Pros: Super-cheap, well-built, very appealing sound signature
Cons: At this price, what's a con?
VE Monk Review
A few months ago Clieos reviewed two pairs of new earbuds produced by a relatively unknown vendor in China, VE (Venture Electronics).
Since then, VE have developed a rapidly growing, cultish following…and for good reason. Their flagship, the VE Zen is almost universally praised by those who hear it properly driven (it has a whopping 320 ohm impedance, that from personal experience, sounds dreamy on the Pono player, especially when driven in balanced mode). Its little sibling, the Asura, is similarly praised (although not quite as rabidly). It follows in the Zen’s sonic footsteps.
VE is making great strides. They have also just released the Duke, an IEM I am slated to review. They have an amp coming out soon (a matter of weeks) rumored to be sub-$100 and designed specifically to drive the Duke at its lower gain setting, and the Zen at its higher gain setting. They also recently released the Monk. The Monk is an easy to drive earbud, a baby-brother to the Zen and the Asura. It too has what is now regarded as the VE “house sound”.
This review is devoted to the Monk. I received a free sample from VE, but couldn’t understand why it was free. See the end of the review, you’ll understand why. A more ordered and carefully laid out review is sure to come along soon. I am wont to write in a different fashion. You’ll hear what you need to hear though.
The Monk is extremely pedestrian in its build. The ubiquitous shells used by Blox, Dasetn and all of the other boutique bud makers make an appearance here. VE has the good taste to keep them basic black though (I have seen them appear in shiny silver, translucent red and all manner of other cheap and gaudy incarnations…), with a neat little logo in white. The simple rubber-coated cable is basic black as well, as is the plug. The plug is a sturdy, straight, no-nonsense affair.
Lee from VE recommends you use the Monk with any smartphone. It is designed to put up with the sub-par output of these devices, and still sound good. Does it sound good?
I am still surprised at what Lee and his silent partner “KK” have achieved at VE. All of their buds have a delightfully pleasing sound signature. After the suggested ten hours of burn-in using vocal music, the Monk is no different. Most earbuds fall short in some way, frequently bass. Not so the Monk. Some as a result of their bass-less-ness are shrill and tinny. Not the Monk. Some try to compensate for the bass-less-ness and tinny sound with lush and strong mid-ranges and as a result sound wooly rolled off at both ends. Not the Monk.
They are not the Zen (they lack the refinement and clarity) and they are not the Asura (which sits just behind the Zen in terms of performance). They do not scale like those two when paired with a stronger/better source. But like a scrappy little street-dog, it will survive and thrive wherever you put it. It needs no pampering…no DSD or 24/1952 files, no massive amounts of current, no careful equalization or special equipment. Drop it in a backstreet of Sowetho township, feed it trash and expect that great, toe-tapping, incredibly pleasing VE sound.