Blitzwolf BW-ES1 (Update: improved mod by tgx78 in post #43)

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by james444, Aug 26, 2017.

  1. james444

    james444 Mad IEM modding wizard level 99

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    The Blitzwolf BW-ES1 are inexpensive budget IEMs. You can get them from Amazon for about 25 dollars / euros, or even cheaper from sites like Banggood or Aliexpress. There's also a quite informative product page for the BW-ES1, on which Amazon buyers apparently can get a discount code (no personal experience though).

    [​IMG]


    The product page features a nice exploded view, from which you can see these are single (graphene) dynamic driver IEMs. The housings have both front and rear vents, and I've marked their locations in the diagram:

    [​IMG]


    Last not least, there's also a frequency response graph, which I think is about right. These are pretty v-shaped IEMs in stock form, and despite generally good reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, I actually wouldn't recommend to buy them, except for modding.

    [​IMG]


    So, what's interesting about these then? Well, my main point is that their graphene driver has excellent potential. Even at first listen and despite their bass boost, low range clarity and speed struck me as highly impressive. These are extremely snappy sounding dynamic drivers. Don't get me wrong, their pounding bass / in-your-face upper mids tuning actually sounds off-putting rather than inviting out of the box. But somehow I knew from the start, if this v-shape could be tamed, I'd have a winner here...


    Modding the BW-ES1
    The main goal of this mod is to flatten the v-shaped stock tuning. This can be achieved by changing the airflow through the vents to decrease the bass level, and changing the nozzle damping to decrease the upper mids / lower treble emphasis:

    [​IMG]


    Acknowledgements
    Huge thanks to @stratocaster, for contributing to this project with measurements and critical feedback! Also, for reminding me to start a thread in time before the BW-ES1 might become discontinued... ;)


    Things you'll need to perform this mod
    • Sticky tape
    • A fine needle (or .008 gauge guitar string)
    • A slightly larger needle

    • A tea bag (or alcohol swab, etc...) for "basic" nozzle damping
      OR
    • A 1mm Sorbothane sheet for "advanced" nozzle damping (cheapest I've found is here: link)

    • Not mandatory, but I highly recommend these good sounding and comfy aftermarket tips for the BW-ES1: link

    Changing the airflow to decrease bass

    Let's start with the rear vent, you'll need to decrease airflow at the back side of the driver. First seal it up with a small piece of tape, then poke a pinhole through the tape. The hole needs to be really small, I'm using a .008 gauge guitar string (0.2mm), but a fine needle will do just as well:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Modding the front vent is a bit more tricky, since you'll need to increase airflow at the front side of the driver. This requires poking through a mesh at the inside of the vent, with only about 2-3mm clearance between the mesh and the driver diaphragm. Safest way I've found is to bend a needle as shown below and angle the needle through the vent towards the nozzle (green arrow). DO NOT insert the needle straight ahead or downwards (red arrows), as this will inevitably damage the driver diaphragm.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Well, this completes the bass part of the mod, and if you've done everything correctly, bass should sound almost reference flat. Obviously though, the upper mids / lower treble bump will stand out even more now, so the next step will deal with that.

    With regards to nozzle damping, there are two versions, which I'll refer to as "basic" and "advanced". Personally, I'm biased towards the latter, since the result sounds slightly clearer and more sharply delineated to my ears... however, that's just my subjective impression from A/B listening to both versions and has not been corroborated by measurements.


    Changing the nozzle damping to decrease high range emphasis

    Basic: this damping variant is very simple, just cut out a small piece of damping material (tea bag, alcohol swab, etc...) and place it over the nozzle before you mount the tip.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Advanced: this damping variant is more sophisticated, and you'll have to remove the front mesh first:

    [​IMG]


    Then use the needle to remove the stock foam filter:

    [​IMG]


    Cut a small strip off the Sorbothane sheet, about 6.5 x 4 x 1mm:

    [​IMG]


    Bend the strip into a horseshoe shape and insert it into the nozzle (horseshoe opening facing the front vent)

    [​IMG]


    Push it carefully down the nozzle to its final position (as shown below):

    [​IMG]


    With a 6.5mm long strip, the Sorbothane will form almost a complete circle, and attenuation of high frequencies will be very strong. If the high range sounds too subdued for your taste, just take the strip out again and shorten it a bit:

    [​IMG]


    The idea is that everyone will be able to find out their preferred strip length and amount of high range damping. Start with about 6.5mm, then gradually shorten the strip until you find your optimum. I'm in my 50's and not particularly sensitive to treble, so I'm fine with a damping strip of even less than 6mm. But if you're in your 20's, I'm sure you'll need more than that.


