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In-Ear item created by peter123, Sep 11, 2015
Pros - Sound Quality; Detail; Speed; Comfort
Cons - Build quality could be better for the price; Isolation; Highly eartips dependent; Very picky with sources
Full review of the Asura 2, Zen 2 & Duke here:
The Duke is one of those 'one of a kind' IEM I've ever tried. For the price it has a very unique presentation and excellent sound quality. The overall sound signature manages to nicely balanced and a bit towards the bright side of things, a bit aggressive, yet very refined and delicate. It is also extremely eartip and fit dependent and also rather picky and source revealing. Unlike the VE earbuds, Asura and Zen, with their higher impedance rate, the Duke is more efficient but not as much as its tech. specs would suggest. Actually, it's comparable to the old RE-0 and the (relatively) newer SoundMagic E80, and interestingly enough they do share some acoustical characteristics.
Bass from this micro dynamic driver is tight, accurate, but lacks the rumble and texture that a more bass focused dynamic in-ear, such as the MA750 or GR07 BE should offer. It is also very fast and probably one of the fastest dynamic drivers, which reminds a lot to the CKN70. Thanks to its wider and open presentation, the Duke present lower notes more natural than the RE-400 and less colored than the RE-600. The transition from upper bass to lower midrange is quite linear and very smooth. The use of foam tips tends to help to add some extra bass quantity that is a bit north of neutral without missing the high detail. Compared to a DBA02/B2 the Duke can move more air and offer a better extension, texture and layering and thicker note but overall they're both very similar next to more consumer-friendly tuned earphones.
The midrange triumphs in clarity and transparency, very neutral to slightly prominent at most, natural with practically zero coloration. It's cleaner and very well balanced with the low end with outstanding level of clarity and detail. The RHA MA750 mids are less forward next to the Duke, a bit cleaner but also less colored and thinner in the lower midrange region. It could be found as a tad aggressive sounding compared to much more laid back Hifiman RE400, being with an obvious crisp presentation. On the other hand the DBA-02/B2 and R-50M are more energetic towards the upper midrange which tends to be more tiring. Texture is excellent and well compared to the RE-600 for instance, but both Hifman sets have the upper hand in vocals presentation being sweeter, forward and more engaging. The Duke may also sound thinner with male/lower vocals, unless a good source is applied; the Lotoo PAW5000, for example, showed a beautiful synergy in the whole midrange and made the vocals really shine. With its dynamic driver, the VE Duke sounds less dry and more a tad more convincing than the Rock-It R-50, but also less liquid with a darker background and more solid notes.
There's a noticeably emphasis towards the upper midrange which keeps going up to the lower treble and rest of the treble which makes the Duke a rather bright and very crisp sound IEM full of energy and sparkle. It's not as forgiving or as sibilant free as the RE600, and also very picky with source in this aspect. Treble extension excellent, very similar to the MA750, and yet feels more natural than the sharper MA750 and definitely not as hot as any TWFK based in-ear, even next to either the GR01 or DN-2000 which have been tuned with a slightly more relaxed treble for those brilliant drivers.
The overall presentation of the Duke is extremely open and airy, with a most natural instruments separation and positioning, but still not the last word in sense of space. The soundstage is well-rounded, with better depth and height, although the actual width will depend more on the source in use; quite an achievement considering the Duke is just a micro dynamic driver. Layering is very nice and the sound has a fairly realistic timbre well compared (and potentially easier to like) to the MA750. The MA750 is still more enveloping, with better 3D imaging and ambience and much larger in stage. Dynamics are much better than a BA based such as the DBA-02 and the Duke easily wins over hybrid sets like the similar priced DN-1000 in terms of coherence, something to be expected from a single dynamic driver.
Pros - Sound quality, Comfort, Isolation,Value.
Cons - Sibilant, not everyone would like the sound signature, needs deep insertion for proper results.
IEM Review: Venture Electronics Duke
Introductions & Notes:
I am just a simple music loving person. I don't consider myself to have golden ears or whatsoever but do like my music detailed as possible under a jobless student's budget. With the Dukes I can safely say that you do not need to spend thousands of $ to get like thousand$ sound quality anymore.
Thank you brother Tamal for the review unit. I do not have all the accessories like extra tips because I just used the tips that fit and left soon after from his house. This review is my honest opinions on the Duke. I am in no way affiliated with Venture Electronics.
Housing: Aluminum alloy
Driver: Dynamic 6mm
Freq. range: 12Hz-28kHz
Sensitivity: 101 dB
Impedance: 16 Ohms
Price: 198$ from Aliexpress.
