1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.

    Dismiss Notice

Venture Electronics (VE) Zen V2

Rating:
4.85714/5,
  1. DJScope
    VE Zen 1.0 & 2.0 – Reaching Enlightenment
    Written by DJScope
    Published Jan 18, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - 1.0: Detailed & Analytic, good staging --- 2:0: Natural & Organic, immersive and addictive sound signature.
    Cons - Lack packaging and accessories, no mic/remote, needs an amp.
    VE or Venture Electronics is not your standard run of the mill audio company. My experience with them has been an enjoyable to say the least. The first I heard about them was on the off chance around Head-Fi from these savoury fellows who kept raving on about these earbud earphones that were reportedly amazing. Looking the pictures I completely dismissed it for just plain old unjustified hype; how naïve I was.
    Then, out of the blue I got a message for uncle H20 asking me if I would like to take on some review samples from VE. Of course I gladly accepted his invitation. On arrival I received 3 items, one of which was VE’s entry level earbud, the Monk, which I simply threw into a draw at work and forgot all about them. On an odd day I decided to try them and was completely blown away at what I heard. There is a whole story to this which you can read here: VE Monk review.
    As I got more and more engrossed into the amazing sound of the Monk, I was greeted with waves taunting messages from @RedJohn456 to get my hands on the Zen, as it was supposed to be so much better. To me, this statement was preposterous as already had a bias against the earbud design and my mind just could not fathom how an earbud could sound even better than the Monk. I thought that the Monk was the pinnacle, and it costed $5 which was just madness, so a $150 model from the same company must be just bonkers good. I wasn’t wrong.
     
    I first received the VE Zen 1.0 and was quite underwhelmed. I was expecting more of the same as with the Monk, but more of it. The Zen 1.0 was much the polar opposite. Sporting a colder, more refined, toned down, and somewhat analytical sound signature, whilst still having great character, texture and immersion as the Monk. Don’t get me wrong, the Zen 1.0 is still a bonkers earphone; it’s got 320 Ohms of impedance for goodness sake! What is this bizzaro world? But to me it missed that sweet spot and amazing character that the Monk had which needed to return.
    So I spent some time with the original Zens and withdrew from discussions about it until I received the long await revised Zen, with fingers cross, hoping that Lee did not disappoint. And to my patient surprise it was all that I ever imagined the Zens to be, or should've been.
    Again, VE had flip-flopped and the 2.0 became a completely different beast to the 1.0. The Zen 2.0 was more like Monk. Retaining the insane 320 Ohms of impedance and a new transparent skin as well as a new cable. The 2.0 brought back that amazing immersive and organic experience you got with the Monk but with a more refined and detailed representation of the music. When listening to the new Zens I can just put my library on shuffle and melt away into the abyss, just forget about everything. It is as addictive as the Monk was and more. It was enlightenment.
     

     

    Specifications

     
    Frequency response​
      15 ~ 23500 Hz (-10dB)
    Impedance​
      320 Ω @ 1kHz
    Sensitivity​
      106 dB @ 1mW
    Plug​
      Gold Plated 3.5 mm (1/8”) 90 degree angled
    Cable Length​
     1.2m (47") TPE sheaved OFC
    Driver​
      15.4mm
    Maximum Input Current​
      1500m

     
     

    Build

    The built, as with all the VE earbuds I’ve tried is much the same. Being as standard earbud as it gets. If it wasn’t for the colour and cable differences you would not be able to tell them apart. These earbuds are like Ninjas in disguise. They look like a normal everyday earbud until you actually listen to them.
    The cable on the Zen 1.0 is a clear silver cable which is a tiny bit stiffer than what I’d like, and it’s got a straight connector, but it’s got great strain relief and one of the best neck synchs that I’ve ever used. The cable of the 2.0 is red coloured clear silver cable which is now a 90 degree angled jack and is much more supple now.
    Both are very light and feel strong enough to last through daily abuse.
     

    Comfort

    I have very small ears and these, like the VE Monks, sit in my ear surprisingly very securely. On the odd occasion I do need to readjust them when turning my head, but for the most part they are very good. Weight plays a big role here.
     

    Accessories

    You get a hard ball shaped clamshell carry case witch is strong enough to protect it’s contents. You also get some full sizes and donut earbud foams. You also get shirt clip if you need one. Nothing too special. You’re really not paying for fancy accessories or an unboxing experience.
     

    Driveability

    Whilst you can get them loud enough from a mobile phone, I would not suggest it; the sound is dull and just sound wrong. I did most of my listening from my Audio-gd NFB15.32 and the Ve RunAbout for portable use. I did try it with the FiiO X1, FiiO E17, xDuoo X2 and xDuoo X3, but all seemed to struggle to power these beasts.
     

    Sound

    The sound of the two products is so different that they may as well be 2 separate products. I will describe both of them with a few words off the top of my head just to paint a picture of how different they really are:
    Zen 1.0: Cold, flat, analytical, refined, open and dynamic.
    Zen 2.0: Natural, organic, warm, open, detailed and dynamic.
     
    As I have mentioned previously, the 1.0 is a flatter and more analytical approach, which to me is rather boring. I would have been very impressed with the 1.0 if I didn’t hear the Monk before it. It still is a great sounding earbud when compare to the previous experience I’ve had with other earbuds.
     

    Treble

    Zen 1.0
    It’s not the fastest treble you’ll hear but it’s very good for an earbud. It’s quite detailed and extends very well. Though I do feel there is a bit of a dip somewhere in there that makes it slightly blunted and too quick on decay.
     
    Zen 2.0
    The emphasis here has been shifted somewhat which brings back that shimmer that was missing in the 1.0. But the speed has decreased a bit which puts a bit of a veil on the detail. In return you get a more airier presentation.
     

    Mids

    Zen 1.0
    The timber of the vocals and acoustic instruments is very good and sounds pretty accurate. There isn’t a particular tilt or colouration that sways it in either direction. The are though a little recessed and lack some detail.
     
    Zen 2.0
    The Vocals are warmer and more textured and slightly more forward. It’s a little less detailed than the 1.0 but more present and feel more alive with a bit more reverberation.
     

    Bass

    Zen 1.0
    The bass on the 1.0 kind of reminds me of balanced armature bass. It’s fast and detailed but lacks authority and thump. Nonetheless it’s great for an earbud and it reaches quite low.
     
    Zen 2.0
    It has an amazingly addictive bass note that’s textured and detailed. It’s authoritative and has substantial kick. It’s not bass head quantity but it’s nearly perfect to me.
     

    Soundstage and Imaging

    Both have quite similar soundstage and imaging performance. It’s really wide and deep and you get a very immersive out-of-head experience. The Zen 2.0 is better as it is slightly deeper and more accurate. The extra warmth makes the air feel more natural and realistic.
    Click on the photo to see in larger resolution​
     

     
     
     
     
     
     

     

    Conclusion

    Both the Zen 1.0 and 2.0 are Head-Fi worthy and both have a place of their own. The Zen 1.0 sits in the colder analytical lovers corner and the Zen 2.0 sits in the musical, more bassy lovers corner. Both are completely bonkers and I love them both for that. Though, personally I feel that the 2.0 is the victor here. It took what I fell in love with the Monk and made it better. Lee from VE is a real wizard, and I really wish that he continues to make more of these completely insane products of his!
     
