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Venture Electronics (VE) Zen

  1. nmatheis
    VE Zen 2.0: VE Strikes Again
    Written by nmatheis
    Published Dec 13, 2015
    Pros - Great sound that can be tuned to your liking with covers. Comfortable. Attractive.
    Cons - Needs a good source to really shine.




    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


    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.


    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.

    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


    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.


    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? 
    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!
    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!
    1. View previous replies...
    2. capnjack
      The Monks are incredible value, so much so, after speaking to Lee (he's a really nice guy) I went and got the Zen 2's. They arrived today and are even better than I expected ! So now to burn 'em in :sunglasses:
      capnjack, Jan 18, 2016
    3. bolmeteus
      Great review, man! Anybody doing comparisons between stock cables vs balanced vs cardass 3.5 vs cardass XLR? ^^
      bolmeteus, Jun 25, 2016
    4. likearake
      How do the Zens sound with the ear stabilizer?
      I note you say they sound best naked, but I can't get any kind of seal on my Monks without the ear stabilizer. Would the Zen still be good / worthwhile if used with stabilizers?
      likearake, Jul 15, 2016
  2. Brooko
    VE Zen – Uncompromising SQ in an earbud
    Written by Brooko
    Published Nov 4, 2015
    Pros - Sound quality, overall build, ability to sound like a full-sized open headphone, value
    Cons - Relatively high impedance, somewhat unruly cable, need for additional amplification (depending on source)
    For larger views of any of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images


    I’d heard a little about the VE Zen previously on the forums, and it had been one to pique my interest given the glowing reviews it has received as a top of the line earbud. I have to be reasonably careful about what I actually buy (mortgage and growing family), so I was hoping there would be an Australasian tour at some stage so I’d have a chance to hear and review them. Then out of the blue my friend Tamal (RedJohn456) contacted me with an introduction to Lee (zhibili06), and Lee generously offered to send me not only the Zen, but also the Monk, Duke and Runabout amp.
    So many thanks to both Tamal and Lee for this opportunity.  I’ve taken my time with all of Lee’s products, because while I’ve used earbuds before, I’m usually an IEM or full sized guy, and it has taken a while to adjust.
    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). 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”.
    I was provided the VE Zen 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 since July (so a little over 3 months).  Normal RRP is USD 128.00. 
    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 three months – I’ve used the VE Zen from a variety of sources, but for main body of this review, I’ve used it with my Fiio X3ii combined with the E11K amp. In the time I have spent with the Zen, I have noticed no change in the overall sonic presentation.  Listening time with the Zen now has easily been more than 50 hours, and probably a lot longer.
    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 Zen arrived in a simple white and red cube shaped box measuring 100 x 1000 x 100mm.  Inside I received the VE Zen earbuds, the VE Monk earbuds and a selection of white full foam covers and red foam doughnut covers.
    zen01.jpg zen02.jpg zen03.jpg
    The simple VE retail box
    VE retail box
    Zen. Monk, carry case and covers

    Also included was a round zipped clamshell case (about 85mm in diameter and 50mm deep) which has a mesh inner compartment and quite rigid outer shell.  It is reasonably pocket friendly. The case I’m using currently for the Zen though is a small hinged lid pelican type case (that actually came with the Duke), and the Duke in turn gets the clamshell case (just noting it here – in case there is any confusion).
    zen04.jpg zen05.jpg zen07.jpg
    Zen in the carry case
    Carry case
    Foam covers

    So a reasonably sparse accessory package, but I keep going back to their value statement (keeping it real), and everything is covered nicely. Perhaps the only things I’d suggest looking at to add value might be something like the Earhookz retention clip system, and also a 3.5-6.3mm adaptor (as people will be using these with full sized amps)
    zen08.jpg zen19.jpg zen20.jpg
    Case from the Duke (reappropriated)
    Foam interior

    (From VE)
    Open dynamic earbud
    Frequency Range
    15 Hz – 23.5 Khz
    320 ohm
    106dB (1mW)
    3.5mm gold plated, straight jack
    1.2m – silver side-by-side pair,  PVC coating
    Approx 14g with dual foam pads in place
    IEM Shell
    Polycarbonate / hard plastic