Aluminium casings with a nice finish and feel solid with little weight. The cable feels like soft touch rubber with low microphonics. The cables don't tangle much. They are well attached to the housings, at first glance I thought they might come loose but that is not the case. My only gripe is that there isn't any chin sliders. The 3.5mm connector is L-shaped and looks quite plain.
It is so small and lightweight you usually don't feel any heft of your ears. I am using the double flange tips and get a nice and deep fit.But I had to adjust it a few times to get a proper seal. Once you get that, it will stay in place for long periods without hurting your ear canals.
Isolation is excellent, this is coming from a Shure SE215 user. Blocks most of the noise that you get on Bangladeshi streets and traffic with the provided silicone double flange tips. Foam tips are recommended if one requires even more separation from their surroundings. The Havi foam tips are a perfect match, tames the highs without changing the other frequencies.
Sound: My initial reaction was "How do these sound so good, despite being so tiny!!!". I am mostly accustomed to the SE215's lush mids and warm lows. The emphasis on the treble of the duke was a welcoming change to my tastes. What I was surprised most , that I did not need much time get comfortable with their sound signature. I tested on various genres through the week to get a full glimpse of it;s capabilities. A list of tracks for testing is given below:
Altus- Sidereal Circle
Olds Sleeper - Take your time, Sunset on you
Janez Gwizdala - Crushing
Be'lakor - Abeyance, Sun's Delusion, Fraught
Protodome- Blueberry Jam!
Soilwork - Vesta
Train - Eggplant
Ludovico Einauldi - Most tracks from Time lapse album
John Petrucci - Damage Control
Elementals- Alexandra , Sunbirth
The VE Duke's are a natural sounding , dynamic,bright and sensitive IEM. The separation and positions of the instrument felt so precise. They sound very revealing too, destroying low res/ badly recorded audio in an instant. If you want to enjoy them the most use well recorded high res sources ( It doesn't have be humongous DSD files, properly encoded kbps Mp3s will suffice). Sound stage was pretty good considering it's an IEM. I'll be dividing the sound into three groups:
Highs: Very bright and detailed. Might be too bright for some,thus a no go for bass heads, but if you like treble in your music you'll love it for sure. The drums are so full of energy and sparkle giving a "live" representation to them. Such emphasis on treble brings sibilance, especially if your music has any, you'll notice it right away! Foam tips are a mandatory to tame the highs, while retaining most of the sound. I literally had an eargasm while listening to Motorhead's Overkill on them, the drums came to life, the guitars were roaring with full might and Lemmy's vocals were still clear and audible in midst of the chaos,magnificent. Even thorough all that treble essential details can still be heard without straining too much.
Mids: The mids are surprisingly good. Comparing to the SE215, mids do sound cold but it is on the same level of detail or even more in some specific songs. I found both male and female vocals to come out clean though some might find the female vocals better. On Olds Sleeper's Take your time the male vocals sound right in your face, accurate and colorful. I actually prefer the mids of the Dukes to the Sennheiser 280s ( Though this comparison seems inappropriate 280s being full sized cans, but it shows just how good these are).
Lows: Bassheads beware, you're in for a scare! Bass is tight and clean, excellent sub-bass. Mid-bass is not prominent and never gets in the way. Protodome's Blueberry Jam! presented clear and punchy bass lines, synths had an extra sparkle to them which sounded just too good.
If the price seems much I can assure you it isn't. For the level of detail, neutral sound, representation you get at the price it seems like a no brainer. Include the small size, comfort and it'll seem like something twice or even thrice it's price range. Exceptional value IEMs form Venture electronics. Great work guys.
Pros - Entertaining and natural sounding, Fantastically tuned and dynamic midrange, Great fitting earphone, Good isolation
Cons - Lack of sub bass extension will be an issue for some listeners, Treble will be too emphasised and harsh for some people
At the time of the review, the Venture Electronics Duke was was on sale on their Aliexpress online store for $198.00 USD. Here is a link to their listing of the product:
I had a chance to demo and review the Venture Electronics Zen earbud. This is the product that I feel really put VE on the map in terms of high fidelity earphones. After experiencing the sound quality of the Zen, I have kept my eyes on Venture Electronics products. Being a fan of IEMs, I was ecstatic to hear that VE was releasing the Duke, a micro dynamic driver in-ear monitor. I am happy to cover them in this review.
I was given an opportunity to review the Duke in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with VE. I would like to take this time to personally thank Lee over at VE. Keep up the great work my friend!
