The VE Enterprise is a an all tube output CF+WCF Topology tube amplifier from Venture Eelectronics.

VE Enterprise Tube Amplifier

Average User Rating:
5/5,
  • Enterprise 01.jpg

    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    ModelVE Amp Two
    Approx price$849 USD (VE Store on Ali Express)
    TypeVacuum Tube Amplifier
    Freq Range20Hz – 20 kHz +/-0 0.5dB
    Output Impedance25Ω
    Maximum Current Output0.01A
    Maximum Voltage Output60V RMS
    Max Power Output 32ohm5mW RMS per channel
    Max Power Output 300ohm30mW RMS per channel
    Max Power Output 600ohm60mW RMS per channel
    THD<0.15% 20Hz-20kHz, 5V RMS
    IMD<0.22%, 5V RMS
    SNR>93dB 5V RMS unweighted, gain-21.6 dB
    Crosstalk>88dB, 20Hz-20kHZ
    Gain12 (21.6 dB)
    TopologyCF+WCF
    Power Supply220V AC, 0.3A
    Power Consumption18W
    Connectors - Input2×RCA jack
    Connectors - Output2×RCA jack for Pre-out
    Headphone Out6.35mm Stereo
    Dimensions305 x 255 x 100mm
    Weight8.8Kg
    Casing materialSteel
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Recent User Reviews

  1. Brooko
    5.0/5,
    "VE Enterprise - Statement Tube Amplifier"
    Pros - Build quality, neutrality, voltage output, resolution, natural sonic presentation
    Cons - Large size and weight (some may find this a positive)
    [​IMG]
    Picture are default 1200 x 800 resolution - click to view larger images.

    INTRODUCTION

    Most of you will know my review style by now – and typically it has always been listen and measure, and then try to reconcile the two. I'm also a strong proponent of blind testing (where possible), volume matching properly when making comparisons, and trying to look as objectively as possible at a product when evaluating.

    But very occasionally some of the methodology goes out the window – usually when I find something I can't measure (don't have the gear), and especially so when I find something I really like and can't explain why properly. So this is going to be one of those reviews – pretty much completely subjective. It'll be honest, and I'll try to dial back any superlatives or hype – as the two are things I try to stay away from.

    Anyone who frequents Head-Fi will have probably have heard of Venture Electronics by now, and if you don't know the company name, you'll probably know some of their products – especially their ear-buds (Monk, Asura and Zen). I've reviewed all three in the past and came away more than impressed about how good an ear-bud could sound. Last year Lee approached me, and asked me if I'd be interested in reviewing a statement amplifier – showing what their capabilities really are. I agreed and took delivery of the VE Enterprise. There is quite a story which I'll come to in a minute – but lets first get an idea of who VE is.


    ABOUT VENTURE ELECTRONICS (VE)

    Venture Electronics (or VE) is a 6 year old audio company based in Shenyang, Liaoning in the Peoples Republic of China. I was able to ask Lee a little about the company, and he has been very open and approachable – something I love to see when dealing with a manufacturer. It really shows a lot about a company when they show pride in their own achievements, and are so open about sharing information with their customer base.

    VE is relatively small (for now) with less than 10 employees, and had a small product line (Zen, Asura and Monk ear-buds, Duke IEM, Runabout portable amp). Over the last couple of years, they've branched out with cables and interconnects, and 3 statements amps – designed to show audio lovers what the company really can do. These include the VE Amp One (transistor), VE Amp Three (electrostatic), and the Enterprise Tube amp which I'm reviewing today.

    I asked Lee about their core business, and he said they were primarily an internet based company. Their goal long term is “to have the best budget and hi-end gear”, and it was refreshing to see some frank and honest comments in reply to some of my inquiries. I’m going to quote one of Lee’s replies, because it really does add to my impression of VE as a company.

    “We see our fans, not just as moving wallets. I see our budget gear (like the Monk) as a walking ad for our brand, among our online community (people who love earphones), because they mainly they love the ART the earphones can deliver, like gaming, movie, anime and stuff. We believe the Zen is the best ear-bud in the world, and as we can sell the monk for cheap then it might go viral and get more attention to the other products. We believe to be the best Hi-Fi company, we need to have the best of the best gears, not only budget ones. If we only do budget, people will have a false image of us not being serious enough, so the idea is very simple”

    And to close, I asked Lee about VE’s mission statement or values statement, and the answer I received made perfect sense – “keeping it real”. As I’ve furthered my correspondence with him – I can reassure anyone reading that this is a value very much in evidence.