    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.
    The frequency response graph was created with foams intact, and the body pressed lightly to the coupler to simulate a normal fitting.
    zenfreq.png zencsd.png
    Zen frequency graph (raw data)
    Zen CSD plot

    What I’m hearing:
    1. Full and rich bass, with surprisingly good extension for an earbud.
    2. Warmish tonality – but a clear and clean mid-range with good vocal presence
    3. Nice lift in upper mid-range which lends particularly well to harmonics with female vocalists
    4. Detailed but smooth treble
    When first looking at the Zen, you’d be forgiven for thinking “generic $10 earbuds”, but looks can be very deceiving. The Zen has a white hard plastic shell, and has a driver enclosure which measures approximately 16m in diameter, and has two circles of ports (approximately 56 in total) close to the outer edge of the main face.  The rear of the earbud is ported on two opposite sides, and there is also a rear port running parallel to, and along the full length of the cable exit. The Zen has bass quality unlike anything I’ve seen on any other earbud, so it’s likely the combination of porting is contributing to the overall quality.
    zen09.jpg zen10.jpg zen11.jpg
    Zen from the top
    Zen from the side
    The Zen internal face

    The entire earbud is approximately 35mm 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 it will be primarily worn down, I would not think this is even a slight issue.
    zen12.jpg zen14.jpg zen15.jpg
    Rear (bass) port
    Y-split (mine is missing cinch - which is normally present)
    3.5mm straight jack

    The cable is silver plated with a transparent outer sheath, and each channel is separate and in side by side configuration. For anyone wanting to convert to balanced, it should simply be a matter of reterminating at the jack – nice! The cable itself is really well built and the sheath itself has pretty low microphonics.  What is there can be reduced further by a little cable management (under clothes). My only issue with the cable is that it can be slightly unruly (tends to want to do its own thing). It made photographing the Zen a right PITA.  But it is a small price to pay considering the build.
    The Y split is pretty small, made of flexible rubber, and has no relief (but again none is needed).  My pair does not have a cinch – so I can only guess that this pair was a preproduction pair, as I know some of the other reviewers have had cinches on theirs. The jack is 3.5mm, straight, gold plated, and has excellent strain relief.
    All in all – a somewhat “generic looking” build, but also a very solid build – and if the sound is good, who really cares about the looks right?
    It had been a while since I’d used earbuds, but going to the Zen was pretty easy.  I first tried the re doughnuts, and then the white foams.  Both provided adequate comfort, but now a wonderful seal for me (they were loose, and the bass was not as good as it could be). So I added a second pair of doughnuts, and it very much improved both fit and sound.  I would recommend anyone trying the Zen to try fitting second pair of foams, because it really can help.
    zen16.jpg zen17.jpg zen18.jpg
    Single full foam cover
    Single doughnut foam cover
    Doughnut + full cover

    Comfort is also surprisingly good – they simply disappear after a while. I’ve also found them relatively stable for walking, but if I was jogging, or doing anything more strenuous, I really would suggest looking at a stabiliser like the Earhookz.
    And a final word on isolation – it is an earbud – so any isolation is minimal.
    I know there has been some debate on this in the forums, and all I can give you is my impressions based on the gear I have.  I do tend to be a bit of a maverick at times, and here is where I do try to get a bit objective. The Zen is 320 ohms, so that does mean it may require a little more power to get to a suitable loudness.  But at the same time, their sensitivity is 106 dB (1 mW) so that suggests they are far easier to drive than a lot of people may think.  So I tried many of the DAPs and amps I had, and armed with my trusty SPL meter, measured the output in order to give me an approx. 70-75 dB average with my test tracks.  I then used this volume and test tones to set a benchmark, and then used this to look at equivalent volume for each device.  I also listened to each using Dire Straits “Sultans of Swing” to test for dynamics and detail.
    zen22.jpg zen24.jpg zen25.jpg
    X3ii with Fiio Q1 and E11K (not shown)
    X3ii with E17K (front)
    Zens with L5 Pro and Fiio X7