    Cheers!
     
    [​IMG] 
    1. View previous replies...
    2. B9Scrambler
      Excellent review!
      B9Scrambler, Jan 19, 2016
    3. pinoyman
      can you compare them to the baldoors mate?
      pinoyman, Jan 19, 2016
    4. DJScope
      Sorry mate, I don't know what Baldoors are, so I doubt I could help you here. As previously mentioned, I wasn't the biggest fan of earbuds before hearing the Monk and Zen. So my experience with earbuds is quite limited. I've only hear 2 other "good" earbuds which weren't that good in my opinion.
      DJScope, Jan 19, 2016
  2. nmatheis
    VE Zen 2.0: VE Strikes Again
    Written by nmatheis
    Published Jan 18, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Great sound that can be tuned to your liking with covers. Comfortable. Attractive.
    Cons - Needs a good source to really shine.

     
    *** I originally posted this review under the VE Zen listing, but since a VE Zen 2.0 listing was created after my initial review I'm reposting here. ***
     

    INTRODUCTION

    Upstart Venture Electronics has been making quite the name for themselves around Head-Fi in 2015. It seems like everybody who listens to their gear is nothing short of impressed with what this new company has been able produce in a short amount of time. From their super bang for your buck $5 Monk earbuds to their high-resolution Duke IEM to the Runabout amp, their products never cease to impress. The same can be said for their Zen earbuds. In fact, I received a review sample of the Zen earbuds quite some time ago. You remember those, right? The 320 Ohm white earbuds people were raving about. Well, right before I was going to write my review for them, I got word from VE that an improved Zen would soon be released called Zen 2.0. I was quite enamored with the original Zen, so I was skeptical that the new model could really be that much better. But on the other hand, VE really seemed to know how to produce master craft earbuds so I shelved my review of the original and waited patiently for the new model to arrive. Arrive they did, and boy was VE right about these being an improvement. They took an masterpiece of an earbud that I was looking at giving a solid 4.5 star review and kicked things up a notch. Yes folks, I'm awarding the VE Zen 2.0 my first ever 5 star review. I honestly never thought the day would come, but I think VE has simply done an outstanding job with these. 
     
    Before we get to the review proper, let's take a moment to learn about VE (Venture Electronics):
     

     
    Before we head off to the review, I'm going to give you a few links I found useful:
    1. VE's Website: LINK.
    2. VE's AliExpress Store: LINK
    3. VE Thread: LINK.
    4. @DJScope's review: LINK
    5. @Brooko's Zen 1.0 and 2.0 Veritas measurements: LINK
     
     
     

    DISCLAIMER

    There is no financial incentive from VE for writing this review.  I am in no way affiliated with VE, and this is my honest opinion of the Zen 2.0 earbuds. I would like to thank VE for giving me a chance to review the Zen 2.0 earbuds, 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 father who loves music.  While I listen mostly to electronic and metal these days, I do listen to a wide variety of music - from electronic (Autechre, Boards of Canada) to modern/minimalist composition (John Cage, Philip Glass) to alternative rock (Flaming Lips, Radiohead) to jazz (John Coltrane and Miles Davis) to metal (Behemoth, King Diamond) to classic rock (Eagles, Rush).  
     
    I'm primarily a portable audio enthusiast. My portable music journey started with the venerable Sony Cassette Walkman and then progressed to portable CD players, minidisc recorders (still have my Sharp DR7), and finally on to DAPs like the Rio Karma, iRiver IHP-1xx, iPod 5.5, iPhones, and the newer crop of DAPs from Fiio and iBasso.
     
    Being a portable audio enthusiast, I typically listen with IEMs but am enjoying listening with full-size headphones more and more and tend to like u-shaped sound signatures, although I break out v-shaped IEM & HP from time to time for fun.
     
    As with a lot of people my age, I've got some hearing issues.  I've got mild tinnitus and suffer from allergies, which can affect hearing in my right ear.  I'll admit it, I'm not blessed with a pair of golden ears.  That said, I've been listening to portable gear for a long time and feel confident in assessing audio gear - just wanted to be transparent up front.



     
     
    SPECS
    1. Driver: 15.4mm Single Dynamic 
    2. Rated Impedance: 320 Ω @ 1kHz
    3. Frequency Range: 15 ~ 23500 Hz (-10dB)
    4. Sensitivity: 106 dB @ 1mW
    5. Cable: 1.2m TPE-sheathed OFC
    6. Plug: 3.5mm gold-plated L-plug 
    7. MSRP: $148
     

     

    PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES



    Since this was an early review unit, I didn't receive final packaging. So what did I get? It's all in the picture below.
     


    Zen 2.0, regular and donut foam covers, ear stabilizers, shirt clip, and clamshell case. Just a note that the foam covers included are the Heigi-style foams, which are thicker than the foam covers included with the original Zen earbuds. This has some ramifications on sound I'll mention later.
     
     

    BUILD & ERGONOMICS

    As usual, I'll walk you through the VEZen 2.0's build in pictorial format.
     
    VE Zen 2.0 without covers

     
    Hey, those look pretty sexy, don't they! Gone are the opaque white earpieces and cable of the original Zen earbuds. The earpieces are still the same shape and size, but they now come in a transparent smoked gray color. Each earpiece has the VE logo, which is their web address. So if you forget how to find out more about VE, just yank the buds out of your ears, take a peek, type 52VE.CN into your browser, and BAM! you're on the VE website. Of course there are also L/R markings on each earpiece, as well. To complete the transformation, the cable sheath is now transparent exposing the colorful red wiring underneath. I really like the new look, and I think you will, too!
     
     
    Y-Splitter, Shirt Clip, 3.5mm L-Plug

     
    With the Zen 2.0, VE did away with the chin cinch, which is honestly no big loss. In it's place, they now include a shirt clip. I prefer using shirt clips anyway, so for me this was a positive move. I'm sure some of you will pine for a chin cinch, though. Sorry. Pretty standard 3.5mm L-plug. No complaints there.
     
     
    VE Zen 2.0 with Ear Stabilizers


    While they look odd, the ear stabilizers actually do a really good job of maintaining a secure fit without resorting to using foam covers.
     
     
    Here's a pic of the ear stabilizers in action!

     
    I know it looks weird, but it works. It really does. For me anyway. Some really dislike them, though. It all depends on ear anatomy and personal preference. All you can do is give them a try and see if they work for you. I've also used them naked, with the included foam covers, with the original Zen's foam covers, and with some rubber covers from my Yuin OK-series earbuds. They all change the Zen 2.0 different sound, some more dramatically than others.
     
