earbud sound phenomenal. Less boomier, clearer mids and more neutral highs, very similar tonality to sw iii but without the amazing lows and overall resolution, nevertheless, its definitely my endgame budget earbud, for now.


    Now, just recently, One of my new favorite chinese brand, the blon with its new iem, bl-03, has been gaining more attention and got very positive feedbacks, its one of the chepeast iem you could buy right now that offers decent sound quality and decided to include it in this review, however I think its getting overhyped, just my personal opinion and Ill give the reasons as to why. I have been using it for the past 3 months and comparing it side by side against my modified 9way. These are my thoughts and as to why I consider the Nine tails to be the better one.

    Lets go straight right away with the blon bl-03 sound. (Note: Cable swapping and tip rolling is a must since the stock ones are crappy, heck even the writings in its box is questionable like a failed Google translation) Changing the tips to foams effectively improves the mids and highs, I find the bl-03 to sound best using the cable from kbear and the tp-45 tips.

    Blon BL-03- Single 10mm Carbon Diaphragm Dynamic Driver

    Bass- More prominent subbass, but lacks that full bodied bass response and texture, unlike the 9way or Unicorn its midbass is recessed which even gives a colder tonality.

    Mids- Dry and thin specially in higher pitched female vocals when using silicons. Using foams tips, the vocals is energetic, but not far to neutral response kinda similar to 9way using bronze filters but refined.

    Highs- Grainy when using silicons, on Foam tips its a proper accentuated treble, not piercing or overly bright, no sudden dips or peaks unlike the stock 9way. However it leans on the colder side and sounded artificial to my ears.


    Vs. Nine Tails

    BL-03 soundstage is considerably wide but lacks depth. Texture, layering and instrument separation is better on 9way, the subbass on the blon is great, but overall sounded incomplete in general as it lacks natural warmness which doesnt sound right. Overall the bl-03 lacks the realistic tonality that Im hearing on the 9way, every sound reproduced is more natural on Tonekings, the bl-03 has a very good frequency response and good extension on both ends but I just dont feel any emotion when listening to the bl-03 and It gets boring after a while. Maybe its just me who isn't a fan of cold sounding earphones now. If you prefer the cold tuning and somewhat more transparent sound, the bl-03 maybe the better choice. But for music and pleasurable listening experience I prefer the modified Ninetails more. The price difference is huge but so is the sound quality, just my humble opinion.

    . IMG_20191102_153235_compress41.jpg

    My Conclusion:

    For a person with mild ocd like me, the NIne Tails is such a nightmare of an iem to play with, that took me 4 months to fully finished this review xD. All in all, the Nine Tails is a well engineered single dynamic driver iem capable of producing various sound signature you could think of and with the right configuration and mods, it can give you an amazing listening experience and with a more premium build. The Unicorn, whilst lacking in some aspects, carries that similar organic signature with a more open sound and when modded, its one of the best budget earbuds Ive heard so far. Talking about more in technicalities and pure sound prowess, the Shockwave iii is the clear winner. A perfectly tuned hybrid iem that represents the true high-end audio at a budget price, the only downside? its cables, and the fact thats its non-detachable just hurts, but with regards to sound quality alone? I think Im done with iems, this is it, unless Toneking gets crazier and makes a sw iii in a custom iem body and detachable connector and thats a definite end game for me (Im looking at you v10). All these three delivers lifelike sound unlike the majority of the earphones on the market today. Toneking knows how and what music should sound like. Wp mr. Z

    As for the blon bl-03, that brand continues to impress. It keeps on giving great products at unbelievably cheap price. I wish they keep this trend and gain more recognition in the future I just hope they make their future iems with a more realistic tuning approach. As of this time, Faaeal have made their move and released the faaeal Hibiscus which is also a carbon nanotube driver iem, now thats a better battle for the Blon.

    Main Source: LG G7thinQ, Digital filter: Sharp, Sound Preset: Normal, Equalizer: Normal

    Modes: Shockwave iii- High Gain (sounds like a tin can on Low Gain)
    Nine Tails- Low Gain (too soft, lacks tactility on High Gain)
    Unicorn- Low Gain, (similar effect to Nine Tails)
    Bl-03- Low Gain (Mid-centric on High Gain)

    To truly trigger high gain mode and not aux mode get this: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32890636953.html
    the 80 ohms is better, 200 ohms is too quiet

    Majority of test tracks I used: (Ill try to put some YT links for you to listen to, some might not have due to copyright issues)

    Yosi Horikawa-Letter (Imaging) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vQc1ApB5Do

    Juno Reactor-Rotorblade (Perfect Stranger Remix) (Imaging, Soundstage) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWmqM7CyXy0

    Yosi Horikawa-Stars (Imaging, Soundstage) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oh4tPsfa40

    Loona Choerry-Love Cherry Motion (Bass, sibilance) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBbeuXW8Nko

    AOA-Love is Only you (Sibilance) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-rJzWZkE-A

    Juno Reactor-Pretty Girl (Male Vocals) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xy8S3sTOicw

    Jinsoul-Love Letter (Harshness) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9T01xRNnr0

    Trifonic-Transgenic -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMxt3HX0CGg

    The Chemical Brothers-Escape Wavefold (Treble, Bass) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2ANwPDv0Tw

    Lindsey Stirling-Elements -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOWVUIbl63k

    Hanz Zimmer-Mountains (Dynamics) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_Ay_iDRAbc

    Kaskade-How Long (feat. Inpetto with Late Night Alumni) Fire ver. (Extension) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZYw3QMgVzw

    Daft Punk-Giorgo by Moroder -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhl-Cs1-sG4

    John Coltrane-Naima -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cx-TxiBi43c

    China Moses- Nightintales Full Album (Female Vocals, Imaging, Soundstage) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIqOcHe4A-g&list=PLPqPsAkWI7NaJBIoAOoJh_JzcjmKwkBy2

    Vaishayas-Arped -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWQ3_UF4AF0

    John Park- DND (Do Not Disturb) (Midrange; shout, fatigue) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6_IK4Tt_PQ

    Kaskade-Remembering Rufus (Soundstage, Imaging) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cTb1zz4u0g

    The Killers-Bones -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FufL80hJsP8

    Vince Staples, Yugen Blakrok-Opps -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1h_aBDhzndY

    Juno Reactor-Mind of the free -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlPHcg3jhUU

    Beyonce-Partition (Subbass, Female Vocals) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZ12_E5R3qc

    The Bloody Beetroots & Junior-Albion (Treble Grain) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCmuhmGDC48

    Martin Carlberg-Duel at Sundown/ Morning Coffee on the Front Porch(Soundstage) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpeexUiRawQ

    Joe Stilgoe-Nothings Changed (Male Vocals)

    Phaxe-Modern Terms -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=803wKfpoviU

    Mynerva & Nytrix-Find You -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJWkpMw4aug

    The Corrs-Toss the Feathers(Live) (Soundstage, Imaging) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a41IPN7sKNk

      SoundChoice likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. larry piencenaves
      welp, mine sounded like one, maybe I lack an amplifier in my set up(?)
      larry piencenaves, Nov 2, 2019
    3. larry piencenaves
      Btw I think I have to clarify my statement on the blon. Cold might not be the proper term, maybe cool(?), I really do find the tuning of the blon to be lacking in warmth. And I dont think Ive ever said it was analytical sounding, just to be clear.
      larry piencenaves, Nov 9, 2019
    4. larry piencenaves
      However I can consider my blon b8 treble to be analytical sounding, but not the bl-03.
      larry piencenaves, Nov 9, 2019