    • Fiio X3ii – 60/120 low gain.  Plenty of dynamics, good bass response, does not sound anaemic in any way.
    • Fiio X3ii + line-out to the E17K (0 gain, 23/60 on pot). No significant change from X3ii solo.
    • Fiio X3ii + line-out to the E11K (low gain, approx. 2.5/9 on pot). No significant change from X3ii solo.
    • Fiio X3ii + line-out to the VE Runabout (low gain, approx. 15-20% of the pot used). No significant change from X3ii solo.
    • Fiio X5ii – low gain, 60/120. Plenty of dynamics, good bass response, good detail.
    • iPhone 5S – approx. 8-9 (50-55%) clicks of volume. Again plenty of dynamics, good bass response and detail level.
    • L&P L5 Pro – medium gain approx. 40/60 volume. One of the best sounding devices I tried. But I couldn’t say that it was significantly better than any of the other sources – just a little different in overall presentation.
    • L&P LP5 – high impedance setting, maybe 10-15% on the pot (hard to tell because there are no markings). The other really dynamic sounding device. But again, I couldn’t say that it was significantly better than any of the other sources – just a little different in overall presentation.
    • Fiio X7 – low gain approx. 71/120 on the digital volume. I made sure with this one (as there was some debate) that I matched it as closely as I could with the LP5, and when I checked for dynamics, I was checking in particular against the LP5.  The X7 has no issues driving these, and sounds spectacular with this track.
    The following is what I hear from the VE Zen.  YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline).  Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my Fiio X3ii using line-out to the E17K.  With the Zen I used dual doughnut foam tips on each earpiece.
    Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.
    Thoughts on Default Signature
    I covered a bit of this when I was talking about frequency response above, but if I was to boil it down to a few words – then I’d use the terms “natural”, “balanced”, “clear” and “detailed but smooth”.  In short, the Zen is the best sounding earbud I’ve ever heard. It reminds me a little of the HD650, or the HD600 if you reduced the 4kHz area, and added a little bit of mid-bass. The one thing I did notice with my listening was that the Zen (for me) suited a lower overall volume – with vocals being very clear, and bass easily discernible. If I tweaked the volume too much, vocals tended to get a little shouty and the bass could become too dominant.  But for relaxed easy listening at comfortable volume, the Zen was astounding in its tonality.
    Overall Detail / Clarity
    Tracks used: Gaucho, Sultans of Swing
    The first noticeable thing with both tracks is that the bass is definitely there, and if anything I’d actually cut it back just a little bit (if listening at louder volumes) – more than anything because the bass guitar can dominate just a little.  Despite that though there is plenty of detail with a nice sense of decay from cymbals, click from the drums, and enough guitar bite to keep things interesting.  Overall the sound is very slightly U shaped with nice forward vocals, a little bass emphasis and some nice upper mid-range / lower treble detail.  Note – applying a shallow 3 dB cut centered around 100 Hz and extending between about 50-200 Hz balances things out even better.
    Sound-stage & Imaging
    Tracks used: Tundra, Dante’s Prayer, Let it Rain
    With the binaural track Tundra – there is a good sense of both width and depth – but rather than appearing diffuse and overly open, the staging is actually really pleasant, and rather intimate.  I wouldn’t call it expansive by any means – but it does allow a sense of space between instruments, and the imaging is pin-point and very clear. 
    With Dante’s Prayer the Zen once again appeared more intimate than open, but it is believable rather than contrived.  The tonality is really spot on though, and the contrast between cello, piano and Loreena’s voice is magical. The applause at the end of the track with a really good earphone / headphone can totally immerse me with a few select earphones.  The Zen didn’t quite get there – but it didn’t feel overly false either.  A really nice presentation.
    Last up was Let It Rain, and it has a really good holographic feel to it – especially with the right earphone.  The Zen is that earphone. Absolutely gorgeous presentation – it just seems to nail female vocals so well.  And once again it is the balance and tonality I’m really enjoying.
    Bass Quality and Quantity
    Tracks used: Bleeding Muddy Water, Royals