    So just to wrap up, you're getting pretty much everything you need to get up and running with the Zen 2.0. You get a couple foam covers to choose from and ear stabilizers to ensure you get a good fit and can fine-tune the sound to your liking. You get a solidly-built pair of earbuds. And you get a case to stash them in when they're not jammed in your ears. What more could you ask for? A remote? Mic? Nope, not for this guy. I'm not about compromising the cable's integrity with such accoutrements. I'm not very likely to use 320 Ohm earbuds with my smartphone anyway. Are you? 
     
     
    SOUND
    I listen to a lot of experimental electronic and metal and mainly used those genres to evaluate the VE Zen 2.0 earbuds. During my time with them, I've listened through many sources including my FiiO X5 DAP and Aune X1S Desktop DAC/Amp. I've also listened through a couple DAPs I've had in for testing. Just for kicks, I also gave them a listen out of my iPhone 5s (yes it can be done!). I'll go over what I thought of the sound and some brief thoughts on cover-rolling.
     
    But first, a beauty shot with the Aune M2
     
    You can change an earbud's sound signature quite a bit by using them with or without different covers. For those of you who're new to earbuds, this is a bit like tip rolling kicked up a notch. I'll try my best to covey what like about them with different covers and wrap-up with a brief comparison with Zen 1.0. So, here we go...
     
    In conversations with VE, I learned that Zen 2.0 are intended to be used naked. Yes, naked my friends. Take those covers off, and revel in the glorious balanced sound! In my experience, this is as good as it gets from an earbud. While it's not like a sub-woofer pounding away at your eardrums, you actually get good bass response. If you want more bass, you can experiment with covers. Using rubber rims will give you a bit more bass presence. Using foam covers will provide even more bass response, the level varying depending on foam thickness. Mids vary from very slightly forward naked or with rubber rims to slightly recessed with foam covers. Similarly, the upper end is nicely present, lively and engaging naked or with rubber rims. Throw on some foam covers, and the upper end is damped. So depending on the covers you use, you can get anything from a nicely balanced, detailed listening experience with a nice soundstage and good imaging to a warmer, darker, more intimate listening experience with thick foam covers. It really is a lot of fun to play around with different covers depending on your mood, the type of music you're listening to, and your source. As mentioned above, I listened to Zen 2.0 out of various sources. They're revealing enough to scale well with better sources, so please don't dismiss them just because they're earbuds. Play around with better sources and see how Zen 2.0 respond. I think you'll be as impressed as I was at how well they respond as you throw them at increasingly better sources.
     
    It was interesting listening to these after falling in love with the original Zen earbuds. While I loved the originals, they were a bit more of a one trick pony. Throw on some foam covers, and they were great. Nicely balanced with great detail. Take the covers off, and they sounded very thin, cold, and overly bright. The new Zen are much more versatile. Since they were tuned to be nicely balanced without covers, you can really play around with the sound signature. It gives you more reasons to fall in love with Zen 2.0. Nice!
     

     
    SUMMARY
    I know they're derided, but I've always had a fondness for earbuds and just love what VE is doing. Along with other boutique earbud manufacturers like Blox and Yuin, VE is dead set on showcasing just how great earbuds can be. From their $5 Monk (Go! Buy!! Now!!!) to their mid-level Asura and on to their flagship Zen 2.0, each hand every one of VE earbuds are top-notch performers. The upgrade from Zen 1.0 to Zen 2.0 showcases just how fast VE is learning, iterating, and improving. I honestly can't wait to see what they'll bring us next!
     
    If you're at all interested in Zen 2.0 but aren't ready to drop more than $100 for a pair of earbuds yet, please do yourself a favor and pick up a pair of VE Monk. Seriously. I mean it. It'll cost you less that $10. Try those and get a small taste of what you'll be getting with Zen 2.0. I think you'll be convinced to take the next step and try out Zen 2.0, in which case you'll have Monk as your beater buds and Zen 2.0 as the buds you keep for a more immersive listen.
     
    I hope you found this useful and would like to give a hearty thanks to VE for giving me the opportunity to review the Zen 2.0. Keep cracking out awesome buds VE!

      vapman, Wilashort, Tympan and 3 others like this.
    1. mochill
      Great review bro :grinning:
      mochill, Jan 18, 2016
    2. nmatheis
      Thanks Mo!
      nmatheis, Jan 19, 2016
  3. peter123
    Welcome to earbud heaven!!!
    Written by peter123
    Published Jan 2, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Sound, looks, built and comfort
    Cons - Deepest bass is missing
    The Zen 2.0 was sent to me from Venture Electronics (VE) a while back. I would like thank VE and Lee for letting me check out the Zen 2.0. I would also like to thank my friend Tamal for introducing me to VE in general and their amazing line up of earbuds in particular. The Zen 2.0 is available from Aliexpress:
     
    http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/Venture-Electronic-VE-Zen-high-impedance-320-ohms-earbud/1924356_32302987270.html
     
    I’m not in any way affiliated with Venture Electronics.
     
    Short introduction of 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 Zen 2.0 is the current flagship earbud from VE so let’s find out how it performs.
     
    IMG_3291.jpg
     
    IMG_3292.jpg
     
     
    About me:
    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 Zen 2.0 is a single dynamic driver earbud.
     
    AFAIK the Zen 2.0 is avaialble in three versions: the regular one (this is the one I've got), one with an upgraded Cardas cable and one balanced version.
     
    The cable is really nice and I find it to be excellent with very little tangling, low on microphonics, soft and flexible. As a matter of fact this cable is among the best I’ve ever come across in any IEM or earbud. The plug is L-shaped the way I prefer and it feels very solid. Left/right marking is pretty easily visible. The only other thing I’m missing is a chin slider.
     
    The build is all plastic but still seems very solid.  I’d also like to add that I really like both the color scheme and the built on the Zen 2.0. Everything about them looks and feel premium.
     
    Since these were a review sample there was no retail package included with my pair. There were some accessories though:
    1 zippered case to store them in when not in use
    1 bag with donut foams covers
    1 bag with foam covers
    1 shirt clip
     
    As far as I understand the following will be included in the sales version in addition to what’s mentioned above:
    1 Pelican style case (instead of the generic zippered one that I’ve got)
    1 pair of ear hooks
    1 pair of the amazing VE Monk earbud
     
    IMG_3375.jpg
     
    IMG_3380.jpg
     
    IMG_3293.jpg
     
    IMG_3297.jpg
     
     
    The Zen 2.0 is surprisingly easy to drive despite their 320Ohms impedance and works fine even with LG G3 phone. Isolation is pretty much none existent, after all it is an earbud.  As a matter of fact I find the lack of isolation also to be a great strength in certain situations.
     
    As already mentioned the impedance of the Zen 2.0 is as high as 320Ohms but due to the rather high sensitivity (108dB @1mW) they’re still quite easy to drive. That being said I do find them to scale very well with a better source but not necessarily by more power alone.
     
    The specs:
    Housing
    Plastic
    Driver Unit
    Dynamic, 15.4 mm
    Frequenzy range
    15Hz-23.5KHz
    Sensitivity
    108 dB
    Impedance
    320 Ohms
    Cable lenght
    1.2m

     
    Fit and Ergonomics:
    I’ve got to be honest and say that I’ve not used earbuds in more than 20 years before receiving the VE Monk a couple of months ago so I’m certainly not going to claim that I’m an expert on them.
     
