Venture Electronics (VE) Monk+/Monk Plus

mervindc146

New Head-Fier
The Monk, The Myth, The Legend
Pros: + Smooth midrange, clean tonality over transparency (subject to preference)
+ Decent clarity on vocals
+ Crisp treble presentation, good decay
+ Decent sparkle and micro-detail retrieval
+ Good layering & separation
+ Good horizontal panning, present depth and headroom
+ Shell build quality is unique for the price
+ Response to equalization
+ Brought the niche earbuds market back
+ Entry-level price
Cons: - Rolled-off sub bass, as other earbuds
- Underwhelming bass, quick decay
- Low bass quantity, mediocre punch
- Mid-bass texture almost missing
- Lacking depth/note weight for lows
- Midrange lost some transparency
- Female vocals might sound cold, male lacks thickness and warmth
- Nasal vocals on some tracks
- Initial attack on percussive instruments lacking
- "Safe" presence region transition, dull
- Needs more treble extension
- Neutral tonality but dry
Sound Signature: Midcentric with accented highs. Can pass as neutral.

Sound Quality: 3/5
Total Score: 3.5/5

Disclaimer: I bought VE Monk Plus from a Venture Electronics store in Shopee PH. This will be as honest a review as it can get. All you can read here will be my own opinion, subject to different factors such as gear used, music, and what my own ears perceive. I also only write reviews after thoroughly listening to it for a week or more rather than just a day; both casually and critically with reference tracks I'm personally familiar with listed below. Please be respectful towards the comments section. For these, I used standard foams and none. With all that on the side, let's talk VE Monk Plus.

Additional disclaimer: These VE Monk Plus (Smoke Grey) was modded by CLMY Audio and intentionally done to future-proof them and avoid cable problems. Regardless, I have already listened to this pair with the original TPE cables, there's no audible difference to my ears; and if there is, it is so miniscule that I can only attribute them to "confirmation bias". This review is mine and mine alone. It is given freely, without outside influence or compensation. It is the reader's sole right to either believe or dismiss it. It is also very possible for opinions to change over a certain period of time.

Price: $5/₱250

Store Links:

Shopee PH: https://shopee.ph/product/477211504/9173541238?smtt=0.84075519-1634683889.9
VE Website: https://www.veclan.com/engappliance_sel_one?eng_ApplianceVo.eac_id=4
Aliexpress: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32417311324.html
CLMY MMCX Mod Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CLMYaudio

Specifications:

Impedance: 64Ω
Earphone sensitivity: 116dB/mW
Frequency range: 20-20000Hz
Interface: 3.5mm
Cable Length: 1.2m
Cable: Rubber cord
MMCX: Gold-plated by CLMY Audio
Plugs: Straight Plug SE termination

Gear used:
(Hiby Music) Mi 9T Pro (naked)/Mi 9T Pro > Tempotec Sonata HD Pro w/ 2 Vrms active. (Foobar2000) Desktop (naked) > Avani/ Desktop > Shanling Q1 DAC mode. LG V30 (naked). Shanling Q1 (naked)

Reference Music:
Isle Unto Thyself - Hawaii: Part II (FLAC 16 bit)
Dream Eyes - Mine, Kosuke Quintet (DSD 128)
Work 1 - Mine, Kosuke Quintet (DSD 128)
Giorgo by Moroder - Daft Punk (DSD256)
Making of a Cyborg - Kenji Kawai (FLAC 24bit)
Evolution Orange - Earth, Wind & Fire (FLAC 24bit)
Charlie Wasn't Afraid - Day Din (FLAC 16bit)
Uchiage Hanabi - DAOKO x Kenshi Yonezu (FLAC 24bit)
Upstairs - Psapp (FLAC 16bit)
Grand Escape - RADWIMPS ft. Toko Miura (FLAC 24bit)
Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach - Gorillaz (FLAC 16bit)
Hotel California - The Eagles (WAV 32bit)
Black Rainbows - Hawaii: Part II (FLAC 16bit)
Metropolis Part 1 - Dream Theatre (FLAC 16bit)

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Introduction:
Before I dived into the so-called earbuds rabbit hole, I've done my fair amount of research with "best budget earbuds" and the VE Monk Plus has been a staple to some, if not most of earbud collectors. As time goes on, my curiousity got the best of me and purchased them after my first #lokal earbuds purchase. I got a couple of days to listen to them and my "out of the box" experience made me like them a lot. A few days after I got them, my girlfriend needed a pair of buds to listen to while commuting and so my Monks were sacrificed for that purpose. A month has passed, and I decided to get them again along with the famous budget dongle: Avani. I asked a local modder, CLMY Audio to future-proof them with MMCX and when they arrived, I got to listen to these legendary earbuds once again. They're still the same but my impressions were slightly different from way back. No, they still sound the same, and yes I did an A B test for a day, so what happened? Let's discuss these legendary $5 earbuds for a bit before we get to the conclusions.

Build:
Transparent plastic mx500 shells. They are painted in opaque gray which is "smoke grey" as Venture Electronics calls it. Build is quite nice, especially considering the price point. On grip, they are smooth and a fingerprint magnet, but they're easily wiped. VE Logo along with "Monk" branding can be seen at the stem. Each termination has L & R markings painted in white; they're quite hard to discern on low light. Frankly I like the shell build, it's got looks considering the retail price of $5.

Cables are protected by rubber, easy to handle but still retains kinks. They can be laid down on a flat surface if you do the "over and under" wrap though might fight back from time to time. I asked CLMY Audio to mod my VE Monk Plus with gold-plated MMCX for future proofing (plus it looks way better).

Comfort:
Some mx500 shells trigger my dermatitis or hurt my conch after hours of listening, and these are one of them. Despite being lightweight, when dressed with standard foams, they irritate my upper conch; making it uncomfortable after extended use. Still your mileage may vary.

Isolation:
These are earbuds, don't expect too much.

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Lows:
Monk Plus's weakest frequency. To my ears, they are thin rather than lean. I tried it with multiple sources, even with the coveted VE "synergy-champion" Avani, and still, it did not do justice for lack of texture the Plus exhibits. Quantity is decent, with average to mediocre punch. As most earbuds, sub bass is rolled-off which makes rumble almost null. Listening to Charlie Wasn't Afraid by Day Din, I wanted more as synths barely achieve depth. Decay is quick, I can only describe them as "starting without the intention of finishing". Making of Cyborg by Kenji Kawai feels incomplete, as mid bass rolls-off right after the first thump. Though switching to Gorillaz's Superfast Jellyfish makes lows a little bit more appealing, due to the track's tight bass display. Regardless, Dubstep and Electro genres might sound less than appealing with Monk Plus's Smoke Grey variation.

Midrange:
Smooth and clean. Venture Electronics captures a pleasing midrange timbre but fails to reach a cohesive lower treble transition. Uchiage Hanabi by DAOKO x Kenshi Yonezu, Kenshi's voice sounds average, with decent thickness albeit lacking but DAOKO's voice sounds cold and somewhat hollow. Listening to Isle Unto Thyself by Hawaii: Part II backed this up, as the woman's timbre during her opening symphony sound oddly nasal. Such characteristics can only be explained by an uneven upper midrange (1k-4khz) and an ascent to presence region (4k-6khz). If you keep on reading reviews proclaiming that Monk Plus has "great" vocals, sure they can compete, but just because they present intimacy and is positioned forward doesn't mean it's "excellent".

Treble:
The greatest strenght of VE Monk Plus and is one of the reasons why it rose to fame back in 2015. It has crisp treble presentation, a good decay that makes indie rock a pleasure to listen to. Hotel California by the Eagles sounds quite pleasant, guitar bites are well portrayed with good definition. They're micro-detail capable, and they do it really well considering the price. Despite the praise, you can say that Monk Plus has a really "safe" tuning. Treble is tuned to be quite flat, to my ears; they sound dry, as percussive instruments lack initial attack. Treble transients are snappy but may sound dull. A good example should be Dream Eyes by Mine, Kosuke Quintet; VE Monk Plus showcases good saxophone & guitar bites with snappy hi-hats/clappers, but the follow-up isn't just there. Though I'll agree to those who claimed that Monk Plus is airy (decent slow-off on 10k-20khz), I desire more treble extension to compensate for that dry tonality.

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Soundstage:
Quick Note: Soundstage is a highly subjective spectrum of audio. Different factors such as how the track was recorded or if it was properly mastered, plays a crucial role in identifying soundstage. Please take everything with a grain of ajinomoto seasoning.

Soundstage is above average. Using On The Run by Pink Floyd as reference as well as Upstairs by PSAPP, horizontal imaging is on point and depth is present. It needs more extension with depth to be considered spatial, but they do the job well. Vertical imaging is also present but not immersive. This is one of VE Monk Plus's strength, a good air region roll-off without costing definition or clarity.

Layering and Separation:
For $5, VE Monk Plus Smoke Grey has better separation than most chi-fi in the entry-level market. This is due to the fact that treble roll-off was controlled and clarity wasn't blunted. You can clearly identify which is which and it does quite decent on busy tracks such as Metropolis Part 1 by Dream Theatre. Still, layering suffers when multiple air and string instruments were played, but for the price? they're pretty good.

Comparisons:
Quick disclaimer: Comparisons are made with my own preference and bias, solely based on experience. My ears are my own. Whether you take this as a compliment, a constructive criticism or dismiss it entirely is up to you.

Vido Red: Winner (VE Monk Plus) The good thing despite VE Monk Plus's dry tonality is that their treble made sure that there's no congestion and there should be sufficient technicalities. Those things are what I don't like with Vidos. They have better punch on lows, a livelier presentation but that's about it. Side by side, I'd pick Vido over VE Monk Plus just because Vido sounds and feels like a beater buds. Vido's bloated lows is its downfall, masking lower midrange notes whilst Monk Plus has cleaner frequencies all throughout. I'd go for Monk Plus on this one.

Faaeal Iris Ancestor: Winner (Faeeal Iris Ancestor) Warm and soothing, the Faaeal Iris Ancestor gets the crown for this match because of three things: tonality, lows and price. The Ancestors have smoothened midrange, clean with proper weight especially on male vocals. Monk Plus's cold timbre made the Iris a clear winner in terms of mids. Iris also creates better bass presentation with punchy, tight, and full-bodied lows. The Monk Plus wins on technicalities, as the Ancestors have weaker percussive transients thought it's not without difficulties. If you'd ask me what I'd listen to more? Faaeal Iris Ancestor would be my pick between the two.

Tingo TC200 Old: Winner (Tingo TC200 Old) Same price, same strengths. VE Monk Plus proves to be a challenger for the $5 category due to its airy soundstage, good imaging & separation plus the crisp hi-hats and cymbal strikes. The TC200 aren't slouches either as they show the same pros as the Monks but arguably better. TC200 despite sibilant to some, does a far better upper midrange to lower treble transition than Monk Plus. Articulate with natural timbre, the TC200 upgrades our challenger's cold mids to a decent, analytical presentation. Our contender has better soundstage as well, it was originally one of the airiest earbuds in my collection until some #lokal earbuds surpassed them. They take home the belt for this match.

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Conclusions:
These $5 legendary earbuds had become a staple to earbud collectors and audiophiles worldwide. They gained their legendary status for showcasing that price does not define sound. They were hyped for years and are still considered to be one of the greatest even to this day. Somebody told me that these are the earbuds to beat, but I have to disagree. I'd say that they are indeed the earbuds to beat back in 2015 to 2017 but right now? no they're not. As the years go on, more and more earbuds come pouring in at the budget price range. A lot of unknown brands posed a challenge and shook the entry-level market, names like Faaeal, Tingo, Qianyun, K's and so on surfaced from nowhere and garnered a name for themselves. Do I still recommend them? If you are taking your first dip into the earbuds world, VE Monk Plus is a really good first purchase that sounds good for the price and will not break your bank. However, if you have more than 40+ earbuds in your collection or had auditioned way more than your fingers and toes could count, I'd say VE Monk is nothing exceptional.
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XenatR

Head-Fier
Pros: price, soundstage, sound quality and gaming immersion after eq
Cons: imaging, bass
ve monk plus.jpg


I tuned mine this way for listening to classical music and it has made them come alive. Absolutely spectacular.
The difference eq makes for gaming is sensational. I hopped into a game of Battlefield 3, applied the above eq and just listened for a moment in awe of the immersion they created. imaging could be better, especially depth (there is none really to speak of), however what can you expect given the crazy low price!
I think they may even better better than my TIN T2 (at 5 times the price) and better in some respects (soundstage and gaming immersion) than my Audio Technica A900!
edit: I also purchased '12 Pair (24 pieces) Foam Earpad Replacement Sponge Covers for Earbuds/Earplugs/Earphone (Grey) ' for them which helped their comfort!
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flexy321
flexy321
This is so strange. I tried your EQ settings with my Monks, no way on Earth. What is up with that peak at 3K? I can only explain this with your Monks must be damaged, or your ears :) For me this results in a screeching, unbearable sound.

I also gave the EQ settings from here https://github.com/jaakkopasanen/AutoEq
a shot. There are some for the monk. These were "ok", but subjectively not making the sound "better".

I am otherwise using the Monks for years with a simple "increase bass, increase trebles" curve which work quite well and gives really good sound. Just tying to understand how you came up with your strange EQ there.

Regards, G.
I
iemhater
@flexy321 I have a similar EQ for my monks though I don't use values so extreme like his. I only go -6 at 80hz, +6 at 20hz (which does practically nothing since the monks to fall off hard at sub bass like most buds) and +4 for the 4 khz. I came from using an mx365 which has a flat frequency response.

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The monks sounded very boomy to me right out of the box, I think VE increased the bass to suit bass heads which many "mainstream" audio products do like Beats. I agree 100% the imaging in these buds are terrible, soundstage is terrible to me too.

krass76

New Head-Fier
Pros: value
looks
punch
sound after EQ
Cons: very boxy stock sound
needs dramatic EQ
lack of detail in high frequencies
price to performance: amazing
looks: the smoked (semi-transparent) MX500 stock shell they use is very nice, feels sturdy
cable: not the highest quality, but it will do
To note: I listened with the black foams.
sound: I advocate the use of EQ!
Since I like a linear / neutral frequency response, I found these very boxy (way too much 100-250Hz), the sub-frequencies are hidden, the highs and high mids are recessed and low and high mids have some irregularities.
So I played around with EQ looking at innerfidelity's and my own measurements, just listening to music.
You could achieve similar sound with less bands but it's what I used.
Together with the HRTF plugin I use (hear) this EQing makes them very useable, but without HRTF it might make them too bright so you'll have to experiment.
Also, the punch / transient response, once EQ'd, is very, very nice!
The thing I seemingly can't get out of these is detail in the high frequencies. If I push the highs beyond balance, they start to sound tiring. But eh, what even can you expect more out of these?

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nofacemonster

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Amazing sound for the price
Best sounding Dynamic earbuds i tried
Retro styling takes me back to walkman days
Almost everything in threw at them sounded amazing
Cons: No cons, just wish they were IEM so i could wear them for hours and hours.
I was on a search to find a good sounding cheap dynamic headphones for my collection. I tried KZ ZS3 and didn't like it because when i wear them it gets all muffled and can't fix that problem. I tried two pairs and second pair also didn't sound good as they say about them on the reviews. Then couple of weeks back i read about MONK PLUS and decided to order them off the eBay. Today i received them and i am listening to them while i type this review. It sounds amazing on everything i throw at them with my ultra cheap setup. My search for cheap perfect sounding dynamic headphones ends here.

If you're looking for similar set of headphones then look no further, buy a pair of VE MONK PLUS and you'll see what i am talking about here. I really wish they were IEM so i would have been much comfortable to wear.

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Unlike many of you i am not a audiophile, just a cheap little enthusiast in music and how they sound. I only have a very cheap system powered by a laptop, A matisse clone tube preamp with russian tubes and a super cheap class D headphone amplifier which i bought over eBay. I can imagine how they might sound in a decent system and how good their other highest end tier products will sound on good dacs and amps etc.
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nofacemonster
nofacemonster
(2021/3/26) I found my own review while listening to same monk plus pair hooked up to a "Oppo A53" phone. "Eddie higgins - sweet lorraine" album sounds wonderful in this simple set up. My own review showed how far i came during last couple of years.

Fx audio Dac-x6 + little dot mk2 with mullard tubes powering HD-6XX.

Not BIG but BIG enough for me. I still find monk plus somewhat amazing.

Phongluukhachpk

New Head-Fier
Pros: Good sound stage, impact bass, bass speed, good vocal with foam
Cons: Hurt my ear for long time using
I just received it yesterday, after one week waiting. It's amazing sound at this price. Happy to have this.

Accessories – 10/10 with 4 pairs of foam.
Design – 10/10 Very solid, feel like unbreakable.
Bass – 7/10 Impact bass and may improve over the time using
Treble –7 /10 No hiss til now.

Value – 11/10 Very very good vs the price
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joshuadapitan

New Head-Fier
Pros: Balanced sound. Smooth presentation. Cable is not so much tangly.
Cons: Openness, Highs may get shrieky at times, Foams sometimes are scratchy to my ears, bass is heard more than felt.
I have purchased the Monk plus because of
a.) The hype
b.) Nostalgia on earbuds.