    So, is it worth the hassle, and how does it sound?

    Subjectively, the modded BW-ES1 sound fantastic to my ears, very fast, clear and detailed for dynamic driver IEMs. Bass is probably my favorite part of their spectrum and imo a significant improvement over the modded Fostex 02n. Despite being close to neutral, it's remarkably snappy even at low volume and conveys the impact of drum beats extremely well. The lower mids are about on par with the 02n, whereas the upper mids / lower treble region remains a bit elevated even after the mod, emphasizing detail. It's more forward than on the 02n, but nevertheless doesn't sound sharp or sibilant to me. Overall, the modded BW-ES1 are noticeably more analytical than the 02n, yet at the same time steer clear of sounding overly lean or bright. Like the modded Fostex 02n, the modded BW-ES1 belong among the best DD IEMs I know, regardless of price.

    As for the objective part of the picture, I'm sure @stratocaster won't mind throwing in a graph or two... :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2017
  2. james444

    james444 Mad IEM modding wizard level 99

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    Q & A
    • How's isolation with these?
      • Below average, these are front and rear vented IEMs. As a general rule for isolation: non-vented > rear-vented > front+rear vented.
        I wouldn't recommend these for noisy environment.
    • Can I improve isolation with foam tips (e.g. Complys)?
      • Not really. Even if your tips may seal perfectly, there's still leakage through the front vent. But on the plus side, the latter equalizes air pressure in the ear canal and prevents suction seal and driver flex.
    • Can I wear these over the ears?
      • For larger ears (like mine), that shouldn't be a problem. I always wear them over-ears, without swapping sides. I even can sleep on the side, wearing these over-ears. For smaller ears however, that may be more difficult or uncomfortable.
    • What's behind that front vent?
      • There's a fine mesh beneath that vent, glued to the inside of the housing. It's risky to puncture, because the driver's diaphragm is right behind it, so the safest way is to poke sideways between the mesh and the housing.
    • Are these really good or just the latest Chi-Fi hype?
      • Read the thread title, I have no intention to hype the BW-ES1. In fact, these have been my favorite DD-based IEMs for months and I didn't even post about them. But if you want my honest opinion, I think these are really damn good when modded. I've bought more expensive graphene driver IEMs like the Maxell GD200 ($130) and TFZ Exclusive 5 ($100) in the meantime, and I think the modded BW-ES1 sound better than those. I also think the BW-ES1's bass has better quality than the Beyerdynamic Xelento's ($1000), which I bought and returned. Personally, I don't notice much of a correlation between price and sound quality with IEMs these days, you can find good and bad examples at any price level, imho.

    (I'll keep this updated with questions I get on HF / via PM / etc...)
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2017
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  3. stratocaster

    stratocaster Friend

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    Some measurements. Uncompensated.

    Frequency Response - Stock vs Modded:

    comparo.jpg
    Distortion - Stock:
    Stock Distortion.jpg

    Distortion - modded:
    Modded Distortion.jpg
     
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  4. james444

    james444 Mad IEM modding wizard level 99

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  5. Mochill

    Mochill Rando

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    Do you want to sell me a modded pair
     
  6. james444

    james444 Mad IEM modding wizard level 99

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    I hoped this mod would be easy enough to DIY. If you don't trust yourself to do it, I can help you, but I'm travelling atm and won't be back home before mid October.
     
  7. tgx78

    tgx78 Acquaintance

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    I've been listening to mine for few weeks now. (one week without the modification, one week with mods) I really like how it sounds after james's mod.
    I also have 2 sets of modded fostex TE-02n (thanks james444!) and I prefer the BW-ES1 since I mostly listen to classical music these days.
    BW-ES1 kind of reminded me RBH HP-2 headphones with beryllium coated driver which also has fast and fantastically textured bass for DD.
     
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  8. Mochill

    Mochill Rando

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    tgx78, do you want to sell me a modded pair
     
  9. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Pair ordered from EBay ($CAD 16.99 including shipping, from here) arrived last week. My first thought was, where tf is this bass of which they speak? Tried all 3 of the included tips with similar result, then switched to Shure olives (which in medium fit me very well) and - oho, now I get it... Evidently wasn't getting decent seal with the stock ones.

    Didn't initially mind the treble with the Shure tips, so did the bass vent mods before trying anything with the nozzle filter. For the front vent I used a 2.5mm twisted nail, spun in just far enough that its tip made it into the chamber.

    Great result - lower treble still doesn't sound overemphasized, I guess because the the Shure tips, having long tubes and being narrower than the BW's nozzles, are imparting a significant reverse-horn effect. So I've left the stock filter.