    I’ve lived with the impression that the fit of earbuds are not for me for the last 15-20 years. After receiving the Monk I was really surprised how easy they are to fit and how well they stay in my ears, the same is true for the Zen 2.0.  They’re also extremely comfortable and are certainly lighter on the ears than pretty much every IEM that I’ve tried.
     
    To foam or not to foam?
    While I found both the Monk and the original Zen to sound their best with donut foams applied I prefer the Zen 2.0 naked or with rubber rings. With foam I find them overly warm and not airy enough but as usual YMMV and there are plenty of options to try out to find ones preferred sound and fit.
     
    I do notice quite a difference in the sound by the way the Zen 2.0 sits in my ear so it might be worth playing around a bit to find the sweet spot for your preference.
     
    Sound:
    I’ve used these quite a lot for the last couple of weeks and they’ve played for well over 100 hours.  
    I received the original Zen together with the Zen 2.0 for comparison sake. To understand more about what the Zen’s all about I started to use only the original Zen for a couple of days before moving on to listen to the Zen 2.0.
     
    I’ve used the Zen 2.0 with my LG G3 phone, the SHOZY Lancea paired with Venture Electronics own amplifier the RunAbout (my review of it is available here: http://www.head-fi.org/products/venture-electronics-ve-runabout-portable-amplifier/reviews/14527 ) and in my main system with the Advance Acoustic MDA503 tube DAC feeding my Matrix M-stage.
     
    Demo list:
    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
    Tracy Chapman – Baby can I hold you
    Lupe Fiasco - Deliver
    Morrissey – Earth Is the Loneliest Planet
    Adele - Hello
     
    The overall sound signature is well balanced, smooth and slightly on the warm side. It has a lot of characteristics that I usually associate with open full size headphones and that suit my preferences very well.
     
    The Zen 2.0 does lack some extension in the sub-bass region and don’t go as deep as I’d like with some music. Apart from this the quality of the bass is very good. Mid- and upper-bass is clean and clear with a slight lift but absolutely no bleed into the midrange. The bass quantity is enough to keep them from sounding thin and both male voices and guitars sound full and natural with them.
     
    The midrange is well in balance with the rest of the frequencies. In total the vocal reproduction on both male and female artist is very good. The midrange is really liquid and smooth making for a very enjoyable and easy listening.
     
    The treble is full and smooth and despite having zero sibilance it doesn’t sound too rolled off either.
     
    Soundstage in all directions is larger than what one can expect from the average IEM but a bit smaller than you’d expect from a full size open headphone. Clarity, micro details and separation is also very good.
     
    What strikes me the most with the way the Zen 2.0 though is how extremely pleasant and non-fatiguing they sound overall. No disturbing peaks anywhere, not to bright nor to dark just pure excellence.    
     
    Comparison:
    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 A is bright sounding in absolute terms. I hope this makes sense.
     
    IMG_3359.jpg
    The VE trio, from top to bottom: Zen, Monk and Zen 2.0
    IMG_3361.jpg
    From the left: Zen, Monk and Zen 2.0
     
    VE Monk vs VE Zen 2.0
    In this comparison the Monk is used with foam donuts while the Zen 2.0 is used naked. The reason for this is simply because this is the way I feel that they each perform their best so it seems the most fair to me.
     
    Compared to the Zen 2.0 the Monk has more sub-bass, an overall fuller sound and a smaller soundstage. The Zen 2.0 on the other hand offers a more airy presentation and a more detailed and refined overall sound. Comparing these two feels more like comparing a great open to a great closed headphone (Zen 2.0 being the open one), rather than comparing two earbuds with a $130 price difference.  Although the Zen 2.0 is the better sounding to me the difference is no way near that what the price would imply and this is certainly not due to the Zen 2.0 being bad value for money but rather to the Monk being probably the best value in head-fi ever.
     
    The Zen 2.0 is slightly harder to drive and feels overall more solid built and in my opinion also looks nicer.
     
    VE Zen vs VE Zen 2.0
    In this comparison the Zen is used with foam donuts while the Zen 2.0 is used naked. The reason for this is simply because this is the way I feel that they each perform their best so it seems the most fair to me.
     
    Compared to the 2.0 the original Zen has more bass impact (especially sub-bass), a slightly smaller soundstage and an overall less refined sound. The Zen 2.0 has got a more airy presentation. While there’s not a night and day difference between these two it’s no doubt to me that the updated version (2.0) is indeed the better sounding and a worthy replacement to the original version.
     
    The original Zen is slightly harder to drive while the Zen 2.0 feels overall more solid built and in my opinion also looks much nicer.
     
    To sum up the comparison section I think that the Zen 2.0 is indeed the best sounding among the three while the Monk is the best value. The original Zen is also excellent but it’s got a worthy replacement.
     
    Summary:
    The Zen 2.0 is truly an upgrade to the highly praised original Zen not only in built and looks but also in sound.
     
    It offers the most non fatiguing listening experience I’ve ever come across in my head-fi life this far both IEM’s and full sized headphones included . The only thing I could possible wish for would be a bit more sub-bass impact but I wouldn’t want to trade anything else to get it. That being said I still enjoy them tremendously and they quite easily outperform most of the IEM’s I’ve ever heard soundwise.      
     
    Thank you Lee and KK at Venture Electronic for making this amazing sound available to us and for letting me review it. 
      Lorspeaker, Brooko, ozkan and 6 others like this.
    1. yacobx
      Really great write up and comparisons! thank you for taking the time, I don't know why i find myself reading these reviews when I have the Zen 2 and the monk but I like to hear people have the same findings that I do.
      yacobx, Jan 6, 2016
    2. capnjack
      Great review peter, I can't wait for mine to arrive now !
      capnjack, Jan 9, 2016
    3. peter123
      Thanks for the support guys!
      peter123, Jan 12, 2016
  4. Brooko
    VE Zen V2 – A step up in refinement
    Written by Brooko
    Published Jan 1, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Sound quality, build quality, aesthetic appeal, open sound, value, easier to drive, channel matching
    Cons - Can’t really be used with covers (changes freq response too much). L/R markings hard to see
    zen201.jpg
    For larger (1200 x 800) views, click any image

    INTRODUCTION

    I’ve spent a little time with Lee from Venture Electronics over the last few months, emailing backwards and forwards, and really getting coming to understand who VE is and what their philosophy is. But first let’s step back a little and look at how I came to be reviewing the Zen V2 today.
     
    I’d heard a little about the VE Zen previously on the forums, and it had been one to pique my interest – especially when I read the initial reviews. So when my friend Tamal (RedJohn456) contacted me with an introduction to Lee (zhibili06), I was very appreciative that Lee generously offered to send me not only the Zen, but also the Monk, Duke and Runabout amp.
     