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, especially if they can be had for low prices. I will buy the $5 to $500 earphone that looks promising, in hopes that I will discover that one new gem that can compete with the big names in this industry. If you look at my Head-Fi profile you will see that I have purchased MANY different headphones and earphones, ranging from from dirt cheap to higher end products. For me, this hobby is more about getting great price to performance ratio from a product, and have a variety of different gears with varying builds and sound 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 ergonomic, and the sound is pleasing to the ear. It is my pleasure to share my experiences with audio products and make recommendations based gear I have owned and used.
The Duke comes in a white cube box with red accents. There is nothing fancy about the package, but honestly I couldn’t care less. All the magic is inside!
Note: The Duke comes with a complimentary VE Monk earbud. This is a phenomenal earbud that many really enjoy. Honestly, this earbud is so good it could/should be sold separately. When speaking to Lee about this, his response is that he is so confident in VE products, he hopes that this gives Duke owners an opportunity to share a VE product with friends. Let this be an example of why I feel VE is going to become a solid brand in the audiophile industry. Just for the record, the Monk sounds fantastic!
Specifications and Accessories
The Duke comes with a large assortment of tips and accessories:
1x pair memory foam tips (M/L)
2x pair triple flange tips (M,L)
1x pair double flange tips (M/L)
3x pair wide bore single flange tips (S,M,L)
4x pair narrow bore single flange tips (S,M/S,M/L,L)
1x plastic internal foam lined clamshell case
1x VE Monk earbud
The housings of the Duke are an all metal straight barrel cylinder design. They are skinny in circumference and average in length. The back of the housing has some micro detailed printing of the VE logo and their name Duke printed around a centered driver venting hole. The nozzle of the Duke is slightly awkward in shape with a wide and longer than normal lip on the end. The VE website is printed around this lip. A nozzle shape like this can make getting tips on and off a bit more challenging than normal. Even still, when tip rolling you should have no problems getting just about any stock and aftermarket tip you have to fit.
Cable, Y-Split, Cable Jack, Strain Reliefs
The Duke has a very nicely done cable. It is constructed of a black rubber sheathing that has very little spring and memory and is very easy to handle. The Y-split is a very simple and small black rubber cube that splits the channels. There is no chin slider. I will say that the Duke would benefit from having one, but I don’t consider it a deal breaker. Strain reliefs at the housing and jack are very well done and slim in profile. The Jack is a heavy duty ninety degree plug that looks well built and should withstand the test of time.
Ergonomics, Fit and Microphonics, Isolation
The small straight barrel and small strain relief at the housing makes the Duke a great fitting IEM. They can be worn over or under the ear. When worn under the ear, the Duke has more microphonics than the average in-ear monitor. Worn over the ear, Duke has virtually no microphonics and is my preferred method of wearing them. Isolation on the Duke is much better than average.
I did my demo with my usual gear. I used an LG-G3 with the latest firmware for portable and smartphone use, and either my Shanling H3 or Sony Walkman F806/Cayin C5 amplifier for a high fidelity portable use. For desktop use I used my Toshiba Satellite Laptop in combination with a HIFIMEDIY Sabre ES9023 USB DAC/Bravo Audio Ocean Tube amplifier with a Mullard 12AU7 tube for higher impedance, and a Fiio E18 USB DAC & Amplifier in both high and low gain. Both were run at 24 bit, 96000 Hz. I also tested them with other DAPs and amplifiers as well. I used Google Music downloaded in its highest download quality (320 KBPS) and I 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 asses and break down the gear’s response.
I had the most success listening to the my Duke through my Shanling H3 and VE Runabout amplifier on low gain. The Duke does need a little more power for an in ear monitor. A little more volume on low gain does the trick. The Duke will butcher poorly recorded and low bit rate music. Feed the Duke high resolution files through a warm source and the Duke will amaze you.
The Duke is a love or hate signature. I personally really enjoy their presentation. It is a very natural sounding in-ear monitor that features a tight and punchy bass that compliments a slightly warm lower midrange. The upper midrange and treble of the Duke is highly energetic and slightly forward in nature.
While demoing the Duke, I couldn’t help it rave about how good the Duke sounds with my Shanling H3. The synergy between the two is amazeballs! At the time of writing this review, this match is one of my current favorite combinations.
Bass on the Duke is tight and bouncy at midbass levels. They are slightly rolled off at sub bass levels. I get a decent amount of punch, but not a whole lot in terms of rumble. I can hear the low notes but don’t feel the impact like I often do from other in-ear monitors. Bass heads need not apply for the Duke. Those who want a very natural bass response that doesn’t make booming bass priority number one will really like this tuning. I think this sets up well for people who want to appreciate the entirety of the track, not just the bass line and beat. Don’t get me wrong, the bass isn’t anemic. You just won’t get the run of the muck booming stuff that often comes with in-ear monitors. This low end tuning sets up for other frequencies to be presented to their maximum sonic potential.
