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Leonarfd

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Technical driver
A balanced W tuning
Punchy and fast bass
Forward and clear midrange
Extended treble in good control
Gold plated design
Cable is good and light
Small ergonomic earbud shell
Easy to drive
Cons: Fixed cable
Could have had a touch more bass
Gold plated design - not everyone love this
DSCF5139 (Large).jpg


Venture Electronics Monk SM Gold

Disclaimer

I got the SMG for free in return for a review, I am free to say whatever I want.

All impressions are my own subjective thoughts after having used them for a good time. These are my thoughts at this moment, and as time moves I might change my opinion.
This is also a very subjective hobby where everything from experience, anatomy or age will affect what we hear. Also keep in mind that it is easy to use bold words when talking about differences, while it may be perceived as a small change for you.
While I can perceive something as natural sounding, I do believe we can never get a perfect performance similar to what is achieved live.

Ranking System:
1 Very bad or unlistenable
2 Listenable but not good
3 Average
4 Very good
5 Exceptional or having a special sauce

My rating system highly values what is musical for me, so my rating will always be a subjective opinion.

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About me and my gear used for the review

My audio preference is neutral with some warmth, I can also like forward midrange and treble if not excessive. I am a believer in having different tuned gears for different genres or moods instead of chasing the single perfect one.

Main music genres I listen to are Metal, Electronica, Jazz, Indy rock/metal, R&B, Pop. I am a music lover, and can also listen to almost all the genres out there.
I have been into music gear since the mid 90s, gifted some big speakers at an early age. Then moved more and more into headphones with the Koss Porta Pro and a Sony Discman.
I have also tried playing many instruments over the years from piano to sax and have a feel for what's a natural tone, but not the biggest patience in learning to play.

My current favorites in Headphones are ZMF Verite Open and Beyerdynamic T1 G2.
My current favorites in IEMs are AüR Audio Ascension and Campfire Audio Bonneville.
My current favorites in Earbuds are FranQL Caelum and Venture Electronics Zen 3.0.

Gear used in the main rig is Denafrips Ares 12th-1 DAC together with the Topping A90 Discrete headphone Amp. I also have a Schiit Lokius I can swap in if I want to do a little analogue EQ.

Portable main gear being HIBY R8 II, with some dongles like HIBY FC6 and Colorfly CDA-M1P.

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So what is the Venture Electronics Monk SM Gold

Venture Electronics or Veclan is an audio brand from China, they have many different audio products from earbuds and IEMs to dongles and DACs. Going back some years there was not much exposure outside of China, while in the mainland they had been very popular in the earbud market. Over the last years more and more people over the world have taken notice of the excellent earbuds and products.
If you search up the brand or the models, you will find the name Wild Lee. This is the CEO of Venture Electronics, a super great guy.

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But then onto the model itself, the Monk SM Gold. I will call it SMG from now on, this is their new earbud release.
This is an evolution from their popular Monk Slim Metal (SM), the new SMG is a higher end performer and has some nice upgrades.
It still has the premium small metal shell, possibly Venture Electronics best ergonomic shell. But the shell is now 23k gold plated, still having the same size and ergonomic.
Another upgrade is the new cable, this is their VITA copper cable. A very good and thin 6N copper cable, with a special double helix structure.
Then last is the driver itself being a new driver, this is a 32 ohm titanium plated driver.

For now this is a release only for sVIP of Venture Electronics, but this might change in the future.

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https://www.veclan.com/

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Timbre

First off, what is Timbre?
From the Wikipedia:
The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) Acoustical Terminology definition 12.09 of timbre describes it as "that attribute of auditory sensation which enables a listener to judge that two nonidentical sounds, similarly presented and having the same loudness and pitch, are dissimilar", adding, "Timbre depends primarily upon the frequency spectrum, although it also depends upon the sound pressure and the temporal characteristics of the sound"

First minutes of trying a new set of gear, what I always listen to is how natural and musical it sounds. Much of this goes down to how I perceive the Timbre.

Clean and resolving with solid weightiness, this is what I first said when asked about the SMG and still stand by that.