    I’ve reviewed the original Zen and Runabout, and still have the Monks to do.  The Duke will need to wait as unfortunately my pair was confirmed to be part of an early defective run.  Hopefully I’ll still get to hear a proper pair at some stage.
     
    When Lee announced he was working on the Zen V2, he contacted me directly, sent me a pair, and I’ve had them now for a little over 7 weeks.  Although I’m not a believer in burn-in, I know Lee is, so I’ve even been faithfully “putting hours” on them.  For the record – I’ve noticed no change.
     
    So I just want to thank Tamal for the original hook-up, and Lee for not only this opportunity, but also his time with me talking about what VE does and why.
     
    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 earbuds, Duke IEM and Runabout amp). There are some amazing things coming though (which I can’t talk about), and it would be fair to say that given VE’s track record, 2016 could be quite an exciting time for this small company.
     
    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 earbud 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
     
    I was provided the VE Zen V2 as a review unit. I have no other association or affiliation with VE.  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 VE Zen V2 since early November (so a little over 7 weeks).  Normal RRP is USD 148.00. 
     
    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'.   (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)
    I'm a 48 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 (Fiio X5ii, X3ii, LP5 and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD).  I also use a portable set-up at work – either X5ii/X3ii > HP, or PC > E17K > HP.  My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyer T1, Sennheiser HD600, and AKG K553.  Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has mainly been with the Dunu DN-2000J, 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 extensively tested myself (abx) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent.  I do use exclusively redbook 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 48, my hearing is less than perfect.
     
    Over the last couple of months – I’ve used the VE Zen V2 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, and also the Luxury & Precision L5 Pro.. In the time I have spent with the Zen V2, I have noticed no change in the overall sonic presentation.  Listening time with the Zen V2 now would be around 30 -40 hours, and they’ve also had at least another 3 x 24 hour stints of additional time.
     
    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 Zen V2 arrived in a courier bag – so no retail packaging. Lee told me that VE are working on new packaging for the Zen V2, and that it won’t be in the original white box used for the original Zen.  As far as accessories go, buyers of the Zen V2 will receive:
     
    ZenV201.jpg ZenV205.jpg
    Zen V2 package contents - Zen V2 + Monk + covers + mini pelican case
    Zen V2 inside the well cushioned pelican case

     
    1. A free “Monk” earphone
    2. Foam covers
    3. 2 sets of earhooks (small and large)
    4. A shirt clip
    5. Small pelican style case
     
    ZenV203.jpg ZenV204.jpg
    Lee advised that this image shows the full accessories 
    Close up of the two types of covers

     

    The pelican case is not exactly pants pocket friendly, but it is solid, has great interior padding, and as long as you correctly wrap the Zen V2 cable, it is an ideal size for storage.
     
    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    (From VE)
    Type
    Open dynamic earbud
    Driver
    Dynamic, 15.4mm
    Frequency Range
    15 Hz – 23.5 Khz
    Impedance
    320 ohm
    Sensitivity
    108dB (1mW)
    Plug
    3.5mm gold plated, straight jack
    Cable
    1.2m, TPE outer coat, 256 x 0.04 4n ofc copper
    Weight
    Approx 14g
    IEM Shell
    Polycarbonate / hard plastic

     
    FREQUENCY GRAPH
     
    The graph below is generated by a new measuring system I’m trialling – using the Vibro Veritas and ARTA software.  I don’t have the calibration for the microphone 100% correct yet – but the graphs I am getting are relatively close to Innerfidelity’s raw data (on other earphones we both share), and I think are “close enough” to get a reasonable idea of the frequency response for the Zen. Over time I am hoping to build a pre-set compensation curve so that I can get the graphs more consistent with Tyll’s curves.
     
    zen2nocoverschannelmatch.png csdzen2coveroff.png
    Zen V2 frequency graph (L/R) - no covers
    Zen V2 CSD - no covers

     
    The frequency response graph was created with no covers, and the body pressed lightly to the coupler to simulate a normal fitting. Further in the review I’ve added comparisons to the Monk and original Zen – as well as taking measurements with covers on and off.

     
    What I’m hearing:
    1. Full, clean and quick bass, a little more mid-bass than sub-bass, but with good balance for an earbud.
    2. Clean and very clear mid-range, good vocal clarity
    3. Slight lift in upper mid-range which lends particularly well to harmonics with female vocalists
    4. Detailed but smooth treble
    5. Very good overall balance, and quite open sounding.
     
    And one more note – this time on channel balance – it is pretty amazing (see graph).  Lee also told me that one other thing they switched (different from the original Zen) was their OEM factory. He’s very happy with the consistency of the results, and you can see why when looking at the care taken with driver matching.
     
    BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN
     
    When I first reviewed the original Zen, I commented that you could be forgiven for thinking “generic $10 earbuds” at first sight. This definitely isn’t the case with the new Zen V2.  Gone is the generic looking white plastic, and this time you get a “smoky” clear polycarbonate shell so you can actually see the internals. It is amazing how much a small change in shell can convey the image of a much higher quality product.
     
    ZenV206.jpg ZenV207.jpg
    Rear bass port runs along the length of the Zen V2
    From the side, and nice look at the internals

     
    The shell this time is ever so slightly smaller than the original Zen, but still very close to 16mm in diameter. The pattern of ports is same / similar to the original Zen (two circular rows totally 56) close to the outer edge of the main face.  The rear of the earbud 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. Like its predecessor, the Zen V2 has a quality of bass unlike I’ve heard on any other earbud, and again it is the combination of tuning and porting design which is able to achieve this.

     
    ZenV208.jpg ZenV209.jpg
    Closer look at the internals and outer ports
    Front face and porting pattern

     
    The entire earbud 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 the quality of the cable, and the fact that the cable is internally secured, and also that it will be primarily worn down, this will not be an issue.

     
    Lee has confirmed that the driver on the new Zen V2 is very different from the original, and has not only been retuned, but also paired with better magnets to increase the sensitivity.
     
    ZenV210.jpg ZenV213.jpg
    Note the knotted cable ensuring no stress on solder joints
    Cable internals - image courtesy of Lee from VE

     
    The cable is very pure copper (256 x 0.04 4n ofc) with a clear TPC outer jacket and each channel is separate and in side by side configuration – ideal if anyone wants to reterminate to balanced. The cable is more flexible than the original Zen, and once again has extremely low microphonics. Because of the cable internal weave, it manifests in a really attractive red colour, which when combined with the black of the jack and y-split, and the slightly smoky clear shell, really does look like a much higher class of earbud.

     
    The Y split is pretty small, made of flexible rubber, and has no relief (but again none is needed).  There is no cinch. The jack this time right angled (a great choice Lee!), 3.5mm, gold plated, and has excellent strain relief. The jack is also smartphone case friendly, easily fitting my iPhone 5S with case intact.
     
    ZenV211.jpg ZenV212.jpg
    Right angled Jack - a great choice!
    The simple but effective Y split - cable would be very easy to reterminate to balanced.