    I use Bleeding Muddy Waters mainly to test for bass texture and mid-bass bleed. What I’m hearing is quite thick bass with good impact, but it isn’t impinging on vocals at all – and the track is suitably dark and brooding (as it is supposed to be).  I’m not hearing a lot of bleed despite the bass impact, and if anything the decay actually feels natural.
    Next up was Lorde’s Royals – and the Zen has no problems at all with impact and sub bass.  Again the overall clarity is stunning, and I am really enjoying this presentation.  It’s easy to forget these are earbuds because the bass presentation is simply wonderful.
    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
    The Zen (on the graphs) appears to have a curve which should be very well suited to my preferences – especially with female vocals (bump in the vocal area around 2K and a 2nd peak in the upper mids), so I was really interested in hearing some of my favourite female artists. It didn’t disappoint either.  Female vocalists were beautifully clear and had a hint of euphony in presentation, just the way I like it.  Once again their intimate nature (vocals very forward) shone through clearly – and while this does focus the vocals, at times the forward nature has the ability to sound slightly too sharp if listening at higher volumes.
    Standouts for me were Feist’s Metals and La Havas’ Don’t Wake me Up.  Metals had the dynamics and speed, La Havas had the lushness and creamy smooth vocals (velvet for the ears).
    Male Vocals
    Track used: Away From the Sun, Art for Art’s Sake, Diary of Jane, Hotel California, Keith Don’t Go, Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.
    The Zen excels with Rock IMO – and this was where I often turned the volume up a tiny bit because there wasn’t the issue with sharpness.  Bass continued to be punchy and dynamic, and this time the mid-range and lower treble were providing very good guitar crunch.  Detail levels were excellent especially on the acoustic tracks and older rock tracks (10cc was great, and I actually went back later and listened to the entire album – something I hadn’t done for a while). Even with faster more guitar dominant tracks like Diary of Jane, the Zen’s drivers coped really well, and they never felt like they were being overwhelmed.
    Standouts for me though were acoustic tracks from the Eagles and Nils Lofgren – gorgeous tonality and excellent detail (I love hearing fingers sliding on a fret board).  My final test was once again with Pearl Jam though, and the combination of tonality, texture and detail was brilliant. The Zen does male vocals, and in particular Rock, really well IMO.
    Other Genres
    As you can guess, the Zen really is an all-rounder, and everything thing from Alt Rock, to Jazz, Blues and Classical was delivered with wonderful balance and tonality. Jazz in particular was absolutely brilliant – especially the tonal contrast between cymbals and double-bass. And the Zen does equally well whether it be piano or stringed instruments.
    I really enjoyed EDM with the Zen as well, and Trip-Hop with Little Dragon or Trance with AVB was equally impressive.  Good bass, great detail, nothing overpowering – clarity and power makes for an addictive combination.
    There was a tiny bit of sibilance with Adele (it is an issue with the recording I have – but worth noting), but didn’t stop the track being thoroughly enjoyable.
    I particularly enjoyed running through my classical tracks – and once again it was the tonality that was captivating. The Zen somehow captures the timbre of certain instruments (cello and piano amongst others) almost perfectly.
    As I alluded to in my notes above, the Zen does exhibit rather strong bass at times, and if it does become overpowering a little cut centering around 100 Hz can help. At lower volumes though I never felt the need to engage EQ.  And if the upper end does get too strong – a little notch at 7-8 Khz, or even dialling back the presence area around 2 kHz has some interesting effects (creates a little more space / openness).  For the most part though I left the default tuning in play, because at lower volumes it is simply wonderful.
    The issue with comparisons with the Zen is what to compare it with – as it really is like no other earphone I’ve heard before.  What could give you (the reader) some ideas about how the really Zen sounds? So for starters I’ve compared it to the Zen’s little brother – the Monk, and then to my HD600 (which I think sounds kind of similar). For these comparisons – I used the headphone out of my iFi Micro iDSD.
    Zen vs Monk
    Zen with the iDSD