The Duke midrange is the star of the show in my opinion. They have a very slight warm tint at lower midrange frequencies. It is enough to make the dynamics very good, and add just enough timbre to make things fun. ALL vocals sound very natural and engaging. I really like the way Duke sets vocals apart from the rest of the mix. Synthetic instruments seem to have an almost holographic sense to them, and midrange instruments are very entertaining. Details and resolution are top notch. Separation of sounds is superb.
Upper midrange is aggressive and much drier and energetic than the lower midrange. People who listen to their music an unhealthy levels will probably have issues with this part of the tuning. I usually listen to my earphones at a moderate volume, and enjoy how it adds energy to the track I’m listening to.
Treble is aggressive and extended. Some will say it is sibilant, and I wouldn’t disagree. This can be tamed with different tips. Some have had success with foam tips, other have used the Ostry tip package. I personally found a sweet spot with the Duke and Sony silicone or Spinfit tips. Just make sure to tip roll with your Duke. Tip rolling, and changing the amount of distance between the driver and your eardrum, along with variances in bore size will impact bass and treble response. With my preferred tips for the Duke, I find the treble to still be aggressive but more under control than other tips. The better seal you can get, the more controlled the treble spike will be.
Soundstage and Imaging
The controlled bass response, midrange detail and dynamics along with treble extension makes the Duke soundstage sound larger than average. I find this to be one of their biggest strengths. For the level of isolation I get, they have a very airy and open presence. Imaging is slightly better than average.
VSONIC GR07BE ($90 to $150 USD on many sites)
The GR07BE is a hall of famer in many people’s collections. They feature a biocellulose driver and provide a very responsive and extended sub bass extension, warm midrange, and aggressive top end that some say is sibilant.
The GR07BE is fantastic, but doing an A-B comparison, I will say that I prefer the Duke. At the end of the day, it’s a more resolving and responsive sound. The GR07BE has great bass response and superior extension, but the leaner and more punchy and fast nature of the Duke makes it a more clinical and clean sounding earphone, and without losing the fun factor. The midrange has much better detail and separation. There is an open and airy presence in the Duke that the GR07BE doesn’t have. Treble presentation is similar, with the the Duke being just a bit more spiked but also higher resolution.
Both earphones come with a ton of tips, but I prefer the plastic case of the Duke over the leather pouch of the GR07BE. Build quality is a draw.
T-Peos Altone200 ($150 to $180 USD on many sites, discontinued*)
The T-Peos Altone200 is a very popular earphone with the Head-Fi community. They offer a tight punchy and forward bass response, crystal clear midrange, and extended treble response.
Doing an A-B comparison led me to conclude that these share some very similar characteristics in terms of tuning. I actually prefer the bass tuning of the Altone200. The midrange is very clear on the T-Peos, but also colder and less entertaining than the Duke. To be honest, the Altone200 midrange sounded almost artificial in comparison to the Duke from what I heard. The treble extension on both earphones are very similar, but for whatever reason the transition from midrange to treble seemed more natural and entertaining on the Duke.
Duke wins in the build and accessories department. They have more tips and a better case. Their cable is slightly better in my opinion, but all in all build quality is very similar.
The Duke is a “grown folks” tuning that is high energy, high resolution, and highly detailed. People are going to love it for these outstanding qualities, or decide to hate it because of the treble emphasis and lack of sub bass. I personally think it is fabulous, and it ranks very highly on my list of favorite in-ear monitors. If you are looking for an in-ear monitor that will maximize vocals, accentuate details, and give your music collection an exciting kick, I strongly recommend the Duke.
Thanks for reading and happy listening!
Pros - Detailed sound. Scales well. Ergonomic. Isolate well. Good accessories package. Attractive.
Cons - No chin slider. Need to find perfect tips + fit to tame the upper end. L/R markings difficult to read.
INTRODUCTION The DUKE is the first IEM from VE (Venture Electronics), an up and coming audio company from China most famous around Head-Fi for their outstanding ZEN earbuds. I got a chance to hear the ZEN earbuds earlier in the summer and was blown away. They sounded amazing for the price and scaled very nicely. When I heard that VE was releasing an IEM and amp, I was excited to give them a listen. Luckily, I received a pair of DUKE for review along with VE's new portable amp the RUNABOUT.
Before diving into my review, please take a moment to check out @peter123's review of the DUKE: LINK.
