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Venture Electronics (VE) Zen

Rating:
4.43333/5,
  1. ClieOS
    A 320ohm earbuds that demand good voltage swing but also reward with excellent SQ.
    Written by ClieOS
    Published Mar 16, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - SQ.
    Cons - The high impedance requires a good source (of power) to sound good.
    Prelude: A few weeks ago I was contacted by a mutual 3rd party on whether I will like to give some Chinese made high-Z earbuds a review. Immediately I recalled a review article I read awhile back in erji.net that comes with fairly high praise (and subsequently get knocked around a few times, see reason below). We don’t see a lot of high-Z earbuds around so I was fairly certain they should be the same things. I don’t keep high hope for earbuds these days but I am still an earbuds lover in heart, so I agreed to give them a look, and indeed they turn out to be the same model I saw earlier. They are made by a small Chinese company called VE (52VE.cn, with a Chinese name translated to ‘micro wing’). No sooner after I agreed, the news spread out on some Chinese forums, which in turn came back to HF, and I received some ‘friendly suggestion’ that, perhaps it might not be the best of idea to do a review on VE. It would seem that there are a lot of heated discussion (or controversy?) on whether VE is a genuine company or just a quick DIY job for money. Even more so is whether VE actually makes TOTL earbuds as they and their Chinese supporters have claimed. Different from the international market where IEM rules, earbuds still hold a high esteem among Chinese audiophiles and they really don’t mind paying for premium earbuds – mixed that with the fact that there are a lot of shady companies employing shill marketing tactic, it is understandable on why people are always skeptical and will act defensively when confronted with such a bold claim. If there is anything I learned from reading Chinese audiophiles forums over the years, it will be the bad ‘SNR’ that often ruins the days. You can never quite sure whether you are reading genuine impression, shill marketing, over-enthused writing or maybe some other types of hidden agenda. So I decided not to take things written on a those forums too seriously but instead let the products speak for themselves, which I kind of glad that I did.  Nevertheless, I think a prelude is needed to shine some light on the unusual circumstances surrounding VE. Regardless of what have been said, it will be a mistake to dismiss VE – that much I am sure.
     
    [​IMG]
    It said: "torture one-self, reject mediocrity, all for our sound."
     
    Spec
    Asura
    Transducer: Open Dynamic
    Sensitivity: 108dB
    Frequency Response: 10Hz~25kHz
    Impedance: 150ohm
    Cable Length: 1.2m
    MSRP: US$48
     
    Zen
    Transducer: Open Dynmanic
    Sensitivity: -/-
    Frequency Response: 20Hz~20kHz
    Impedance: 320ohm
    Cable Length: 1.2m
    MSRP: US$112
     
    [​IMG]
    Zen (left) and Asura (right)
     
    Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality
    The Zen and Asura comes in one single white box with no model name on the outside. I assume it is one of the ‘early bird’ pack for those who pre-ordered the Zen, which also get a free Asura. The 320ohm Zen is pretty much the flagship earbuds for VE, and Asura is the previous flagship. According to what I have read, Asura is more of a bang-for-buck model meant to be Hi-Fi yet not breaking the bank where Zen is meant to compete with other top-of-the-line earbuds in the market.
     
    Accessories wise, there really are not a lot to talk about. Beside the decent hard case, all you’ll get are some foam pad. Then again, that’s pretty much the standard for most other earbuds, so nothing to complain about.
     
    Build quality is decent. They are not Sennheiser MX895 so there isn’t any flashy metal or unique design to speak of. The earpiece housing is just the generic type, though the cable do look better than decent - with weaved cable on Asura and the straight silver cable on Zen. Can’t really say what is the material used though, as VE doesn’t list out detail spec on both models. Needless to say, I don’t think you should use them on rough situation (i.e. sport and such). Otherwise I don’t see a problem.
     
    [​IMG]
    Asura
     
    [​IMG]
    Zen
     
    Sound Quality
    It isn’t easy to describe the sound signature of Zen. If MX985 is about immersion and warm where TM7 is about lush and liveliness, then Zen will be about PRaT. If you don’t know about what PRaT means, well, it is basically the ‘toe-tapping’ factor in music. The kind of factor that makes a certain headphone more ‘danceable’ than other on the same music. One of the reason is perhaps Zen has one of the best bass impact and attack I have heard on any earbud. It is not purely a quantitative matter as Zen isn’t exactly what I’ll refer as bass heavy, but the transient is certainly excellent. The vocal range is actually slightly further away when compared to TM7 (and even more when compared to the very sweet MX985), though it holds on to its own and doesn’t sound thin at all. If anything, I’ll say Zen’s vocal range is still pretty good. It gives a sense of depth while still keep a good amount of texture. In contrast, I’ll say Yuin PK1 sounds much thinner in the mid-range. Treble is quite good as well. Not as sparkly as TM7 but I don’t sense any darkness or dullness either. Soundstage is somewhere between TM7 and MX985 - not the widest, but still above average.
     
    Asura pretty much share the same sound signature as Zen, with a similar emphasis on PRaT, but feels a bit more compressed on overall dynamic and a bit grainier on the upper vocal. Still, it is good enough that I think it will give PK1 a good run for its money. One thing to note is that, because of the 320ohm vs. 150ohm impedance between the two earbuds, Asura can sound better than Zen when they are on weak source. For example, even though they are both loud enough on my Sony A15 (10mW @ 16ohm), I can definitely tell the Zen has lost its edge and feel rather lifeless. Asura on the other hand still rocks on. But once I have A15 feeding into iDSD micro (as DAC) and O2 (as amp), the situation reversed where Zen comes up on top. So a word of caution is to consider what kind of source you will be using with these two earbuds as it can kind of turn things around.
     
    All and all, I’ll place Zen as one of the best three earbuds I current have, among TM7 and MX985. Asura on the other hand is just a few steps down, at the middle of my top ten list, perhaps right around where PK1 will be.
     
    [​IMG]
    From left: MX985, TM7, Asura, and Zen.
     
    Sum-up
    I don’t usually get goosebump when listen to earbuds , but I do when I heard something that of exceptional quality. The last time I got one is from Blox TM7 some 2.5 years ago. Since then, I have picked up Hifiman EX100, Obique ES903, a few Dasetn, Sidy (also known as BGVP) DX1, some Tingo, Audio-Technica CM707, a very cool Chinese made Dual-Driver-Matrix based earbud and last but not least, the hybrid DUNU Alpha 1 – none is bad per se and a few are actually quite good, though they never approach the top-tier level – but then comes the Zen, and in fact Asura as well. I got two goosebump in a day and it is golden.
     
    Now we just need someone to bring these out of China.
      fnkcow, DJScope and golov17 like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. golov17
      Pure true, thanks for review :innocent:
      golov17, Jul 25, 2015
    3. effsandoval
      What is the difference between the Zen Black And Zen 2.0?
      effsandoval, Nov 19, 2015
    4. ClieOS
      @effsandoval, Zen black should be Zen 2.0 with Cardas cable, if I am not mistaken. Don't ask me about the SQ of either as I haven't listened to them yet. Might have a chance later
      ClieOS, Nov 19, 2015
  2. kjk1281
    For Those About to Rock, VE Salutes You
    Written by kjk1281
    Published Apr 28, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Balanced, energetic sound
    Cons - Merely adequate build; Zen needs an amp for best performance
    INTRODUCTION

    As tough as it is for me to admit, earbuds are a dying breed. It seems every year, fewer and fewer manufacturers even bother making open-air earphones (Denon), and when they do, they either focus only on low end models (Panasonic, Philips, Sony, etc.), or they don't release them here in the United States (Audio-Technica, Pioneer, and Sennheiser, just to name a few). Indeed, the focus for headphone manufacturers today is the now ubiquitous canalphone, or in-ear monitor.