Note: I am reviewing the Espresso Edition monks

Build:
I respect the build of these CHi-Fi(Cheap HiFi or Chinese HiFi, pick your poison) earbuds. The cable is not so much tangly, but they still know how to do kinks. The Earbud shells feels like they are good enough as far as the build(Except being stepped on, the shells are still plastic). The weakest link would be the earbud foams which may get holey over time, and my Symmetry OCD makes me bother on the holey earbud foams, making me resort to buy earbud foams. No regrets on that though because they changed tonality.

Sound:
To be honest, I understand why these earbuds are being hyped. They have a good frequency response and they have a nice Transient Response as well. Soundstage can be sometimes wide on some recordings, Like real wide for such an earbud. Imaging is ok, but they are a little vague on the imaging. No frequency bleeds over the other. and the vocals are well presented well with a touch of airiness. On my case, the subbass is heard but not felt, which is a turn-off to some bassheads, but for me, it just does fine. The bass still has punch, but sometimes it also just sounds artificial. One thing is for sure, the people will respect the sound of these.

At one time, my parents are quite the suspective on my audio gear purchases, like my FiiO K1 USB DAC/Amp and AudioQuest Jitterbug, and recently I received these monk plus, they are quite curious, they tested the monks on my phone, and they have been enlightened on why I am willing to spend cash on Audio Gear because these monks has shown the way (My father is still bothered on why I should be still be buying Amps, especially he found the Monks to be already sounding amazing on just a phone).

I modded my monks by replacing the earfoams from a japan store out of curiosity and it was worth it, The foamies are quite smaller than the monks, but they would fit just fine.

With the replacement earbud foams, The bass have a gentler presentation compared to the stock earbud foams. but it has now a more proper articulation where the bass guitar sound guitar sounds like bass guitar(I am a bassist so I know) and it doesn't bleed on the mids much. Mids become a little less forward with the replacement foam, though it still has that fullness.The treble is quite rolled off, where they become just borderline screechy, because the stock earbud foams would still screech on strident music. The replacement foam also affects the imaging for the better. This mod would sacrifice the sound area covered by the earbuds where the earbuds just sound like headphones. But I have a full sized headphone so it doesn't quite matter for me.

They do excel in Bossa, Jazz, Rock, Classical, Metal, and the best genre to play with this is live concert music. The soundstage is so wide for an earbud. You may have reservations for the monks if you listen to more modern stuff where you want the meaty, catchy sound and vibrations, go for IEMs.

Comfort:

Comfort wise, they are comfortable, though I feel the heavyness of the earbuds on my ears. The foams quite vary in comfort at some point, some are quite scratchy in my ears when i twist to fit the eartips so you really have some need to find the perfect foam(Good thing there are 4 foams per each color, and there are two colors, so a total of 8 foamies to find your best comfy foamy. P.S. I use foams in same color because Symmetry OCD won't allow).

Sound Isolation and Leakage:

The foam thickness affects the sound isolation of these earbuds, Using thick foams, and cranking the volume, you are well isolated enough. Sound leakage, well, this is a turn off if you watch "those videos" because it basically leaks sound(which helps in soundstage and imaging so if you are alone, and you want that positional audio in movies, especially in "those movies", why not).

Comparison:
If there is something I will compare against, I will compare it to my Audio-Technica ATH-CLR100(w/modded eartips because stock eartips are bad on those). It may be unfair to compare an Earbud to an IEM but here is the thing, They both have the ability to present most of the frequencies smoothly, though the ATH-CLR100 has quite the less forward midrange, fast decay of vocals and a more snappy presentation on the bass and a stronger subbass(because bass is good when really felt). The ATH-CLR100 is quite the more forgiving on bad recordings, but a good recording is quite better to be heard on the monks.
Soundstage is better on the monks, but the imaging is more clear with the ATH-CLR100.

Conclusion:
They are a good Starter HiFi or CHiFi (because cheap $5, and again, pick your poison on your definition of CHiFi) device. If you are the someone who is on Audio Quality yet scared on Spending lots. Start with these. These CHiFI things are scary in the audio industry because they have a good price to performance ratio that the market will surely become real competitive because the CHiFi industry (FiiO, HiFiMan, SMSL, Superlux and of course the maker of these Monk Plus, Venture Electronics) is moving forward to better build and better sound (I suddenly realized I am also hyping as well). To be honest, this has almost become my best Audio Device, that it competes with my ATH-CLR100 on who will become my daily driver. It is just one order from your local shop or online store, and you might find these your end game for portable audio, again, portable audio. The monks are good just as they are.

Subjective Side notes:
At last, something that is good sounding as is. I have modded my ATH-CLR100 and Superlux HD661, and for the very first time ever, an Audio Device where I don't have to do Modding(to correct the sound signature(because DSP Correction/Equalization is just applied on one source so I still find modding to be a better way to change the sound signature)).

^I quite take it back. I still mod them with replacement ear foams to have that balanced tonality. I still do find it needs some work on earbud foamies and it could be better.

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SOULSIK

Member of the Trade: Audio Excellence
Pros: sound stage, detailed, great sound
Cons: sound isolation but these are earbuds
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INTRODUCTION
LET’S START OFF BY SAYING THAT WHAT I AM ABOUT REVIEW IS NOT HEADPHONES BUT DESTROYS MANY HEADPHONES IN SOUND QUALITY.
Hey bob have you tried that headphone? Hey bob have you tried that IEM? Hey bob have you tried those speakers? Hey bob have you tried those EARBUDS? Wait earbuds? Are earbuds even part of high quality audio experience?
After reviewing the MONK PLUS by venture electronics, I can without hesitation tell you two things:
1.       YES, earbuds is part of high quality audio experience
2.       I have learned a lot of valuable lessons through this product
READ ON TO FIND OUT WHAT I MEAN…….
WE invest in HEADPHONES & SPEAKERS & IEMS. WHY? Why not just ONE. That is because the way these products produce sound is different and although they will never be “PERFECT” Us audio maniacs always strive for it. And who said earbuds cannot be as good as headphones or speakers or IEMS? Of course, the way they sound and usage for it will be different as it is with everything else BUT EARBUDS are equal in standing as to making “GREAT SOUNDS”
 
DISCLAIMER
I am a hobbyist and bought these myself to review and add to my collection
 
ABOUT VENTURE ELECTRONICS
This company does something that no other company has ever done and that is to admit that perfection may not be feasible. This is true in many cases but not many companies come out and say it. This company is honest from the root. They also carry the same mindset as us AUDIO-MANIACS “We will never stop striving for perfection.” They do 3 things to strive for perfection:
1.       They want to break the notion of EXPENSIVE = BETTER SOUND. They strive to make great sounding products for best value possible
2.       Creating products that are inexpensive but does not sacrifice build or sound quality
3.       Creating positive and honest relationship with their costumers and fans by creating products that they themselves would be proud to use
With that being said, VE’s presence in the HI-end audio does not fall behind. VE is the first to introduce hi-end earbuds, which is priced for 358usd with premium cardas cable and the first in the world to introduce true balanced portable amp with full spec desktop connector. which is the ra2.0b.
 
Does this sound like a great company to you? I am normally not impressed with company descriptions but I was inspired by how they kept it so REAL, HONEST, and most importantly shared their PLANS & how they will achieve it with us. 
 
PRODUCT DESCRIPTION
The VE MONK PLUS was launched for sale in 2015. It was regarded as the best price for performance sound quality that will ever exist in history. It was created by a talented and ambitious engineer KK with the aim of detail and enriched sound into an earbud.
TYPE: DYNAMIC Earbuds
Termination: 3.5mm (or options for TRRS 3.5mm & 2.5mm)
Sensitivity: 116dB (1mW)
Frequency Response Range: 20 – 20000Hz
Cable Length: 1.2m
Resistance: 64 Ohms
 
WHERE DO I BUY IT?
You can buy it directly from their website: https://www.veclan.com
Or on their aliexpress page: https://www.aliexpress.com/supplier-fm/wholesale-products/232029927-productlist.html
 
BUILD QUALITY
Accessories: This depends on whether you got an ex-pack or not but here we will talk JUST about the accessories that comes with 5 dollar earbuds. With the coffee colored Monk Plus, I got 2 coffee colored & 2 Black covers. These covers go over your earphones and although I felt like they were for more comfort than for sound, they did seem to calm down the highs a little bit for longer comfortable listening session without getting fatiguing.
 
Ex-pack: this is one of the things that can be added to your order along with your earbuds. This is basically different types of covers and hooks that go on your VE MONK PLUS earbuds to make a more secure and comfortable fit. Adding this to the order for an extra 5 dollars is a great idea if you are like me and plan to keep them for long and plan to order more in the future BECAUSE although it did not happen to me yet, I assume the covers will warn out and you will need replacements.
 
THE SHELLS: They are made of plastic shells. for 5 dollars, I did not expect much but these were not bad quality at all. I mean… they are earbuds… they were built like one…. Better than the ones you would normally get.
 
THE CABLES: The cables are cables, they are normal cables unless you opt in for the better cables for more money but the cables that comes with the earbuds are normal wires and do I DARE SAY? At the level of sennheiser wires. I do not mean to bash Sennheiser, I love them and their headphones but we all have to admit their cables needs to step up in the game. With that being said, the cables and splitters are made like normal set of cables… no impressive feature or WOW quality…. Did I tell you? Its 5 dollars.
 
TALKING WITH THE OWNER
I usually contact the business before I review products to gain more insight to their objectives and views on their products. While not many respond, Lee, the owner of VE responded within seconds. While talking to him directly for not few minutes but hours, He seemed dedicated and interested in this field more than anyone I have met. He seems to know who is his target audience while being insightful of the future in the audio industry. Most of all He seemed not only dedicated but well informed in what he was doing. He was interested in my research topic in perception of music and human hearing. This shows how much he cares and values knowledge in creating his products. I wish our talk in the future will give him more scientific insight as I have received very useful knowledge for my future reviews. He was very helpful in creating this review, so, Thank you Lee.
 
PRACTIALLY
THE FIT: Some people complained about these falling off… like all earbuds do if you are running with them or weightlifting…. But to my surprise… these fit well without being uncomfortable. I did not have to yank them out with force when taking them out but they did stay in my ears when I hit the cable by accident while moving around
 
SOUND ISOLATION: These are earbuds and they do not have sound isolation as part of the deal but they did seal well in my ears, enough to make them not leak too much sound. However, sound leaking into your earbuds will not be preventable
 
PAIRING: These are 64 ohms and that is high for an earbud BUT NOT FOR HIFI earbuds! These do run off practically anything but better sources do affect and improve the sound.
 
SUGGESTED USE: you can use them portably in a quiet space like the library or study space or office but do not expect to crank up the sound if you don’t want to bother the person next to you. You can also use them at home if you are listening to a specific song that you enjoy on these earbuds.
 
NOTE: depending on what you add, the number of accessories you get will vary.
 
SOUND QUALITY
 
BASS – Coming from headphones, speakers and IEMS these earbuds may lack in the lower frequencies. But that does not mean that these do no entail the rich details in this frequency range, they do. It just takes time to get adjusted to the amount of bass and it feels wonderful and ENOUGH. The fact that earbuds have bass like these do is quite remarkable.
MIDS – When I was listening to different tracks that I am familiar with, I felt like there was nothing special. That was my mistake, this was because I’ve been so used to the sound of my HD600s and 650s… the fact that I felt there was nothing special but also nothing particularly wrong in this frequency range shows and says a lot about how the MONK PLUS performs in this frequency range… I do not want to get stones thrown at me for saying this But I do want to go on record for saying this: I felt like these were a really good alternative to those who want the HD600 experience but cannot afford the HD600s. With this being said, The mids on these are warm sounding.
HIGHS – Now the highs are very present. They are not as detailed but they hit the sweet spot. They are out in the open playing with the soundstage and does not sound sharp or sibilant in your ears at all… these are very relaxing pair of earbuds. Usually going from pricey headphones to EXPENSIVE AS HELL headphones means getting more details in a lot of these frequencies, especially the highs…. For a few hundred dollars more…. (MINUS the sound signature and stuff… obviously… we are strictly talking about detail). With that being said, I think for 5 dollars, these get a kiss for how well they perform in this frequency.
 
SOUNDSTAGE – THE VE MONK PLUS have extraordinary soundstage for an earbud. These resemble the soundstage of some open back headphones and I mean it.
 
SEPERATION – These have great separation, especially paired with my oppo ha 2 se… these put up a finger to many headphones out there…
 
7 DAY IMPRESSION:
FOR MY REVIEWS, I WRITE A DIARY OF WHAT I WANT TO SAY FOR THE FIRST 7 DAYS OF STARTING THE REVIEW FOR A PRODUCT. THE PRODUCT IS REVIEWED MORE EXTENSIVELY AFTERWARDS FOR A LONGER TIME BUT THIS IS THE MY IMPRESSION FOR THE FIRST 7 DAYS
DAY 1
I was skeptical to as how a 5-dollar earbud can possibly be any good. I usually do not even wear earbuds, I rely on quality iems, headphones and speakers. I ordered coffee color ones due to my obsession for coffee. When I opened the small package, I was not at all surprised… it was a pair of earbuds. When I touched them to pick them off from the package, I was surprised to how the plastic felt more premium then I would have imagined. But what really mattered was sound.
I tossed them on the side as I had many other things to review and listen to tonight. Few hours later I listened to the VE monks while sleeping. With my surprise… these blew my mind away… and this was after I was listening to other MUCH MUCH more expensive gear for review purposes!
I got up, sent my friend (who is also a reviewer) a msg, “take these next week and try them” THEN I went up to the computer and ordered another pair because I wanted to keep one…. FOREVER.
DAY 2
While listening to these, I felt bass was lacking compared to what I usually listen to because they are earbuds BUT I quickly got used to it… and everything felt right into place. I didn’t want to sound crazy but even bass felt perfect in these earbuds. Mids were warm and full sounding and highs were there to give you an extra WOW on the soundstage but not sibilant in any way. I listened to this earbud more than anything this day. I kept looking at my bank account to see if I really paid 5 dollars for these….
 
DAY 3
I paired these up with different devices, Samsung Galaxy S5, S6, S7, Fiio x1, Oppo ha 2 se… and they were not source sensitive… they sounded great on all devices but I did notice a improvement when paired with better sources. I enjoyed them best combed with my oppo ha 2 se with bass control OFF.
DAY 4
I loved these so much that I decided to push all my IEMS aside and take these to the gym. YES, IM HUMAN TOO AND I MAKE MISTAKES, I will admit it… it was stupid. These are earbuds and sound isolation is not the part of the deal nor should it be the reason you buy these. When I took these to the noisy gym, I could not hear these to their full potential and the bass was not strong enough to boost my lazy body. MY FAULT ENTIRELY. When I came back home, I listened to them on my desk… some smooth jazz all-stars play sam smtih. For those of you who do not know this song, this song is an instrumental of sam smith’s songs and contains a lot of saxophone, trumpet, etc. Let’s just say… it felt like I was on a cloud.
DAY 5
I was really hoping to see something wrong with these after some time, not because I am psychotic or I hate these but because I love them so much that I started carrying them with me wherever I go…. AND for 5 dollars… I really would not mind if there was something wrong with them but they do their job and beyond SO VERY WELL. That is, it for today.
DAY 6
So today, I officially decided to give these to my friends for review and when the new sets arrive, I will be putting them in my pelican case along with my expensive IEMS because these really have earned it…. They deserve to be protected and cared for… Price is irrelevant, I’ve started building respect for the person who made this. Thank you, Venture Electronics. I took these and introduced them to few people at my university who are audio enthusiasts, talked to people on Instagram who were curious, and brought my clueless cousin brother and his response was:
Cousin: wow these are good!
Me:  I ordered another one, I might give this one away on a giveaway on my Instagram
Cousin: I usually do not ask this but can I, have it? Please?
Me:  If you guess how much it is
Cousin: I don’t know… 60 dollars?
Me: …….
Cousin: 70? 80? No way 100?
Me: 5
Cousin: 50?
Me: 5
Cousin: How….
Me: You have the Sennheiser HD598Cs I got you for your b-day, you like these more than these?
Cousin: No I like the headphones better but these do some stuff my headphone can’t.
BOOM! ending the story there and you can later find out on my Instagram if the little guy (he is 18, so not that little) got his wish granted or now! Technically he can buy his own LOL. BUT with that being said… the point/lesson of DAY 6 story is that “these are not here because it’s better than headphones or IEMS BUT because they are different” Just like we get headphones and IEMS, these have their own purpose, way to wear and SOUND.
DAY 7
I listened to these the whole day as my friend came to pick these up from me today for his chance to review. His initial response when I offered him the Monks was this “I usually do not wear earbuds… but I will try them out.” 2 days later I talked to him and I quote “these blew my mind away.” AND the story repeats again with this man. I feel like after listening to the VE MONKS, we all learn many valuable lessons. ONE of them being “money doesn’t speak sound quality all the time, good engineering does” and the other being “there is different ways to hear things and earbuds have always been one of them AND there is a reason for that.”
 
FINAL THOUGHTS
For 5 dollars, this is something all audio enthusiasts should have and furthermore, introduce everyone around you to quality  hi res audio.
Overall, Venture Electronics really have done well to bring this beautiful product into the light. For 5 dollars, I do not think I can ask for more. It was pleasure reviewing this product and I plan to dive into 
 
for a more full review with pictures visit our website
 
Review posted by soulsikreviews.com
 
video for reference
 
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Hypespazm

Head-Fier
Pros: SQ, Sound Stage, Bright. Clear, Detailed BOOMY Bass.
First and Foremost I want to say that these are by far the biggest BANG for YOUR BUCK. I honestly Dont think these guys should be selling these under 10 bucks...
 