There's also a dedicated thread for the DUKE: LINK.
DISCLAIMER There is no financial incentive from VE in writing this review. I am in no way affiliated with VE, and this is my honest opinion of the DUKE IEM. I would like to thank Lee at VE for giving me the chance to test drive the DUKE, and I hope my feedback proves useful for my fellow Head-Fi members as well as for VE.
ABOUT ME I'm a 43 year old music lover who listens to a wide variety of genres and artists (but mostly electronic, metal, and modern composition these days). As with a lot of people my age, I've got some hearing issues - some upper frequency loss and mild tinnitus. My portable music journey started with the venerable Sony Cassette Walkman and then progressed to portable CD players, minidisc recorders, and finally on to DAPs like the Rio Karma, iRiver IHP-120, iPod, iPhone, and the newer crop of DAPs from Fiio and iBasso. My headphone journey started with Sony MDR e888 and Eggos back in my minidisc days. I moved on to full-size Beyerdynamic and Ultrasone cans and Shure E2 and E3 IEM. Those all served me well for quite some time. Then I rediscovered Head-Fi, and my poor wallet...
PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES
Since this was a pre-release unit intended solely for review, they weren't commercially packaged. Accessories consisted of a wide variety of tips. You get single and double flange silicon tips with narrow and wide bore openings. You get triple flange tips with narrow bore openings. All in various sizes to ensure you find the right tip. You also get a pair of Comply-style foamies. I didn't receive one, but I learned that the final package will include a small, grid-sectioned box to corral all those tips. There's a very compact black pelican-style case to hold he DUKE while not in use. You'll also get a shirt clip.
Here's a picture I grabbed from the VE website to give you an idea of what final packaging will be like. Please note that you will receive a lot more tips than this in that handy tip box I mentioned earlier.
Picture courtesy of VE
BUILD & ERGONOMICS Let's get a closeup of the DUKE. As you can see, the DUKE has a quite petite barrel-shaped IEM with metal shells. These are a micro-driver IEM, so the driver is sitting just behind the mesh. Strain reliefs are small but feel adequate. Anything bulkier would honestly feel out of place here. There are raised L and R characters on the strain reliefs. I would've preferred just a dot on one of the strain reliefs for easier blind operation. I was pleasantly surprised when I removed the pictured stock double flange tips to find VE's signature logo and URL written around the lip of the nozzle. Nice touch!
Picture courtesy of VE
On the rear of each shell is VE's logo and DUKE in a fancy script font, along with the vent hole. I like it. Adds character without going overboard.
Picture courtesy of VE
The cable is very utilitarian - pliable, rugged, low microphonics, terminated in an L-plug but missing a chin slider. No "fashionable" glossy, overly microphonic, stiff, springy cable here (I'm looking straight at you SoundMagic and TPEOS). Thank you VE!!!
Picture courtesy of VE
In my opinion, the DUKE are most comfortable worn down. I'm a wear 'em down kind of guy anyway, so this worked out in my favor. However, they can be worn over ear, as well. The only downside with that is that you'll want to DIY a chin slider. @peter123 DIY'ed one with a black plasticized twist-tie. You could also use a small elastic band (like those used in braces or to secure children's toys to their packaging, maddening parents everywhere!). Again, being a wear 'em down kind of guy, I didn't fuss around with DIY'ing a chin slider. I just attached a shirt clip and was ready to rock!
As @peter123 mentioned in his review, DUKE achieve best sound with a relatively deep insertion. Luckily the DUKE are tiny, so the shell + tip fit into my canals easily. After insertion, I found them comfortable and secure.
I wore them while wandering around the neighborhood, and I didn't get a lot of footfall, microphonics, or wind noise.
So to sum up, overall build quality and aesthetics are quite good. I don't have any concerns about these falling apart anytime soon. I liked it that an L-shaped plug was used. There isn't a cinch, but it wasn't a big deal for me, since I wore them down and used a shirt clip. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I'm really glad there were no mic or controls to futz around with!
SOURCES With my iPhone 5S, I'm running the DUKE at just under 50% volume. While you can achieve quite aloud volume with the iPhone, I found the sound to be lacking in the low end and harsh up top. This made the DUKE sound thin and overly etched to my ears. Luckily, VE included a pre-production RUNABOUT amp for review (coming soon...). After playing around a bit, I found I preferred the following setup: iBasso DX90 LO with volume set to 225 -> VE RUNABOUT (RA) on High Gain -> DUKE. Using the DX90 allowed me to take advantage of it's variable LO, making it possible for me to use the RA on High Gain and still maintain fine control over volume.