    Despite the venting, isolation seems pretty good - despite being right in front of me and speaking loudly because she could see I had them in, Mrsdegraded was inaudible. The angled design is very comfortable, too; would be interesting to compare both respects to my Westones on a plane.

    Thanks for the great work, @james444 and @stratocaster !
     
  10. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Oops - just realized I blew it. My nail technique enlarged the front vent, which owing to not properly reading the instructions :oops: I thought was the point. This did reduce the bass, but presuming that the recommended technique would lead to further improvement and that the enlarged hole could be repaired with tape if necessary, I set to work to pierce the mesh and - inevitably, I guess - punctured the left driver membrane :(

    Lesson learned: rtfm more than once! But like I said, $16.99 delivered; so if at first you don't succeed, etc.
     
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  11. Friday

    Friday Friend

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    Got these mainly scratch my modding itch, but these are pretty good. I did all the mods by the book, with sorbothane front damping and stock eartips. Tonality-wise it seems pretty neutral and mostly inoffensive, although with certain recordings the treble peaks begin to show up. This is with sorbothane cut to ~6mm - tried it with the full 6.5mm at first, but it was too dead-sounding. At 6mm, it sounds more open without being bright. If you do the bass vent mods without any front damping, it'll sound etched and shouty like the seal was completely fucked.
    Also, a word of advice: just go for the sorbothane for front damping if you're using the stock tips, it's much easier even though more steps are involved. I tried using other materials like alcohol swabs while waiting for my sorbothane to be delivered, and I can't see how the hell @james444 managed to pull the eartips over them when they are so tight-fitting. Kudos to him just for the amount of effort put into that demonstration.

    Fit might be a bit of a problem for me as the earpiece yields to light touches a bit more easily than I would like, so I might not be getting the full bass response, but even so they don't sound bass-lite to me.
    Mind you, these impressions are from just an hour or so of semi-critical listening. Not too sure if I'd update the thread with more impressions yet as I'll be pretty busy in the near future.

    Perhaps the biggest potential turn-off would be the apparent lack of sensitivity. I had to get to 70-80% on my phone, and at least 50% on the Sony ZX-2 for compressed recordings. So anybody planning to gift these to non-crazy-audiophile friends may want to keep that in mind.

    Many thanks to @james444 for the mod guide; definitely looking forward to any future projects you might have. Sorry if I sound a bit incoherent, it's been a long day for me.

    P.S. No, Mochill, I won't be selling you a modded pair. Mainly cos it's impractical seeing that I stay nearly on the other side of the globe.
     
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  12. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    @james444 was kind enough to sell me a modded pair to evaluate and compare against the Fostex TE-02n. I’ve had them for a few weeks and listened to them with a ZX2, an iPhone 8 Plus with headphone dongle, a GOV2+ Infinity connected both to a phone and a MacBook Air running Audirvana, and an ALO Rx Mk.3-B connected to the ZX2.

    The TL;DR on this is that these earphones are not for me, likely due to a physiological incompatibility. I ordered a set of the tips that James recommended for use with these and no matter which size I used, I could not get a good seal on my left ear. I tried some spare spiral dot tips I had lying around as well and had the same issue. There’s something about silicone tips that just don’t play nice with my left ear specifically. This was exacerbated by the small size of the IEMs that made them difficult to maneuver and adjust the seal. I ended up using a pair of CA foam tips that came with my Andromedas, my personal favorite foam tips. However I recognize that this may have pushed the FR a bit and not given me a totally representative example of how these sound.

    With that out of the way, I could tell even with the less synergistic tips that the drivers on these have some very good technicalities. The bass is taught and plentiful, with both texture and slam. However, I wouldn’t call these bass cannons so much as very muscular. The bass is undoubtedly the best element of this IEM, with a visceral impact that is absolutely addicting.

    Because of the tips I was wearing, I think there might have been too much of a bottom end push which crept a bit into the lower mids, not enough to ruin it but sometimes I could notice it.

    Unfortunately for me, and this may be a result of the tips again, the treble was frequently peaky on a variety of different recordings. Furthermore, there was sort of a metallic texture to the highs that didn’t agree with me. James purposely made the sorbothane a length that would still allow for detail while taming some of the highs, and I did not get a chance to try a longer sorbothane strip to see if that changed anything for the better. I did give them a few days of burn in to see if that would help, but it did not seem to make a significant difference.

    These are somewhat difficult to drive, as both the ZX2 and the headphone dongle on the iPhone didn’t provide enough power to really get the bass going, meaning I needed either the GO or Rx to bring out the best in them.