    BREAKING NEWS

    Lee just contacted me to advise that he and KK intend open sourcing the design of the amp - they want to share what they've done with the World. He says probably in a month or two (they are busy with other more pressing things at the moment. Anyway - given how good the Enterprise is, I think this is quite amazing news!

    DISCLAIMER

    The Enterprise tube amplifier I'm reviewing today is a loaner, and I'll have to return it to Lee. I do not make any financial gain from this review – it is has been written simply as my way of providing feedback both to the Head-Fi community and also VE themselves. I have now had the Enterprise for a year, and I sincerely apologise to Lee for the time taken. The retail price at time of review is USD 849, and can be purchased via Ali Express at VE's online store-front.

    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'. (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)

    I'm a 50 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portables (mostly now from the FiiO X7ii, X5iii, and iPhone SE) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD). My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Sennheiser HD800S, Sennheiser HD600 & HD630VB, MS Pro and AKG K553. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has mainly been with the Jays q-Jays, Alclair Curve2, Big Dipper and 64Audio U10. A full list of most of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile – this needs an update, and is on my list of things to do).

    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880. I have a specific sensitivity to the 2-3 kHz frequency area (most humans do) but my sensitivity is particularly strong, and I tend to like a relatively flat mid-range with slight elevation in the upper-mids around this area.


    I have extensively tested myself (ABX) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent. I do use exclusively red-book 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 50, my hearing is less than perfect (it only extends to around 14 kHz nowadays). My usual listening level is around 65-75 dB.

    For the purposes of this review - I used the Enterprise in a number of different configurations (which I'll cover as we progress), and with a number of different headphones. The review has also been written in several different stages over the last 12 months, and this is the culmination of finally bringing things together. Time spent now with the Enterprise is in the 100's of hours.

    This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.


    THE REVIEW

    THE DELIVERY
    I took some photos of the arrival – but its easier if I just go through the story – as the photos at the time were simple iPhone shots (from memory). Anyway – the courier arrived with a large package securely foam wrapped and also boxed in a pretty sturdy corrugated outer box. The first thing I noticed though was that the box was showing signs of wear, and when I picked it up, there were ominous audible rattling from inside. Uh-oh.

    So I got it out – and everything looked fine from the outside. Plugged it in and turned it on – tubes lit up. Check the headphone socket – and no sound. Time to open the sucker up. Undid the top, and …… mess. The standards holding the tube tray were sheared off (it was amazing it was still lighting up), and one of the rear RCA inputs had a broken wire.

    I contacted Lee, sent photos of the damage, and waited to see what he said. Anyone who knows Lee will know that under the sometimes gruff exterior, he's a guy with a heart of gold (which he sometimes shows for all to see). He can be fiery, and always passionate. After venting about the guy who packed it, and also the courier companies – he offered to get it returned and repaired (and post would be expensive as the amp is heavy!). I suggested instead that if he sent me replacement parts, I'd have a go at fixing it.

    So despite not being the most electronically capable person, I received the parts, successfully repaired the tube tray, and soldered the RCA wire. Ever since, the Enterprise has run without a hitch – except for one very minor issue. When connected to a powered DAC, there can be a very low feedback (hum) – which I can only attribute to damage on delivery. The reason I surmise this is because VE are simply too good not to notice this for delivery, and also because if I use one of my DAPs (battery powered) as source, there is zero hum – just crystal clear, beautiful sound. My K5 with X7ii seems to be a bit of an exception though. Out of the other powered DACs, the hum is barely audible most of the time – but for critical listening for the review, I simply used the battery powered sources I have at my disposal (isolated from my PC's USB).

    Why am I relating this? Because it gives you an idea of the service level VE has with there gear. There was never any questions regarding the damage, just concern for getting things right. And for anyone worried about possible damage with a future delivery of an Enterprise – don't be. I know Lee has addressed this particular problem – it shouldn't happen again.