    Zen $128 vs Monk $5
    The first thing I noticed swapping between the two was how similar the bass was, in fact how very similar the whole signature is.  The main difference is that the Zen just appears more vivid and detailed, while the Monk is a little bit more distant and doesn’t have the same life. What is clear though is what an incredible deal the Monk is, and if I wasn’t currently comparing the two side-by-side, I’d be praising the Monk as better than some IEMs I have at 20 times the price. But for lovers of the Monk wanting a step up – the Zen (to me anyway) is absolutely worth it. Every time I switch from the Monk to the Zen, it’s like adding a notch of clarity and presence.
    Zen $128 vs HD600 $300
    Brooko – are you mad?  How can this little $130 generic looking earbud be compared with one of the best (IMO) dynamic headphones ever built?  Well naturally it can’t – but we can compare it and look at the similarities.
    The first thing I noticed was that the HD600 was more open, had a little less bass warmth, and was a little airier up top. The mids on the Zen comparatively were a little more forward, the bass a little deeper, and the overall tone just a little darker.
    But the one thing that really stands out is that the Zen isn’t embarrassed in the presence of the HD600, and this is the bit that really astounds me.  It really does sound like an open full sized headphone – and what continues to floor me is the natural balance, and the full rich tonality.
    The Zen has an RRP of $128 and at this price it really is a no brainer. I honestly can’t think of another earphone or IEM that I’ve experienced (maybe the Titan series, and possibly Trinity’s Delta) which will deliver comparable sonics at the same or better price. I know the Monk at $5 ultimately delivers better overall value – but for me personally, the Zen does deliver a sonic experience that is worth the extra money.