Going to use the ranges here in review:

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Details and soundstage

The SMG is on the resolving side of earbuds, both due to driver and tuning here. Almost cliche to say, but yeah it's more easy to pick up micro detail over many other earbuds I have.

Soundstage also is wide and deep, but not more spacious than the other earbuds I have with similar shell and clean tuning

Bass

Bass is tight and has a good body, extension is as good as most full bodied buds. Meaning you get decent mid bass but lack sub bass, but it still means you can get a full bodied musical playback on most acoustic music.

The texture is more on the punchy and clean side, the bass decay is agile and realistic.
Overall just a very resolving low end, good for both slower string instruments or faster drum kicks

Mids

Midrange is a little warm, both in the lowest midrange for instruments like guitars and drums. And also in the upper midrange where we get the presence region for vocals, cymbals and many instruments.

The midrange is more on the clean side, making both instruments and vocals be super clear and resolving. It Is also not overly analytical, so the music gets sterile.

The upper mids as I said is forward, riding right on the border of my tolerance.
In return brighter vocals and instruments have that extra soul and bite.

Treble

I find the treble well extended and open, with a good amount of airiness. The highs are forward and not dark by any means, for me the balance matches the energy of the bass and mids.
As reference for people having tried the earbud Blue Moon, this is a small step back from that in quantity and less sharp.

Really like the airyness of cymbals here, they shimmer with air without getting to piercing. The treble amount and clarity make it sound very resolving, swapping over to comparison buds later in the review always lacked some airyness after SMG.

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Synergies

I do prefer to use normal foams, as I find donut foam too bright on this model. The included foams are great for this, both the more dense and thin one.

For sources I have really loved pairing it with R2R DACs and a clean amp, or just using a more analog dongle like HIBY FC6 or Cayin RU7. And it does scale and sound fuller on good gear over using a cheap dongle.
Still doesn't mean you need this to enjoy it, and sound also great straight from the laptop.

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Comparisons

When evaluating the sets I use each of them over longer periods and also some shorter sessions swapping back and forth, it takes a long time and is not done in one sitting. The most critical comparison is done on my desktop setup that is highly resolving, with volume matching through a microphone to take away loudness variance.

The spider chart is slightly exaggerated on some points to show differences.

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Venture Electronics Zen 3.0

This is the third generation of the Zen model, it has a metal shell but the shell itself is larger and less ergonomic than SMG. The material is also different, with Zen having a liquid metal die cast shell in a gunmetal color.
The cable is also a higher end copper than the one used on SMG, twice the wire and different geometry on the cable.
There is also the impedance, this is much harder to drive properly than SMG. ZEN 3.0 has a 300 ohm LCP driver, and needs a lot more power. ZEN 3.0 can actually make many DAPs and dongles struggle, so desktop gear is advised. It also has a positive side since it has such high impedance, it is a perfect match for OTL amps(tubes).

The Zen 3.0 is more of a L shaped sound versus the W shaped SMG, for me both are some of the best buds in this price range and fulfill different sound signatures.

If we start with the technical side, the SMG is slightly more resolving than ZEN 3.0. Some of this is down to the set being tuned differently, but I also believe it's the driver itself. I hear more micro-detail in the music, it's not the largest difference but still clear when changing from one to the other after a longer session. Soundstage I give a small edge to SMG.

The bass is about as deep, the difference being that the SMG is more speedy with faster decay. They are both full bodied for an earbud, but the ZEN 3.0 does have some extra mid bass.

Midrange is different, the ZEN 3.0 has more low mids and less upper mids than SMG. So music like rock sounds more engaging and fun on ZEN, while jazz and classical is better on SMG. Both have midrange forward, but the SMG have more upper mids making the music more crisp and clear.
This also gives SMG more shine on female vocals and brighter instruments.