    Despite this trend, many smaller companies, primarily out of Asia and especially out of China, have started making earbuds targeted at the audiophile market. One such company is Venture Electronics (VE), and I've had the opportunity to spend a little time with two of their high-impedance earbud models, the 320 ohm Zen and the 150 ohm Asura.

    I'd like to give a special thanks to fellow Head-Fier Bruce (a.k.a. fleasbaby) for setting up the review tour. Without his initiative, I probably would not have had the chance to try these earbuds out. Thank you!




    A side view of the package stating VE's motto in Chinese



    ACCESSORIES AND BUILD

    The earbuds arrived in a cubic paper box which contained the buds (ensconced in their cases) as well as an information sheet in Chinese. Each bud comes with three pairs of earbud foams: one each of black full foams and two pairs of "donut" foams in black and red. They also came with simple but very useful and appropriately sized clamshell hard cases.

    As for build, I feel both earbuds are adequate but not exceptional. Both the Zen and Asura use the same Sennheiser MX / Foster 040596 housing and cap that so many other Chinese earbud designs incorporate. Strangely enough, the pre-production Asura, the cheaper of the two models, comes across as being more well thought-out, with a nice braided cable and metal Y-split, which terminates at a nicely-relieved metal-covered straight jack. Comparatively, the more expensive Zen uses what appears to be a silver cable insulated in a very bouncy, rubbery sheath that can be a bit annoying to handle both while merely walking around the house or when putting the earbud away in its case. Unlike its inexpensive sibling, the Zen's cable split and straight jack are covered in plastic. Neither have a cable cinch to manage the split.




    Contents of the box included the earbuds, foam pads, carrying cases, and info booklet


    AMPING

    The Zen and the Asura have high impedance ratings of 320 ohm and 150 ohm, respectively. Despite both earbuds having high impedance, I actually found the Asura to sound quite good straight out of my Sansa Clip+, as well as smartphones like the Lumia 520 and Moto G (2013). The Zen, on the other hand, demanded more power. Currently, my main portable amp is the FiiO E11 Kilimanjaro. I did find that using the amp increased the warmth and authority to the Zen's sound while increasing resolution and separation. Thus, I highly recommend using an amp with the Zen, and go as far to say that if you don't have a portable amp, it may be best to pick up the Asura instead.




    The VE Asura


    SOUND

    The sound signature of both VE buds can be characterized as having an open and dynamic sound with excellent transient response. In particular, I've found that both the Zen and Asura excelled in bass impact and attack, and often did I find myself tapping my toes and/or banging my head. Simply put, these buds rock.

    Continuing with the bass, I found the extension of the lower frequencies to be very good for an earbud, with perhaps a bit of emphasis in the sub-bass. At times I felt this emphasis may be slightly much in the Asura, but this was mostly when using the buds indoors. The higher-impedance Zen didn't have this issue. On a positive note, the bass doesn't bleed into the midrange, so never do the buds feel muddy or stuffy.

    The mids are solid and probably best described by what they don't do. No, the mids aren't as forward or thick like the Blox M2C, but neither are they as airy or dry as some recent Sennheisers can be. They don't add that "special sauce" to vocal presentations, but they don't take anything away from them either. It's the midrange that also seems to separate the two VE buds. Side by side, it was clear to my ears that the Zen had much more detail and resolution, along with air and separation when compared to the Asura.

    I would describe both the Zen and Asura as having treble that is well-extended to provide good airiness and an open feel, but devoid of excessive sparkle and uneveness. Trebleheads may be begging for more, but this balance lends itself well to longer listening sessions. Where the Zen sets itself apart from the Asura is once again by being more articulate and open.




    The VE Zen


    CONCLUSION

    Honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect coming into this loaner tour. I've had a good amount of experience in the past with so-called DIY and small batch Chinese earbud manufacturing startups with mixed results. Some produce excellent sounding products, while others, not so much, and the level of support from these companies ranges from non-existent to bare minimum. Time will tell where VE will stand when addressing customer feedback, but I do applaud them for assisting fleasbaby in creating the US tour as well as others, and I think this is a sign that the company is willing to look outside of China and reach out to its (potential) customers.

    Thankfully, there's no questioning the Zen and Asura when it comes to sound, where I feel the two buds are definitely worth their respective prices. Both offer an dynamic and enjoyable sound that should please many an earbud enthusiast. The Asura may be the better choice for those without a portable amp, but for those who do, the Zen offers more resolution, and increased linearity to the already rocking VE sound signature.

    It's clear to me that VE is an earbud maker that deserves attention and a listen.
      rymd likes this.
    1. rymd
      pretty spot on review. When I first saw the two, I thought the black one was the Zen and the white one was the Asura. and in real life, the Asura really does feel nicer. kinda sucks as there are $15-20 earbuds with better build than the zen. my DIY mx760 has the exact same jack and ysplit even. also agreed with the sound, but just "a bit of emphasis" in the subbass for the Asura feels like an understatement! it's massively overemphasized to me, like a treble peak but for sub bass. same problem as the Edifier H180. but fortunately the production Asura is suppose to have a closer sound to the Zen.
      rymd, Apr 28, 2015
    2. Onix
      Nice review. One thing to consider when dealing with buds is the use of foams. I would guess that you used them without the foams because you don't mention them. Am I right? I really wish I could use buds, but they don't stay on my ears anymore.
      Onix, May 8, 2015
    3. kjk1281
      rymd: Honestly, I was afraid I was going to the get the Zen and Asura mixed up in the review! Indeed, the cable on the Zen is a bit of a disappointment.
      Onix: My apologies for not mentioning it, but unless I point it out in the review, I ALWAYS use the supplied (full, not 'donut') foams or something of similar thickness and porosity.

      On a side note, I just noticed that this review made the front page. In my five years here, that's a first (and probably my last )! Thanks to the moderator or administrator who thought my ranting was worthy of the home page!
      kjk1281, May 8, 2015
  3. fleasbaby
    ....if you're going to buy an earbud....
    Written by fleasbaby
    Published May 1, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Great sound quality, extremely enjoyable sound signature
    Cons - Amp needed
    The VE Zen and the VE Asura
     
    If you're going to buy an earbud, you should chat to the fellows at VE...
     
    Earbuds are an odd little throwback. An anachronism now, when once they were the defacto form factor for headphones bundled with phones and mp3 players (back when they were called mp3 players, and not “DAPs”…time was a brother would ask for some DAP and you’d give him a fist bump…alas, no more…).
     
    Like Elvis though, earbuds never died, they just moved to another planet. They are still out there, actually being produced by loving, enthusiasts' hands, in boutique organizations you never really get to know much about if you live outside of China. And you know...they don’t suck as badly as some would have you believe. In fact, they sound pretty damn good. I revert to buds whenever I get tired of my full-size or on-ear headphones. Of late there has been a wave of great earbuds showing up on AliExpress, eBay and other spots. Personally, I took notice when Dasetn got attention for ridiculously good earbuds being made and sold at ridiculously low prices. Dasetn has since faded into the background a little due to a large number of complaints regarding build quality and order fulfillment, but there are others…
     
    Recently ClieOS reviewed something I hadn’t heard of yet from a new company: VE. A 320 ohm impedance earbud. This sort of thing captures my tired and slightly jaded imagination. An earbud that needs that much of a kick in the pants? What do they have in there, lumps of coal, diaphragms made of steel? I had to find out…I sent Lee, the owner a quick PM and asked if he would send a pair of his earbuds out to do a tour of the United States. He very graciously agreed to, and on top of that, sent out his second highest model, the VE Asura as well. I spent a week with the tour units, and they are now winging their way across the US for other enthusiasts to enjoy. Another set, also kindly provided by Lee, are crossing the northern borders into the frozen wastes of Canada to tour a little there too.
    I ran both sets of earbuds through the equipment listed above, and listened to a wide range of music through them. I am a jazz nut, but am prone to drifting into electronic and avant-garde sounds as well. I always have a little time for the blues too, both traditional and electric.
     
