Budget IEM Round-Up: Blon x HBB Z300, Tripowin Piccolo, and Simgot EW100P
As the budget in-ear monitor (IEM) market continues to grow at an unrelenting pace, keeping up with each and every release is an impossible task. Instead, let me briefly turn the spotlight to a few new products and give you some quick impressions on whether they’re worth any attention. If you’re curious, I did a similar article in the past with the 7Hz Salnotes Zero, Kiwi Ears Cadenza, and Tin HiFi C2 and C3.
Review units provided by Linsoul.
Note that this is an impressions article, not a full review. An expanded “first look” rather than an in-depth analysis conducted over multiple days and dozens of listening hours. It will give you a good idea of my initial thoughts on these products but these may be subject to change with further ear time.
Source(s): Apple USB-C dongle
BLON x HBB Z300
In what is the 11th (?) collab IEM from reviewer Bad Guy Good Audio Reviews (aka HBB), he’s returned to his roots with the infamous brand BLON. For those unfamiliar with the story, HBB’s first made his big splash on the YouTube scene for his undying enthusiasm of the BLON BL-03. That was four years ago. HBB has grown to be one of the biggest names in IEMs, particularly for budget gear, while BLON has still to find their next-big-thing since the BL-03. Enter the Z300 - a $35 single dynamic driver IEM.
In the box you get a basic set of accessories: S/M/L tips, a 2-pin cable, a burlap sack carrying bag, and the Z300 itself. The 2-pin cable is surprisingly good quality but note that it has a shrouded connectors to match the protruded jacks on the Z300. Be careful if you’re looking to get an aftermarket set. I have the gold/white variant of the Z300 and I’m a fan of the aesthetic. The metal build is nice and hefty. Hopefully the dragon artwork on the faceplate will hold up over time.
Frequency response of the BLON x HBB Z300. Measurement taken with an IEC-711 clone microphone. Comparisons can only be made relative to other measurements taken by this specific microphone. A peak at about 8 – 10 kHz is likely an artifact of the measurement rig and may not exist as depicted here. Measurements above 8 kHz are not accurate. If possible, reference multiple measurements.
Sound wise, the Z300 is pleasant to listen to and reminds me quite a bit of the MoonDrop Aria. Though it has more bass, the Z300 doesn’t come off as overly bassy due to its soft bass impact, especially towards the subbass. There’s increased oomph but not necessarily as much weight or slam. This is the aspect that most resembles the Aria - the softer bass attack. In the grand scheme of things, it’s about average in terms of bass performance. Not every budget IEM can (or should) be like the CCA CRA or CRA+ when it comes to bass.
The midrange of the Z300 is relaxed. The pinna gain isn’t quite as high as the Aria which gives the Z300 mellower vocals. This relaxed midrange is notable but not distracting. The Z300 consequently feels easygoing and natural. Tonally, there’s a nice hint of warmth. I have no complaints with instrument timbre.
The biggest departure from the Aria comes in the treble. The Z300 is well-extended in the upper octaves and has a solid treble response. There is a very real mid-treble peak, however. I don’t find it piercing or painful; it just makes specific notes and instruments pop out unexpectedly. For example, the chime of bell-like instruments or the click of the hats. The other unique part of the Z300’s treble is how it makes cymbals sound washy. It emphasizes just the right frequencies that interact with the tail end of the note as the cymbals ring out to exaggerate their innate washiness. I find this adds a fun little character to the Z300’s sound.
On a technical level, the Z300 is on par with some of the other highly recommended IEMs in its price such as the Kiwi Ears Cadenza or the Tin HiFi C2. I’d go so far as to say it’s probably on par with the Aria. Overall, I can recommend the BLON x HBB Z300. It’s a great IEM for the $35 it costs and I don’t think you can go wrong picking it up unless you’re particularly sensitive to treble. And yes, I do like this quite a bit more than the BL-03.
Funny enough, Tripowin is a brand that has a few collaboration products with BGGAR - the Tripowin x HBB Olina, Olina SE, and Mele. But for today’s article, I’m looking at the non-collab Tripowin Piccolo, another $35 single dynamic driver IEM.