The highs follow a similar pattern as the upper mids, but don't have the same presence and clarity as SMG. Same for airyness, this does make SMG sound more open and spacious

https://www.veclan.com/engappliance_sel_one?eng_ApplianceVo.eac_id=88

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Venture Electronics Asura 3.0 FE

This has the exact same shell as SMG, with gunmetal color. Same cable also but a sleeve under the splitter, much better without as it's more light and not as stiff then.
Both are easy to drive, with Asura 3.0 FE just needing a little more juice than SMG.
This is a 150 ohm driver, unsure about material but it sounds like a softer material than SMG titanium driver.

It's quite clear that the Asura 3.0 FE is a more soft sounding bud with less clarity and resolution than SMG, it's more a neutral balanced tonality versus the W shaped more energetic SMG. This is also more analogue versus the clean and clear SMG.

This is technically a step below ZEN 3.0 so also a step under SMG, it's still very decent for its asking price of $150. This also goes for soundstage and imaging, just remember the differences isn't huge. I

Bass is a little looser and not as deep as SMG, but still has a good body to make music full sounding for an earbud. This model has been a recommendation by me to many who want an analogue and natural sounding earbud with decent bass, still stand by this assessment.

The midrange is balanced on Asura, a good balance between lower midrange and upper.
About the same amount of low mids as SMG but sound less open and clear, a little dampened perhaps.
But is also more careful and has less bite than SMG, making the upper range of piano seem a little muted and same for bright vocals.
Playing music with female singers that have some sibilance is better controlled on the SMG than ASURA, SMG have actually better control even if it's pushed more forward and sound less sibilant.

Treble is quite open but not the most airy and clean, compared to SMG sounding a little darker. This is maybe the weakest part of Asura 3.0 FE, as it could have had more treble to make it more open and airy.

https://www.veclan.com/engappliance_sel_one?eng_ApplianceVo.eac_id=64

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Venture Electronics Monk Slim Metal

This is an entry level earbud, also where the SMG is coming from. I have problems understanding why as they are in different leagues both in tuning and quality of sound.

SM is also a 32 ohm driver, same shell as SMG but chrome metal. The cable is also more cheap and SPC instead copper, same for the hardware being lower quality.

This is a bright and thinner sounding earbud, very different from SMG.

This is quite a technical and resolving earbud, specially when looking at the price. Some of it since the driver is quite agile, but also due to the tuning. But the SMG has more microdetail and is a good step up looking at resolution, SM can seem very detailed due to the brightness but fall short of other models like ZEN 3.0 and Asura 3.0 FE. Soundstage is a typical earbud in size, nothing special but also not bad.

The bass is quite weak and doesn't reach as low, reminding me more of how I remember earbuds were before I tried some good ones with a fuller low end. The bass that is there is sort of hollow and dont have the best punch, making SMG sound like a basshead earbud in comparison.

Mids are also quite thin on some instruments like guitar or even parts of the piano, the upper mids are opposite and can be a little shrill and shouty. Treble is bright and forward, but doesn't sound very refined after having listened to better earbuds.

It's not fair to compare SM against SMG as they are in different leagues.

https://www.veclan.com/engappliance_sel_one?eng_ApplianceVo.eac_id=58

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Music

When comparing Venture Electronics SMG to other sets I have used the albums below and more.

There is also a link to a playlist consisting of tracks I like to use for testing audio gear:

https://tidal.com/browse/playlist/ad7bbfa3-2067-4235-b2ed-f5a3fb53ff28

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https://tidal.com/browse/album/335855782?u

Asterisms - Sean Ono Lennon and more

Latest Sean Ono Lennon album, a really nice album that mixes jazz, rock and electronica.

This is music I love to use earbuds for, the production and quality is excellent and make good use of SMG technical side.

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https://tidal.com/browse/album/326720701?u

Take On Jazz - Laslo

This is quite an experimental downtempo jazz album, sort of electronic dub style with deep bass notes and the more traditional drum style.

The bass is quite boosted on the album, so even without sub bass the SMG sound surprisingly bassy and full. In a way the balance is better here than on my IEMs for music like this.


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https://tidal.com/browse/album/327270079?u

Passacaglia - Adam Baldych & Leszek Mozdzer

Nice duo from Poland playing the Violin and Grand Piano, or he actually plays two grand pianos at same time tuned differently.

