QKZ VK4 vs. Blon BL-03 vs. Noble X: Who's the Pound for Pound Champion?
Updated: Oct 3, 2020
So, recently there QKZ VK4 has been attracting some attention. Others have been all over the inter-webs, claiming that the VK4 are some of the best IEM’s out there, even at their moistest price of around $11 dollars. Even more boastful, some have claimed that the VK4 is a better IEM than the fabled Blon Bl-03. And while I definitely do not think that the Blons are ultimately TOTL, as others have suggested, they are a decent set. Then Dave from DBS Tech Talks and Farsil the Wizard, got together and decided that I needed to take a look at the Massdrop Noble X. So, I decided to sit down, and spend some time with all three of them in comparison.
So, let’s, get InToit!
So, let’s start things off with the positives for the QKZ VK4. First of all, it’s a cheaper IEM than the Blon and the Noble X. I paid approximately $11 dollars to AliExpress for the set I’m speaking about here. And for $11 dollars, the VK4 does both look rather stunning, and produce stellar sound; exceeding price-range expectations. But, so does the Blon. With the Noble X, I kind of had the opposite experience. At $125, the Noble X is horrendously overpriced, both in terms of sound and build quality.
With regard to builds, even though it’s a cheap cable, I do like the cable on the VK4 better than both the cable of the Blon and the Noble X, but there’s no surprise there. The cable that comes with the Blon is notoriously bad, and let me tell you, the cable that comes with the Noble X is somehow worse… It is thin, and cheaply constructed of the most cut-rate plastic that I have ever seen in an audiophile IEM cable. I mean hell, the chin slider is just a piece of clear plastic wrap, the curve at the connectors is overly steep, almost non-existent prior the 2-pin termination, and the cable itself falls out easily from the left IEM for some reason. And, it sounds horrendously bad as well, and is by-far the worse cable of the bunch.
All three of these IEMs use a 2-pin connection. The tips included with the Noble X and the VK4 are better than the Blon’s out of the box, but none of the tips for any of these sets really produce excellent sound for their respective IEMs. In general, the Noble X tips felt the nicest of the 3, but the VK4 tips fit the best, and those were the best match acoustically; even if I wouldn’t recommend them using any of the included tips, for any of these sets, in the end.
In terms of the construction of the shells, the BL-03 has the best construction by-far, even despite its fit issues for some. The Blon, has durable metal shells, and they have a good weight to them. Although they may be perceived by some as heavy, I had no issues with this, and they actually fit my ears fairly well. They retained their tips best in transit with SpinFit CP100s instead of the 145s most people have recommended in the past. I not only think that CP100s are more functional for the Blons, but I also think the CP100s sound better as well, as they tame the BL-03’s mid-bass bloat the best. The VK4 is super light for an IEM in general, and may fit people the most universally, but it’s constructed of translucent plastic that does not appear to be of the highest quality. I wouldn’t put too much pressure on them without fear of cracking the shell. The plastic housing of the Noble X is thicker, but somehow worse. It seems like plastic the way it was produced 20 years ago. And, if you think the Blon has fit issues, wait ‘til you get a load of the Noble X. This thing, perches up in your ear like a bird house, and I have large ears; and it barely fits within the recesses of my pinna.
As to which is better for the money, we’ll circle back around to the pound for pound question at the end of the review.
For now, I will say that the VK4 beats the Blon out when it comes to bass and treble extension- having slightly greater extension at both ends. Even so, bass clarity is a tossup, depending upon listener preferences, or where the bass frequencies reside in the track. The upper bass and mid-bass is actually more emphasized and more articulate on the Blons, even if there is a slight bass bleed on the BL-03. The VK4 has more sub-bass representation than the Blon, even if this does lead to more overall bass warming on the VK4- even keeping the bass bleed of the Blon in mind. Plus, I ultimately found the bass on the VK4 to be somewhat smushy in terms of overall tonality.