    What can be said about the VE Zen and Asura? They are richer and more fun than my Blox M2C. They have better definition than my Yuin PK3, and exceed my memory of the Blox TM7 and the Yuin PK1. The Zen portray bass and soundstage almost like a full-size headphone, perhaps better than some I have owned (I used to be a Grado-head if that explains much). They have sound signature that is neither sterile, nor is it debilitatingly warm and thumpy (one head-fier called the HD600 of the earbud world). They challenge my full-size headphones in many respects, which is handy when you don’t want to lug a pair of T50rp about with you. For the Asura, simply take away maybe a fifth of the goodness in the Zen. It’s a scaled down, cheaper version.
     
    The downsides? The design is very generic. Sennheiser's MX500 shell has gotten incredible mileage. Its amazing how many earbuds now occupy that very familiar shape. Its functional though....and that's what counts, right? They require an amp to shine, and the stronger the better. Lee recommends a Class A portable that a DIYer in China makes. The E12 was good enough for me, but I could tell that perhaps I needed something more. The cable on the VE Zen is a touch annoying. It’s clumsy and a little noisy, but this is remedied with a shirt clip. The VE Asura was like a scaled down version of the Zen. At 120 ohms it’s easier to drive, but it doesn’t have that magical bass quality, and it seemed to get a little muddled in more complex passages.
     
    These earbuds come highly recommended in my humble opinion. Like Elvis, they will always have a place in the lineup of your attentions, and you will never regret indulging in them….perhaps even struggle to stop doing so.


    *EDIT* Fast forward to today. I recently bought a Pono player, and have founf the synergy between it and the Zen to be ridiculously good. The Pono does balanced operation as well. Lee most kindly offerred to re-terminate my pair of Zen (yes, I have my own pair now) to take advantage of this. The improvement is noticeable. The Pono's discreet, extremely low feedback architecture gives the Zens all the juice they need. Switch to balanced and you get an incredibly refined, organic, detailed, smooth listening experience with even the most difficult recordings...if you buy a pair of Zen, seriously consider the Pono, and make sure you go balanced...
    1. View previous replies...
    2. rymd
      someone said they these were an earbud version of the HD600? lol, these have way better bass than the HD600!
       
      nice review though. Agreed with all points, except the cable noise which is might be the worst I've experienced in an earphone. A shirt clip won't help much for me. I wish it had the cable of the Asura at least, which is nicer and a lot less noisy.
      rymd, May 1, 2015
    3. waynes world
      Excellent review fleasbaby! The Zens and the Cayin C5 amp are a rather magical pairing if you ever get the chance :)
      waynes world, May 2, 2015
    4. jincuteguy
      So where can you buy the Zen right now? 
      jincuteguy, May 18, 2015
  4. mochill
    VE Zen , A Natural Audio Masterpeice created by the gods up above.
    Written by mochill
    Published May 7, 2015
    3.0/5,
    Pros - Dynamic rage, transient speed, texture of note, sound-stage reproduction , bass note and quality, and price.
    Cons - Might be big for small ears and most likely improve with an high powered amp.
    Hi , i'm new to writing reviews and was lucky enough to be chosen to review this wonderful ear-bud which i have in my possession.this is my first review and i will most likely make alot of grammatical mistake and i'm sorry(please be kind :) ). 
     
    the company is called Venture electronics and the founder name is lee also known as zhibli06  on headfi .this is where you can order a pair http://m.aliexpress.com/item/32302987270.html?productId=32302987270&productSubject=Venture-Electronic-VE-Zen-high-impedance-320-ohms-earbud&tracelog=wwwdetail2mobilesitedetail.
     
    the specs are as follow:
    15.4mm drive
    320ohms
    105db at 1khz 
    1.2m  silver coated OFC wire
     
    price will be roughly $128USD and i think it's definitely worth it as having many ear-buds and none actually sound this good , even the alpha1 from dunu doesn't. i don't have any pictures but will try to post some later.
     
    SOUND IMPRESSIONS:
     
    BASS:
    One awesome and plus of this ear-bud is its bass reproduction in both quality and quantity . the bass has a lot of low sub-bass information and with the right amount of mid-bass that it will not interfere with low mid-range . the speed is above average so it'll not sound muddy with complex bass note .comparing the bass to my alpha1 the bass is real while the alpha1 doesn't even reproduce the low sub-bass and mid-bass not in natural way just like how the zen does .
     
    MIDRANGE
     
    What can i say besides that the mid-range on the zen is perfectly balance with the bass and the movement between the bass to the mids are flawless having no bloats or warming of the vocals or instruments .the vocals has a 3D imaging which i love . it isn't inside the head out produced outside like how a open-backed headphone might reproduce mids comparing to the aplha1 the zen is realistic while the aplha1 is thin and doesn't have much depth as well as width , its more intimate and thinner with alot of grain to the mids.
     
    TREBLE AND SOUND-STAGE
     
    Treble is balanced as well with sparkle and no grain in the sound. it's extended and open sounding producing a black airy sound-staging and the imaging of this ear buds is insane . some song produced a cymbal crash that was like from the other side of the house and i got scared alot and the height and depth are equally as marvelous . alpha1 is so sibilant and intimate sounding , no comparison to the zen.
     
    CONCLUSION
    Thank to lee for this great opportunity to review such a wonderful product and all this comparison was through my phone and both the ear-buds had the minimum requirement of 200hrs of burn-in , even after that burn in the alpha1 which i thought was going to surpass the zen didn't achieve that goal for me. the zen triumphs the alpha1 without even a sweat even thought it's under-powered . \
     
    Thank you for reading and sorry for the mistakes :)
      zhibli06, DJScope and golov17 like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. golov17
      Soon Zen 2.0 :wink:
      golov17, Oct 26, 2015
    3. RedTwilight
      @Voxel-1 The markup serves as a placeholder for the upcoming Zen V2.0 and maintains the page while preventing people from ordering it for now. 
      RedTwilight, Oct 26, 2015
    4. RedTwilight
      Price will be adjusted back to normal once Zen V2 is in production.
      RedTwilight, Oct 26, 2015
  5. BlackUser
    Headphone-like earbud
    Written by BlackUser
    Published May 8, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - One of the best bass and transient response in earbud, headphone-like sound
    Cons - uninspiring design, needs amp
    Hi...
    Maybe I'm a newbie in head-fi forum (mostly as a silent reader) and my written English is bad, but let me give impression about 52VE Zen and Asura beta.
    High impedance earbuds always make me interested, they need good amp, but will they sound good too? Or just average sound, but need extra power for driving them?
    So, my friend ordered those earbuds and gave one to me (because I don't have credit card for purchase online stuff [​IMG]), hoped they would sound good, especially Zen.
     
