Monday, August 6, 2012

[REVIEW] Blox TM7

A few months ago when Blox sent me the M2c for review, they also included a yet-to-be-released earbud labeled ‘BX3’, a prototype intended to be their next flagship. Though an excellent sounding earbuds on its own and better than M2c on certain aspects, it isn’t quite the ‘killer’ as one would expect from a model that will eventually replace M2c. Perhaps M2c is just too good of an earbud for the price (with top-tier performance no less) that it is hard to surpass with any good length. Fast forward to two weeks ago, Blox contacted me again about sending me the finalized BX3, which is now officially called the TM7. Frankly, I wasn’t keeping my hope too high at the time. Based on the BX3 prototype, I knew it should be really good sounding as well. But the question is, will TM7 be good enough to make M2c users swing, especially with the much more expensive price tag? That doubt eventually gets stamped out on the day I received TM7 – as I still remember that my usual 5 minutes brief audition before committing the earbud to burn-in somehow turned into a 2 hours long enjoyment, I know this is really something special. As I sat on the sofa listening to song after song that day, the only things that lingered in my mind are the awe for the sound and a clear thought: This isn’t the old BX3. It is a totally new beast of its own.

TM7.jpg



Spec
Driver: Dynamic 15 mm.
Frequency Response: 20Hz - 19KHz
Impedance: 32Ω
Sensitivity: 112dB/mW @ 1KHz
Cable: TPE 1.2 m. (3.5mm. plug)
Price: US$140 + shipping fee (less than $10 worldwide)


Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality
If you read my M2c review, you will know Blox is basically a minimalistic when it comes to everything outside of sound quality. This means you don’t get any fancy box or storage case. What are included are just two pairs of regular foam pad. For TM7, I’ll suggest you either convert these to donut foam by cutting a small hole on the front of the foam using a hole puncher or carefully with a sharp scissor (fold the foam pad in half, then again to quarter, then again to one eighth, then cuts the tip and unfold).

It would be nice for Blox to include a case or pouch, but there is none. Good thing that a good hard case is generally inexpensive on eBay, so just get a good one there. However, never try to be cheap and warp the earbud (or any earphone on that matter) on your mp3 player or cellphone.

TM7 basically has the same design as M2c and TM5. Blox never bother to change the housing (which is more or less a generic old Sennheiser MX housing) and it is fine for me. Maybe they can use a fancier housing in the future but it is what it is for now. I reckon even making the black housing into blue or red color would have made most happy. Of course that doesn’t really make it sound or fit better. The 15mm drivers do appear to be physically slightly larger than most of the common Sennheiser earbud or iBud so people with small outer ears do need to take that into consideration before ordering. Personally, it fits my mid-sized ears just fine. The one thing that does improve from M2c is the cable. Instead of the more plastic-like outer sleeve of the old cable, the new cable has the more rubber-like TPE sleeve that is generally less prone to breakage or hardening.

Sound Quality
The earbud has gone through about 100 hours of burn-in before review. Blox recommends at least 80 hours, but I personally find it great sounding even without any burn-in so you don’t really have to worry about it a bit.

Tonally, TM7 doesn’t stray too far away from M2c – lush, lively, and dynamic. Bass is quick, impactful and with good quantity. Not as rumbling as NineWave Studio Pro but with better speed. Vocal is still excellent. Less thick than M2c but better textured. In a sense, it has all the ‘good’ traits of the previous Blox earbuds, but gone is the ‘fun’ part of the sound – it is a notch more reference and neutral thank to better treble extension and soundstage rendering. While TM7’s soundstage doesn’t actually stretch out as wide as M2c, it does have the proper depth and layer, making the overall soundstage much more three dimensional and the placement of singers and instruments much more accurate. All and all, TM7 has the most life-like and well-rounded presentation of any earbuds I have heard. This is where it truly out-shines top earbuds like Yuin PK1 and HiSound Living. It will sound great with just about any music genre you can throw at it.

While I won’t call TM7 the perfect sounding earbuds, it is certainly the best in my collection. In a way, TM7 is the perfected M2c, so to speak, with all around improvement and no obvious weakness. It is in itself a completed package that doesn’t need extra amping or EQ compensation and frankly, I like that a lot.


Verdict
It in unavoidably that some will want to compare the price difference between M2c and TM7. But does that really matters when you can’t find M2c anymore? As far as my opinion goes, TM7 is an excellent earbud of its own right and compare extremely well to any other earbuds of the same price range (and beyond). That alone is enough to justify for its price tag. The only worry is, with track records of TM5 and M2c running out so quickly, Blox just might not have enough TM7 in stock or have sufficient long production run. Let’s hope those will never be the case. Finger crossed.

*A thank to Blox for the review sample.

Check out the Earbuds Round-up for quick comparison.

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Important: All postings are my own personal opinion only and should not be treated as absolute truth. I do get things wrong just like everyone else. Always do your own research!

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