I also tried DUKE with my Fiio E12A and E12 DIY (with OPA627) but much preferred the RA. I'll go into why I liked the RA in an upcoming review, but for now I'll just say that RA warmed up the low end slightly without negatively impacting bass speed, while retaining the vivid, detailed upper end and natural soundstage. The Fiio amps, while quite good, altered the DUKE's character too much, making it overly relaxed.
SOUND Describing sound is a work on progress for me, so I'm going to keep this section simple. As mentioned above, I mainly listen to experimental electronic and metal and use those genres to evaluate HP & IEM. For critical listening, I volume match. I also take some quick n dirty measurements after listening to validate my listening notes.
As mentioned above, the setup I most typically used was DX90 -> RA -> DUKE. I've listened to the DUKE for a few weeks now as my primary IEM, so I've had a lot of ear time with these.
One final thing I'd like to mention before moving on to sound descriptions is how important insertion depth and tip choice is for the DUKE. I know, I know... You hear that in almost all IEM reviews these days. I find in most cases, it's more of a subtle refinement in sound. With DUKE, it's the difference between an overly sharp, etched upper end and a detailed, vivid upper end. If you find the upper end harsh / sharp after burn-in and a short acclimation period, try inserting them deeper and using either narrow bore silicon tips or foamies. I alternate between these two types of tips and haven't made a final choice yet. If you've burned them in, tried all the tips in your arsenal and deep insertion, then these aren't for you, my friend. Move on to something else...
With that out of the way, how do the DUKE sound like? It's very detailed without being overly analytical, retaining enough low end warmth to remain musical but not at all bloated.
Bass is relatively linear and well-extended with a slight mid-bass lift. It has good texture and is quick. It responds well to EQ, so if you want it a bit punchier just bump up the lower bands. BAM!!!
Mids are tuned towards the upper mids. Lower mids are neutral, while there's a lot of energy in the upper mids and lower treble - and that's where the DUKE can get into trouble. If not handled properly, they overly emphasize sibilance and give cymbals and higher guitar notes an etched sound. With the right fit, the upper mids and lower treble sound quite vivid and convey a lot of detail.
Treble is crisp and well extended, again adding energy and air to the presentation.
Soundstage and separation are quite good, but I found these to be pretty source dependent. If your source conveys these characteristics well, the DUKE will pass that on to your ears.
I found the DUKE had some similar characteristics to my TPEOS Altone200, so I thought I'd compare them. A200 have been relatively well-characterized, so hopefully this will be a good point of reference for people. Compared to the DUKE, I found:
A200 had a bit more mid-bass, making the bass punchier but also less nimble.
A200 mids sounded thinner and more nasal.
A200 upper end had less detail / resolution.
Soundstage and separation were comparable, but A200 sounded less natural / coherent.
SUMMARY So what's the take away? Out of the box, DUKE are a bit of a wild beast to be tamed. But once you find the right fit and tips, you get quick, relatively linear bass, clean mids, and a detailed, vivid upper end. It's like a slightly warmed-up analytical signature. If you're after more bass punch or want a more relaxed sound signature, EQ can always be brought to bear. The small housing and barrel shape makes them an easy, comfortable fit. Personally, I find them very aesthetically pleasing.
What could be improved? I think the DUKE could be improved by tuning down the upper mid and lower treble peaks a bit, making them less fit and tip dependent. I'd also like to see the L/R markings improved to allow blind operation and a chin cinch to make life easier for over the ear types.
Again, I'd like to thank VE for giving me the chance to hear their initial IEM offering. The DUKE are a great first offering and show the level of seriousness this new company takes with crafting high-quality audio products. Keep your eye on VE, folks!
Pros - Sound, accessories, comfort, isolation, value
Cons - L/R marking could be better, needs deep insertion to perform its best
I would like to start with saying thank you to Venture Electronic (VE) and Lee for letting me check out VE the Duke. I’d also like to give a special thank you to my dear friend Tamal who got me in contact with VE in the first place.
The Duke is available from Aliexpress:
I’m not in any way affiliated with Venture Electronics.
Short introduction of Venture Electronics:
Venture Electronics (VE) is a small and pretty new company, only three years old.
They’re located in mainland China and have fast become very popular in audiophile circles due to their line of earbuds (Monk, Asura and Zen) which offers excellent value for money.
The Duke is the first IEM that they’ve released so let’s find out how it performs.
I’m a 43 year old music and sound lover that changed my focus from speakers to headphones and IEM’s about five years ago. At that time I realized that it wasn’t realistic for me to have all the different setups that I wanted and still house a family of four children and a wife so my interest turned first to full sized headphones and later also IEM’s.