    Packing and Accessories
    11169952_10153199651326900_8287853884277790495_n.jpg
    Zen and Asura beta comes in white paperbox. When I opened the paperbox, I found zipper hardcase and three pairs of earbud sponge (donut style). Quite simpe package and accessories for "high-end" earbud, especially for Zen. Zipper hardcase quality is quite good, but looks too plain. I think will be better if 52VE add their logo to it.
     
    Design and Build Quality
    I opened the box, and I found those uninspiring design earbud in black and white.
    asurazen1.jpg
    asurazen2.jpg
    Yeah, I expect more from Zen as "high end" earbud, it will be better if has beautiful design like Sennheiser MX985.
    Zen's white cable is thick and bit noisy, but never leave tangle mark like bad quality cable on low end earbud. Asura has black braided cable from jack to Y-splitter and twist cable from Y-splitter to left and right earbud. Metal accent added to Asura beta's jack and Y-splitter, combined with black braided cable, looks very beautiful. Overall, Asura beta looks much better and more "expensive" than Zen in my eyes, when I opened the box I thought Zen was the black and the white was Asura beta.
     ​
    For those who have small ears, this earbud will feels quite big on your ears. Fortunately I have big ears, so both Zen and Asura beta can sit comfortably on my ears.
    use.jpg
     
    Sound Quality
    Both of them has burned-in about 200 hours
    Here my setup :
    setup 1 : lenovo notebook -> Centrance dacport
    setup 2 : lenovo notebook -> Centrance dacport -> fiio L16 -> DIY tubehybrid amp
    setup 3 : direct to iPod video 5.5th Gen
     
    I will talk about Zen first.
    For me, Zen's bass reproduction is one of the best in earbud. Bass is plenty, has nice balance within midbass and lowbass. Bass has very good punch, speed, and well controled, it will never bloat to lower midrange. Listen to electro dance music at slighty high volume in quiet room, then Zen will satisfy you with it's big bass, dynamic, punch, and speed. So much fun!
    The cons is, bass a bit muddy for track which contain fast double pedal like metal genre ( using setup 1), but I think it's not big problem, because I still can enjoy the song.
    Overall, I never hear bass reproduction like this before on earbud, big punch bass with good transient response.
     
    Nothing special in midrange and vocal for me, not as forward and sweet as Yuin's, not as airy and articulate as blox's, but Zen has thicker vocal and never sounds sibilance, hars, or thin. Using tubehybrid amp (setup 2) will help vocal to be more sweet, forward and intiminate, but bass feels slower and "loose" than before (setup 1)
     
    Zen has right amount of high, never sounds overbright or oversharp. High presentation is smooth, just decent sparkle and crisp. High extension and detail is good, but needs more airy.
     
    Many earbuds give me wide soundstage and airy, but short at depth or height. Zen is different, the soundstage is "big", if we talk about width maybe Zen just above average. But Zen has excellent proportion within width, height, and depth, that makes feels spacious and and very good imaging. Like I listen to music with a headphone, not an earbud!
    Instrument separation and details are good, not superb but I have no complain at all on this aspect. Just right and good.
     
    How about Asura beta?
    Asura beta has 150 ohm impedance, and it sounds good when I pluging in to iPod video 5.5th gen without amp. So, Asura beta is better option for people which doesn't have or won't use amp. 
    This is lite version of Zen, soundsignature is very similar. Comparing Zen and Asura beta is like comparing MP3 320 kbps and 192 kbps. Asura beta has similar soundsignature, but less dynamic and detailed than Zen. Asura beta's vocal is not as smooth as Zen too. And the last, Asura beta's soundstage not as "big" as Zen, which Asura beta feels a bit short at depth compared to Zen.
     
    Compared to blox M2c, Asura beta has more body and punch bass. Asura beta's vocal feels more thick but less articulate than M2C. M2C has more sparkling, crisp, and airy high. M2c soundstage is wider and more airy, but Asura beta has much better depth and overall imaging
     
    Conclusion
    They are very good earbuds, and I think can compete well with existing earbud on the market.
    Zen has good potential to be one of the best earbud, but you need good source component (especially amp) to drive Zen well. If you don't or won't use amp, Asura beta is right choice.
    Both of them are fun sounding earbud, if you a vocal lovers or detailed lovers, maybe Zen and Asura beta will not satisfy your want. But with good and right amp, I think Zen still has potency to satisfy everyone [​IMG] 
      rymd and golov17 like this.
    1. mochill
      Nice review my friend :blush:
      mochill, May 9, 2015
    2. BlackUser
      Thanks mate :)
      BlackUser, May 9, 2015
  6. fnkcow
    VE Zen a 320ohm earbud of great SQ when given enough juice
    Written by fnkcow
    Published Jun 13, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Sound Quality
    Cons - Needs powerful source to perform well, stiff and microphonic cable, lacking accessories
    IMG_20150601_235825aR.jpg
    Introduction 
     
    I always have an avid interest in earbuds even though I am primarily focused on In-Ear Monitors (IEMs). The thing is, earbuds tend to find themselves becoming the middle child in the family, with the big brother in headphones taking up serious ear time when people want to sit down and have critical listening in the comfort of their own homes, whereas the youngest brother in IEMs being preferred when people want to go out and about due to their strengths in isolation and portability, hence drawing manufacturers to focus on developing headphones and IEMs for their mass appeal, leaving earbuds stuck between a rock and a hard place, the awkward and forgotten child. With lack of much interest in earbuds, development and advancement in earbuds are scarce and few and far between at best, and there is only a handful of earbuds available on the market right now as compared to headphones and IEMs, thus I don't have much expectations of earbuds. When I caught wind about the emergence of a new company named Venture Electronics from China having its focus on making earbuds, I clicked through to find its the earbuds in particular its flagship Zen gaining great feedback, my curiosity got the better of me and I enquired about the earbuds, and would like to thank Lee for giving me this opportunity and have a review sample sent out for me to hear them through my own ears.

     

    Technical Specifications of VE Zen

    Transducer: Dynamic Driver
    Transducer Size: 15.4mm
    Sensitivity: 106dB (1mW)
    Impedance: 320ohm (1 KHz)
    Frequency Response: 15Hz~23.5kHz (-10dB)
    Cable Length: 1.2m (+/- 2 cm)
    Cable Material: OFC with TPE outer skin
     
    Packaging

     
    Unboxing VE's white cardboard box revealed the following:
     
    IMG_20150525_114316aR.jpg
     
    1. VE Zen
    2. VE Monk beta version*
    3. A zipper hard case
    4. 3 pairs of earbud foam cushions
    5. VE welcome message
     
    Quite basic packaging and accessories. The zipper hard case is of good guality and prevents crushing very well. Would like to see a shirt clip included. More on this later.
     
    *Take note that Monk is currently shipped free with purchase of Zen, but that may change in future when stock eventually runs out/discretion of Venture Electronics. Do check with them first before buying if you are interested in the extra earbud. 
     
    Design, Build Quality and Cable
     
    IMG_20150601_235926aR.jpg
     
    The earpieces use generic MX500 shells as its housing. This uninspiring design has been used countless of times in many earbuds, and since Zen is their flagship, it should be different from its budget youngest brother Monk for instance in the housings. Since they are still a startup company though, it is understandable why they would go for the tried-and-tested path instead of developing their own design. In future developments, I would like to see they put in their own design into their next flagships.
     
    I found the OFC cable with TPE outer skin to be stiff with cable noise. The microphonics were quite audible especially when out and about, and certainly would have benefited by including a shirt clip and a cable cinch. Qualms aside, the OFC cable is of good quality as it feels like solid silver cables and won't tangle easily compared to its many peers available on the current market.
     