These are so versatile I have about 5 of these. 1 in every room. I have these laying around everywhere!! They are just so GOOD!.
 
One big thing that surprised me about these is how versatile they are. The perform amazingly in gaming situations. 
 
These are perfect for gaming and can be driven by ANY AMP. The better the amp the better these GET!. These scale just as well as HD600's.
The better the equipment with these the better they get
 
 
I use these daily for everything Running, Casual listening, Gaming on console PS4, Xbox 360, on my LG V20. On my Desktop.
You name it these are literally the most versatile headphones I have ever own.
 
Their durability is amazing. I have stepped on them and they have held up, but don't go on and stepping on them! 
 
being an audiophile and not owning these is a SIN!.. everyone I know that has gotten these has loved it.
 
 17039167_10158457254065454_1324767142959637471_o.jpg
 
 
These are my pairs for now!! nothing more to say other than outstanding quality!! 
h1f1add1cted
h1f1add1cted
Most advanced objectiv review on Head-Fi in 2017 so far  :-D
Apple0222
Apple0222
yes, good review, the earphone is so cheap.
ColossalKiwi
ColossalKiwi
Username checks out.

canoniz06

New Head-Fier
Pros: Value, Soundstage, Detail
Cons: lacks bass to complete a great sound
Burn in time: 70 hours both earbuds (reviewed with thin foam- Monk+, Hi Z full foam)
 
Track Demo'd: California Kids- Weezer
 
Source: HP laptop w/ Hifime DAC
 
Right off the bat, I am able to notice the Monk+ has richer vocals. They sound closer, more intimate, and more natural. The Hi Z, in contrast, sound veiled. It sounds like there is a little bit of detail missing. There is a very noticeable drop off of bass in the Monk+ when compared to the Hi Z.  The added bass from the Hi Z seems to complete the sound that the Monk+ is unable to fill, in terms of the lower end. Bass lines from the bass guitar, bass on the lead and rhythm guitar have a richer sound than the Monk+. When listening to the Monk+, the cymbals and hi hats sound more crisp and have better resonance. It has a gentler sound, but does not get lost in the music. The Hi Z has an extended treble range and seems to be more forward than the Monk+. Hi Z has a really good crunch sound during the heavier overdriven parts of the song. The Monk+ presents the guitar sounds with a cleaner sound, almost like a SSS Fender clean sound compared to EMG. It is easier to hear the “dirt” on the lead guitar on the Monk+ than on the Hi Z. Monk+ has a better soundstage. It sounds airer, with more space in between instruments than the Hi Z.
 
I personally prefer the Hi Z 32S to the Monk+, not to say that Monk+ is not a great product. Many people love them on the forums and I still mine. In fact, I ordered another set to get one in Coffee Gold+EX pack. I mainly listen to hip hop and rock, so the increased level of bass, both quantity and range, fit my tastes better. I like the Monk+ for musical scores, classical, or more vocally focused music. I don’t regret owning both of them because I find them both very enjoyable to listen to.
 
Just a note, I also own a few budget IEMS, including the KZ Ate-S and Vsonic VSD3. If you enjoy the sound signature of those IEMs, I think you will also like the sound TY Hi Z 32S.

audiophilefan

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Addictive sound signature, immediately enjoyable out-of-the-box sound, durable, looks good, mic is accurate and reactive
Cons: Comfort issue without foams
BACKGROUND
 
My wife gave these to me as a gift and…
 
Oh my God.
 
That’s it. My review could’ve ended with “Oh my God” and I could’ve been happy. But the rest of you won’t be since reviews are intended to inform, not just to praise. This review will be a little bit different though.
 
At first I wondered what the hype is all about. Then I understood. And by God, did I understand!
 
 
PACKAGING
 
The most basic packaging you’ll ever get:
 
  1. Plastic bag container
  2. The earbuds
  3. 4 pairs of foams (2 pairs red and 2 pairs blue, total of 8)
 
I got the one with the mic so it’s as expensive as the Fiio EM3 here in our country. Since its launch, the packaging is not intended to impress but I guess it’s ok.
 
 
BUILD QUALITY, DESIGN, AND COMFORT
 
Build quality is above average, even better than the EM3. The wires are thicker and less likely to tangle. The main wire leading to the jack is a double-flat wire, which is a very durable type, similar to some chargers used for other gadgets.
 
The mic is very accurate and reactive. Play and pause is instantaneous.
 
Comfort is below average without foams. There are sharp edges to the shell that wearing them without foams is a bit painful for me in the long run. This may not be an issue for people with bigger ears though.
 
NOTE: The foams provided are very prone to ripping so you should take extra care in putting them on. To their merit though, unlike other foams which are thick and durable, they do not muffle or suppress the mids, at least not very noticeable.
 
 
SOUND
 
Burn-in: 10+ hours (as recommended by VE)
 
SET-UP USED:
 
  1. Lenovo K4 Note Smartphone (with Wolfson 8281 Audio Hub)
  2. Dolby Atmos engaged (gives a more accurate perception of soundstage)
  3. Stellio music player EQ is off
 
For a change, I will not dissect this into lows, mids, highs, etc. as that will not give justice to how these Monks sound.
 
They have the most engaging, exciting, and exhilarating out-of-the-box sound I have ever heard! How do they compare? They’re as forward as a Grado and as engaging as a Hifiman HE-400s! Am I exaggerating?! Maybe, maybe not! But I’m not! They sounded that good to me. :)
 
Clarity is exceptional! Because of this exceptional clarity, every type of music, fast or slow, light or heavy, happy or sad, name it and they all sounded oh so engaging like I’m hearing them for the first time! Because of this clarity as well, they’re very revealing and unforgiving of bad recordings. You actually discern the difference between a good and a bad recording very easily. The EM3 is significantly more forgiving.
 
Soundstage is not as wide as the EM3 but it sounds more natural. You actually here the sound resonating in the venue, if the recording captures that ambiance. Sometimes you hear a sound somewhere far away and you need to take them off to make sure that no one’s hitting a drum (for example) somewhere at home. It happened to me a couple of times in my short time with them. This quality is usually present with full-size planars.
 
The overall sound signature is very, very ADDICTIVE! That’s the most abused word used for these and now I understand why. Everything sounds just perfect! Everything shines, the vocals, instruments, bass, highs…all are EQUALLY DETAILED. That’s their very strength, every sound is a star. Nothing gives way to anything.
 
Are they END GAME material? Are they AUDIO NIRVANA material? Yes, oh yes! I’m not looking to replace these anytime some, not this sound at any price.
 
 
CONCLUSION
 
The Monks are very disruptive to the industry. VE proved that it can be done. There is no categorizing these. These are absolutely one of the world’s best headphones, earbuds or otherwise.
 
Now I see the wisdom behind the VE naming – Monk, Asura, Zen. They’re so clear and revealing, it’s almost enlightening in a sense. They just take you to a higher ground of listening. In analogy, it’s like spiritual ascension.
 
Never ending enjoyment. Pure genius.
 
Happy ADDICTIVE listening every one! :)
mochill
mochill
great review , now you need the whole ve team like me :)
audiophilefan
audiophilefan
@mochill - Thanks! I appreciate it. :) The Monk will suffice for now, plus the fact that the Asura or Zen are not available here and they are quite expensive compared to the Monks. The Zen 2.0 is also 300ohms. I'm not using any amps right now. My phone can power my Superlux HD330 at 150ohms but I'm not confident it can drive the Zen at 300ohms, at least not properly. :)

spronkey

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Excellent sound
Cons: Microphonics on chord.
These are *fantastic* for the price. Compared side by side to some old Sennheiser MX500s, that cost at least 4x as much, the Monk+ absolutely wipes the floor - they are hugely superior.
 
Warm sound, detailed sound, strong sound. Good cable length. Build quality is absolutely fine for the price - even good.
 
There's really little else to say - they are substantially better than the earpods that come with iPhones and iPods, and if you use those, you owe it to yourself to at least spend the $5 on AliExpress to get a pair of these! 
 
I recommend the Ex Pack, especially if you have had any trouble at all before fitting earbuds.

asymcon

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Amazing, detailed and very revealing, yet neutral sound.
Cons: No verified technical data published, preventing buyers from making informed purchase.
Edit: From the start I found the 112dB/mW claimed sensitivity not entirely true, and today I made an comparison. Monk Plus is far from the claimed sensitivity, reaching no more than 100dB/mW at 64Ohm impedance.
The way I did the test was using headphones with known and correct sensitivity and impedance and match them to Monks in terms of volume. DT-250 were used for that purpose. At 1kHz, 5.7dB had to be retracted from Monks to achieve same volume level. As DT-250 are 250Ohm at 100dB/mW @ 1kHz, this post-calculation leads to the same sensitivity level, only at different impedance.
So Monk Plus are 64Ohm and 100dB/mW, or 112dBV not the overstated 112dB/mW.



Back in January 2016 I purchased the original Monk as presented by VE at that time. At first I was a bit skeptical, not just for the price, but no earbuds I have had were any good. They turned out to be amazing success, I went that far as to completely replace my portable gear and now I use only Monk when travelling.
In September I gave out my 2nd backup pair to one of my friends and they love it, but that mean I had to get new backup.

Turned out Monks were discontinued and replaced by Monk Plus. Unsure of what was changed I wrote a PM to zhibli06 here. No response, so I went to Aliexpress and used their chat system a week later in the morning to compensate for time differences. VE appeared online, yet never addressed my questions 3 days in a row. Neither their Aliexpress page, nor description on veclan.com list any sort of technical data that could help one make informed purchase. Most important info like impedance and sensitivity was completely missing. Only 4 pages of how Beats are useless, how to proceed with the purchase, not to open any disputes (all that understandable), microreview and bunch of photos.

Finally I decided, what the heck, the original isn't available anyway, so I ordered 3 pairs of royal purple. Despite the ongoing Christmas rush, they arrived fairly fast, only in 3 weeks.
Impedance was the first thing I checked with my DMM and surprise, it's 64Ohm! The originals are 32Ohm/112dBm. Not saying it's a bad thing, but I prefer to know such info beforehand so that I can check with my gear how much power is going to be required. In sighted comparison, both sound very similar, only Plus appears a bit quieter at the same volume, likely due to increased impedance, but only a bit. Plus also feels a little more revealing, but with earbuds it's always about the right fit, so I may be making things up.

Overall I'm satisfied with the purchase, I just wish VE could update their webpage with some technical data, as this may turn objective/technical people away.

kydu

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: musicality, seductive tone, great build
Cons: None
image.jpg
The Monk Plus is opening eyes to this industry. I listen to these almost every day for their plain fun sound, and honest nature. Driven by my iphone 6s plus they are true to the recording, and addictive in so many ways. The Monk plus will scale very well with better gear. The chord Mojo, VE runabout plus and runabout 2.0, Benchmark Dac2 HGC, and Primaluna Dialogue Premium HP integrated, took the Monks to limits thought unimaginable. Resulting in better dynamics, soundstage depth, and definition. The Monks key feature is the very organic vocals and instruments have great texture. They have good imaging, and the right amount of detail. they engage you to the point after one track, you'll want to hear the entire album in Monk glory. Live acoustic recordings will be the ticket for these, in my opinion. Nils Lofgren, Acoustic Live, is a must. On track 5, "Keith Don't Go". the guitar strings float in a beautiful aura, which pulls you in. You feel right with the audience. These earbuds have lots of body, and trick me into thinking they are much more than they are. The tone will slightly change depending on using them naked, with one foam, or donut foams. The performance of the Monk will greatly depend on a good fit with your ear. With the Monk PLus, the proof is in the pudding. Forget the price tag, this is the most fun you could have with only your cell phone at hand. Sound this natural needs to be heard!!
 

 

 

 

AT Khan

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Great Sound. No Fatigue. Open-ness, and Natural Listening. Easy Mods. Bass - Almost Complete. A Fraction of Money for the Sound.
Cons: Bass improved by EQ'ing. Looks: Oldschool. Build: Just OK. Bit Fragile - Need Care. No Detachble Cables. Fitting is a Challenge. Not for Workout.
The Venture Electronics Monks +
 
Let me immediately get this out of the way now; Giant Killers?: Yes. End of Review.
 
20160618_155021.jpg
 
 
 
 
 
 
Haha ok, ok. Let’s dig in a bit deeper. Ill elaborate for some of you who haven’t experienced the fun yet. I’m just gonna review these on the basis of my TEMPTATION to do so, despite there being already so many reviews rating these at almost 5 stars.
 
 ​

 
DISCLAIMER: I was recommended the monks by my friends in India. No, I got nothing for free from VE (but yeah, for $5 they are kind of free, anyhow). I am not associated with VE or any of their affiliates/partners/selling channels or any of their friends or family members. I do not benefit in any way from this review or by giving any kind of positive opinions, neither will I suffer any consequences from any negative points I make here. All the opinions in here are my own, under no influence, and I undertake that I’m providing my honest feedback, and in no way aim to influence the Monks’ popularity or sales other than their own legit merit of quality, performance and craftsmanship.
 ​

 
 
The VE Monks have now gained an almost cult status, and all for good reason. You get just the right, natural sound with that open sound-stage. At a 64 ohms rating, you still get effortless performance running off mobile devices with no need for an amp. The make is just the right quality for the money. But the sound quality you ask? It’s many times over the price… MANY… times… over. Every time you think about how much you paid for them, you'll be lost in relating that price to their worthy audio performance. Every time.
 
I got these for $5+$3 for shipping. In mainland China, they'd still be $5. What do you get for five dollars in this big, wide world nowadays? Not this kind of stuff. Not at this price, anyhow. Yet here we are.
 
In my arsenal over the years I’ve had many Sony buds and in-ears, a pair of Edifier buds (that came with my Transcend MP3 player back in 2003 or something - that’s what these are built upon), A4Tech buds, V-Moda Bass Freq, Razer Hammerhead Pros, Philips buds, KZ ZN1s, Xioami Piston Hybrids, and several stock phone buds from LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson. I’ve even heard many high-ends like Westones, those 10-BA each side, $1000 Noble IEMs and much much more… I’d easily take these over all else. Yes, even the Nobles. Call me crazy, or maybe I’m some mental cheapo. BUT… it’s $5. I mean maybe there’s no fair comparison, but I remember I didn’t get sound-stage on the Nobles the way I did on these. But anyhow, let’s not put up $5 against a $1000. The nobles are made God-like, and probably that alone may be an over $300 range caveat at the least.
 
Back to these $5s: What’s there to just not give these a shot? Skipping a sandwich or a milkshake? Just assume you bought two this morning and order one pair of these. You’ll save yourself from some extra calories and end up having a quite exemplary piece of audio equipment in the process.
 
But hey! These are BUDS. I know. Been there. Done that. Just like 2 months ago when these were recommended to me, I was like… BUDs? That’s so early 2000s. I recalled my experience and was like… man, the bass must suck. What about the fit? Yeah, that’s gonna be terrible. Everything’s like ear canal these days. I saw them on Massdrop and said to myself… wow. These guys are sure digging up the past. They wanna step in the Sony Walkman era. Duh!
 
It’s now twice that I have stereotyped and underestimated things. The Koss Porta Pros were my first underestimation. These are my second.
 
What’s in the candy-like package:
 
1 Pair of VE Monks
3 pairs of colored foams (full, donut etc.)
 
SPECIFICATIONS (that I copied off another headfier's review):
 
Type:                         Open dynamic ear-bud
Driver:                       15.4mm dynamic
Frequency Range:    8 Hz – 22 Khz (though I'd say, 30 Hz or so to 20KHz. I can't hear over 20KHz. Can you?)
Impedance:               64 ohm
Sensitivity:                112dB +/- 5dB (1mW)
Plug:                         3.5mm gold plated, straight jack (Really? How do you afford 'GOLD' within five dollars of total cost? Beats me. Anyways, fine.)
Cable:                       1.2m, TPE outer coat, 128 x 0.06 4n ofc copper
Weight:                     Approx 15g with single full foam covers
IEM Shell:                 Polycarbonate / hard plastic
 
DESIGN & BUILD:
 
At this point, you really have to look beyond all the bling bling. These aren’t those timeless looking, all metal buds that you’ll look supercool with on the street. Nope. It’s an old-school design. Everyone who looks at you wearing these will thing lowly of you. They’ll probably assume you couldn’t afford better gear and probably got them out of your last cereal box or with some real cheap Chinese phone you just bought online. The feel, though not that cheap, is still plasticy. No detachable cable. No new, eye-catching design. No luxurious build here. No sir.
 
It has a nice rubber cable. Doesn’t feel cheap or if it will break any time soon. Connector is nice. Don’t know if in this price it’s gold-plated, but who cares. Earbuds are plastic, dark transparent.
 
There is one thing that did happen to me though… maybe I manhandled my first pair, and it had rattling induced. The second pair I ordered, also seemed to have some rattling issue out of the box. What I did was replace the drivers from one pair to another, and now I have the right pair. Cost me $10 in total.
 
But this still doesn’t hold me back to praise them all the same. What’s another five dollars for this kind of sound? Nothing, really…
 
So, just to get it out there, there is that risk of receiving a pair that may have some faults. Again, just a chance; check what policy they have for QA, warranty or other issues.
 