    There wont be a packaging section – so lets move on to specifications, build and design.


    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    ModelVE Amp Two
    Approx price$849 USD (VE Store on Ali Express)
    TypeVacuum Tube Amplifier
    Freq Range20Hz – 20 kHz +/-0 0.5dB
    Output Impedance25Ω
    Maximum Current Output0.01A
    Maximum Voltage Output60V RMS
    Max Power Output 32ohm5mW RMS per channel
    Max Power Output 300ohm30mW RMS per channel
    Max Power Output 600ohm60mW RMS per channel
    THD<0.15% 20Hz-20kHz, 5V RMS
    IMD<0.22%, 5V RMS
    SNR>93dB 5V RMS unweighted, gain-21.6 dB
    Crosstalk>88dB, 20Hz-20kHZ
    Gain12 (21.6 dB)
    TopologyCF+WCF
    Power Supply220V AC, 0.3A
    Power Consumption18W
    Connectors - Input2×RCA jack
    Connectors - Output2×RCA jack for Pre-out
    Headphone Out6.35mm Stereo
    Dimensions305 x 255 x 100mm
    Weight8.8Kg
    Casing materialSteel




    BUILD

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Front LEDHeadphone jack and volume pot


    The VE Enterprise is a big amplifier. It's solid, heavy, and looks reassuringly clean and industrial. The prototype I have has a matt black front and rear plate, and steel sides, top and bottom. The steel is 3mm thick, and the whole unit is very well put together.

    The front panel has a red “operating” LED at the front, a single 6.3mm headphone jack just right of centre, and the volume potentiometer at the right. The pot has extremely smooth tracking and runs from about 7 o'clock to 5 o'clock – so around 300 degrees of movement.[/SIZE=12px]

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Side ViewTube array

    The rear panel features two RCA inputs at the left, two RCA pre-outputs next to this, and a standard power socket at the far right (adjacent to this is an on/off switch and fuse).

    The top plate is a plain sheet of steel with four cut-outs to house the vacuum tubes. Both sides are fully closed, as is the underside. The feet are circular with rubber rings for surface protection and damping.[/SIZE=12px]

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Rear panelRCA inputs and outputs

    Internally, the Enterprise has (looking from the rear) two power transformers on the right hand side, and the tube tray and circuit board on the left. The circuit board and tube tray are mounted on metal standards. The topology for the amplifier is a WCF+CF arrangement. I'm afraid it doesn't mean much to me – but I have been able to ascertain that it is a full tube output. The WCF (white cathode follower) refers to the main output topology, and the CF (cathode follower) is an impedance conversion stage which transforms a high impedance circuit into a lower impedance signal.[/SIZE=12px]

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Internal view from rearAnd from side

    This makes it less susceptible to interference, and can aid overall tonality (something to do with sine waves, synced oscillations and overtones). I'm afraid most of it was over my head – but I can tell you it sounds pretty amazingly good – whatever magic Lee and KK have managed to design.

    The amp is powered by three Electro Harmonix 12AU7/ECC82 electron tubes, and one Electro Harmonix 12AT7 electron tube.[/SIZE=12px]

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Tube tray and boardTop plate with tubes

    Although I had a few issues with the initial delivery, in the time since the Enterprise has been rock solid, and never missed a beat.

    POWER AND HEAT

    The Enterprise will (understandably) heat up over time, but what surprised me was that despite the 4 tubes, it never got excessively hot. It gets slightly warm, but my LD MKIV was the warmer of the two amps when running for a few hours. Even after 3-4 hours, I can comfortably rest my hand on the top. The use of the steel and overall design to dissipate heat is pretty good.