    Fit and Comfort
     
    IMG_20150525_114521aR.jpg
     
    I tried the foam cushions and preferred to use the earbuds without them on as the foam cushions tended to hinder part of the sound spectrum IMO. I could have the Zen on for hours on end comfortably and not noticed any ear fatigue or pain. YMMV as the earpieces are a bit on the large side and may not fit well with small ears. 
     
    Sound Impressions
     
    IMG_20150601_235905aR.jpg
     
    Drive-ability: With Impedance of 320ohm (1 KHz) and Sensitivity of 106dB (1mW), it is easily one of the highest impedance within earbuds and IEMs, but that does not mean that it cannot be driven at all by the likes of normal mobile phones and typical DAPs. It can be driven by them, but the end result would just be average/subpar, and would sound rather dull and lifeless. It requires powerful source such as extra amping capacity and desktop setups to perform the way the engineers intended and the better the source the better it scales. In my testing I paired the Zen with my Cayin N6 and Meier Audio Corda PCStep. 
     
    Soundstage and Imaging: Wide soundstage and airiness have always been advantages of earbuds against IEMs, but at the sacrifice of sounding too flat and 2D. In the case of Zen however, it renders a 3D soundstage with proportionate width, height and depth, giving a feeling of spaciousness with quality imaging. Layering and separation of instruments are fairly good, not excellent as it will tend to sound a bit congested when there are lots of elements going on within a song but they are sufficient and will not get totally overwhelmed and collapse. 
     
    Lows: Big bass compared to many earbuds, with nice balance between sub-bass and mid-bass and does not bleed into the lower mids. It is not what I would refer to as bass heavy, but well-controlled with good impact, attack and speed. On the minus side, bass decay stops a bit too quick for my liking. Only when dealing with songs laden with copious amounts of bass that it becomes a bit too overpowering and loose. Nonetheless, very few earbuds have this kind of lows that kept me engaged and toe-tapping when the right songs came up.
     
    Midrange: Forward sounding and intimate meaty mids, a bit thick with slight veil masking small details. Vocals are rendered with full body, realism and a bit of warmth with no peakiness or sibilance. Female vocals perform better than male vocals.
     
    Highs: Smooth highs but not lacking in details. Treble extension is good with decent sparkle but a touch rolled off, slightly soft resulting in loss of headroom space and airiness.
     
    Conclusion
     
    IMG_20150601_235608aR.jpg
     
    VE Zen has a sound signature of fairly neutral tuning, leaning a bit towards musicality with a tinge of warmth. I often caught myself few hours later doing nothing other than listening to the Zen transfixed by its relative ease in portraying music effortlessly. Its qualities may not jump out at you at first listen but it fits like a pair of well-worn gloves. I think that it is a surprising entry from a relatively unknown company before its release then suddenly become one of the major contenders in the world of earbuds. For it to perform true to its capability however you will need good power source. For those who does not have a powerful source or who does not want to carry an additional amp with them, Venture Electronics do have a more portable-friendly solution in the form of Zen's younger brothers the Asura and Monk. At present I have heard that they are about to release newer retuned versions of the Asura and Monk. I look forward to future releases by Venture Electronics. 
      RedJohn456, DJScope, agyer and 2 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. fnkcow
      @golov17 In Head-Fi, the yellow Stars is actually the total rating for the overall package. 4 Stars is what I have rated overall, which IMO is fair given the Pros and Cons that I have listed. Head-Fi has a sub-section where there is a separate rating for SQ. Check the green bars under "Audio Quality", which I have given a very high rating.
      fnkcow, Jul 28, 2015
    3. golov17
      So I was wrong and I apologize :cry:
      golov17, Jul 28, 2015
    4. fnkcow
      @golov17 I could now see that it's just a misunderstanding. No hard feelings mate. All good :wink: 
      fnkcow, Jul 28, 2015
  7. golov17
    Great sound for not a lot money
    Written by golov17
    Published Jun 23, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - The sound quality and workmanship
    Cons - 320 Ohm
    I will be brief. Being a lover of earbuds, I trusted review respected ClieOS, and has not lost. Balanced sound with delicate timbres and exciting presentation. VE Zen give me the opportunity and the desire to receive pleasure from listening to Music, not only technical excellence. Anyone who loves their ears and willing to pay for it, not expensive, in fact, I strongly recommend to buy and enjoy. Thank you Lee for great work done. We look forward to continuing.
      RedJohn456 likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. golov17
      Yes, and rightly occupied the first place, IMHO
      golov17, Jun 24, 2015
    3. golov17
      Yes, and rightly occupied the first place, IMHO
      golov17, Jun 24, 2015
    4. golov17
      Yes, and rightly occupied the first place, IMHO
      golov17, Jun 24, 2015
  8. boneofimba
    Earbuds that shine with enough power
    Written by boneofimba
    Published Jul 5, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - SQ for price
    Cons - need a proper amp to shine, shells look cheap
    I do not own this unit – I had this unit from @fnkcow
     
    With Impedance of 320ohm this earbuds need a good amp to show its worth. I use my phone during my first listen to the zen and it sounds cold, sterile. Using the zen with my oppo HA2 or cayin N6 (which has monstrous power) reveals their real sound: good bass, forward sounding mids, smooth highs. With proper amplification the zen gives a wide soundstage and imaging, good instruments separation and layering. The shells looks to be a generic earbuds design, which doesn’t seem to be a good choice for a flagship product. The earbuds are wired with a decent OFC cable that feels nice to touch and have slight microphonics when touched.
      fnkcow likes this.
  9. Hisoundfi
    Who would have thought I would find audio "Zen" in an earbud? The Zen 320 Ohm earbud from Venture Electronics
    Written by Hisoundfi
    Published Aug 1, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Beautifully presented midrange. Excellent PRaT, Full size semi-open headphone sound in an earbud form
    Cons - They're earbuds (my opinion), Finecky fit (fixed with earhoox), Lack of sub-bass, Needs a high power source to sound its best
    At the time of the review, the Venture Electronics Zen was on sale on the company’s Aliexpress store. Here is a link to their listing of the product:
    20150625_112507.jpg
     
     
    http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Venture-Electronic-VE-Zen-high-impedance-320-ohms-earbud/32302987270.html
     
    Introduction
    This was the hardest review I’ve had to do thus far. For starters I don’t like earbuds, well actually, not until I got my hands on a pair of these. It took a lot of time and effort finding the right fit and source, but in the end it was a rewarding experience. The VE Zen is a fantastic product.
     
    While chatting about new gear with my good friend Tamal, the Zen was brought up. I wasn’t big on them because I’ve never had much luck with earbuds. Tamal suggested I try these, matter of fact I think it took three or four attempts and an offer of a free review sample of the Zen to get me to cave. I figured “what the heck, if they’re free why not?”
     
    Today I have the pleasure to share my experience and review of the VE Zen earbud. I also want to use this opportunity say a big thank you to @RedJohn456 for suggesting them and setting up the sample, and to @zhibli06 for sending them. I’m honored to be a part of Head-Fi and have friends that share the same love for audio, and are willing to also share their products and knowledge. Thanks guys!
     
    Disclaimer
    I was given an opportunity to review the Zen in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with Venture Electronics.
     
    My Background
    I AM NOT a numbers and graphs audiophile or sound engineer. Personal audio enthusiast? Absolutely! Headphone junkie? Possibly…
     
    There’s something about quality DAPs, DACs, Amplifiers and Earphones that intrigues me, 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.
     