I have really nothing to complain about with SMG here, the more mellow style of violin is convincing and full. And his more high pitched playing plays with authority and clarity, same for the pizzicato.

Grand Piano also sounds grand as it should from both the low keys to the brighter keys, convincing full sound.

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https://tidal.com/browse/album/356732598?u

Fearless Movement - Kamasi Washington

This is the latest album from Kamasi, he is an American jazz musician. Tenor sax is his instrument, he is an excellent player and has many great albums.

This is his fifth studio album, quite different from his previous jazz albums. Much more accessible with fusion from other genres, also many great guest musicians.

SMG shines with jazz as I also mentioned in the Søren Bebe Trio album, the same happens here.

Some of the tracks make good use of the extended lows on SMG, and the rest is just resolving and engaging. It has a very realistic and natural playback of the instruments and vocals.

On the more intense parts of the sax it's perfectly controlled without being sibilant or fatiguing for me.

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https://tidal.com/browse/album/312876807?u

KNOWER FOREVER - KNOWER

Their fifth studio album, and their best one imo. Quite special and not what you expect, Bandcamp have it labeled as many things:
pop, dubstep, electronic, funk, house and jazz.

It's hard to explain it all, but it's entertaining and nice to listen to. SMG makes good use of the fast and punchy driver, the speedy bass parts are really full and engaging. I also love how separated everything is during even the fastest passages.

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https://tidal.com/browse/album/340220122?u

Messages From Afar: Second Nature - Karfagen, Antony Kalugin

Symphonic prog rock, released this year and is a wonderful album with the usual style of Karfagen with nice synth parts by Anthony.

Since this is more of a relaxed style of prog the SMG never gets too bright, the amount of warmth is also decent. I love SMG on stuff like this, even if I am a basshead and love IEMs for more bass on rock. You also get such clear and nuanced sound here, can hear every guitar line and flaw being played, and the drums sound punchy and engaging with crisp cymbals being airy.

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https://tidal.com/browse/album/105278786?u

Lunar Fall - Suldusk

One of my favorite discoveries within music this year is Suldusk, this is her first full album from some years back in 2019.
This is atmospheric black metal with also many other genres mixed in, she has a dreamlike voice in harmony with the instruments and dark folkish vibe.

For metal I prefer to use a set like Zen SU or FranQL Caelum, but since this album is much more relaxed overall the SMG does it also good. It has a good mix of clarity and fullness of sound, when using the sets above I do get more full warm and mellow sound but lack some bite versus the SMG.

But the more intense parts are also slightly more bright than what I prefer, so a clarity trade-off versus using the more mellow warm buds.

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https://tidal.com/browse/album/363235459?u

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT - Billie Eilish

Latest album from Billie Eilish, just came out.

She has a beautiful and seductive voice, and SMG shines with female vocals. It captures everything I want when listening to female singers without sounding harsh or sibilant, just a clear and nuanced presentation.

And since it's Billie Eilish it's plenty of bass, so the low end punch is engaging and fun with SMG. The track CHIHIRO sounds so full sounding and engaging, very fun on SMG.

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Conclusion

If you read through my review it's easy to see I am very impressed by the Venture Electronics SMG, they have made an earbud that challenges even some of their own flagship models. The technicalities and tuning is excellent, providing you a high end earbud. The w shaped tuning is tastefully done, and delivers a balanced and energetic sound.

The SMG has a quality shell in metal with gold plating that's also small, the cable is also of good quality and both look nice and are light. The shell does make many other earbuds seem cheap in comparison.

For now this model is only for sVIP members of Venture Electronics, everyone can become this by ordering one of the mid tier stuff they have. But as I understand it might become available for non sVIP users also after some time.

So if your sVIP and want one of their best buds, I truly recommend you to buy this one.

By my subjective evaluation this gets a solid 4.5 stars.

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Last edited:
piphil
piphil
A Wonderful Review, Many Thanks for such a Job !!!
My SMG is on the road to be connected to R2R :)
ttorbic
ttorbic

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