    First up I want to take the chance to thank my friend Tamal for introducing me to Lee, and to Lee for giving me the chance to listen to the Zen.
    At first glance the Zen looks a little like the generic earbuds you get bundled with a cheap MP3 player.  But on closer inspection, you’ll notice that the build (while quite plain) is actually pretty solid, and the cable gives it away as something maybe just a little special. And then you plug it in, hit play, and watch as your jaw hits the ground (the first time you hear the Zen).
    Sonically it is a little on the bassier side of neutral, and does exhibit a slightly darker sound than what I’m used to – but the vocals are really quite forward and extremely clear. The Zen is the closest I’ve come to any IEM or earbud sounding like an open headphone.
    They can be powered out of most reasonable sources (and that includes my iPhone 5S), but if your source is slightly on the weak side, then additional amplification may be required.
    I would recommend them unconditionally to friends or family. They are incredible.
    I've had one or two ask me how I can rank something 5 star if I note during a review that they aren't completely perfect.  My answer is simple - if they are in my opinion close to perfect,a nd also exhibit incredible value, then in my books that rates a 5.  The Zen is the epitomy of near perfection combined with fantastic value.
    Although the Zen has ticked virtually all my boxes there are a couple of things I personally would change.  YMMV.
    1. Sonically I’d like to see just a little less mid-bass, and also a little less emphasis at 2 kHz.  This effectively would sit the vocals back just a little without losing any clarity, and give the Zen just a little more sense of space.
    2. I’d love to see a little less of the generic look (note - this has already been addressed in version 2 coming out).
    3. Inclusion of some sort of locking mechanism / stability enhancement – similar to the Earhookz
    4. The option of inclusion of an in-line mic and volume control (perhaps with a lower impedance).  I know this isn’t really “audiophile” – but these could then be my default earbuds for using with my iPhone and would be perfect for calls (being open).
      knudsen, leobigfield, DJScope and 6 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. DJScope
      Great review mate!
      DJScope, Nov 4, 2015
    3. Brooko
      Thanks for the kind words gents.
      @rymd - interesting thoughts on the foam. If I get the chance to get a few more different foam covers (so that I have enough to compare), I might re-run the graphs.  Thanks for the idea.
      Brooko, Nov 4, 2015
    4. goodyfresh
      Awesome review Paul!  Very well thought-out and detailed as always.  This clinches it for me once and for all. . .I absolutely, positively WILL be buying the Zen 2.0 once it comes out soon :)
      goodyfresh, Nov 4, 2015
  3. waynes world
    VE Zens.. Amazing sound!
    Written by waynes world
    Published Oct 13, 2015
    Pros - Amazing sound, durable
    Cons - Not the flashiest looking earbuds in town
    Back in March, I received the Zens from Lee of Venture Electronics in exchange for my honest impressions. I was a bit hesitant because I have never enjoyed earbuds, and that bias had me a bit concerned that I would end up having to write potentially less than positive impressions. But thank goodness I bit, because the Zens are amazing.
    There are plenty of excellent and informative Zen reviews out there, so I'm going to keep my impressions brief. The main genres I listen to are progressive rock (Porcupine Tree, Rush, Radiohead etc), rock (Dave Mathews, Dire Straits etc), electronica (progressive house trance), and some pop.
    When I got the Zens out of the box, my first impressions were: super durable looking; very utilitarian looking; and "hey, there are some black Asura (beta) buds in here as well - cool!"
    I knew that the Zens have a  crazy impedance of 320 ohms, and had been for warned that to get the most out of them, that I should use an amp. Bearing that in mind, I have been listening to the Zens off of the following gear for the last 6 months:
    1) Laptop -> HifimeDIY Sabre U2 Dac -> Cayin C5 amp
    2) Colorfly C3 -> C&C BH amp
    3) Xuelin 770 dap
    The setups with the amps do bring out more of what the Zens are capable of - more solid bass, fuller sound with more body, tighter sound, and generally better "prat". Having said that, the Zens still sound rather stellar off of the 770 dap and I am quite content listening to the Zens off of it. I listen to them off of any/all of my sources and am quite happy.
    The sound of the Zens basically blew my mind when I first listened to them. Incredibly full, balanced, refined and detailed sound with a beautiful airy soundstage and great imaging - much more of a "headphone" sound than an IEM sound. The bass is beautifully layered, the mids are perfectly presented, and the highs are detailed, airy and present yet completely non-fatiguing. They sound great with any of the genres I like, so they are very versatile for me. And as other accomplished reviewers have noted, the Zens have great "prat", and judging by how much the Zens get my toes tapping, I'm inclined to agree! Basically, the Zens provide a very full and balanced "Hi Fi" sound that is completely non-fatiguing. I can and want to listen to these puppies for extended periods, and I haven't tired of them in six months (which for me is practically a miracle).
    As far as the beta Asura's are concerned, they were a wonderful bonus. They have more of a V-shape signature than the Zens and are not as refined, but they still sound very good. And they are also quite durable... I like to fall asleep listening to music and the Asura's have withstood six months of that torture test and I don't see them falling apart anytime soon.
    As a side note, I found that I actually enjoy the earbud form factor quite a bit - in fact more than IEMs. Not having something jammed into my ear canals is a relief for me. The Zens sit comfortably in my ears, they stay nicely in place even without earhoox (which was a surprise), and my ear canals don't get sore after a period of listening. Also, I am sure that having more air circulating in the ears is a good thing (for example, when falling asleep using the Asura's).
    So simply and in summary, the Zens sound amazing. 
    1. golov17
      Therefore since brevity is the soul of wit :sunglasses::clap::thumbsup:
      golov17, Oct 13, 2015
    2. mochill
      Need mo love for zen:laughing:
      mochill, Oct 13, 2015
  4. golov17
    Great sound for not a lot money
    Written by golov17
    Published Jun 23, 2015
    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
  5. BlackUser
    Headphone-like earbud
    Written by BlackUser
    Published May 8, 2015
    Pros - One of the best bass and transient response in earbud, headphone-like sound
    Cons - uninspiring design, needs amp
    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
    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.
    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.
    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
    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. ClieOS
    A 320ohm earbuds that demand good voltage swing but also reward with excellent SQ.
    Written by ClieOS
    Published Mar 16, 2015
    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.
    It said: "torture one-self, reject mediocrity, all for our sound."
    Transducer: Open Dynamic
    Sensitivity: 108dB
    Frequency Response: 10Hz~25kHz
    Impedance: 150ohm
    Cable Length: 1.2m
    MSRP: US$48
    Transducer: Open Dynmanic
    Sensitivity: -/-
    Frequency Response: 20Hz~20kHz
    Impedance: 320ohm
    Cable Length: 1.2m
    MSRP: US$112
    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.
    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.
    From left: MX985, TM7, Asura, and Zen.
    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
  7. DJScope
    VE Zen 1.0 & 2.0 – Reaching Enlightenment
    Written by DJScope
    Published Dec 6, 2015
    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.