    REVIEW
    I didn’t get the retail packaging. My pair of Zen came in a black clamshell case with  the earphones and an assortment of foam discs and doughnuts. If you are curious what the retail packaging and accessories are please refer to the above link. One bonus that must be mentioned is that if you purchase the 320 ohm Zen, you will also get the easier to drive monk included in the package. Bonus!
     
    Specifications
    Transducer: 15.4mm Single Dynmanic Driver
    Sensitivity: 105db @1KhZ
    Frequency Response: 20Hz~20kHz
    Impedance: 320ohm
    Cable Length: 1.2m SPC
     
    Accessories
    There’s not too much to say here. You get some Foam discs and doughnuts to help make the Zen fit better and more comfortably.
    20150801_171714.jpg
     
    The clamshell case I received was black and of decent quality. I assume it is the same case as the retail package but I’m guessing it’s gray color is the only difference.
     
    Note: There is a very special aftermarket accessories package I will touch on later in the review. Stay tuned.
     
    Housings
    20150801_1158012.jpg
     
    I’m not going to lie, the housings are made of plastic and seem very generic. When I first received them and held them in my hands for the first time, I thought “what did I get myself into?” thinking that there’s no way these very light and cheaply built housings can produce good sound. I was wrong in my assumption. More on that later.
     
    Imagine every generic pair of earbuds you got in the early 1990s. The Zen housings are very similar to that. Given the fact that: #1 earbuds are not very popular right now in the USA and #2 these are very bland looking, you aren’t going to turn heads and I don’t think anyone is going to mug you on the streets because of your flashy earphones.
     
    Okay, let’s say something positive about the housings… They are a pretty solid construction and don’t look like they will break anytime soon. They aren’t flashy and many people will like that aspect, because it isn’t the cover of the book that matters it’s the story inside of it. In this case the shell is playing possum for the impressive sound output.
     
    Cable, Y-Split, Cable Jack, Strain Reliefs
    The Cable is the nicest aspect of the Zen’s build. It’s a clear jacketed 1.2 meter silver plated copper cable. It is slightly springy and has no memory.
     
    They Y-Split is a very generic piece of plastic that serves its purpose and doesn’t give you a sense of being a premium product. One clever thing about the Y-split is the chin slider that works as a jacket for the Y-Split when you aren’t using it. This is very clever, and a couple Head-Fiers didn’t even realize they had a chin slider until others found out and shared their findings.
     
    The cable jack is a straight plug that uses a fair amount of the same generic plastic used on the housing, and some white rubber for a strain relief. Although plastic isn’t an Ideal application for a cable jack in my opinion, there is enough of it that it feels like it will hold up well.
     
    There are no strain reliefs coming from the housings. The cable comes straight out of the housing’s tubular plastic mold. There isn’t necessarily any strain relief at the Y split. The cable jack has a pretty nice rubber strain relief that should hold up very well.
     
    Ergonomics, Fit and Microphonics, Isolation
    Oh boy, here we go…
     
    First thing I have to confess is that I don’t like earbuds because of this particular criteria. I find earbuds to be a PITA when it come to consistent fit and sound. With the foam discs I was able to get them to fit, but just like with all earbuds, I drive myself nuts wondering if they are sitting in my ear in a way that is promoting the best sound quality. I caught myself tinkering with them repeatedly, switching foam discs and tinkering with how I placed them in/on my ears. I would turn my head and one would feel and sound looser than the other, or fall out of my ear all together.
    20150728_121305_HDR.jpg
     
    Not being able to get a consistent fit, or as good of a seal as most IEMs bothered me, ESPECIALLY when using them while being active or in noisy environments.
     
    Microphonics were almost non-existent. Any level of microphonics I experienced were only when there was no music, and disappeared when I played music.
     
    Now, this is where things got interesting and more awesome…
     
    Over the course of struggling with the fit, I reached out the the Head-Fi community for help. Although I was getting good sound from the Zens, the tedious and temperamental fit was very bothersome. After asking for help or suggestions on how to improve the fit, Tamal again came to the rescue. He recommended Earhoox. It’s a clever silicone design that allows me to position them in my ear, then secure them with a attached fin. I went from not being able to move my head without them falling out, to being able to get a solid fit that I could go running in. The difference was huge, and for the first time I was able to actually enjoy these earphones without having to readjust the fit all the time. Here is a link to purchase them:
     
    http://www.amazon.com/Earhoox-Attachment-Popular-Skullcandy-earbuds/dp/B00FGDRXTC/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1438458177&sr=8-4&keywords=earhoox
    20150801_132148_HDR.jpg
     
     
    Sound Review & Materials
     
    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.
     
    Sound Signature & Source Selection
     
    More Power! More Resolution!
    20150801_1155082.jpg
     
    First things first, the source you use is key in getting the most out of the Zens. These earbuds are 320 Ohms and require a powerful source in order to unleash the Zen sound that so many have reported experiencing.
     
    Through a cell phone your Zens will sound quiet and flat. With a portable source and amplifier like the Topping NX1 or Soundmagic A10, you will get plenty of volume, but still a somewhat two dimensional soundstage.
     
    I wasn’t planning on rating these very high until I plugged my Zens into my Bravo Audio Ocean or Cayin C5 amplifier. Simply put, they take them to a higher level of “Zen”. With more power they present a tighter sound with a more forward and textured midrange. Everything sounds more lively, airy and cohesive with a more powerful and resolving source.
     
    Because I received the best results with a more powerful amplifier and a pair of large Earhoox, I will be doing my sound impressions review using these items.
    VEZen.png
     
    To my ears the Zen is like a nice pair of semi open headphones in an earbud form. They have a midrange forward response with excellent transparency, balance and cohesiveness. They are an earphone that makes vocals and instruments sound very natural and enjoyable. Their design and tuning is far better suited for genres like acoustic, live performances, alternative, band, vocals, symphony. It’s a tuning that is geared for long listening sessions.
     
    Bass
    Punch, tone and rumble are all present. For an earbud design there is bass in abundance. What the Zen lacks is the lowest frequencies of sub-bass. This is one of the reasons I say the Zen has the sound of a semi-open back headphone. During test sweeps bass could be heard from 20-50 Hz, but had nowhere near as much presence as from 60Hz and up. This tuning works great as many audiophiles find this to be a more natural sounding bass response. Because of this tuning bassy genres like pop and hip-hop won’t sound as good as through something like a good closed back headphone or IEM. The trade off for this is a very natural and high quality bass that works with every genre that doesn’t call for lots of low frequency response.
     
    The Zen bass is relatively tight in nature, with pretty fast attack and decay. With some recordings and genres the Zen mid bass can sound a tiny bit sloppy and unresolving. It isn't overbearing or bothersome, more noticeable during critical listening.
     
    Midrange
    Midrange of the Zen is the star of the show. Male and female vocals sound very natural, forward and with great resolution. When listening to Florence & the Machine I got chills listening to her voice come through with a textured and airy presence. The midrange transparency was great for an earbud.
     
    The mids are forward in the mix and take center stage at all times. Where I feel the Zen excels is listening so singer-songwriters. Ed Sheeran, Jessie Ware, Agnes Obel and Mumford and Sons all sounded great. If you are a fan of these types of artists and have a slightly more powerful amplifier, put the Zens on your list of things to try. Its definitely something you need to experience.
     
    The upper mids of these earbuds can occasionally get a touch congested during complex passages. Most of the time and with most music it isn’t the case. For the most part upper midrange is very pleasant with a forward and energetic presence that isn’t overdone.