My preferences are towards full sized open headphones and I believe that also says something about what kind of sound signature I prefer (large soundstage in all directions, balanced and organic sound).
My music preferences are pretty much all over the place (only excluding classical music, jazz and really heavy metal). My all-time favorite band is Depeche Mode although I also listen to a lot of grunge/indie, singer/songwriter/acoustical stuff as well as the typical top 40 music.
I do not use EQ, ever.
I’m a sucker for value for money on most things in life Head-Fi related stuff is no exception.
Built and accessories:
The VE Duke is a single dynamic driver in ear monitor featuring a 6 mm driver.
The cable is pretty good and seems to be identical to the one used on the A-T CKR series which I’ve got good experience with. It doesn’t look or feel like anything special but in use I find it to be excellent with very little tangling, low on microphonics, soft and flexible. The plug is L-shaped and feels very solid. I would’ve wished for the left/right marking to be more easily visible. The only other thing I’m missing is a chin slider. Thant’s easily solved though by either using the included shirt clip or this way:
The build seems very solid featuring aluminum alloy housings and strain reliefs in the right places.
The accessories pack is very good and includes the following:
3 pairs wide bore silicon tips (S,M,L)
4 pairs narrow bore silicon tips (S,M,L,XL)
2 pairs of triple flange tips
2 pairs of foam tips
1 pair of double flange tips
1 pair of ear hooks
1 shirt clip
1 box to store tips and other accessories
1 Pelican style case to store the Duke in when not in use
1 VE Monk (!)
This is what was included in my package and according to VE it’s also what is included in the retail package. If it turns out to be any changes I’ll edit the review accordingly.
I think the fact that the Duke comes with a free pair of very good sounding earbuds as a part of the accessories says a lot about Venture Electronics as a company and their philosophy, talk about added value!
The Duke is a slightly harder to drive than your average IEM but it still works fine even with my weak (in power) Sony Z3 Compact phone. Isolation is above average.
The Duke is a really tiny IEM. It’s designed to be used with deep insertion and this is the way I find it to sound the best as well.
I’ve got very narrow ear canals and usually avoid deep fit designs so the first couple of days were quite challenging for me with the Duke. After using it for a while and starting to realize what kind of tips that was the best for it I found three different tips that were very comfortable for me to use with them. During this process I also noticed that the sound that the Duke delivers is highly dependent on the kind of tips used (more about this in the sound section of this review).
By using the Duke with deep insertion the isolation becomes excellent and there’s no need to crank up the volume to enjoy your favorite tunes.
The way they’re designed gives the possibility to use them cable down or over the ears which ever you prefer. There’s no need to switch the channels when wearing them over the ears. I personally found the most comfortable fit by wearing them cable down.
I’ve used these as my main IEM for the last two weeks and they’ve played for well over 100 hours. I’ve used them both around the house and when out and about and I haven’t really found any significant weaknesses in the way they’re designed.
I’ve used them with my Sony Xperia Z3 Compact phone (with and without the Elecom LBT-PAR500) as well as the SHOZY Lancea, both by itself and paired with Venture Electronics own amplifier the RunAbout (separate review will come soon).
Mark Knopfler – Sailing to Philadelphia
Røyksopp (Feat.Susanne Sundfør) – Save Me
Ane Brun – These Days
Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana
Metallica – Die Die My Darling
The Peter Malick Group – Immigrant
Eva Cassidy – Songbird
Thomas Dybdahl – A Lovestory
Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why
Celldweller – Unshakeable
Jack Johnson – Better Together
Seinabo Sey – Younger (Kygo remix)
Dire Straits- So Far Away
Passenger – Let Her Go
Lupe Fiasco - Deliver
Morrissey – Earth Is the Loneliest Planet
I find the Duke to perform its best with narrow bore tips which helps to reduce sibilance and makes the bass really tight. My favorite tips are the Ostry OS100 as they offer the perfect combination between airiness and smoothness for my ears and taste.
The overall sound signature is very well balanced and I don’t find the Duke to be neither dark nor particularly bright sounding.
The lows have good extension in the sub-bass region and the quality of the bass is very good. Mid- and upper-bass, while not having the greatest impact, is clean and clear with absolutely no bleed into the midrange. The bass quantity is enough to keep them from sounding thin. These surely are not for bass-heads but I still find the bass sufficient to work with most music genres and the only time I miss a little more impact is with electronic music. From memory the bass on the Duke reminds me a lot of the bass on the FAD Heaven VII’s with a touch more mid-bass presence.