HANDLING & DURABILITY:
 
They’re not your usual throw-away-and-just-chill buds. I think I damaged one side of my first pair (the driver began to rattle), so I would urge you to be careful. Once you realize how good they are, you begin to take care of them a bit more than you would of your metal body IEMs or stuff. So I would strongly recommend taking care of them here.
 
If treated right, they will last. But well, for the money they’re at, you can always buy another… and another… and another. So relax. This is the kind of luxury you won’t really get.
 
Power handling is nice. I run these off my Samsung Note 5, and no… I don’t need an amp, unless I prefer damaging my hearing as or risk over-powering these buds. On my PC I’m using them over a Creative E5 or the Xonar DX/XD or any other chain with my fiiO E07k.
 
FIT & COMFORT:
 
The fit can be a bit of a challenge. As some other earphones and IEMs I have, these always require some turns, some twists and I may take em out and put em back again and do that a few times to get the adjusted right. If you move your head too much, the fitting will get loose. As such, I do not recommend these for working out routines, or a morning run, or skate-boarding. Even on the street, each step may make this a bit looser, and they'll have the urge to fall out, so you have to use them accordingly.
 
I don’t recommend using them naked, unlike some have suggested. That doesn’t seal that well at all (cuz of buds, you may not get that proper canal-like seal anyhow), so you lose bass and decibels too. And then they’ll keep falling out even more. To me, it's pointless.
 
Changing foams from those complete ones to donut ones is ideal for me and adds all improvements I'm looking for, in sound and fit. They then give me just the right amount of bass, and surprisingly, tone down the mids and highs for me a bit, too, for higher volumes - not to say that the mids or highs are in any way discomforting otherwise. The donut foams are also a bit more dense than those full foams so, they fit better and keep the sound inside more.
 
Comfort is just fine with them. You do tend to forget they’re there. There’s no sweating, and though it may feel a bit intrusive after some hours, it’s generally just fine. It feels much better to me now compared to ear-canals. Over the years, I adapted to those. Now the ear canal IEMs just feel so intrusive to my comfort.
 
ISOLATION & LEAKAGE:
 
Semi-open nature will surely leak some sound. What can we expect? And yes, isolation/passive noise cancellation is just average at best. At high volumes though, it works fine.
 
PACKAGING VARIATIONS:
 
They come as VE Monks +, and there is also an EX Pack for $10 (in pictures) that contains a dozen of those foams, some plastic holders and stuff, though I didn’t find much use for them. Old-school foam is just fine, so may as well get the basic five dollar deal.
 
There’s also candy monks for $15 I think for those who want a better, colorful cable and metal connectors. That’s probably worth the money too.
 
Here's the EX package:
 
 
 
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SOUND QUALITY:
 
Remember how I said these will look cheap, and you’ll probably be asking yourself a few times over why you even bought these. What’s to them really? Why? Just why? That is… until you plug them in and press play…
 
The sound... that, natural, OPEN sound… Soon you’ll realize these are just more than you’d expected from em. Much, much more.
 
After DIYing together the right pair (as highlighted earlier), I realized they sound awesome just out of the box and burn-in doesn’t matter. Why? Cuz my previous pair had been burning in, and I swapped one of the drivers from the out-of-the-box second pair. I don’t feel any difference, nor did I between my burned-in and the brand new pair. So they’re just right out of the box.
 
  1. SIGNATURE: The sound is natural, tending a bit towards a V signature. They’re near to neutral though. They’re fine, across the whole range. There’s nothing fatiguing. Nothing overdone. No sibilant sounds. No lack of bass, really… other than just some sub-bass. Honestly, if I need any more bass I just bring out my Fostex or JVC HA-SZ1000s. These come in 3rd :p
 
  1. The sound-stage is open and binaural. Instrument separation is quite nice. Well not like top-notch Hifimen or Sennheisers. But again, that’ll be too far-fetched a comparison – Apples vs…. Almonds?
 
  1. MIDS/HIGHS: The mids and whatever is supposed to be forward, is forward. Vocals are great. Treble is just nice. Rolled up a bit.
 
  1. BASS: Now due to their nature, the bass will be lower than expected. But it’s just right. After some adjustment to EQ (via Poweramp on my phone, and crystalizing through my Creative E5 DAC) though, the bass improved a lot! Except for sub-bass, and stuff below 30Hz, we will have a hit or miss. But I can’t really complain anymore after EQ. Everything’s in place. I usually bring down the 140Hz to 500Hz block. In general, the sass on these is like a 10% compromise compared to other closed-back IEMs for so much better overall sound. Only bassheads may have some complaints. But then again, an open-back Sennheiser HD5XX or a Philips Fidelio isn’t basshead gear.
 
These, for me, are for any genre. I’m mainly an electronic music guy. But I love any genre of music out of em. Anything, goes. Classical, OST, Trance, Progressive, House, Dubstep, Chill-Step, Trap, Chill-Trap, Tribal Trap… anything.
 
COMPARISONS:
 
Better sound than all that I have. These are indeed my go to in-ear/earphones. They get 97% use, whenever I’m not using headphones. And sometimes, even on my PC I end up using them instead of my cans.
 
I have the YMHFPJ MX500 300 ohm buds. They sound a bit darker to me, though they’re the next best thing, and still better than all else I have. I still take the Monks over them. The MX500 also have a more narrower, closed sound in comparison.
 
Being mostly a can user (and that too, overear/circumaural ones), I must highlight that at this point, I end up comparing these to my EMU Ebony. In fact, I'd call these a smaller, portable version of my EMUs. This is crazy, it's HUGE..., and maybe some sort of blasphemy for some, this is what I think. Of course, EMU sub-bass and head massage is a much, much different matter, but for the rest of the sound signature, that's my closest comparison.
 
It wouldn't surprise me if someone calls them some sort of portable and smaller HD598s or stuff. I'd take the Monks over the ATH-M50x any time, and even over my Takstar Hi2050s (their mids sound a bit distant and are not forward), and many other on-ear and over-ear headphones if I have the option. They're an easy portable replacement for all my gear, and my GO-TO earphones/IEMs/buds.
 
CONCLUSION:
 
You’d be stupid to not have bought these. That’s my conclusion. Straight up, no bull. I hope they don’t mess with the price so that I keep buying them and become a regular customer :p.
 
I mean, here's Putin's response to the VE Monks :p:
 
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PS: The lower photos are of my VE Monks with the cable that I modded using the YMHFPJ MX500's cable.
 
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domino584
domino584
I'm looking for your EQ settings for the bass/sub-bass. What settings did you use?
AT Khan
AT Khan
Ah bass, sub bass... Go for Vido or TY Hiz. There's Yinkrow Y6 or something, sounds the same as Vido (which means great sound) and comes with a better cable. 150 ohm TY Hiz is even better, darker though. Want even better subbass, the more laid back 32 ohm Benjie BJ49 is the one. Remember, its the silver one with the black cable or at least the shells must be silver.
AT Khan
AT Khan
Interesting enough, opaque and darker shells have better bass response than transparent, see thru shells. That's why the VE Monks lack in that area.
Pros: Revolutionary price to performance factor, Fantastic mid-range, Various jack and adapter options, Hits a sweet spot with portable audiophile rigs
Cons: Not ideal for loud environments, Lack of sub bass extension, At the end of the day they still fit and seal like your typical earbud
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At the time this review was written, the Venture Electronics Monk Plus was listed for sale on the VE website and also on Aliexpress. Here are links to their listing of the product:

https://www.veclan.com/engappliance_sel_one?eng_ApplianceVo.eac_id=4

http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Venture-Electronic-VE-MONK-earbud-earphone/32417311324.html?spm=2114.08.3.1.BJX1op&ws_ab_test=searchweb201556_7,searchweb201602_5_10057_10056_10065_10055_10067_10054_10069_301_10059_10033_10058_10032_10017_10070_10060_10061_10052_10062_10053_10050_10051,searchweb201603_1&btsid=23ac801c-dbc5-42aa-80fb-4d10ff020ade

Introduction
A year or so ago I would have laughed at earbuds. I hadn’t had any positive experiences with them up until that point. My opinion at the time was that earbuds couldn’t do much beyond creating a thin and lifeless two dimensional sound. I had no intention to dabble in this style of earphone until my good friend Tamal suggested I give the VE Zen a try. It was a perception changer for sure. Here is my review of the original Zen:

http://www.head-fi.org/products/venture-electronics-ve-zen/reviews/13680

Needless to say, they left me impressed. Although not the greatest thing I ever heard, the Zen proved that an earbud can offer incredible dynamics. There is now a quasi-revival of earbuds and their relevance in the current hi-fi audio scene for me. Just about every tenured earphone manufacturer has an earbud of some sort listed for sale.

In 2014/2015 Venture Electronics released the Monk, which was the original five dollar budget earphone that made some pretty big waves in the audio community. VE also released the Zen 2.0, which to my ears was an improvement over the original Zen. Here is my review:

http://www.head-fi.org/products/venture-electronics-ve-zen-v2/reviews/15142

I have become a fan of Venture Electronics after covering some of their product line. The first version of monk gave people a taste of what VE had to offer, and the Zen would take the Monk sound to the next level of audio bliss (at a sizeable price increase). Don’t have the funds to take the leap into the realm of Zen? It’s okay, because the Monk could give you seventy five to ninety percent of what the Zen could do (depending on your preferences and sources used). Only those who wanted that extra ten to twenty-five percent increase in performance needed to shell out the hundred plus dollars needed to make it happen.

With VE, there’s winners at every price point. The VE Clan has also vowed to improve the product line as they move forward. The Zen 2.0 was a considerable improvement from their first Zen, and the Monk Plus is… well, let’s get to that in a bit. For now let's continue the current conversation.

Venture Electronic’s Zen 2.0 took the original's place as their current flagship earbud. Now that they have had some time on the market and in the ears of its customers, there seems to be a pretty noticeable leap in performance between the original Monk and Zen 2.0. Well, Lee and the boys over at VE have once again bridged the gap between the budget and flagship lineup, introducing the Monk Plus. Let’s take a look and listen to their budget priced and premium sounding earphone.

Disclaimer
Venture Electronics has supplied me with free sets of their entire Monk Plus lineup in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with Venture Electronics aside from being entrusted to fairly review their products, and share my experience with the Head-Fi community. I would like to take this time to personally thank Lee for the opportunity to experience and review their products, and also for allowing my constructive criticism help play part in their product development.

To be completely honest, I am so impressed with the Monk Plus, I plan on purchasing a couple pair to give as gifts. I feel they perform so well that I’m going to buy a few more just to share the magic these things have for five measly dollars. If I am getting free pairs to review, the least I can do is to buy a few more pairs and share the gift of Head-Fi at the next few upcoming audio conventions.

My Background
I AM NOT a numbers and graphs audiophile or sound engineer. Personal audio enthusiast? Absolutely! Headphone junkie? Possibly…

There’s something about quality DAPs, DACs, Amplifiers and Earphones that intrigues me. I want to hear any earphone that looks promising, in hopes that I can share my impressions with enthusiasts and help them find the audio product they’re looking for. My Head-Fi profile has a list of audio products ranked from favorite to least favorite. For me, this hobby is more about getting great price to performance ratio from a product, and having a variety of different gear to mix and match. With personal audio gear, we tend to pay a lot of money for minor upgrades. One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that just because a headphone has a higher price tag, it doesn’t mean that it has superior build and sound quality.

I’m always looking for great audio at a great price. I’m after headphones and IEMs that give me the “WOW” factor. I can appreciate different builds and sound signatures as long as they are solidly built, with ergonomics and sound that is pleasing to my ears. It’s my pleasure to share my experiences with audio products and make recommendations based on gear I have owned and used.

REVIEW
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The Monk comes in a cheap bag. Yup, a cheap plastic bag with funky drawings and quotes derived from the socializing and antics of Lee over at team VE. To be honest the bag captures the essence of Venture Electronic’s no BS approach to making earphones. “The biggest bang you’ll ever get for your buck” is printed on the front of the bag, and to be honest it is a pretty accurate statement.

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The back of the bag has some links for purchasing and more information. Opening the bag reveals the pair of earbuds and a small plastic bag with a few sets of blue and red foams. No clamshell case, no shirt clip included...The Monk is five bucks for a reason.

Specifications and Accessories
The Monk Plus lineup has variations and accessories that go beyond just the standard earbuds. Thanks to Lee, I received one of everything in the lineup. I’m glad he did, because it’s important to understand what VE is offering its customers with the Monk Plus. The specifications and accessories portion of the review will go beyond just the five dollar earbud. Let’s cover the specifications and accessories for the base model first:

Specifications:
Type: Open dynamic ear-bud
Driver: 15.4mm dynamic
Frequency Range: 8 Hz – 22 Khz
Impedance: 64 ohm
Sensitivity: 112dB +/- 5dB (1mW)
Plug: 3.5mm gold plated, straight jack
Cable: 1.2m, TPE outer coat, 128 x 0.06 4n ofc copper
Weight: Approx 15g with single full foam covers
IEM Shell: Polycarbonate / hard plastic

Acccessories:
6X Pair foam discs (3X Red, 3X Blue)

Various Jack Options
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There are three different jack variations. There’s the standard 3.5 mm TRS jack, a 3.5 mm balanced TRRS jack, and a 2.5 mm balanced TRRS jack. There is no increase in price, any jack option you choose is only five dollars USD (awesome). Lee has also informed me that there will soon be a microphone version of the Monk Plus coming soon. I’m not sure what the asking price will be.

Adapters
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Also included in the Monk Plus lineup are adapters that allow users to guarantee their Monk Plus will work with all of their source outputs. All adapters were tested and work well. Each one costs five dollars USD. Here are the list of the adapters that can be purchased:

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1X 2.5 mm balanced TRRS to 3.5 mm standard TRS
1x 2.5 mm balanced TRRS to 3.5 mm balanced TRRS
1x 3.5 mm balanced TRRS to 2.5 mm balanced TRRS
1x 3.5 mm balanced TRRS to 3.5 mm standard TRS

EX Pack
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Last but certainly not least, VE is offering an incredible earbud/accessories package option called the EX pack. In this package you will receive the Monk Plus earbuds along with a baggie that contains eight pairs of red and blue foams, four pairs of foam doughnuts, two pairs of rubber rings, and two pairs of ear hooks (size S/M and M/L). You can purchase the EX pack for a grand total of ten dollars USD.

Housings
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The Monk Plus housing is a lightweight translucent smoke colored plastic housing similar to many other earbuds on the market. The shape is fairly generic, but the aesthetic is pretty nice thanks to the translucent finish which reveals the driver and internal wiring. The VE logo and 8-bit writing of the word Monk is printed on the outside of the shell, along with imprinted left and right channel markings.

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The foams come in red and blue. Although I assume you could use the colors any way you’d like, this was done to make it even easier to identify each channel (red for right and blue for left).

Cable, Y-Split, Cable Jack, Strain Reliefs
The cable is a fairly standard black rubber jacketed cable. It’s very durable for the price and rivals cables that cost many times more than their asking price. There’s a small amount of spring and memory, but not enough to cause issues with the fit. The Y-split is a firm rubber jacketing with the words “VE Clan” imprinted on it. A chin/neck slider is attached to the cable and works well to help secure their fit. The jacks (regardless of what type you choose) has a straight gold plated jack that is jacketed in a rubber coating similar to the Y-split. Strain reliefs are nicely done. All in all this is a pretty decent cable at one hundred dollars, let alone the five dollar asking price.

Functionality
The current Monk lineup does not have a microphone and remote option. I have been told that there will be a mic/remote option coming soon. I will update this portion when the mic/remote version is released.

In terms of jacks, there are standard and balanced options. Make sure to choose the jack that will maximize your listening experience with whatever source you use. If you have a 2.5 or 3.5 mm balanced output of your DAP, make sure to purchase the correct balanced cable jack. There is a noticeable increase in fidelity to my ears with a balanced connections.

Ergonomics, Fit and Microphonics, Isolation
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There’s not a whole lot to say here. If you’ve worn a generic earbud with foam tips you know how the Monk Plus fits. Their disc shape sits in the concha of your ears. As with all earbuds, your sound experience is entirely dependent on how these things rest in your ears. If they seal too well, they will sound overly warm, bassy and smooth. If they fit too loosely they will sound thin and lifeless. Dabble with how the monk fits and you will find the sweet spot somewhere in the middle of the two. One big positive about the Monk Plus fit, the installed chin/neck slider was a welcomed feature that enabled me to acheive a more secure and consistent fit.

Earbuds are known to lack isolation and create more of an open air music experience. The Monk Plus is no exception. You will get some nice airy sound without eliminating ambient noises. You will have no problem listening to your earphones while hearing your surroundings.

NOTE: The Monk Plus isn’t the greatest for noisy environments. Listening to the Monk while commuting or outdoors, I was regularly distracted by outside noise which took my focus away from what makes the Monk Plus sound special. Listening to them in loud environments will take away from your ability to fully enjoy them. To maximize your listening experience with the Monk Plus, listen to them in a quiet room.


Sound Review
I did my demo with my usual gear. I used an LG-V10 for smartphone use, and either my Shanling H3 or iBasso DX80 DAP/Bushmaster D14 DAC/Amp for high fidelity portable use. For desktop use, I used my Toshiba Satellite Laptop in combination with a ifi micro iDSD playing at 32/192 kHz. I tested them with several other sources as well. I used Google Music in its highest download quality (320 KBPS), and also streamed FLAC via Tidal streaming service. I also used purchased and downloaded tracks in MP3, FLAC, WAV and DSD. I make sure that any gear I test has sufficient playtime before writing a review.