     
    So the Zen V2 indeed looks a lot better than the original Zen, is slightly more petite, and has a much nicer and more manageable cable.  The only critique I would have is that the L/R markings on the earpiece stems are very hard to see. Red or silver print would help a lot. They are very slightly raised though, so if your fingers are sensitive enough, you can tell the markings that way.

     
    FIT / COMFORT
     
    Since I got the original Zen (and Monk), I’ve been using earbuds a lot more, so I knew fit and comfort were going to be pretty good. But when they first arrived, I naturally assumed that I’d need to use covers for optimum fit and sound.  Big mistake. The Zen V2 is designed to be used with no covers.  I’ve discussed this at length with Lee, and he’s confirmed that no-one in his team uses covers (or hooks, or other adornments). I’ll get to the sonics shortly but using covers (or indeed ear stability hooks) simply created a seal which hadn’t been allowed for in the tuning, and drastically increased bass response, and also forced the mid-range a long way forward.  They became completely unbalanced – and for me anyway – not really pleasant to listen to.
     
    ZenV215.jpg ZenV214.jpg
    Zen 2 with covers - but not good sonically IMO
    Even the doughnuts change the sound too much

     
    But worn “au natural”, the sonics are brilliant, and the fit is comfortable, light, and seems to be reasonably secure (YMMV).

     
    The one thing I did notice when trying to get the Dunu stabilisers to work (besides the sonic change) was that they seemed to force an angle on the earbuds which was foreign to the natural angle I usually achieve.  So I think I’d now modify my stance on the use of stabilisers – even with the original Zen.  Each of us is going to be different, and trying to lock in a position may not be the smartest move with different physiology.
     
    ZenV217.jpg ZenV218.jpg
    Dunu stabilisers fitted
    They aid stability, but affect sonics (adversely IMO)

     
    The slight changes in overall size between the Zen V2 and original Zen work pretty well for me – but may not for everyone.  If you are they type who needs to wear covers for comfort, I would still give the V2 a try naked (the earbuds, not you, but I’ll let you make the call on that), but ultimately the original Zen may be more to your preference.

     
    As far as isolation goes – it is an earbud – so any isolation is minimal.
     
    So for me extremely comfortable, but does need slightly more adjustment to get an optimal fit.
     
    POWER REQUIREMENTS
     
    I was a little outspoken about the original Zen earbuds when it came to power, as although they are 320 ohm, I didn’t think they were overly difficult to drive.  They sounded every bit as good out of most of my sources – even unamped. So what has changed with the Zen V2?
     
    Impedance has remained at 320 ohms, but the biggest change is in sensitivity.  V2 is slightly more sensitive at 108 dB @ 1mW, compared to the original Zen at 106 dB @ 1mW.  Measured with an SPL meter and 1 kHz tone, this equated to around 8-9 dB difference with the same tone on the same calibrated meter.
     
    ZenV222.jpg
     
    So what it means is that if both earphones are compared (with no covers), the Zen V2 will sound louder with less power.  I’m still ion the camp that the Zen V2 doesn’t absolutely need an amp to shine, and in my personal comparisons, adding additional amping (once properly volume matched) doesn’t somehow transform them further.  For me they seem to sound fantastic out of virtually every source I try – and that includes my iPhone 5S.
    Like I did with the original Zen – I armed myself with my trusty SPL meter, set all of my DAPs and DAP/amps as close as possible to being level matched within 0.2 dB (not easy with an earbud), and then played the same track through each piece of equipment.  Here is what I found – the track used was Dire Straits “Sultans of Swing” – which I use often to test for dynamics and detail.
     
    • Fiio X3ii – 55/120 low gain.  Plenty of dynamics, good bass response, does not sound anaemic in any way.
    • Fiio X3ii + line-out to the E17K (0 gain, 21/60 on pot). No significant change from X3ii solo. If anything the sound might have been marginally smoother – or this may have been placebo.  They were pretty close anyway
    • Fiio X3ii + line-out to the E11K (low gain, approx. 2.3/9 on pot). No significant change from X3ii solo.
    • Fiio X3ii + line-out to the VE Runabout (low gain, approx. 15% of the pot used). No significant change from X3ii solo. The Runabout is a very clean source though.  I didn’t notice this as much with the original Zen, but A/Bing between X3ii and X3ii + Runabout with the Zen V2 may be revealing a little added clarity (or it could be that the Runabout may be a little more neutral or even a bit brighter than the Fiio).
    • Fiio X5ii – low gain, 57/120. Plenty of dynamics, good bass response, good detail. Slightly more vivid than the X3ii.
    • iPhone 5S – approx. 8 (50%) clicks of volume. Again plenty of dynamics, good bass response and detail level.  Flicking between X3ii, X5ii and iPhone 5S, and I can’t help but rank them X5ii > X3ii > iPhone 5S (purely on sonics).  Zen V2 sounds great on all three though.
    • L&P L5 Pro – medium gain approx. 38/60 volume. Continues to be one of the best sounding sources I have at my disposal. Comparatively the X3ii sounds slightly flat.
    • Fiio M3 (tiny $55 DAP) – 23/60 volume. Actually sounds stunningly good and proof that cost is not necessarily an indicator of overall quality.  Doesn’t have the overall resolution of some of the other DAPs, but has a great tonality which complements the Zen V2 very well.
     
    As far as source goes, the Zen V2 is going to sound not just “good” but actually pretty stunning out of almost any source you throw at it.  And for me that is a huge advantage.
     
    SOUND QUALITY
    The following is what I hear from the VE Zen V2.  YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline).  I decided to have a little change from my usual testing, and this time, because the Zen V2 is VE’s flagship, and because impedance was never going to be an issue, I chose to use Luxury & precisions L5 Pro as a source.
     
    ZenV223.jpg
     
    I used no covers or earhooks or other adornments – as I said earlier, I think they degrade the sound instead of helping it.
     
    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 (I probably need to update it)
     
    Thoughts on Default Signature
    I’ve covered this in the frequency response section, but if I was to use some other descriptors, I’d choose clear, natural, detailed, and engaging. Where the original Zen reminded me a lot of the HD650 with its slightly warm and smooth (but still very detailed) signature (used with foam covers), the Zen V2 naked reminds me a little more of the Beyer T1 on a good amp.  It is a little brighter, a little more vivid, and a little more spacious.
     
    While I was writing this, I was using Don Henleys “Best of Album”, and going back and forth between the Zen V2 + L5 Pro and T1 + LP5 combos. The T1 combo is more vivid / brighter, and a little more open – but the Zen V2 doesn’t fall behind at all, and that is no mean feat going up against what I consider to be an outstanding world class dynamic headphone.
     
    What I am really amazed at though is the tonality and overall quality of the bass –especially given that the Zen V2 has no covers, and is an earbud!  What Lee and his team have done with these drivers is nothing short of outstanding.
     