     
    Treble
    Where IEMs can often times get it wrong, the Zen’s treble response gets it right. There is no spike with them. I would describe them as being snappy and with an airy sense that is very enjoyable. I wouldn’t say it is extended, it’s pretty average in this aspect but what is there is fun. It’s a toe tapping kind of treble that is more entertaining than bland, while not overdone to the point of being fatiguing.
     
    Soundstage and Imaging
    The lack of sub bass takes away from the earphone’s depth, but it is made up for with a fantastic midrange response that yields a decent sense of space. Although treble isn’t extended the airy nature of it also helps create a nice stage. Imaging is dependant on the genre listened to. With hip hop and pop music they sound flat. They sound just the opposite with every genre that doesn’t call for lots of sub bass.

     
    Comparisons
     
    I usually do a comparison to other earphones of similar build quality and prices, but to be honest I don’t have any other earbuds, and comparing them to IEMs would probably deter or confuse people.
     
    I will use this section to say that if they sound most like another piece of gear, it would by my Sennheiser HD600. They have very similar tunings. I can almost say that they are a earbud version of them.
     
    The HD600 might have a better separation of sounds and be a bit more resolving overall. The timbre and transparency of the Zen is fantastic and slightly better than the mighty Sennheiser in this aspect. Going back and forth between the two, I appreciate the sound quality of the Zen even more. While the the HD600 justifies its asking price being a full size can with better refinement in build and slightly more articulate sound, this comparison makes me say that the Zen punches well above its asking price and will work great for people who are a fan of semi open cans.
     
    Conclusion
    I was impressed with the Zen’s performance. Venture Electronics definitely knows how to tune an earphone. I’m now hoping that they can improve the ergonomics and housing design. If Venture Electronics could manage to take the Zen sound and tweak it to have a touch more sub bass, and put it in a half in-ear shell like the titan, they would have a truly revolutionary product on their hands.
     
    Some people will fault it because at the end of the day it is still a generic looking earbud that doesn’t have the bass extension or isolation of their favorite closed pair of cans or IEMs. One thing I know from being in this hobby long enough, the Zen will appeal to audiophiles who can look past their flaws and get down to the heart of what has brought on their cult like following. They are timbre rich, transparent and mid range forward tuning that along with great PRaT that will keep you coming back for more.
     
    I look forward to getting my hands on more VE products. After hearing the Zen, Venture Electronics has the potential to be a serious contender for a share in the audiophile earphone market.
     
    Thanks for reading and happy listening!
      Baycode, zhibli06, Brooko and 5 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. davidgao007
      Zen is an perfect earbud, but believe me, duke (another in-ear from ve) will impress you favourably 
      davidgao007, Aug 2, 2015
    3. zhibli06
      Thank a lot! I personally love this review!
       
      p.s. @davidgao007 a member since 2005~? hahaha Glad u r enjoying the duke~ will personally make sure u get the RA for your PSK soon, (though I can't promise the synergy between these two) 
      zhibli06, Aug 2, 2015
    4. Draymam
      good sound
      Draymam, Aug 10, 2015
  10. twister6
    My ears and ZEN are the best buds now!!!
    Written by twister6
    Published Sep 24, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - very impressive sound quality, premium cable, relatively good fitment
    Cons - high impedance, need for a balanced cable termination, a bit pricey

    Before I start my review, I would like to Thank VE and @zhibli06 for providing me with a review sample of VE ZEN (and MONK) in exchange for my honest opinion.
     
    Manufacturer website: https://www.veclan.com/engappliance_sel_one?eng_ApplianceVo.eac_id=3 - now featuring Zen 2.0
     

     
    Just like a deja vu from a few weeks ago when I mentioned in one of my reviews that I can’t believe I’m writing about CIEM (I usually test and review only in-ears and full size), I’m back with another personal “exclusive” now writing about earbuds.  Actually, in the past I had an opportunity to test Dunu Alpha 1 and Astrotec Lyra 6 earbuds, but due to a cumbersome fitment relative to my ear anatomy (smaller concha area), I wasn’t able to evaluate their sound properly.  Hearing the buzz about Lee’s VE creation, his flagship ZEN earbud model, I got very excited and decided to take a chance.  Did it pay off?  Let’s just say as a spoiler, my ears and ZEN are the best buds now!!!  Here is more about it.
     
    So why couldn’t I fall in a love with earbuds in the past?  I have tried and still have apple earbuds from a very brief period when my kids had their iPod touches.  Those were small and comfortable, but a sound was not inspiring, just ok for listening.  Alpha 1 and Lyra 6 had their own fancy design shape where fitment prevented me from a more accurate evaluation of low end performance.  That is the biggest problem with earbuds – creating a proper seal with your ear canal in order to enjoy entire frequency range as intended by design.  Perhaps that is a reason why so many other earbuds use a common cheap plastic housing design which is easier on your ears, though not as much on your eyes.  I’m talking about earbuds with an elongated housing that morphs into a hard plastic strain relief, the same design VE utilized with ZEN.  I have tried a few similar shaped earbuds in the past, thus had a little more confidence in ZEN fitment.  So how about a sound?  I will get to that soon.
     
    Starting with unboxing, it was just a generic carton square box stuffed with ZEN, MONK, foam covers, and a bonus DUKE (VE's new micro-dynamic IEM provided for evaluation purpose).  There is no fancy packaging, and because DUKE came with its mini-pelican style case, there was no room for a storage clamshell, but it will be provided with official order.  Furthermore, MONK was actually included as part of the accessories, even so it’s a $5 pair of budget earbuds you can buy separately.  The only other included accessory was 2 pairs of white foam covers and 2 pairs of red foam covers with an opening in the middle.  When you buy these earbuds officially, they will have all the accessories including small hardshell case and double amount of foam covers in different colors: http://eng.52ve.cn/product.php?cm_id=196&if_id=172
     
    Unboxing and accessories.
     
    ve_zenmonkduke-01_zpsqylcv5hw.jpg   ve_zenmonkduke-02_zpsrnojr2qt.jpg
     
    VE Monk "accessory"
     
    ve_zenmonkduke-12_zpswsqqeyyr.jpg
     
    I already started to talk about the appearance, mentioning a very common bland ear-shell design.  I guess you can look at it from a perspective that nobody going to dare ripping these off your ears, but at the same time considering $120+ price tag I would have expected at least a different finish or some kind of a translucent color instead of solid white.  As of now, it's more of an ear-candy than an eye-candy.
     
    But regardless of the shell look, VE made a wise decision to use a premium cable which appears to have silver-plated wires (at least from the looks) with a translucent cable jacket.  You can also find a unique little rubber y-splitter where the shell slides out to turn into a chin-slider - it's hidden really well and out of sight when not in use.  Cable terminates in a basic straight gold plated connector with a nice rubbery housing and a decent strain relief, but the story doesn't end here.  The wiring of both earpieces is kept separate all the way down to the headphone single ended TRS connector plug which suggests a balanced wiring without tying a ground together.  With such wiring opportunity, I would have loved for Venture Electronics (VE) to terminate ZEN with a balanced wired 3.5mm TRRS connector with the same wiring as HiFiMAN (HFM).  Then, just like with HFM RE400B or RE600, include a short extension adapter to go from balanced wired TRRS to a single ended TRS.  This would have opened up a door to use VE ZEN balanced wired with HFM DAPs (HM901, HM700, etc.) as well as using it with any other audio player or a smartphone.  And to take it to a new level, have another optional extension adapter with 2.5mm TRRS A&K style balanced wired connector.  That would welcome an opportunity to use ZEN with AK DAPs, Cayin N5, and Lotoo PAW 5k which all have 2.5mm balanced wired connector.
     