    So what about power? I have to confess when I first looked at the specs, I baulked and even had to ask Lee if he hadn't made a typo. But of course what I was forgetting was that this is a full tube output, and the key here is voltage and not current. Probably the easiest way of relating how the output translates in terms of real power is to use the HD800S and and SPL meter to give some real values.[/SIZE=12px]

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Enterprise and HD600Enterprise and T1

    At the ear, with well recorded music (I was listening to a little Genesis at the time), and my HD800S, 8 o'clock was giving me 65dB (a comfortable listening level for me), 9 o'clock was in the 70-75 dB range, and 10-11 o'clock was hitting 90+ dB. Switching to Amber Rubarth's “Sessions from the 17th Ward” and around 9 o'clock on the pot was giving me my normal listening level. In all cases with the HD800S, I wouldn't be able to go over 12 o'clock on the pot (or even get near it), it would be just too loud. So the Enterprise is a power house for voltage hungry cans. The great thing about the pot was that there was plenty of room for fine tuning – it never felt restricted. I also couldn't detect channel imbalance – even at low listening levels. This pot is amazingly well implemented

    So what about something a little easier to drive – maybe something which might not respond so well to voltage. For this I used the more efficient 32ohm 98 dB SPL Alessandro MS Pro. There wasn't a great deal of play on the plot (about 8 o'clock with modern music) was at a normal listening level – but the MS Pro sounded genuinely pleasant. The good thing about using the X7ii or any of the other FiiO DAPs as source for the Enterprise was that you can set the line-out to variable, and give yourself more play on the pot, and this worked well. Would I use the MS Pro with the Enterprise regularly? No – not really. The Enterprise doesn't manage to capture the same gains that it does with the HD800S – and the MS Pro (for me anyway) is there as an open portable.

    I've also tried the Enterprise with my Beyer T1 and HD600S, and both cans shone with the Enterprise. It's simply a fantastic amp for higher impedance cans.

    Which brings us to sound – how good is the Enterprise?


    SOUND QUALITY

    The following is what I hear from the VE Enterprise. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my FiiO X7ii as source and the HD800S. There was no DSP engaged.

    For the record – on most tracks, the volume level was calibrated to around 65-75 dB, so no more than 9 o'clock on the pot. Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.


    I choose not to comment on bass, mids, treble, and most definitely not sound-stage – simply because IMO when we are talking about an amp – they shouldn’t be discussed. An amp's job is to amplify with as low distortion as possible, and output as linear signal as possible. If it is doing its job properly, there is no effect on bass, mids, or treble. And IME an amp does not affect perceived sound-stage (unless there is DSP or cross-feed in play) – that is solely the realm of the transducers and the actual recording.

    I can however comment on clarity, tonality, and on any perceived strengths or weaknesses, and to do this I simply used the K5 which is measurably one of the most linear (neutral) amps I have (capable of driving the HD00S) and then rapid swapped between the two. I volume matched using an SPL meter and calibrated test tones. Both amps used my X7ii as DAC.


    Tonality
    The first thing I noticed slipping backwards and forwards between the two was that the two sounded very, very similar. I was expecting the Enterprise to sound warmer, and it simply doesn't. To me that is a good thing. Lee and KK were aiming to build a very linear tube amp, and they have achieved that. Over time though, what I did notice was that despite the very similar tonality, there is an ever so slight softening of consonants in female vocals (Amanda Marshall's “Let It Rain” is a sibilant recording, and there wasn't the same harshness with the Enterprise+HD800S than the K5+HD800S). I'm guessing that this is simply the 2nd order harmonic distortion from the tubes, and although you could argue its not really Hi-Fi (adding distortion), I don't care – it simply sounds better to me with the Enterprise. This trait was repeated often (and especially in that upper mid-range / lower treble region) where vocals particularly just sounded a little more organic, more realistic – while with the K5 there was the faintest sheen. I have to stress though, the differences are very small, and the K5 is still a brilliant amp, especially considering its relative price range.


    Clarity
    Everything is portrayed that is in the recording, and I mean everything. This is not a syrupy, overly warm tube amp. I was particularly impressed by the resolution of micro details in the likes of Pink Floyd's “Money”, or the ability to hear Lofgren's bridge finger work on “Keith Don't Go”. The Enterprise has no problems keeping up with it's solid state counterparts, and resolution is definitely not an issue.


    Strengths
    • Neutrality
    • Tonality
    • Resolution
    • Natural portrayal – particularly of vocals
    Weaknesses
    • Sonically I can't find any – and the only weakness I really see with the Enterprise is that unfortunately its a big amp – and for me personally the size causes issue with my desktop set-up.

