Pros: Great SQ, custom earbuds shell, good build quality
Cons: High impedance requires a powerful source to shine
While probably best known for their budget offering as the Monk series of earbuds, VE has always maintain a strong lineup of flagship earbuds as well, from the original Zen, Zen 2.0 to the current Sun DICE – it is the latter that we will be looking here.
For almost $300, Sun Dice is definitely in the more expensive tier of the earbuds market (though far from being the most expensive, which can double what Sun DICE costs. There are even two other earbuds models in VE lineup that are more expensive than Sun DICE, which are the custom ordered Sun Copper and ZEN SU). As far as overall build quality goes, it is good and solid though perhaps not quite as eye catching and well finished as flagships from other brands. With Sun DICE, VE has moved away from using the more generic MX500 shell in the Zen series to adopting a new design. While it is always commendable for any earbuds maker to use their own earbuds design, it is noted that the honk shaped housing does protrude a bit more - coupled with 4 wires braided cable, the Sun DICE might not be quite as secured in the ears when compared to a normal MX500 shell. Of course, it also depends on the shape of your ears as well. I can actually get a decently good and secured fit with Sun DICE as long as I stays mostly stationary (*light movement is also okay, but definitely not for sport). Noticing the potential fitting issue, VE also includes some ear clips that will fit on the housing and provide a much more secured fit, though I don’t really need them myself. On a second thought, perhaps those ‘shark fin’ adapter could improve fit as well.
VE didn’t release any real spec on the Sun DICE. A quick multimeter measurement shows that its resistance is around 180 Ohm, and likely the impedance won’t be too far off either. As a result, Sun DICE is not particularly easy to drive – while you can get it to be decently loud with most decent source, it will truly shine when driven with a fairly powerful amp – in my case, it is the iFi Audio Micro iDSD in normal mode (which can pump out almost 1900mW into a 16 Ohm load) that does the trick. A lesser source tends to make Sun DICE less edgy and dynamic. Also, I listened to the Sun DICE without any foam – VE does supply a good selection of foam with their earbuds, but they also usually tune their earbud to be used without foam and so that’s how I’ll listen.
So how does a properly driven Sun DICE sound like? Well, if you have heard the VE Zen 2.0 (or the ZOE) before, then the Sun DICE should be fairly familiar – as it carries the same smooth, warm, rich, relaxed yet engaging house sound that VE has on all its upper tier models – though Sun Dice is more like Zen 2.0 turned up to eleven. It has a much harder hitting low end, almost twice as wide a soundstage and ever slightly better extended / airier treble. Overall, it retains the classic VE house sound but manages to improve on all aspect, making it a grander sounding Zen 2.0 that is most versatile to different music genre than ever (though to be honest, I like my Classical with a little more upper edge).
p/s: Someone asked me about how the Sun DICE compared to VE original Zen (Zen 1.0) as the latter has a more engaging / energetic presentation which they prefer over the smoother sounding Zen 2.0. In comparison, Zen 2.0 is only a small step up from Zen 1.0 technically while Sun DICE is a more significant upgrade from Zen 2.0. The improvement (*better extended / airier treble, big soundstage and huge bass kick) that makes Sun DICE a more versatile sound also gives it a character that is more or less better balanced between the presentation of Zen 1.0 and 2.0. In another word, it has the best blend of the two. So regardless of whether you are looking for upgrade over Zen 1.0 or 2.0, Sun DICE should give you well-covered.
Going from Zen 2.0 to Sun DICE is almost doubling the price, so does it double the performance? That will be hard to say as it is not easy to truly quantify audio performance with a number. But the improvement from Zen 2.0 to Sun DICE is not subtle by any mean, allowing VE to still compete with all the newer flagship earbuds from other brands. Anyone who enjoy the Zen 2.0 or VE house sound in general will definitely love the Sun DICE – of course, the prerequisite is that you do need a good source to drive it well. Something like a pig-tail style USB DAC that meant for smartphone will not make the cut. Give it a desktop level source and you will be rewarded.