Venture Electronics - Small but BIG Sound!?
I was 15 years old, I thought I was hot stuff carrying around my cassette tapes with my Sony Walkman clipped onto my belt strap. The small earbuds with the scruffy sponge pads were so cool. Easy to hide from your parents as long as you didn't play your music too loud. Easy to store and they were more durable than you would think based on the design. I was so excited to experience my past sonic memories when I received the package full of VE Monks and other stuff; does Venture Electronics bring back sonic memories of old or create new memories?
Lee Veclan from Venture Electronics provided the various products below for review and only asked for an honest review. I wasn't influenced, directed to say something positive or paid for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Monk Plus: https://www.veclan.com/engappliance_sel_one?eng_ApplianceVo.eac_id=4
Impedance: 64 Ohms
Frequency Response: 20-20000Hz
Monk Lite: https://www.veclan.com/engappliance_sel_one?eng_ApplianceVo.eac_id=24
Impedance: 40 Ohms/ 120 Ohms
Frequency Response: 20-20000Hz
Zen Lite: https://www.veclan.com/engappliance_sel_one?eng_ApplianceVo.eac_id=25
Impedance: 300 Ohms
Bonus IE (BIE): https://www.veclan.com/engappliance_sel_one?eng_ApplianceVo.eac_id=35
Impedance: 32 Ohms
Frequency response: 17-22000Hz
Driver: 10mm Dynamic Driver (N52+)
Odyssey HD: https://www.veclan.com/engappliance_sel_one?eng_ApplianceVo.eac_id=32
Sample Rate： 24Bit/96kHz 32bit/384khz Frequency Response： 20Hz-20KHz，±0.1dB
Headphone Output THD： 0.01%
D/A SNR： 98dB A-weighted
A/D SNR： 92dB A-weighted
Max Voltage Output： 1V RMS
Max Current Output： 45mA
Extremely simple just like the days of yesteryear. A small, sealed, plastic bag contains the product with limited descriptions written on one side. Not much to say other then the packaging does what it is intended to do, hold the earbud and sponge pads during transport.
From the moment the VE Monk was out of the package and into my ears I was reminded of my first pair of earbuds. The form factor is small and light. The attached cables are light, twisty, sometimes suffering from tangling. The speaker is open to the outside world. There really isn't anything to discuss about the build as it feels durable but cheap and looks even cheaper. I have no doubt that the VE Monk will last if you don't torture them. The only thing of concern is the longevity of the attached cable.
FIt was actually a bit of an issue for me as the size of the Monk was just a bit too large to fit comfortably in my ear. I had some ear pressure in the pinna area whenever I was wearing the Monk; not a terrible fit but not the best. Comfort was hampered by the larger fit of the Monk and I couldn't wear them for more then an hour at a time without taking a break in between listening sessions. I found the Monk to be more comfortable but less fitting without the sponge pads; they wobbled around in the ears too much,
Sound Impressions: (All sound impressions are done with the sponge pads)
Monk Plus: A good way of describing the Monk Plus bass is that it is fun, detailed, warm and well-mannered. There is average extension into the sub bass and most of the impact comes from the mid bass with the upper bass adding in a touch of warmth that bleeds into the lower mids. Detail retrieval and resolution are good for the small price.
Monk Lite: Warm, thick and lacking separation are how I would describe the Monk Lite bass. Yet there is a pleasing warm, thickness to the bass. Extension into the sub bass isn't very good and most of the bass comes from the mid bass. Upper bass is warm but behind the mid bass. The lack of detail retrieval, resolution and separation makes for a one-note bass presentation on a lot of tracks.
Zen Lite: Controlled, detailed and extended are good adjectives to describe the Zen Lite bass. There is a fun factor with a side of analytical. I like the bass as it isn't too dominating but has a good amount of punch and engagement. Slight bleed in the upper bass to the lower mids adds a touch of body and weight.
Bonus IE: BIG, fun, boomy, weighty, thick and domineering are the describers for the bass of the Bonu IE. There is a lot of impact and slam to the Bonus IE and it should satisfy most seeking those moments of head-bobbing to metal but not for all other genres. The bass has decent detail retrieval and resolution but lacks a bit in separation and there is a lot of one-noteness.
Monk Plus: The mids of the Monk Plus are pleasing, warm and engaging. I like the mids of the Monk Plus for the most part but they do emanate some harshness and a little bit of sibilance. Overall, the mids have a pleasing tone about them and vocals and instruments are presented in a balanced and cohesive way. Details are adequate and isolation and separation is good.
Monk Lite: Sibilant, harsh, recessed, unnatural and unpleasant are how I would describe the mids of the Monk Lite. I don't know how to say it other then I don't like these mids at all. They sound weird to me.
Zen Lite: How I would describe the Zen Lite mids is warm, laid-back, smooth, lacking a tad of clarity and details. So I really like the mids of the Zen Lite even though they aren't the most clear or detailed because they have a pleasing tone to them. Vocals do seem to be cloudy or foggy a smidge but they aren't hidden by instruments. There is a small lack of detail retrieval. The overall tone of the mids makes up for the deficiencies of the clarity and details for me.
Bonus IE: Typical V-shape, slight recess, upper mid forward, minor harshness and sibilance are the best descriptors for the Bonus IE mids. I find the Bonus IE mids to be fairly pleasing and inoffensive but nothing special. Details are presented somewhat aggressively.