    Design details.
     
    ve_zenmonkduke-03_zpsplxka9nb.jpg   ve_zenmonkduke-04_zpsg3gosivv.jpg
    ve_zenmonkduke-05_zpsetfa53fz.jpg   ve_zenmonkduke-06_zpsk6pi5ayy.jpg
    ve_zenmonkduke-30_zpsh8nkuxgg.jpg   ve_zenmonkduke-07_zpsrcuxbwky.jpg
    ve_zenmonkduke-08_zpswrgeqmry.jpg   ve_zenmonkduke-09_zpsuy0zce4v.jpg
     
    Since fitment plays such an important role in VE ZEN sound perception, I experimented with a few options before starting my sound analysis.  Wire down is probably the most common way to wear earbuds, but I also found VE ZEN to work quite well with wire up over your ears.  With assistance of chin-slider to bring wires close together under your chin, I was able to achieve a very secure fitment where earbuds stayed in my ears even during jumping or fast moving around.  Either way, wire down or wire up, sound was the same with the only difference of wire up having a more secure fitment.
     
    ve_zenmonkduke-26_zpsv8gamxl2.jpg   ve_zenmonkduke-27_zpsnczbzgjz.jpg
     
    Since I wasn't too crazy about plastic earpieces rubbing inside of my ears, I switched to using foam covers.  They definitely improve the comfort, and make earpiece to fit tighter.  Also, I preferred using foam covers with a hole in the middle to keep air-vents of the driver open, or at least as open as possible.  It was a good idea to include both types of foam covers to give you a preference option, and to include spares if you rip one during fitment.
     
    ve_zenmonkduke-10_zps7eh4bywx.jpg
     
    To take it to a whole new level of fitment and comfort, there’s a really cool accessory offered by Earhoox which is a small rubber ring that stretches around the edge of your earbuds and has a molded shark-fin for a more secure fitment (available on HERE).  Regardless if you are using VE ZEN or MONK or earbuds from other manufacturers, these Earhooxs really improve the fitment and the comfort when wearing earbuds.
     
    ve_zenmonkduke-31_zpsvnuwkpaa.jpg   ve_zenmonkduke-32_zpses1t69ea.jpg
     
    ve_zenmonkduke-33_zpsl46daadz.jpg
     
    With seal and fitment finalized, now we are ready to proceed with a sound analysis. 
     
    After an extensive listening period I found ZEN to have a very detailed transparent smooth sound with a slightly mid-forward signature.  It has a great soundstage, definitely above the average in width and depth, maybe more width then depth.  I wouldn't say it has the best layering and separation, and perhaps the imaging doesn’t necessary standout with 3D placement.  But it has this amazing clear neutral tonality with an incredible smooth sound that you can listen to for hours, or maybe days!
     
    In a more detailed sound analysis:
     
    Low end is very accurate with a fast and tight mid-bass and extended sub-bass depth.  Due to the nature of earbud fitment the quantity of sub-bass will vary, but regardless of that I still hear a well controlled, tight, and snappy low end with a noticeable sub-bass rumble.  While some earbuds either have a muddy exaggerate low end or hardly any low end presence, ZEN offers a great low end quality with a noticeable quantity.  Not on the same level as IEMs, but still quite good for earbuds.
     
    Mids are the star of these earbuds.  You will find a perfect smooth lower mids with a clean separation from the low end.  Though you are not going to get a lot of warmth from the bass, mids have a nice smooth body, and a very clear presentation.  Upper mids sound very organic with an excellent retrieval of details.  Both female and male vocals sound very natural and accurate.
     
    Treble has a great definition, crisp and detailed but not as airy which takes away some sparkle and makes it smooth and non-sibilant.  It just flows smooth and transparent as an extension of upper mids, sharing the same characteristics.
     
    Even so VE MONK is included as an “accessory”, I found it to have a great clean and clear balanced sound, slightly on a warm side with a nice sub-bass extension and punchy mid-bass.  They don't have the same level of detail retrieval or clarity or soundstage expansion as ZEN, but for $5 it's quite an amazing value.  In comparison to MONK, HisoundAudio PAA-1 ($20) is warmer, less detailed, and with a narrower soundstage.
     
    With different DAPs and AMPs.
     
    ve_zenmonkduke-11_zps3reeiz6r.jpg
     
    Before I go into pair up compatibility, I have to mention about one very important spec parameter of these earbuds: the impedance of 320 ohm.  Yes, earbuds with an impedance of over 300 ohms.  In my testing, I found that high impedance load wasn’t a limiting factor of being able to drive them loud, but it did affect a sound quality significantly when driven from a less powerful source, like smartphone.  Here is more about it.
     
    Pair up with DAPs and their corresponding volume setting:
     
    QA360 - (v109/150) - a transparent dynamic smooth organic sound with a tight bass.
     
    AK120ii - (v114/150) - a warm dynamic smooth sound, punchy tight bass, and a great organic vocal presentation.
     
    N6 - (v49/100) - a clear transparent dynamic sound with an excellent retrieval of details, wide soundstage, tight punchy bass, bright detailed upper mids, and a smooth treble.
     
    N5 - (v47/100) - a full body detailed sound with an excellent retrieval of details, above average soundstage, tight punchy bass and slightly improved sub-bass quantity.
     
    And with Note 4 - despite its 320 ohm impedance, I can still drive ZEN to a reasonably loud volume without a problem, but there is noticeable difference in quality where a sound is no longer as dynamic and actually somewhat flat, loosing details.
     
    Paired up with amps driven from LO of N5:
     
    Cayin C5 – yields a slight coloration of the sound, while adding more excitement, slightly improved dynamics, adds a bit more body, more punch in mid-bass, tighter low end, and a bit more details in upper mids.
     
    FiiO E12A - not much of a soundstage improvement, actually a similar tonality as N5 HO, just making sound a little more transparent and faster in speed.
     
    VE RunAbout (RA) - very similar performance as with E12A, including similar tonality as N5 HO, just tightens up low end a little bit more.
     
    Conclusion.
     
    I'm very serious when I say that VE ZEN restored my faith in earbuds, because a sound I'm hearing from ZEN is on a level of some of the premium IEMs and full size headphones, but I do sincerely wish VE would look into some facelift to compliment ZEN's premium sound tuning with some more unique design appeal.  You can even keep the same generic shell, just make it look more premium, maybe with a selection of a translucent material.  After all, you have $5 MONK and $128 ZEN that look nearly the same from outside.  Also, the cable would greatly benefit from TRRS connector termination and TRRS to TRS adapter - it just asking for it!  Other then that, leave a sound tuning as it because it's nearly perfect!  I don't have too much experience with other earbuds, but can say with certainty - regardless if you are a fan or not, VE ZEN is definitely a pair of earbuds you need to experience!
      pitsel, earfonia, Brooko and 7 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Onix
      They look so much like cheapo earbuds that I have to wonder if there's something special regarding the transducer that makes them good. Congratulations on the great review.
      Onix, Sep 28, 2015
    3. earfonia
      Nice one Alex!  I'm very impressed with the Monk!  Hope to try the Zen one day :)
      earfonia, Oct 6, 2015
    4. Norba
      Wow, I guess this is another example of don't judge a book by its cover. Cheap looking fantastic sounding earphones. I hope I can try one one day. :)
      Congrats on the review.
      Norba, Dec 19, 2015