    And finally the last straw for me was that for some reason, despite being very small, these did not sit comfortably in my ears with any tips, always leaving me clenching my jaw while wearing them.

    In comparison to the Fostex, the Blitzwolf obviously has a lot more bass quantity and resolution (and really just overall more resolution) but I found the Fostex more balanced and with superior texture across the FR. In the other thread I said that at times the Fostex could exhibit shouty treble, but either the drivers have mellowed with use or I’m more used to them, but while I can still detect it from time to time it’s not frequent and easily livable. Compared to the frequent peaks I got with the Blitzwolf, the Fostex is far more easy going. They’re also much more physically comfortable for me to wear, and can be comfortably driven from my phone with the headphone dongle, making them convenient to just slip on.

    I really wanted to like the Blitzwolf and tried them in virtually every configuration I’m capable of playing headphones on. Unfortunately I think this is a case of my physiology not playing nice with the gear and resulting in a subpar experience for me. I still think it’s worth it for curious modders to get a pair, as there is a lot to love with these, they’re the right price and the mods are not crazy difficult. I really appreciate James taking the time to mod a pair for me to try and I wish they had been a better fit.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2017
  13. Friday

    Friday Friend

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    I've tried the longer sorbothane, but the peaks were still obvious if slightly attenuated, but the phones were dead-sounding.

    On the other hand...

    I performed a miracle (by my standards at least) and managed to fit the eartips over a piece of surgical mask material, which I felt managed to tame the peaks to a more acceptable level, although bass levels are slightly elevated. This is in conjunction with the 6mm sorbothane. The layer that was used was the white, evenly perforated layer that is supposed to be against your skin when you wear the mask.

    Hope this helps anyone who might be facing similar issues.
     
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  14. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    @Merrick , our ear anatomies must be polar opposites (or whatever term an ear-ologist would use to describe 'as different as could possibly be imagined'): I have real trouble getting a good seal with the Fostexes, regardless of tip (though with the micropore tape on the big nozzles I can't fit my favoured ones*), I like the way the angled BWs sit in my concha, and I'm not a fan of foam. I really like the modded** Fostexes in all other respects, but find they don't cut it for isolation and comfort on long plane trips.

    Once I realized I'd screwed up the mod - and trying to recover, screwed it up more by slaughtering the left driver - I didn't have time to assess technicalities; in fact, it was @james444 's description of [bass] faster than the Fostexes that sent me back to his instructions to discover my mistake. I have another pair on order, and with the aid of some new eye loupes so I can see what the hell I'm doing, I'll try again and report impressions.

    @Friday, surgical mask material noted - although with long-skinny-tube tips I didn't feel the need to do anything to the treble on these. Which maybe speaks to my hearing...


    * Shure olives for the now discontinued E2 etc -
    these; the ones that fit the current Shure range would be way too skinny.

    ** 'Final+1' -1; I wasn't brave enough to try piercing the membrane, so eq the up bass a bit to compensate. But I do have a spare pair...
     
  15. joeexp

    joeexp Don't ship this man FD-X1 ever

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    Warning. Front Vent modding can kill your driver. LOL dammit
     
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  16. james444

    james444 Mad IEM modding wizard level 99

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    Uh-oh, I thought my own warning was loud and clear! ;)

    But here's a tip: if you're planning to do the sorbothane mod, remove the stock foam filter BEFORE you tackle the front vent. Then you can look down the nozzle and keep an eye on the needle, while you mod the front vent.
     
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  17. joeexp

    joeexp Don't ship this man FD-X1 ever

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    The box and the pouch are nice!
     
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  18. james444

    james444 Mad IEM modding wizard level 99

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    It's a shame that you can't get a good fit... I believe most of what you're describing is a result of that. To me, the BW-ES1 are no peakier than the Fostex, granted they have that upper mids / lower treble emphasis shown in the graph, but higher up treble sounds actually cleaner to my ears than on the Fostex. However, as you mentioned, this depends very much on tips and fit... personally, I'm lucky to achieve a really nice fit with those "gel" tips I recommended. Somewhat shallow, but secure and stellar sounding.

    You're definitely not the only one with fit troubles though, even @stratocaster dismissed the BW-ES1 at first, for the same reason, and only much later came to appreciate them, after having found a pair of tips that finally worked for him.

    @Mochill , what are you waiting for? ;)
     
  19. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    Maybe I should try a pair of those silicone/foam hybrid tips people here have been using.
     
  20. james444

    james444 Mad IEM modding wizard level 99

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    I'd say any kind of tips are worth a try, as long as bore diameter is roughly the same as nozzle diameter. Narrower bore tips are bound to sound too bassy / warm / congested.
     
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