Monk Plus: Treble is energetic and pleasing on the Monk Plus. There is a good amount of extension and air. Detail retrieval is adequate but resolution is lacking. The Monk Plus borders on being hot and does cross over into the danger zone on random occasions.
Monk Lite: The treble of the Monk Lite is hollow, sharp, aggressive and unpleasant. I do not care for the upper regions of the Monk Lite and just about every song has me reaching for the stop button on the music player and then going up and pulling out the earbud. Way too much aggression with sharpness and a hollowness that is uber unpleasant. Every now and then you will get a song that is pleasant but they are few and far between skip button taps.
Zen Lite: Relaxed, early roll-off and lacking in clarity and air are how I would describe the treble for the Zen Lite. The Zen Lite is not fatiguing at all when it comes to treble. There is a lack of air and clarity that makes some songs sound muffled. Not a terrible sound if you are treble sensitive but if you like a bit of treble, like I do, these will be disappointing.
Bonus IE: Treble for the Bonus IE is extended, slightly boosted and lacking a bit in detail resolution. I don't mind the treble of the Bonus IE but it isn't the cleanest or most airy. Details are present but aren't resolved the best. The lack of air causes some tracks to sound stuffy and separation can be lacking.
Monk Plus: Wide, airy, controlled with solid depth and layering are found in the Monk Plus soundstage. I really enjoy the stage that the Monk Plus provides as it surrounds you with sound and puts you in the moment.
Monk Lite: Wide and airy with nice depth and layering is the Monk Lite soundstage. This is my favorite part about the Monk Lite as it is engaging and pleasing, when you find that one song that all the other issues don't arise on.
Zen Lite: Small and slightly claustrophobic are how I would describe the Zen Lite soundstage. There are moments of awesomeness with the Zen Lite but for the most part it is a small stage with limited depth and layering.
Bonus IE: Small and close are the dimensions of the soundstage of the Bonus IE. There isn't a lot of width, depth or layering. Imaging is good but can be a touch aggressive.
Monk Plus: The Monk Plus lacks a bit of resolution but it isn't the worst offender I have heard and it doesn't distract me to the point of frustration. Detail retrieval is adequate and you will get the basics that the recording has to offer. Nothing special but nothing terrible, I can live with it for the small price.
Monk Lite: The Monk Lite has a lot of detail retrieval and not very much resolution. There is a sheen and glare to the Monk Lite that is fatiguing. The Monk Lite does improve on better mastered recordings but not by much just making it kinda sorta listenable.
Zen Lite: The Zen Lite is limited in detail retrieval but is good in resolution. There is a lack of detail retrieval on a lot of tracks but it does improve slightly with a more powerful source.
Bonus IE: Details are decently presented on the Bonus IE and resolution is adequate for the price, nothing above average here.
Monk Plus: Tone is pleasant but not natural and timbre is okay. Nothing special here but you can differentiate between instruments and vocals, not the easiest task on busier tracks though.
Monk Lite: Unpleasant and unnatural are how I would describe the tone and timbre of the Monk Lite. This is far from normal sounding but does improve slightly on better mastered music.
Zen Lite: The Zen Lite has an okay tone and timbre. I find that the somewhat muffled tones effect the timbre and the Zen Lite doesn't sound natural and accurate on a lot of recordings and sources. But if you find the right pairing of song and source, the tone and timbre become more acceptable.
Bonus IE: Far from natural but fun and pleasing. Just a very pleasant tone that keeps the toes tapping.
Odyssey HD: I like this dongle from Veclan Electronics. There is an airy, clean but musical approach to the presentation. It pairs well with the Monk Plus, Monk Lite and Bonus IE but doesn't pair well with the 300 ohm Zen Lite.
NextDrive Spectra X: This is my favorite dongle that I own and it sounds good with the Monk Plus and Bonus IE. The Zen Lite struggles on the Spectra X because it is too demanding with the 300 ohm impedance. If you need to tone down the Monk Lite the Spectra X is a good option to pair with it.
Conclusion: To wrap it all up; I was taken back to my youth a bit with the VE Monk and Zen. I hadn't used earbuds in about 25 years so this was a fun blast from the past. But it did reveal a few things to me; gear was very limited and I wasn't as picky about sound quality back in the day. I can see my use case for earbuds being when I just want some background music and need to hear people talking to me at the same time. The VE Monks would be good if I was still going to the office and unable to use full size headphones or IEM. Another use case is walking around the gym or in the neighborhood and you don't want to chance breaking something more expensive.
The Zen Lite sounds way better on more expensive gear, Sony WM-1a and Mytek Liberty, but I don't see a point pairing it with that gear as I have headphones and IEM that are betting performers. I struggled to find a dongle that played well with it for my portable needs.
Being brutally honest, the Monk Lite was my least favorite and I couldn't stand having them in my ears.
The Monk Plus was fun and pleasing and I could see myself using them in those certain scenarios that I described previous.
But my overall favorite was the Bonus IE. They are just a blast of fun to use with the big bass and aggressive treble and adequate mids,
The Odyssey HD dongle is a gem for the price and will remain in my rotation and is for sure a recommendation.
The VE Monk have a uniqueness to them that other IEM can't offer with the open, airy presentation. But the limitations in detail retrieval, resolution, tone and timbre make them hard for me to recommend. I like them but I don't love them. I will use them randomly but they won't be replacing any of my current IEM or headphones.