    Overall Detail / Clarity
    Tracks used: Hey Nineteen, Sultans of Swing
     
    The first noticeable thing with both tracks is that the bass is there but in perfect balance to the rest of the track.  For my tastes you can’t get a much more perfect mix.  There is a slight mid-bass bump, for a natural sounding bass back-beat, but no bleed, and it allows the rest of the mix to flourish.  All of Steely Dan’s glorious high quality details come though – and this is especially so with high hats and cymbal flourishes. With Sultans, again it is the natural balance that shines.  Knopfler’s vocals are rich and full, and the guitar still has bite. Incredibly detailed, but not at all harsh or sharp. In a word – wonderful.
     
    Sound-stage & Imaging
    Tracks used: Tundra, Dante’s Prayer, Let it Rain
     
    The binaural track Tundra is one I use to gauge width, depth and imaging – and the Zen V2 is phenomenal with this track. The biggest thing to strike me was the sense of depth with the Zen V2 – there was a really good sense of how far away the drums were, and how much further the violin.  Actual width was good – projecting outside the imaginary sphere of my head, and again I am struck by how much the Zen V2 sound like good open headphones. Imaging is pin-point and very clear.
     
    With Dante’s Prayer the Zen V2 was a little more intimate (but that is the recording rather than any fault with the earphone). Tonally the performance was brilliant – McKennitt’s vocals captivating, and the cello and piano constantly weaving a tapestry that sounded completely natural. I use the applause in this live version as an indicator of immersion and realism – the HD600 on the same track (with my eyes closed) actually puts me in the audience.  With the Zen V2, I am definitely there, and it is utterly convincing.
     
    Next was Amanda Marshall’s holographic track Let It Rain, and I use this as a test for both vocal sibilance (there is quite a bit in the recording) and also for testing spatial ability.  The Zen V2 delivers a beautiful presentation – really open sounding.  The detail is brilliant, yet the sibilance is present but not highlighted.  I’m really enjoying this tuning.
     
    Bass Quality and Quantity
    Tracks used: Bleeding Muddy Water, Royals, You Know I’m No Good
     
    Bleeding Muddy Waters is my test for bass texture and mid-bass bleed. It’s a dark broody track with a lot of texture in Mark’s vocals, and can be quite visceral in its intensity with some transducers. The Zen V2 shows clean, tight and clear mid-bass, and possibly just a little lacking in low-bass (the visceral impact isn’t quite there), but I’m enjoying this presentation very much.  A lot different than the original Zen – but both have their merits, and individual preference will dictate which one appeals.
     
    Up next was my sub-bass test (Lorde’s Royals) – and this time the Zen V2 is noticeably lighter. The sub-bass is there but very subdued.  Ella’s vocals are brilliant – but this is one of those few occasions where I would have liked just a little more in the bottom end.  Good – but not great.
     
    I finished with a little Amy Winehouse which has a good mix of mid and sub-bass, and is a good test of bass impact. Whilst the track generally was excellent (fantastic balance & Amy’s vocals were magical), again there wasn’t the usual impact I’m used to. It isn’t an issue for me, because the track is still so enjoyable – but worth noting for those who may be looking for bass similar to the original Zen.
     
    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.
     
    One of the things with the original Zen which I would have changed would have been the dominant peak at around 2 kHz – it sometimes just pushed the vocals (especially female) a little too far forward for me. The Zen V2 has tamed this area – now just a slight bump between 1-2 kHz, and for me, this has resulted in the same amount of euphonics with female vocalists, but a much more relaxed and pleasant signature.  I can turn the volume up on the V2, and I don’t get the same fatigue that I could get with the original Zen at higher volumes.
     
    With the Zen V2, there is the same beautifully sweet/ethereal presentation of my favourite vocalists (Agnes Obel & Hannah from London Grammar were up first – and both were stunning to listen to), but this time the overall balance is velvet to my ears. Feist and FaTM may not have had quite the same bass to vocal dynamic contrast as the original Zens – but it’s still utterly enjoyable and I’d trade that in an instant for what the Zen V2 delivers as far as smoothness and pure presentation of vocals.
     
    I couldn’t really pick a favourite with the Zen V2 – they were all winners for my tastes, but two artists I ended up listening to entire albums (so much for critical listening) were Norah, and also Florence’s new album. These really do remind me a little of the Noble Savant as far as vocal presentations goes – and yes, they really are that good!
     
    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.
     
    The Zen V2 (like the original Zen) excels with Rock IMO, the bass impact isn’t quite as deep as the originals, but this made up for by better imaging and staging for me. There is still enough bass (especially mid-bass) to be very enjoyable, but it isn’t bloated at all, and the clarity and open-ness of the presentation is a breath of fresh air.  10CC almost took me back to when I used to listen to my uncles albums on his stereo (turntable and speakers) some 40 years ago, and indeed classic rock was fantastic on the Zen V2. But even quicker paced more modern Rock (Myles Kennedy’s vocals were extremely expressive) from the likes of Alter Bridge and Seether were fantastic to listen to.  Again, like its predecessor acoustic music shines (and again that term 'balance' is what comes to mind).  Male vocals have excellent texture and don’t sound thin or underdone.
     
    My final test as always was Vedder, and this is like listening to him on the HD600s.  All the detail, the decay of cymbals, the imaging in the recording, and most of all Eddie himself – for my tastes Pearl Jam doesn’t get much better than this.
     
    Other Genres
    By now you’ve probably guessed that I am smitten with the Zen V2, and with good reason. Again like the original Zen, the V2 is a real all-rounder, and this shows when you start throwing other specific Genres at it.
    Alt Rock in particular was sublime – Floyd was a joy to listen to, and Porcupine Tree was similarly dynamic.  But some of my favourite Genre tests involved Jazz (Portico Quartet and Miles both blew me away on the V2), and also Blues.  The V2 seems to have a great affinity for the perfect mixing of space, instruments and vocals. Joe Bonamassa’s guitar and husky/smooth vocals were another stand-out, and anyone with the Zen V2 I would thoroughly recommend trying out Joe’s live album from the Vienna Opera House.  The sense of space and ambience is truly amazing.
     
    Classical is equally as good, and what was impressive was the overall tonality combined with that sense of space again.  Opera was outstanding (my Dad would love Netrebko on these), and single instrument (Zoe Keating’s Cello) breath-taking.
     
    Probably the one Genre choice that I thought the original Zens did slightly better was Hip-hop, Trance, and some EDM (I actually enjoyed Little Dragon and The Flashbulb more with the V2).  Again this is due to the lighter impact on the low bass – so something to take into account.  It’s not bad, it’s just different.
     
    EQUALISATION
     
    For me personally, I wouldn’t try to EQ the Zen V2 (for my own tastes), but for those trying to coax a little more low bass out, I lifted the 31 and 62 Hz sliders on the X3ii, and tried Lorde’s Royals again.  The effect was noticeable and actually pretty good.  A lot more impact, but with no major detraction from the rest of the signature.  The same was true with Eminem and also Van Buuren – so an easy fix if you’d prefer a little more than the default.
     
    COMPARISONS
     
    The obvious questions here will be how the Zen V2 relates to the original Zen, and also the Monk.  So this is my subjective read on the differences.  For this comparison, I used foam doughnut covers on the Monk and original Zen, but no covers on the Zen V2.  Why?  Simply because IMO that is the way to get the best sound out of each earphone – I’ll explain why shortly. No EQ as used in the following comparisons.
     