Accessories for the Piccolo are bare. Tips, cable, and IEM. No case. The 2-pin cable is nice though a little tangly. Like the Z300, it does have a shrouded connector. Unlike the Z300, the Piccolo’s protruded 2-pin jacks are very short so the connection between the cable and Piccolo don’t feel secure. Be careful with these if you’re walking around - they might slip off.
Here’s the graph of the Tripowin Piccolo. It looks pretty similar to the Z300 doesn’t it? They do sound different though, with the Z300 being preferable to my ears. One interesting thing I want to point out is that 2 kHz and 4 kHz humps. A lot of older ChiFi IEMs had this hump at these two points and a dip at 3 kHz. We can see a remnant of that here, even if it’s quite minor.
Sound wise, there are two notable things. The first is that vocals have a slightly detached quality to them. The second is an upper treble peak that gives it some tizziness. It’s not a very big or piercing peak but it exaggerates certain notes and makes the Piccolo brighter and more resolving than it actually is. Tonally, the balance between the mids and bass is good. The upper mids and lower treble presence easily accommodate for the lower mids warmth. Like the Z300, the bass is a bit soft but hey, I didn’t knock the Z300 too much for that so I won’t do that here.
Overall, this IEM gets a pass. It’s serviceable. Not particularly memorable but I certainly wouldn’t complain if I only had this to work with. Essentially, the argument comes down to why I would pick this over the BLON x HBB Z300 or the other IEMs I’ve mentioned and I just don’t really see a reason. Plus, I would be concerned over how short those protruded 2-pin connectors are.
If you know your ChiFi lore, Simgot is an old name. They’ve been in the industry long before I even started reviewing. But like other forgotten names, they’ve somehow managed to survive and appear every now and then with some new product. Recently, they released the EA500 to a smattering of acclaim. The Simgot EW100P is its $20 baby brother.
Here is where I will give the EW100P its biggest accolade: having a shark on the box for its artwork. But beyond the packaging, it's yet another barren affair. 2-pin cable, tips, and the IEM. The EW100P feels very cheap - it’s essentially a hollow plastic shell with a single dynamic driver firing straight through the nozzle. Its lightweight nature and small size does make it comfortable for extended sessions. It practically disappears in my ear.
Isn’t this a nice graph? Believe it or not, the EW100P matches the Aria’s graph closest of all the IEMs today. It has just a little more upper mids and treble which cools the warmer tonality of the Aria to have a fairly neutral signature. Here’s what it looks like compared to the Aria.
Strangely, I’m not very fond of the EW100P. It’s superficially good thanks to its tuning but is otherwise overwhelmingly bland. In particular, I wasn’t a fan of the treble. It has a bit of a grainy sound going on and its upper treble peaks trip up the timbre of hats and cymbals. Instead of a clean response, the EW100P can feel as if it's fumbling through certain notes at times. And for the third time in this round-up, the bass is soft.
I actually listened to this IEM the most out of the three to try and nail down my thoughts on it. I went from “Yea it’s not bad for $20, can’t complain” to “Ohh, there’s something not right here” to a final stance of “It’s alright, but you can do better”. It doesn’t have any technical backbone. Ultimately, when it comes to $20 the de facto recommendation is the 7Hz Salnotes Zero. The EW100P doesn’t beat that. The Zero just sounds more coherent and effortless in its tonality. The only advantage the EW100P has over the Zero is a better fit.
With the level of competition in the budget IEM market today, being simply good isn’t enough. Unfortunately, two out of three IEMs today were merely alright. While the Tripowin Piccolo and Simgot EW100P are reasonable options as a starter IEM, grabbing an IEM like the Kiwi Ears Cadenza, Tin HiFi C2, or BLON x HBB Z300 is likely to be the better choice. But to rehash what I said the first time I did a round-up like this, don’t think too hard when presented with such a myriad of entry-level options. Time spent agonizing over what perfect product is is time spent not enjoying music. Buy the one with the coolest design, the most comfortable build, or the tonal response you think you’ll like best. Start your audio journey and enjoy the ride.