I used my usual same songs for testing gear:
“Limit to your love” by James Blake (bass speed, punch, response)
“Doin’ it Right” by Daft Punk (sub bass)
“Get lucky” by Daft Punk (bass to midrange transition resolution, male vocals)
“Madness” by Muse (soundstage, separation)
“Some nights” by Fun (soundstage and male vocals)
“The soundmaker” by Rodrigo y Gabriela (texture and imaging)
“Bassically” by Tei Shi (bass to midrange resolution, female vocals)
“Skinny Love” performed by Birdie (female vocals, acoustic playback)
“One” by Ed Sheeran (male vocals, acoustic playback)
“Outlands” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack (symphonic presentation, imaging)
“Sultans of swing” by Dire Straits (detail, separation, balance)
“And Justic for All” by Metallica (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
“Ten thousand fists” by Disturbed (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)

Note: Other tracks were used, but the listed songs were primarily used to assess and break down the gear’s response.

Source Selection
The Monk Plus comes in at sixty four Ohms, making them somewhat source specific to maximize their sound. They will sound really good through your smartphone, but they will benefit even more from more powerful sources like DAPs, and stacked rigs with portable and desktop amplifiers. High Gain with portable sources seemed to give me the most ideal sound quality. They sounded especially good with the 2.5mm balanced jack version Monk Plus and Fiio X7 with AM3 balanced amplifier module installed.

The Monk Plus won’t necessarily discriminate either warmer or more linear sources. What you will like will be determined by your preference. Just know that this earbud is scaling up incredibly well. I was able to use everything from my Sansa Clip Zip and LG-V10, all the way up to my more powerful desktop rigs.

Sound Signature
First things first, these things sound awesome regardless of price. The biggest thing that jumps out at me is the open and airy sound combined with a very nicely dynamic, textured and detailed midrange. There is a ever so slight tint of warmth to the sound.

Just like with almost every earbud there is, the Monk Plus won’t give you the lowest of low frequencies. To add to this, the Monk Plus has a somewhat smooth (yet perceptually extended) treble response. There’s a nice bite on vocals and instruments along with complimentary frequencies that don’t take the focus off of the center stage midrange.

Although sub bass tones aren’t as present as many in-ear monitors or full size headphones, the Monk Plus still sounds adequate with most modern genres of music. The Monk Plus seemed to shine the most with Vocal and band oriented music. Symphony, Classic Rock, Indie, Acoustic, Live performances, Country, and some Rock and Metal sounded especially good with the Monk Plus.

The Monk is another earphone I caught myself turning the volume up higher and higher. It seemed like the louder I turned them up the more I enjoyed them. Disclaimer: Listening to volumes that are too loud and for too long is unhealthy. Listen responsibly people. If you’re going to turn the volume up, be sure to give your ears a break every now and then. Remember, earphones become paper weights if you go deaf.

Bass
Bass is controlled and pretty non existent at sub bass levels. To understand the way the bass works we must start with mid bass. There’s midbass to an almost forward extent, with a nice amount of fullness and punch. Kick drums to give a realistic sense of impact that is a touch softer delivery than most average full size headphones. Where the earbuds lose out is in things like sub bass lines and the lowest of low earth rumbling stuff. From the very adequate a full midbass, there is roll off into a non existent low end. This was exposed during Daft Punk’s “Doin it Right”. Simply put, the bass line was monotone and thin, and the low end rumble was non-existent.

Midrange
The Monk Plus midrange is really well done. For five bucks you get a quality midrange that trumps the mids of many earphones that costs several times more. A warm tilt carries through the entire frequency range and finishes with a 2 kHz bump. This tuning raises the dynamics without destroying their organic and natural sound reproduction and detail. Take this type of tuning and add the open and airy presence that earbuds give you, we have a very unique and somewhat spectacular effect when listening to them. I thoroughly enjoy both male and female vocals with this earbud. Harmony of vocals and instruments are rich and airy at the same time.
When testing the Monk Plus, the midrange in Rodrigo Y Gabriela’s song “The Soundmaker” guitars flowed in and out of the track and played with a very nice amount of strength and accuracy. With Ed Sheeran’s song “One” his voice was colorful and full without being unnatural. Dire Straits “Sultans of Swing” has some nice and full rhythm guitar and vocals that were complemented by some smooth shimmer and sparkle at higher ranges.

Midrange sounds take center stage and there is a gradual descent in each neighboring frequency ranges. Although sub bass is pretty much obsolete, the treble holds its tone well and doesn’t necessarily “roll off” or appear to be shelved like the lower bass tones. We will go over this next.

Treble
Treble manages to be smooth and maintains a shiny and enjoyable presence. The Monk Plus does a good job avoiding sibilant sounds. If you’re not going to enjoy these earbuds, it’s not going to be because of harsh highs, and in that same breath your aren’t going to dislike them for lack of treble either. They are a step at or maybe a touch under neutral in some frequencies. Highs are slightly behind the forward midrange presence in terms of balance. I really like the sound of cymbal crashes and hi hats. They are clearly heard and without harshness or distortion for the most part. One thing to note, they will struggle with more complex musical passages. The Monk Plus drivers will get a bit overwhelmed and smear upper midrange and lower treble ranges when trying to handle lots of sounds at the same time. It’s only with the most complex passages with genres like fast rock and speed metal that I experienced this.

Soundstage and Imaging
The dynamic and forward midrange packs enough naturalness to create a nice sense of airiness and instrument placement. Because of this soundstage and imaging are pretty solid. Due to the lack of sub bass response, the depth struggles. Highs that take a slight backseat to the midrange don't yield much height. Airy? Yes. Extended? No.

Comparisons
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Monk (original version) ($5 before being discontinued)
The Monk is the original five dollar earbud, and the basis in which VE aimed to surpass with the Monk Plus.

Comparing the two, the changes in sound are along the lines of the jump from the original Zen to the Zen 2.0. With the new generation, the Monk Plus is slightly more musical and smooth. VE has added a bit of color and strength to the upper midbass and midrange while maintaining the clarity and separation that made the original Monk a popular budget pick. The Monk Plus also has the added benefit of avoiding sibilant sounds and harshness from poorly recorded music. The overall feel is that the Monk Plus has a more organic signature with less fatiguing upper frequencies

Build quality and accessories is a draw. I prefer the look of the translucent smoke housings of the Monk Plus.

Do I consider the Monk Plus to be an improvement over the original? For me the answer is yes, absolutely. However, It will not be an improvement for those who prefer a more linear and lean tuning. Long story short, the Monk Plus is a slightly more musical version of the first offering, and more jack options and accessories to pick from.


VE Zen 2.0 ($150 USD on Aliexpress and VEclan.com)
The Zen 2.0 is the current earbud flagship from Venture Electronics. They are the next generation that picks up from where the original Zen left off. Similarly to the Monk series, the next generation Zen 2.0 added warmth and dynamics to their tunings while toning the upper frequencies down a bit. I am making this comparison for those who are considering taking the leap from the Monk Plus to the Zen 2.0.

First things first, the Zen 2.0 comes in at 300 Ohms, making it much more source dependent. The Monk Plus will sound better with a smartphone, while the Zen 2.0 will sound better with a more powerful DAP or amplifier. Bouncing back and forth, the Zen 2.0 is even more relaxed and smooth than the Monk Plus. There is more bass impact and depth with the Zen 2.0. On top of all of this the Zen 2.0 manages to maintain the same level of clarity throughout the sound spectrum. Throw both earphones on a higher powered source and it’s not really a contest, the Zen 2.0 pulls away when this is done. I personally feel that the Zen 2.0 is a luxury item as compared to the Monk Plus. If you want to see what VE is capable of doing, try the Monk Plus first. Get the Zen 2.0 if you want to hear one of their best, and experience what I consider to be a ten to twenty percent increase in performance over the Monk Plus, and have something more ideal for your desktop rigs and high powered portable sources. If the leap in price is worth the difference in your opinion, I say go for it. Just remember, trying a sample of the Monk Plus will give you a taste of what to expect in the Zen 2.0.

In terms of build, the Zen 2.0 gets a slight advantage, offering a ninety degree cable jack and cooler looking cable (with upgrade options). Accessories also goes to the Zen 2.0, as they offer more foams, ear hooks and a clamshell case.

Conclusion
The Monk Plus is hands down one of the best deals in the game of budget earphones. For five bucks you get a pair of earbuds that I consider to be a remarkable improvement in clarity and overall balance/fidelity to the stock Apple earpods we see used so often these days.

The Monk Plus isn’t going to rip through and destroy your custom built multi-driver in-ear monitors. It’s not the five dollar earphone that makes every earphone purchase you ever made seem obsolete. They won’t be the most ideal earphone for noisy environments. They won’t be the best earphone for commuting or running. To be honest, the Monk Plus is really only ideal for one thing, which is to sound really awesome for the price of lunch. Pop this five dollar earbud in when you're in a quiet environment and be amazed by their remarkable fidelity. Hearing is believing my friends!

Usually I try to break earphones down in each category to get a star rating. This time I’m skipping all this part and giving the Monk Plus a five star review. That’s one dollar for every star I gave them. For a price less than an extra value meal, I find the sound quality to be pretty amazing. I recommend that if you are even a little bit curious about the Monk Plus you should give them a try. Worst case scenario, if you don’t like them, you’re out five measly dollars and will have heard what a Venture Electronics earbud are capable of.

The amount of work it took to write this review is a testament to how well the Monk Plus sounds. Over the course of the last two years I’ve joined forces with many Head-Fiers to find the best sounding earphone for under twenty-five dollars. This is arguably the best of the bunch. Add things like optional adapters, balanced cable jacks, and an EX accessories package, Venture Electronics has redefined the words tremendous value when it comes to earphones.

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Thanks for reading and happy listening!
Ira Delphic
Ira Delphic
Thanks Hisoundfi! Great review. I ordered a couple of pairs last week. I love IEM's such as the venerable Vsonic GR07, but my ear canals can no longer take it - even with foam tips. Fascinating resurgence of earbuds thanks in part to folks in China. 
 
Now if the world will consistently use the term "earbud" to refer only to earbuds. 
amigastar
amigastar
Nice Review,
got my ve monk plus always by my side when going to work and city. Love them also because of the fit in the ear, they don't go deep so it keeps my right ear from getting pain.
Hatmann
Hatmann
Thanks for the review  -- useful and informative.
 
I bought some off Massdrop for gifts and have been trying one myself.
 
I have lots of cheap earphones and the Monk isn't close to being one of the best.
 
But it is comfortable, easy to use and sounds pretty decent.
 
Just fine for carrying a back-up or for gifting. Or for slipping on when you just want quick and easy and don't need the best.
 
One nit: The foam covers on mine have a life-span of maybe five minutes. Tops.
 
I hope you don't need them for an improvement in sound. I was going to order the accessory kit because I want the ear hooks. But the foam covers just don't last for me. YMMV.
 
As others have said -- the Monk is hard to beat at the price. Maybe impossible.

kiler

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Awesome soundstage, good musicality, price that can't be beat
Cons: Treble on these might not be to the liking of some (without foam covers)
0.jpg

 
I did this little review, if a written review is needed, I might put the time and effort into it 
Pros: Sound quality, build quality, visual appeal, open sound, value, channel matching, ability to change signature with covers
Cons: L/R markings hard to see, 2-3 kHz peak (can be sharp with vocals)
monkplus28.jpg
For larger views of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images

INTRODUCTION

As a hobbyist reviewer, the one thing I've noticed with virtually all the manufacturers I've dealt with is a huge passion for what they do, and also a desire for continual improvement. I've been dealing with Lee from Venture Electronics for a bit over a year, and have so far had the pleasure of reviewing VE's Zen, Zen2 and Asura2 ear-buds and Runabout amplifier. I also have in my possession (and in my long review queue) the Monk and Monk Plus ear-buds, and the Enterprise amplifier. Today’s review is the Monk Plus ear-buds.

I bring up the comment on passion because of all the people I've interacted with so far, Lee has been one of the most engaging and passionate about his products. He's also brutally honest and expects the same in return. For me – as a reviewer – I love this approach.

ABOUT VENTURE ELECTRONICS
Venture Electronics (or VE) is a 3 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 5 employees, and currently have a very small product line (Zen, Asura and Monk ear-buds, Duke IEM, Runabout portable amp, and Enterprise statement tube amp).

I asked Lee about their core business, and he said they were primarily an internet company, and had developed more products than were currently on offer, but for now their current product range covered enough to cater for immediate development. 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.

DISCLAIMER
The Monk Plus that I’m reviewing today was provided to me gratis as a review sample. I have made it clear to Venture Electronics that I still regard any product they send me as their sole property and available for return any time at their request. But I thank them for the ability to continue use of the Monk Plus for follow up comparisons. 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 Monk Plus since early this year January or February 2016 I think. Normal RRP is USD 5.00, and can be purchased on VE's Ali Express site The other means of trying the Monk Plus is to simply order one of their higher end models – you get one included free.

PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'

I'm a 49 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 (including the FiiO X5ii, X3ii, X7, LP5 Pro and L3, and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD). I also use a portable set-up at work – usually either X3ii/X7/L3 > HP, or PC > E17K > HP. My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyerdynamic T1, Sennheiser HD600 & HD630VB, 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 and Adel U6. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).

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 49, my hearing is less than perfect (it only extends to around 14 kHz nowadays).

 
I’ve used the Monk Plus from a variety of sources, but for main body of this review, I’ve used it primarily with my FiiO X3ii combined with the E11K amp, my iPhone and also the FiiO X7 with AM5 amp module. In the time I have spent with the Monk Plus, I have noticed no change in the overall sonic presentation – except for when I have changed variables such as covers.

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

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
The review sample arrived in a simple courier bag – so may not reflect the actual packaging coming from Ali. My understanding is that this pair came direct from Lee. He also sent a big bag of various covers – which I'll cover in their own separate section this time.

Besides the covers (with the retail version you just get the light red and blue thin foams), you can also order the expansion pack for an extra USD $5 (so $10.00) total and this gives you:

  1. The Monk Plus
  2. 1 sets of thick full foams, 1 sets of thick do-nut foams and 4 sets of the thin foams
  3. 2 sets of rubber outer rings (1 white, 1 black) – I don't have these
  4. 1 set of small ear-hooks and 1 set of large
monkplus01.jpgmonkplus09.jpg[size=inherit]monkplus10.jpg[/size]
The Monk Plus
Covers and Fins
Lee's pretty funny card "keeping it real"

After the technical specifications and build summary we'll take an in-depth look at the covers, and their effect on frequency response.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
(From VE)

Type
Open dynamic ear-bud
Driver
15.4mm dynamic
Frequency Range
8 Hz – 22 Khz
Impedance
64 ohm
Sensitivity
112dB +/- 5dB (1mW)
Plug
3.5mm gold plated, straight jack
Cable
1.2m, TPE outer coat, 128 x 0.06 4n ofc copper
Weight
Approx 15g with single full foam covers
IEM Shell
Polycarbonate / hard plastic

BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN
Like the recently released Asura V2, and the previously released Zen 2, the new Monk Plus continues use of the “smoky” clear polycarbonate shell so you can see the internals. Reaction to this new shell has been very positive and I really like the aesthetic appeal of the new casing. One noticeable change this time is that the actual name of the product is this time on the long arm of the ear-bud.

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Monk Plus from the top
From the underside
From the side

The shell is practically identical to the Zen 2 and Asura 2 casing. It has two circular rows of ports (total 56) close to the outer edge of the main face. The rear of the ear-bud is ported on two opposite sides (two small and a single larger port), and there is also a rear port running parallel to, and along the full length of the cable exit. Aside from the name, the other major difference is that the Monk Plus has a black instead of clear front facing.

The entire ear-bud is approximately 33mm long from the top of the outer face to tip where the cable exits. There is no strain relief from the cable exit, but given my experience with Lee's other ear-buds (solidly built cable), the fact that the cable is internally secured and also primarily worn cable down, this should not be an issue.

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From the front
The Y-split and cinch
The jack

The cable is copper (128 x 0.06 4n ofc) with a black TPC outer jacket and each channel is separate and in side by side configuration – ideal if anyone wants to re-terminate to balanced. The cable is reasonably flexible, although it can be a bit unruly at times. It does appear to be slightly more flexible than the Asura V2 cable (marginally so) . Overall though practical, solid and very good for the product range placing.

The Y split is pretty small, made of flexible rubber, and has no relief (but again none is needed). This time there is small rubber cinch (which works beautifully), and this is one of the aesthetic differences fromee the original Monk. The jack is straight, 3.5mm, gold plated, and has excellent strain relief. The jack is also smart-phone case friendly, easily fitting my iPhone 5S with case intact.

monkplus24.jpgmonkplus25.jpg[size=inherit]monkplus26.jpg[/size]
Left to right - Monk Plus, Monk original and Asura V2
Same 3 from the top rear
Same three from the under side

So the Monk Plus looks almost identical to the Zen 2 and Asura V2 in every aspect, barring the couple of small differences I noted. The only critique I would have is that the L/R markings on the earpiece stems are very hard to see.

FIT / COMFORT
Since I've been testing the various ear-buds from VE, I’ve been using ear-buds a lot more than I used to. I knew from past experience that fit and comfort were going to be pretty good, and they are. Like my experience with Asura V2, one of the differences is that where I don't tend to use hooks or covers with the Zen 2, my own personal preference requires them for the Monk Plus (sonically). This does give me more helpful options for correct seating, and a more consistent sonic experience.