The midrange is slightly forward but still well in balance with the rest of the frequencies. There’s a bit more emphasis on the higher mids/lower treble making female voices sound excellent while the lower amount of upper bass can make male voices lack weight on some recordings compared with IEM’s that have a fuller overall sound. In total the vocal reproduction on both male and female artist is very good though.
The treble extends really well and does not come across as thin sounding. I’d even go as far as saying that it’s one of the most well extended treble reproductions I’ve ever heard. This in combination with the revealing nature of the Duke makes sibilance an issue with some recordings, tips and sources. With the right tips, source and good recordings this is not an issue though.
Make no mistake the Duke is a very revealing IEM with almost surgical precision. If you’re listening to a bad recording or low quality MP3 files the Duke will show that without mercy. The same, as already mentioned, is true regarding sibilance if it’s there in the recording you’re going to hear it. With deep insertion I don’t find it sibilant as long as it’s not there in the original recording just amazingly revealing at natural sounding. The Duke is also naturally quite sensitive to what source you use and does definitely scale with a better one. That being said I find it to have great synergy with my Xperia Z3c phone. The best combo I’ve found so far is the SHOZY Lancea feeding the VE RunAbout, this is an extremely good sounding setup.
Soundstage width is above average for an IEM. Soundstage depth and height are both excellent.
Clarity and micro details is also good while separation is extremely good to my ears. There’s plenty of space between instruments making the Duke a rather relaxed listening although it’s not a warm and smooth sounding IEM. As a matter of fact the separation and instrument positioning is among the strongest parts on the Duke.
So is the Duke an analytical, cold and boring sounding IEM? To me yes, it’s analytical in the way that it's very revealing but I don’t find it particularly cold and certainly not boring sounding. It manages to still stay very musical and engaging in spite of being revealing and realistic in its presentation.
Please note that the comments in the comparison section are not in absolute terms but in comparison between subject A and B. This means (as an example) that if subject A is found to be brighter than subject B it does not necessarily mean that subject B is bright sounding in absolute terms. I hope this makes sense.
Audio-Technica CKR9 vs VE Duke:
Compared to the Duke the CKR9 has similar soundstage in all directions. The CKR9’s has significantly more impact in both sub- and mid-bass. Bass quality is excellent on both but the bigger quantity on the CKR9’s gives them better bass layering. Midrange is equally forward on both but the CKR9’s are more energetic and “in your face” sounding. The CKR9’s can actually sound shouty occasionally compared to the Duke. The Duke has better separation and, being brighter, comes across as being more detailed. They both have excellent treble extension but the CKR9’s is smoother in the top.
I find them both very comfortable.
The Duke is harder to drive.
Isolation is much better on the Duke.
Trinity Delta vs VE Duke:
Compared to the Duke the Delta’s has significantly more mid- and upper bass impact. The bass is also slower. The midrange is slightly forward on both. The Delta’s are smoother and fuller sounding while the Duke has better clarity and micro details and also offers a better soundstage in all directions. The midrange on the Delta’s is thicker and male voices have more weight. Treble extension is better on the Duke but the Delta’s has a smoother top end.
The Duke is a much better fit and more comfortable for my ears.
They’re both slightly harder than average to drive.
Isolation is much better on the Duke.
Dunu Titan 1 vs VE Duke
These two actually share quite a bit of their overall signature. Compared to the Duke the Titan 1 has a bit more sub-bass impact and also more impact on the mid-bass. Soundstage width is pretty similar on the two while the Duke has better soundstage depth and height. Clarity and details are on par but the midrange on the Duke is more forward. The Duke also has better layering and separation while the Titans have more a more energetic and airy presentation. Overall the Duke sounds slightly fuller in the higher frequencies while the Titans got a bit fuller lower end.
Although they’ve got totally different fit they‘re both very comfortable.
They’re both slightly harder than average to.
Due to the half in ear design on the Titan 1 the Dukes isolates a lot better.
To sum up the Duke I’d say it’s a natural and revealing sounding IEM that still manages to stay very musical. Many times during the period with them leading to this review I’ve got lost in the music forgetting what I was doing and I’ve also got goose bumps while listening to them on multiple occasions. To me that’s all what this hobby is about and the best sign of an excellent performer.
Add to this excellent build quality, great ergonomics, very good isolation and one of the best accessories packages I’ve ever seen and the Duke is a very easy recommendation to anyone looking for an excellent performing IEM at a crazy value for what it delivers.
When Lee at Venture Electronics says that "keeping it real is our simple slogan” I wholeheartedly believe him.