    Zen V2 vs Original Zen
    The first thing I noticed between the two was the much stronger bass with the Zen original – especially in the low bass and mid-bass area from around 100 Hz down. The original Zen has a lot more impact in this area which some may find appealing, but it (for me anyway) comes at a cost. The original Zen has a definite bump at 2 kHz which brings both vocal harmonics and also guitar overtones quite far forward, and at louder volumes can border on being too sharp.  The Zen V2 loses a bit of sub-bass, but presents the mid-range in a much more even and cohesive manner.  It is never sharp (even at louder volumes) and this is some of its magic.
     
    As far as fit goes – I know some will find they need to use foams, and unfortunately if you do this with the Zen V2, you will kill the tonal balance.  So if some sort of cover is necessary for comfortable use – then I’d recommend sticking with the original Zen.
     
    The Zen V2 is more spacious sounding than the original Zen (a combination of not using the foams plus having more tonal balance I think).
     
    Build is similar in quality – but the Zen V2 does have a slightly better cable, and aesthetically looks less generic and more premium with its red and “smoky glass” look. It is also easier to drive. My preference is definitely the Zen V2
     
    ZenV220.jpg ZenV221.jpg
    Zen original, Zen V2 and Monk
    Zen original, Zen V2 and Monk

     

    Zen V2 vs Monk
    That I am comparing the two IEMs is a testament to how good the Monk is – especially for the price. In many ways the Monk sounds very similar to the original Zen wit main differences being a little less sub bass, and a subtle shift in harmonic peak from 2-2.5 kHz.  For some reason to me the Monk has always sounded just a little flatter than the original Zen, and when compared to the Zen V2 this is the bit which is a lot more noticeable. The Zen V2 is more vivid, has slightly less sub-bass, but is more open, and more detailed.  The Zen V2 also sounds a little smoother overall and a little more refined in the detail it delivers.
     
    Actual build is similar, but this time the Zen V2 has much better aesthetics and cable – but the Monk is easier to drive.  My preference again goes with the Zen V2.
     
    COVERS, RUBBER RINGS & GRAPHS
     
    Here is where things get a little technical, and where I explain why I use covers on Monk and original Zen, but don’t recommend than for the new Zen V2.
     
    zen2vszen1nocover.png zen2vszen1covers.png
    No covers - Zen 1 is anaemic, but Zen V2 is perfect
    With covers - Zen 1 much improved, but Zen V2 too bass dominant


     
    First up I measured all 3 IEMs naked (no covers), and it is very easy to see why it isn’t a good idea to use either Monk or original Zen with no covers.  Basically the bass is pretty flat, but rolls off very quickly from about 80 Hz down.  Combine this with the comparatively large peaks at 2-3 kHz and 7 kHz and you get a signature which is quite sharp, quite tinny, and not at all consistent with what they are capable of.  The Zen V2 on the other hand has a little mid-bass hump with no covers, but actually handles bass quite nicely, and there is no forward spike in the vocal presence area – so everything sounds a lot more natural.
     
    zen2barevscovers.png zen1barevscovers.png
    Just the Zen V2 by itself - no covers essential IMO
    The Zen original is the complete opposite

     

    So what happens if we put overs on Monk, Zen and Zen2?  Glad you asked. Monk and Zen both have lifted bass which matches quite nicely with the mid-range peak and lower treble peak which are already present in the default signatures.  So basically it gives both earphones more balance.  But what about the Zen V2? It also lifts the bass, and the low bass gets an appreciable lift, but so does the mid-bass. And although the bass curve is now not that far away from both Zen and Monk, the Zen V2 has much lower mid-range and treble peaks, so balance is lost altogether, and it now sounds very warm, very boomy and totally out of balance – not good.
     
    zen2vszen1monk.png
     
    The final graph shows the Zen2 with covers off and Zen1 and Monk with covers on, and this is why I made the recommendations in the review.  The balance is back.  By all means try the earhooks and also the covers – but Lee and his team use the Zen V2 with covers off, so do I, and ultimately it is the way they were tuned/designed.  However VE will leave you to make the decision for yourself – but hopefully the above will help you understand why the sonics change so much.
     

    VE ZEN V2 – SUMMARY

    First up I want to take the chance to thank (again) my friend Tamal for the original introduction to Lee, and to Lee for giving me the chance to listen to VE’s entire line-up, for answering my many questions, and for giving me the chance to look at some special stuff which is coming in the future.
     
    From the original Zen V2, VE have taken on-board many of the recommendations on how to improve the original Zen.  The generic look has been replaced by a much improved and much classier design which hints more at the quality you can expect of this excellent earphone.
     
    And like the original Zen, when you plug the Zen V2 into your DAP and hit play, the magic starts, and it is easy to be blown away time and again with what you are hearing. I’ve let quite a few people listen to this demo pair, and by far the biggest comment I’ve had is simply “wow”, often followed by “they sound like speakers”.
     
    Sonically the Zen V2 has a more vivid and brighter (but more spacious) sound than the original Zen, and once again I can only suggest that listening to it is like listening to full sized open headphones.
     
    The Zen V2 is this time a little easier to drive, and despite the 320 ohms, can be powered out of most reasonable sources.
     
    5 star sound, 5 star value and I would recommend them unconditionally to friends or family. I have not heard a better earbud.
     
    FINAL THOUGHTS
     
    Rather than list recommendations for tweaks / changes, I thought I’d leave you with a really interesting thought, and a hint that VE must have something incredible coming eventually.  If we look at Buddhism (which must be where VE is going with the naming scheme), then the path to (audio) enlightenment is clear with their range.  You start as an entrant or Monk, and then work through the natural stages toward true enlightenment.  These stages are Asura, Zen and Nirvana.  If the Zen V2 was not complete enough to be given Nirvana status – then the final earbud in this range from VE must be very special indeed.  I truly cannot wait.
      dearyon, Haryo, natto and 15 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. AverageDude
      Thank you @Brooko for the review, I am now 148 USD lighter because of you (and other reviewers) :wink:
      There is one thing that intrigues me: I do not consider myself as a basshead and loves linear response (as long as the music remains engaging). However, despite what you and all other reviewers have written, I need the light foam covers to sound best - no "adornment" make the earbud unlistenable to (gives me a headache in a matter of 10-20 seconds); maybe it is due to my ear anatomy... Have you tried the light foam covers, or the dense one.
      As long as I'm happy with the earbuds - which I am - I don't think I need to overthink about it, but I still find it intriguing...
      AverageDude, Jan 7, 2017
    3. Brooko
      We will have different sized and shaped outer ears.  I may get a better fit and seal with no covers, meaning I will get more bass naturally.  You may need covers to achieve the same sort of fit. With earbuds especially - there is no right or wrong, no single solution :)
      Brooko, Jan 7, 2017
    4. AverageDude
      AverageDude, Jan 8, 2017