I now have both large and small stabilisers from VE, and have to admit I very much prefer Lee's stabilisers than the ones I was using from Dunu. These are sturdier, and far easier to get a consistent fit. Basically they sit over the housing, with the fin part angled upward and forward. The ear-bud body sits normally in the concha cavum (tucked inside the tragus and anti tragus), and the fin lies alongside the anti helix and basically locks against the concha cymba. This drastically aids stability, and if you are careful, allows you to angle the Monk Plus perfectly to meet your individual preference. It also allows a slightly better seal (by widening the body) which also affects bass response.

The other alternative we'll cover next is the use of foam covers and there are a lot of different options which all affect the sonics quite a bit. With either the covers or fins (or a combo of both) in play, I find the Monk Plus very comfortable and overall fit for me is pretty snug. As far as isolation goes – it is an ear-bud – so any isolation is minimal.

COVERS AND FREQUENCY GRAPHS
The one thing I've learnt over time is that everyone has very different preferences, very different physiology, and very different experiences with different covers. This makes it really difficult as a reviewer as all I can relate is my own experience. The issue remains of how to show differences between the cover options, but also remain consistent.

So I jury-rigged a simply but reasonable effective attachment mechanism whereby I could couple the ear-bud to the Veritas coupler consistently and with the same pressure each time (in this case enough to hold in place but no more). What I've been trying to do is emulate the fit of the ear-bud. with and without covers.

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With do-nut covers
With full covers
With the new "light" or porous covers

The graphs below are generated using the Vibro Veritas coupler and ARTA software. I must stress that they aren’t calibrated to IEC measurement standards, but the raw data I’m getting has been very consistent, and is actually not too far away from the raw data measured by other systems except for above 4-5 kHz where it shows significantly lower than measurements performed on a properly calibrated rig. So when reading the graphs, don’t take them as gospel – or at least remember that the area above 4-5 kHz will be significantly higher in actuality. It is my aim to get this system calibrated at some stage in the future.

Further in the review I’ve added comparisons to other VE ear-buds, as well as taking measurements with covers on and off. One thing to take into account with all graphs in the review is that they will give very different reading dependent on the degree of seal you achieve. So use them as a comparative guide for discussion – but individual fit and experience will vary.

What I’m hearing (no covers):

  1. Clean and quick bass, mostly mid-bass with a big sub bass roll-off (with no covers fitted).
  2. Clean and very clear mid-range, extremely forward in the upper mid-range with good vocal clarity, but tending toward being very strident if used without covers. This is especially so with female vocalists and any instrument hitting the 2-3 kHz area.
  3. Detailed treble – a little peaky in my personal sibilance triggering area (around 6-7 kHz)
  4. Overall lean, bright, a little thin and quite peaky. Personally I would not recommend them without covers.
monkplusnaked.pngmonkplusthinfoam.pngmonkplusfullfoam.png  
No covers
New thin foam covers
Ful foam covers

The thin red and blue covers:
These covers are very thin and quite fragile (tear easily) and are very porous. Their benefit is the light density of the foam allowing a lot of air flow whilst still helping provide more seal than the Monk Plus fully naked. Measured and observable changes in sound:

  1. Mid bass is more present whilst the peak at 2-3 kHz is nowhere near as large. This gives the Monk Plus a more balanced tonality – whilst remaining very lean clean and quick.
  2. Lower treble is reduced slightly but remains very clean and detailed. There is still a peak (around 6-7 kHz), but it is not quite as bad with no covers.
  3. Overall more balanced with more mid-bass and less upper end. This is a nice option if you prefer very forward vocals and a leaner signature.
  4. Lee also asked me to try 2 sets of these covers on each earpiece, and I really quite liked this change. More balance again – more bass, and also less peaky. The problem with this approach is that I tore multiple sets of covers trying to get the dual pairs on.
Do-nuts or Thicker Full Foam
I've shown these together as they are essentially the same frequency response with just the bass slightly higher on the full foams. Measured and observable changes in sound:

  1. Mid bass and sub bass are both more present whilst the peak at 2-3 kHz is similar to the peak with the thinner foams. This gives the Monk Plus an even more balanced tonality overall – especially with bass in relation to mid-range.
  2. Everything above 2 kHz is essentially the same as for the thin foams
  3. The do-nuts would be my personal favourite of all the covers with the Monk Plus giving me the most balance overall, whilst still providing a very good and comfortable fit. Despite the better balance, I would still EQ the Monk Plus (even with the do-nuts) to get to my ideal signature.
monkplusdonut.pngmonkplusallcovers.png[size=inherit]monkplus14.jpg[/size]
Do-nut covers
All covers compared
The fitting fins (not measured)

One other point to note is the extremely good channel matching (shown in all the graphs). Lee told me previously that they switched OEM factory and the proof is in the measurements. He’s very happy with the consistency of the results, and you can see why when looking at the care taken with driver matching. Any small variations could also be the seating on the Veritas coupler (really hard to get consistent with ear-buds). I did not try to measure with the fins / ear guides as seating on the coupler simply elevated the bass too much – and it wasn't consistent with what I was hearing.

But as always – the above is listed as a guide. The best way to get to an ideal is to simply experiment. Get an expansion pack and try each cover by itself or in combination with other covers. It costs next to nothing and is quite an interesting exercise.

POWER REQUIREMENTS
The Monk Plus are 64 ohms, but with their sensitivity of 112 dB they can actually be driven well out of most portable devices without the need for any further amplification. Saying that though, I did enjoy the Monk Plus immensely with the FiiO X1 paired with Martin's Hybrid Valve Amp – especially with a little cut to the mid-bass.

monkplus17.jpg

To give you an idea in order to achieve an average listening SPL of 65-70 dB at the ear (plenty of volume for me)
  1. FiiO X1 – 33-35/100 low gain, no replay gain or EQ.
  2. FiiO X3ii – 48-50/120 low gain, no replay gain or EQ.
  3. FiiO X5ii – 46-48/120 low gain, no replay gain or EQ.
  4. iPhone 5S – approx. 7/16 (45%) clicks of volume.
  5. FiiO M3 (tiny $55 DAP) – 20-21/60 volume.
I used a calibrated SPL meter – but just an average reading on the same piece of music each time. As you can see – all the devices had ample volume left on the pot. When I tried amping with E11K, E17K and HVA – there were slight changes of tonality (most noticeable with the HVA), but I noticed no increase in overall dynamics – naturally YMMV.

monkplus18.jpg

EQUALISATION
After a while getting used to the Monk Plus, I've found no real need to EQ (using the do-nut foams), but subjectively wanted to try two things with the X7's equaliser – lowering the mid-bass and dropping the 2-3 kHz peak a little. I used small increments dropping the sliders at 62 and 250 Hz by about 1.5 dB and the slider at 125 Hz by around 3 dB. I also cut 2 kHz by 3 dB, 8kHz by 2dB and raised 4 kHz by 2dB. The result (to many anyway) was a slightly cleaner and more balanced sound, and one which would give me personally a better long-term listening experience.

Playing around with EQ is definitely recommended if you do find the bass needs a little more work, and combining EQ with the cover options definitely gives ample opportunity to find a signature which suits you personally.

USE OF IMPEDANCE ADAPTORS
Whilst we're on the subject of changing the sonic signature, there were some claims (from the VE threads) that adding an impedance adaptor had quite an effect on the overall signature. Among the changes claimed was:

  1. Increased sound-stage
  2. More sparkly highs
  3. More intimate mids
  4. Deeper bass
  5. More details
  6. Clearer and cleaner sound
In case you are wondering, all the above are often quoted when two items are compared, and one is simply louder than the other.

monkplus19.jpgadaptor.png
Securing the Monk Plus in the coupler was the first job
Measurements with the 75 ohm adaptor are quite conclusive
 
I'd previously talked to Lee about use of an impedance adaptor and he had doubts there would be any changes – mainly because the drivers in the Monk Plus essentially had a very flat impedance curve. So I ordered some adaptors to check for myself. The following graph was taken with my usual measuring set-up. That consists of an external soundcard and connection via USB paired with an E11K. The sound card has been nulled via loop back to give an entirely flat response. From the external card, I run line-out to a FiiO E11k because I know it measures completely flat and has less than 1 ohm output impedance. Monk Plus is connected to the amp, Veritas to the sound card. Monk Plus is then fixed to the coupler so it can't move and measured multiple times to make sure measurements are consistent. Recordings are then taken with and without the adaptor and then precisely volume matched.


Blue line is the Monk Plus with no adaptor. Green line is same set-up with the 75 ohm adaptor added. Red line is the two volume matched.

The data speaks for itself. The only difference is a very slight increase in sub bass between 20-30 Hz (inaudible), and a fractional drop in 40-70hz sub to mid-bass. This drop is 1 dB or less, so again would not be noticeable with actual music playing. If it was noticeable, it isn't going to be the obvious “smoothed treble" some people were talking about.

As suspected - the adaptor drops volume by adding impedance. If you volume match and compare, they sound exactly the same.

SOUND QUALITY
I'm going to shorten this area in all my future reviews because I can tend to ramble a bit, and it may help make the reviews easier to follow.

The following is what I hear from the Monk Plus. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). For my testing I used the FiiO X3ii, no EQ, low gain, and a volume at 40-45/120 giving me an SPL ranging from about 60-65 dB (a weighted) at the ear. I used the do-nut covers because they suit my ears the best. I could have tested the Monk Plus naked (without covers), but I don't think that would have been fair, as without them, it is too sharp for my personal tastes. Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and most can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.

monkplus20.jpg

Overall Detail / Clarity
Tracks used: Gaucho, Sultans of Swing

  1. Reasonable balance with heightened mid-bass
  2. Relatively good detail retrieval although sometimes slightly overshadowed by the mid-bass
  3. Cymbals have reasonable presence and decay
  4. Guitar can be slightly sharp with the upper-mid boost
  5. Does not have same sense of overall resolution as Asura or Zen(s)

Sound-stage & Imaging (+ Sibilance)
Tracks used: Tundra, Dante’s Prayer, Let it Rain

  1. Quite open sounding
  2. Good sense of width and projection is just out of head
  3. Not a huge amount of overall depth – could be the heightened early upper-mid bump.
  4. Imaging is very good and separation of instruments is far better than its very low cost would indicate
  5. Immersion is good (applause section of Dante's Prayer) with impression that crowd is around you. This is continued with the holographic presentation of “Let It Rain”
  6. Overall I would all the staging as open, but realistic and slightly intimate rather than expansive.
  7. Sibilance is revealed in “Let It Rain” - but not magnified

Bass Quality and Quantity
Tracks used: Bleeding Muddy Water, Royals

  1. Very good mid-bass impact for an ear-bud.
  2. Slightly boomy with the do-nuts, and a little mid-bass bleed but not enough to be troubling or obtrusive
  3. Good projection of bass timbre and texture (Mark's vocals in “Muddy Waters”)
  4. Enough sub-bass for rumble to be audible, but subdued (“Royals”)
  5. Very good separation between mid-bass thump and vocals (“Royals”)
 
Female Vocals
Tracks used : Aventine, Strong, For You, Human, The Bad In Each Other, Howl, Safer, Light as a Feather, Don’t Wake me Up, Ship To Wreck.

  1. Very good transition from lower-mids to upper-mids
  2. Euphonic presentation with good air and a touch of sweetness to female vocals
  3. Beautiful contrast between vocals and lower pitch of instruments like cello
  4. No signs of stridency, but female vocals are a lot more intimate (closer) than male vocals.
  5. Plays all my female vocalists extremely well – definite tick for female vocals

Male Vocals
Track used: Away From the Sun, Art for Art’s Sake, Broken Wings, Hotel California, Keith Don’t Go, Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.

  1. Plenty of dynamic slam from the bass, good presence with lead guitar and with brass instruments
  2. Male vocals slightly more distant to female vocals, better sense of depth
  3. Vocals sound quite realistic – but also slightly thin compared to female vocals
  4. Good presentation of timbre and tone – very good with Pearl Jam

Other Genres

  1. Very good with most forms of Rock – but I'd tend to still EQ the mid-bass down just a little for overall balance. Very good with Alt Rock too – especially Porcupine Tree – Wilson's vocals are amazing.
  2. Good with Blues and Jazz although mid-bass did tend to slightly overshadow cymbal decay a little. Great with brass. Bonamassa was particularly good with the Monk Plus (both vocals and guitar)
  3. Bass heavy music has reasonable bass impact – but it isn't earth shaking. Quite good with both Hip-hop and Electronic, and very enjoyable with trance.
  4. Pop could get very slightly shouty in the upper mids with poor recordings, but generally very good. Indie was brilliant – mid-bass really went well with some brighter recordings
  5. Classical on the whole was really good – stand-outs being solo piano and solo Cello. Lacked a little depth with full orchestra (definitely prefer Zen2), but for the price cannot complain.

COMPARISONS
The obvious questions here will be how the Monk Plus compares to the original Monk, and I have covered that in a bit more depth. I've also shown comparison to another solid performer in the same price bracket (FiiO EM3), and against the next bracket up (Asura 2).

Monk Original vs Monk Plus

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Monk Plus vs Monk original
Both with no covers
Both with thin foam covers

Aesthetically the two are very similar with the same physical size dimensions and similar cabling. The main difference in physical appearance is the original Monk having an opaque black plastic body, and the Monk Plus having the see-through smoky-clear body. The Monk Plus also has the cinch above the y-split, and it's actual model name on the ear-bud. arm.

In terms of specifications, the main change with the Monk Plus is the impedance jump from 32 ohms to 64 ohms, and as you'll see from the comparative measurements, much better channel matching on the Monk Plus.

Sonically – both with no covers – the two are very similar, with both sounding thin, very peaky in the mids and overly bright. There might be a hint of better separation of instruments with the Monk Plus – but without covers neither are particularly pleasant to listen to for my tastes.

With both do-nuts and full foams – both ear-buds. gain a lot of bass, and also soften the early upper mid-range peak. This balances both signatures out, and for my listening preferences, I think the do-nuts with both really do give the optimum signature. The subjective difference with covers intact is that the original Monk has a little more overall balance, is a little more laid back, and the vocals (and indeed the mid-range in general) isn't quite as vivid as the Monk Plus. So this pretty much comes down to individual preference.

monk1v2donut.pngmonk1v2fullcovers.png
Both with do-nut covers
Both with full covers

With the thin covers, they are back sounding very similar again with the Monk Plus sounding slightly thicker and a little bassier. Again for me personally, I simply find the presentation of the new foams a little too sharp in the upper mid-range.

I know I'll get asked “the question” so I may as well answer it now. For my own personal tastes, and using the do-nut covers with both ear-buds., I actually slightly prefer the original Monk to the new version. But for the price, both are excellent performers and full deserving of their cult like following.

FiiO EM3 vs Monk Plus

FiiO's new EM3 earphone comes in at USD 10.00, so in a similar value segment, but does not come with the same accessories you can get with spending $10 on the Monk Plus with extension pack. The Build of the EM3 is actually pretty good, but simply does not feel quite as sturdy as either of the Monks with thinner cables and body arm. The body itself is much deeper and cone shaped, compared to the Monk housing being flatter. Personally I find the Monks to actually fit my ears better and stay in place, where the FiiO tends to want to move around even with FiiO's default foams intact (it is better with VE's full foams). FiiO's foam covers also have a tendency to slip off. But using the Monk short fins on the EM3 and then slipping a cover over the top solves this problem completely.

Sonically I find the Monk Plus to be a little warmer, and has more fullness through the vocal range. It also sounds just the smallest bit more natural, although if I do switch to VE full foams a lot of those differences disappear, and the two sound very similar (biggest difference again being presentation of vocals).

To be fair, I haven't done a lot of critical listening with the FiiO when I wrote the notes for the Monk Plus – but there is no doubt that both ear-buds. kick well above their price – especially so when you add the EM3's microphone (my Apple Earpods are now redundant).

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Monk Plus vs FiiO EM3
Monk Plus vs FiiO EM3 and Asura V2
Monk Plus vs Asura V2

Asura 2 vs Monk Plus

The build on both is practically identical with the Asura2 having a slightly better cable and right angled jack. Otherwise aesthetically they are essentially the same (visually) – except for the Asura having the clear face plate.

The Monk Plus naked follows a very similar pattern to the Asura2, but has a far bigger dip in the mid-range, and bigger peak through 2 kHz. This makes the Monk Plus sound comparatively thinner through the mid-range, and has higher comparative peaks.

The better comparison is the Asura 2 with the new thin foams, and the Monk Plus with full foams or do-nuts (see graph). This has the Monk Plus having a bigger bass response, and a comparative larger rise at 2 kHz. The Asura 2 IMO still has a better vocal transition between lower and upper mid-range, and for me anyway remains the better tuning, but I can see how those who like a bit more robustness in the bass and a bit more presence in the upper mids are going to love the Monk Plus.

MONK PLUS – SUMMARY

Firstly I'd like to again thank Lee for giving me the chance to listen to VE’s entire line-up, and for answering my many questions. I'm yet to write a review for the original Monks (I will try to get to this soon).

The Monk Plus shares many of the traits in build and tonality to its other siblings. The shells on the Monk Plus are very similar to the Asura 2 and Zen 2, and apart from minor cosmetic differences in build (face plates and cinch), the Monk Plus is physically similar to the entire VE ear-bud. line-up.