    COMPARISON WITH OTHER AMPS

    For this series of tests, I'm simply going to compare the Enterprise with my LD MKIV (now sold), Audio GD NFB-12, and iDSD. I'm going to keep this section relatively short because it is very subjective, and a lot of this was taken from notes over the past year.

    Enterprise vs NFB-12
    The NFB-12 was my first real desktop DAC/amp, and although my daughter now monopolises it in her own PC set-up, I still to this day find its rich tonality and copious power to be brilliant. As far as form factor goes, the NFB-12 is roughly quarter the size of the Enterprise and does include a pretty good DAC (dual Wolfson). The NFB-12 has easily enough power for cans up to 600 ohm, and equally was able to drive my passive speakers extremely well. But in direct comparison, the solid state NFB-12 is actually warmer than the full tube Enterprise, and I actually find the Enterprise overall a cleaner and clearer listening experience. Both are excellent amps – well built, and with very good tonality. But for my tastes, the Enterprise is the more resolving of the two and I prefer its overall sonic signature – especially with the HD800S.


    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Enterprise and HD800SLD MKIV and HD800S

    Enterprise vs Little Dot MKIV
    The MKIV was my first desktop tube amp. It now lives in Australia with its new owner and if I hadn't had to sell it (to help pay for the HD800S), I'd still own and use it. Its another full tube (OTL) and much like the Enterprise, I found it to be quite linear, with enough tube warmth (and 2nd order harmonics) to make any higher impedance headphone shine. It didn't have quite the overall linearity in comparison with the Enterprise – being just a little on the warm side, but its advantage was in price, tube rolling options, and the smaller footprint. Overall I preferred the tonality off the Enterprise in direct comparison, but could easily live with both. I preferred the T1 with the LD, but the HD800S with the Enterprise.


    Enterprise vs iFi iDSD
    The iDSD is my current desktop amp. It has been the one constant in my set-up for the last 18 months, and to be honest I'm not intending changing it any time soon. It does have a DAC section as well so please take this comparison with a grain of salt. In terms of power output, both amps have the ability to power any and all of my headphones beyond listenable levels. The difference is that the iDSD will easily handle very low impedance loads with it's switchable amp modes, where the Enterprise is more limited. Both are very linear and very resolving, but once again the slightly warmer of the two is iDSD. I can lose my self in the music with both amps, and especially with the HD800S. In terms of overall sonics, I would hand it marginally to the Enterprise, because I've had more of those moments with it in the last 12 months where I've totally lost myself in the moment, and completely forgotten what I was doing. This may have contributed to the length of time I've taken with this review. The only other thing I can comment on is footprint. The iDSD is tiny – its the perfect desktop companion – so for my current needs its why I've stuck with it. The Enterprise is the amp that I will gravitate to when the kids eventually leave home, and I have the space for my own “den”. Two great amps – two different uses.


    VE ENTERPRISE – SUMMARY

    Firstly I do want to apologise to Lee for taking so long with this. He has been exceedingly patient, and I guess I've put this off for a while simply because its a difficult amp to review. I tend to like to shy away from the completely subjective, and yet with this review, that is all I could cover.

    The Enterprise is an all tube output high voltage amplifier which has exceptional build quality, and an industrial (aesthetically) but very clean design. Sonically it has a very clean, linear tonality, with an extremely pleasing tonality which adds to the music rather than masking it.

    Its a reasonably large and heavy amp, but would be perfect for a large shelf or rack system. Its one of the few pieces of audio gear I have absolutely fallen in love with but (at this time) won't be buying. My only issue (and it is a personal one) is the size. I have two teenagers, a house that feels too small at the best of times, and no dedicated listening area other than at my PC. If I could miniaturise this without affecting its sonic signature, I'd buy it tomorrow. Sadly for now I will have to bid it adieu, and send it back to Lee. But it is likely to be in my future at some stage when I have both more room and more time.

    Lee and KK wanted to build a statement amp – something which showcased their design skills. They achieved it and more. Its the best tube amp I've heard (and that includes some of the Woo amps - admittedly under Meet conditions). It goes back in the box next week, and I will be counting days until I get the chance to reacquaint myself again. 5 star – and eventual end game for me.

    Below are some of the other photos – click for larger images:


    [​IMG][​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    volly, Mshenay, B9Scrambler and 8 others like this.

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