I’d also generally say that the VK4 has more of a general consumer tuning than the Blon does in my opinion. The Blon delivers more of a holographic soundstage, which I think draws a lot of people to it. While the Blon’s stage is undeniably stretched in width, and less natural in magnitude than the VK4, instruments in space have better spacing and definition to them on the BL-03. I have heard that the VK4 is better for placing sonics in space for gaming, but with regard to music I could not replicate this, and the Blon excelled vs the VK4 for musical imaging. So even though the scope of the soundstage was more accurate on the VK4, separation was less than stellar, muddy, and somewhat confusing on complicated tracks for music. I did find that SpinFit CP145 tips did help the VK4 with regard to tone, separation and overall presentation, but in the end, the Blon was more liquid sounding, smoother, and engaging to listen to than the VK4.
With specific regard to vocals, it wasn’t even a comparison. The blon won hands-down. The vocals on the VK4 were somewhat thin, whereas the Blon produced more lush fuller sounding vocals presentations, for both male and female singers alike.
So, by now, you may be wondering, why hasn’t he talked about the Noble X since the build, and that’s because the Noble X doesn’t even really deserve the sonic comparison. The main reason I threw the Noble X in here is that I think that Noble should be ashamed of themselves for producing this IEM at $125 dollars; especially when you can buy examples like the VK4 for $11 dollars or the Blon BL-03 for $27. In general, the Noble X may be the worst sounding “audiophile” IEM that I have ever heard to date- especially with its stock cable in use.
In stock formation, the Noble X, sounds extremely grainy and hazy across the entire spectrum. It is flat in the bass, and thin in both the midrange and its vocal presentation. It is also overly rolled-off in the treble. Swapping to a cheap 8-core YinYoo cable helped these out tremendously, enhancing their clarity, somewhat; but they still weren’t good by most means. Specifically, the haziness and grain, which I referenced earlier, appears to mostly be caused by the cheap, stock cable in this case, but, ultimately, there was no fixing the Noble’s X’s issues with regard to extremely limited bass extension, rolled-off treble, and overall tonal inaccuracies. The bass remained rather one-note, and it still rolled-off way too early. Impact was nonexistent. I could even notice this roll-off on classical guitar tracks, as bass strikes were often partially obfuscated- making the bass on this unit generally unacceptable in my book. With regard to tone, the Noble X sounds somewhat dull, plasticky, and overly smoothed-over, and yet somehow, they still sounded best with foam tips to me.
These sound like the childhood toy-version of audiophile IEMs. I half-expected them to have come from a happy meal. I refrain from using the word veiled, unless I absolutely have too, and well… these are veiled; for sure. The Noble X does perform best within the midrange; however, and has an average to slightly above average soundstage within that; with decent imaging, and a relaxed presentation. Separation was decent in the midrange, but fell apart as it attempted to dig in the upper and lower registries.
Positively, the Noble X did tone-down poorly recorded tracks that tend to have a harsher presentation to them, such as some by the Black Keys, Aerosmith, or the Black Crowes. So, if you want a relaxed, non-fatiguing IEM, for poorly recorded music, and you aren’t timbre sensitive, then these might be the IEMs for you? They’re just definitely not for me. No one would ever accuse the Noble X of being fatiguing, but I ultimately take offense at the drastic measures it takes to be inoffensive.
So really the comparison comes down to the BL-03 and the VK4. And, in the end, although I said in my BL-03 video that the Blon lacks enough specialness to be considered TOTL, it is definitely more special than the VK4. The Blon Bl-03 simply sounds more “HiFi,” and has more technical details and capabilities for music compared to the VK4. Having said that, both cheaper IEMs are light-years ahead of the Noble X, which is multiple times their price. For my money, I’m picking the Blon Bl-03 as the pound for pound champion amongst these three.
And, as a heads up, I have a Blon, BL-05 coming into the channel at the end of the month supposedly, but I can’t give a definitive date on that until I have it in my hands. So keep an eye out for that!
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