Sonically the Monk Plus actually sits incredibly close to the original Monk, and if comparing with same covers – the main differences seem to be slightly increased bass, and slightly more upper-mid-range presence (more vivid). The Monk Plus still manages a reasonably natural presentation overall, and although it does sound quite open, I personally don't hear it being more expansive in stage than either the original Monk or its higher ranging siblings.

Ultimately personal preference is going to dictate what each individual will like the most, and if I had to make a choice for my own tastes – I still slightly prefer the original Monk. What hasn't changed is the incredible value of either Monk, and for a measly $10 I'd definitely suggest buying the Monk Plus and expansion accessory pack and simply having a lot of fun with different combinations.

monkplus15.jpgmonkplus16.jpg
Example of possibilities fins with foams or donuts underneath and thin foam on top 
Alternate picture showing the possibilities

How to score is the conflicting question. They are not perfect, so its hard to justify 5/5 – but then I look at the price, and ask myself how I could give any other score for something which provides so much sonic ability for so little value.

FINAL THOUGHTS
For those seeking the pinnacle in the VE line-up, to me it remains VE's Zen 2 (there has never been any question of that to me). But the Monk Plus is a great place to start. Lee and KK actually have a pretty natural progression going on here – because the logical stepping stones (in order) are Monk Plus, Asura 2, and then Zen 2. To really appreciate the entire line-up though, I would recommend trying each if you have the opportunity. The journey nets its own rewards and ultimate appreciation.

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annapan2009
annapan2009
excellently
Jesse Magee
Jesse Magee
Thanks to this review I'm now far more excited to receive a set of $5 ear buds than I've ever been. I've heard these compared to Sennheiser's (same mold and similar "flat" response) and as I'm a huge fan of their range I'm quite interested to hear/compare these. Great review!
thatguyuphigh
thatguyuphigh
Looking forward to being able to give this a try!

Aornic

Member of the Trade: Acorn Audio
Pros: Huge soundstage, high resolution, immaculate imaging, very good bass extension given certain parametres, low price
Cons: Wait time as it has to ship from China, Will reveal lower-end DAP shortcomings.
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It is nearing two months since I was introduced to the original Monk earbuds by Venture Electronics. They left quite the impression on me and my views on price-to-performance ratio in audio gear, not to mention reviving a medium that I had long since abandoned. In fact, I believe my last experience with earbuds was in 2005 when I had an Apple iPod. I then found a pair of Sennheiser PX-100’s and never looked back at earbuds again.
 
 
That is, until this March when a classmate let me demo his, run from an Ibasso DX90. In those short moments, I heard oodles of clarity and soundstage emitting from what looked like extremely cheap earbuds. The name of the company was not even written on them. I would compare the moment of when I first looked upon the original VE Monk to what audiences must have thought when before Susan Boyle opened her mouth on national television to sing “I Dreamed a Dream” way back in the day. I went home and ordered two, marvelling at the fact that they were 5 pounds each shipped.
 
 
It turned out that I had come across the original VE Monk right at the end of its production run. Unbeknown to me, Venture Electronics had mapped out upgrades to their bestselling item and dubbed it the Monk Plus/+. I was intrigued by the details I had gathered regarding the differences and managed to procure one with an expansion pack.
 

 
 
The day arrived and I had them in my hands. I plugged them into my Fiio X1 player and put on a song I was very familiar with on the original Monk, Dreams by Fleetwood Mac in FLAC from HDTracks. I was very surprised by the sound. Very, very surprised.
 
 
I was confused at first because the sound signature had changed quite a bit. The forwarded mids and warm tone of the original monk had been changed to a more neutral presentation. I found this quite uncharacteristic of what I had perceived the Monk’s selling point to be. I won’t lie, I was confused and felt that it might not have been the right move by Venture Electronics to change a winning formula in such a manner. I discussed it with Wild Lee, the outspoken head of the company who assured me to keep trying it with different sources and configurations. I did, and I found exactly what worked for me.
 
 
 
You see, the Monk Plus is incredibly detailed – so much so that I found its resolution superior to most full-sized headphones I have tried in the past. I had found the original Monk quite detailed too, but the treble felt a bit hazy with its mids-centric sound. The bass on the original felt “full” but never suitable for more electronic genres of music. The Monk Plus has situated itself as an incredible all-rounder pair of earbuds because of its neutral, detailed and resolving sound. It is very clear in both mid and treble regions and does not get overpowered by more hectic recordings like the original Monk sometimes did. Another improvement took some experimentation to discover, but once I found it I was sold on the sheer quality of these new earbuds.
 
 
As mentioned earlier, the bass on the original Monk had shortcomings in the extension and impact – especially with more electronic genres such as Electronic Dance Music, Electropop music and Techno. I chalked up this quality to the fact that it was an earbud…a $5 earbud. It would be foolish, I told myself, to expect a $5 earbud to be able to accomplish more than its chosen sound signature – which I had incredible for classic rock recordings. I saw the original Monk as a clearer model from the Grado line in earbud form – where bass is never meant to be the focus but rather the mids and overall open soundstage.
 
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The Monk Plus has more bass extension that I thought possible from a pair of earbuds with this design. You must understand that the soundstage of the Monk, and increasingly so the Monk Plus, is vast with incredible imaging. This quality is hard to achieve in the closed off, plastic earbud design that all Apple product users are familiar with. The Monk/Monk Plus succeed at this because of their very light plastic shell and minute drivers. There is no attention given to making them look “cool” or “trendy,” but rather to accomplish the best sound experience possible. When using the original Monks, I appreciated this aspect and switched off my need to have, simply put, “more bass” as I listened to rock recordings.
 
 
The Monk Plus turned my expectations on their head as I can now happily listen to all the electronic genres that I found myself avoiding with the original. This is due to my chosen configuration and setup, which utilizes two full foams on each side. The new foams are thinner than the original Monk’s, so I found myself wanting more damping for bass impact. However, I found that using one of the original Monk’s full foams caused the Plus to sound muffled and very unsatisfactory. This told me that this is an entirely different entity from the original, even to the point where it required different thickness in foams. I rummaged through my expansion pack and experimented with different configurations – leading to my finding that two of the thinner foams on each earpiece yielded increased bass extension and impact without losing more than a tiny amount of the clarity and resolution that is this earbuds’ main selling point.
 
 
Suddenly, the Monk Plus had trumped the original to become what I went to for portable listening sessions. The better soundstage, the cleaner sound overall with the more neutral mids and extended highs, the impressive bass extension and the clarity and resolution put this head and shoulders above any other earbuds I had tried in my life – with most costing more too.
However, I will say that the Monk Plus is quite a bit revealing but not in the manner you would imagine. I found that it made the phone-out jack on my Fiio X1 sound dull, but had renewed vigour and energy being driven from my Samsung Galaxy S6 with its coloured sound. I found this amusing at first but then I found it hard to return to the X1 – leading to me selling it. I dub it the Monk Plus’ victim and I hope it finds peace with its new owner.
 

 
 
Deciding to truly go guns blazing into what could be achieved with the Monk Plus, I plugged it into my Cavalli Liquid Carbon SE output on low gain. Music was played using Foobar2000 on my Laptop connected to a Schiit Gungnir DAC with USB Version 2. I find this DAC to provide an immense amount of detail and resolve to even my ZMF Omni – which is tuned to be a musical pair of headphones that has slightly lessened resolve and detail compared to others. The Monk Plus showed me more of the warm but charismatic characteristic of the Liquid Carbon coupled with the incredible clarity and resolution of itself and the Gungnir. It was simply the best I’ve ever heard on a “portable” set of listening apparatus.
 
 
This setup convinced me I needed a better DAP, but I’ll have time for that later. I’m very grateful that the Monk Plus gives a punchy and fun sound from my Galaxy S6. I also found that the earbuds responded very well to equaliser adjustments such as the one below that I sometimes, when the need for bass is overwhelming, use for more electronic music.
 
R42q6O5.png
 
 
I would recommend the expansion pack if it is available for purchase, as they notably tend to run out quickly due to the product’s popularity. I haven’t quite figured out how to use the earhooks yet but they comes in two sizes in soft and comfortable rubber. Rubber rings in white and black are also provided for those who want more traction for the Monk Plus in their ears. I count myself as one of the individuals who find that the earbud just “disappears” during wear, leading to an open sound emitting from the room around you as it barely feels like anything is being worn. I have heard that some struggle with its width, but I have not personally so I cannot speak to this issue.
 
 
Even when I was knee-deep in Monk Plus listening, I told myself that I would alternate between it and the original depending on genres I was listening to. However, this simply never happened except for review notes and comparisons. I find the Monk Plus to be the superior earbud in both build quality and sound. The clarity in the vocals and acoustic instruments in the aforementioned song Dreams by Fleetwood Mac burst into life on these earbuds, with vocal harmonies sounding crisp and distinct with a lot of body to the sound. The casing itself has been upgraded from the original, using what feels like a better quality plastic shell that is see-through so you see the drivers at work. The name is also written on the shell now too so hooray for branding. I'm also glad to see that the original thick double-wire from the original has been retained in the new design.
 
20160419_180549.jpg
 
 
Branding and marketing is what commands attention in the audio world in many cases. We all lambast Beats headphones for their sound quality but evidence shows that the company spends more on marketing campaigns than most audio companies spend period. It worked, they got their name out there and now most headphones I see being worn in public are Beats. Venture Electronics went with a different approach, one I truly respect. A little digging on AliExpress will show you that they make quite a few products from other earbuds to an Electrostatic amplifier. Their other products have premium pricing, as such products do in the audio world – but the Monk Plus stands alone at $5. It is such a simple but effective marketing tool, to draw in customers with such a small investment bringing amazing quality. For most casual listeners, some of whom I have bought the Monk Plus as a gift and have been given very positive feedback regarding, this earbud will be all they need to enjoy music on their smartphone. To the rest of us, it makes us wonder. It whets our appetite for the kind of experience that Venture Electronics can provide for more payment. Indeed, I have read rave reviews of the $150 earbud the Zen 2.0 and I hope to try it myself someday when situations can allow for it. Until then, I’m happily using my Monk Plus.
 
 
In a hobby with known diminishing returns the higher you go, the Monk Plus makes all earbuds' price-to-performance ratio curve start damn early. 
 
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ryanjsoo

Reviewer for The Headphone List
ryanjsoo's Reviews
Pros: Cool translucent shells, Textured sound, Smooth, detailed midrange, Strong treble performance, Nice, thick cable
Cons: Mid-bass sounds a bit bloated, No strain-relief at earpieces, Straight plug, Sounds far more balanced without foams at the cost of bass extension

Introduction –

This is getting ridiculous, with a $5 RRP, the VE Monk+ is cheaper than most cables. The VE Monk+ is an update to the highly regarded VE Monk, one of the most awarded and most popular budget buds on the market.

I know these reviews go in one of two ways, “I can`t believe this earphone costs $5” and “I didn`t know an earbud could sound this good”. I don`t think either of these statements still apply with products such as the Fiio EM3, Baldoor E100, Mrz Tomahawk and now the VE Monk+ on the market. That being said, does the performance of the Monk+ live up to these earphones or even to that of it`s progenitor? Let`s find out.

 

About Me – Some background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases

 

I generally prefer a slight v-shape to my sound, but still closer to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity, but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound such as that on the X10`s. I prefer a more neutral midrange within a relatively tight tolerance, but I`m probably more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I`m not particularly treble sensitive and can tolerate large amounts without fatigue, though too much ruins the enjoyment. If I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review I will note that and describe the sound changes.

Read More

 

Accessories –

The VE Monk+ comes in a very amusing sealed bag lathered in statements of audio superiority, “The biggest band you`ll ever hear for your buck… Dare to challenge me” just two of the numerous captions proclaim (we`ll justify those claims in the sound section).









Opening up the bag reveals the Monk+ in a new translucent shell and 4 pairs of Venture`s light foams (4 red and 4 blue).

dsc04636.jpg


The foams are very unique, they are colourful for easy orientation and extremely porous. Initially I thought they looked like they might disintegrate in my ears or feel rough, both I luckily found to be untrue.








The foams are perfectly comfortable and work miracles on the sound of any earbud, not just the Monk+. They hardly affect the clarity and detailing of the midrange whilst increasing seal and thus bass performance/extension. Due to the open nature of the foam pores, they do crackle a lot when moving around within the ear but this shouldn`t be an issue in normal use. I did also notice a slight darkening of the sound with these foams. Since I prefer a slightly brighter sound, I decided to review the Monk+ without covers.

The packaging and accessories are perfectly fine for $5, the bag is pretty nice and the foams are fantastic.

 

Design –

dsc04629.jpg


The VE Monk+ use the same housings as most Chinese buds such as the Tingo TG38 and other VE buds. Venture have employed a similar transparent/smoke housing as the updated v2 Zen and Asura which adds another dimension to the look over the standard black, I actually like the aesthetics a lot. The housings use a tried and tested design, that are quite large in size but still comfortable, especially so when combined with foams.

dsc04645.jpg


The Monk+ is fully plastic all around but feels solid nonetheless. They are extremely light and disappear in the ear like the EM3, but the thick stems do produce an annoying plasitcky creak when sidelying, something the thinner stemmed EM3`s avoid.

dsc04643.jpg


The Fiio EM3 and Baldoor E100 are both slightly smaller, the EM3 a little more so than the E100, resulting in more long term comfort but also slightly less seal. The bell shaped housing of the E100 promotes a slightly deeper fit whilst the EM3 and Monk+ are both very shallow, the Monk+ are particularly shallow fitting due to the large yet thin front face.








The cable on the Monk+ is great for the price, nice and thick but not too tacky. It is a typical rubber cable but it`s as thick as the bottom EM3 cable all the way through. The cable doesn`t have too much memory and straightened out surprisingly quickly after un-packaging the buds. One thing to note, the channels are separated below the y-split which increases tangle resistance a bit but also increases the chance of splitting. This cable leads up to a nice, low-profile y-split with the Venture Logo imprinted on its face.











The Monk+ has a gold plated straight plug which is not as nice as the right angle plug on the EM3 but far better than the E100`s plug. Like the EM3 it has a very solid strain relief at the plug but none at the earpieces themselves. There is a small chin slider at the y-split if you intend to use the Monk`s for anything active. The Monk+ is not offered with a remote of any kind, It would be nice of Venture to add on in, but it`s hardly necessary.

An added note regarding those new foams though. I remember reading a post where Lee stated that the Asura 2.0 was designed to be used without covers. This leads me to guess that the Monk+ may have been designed in the same fashion. Given the overwhelmingly positive impression of the new light foams, I installed them on the Monks and disregarded the sound changes. Big mistake on my behalf, I far prefer the sound without foams. Please remember that this is just my preference, I`ll try to be objective as possible and separate sound signature from quality in my review. So good marks for build and design overall.

 

Sound –

I haven`t heard the original Monk, but many described it as mid-centric. That`s definitely not what I`m hearing with the new plus variant.

The Monk+ has a powerful bass response combined with a full-bodied lower midrange, similar to the EM3 but a lot cleaner. It is quite dark sounding with the included foams, upper mids do sound recessed, not overly so, but on the borderline. The signature does change considerably when removing the foam covers, the midrange is quite level with plenty of presence. It`s far more neutral only at the expense of a little bass extension. Either way, the Monk+ sounds quite detailed, not as aggressively detailed as the E100, but more so than the EM3. The Monk+ doesn`t have a lot of clarity as a result, instead sounding more smooth and laid-back, a little more refined and less artificial than competitors. The treble response is commendable as well but I`ll talk about these in more detail later.

The presentation is top quality. The soundstage has great width and good depth with a lot of space around each instrument. Imaging is also quite good. It`s similar to the EM3, but the Tomahawks sound more well rounded. The Monk+ has no difficulties separating complex passages or those with an abundance of instruments and easily achieves that “out of the head” feeling with certain material.

The Monk+ is only moderately sensitive, sounding especially quiet due to its slightly recessed upper midrange. Despite this, it will still reach high levels from portable sources. Luckily it didn`t seem to be affected by output impedance and even my iPod Nano 7g drove it perfectly fine, the Monk+ isn`t source sensitive at all. At the same volume, it is slightly less sensitive than the Fiio EM3, that means less so than both the Tomahawk and E100 as well. If you prefer high listening volumes and listen from a weak source, you might want to consider an external amp.

So overall, the tonality of the Monk is relatively balanced, the midrange is slightly dark, but very natural. The neutral treble prevents a dull or fatiguing sound and there is more refinement to the sound than either the EM3 or E100. It`s a coherent and well considered sound. Using the included foams boosts bass extension and slam at the cost of neutrality. Some may prefer the more full-bodied, darker sound with foams and this sound does work well when there is ambient noise.

Bass –

The bass response is powerful and full but the boost is quite moderate overall. It has slightly less sub-bass extension and slam than the Fiio EM3 (even with foams), but the bass response is more textured in return. The mid-bass response has the biggest boost, more than the EM3 and similar to the E100, whilst the upper bass response is only slightly boosted, granting the sound greater body and the mids nice warmth whilst avoiding the sense of bloat that afflicted the Fiio EM3`s. The EM3 is slightly tighter, but some listeners may enjoy the cleaner presentation of the Monk+.

Whilst It isn`t as tight as the Tomahawk`s leaner presentation, notes still attack with impressive speed and finesse though it is still more laid-back over punchy. As a result, bass notes do come through ever so slightly bloated, but the bass remains well separated from the midrange which is very commendable within this price range.

Mids –

The lower midrange is slightly boosted giving the sound warmth and body, but not as much as the EM3. The upper midrange is a little recessed and it may take some time getting used to coming from a brighter earphone. But behind this dark tonality, the Monk+ reveals quite a lot of detail, easily as much as the EM3 and E100, but still falls short of the intricate reproduction of the much more expensive Tomahawk`s. The greater clarity of both the EM3 and E100 can create a more aggressive presentation, but the Monk+ is more refined and a lot cleaner sounding.

What the monk does possess is an uncanny smoothness to the sound, making vocals very enjoyable whilst avoiding any kind of harshness. I personally prefer the leaner Baldoor E100`s and Mrz Tomahawk`s, but I can see the merits of the Monk+ for study, relaxation or genres of music such as indie, older pop and jazz. Acoustic also sounds nice and full, helped by a spacious soundstage whilst even poorly recorded jazz and rock sound un-fatiguing. The more full-bodied and powerful tonality of the monk+ is well suited to it`s shallow sealing nature, resulting in a relatively neutral sound, but the added seal produced by foams results in a low end dominance.

Treble –

The treble is about neutral in quantity and is well extended. It is similar in quality to the EM3, but comes through clearer on account of the Monk+`s less boosted upper midrange. The treble response prevents the sound from being boring or overly dull; it has plenty of sparkle whilst retaining appropriate body and texture. It`s quite a bit better than the grainier E100 and Apple Earpods of course. I do find myself enjoying the texture and tone of the Monk+`s treble response.

 

Verdict –

The Monk was quite an important product in the budget bud scape that really didn`t need to be updated. The new Monk+ brings an improved build, revised tuning and a new slew of accessories. Does that make it a better product, overall? Of course, and for the exact same ridiculously cheap asking price, Venture provides buyers with a great product for virtually no money at all.

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I was initially a little disappointed with the audio performance; the reputation of the Monk`s was invincible and the Monk+ didn`t flaw me like I thought it would. But removing the foam covers has improved the tonality remarkably, enough for me to reconsider my review at least. So at $8 shipped worldwide, the Monk+ is easily the strongest performing earbud in it`s price range, there are none that are even close to matching it`s price/performance ratio. Without covers I also find it to be both more neutral and more technically proficient that other budget earbuds, especially considering that such a tonality is very hard to come by in this price range. The Monk+ hence makes a very good gift and a great intro into the merits of superior audio gear (or an intro to earbuds if you want to give them a try). It`s comfortable and enjoyable to listen to, the transparent housings looks intriguing and the build is very sturdy. The Monk+ is a smoother, more balanced alternative to the Fiio EM3 and Baldoor EM3, did I mention that they`re $8 shipped? Go buy a set!

Accessories – 10/10, Very minimal but also very cheap, Venture offers a much more extensive selection of accessories for only a few dollars more, good travel cases are easily found on the internet for just a few dollars.

Design – 9/10, The housings look neat and are very comfortable with or without foams. I especially like the cable which is nice and thick, resisting tangle with low memory. The plug is reinforced and well relieved but the earpieces have no relief at all. They could also offer a remote model.

Bass – 6/10, Decently tight, powerful and reasonably extended. Very textured with good slam whilst retaining punch.

Mids – 6/10, Relatively neutral with a weak seal, ever so slightly warm and dark with an emphasis on details and smoothness. Female vocals can come through a bit muffled, but the midrange is a strong performer overall, perhaps surprisingly so.

Treble – 6.25/10, A little more detailed and clear than other top budget buds such as the Fiio EM3. Great texture and body produce an enjoyable listen.

Value – 11/10, At $5 USD, the Monk+ unsurprisingly represents unbeatable value.

Verdict – 8.5/10, The Monk+ offers a relatively balanced sound signature in culmination with a very textured bass performance, extended treble and a smooth, clean midrange. When adding those slick housings and great build into the equation, the Monk+ is a very attractive buy. The RRP is ridiculously cheap, and whilst I can`t compare it to the original, the VE Monk+ is  well worth a try.

 

This review was taken from my blog, please have a look for guides and more reviews like this, thanks for reading!

https://everydaylisteningblog.wordpress.com/

twister6

twister6 Reviews
Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: excellent value, durable build, warm natural detailed sound, updated “Plus” design and sound tuning.
Cons: earbuds fit is not for everyone, no isolation (typical of earbuds)

I would like to Thank Venture Electronics (VE) and Lee @zhibli06 for providing me with review samples of Monk+, Asura 2.0, and Zen 2.0 in exchange for my honest opinion.
 
The manufacturer website: https://www.veclan.com/ve_eng_index (now accepting PayPal)
 
Product links: Monk+ (https://www.veclan.com/engappliance_sel_one?eng_ApplianceVo.eac_id=4), Asura 2.0 (https://www.veclan.com/engappliance_sel_one?eng_ApplianceVo.eac_id=5), Zen 2.0 (https://www.veclan.com/engappliance_sel_one?eng_ApplianceVo.eac_id=3).
 
The following review will focus on the latest VE Monk Plus (+) as well as mini-review of Asura 2.0 and Zen 2.0 updates.
 
* click on images to expand.
 
** the review was posted by mistake under the original VE Monk, so I moved it over to VE Monk Plus (+) now

 
Venture Electronics (VE) specializes in making earbuds, and earbuds are not my cup of tea, or cup of coffee, or whatever drink I’m in a mood for.  So why am I writing about the latest set of their earpieces?  Because I enjoy their sound, to the point where I even forget that my ear anatomy is not friendly with earbud shell design (lack of nozzle to stick in my ears).  I did come across a few earbuds in the past, but none of them impressed me since I couldn’t get a good fit/seal which affected the sound, especially the low end performance.  I also noticed that most of them had a similar generic design.
 
That was exactly the reason why I almost turned down the review of the original Zen, but so glad I moved forward with that opportunity because they restored my faith in earbuds after I heard how great they sound.  I’m not gonna lie and tell you I use them every day.  But some of you probably noticed that I use Zen in all of my DAP and usb DAC/amp reviews.  They are unique because of their 320 ohm impedance and require a good driving source to make them shine.  It’s a challenge I’m always looking forward to in my testing, and it also gives me an opportunity to spend more listening time with them.
 
But the main focus of this review is not Zen or Asura, both of which I still plan to talk about in my write up, it’s about the little mighty Monk – $5 earbud sensation.  Lee, the driving force behind VE, is a genius when it comes to marketing of his products.  Who can resist a pair of $5 earbuds?  They are cheap enough to be considered disposable, and they utilize a generic design which never going to make you question if the deal is too good to be true.  Not until you put Monks in your ears, you will realize that these earbuds are not about the looks but rather about the sound.  You will be hooked on it and will be craving to hear how other more expensive VE earbuds scale up in sound quality.  But for now let’s start with a Monk+.
 
Monk+ (a.k.a. Monk 2.0)
 
Spec: 64 ohm, 112 dB, 18-22.5kHz, $5
 
There is nothing to talk about the packaging because it’s a $5 pair of earbuds, and to keep the cost down you get it as is without any official packaging box.  As a matter of fact, they are durable enough to wrap around and throw in your pocket without a need for a headphone case.  I’m not just saying that because they are cheap and could be tossed around, Monks are actually well built and can withstand some abuse.  Plus the chord is on a thicker side, but still flexible, and will not tangle as easily.
 
If you want a case or a shirt clip or extra accessories, you can always get it for a few bucks on ebay or aliexpress.  But there is one set of accessories that was actually included, 4 pairs of foam ear-sleeves – 2 pairs in red and 2 in blue.  Foam material seems to be stretchable and durable, no worries it will rip easily, and I like the bi-color design because Monk’s L/R side marking is very hard to see so I used red/blue foamies combo for Right/Left id.  My only suggestion is that in addition to 2 pairs with fully enclosed sleeves, offer one more pair with a punched out “donut” design.
 
The cable has a straight 3.5mm gold plated headphone jack with a nice strain relief.  I personally prefer right angled connector, but it makes sense with Monk+ to offer it as is because more expensive Asura and Zen with their angled connectors will be considered as an upgrade.  You also have a small slim y-cable splitter and a decent chin slider.  The cable has a nice rubbery shielding, and overall feels durable.
 
The shell housing of the Monk+ have the same basic design as majority of other generic earbuds, and that also includes Asura and Zen.  You have a typical round shallow earpiece where the dynamic driver is placed under a plastic shielding cap with numerous venting holes, and a long tubular neck piece where the wires go through to the driver.  Due to a small size of earpiece, typically it's better to hold on to this “neck” for a more comfortable handling of earpieces in and out of your ears.  But regardless of the similarity in the design, the Monk+ was upgraded with a semi-transparent material, only leaving the driver cover in solid black.
 
This makes Monk+ look more premium and less generic, especially when wearing bi-color foam sleeves.  And speaking of those, I actually preferred wearing Monks with foamies because it enhanced the fit with an extra seal (more bass) and helped keeping them secure in my ears.  Also, I liked how instead of their website, previously printed on original Monk, now you have slightly pixilated “Monk” printed on Monk+.  I just wish moving forward VE adds some kind of an ID bump on the right earpiece for a blind ID, otherwise I can’t easily feel the difference between L/R just by sliding my finger.
 
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Monk vs Monk+
 
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The fit (Monk+, similar to Asura and Zen)
 
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Sound analysis.
 
Since a number of people already have the original Monk, let me start with a baseline of its sound to correlate the improvements as I hear with Monk+.
 
The original Monk has a well balanced, smooth, clear sound signature with a neutral tonality.  Due to its fit and corresponding seal, I don't hear as much sub-bass (unless I push and hold them into my ears), it's more rolled off, though I can still hear a quality low end extension, just with not too much of sub-bass quantity.  Mid-bass has a nice snappy punch without too much exaggeration, well controlled without spilling into mids.  Lower mids have a good body, though a little more toward the leaner side.  Upper mids are smooth and organic, and still clean and detailed, not super detailed but surprisingly good.  Treble is clear, detailed, with a good definition and some airiness, not too bright or sibilant.  Soundstage width is expanded above average, and it also has a decent depth and height.
 
Now stepping up to Monk+, I hear the sound gaining a little more body, making tonality a little warmer and more natural while still retaining the same sound signature.  I hear the bass being a little bit tighter and more articulate, lower mids gaining a little more body, upper mids being more organic and with some improvement in retrieval of details, treble is smoother, with a little less airiness, and more control.  There is an improvement in transparency, and in general the sound is tighter and smoother.  Soundstage has the same width, but I hear a little less depth making sound more intimate.
 
There are not too many earbuds in this price category to use for comparison, though next to FiiO’s latest EM3, I hear Monk as being more transparent, with a cleaner sound, less sub-bass and a faster mid-bass punch, lower mids are leaner, upper mids are as smooth and a little more detailed, and treble has a little more sparkle, and slightly better definition with a touch more airiness.
Also, Monk+ steps all over the original Apple earphones which in comparison are less detailed and have a more congested sound, not as tight bass, and narrower soundstage.
 
Asura 2.0
 
Spec: 150 ohm, 110 dB, 17-23kHz, $78
 
I don’t remember if I received the original Asura in the past, Lee was always generous with his review samples, but I can’t find it so just going to describe Asura 2.0 as I hear it.  Since Asura is positioned as a more premium design, VE stepped it up to a right angled headphone jack connector, and the driver cover cap is being semi-transparent gray instead of all black, and the rest of the shell is semi-transparent just like in Monk+.  Also, it comes with more accessories including a clamshell case, different foam sleeve covers, and even sport stabilizer fins in two sizes.  Though fins helped in keeping Asura secure in my ears, it didn’t help with a seal so I went back to bi-colored foam sleeves.
 
I used Asura 2.0 with foam sleeves and hear them as having a little less sub-bass (it’s all seal dependent where my ears are not earbud friendly) and an average mid-bass speed, though still packing a nice punch.  Also, I hear that the bass spills a little bit into the mids, adding more body to the sound where I hear a little thicker lower mids which in my opinion take away some transparency while adding more lushness and smoothness to the sound.  Upper mids are clear and detailed, and slightly boosted, but still smooth to my ears, delivering an excellent vocal performance (both male and female).  Treble is clear, detailed smooth, non-sibilant.
 
When it comes to soundstage and layering/separation, I think Asura does well, but not pushing it too far above the average.  With more emphasis on upper mids and overall sound being a little laidback and relaxed, Asura 2.0 performs great with vocal tracks but not as much with tracks that require a stronger bass punch or crispier treble.  Also, even so we are stepping up now to 150 ohm impedance, I had no issues driving these from any of my low power sources, including some portable audio players and even my smartphone.
 
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Zen 2.0
 
Spec: 320 ohm, 106 dB, 15-23.5kHz, $148 3.5m TRS, $178 balanced with adapters, and up to $358 for Cardas Golden Selection cable
 
Sine I have reviewed the original Zen 1.0 in the past (all white plastic housing), I will start with a recap of my sound analysis and then move on to Zen 2.0 sound changes.  In terms of a design, Zen 2.0 now has a more premium look with a semi-transparent shell and a new cable with a more premium red shielding - looks top notch!  You get an assortment of foam ear sleeves, stabilizer fins, a premium hard shell case, and even a bonus Monk as an “accessory”.  Furthermore, you also have an option of different cable terminations, and even a premium cable wire.
 
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You can choose a regular 3.5mm TRS single ended termination with an angled 3.5mm gold plated connector.  Or for additional $30 you can get a balanced version with adapters.  The balanced version comes with two 3.5mm connectors which you can use with Pono or some Sony amps.  A set of included adapters will give you connection to 2.5mm TRRS (A&K wiring), 3.5mm TRRS (HFM wiring), and 3.5mm TRS single ended.  Perhaps it was an artifact of my balanced output sources, but I found imaging with those to be a bit distracting and preferred to use 3.5mm TRS single ended adapter instead.  Either way, it’s really great to have a flexibility of different connections to try with different sources.  There is also a 3rd cable option, but it uses a premium wire which adds over $200 on top of Zen 2.0 price.  Maybe one of these days VE will consider a removable cable to make the design compatible with both wire up and down?  Zen 3.0, perhaps?
 
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I find Zen 1.0 to have a very detailed transparent smooth balanced sound.  It has a great soundstage, definitely above the average in width and depth, maybe more width then depth.  I wouldn't say it has the best audiophile quality layering and separation, and perhaps the imaging doesn’t necessary standout with 3D placement.  But it has a clear neutral tonality with a smooth sound that you can listen to non-stop for hours.
 
Low end is rather accurate with a fast and tight mid-bass punch and extended sub-bass depth.  I hear a well controlled and snappy bass with a noticeable sub-bass rumble.  Mids are the star of these earbuds.  You will find a perfect smooth lower mids with a clean separation from the low end.  Mids have a nice smooth body, and a very clear presentation.  Upper mids sound very organic with an excellent retrieval of details. Both female and male vocals sound very natural and accurate.  Treble has a great definition, clear and detailed but not too much airiness.  It just flows smooth and transparent as an extension of upper mids, sharing the same characteristics.
 
To my ears, Zen 2.0 sound is more balanced, still detailed and transparent, but now the bass is tighter and more articulate, mids have a little more body and still have an excellent retrieval of details and great natural tonality, especially when it comes to vocals.  Treble still has a great definition, detailed, but now has a little more airiness.  Another change is in soundstage expansion, where I hear more width but a little less depth, making sound more intimate.
 
Just like with Zen 1.0, Zen 2.0 still has 320 ohm impedance which requires a little more juice to drive these earbuds to their full potential.  Don’t expect them to shine straight from your smartphone.  Yes, you can raise the volume to hear them, but you are not going to “feel” the quality of the sound.
 
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Conclusion.
 
Even so the original intent of this review was to focus on the latest Monk+ (Monk 2.0), I felt that Monk is like a stepping stone into the world of premium VE earbuds.  Thus, it’s impossible to talk about this latest update without bringing up the next gen releases of Asura and Zen.  I have reviewed a number of budget headphones in the past, but can’t think of too many in $5 range that can match the price/performance ratio of Monk+.  When it comes to earbuds, FiiO’s latest EM3 is a good contender, though priced at $15; and with in-ear monitors you have $7 RX18 from Mee Audio as well as a handful of KZ releases in $15 price range.  What surprised me the most with Monk+ is that Lee fine tuned the sound and updated the design with a more premium look, but the price remained the same.
 
I don’t have too many earbuds to make a more broad comparison in order to determine which one is at the top.  What I do know is that thanks to iDevices the earbud style headphones became more acceptable around the world.  I still see a lot of people with their little white earbuds listening to music, though sadly not realizing what they are missing.  I’m sure many of them prefer not to stick anything down their ear canal and appreciate being aware of surrounding environment since earbuds don't isolate as much.  VE Monk+ can do all that, and improve the sound quality with its warm natural detailed signature for only $5.  And once you ready to upgrade, Asura and Zen could be a worthy consideration for anybody, regardless if you are a beginner or an audiophile.
EISENbricher
EISENbricher
Nice and accurate analysis, that I can say from my experience with the Monk and Monk+ 
Thanks a lot for this review. 
Toom
Toom
How do these compare to Apple Earpods?
twister6
twister6
@Toom : I can't keep earpods in my ears, they are falling out, not able to test it.
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