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



    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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​



    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!
      jant71, H20Fidelity, ozkan and 3 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. DJScope
      As far as I'm aware, it's still 320 Ohm. I even double checked on the website.
      DJScope, Dec 6, 2015
    3. Coldheart29
      Nice review!
      Looks like i'll have to get a zen 2.0 once i'll buy a portable amp, as i fear my x3ii wouldn't drive them properly. In the meantime, i'll be rocking the monk, and will likely get an asura sometime in the next few months.
      Coldheart29, Dec 6, 2015
    4. DJScope
      I don't think the FiiO X3-II will have the gonads to power these. Definitely need something with grunt.
      DJScope, Dec 6, 2015
  8. twister6
    My ears and ZEN are the best buds now!!!
    Written by twister6
    Published Sep 24, 2015
    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"
    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.
    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
    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.
    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.
    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
  9. fleasbaby
    ....if you're going to buy an earbud....
    Written by fleasbaby
    Published May 1, 2015
    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
  10. doctorjazz
    Great sounding Buds at a not extravagant price
    Written by doctorjazz
    Published Oct 15, 2015
    Pros - open, great pace/rhythm, fun to listen to. Bass, mids, soundstage and detail great in this class.
    Cons - They are buds...non removable cable, treble slightly rolled off.
    I would like to thank Venture Electronics (VE) and Lee (@zhibli06) for providing me with a review sample of VE ZEN (and MONK) too many months ago

    Manufacturer website: http://eng.52ve.cn/

    The site I have for purchase is: http://m.aliexpress.com/item/32302987270.html?productId=32302987270&productSubject=Venture-Electronic-VE-Zen-high-impedance-320-ohms-earbud&tracelog=wwwdetail2mobilesitedetail.

    I received an invitation to review these headphones, and I said yes, seemed like it might be fun to be a REVIEWER on Head Fi. I didn't even catch that the headphones I was going to review were ear buds at first...I realized that after I had agreed, and, though I have never liked ear buds, figured I'd give them a shot. That's a bit of understatement-I never could stand ear buds, to be more precise, going back to the old iPod days; couldn't get them to stay in my ears, couldn't walk around with them in, didn't like the sound from them once I did get them in. But, this was supposed to "not be your father's" ear bud, so I figured I'd give it a try. Later I read a rave review by ClieOS and I actually started looking forward to getting the Zens.
    The Zens arrived in a plain white box, with another pair of buds included, the Asura, a more entry level model (which I've spent very little time with...my listening time is precious, want to spend as much time with the main event as possible). Accessories included foam bud covers, in 2 varieties, solid and donut shaped, which were supposed to make wearing the buds easier for those not used to them. The donut ones were said to affect the sound less than the solid ones (since they didn't block the sound openings from the buds). I did try them with both versions of the bright red covers, never found it made wearing the buds any easier, did think even the donut one muffled the sound some, so I just went using the Zens Au Naturale. (I had read about another accessory that another reviewer found helped, the earhoox, so I tried them, but I still did better with just the buds, ma'am...the ubiquitous "ymmv" goes here, of course). The Zen is physically not imposing in any way, looks like your archetypical ear bud, it's a nice, solid white color, seems well constructed, and has a nice non removable cable, clear plastic with silver wire inside. The cable is not very microphonic, and seems very tangle resistant, much better than some uber cables I have (looking at you, Linum...). Certainly no sign that we are dealing with anything special just from looking at it, but the proof is in the listening, as we shall see.
    So, tunes I used to evaluate these babies (I make no claim to the specificity of these tracks to evaluating any audio parameters; when I review gear, I usually wind up listening to the same track over and over, I find this more tolerable if I'm listening to tunes I like).

    Aimee Mann-Humpty Dumpty (cd rip, FLAC)
    Bridge Over Troubled Waters-Aretha Franklin (24/192 HDTracks download)
    Somewhere In Neverland-All Time Low (CD rip, FLAC)

    Upstream gear:
    Pono (black, if you must know, not that overexposed yellow), either direct through single ended output or line out to amp.
    Regen/Geek Out Special Edition, either through 47k ohm out put or line out into amp
    AMP: MicroZOTL2

    The Sound: the Zen has really great toe tapping, finger snapping PRAT, as they say in these here parts. The other words that jump to mind are "open" and "clear"...they have great clarity, give the feeling of seeing far into the stage. Staging is wide, detailing is really good, depth OK, not as strong as the width (at least, as compared to the higher priced spread). Bass doesn't go as low as some, treble is a bit rolled off compared to some, but it all happens in a very involving, musical type of way. Bass is interesting-it seems to roll off so that some of the really deep bass is MIA, but the leading edge and tone of the bass is so strong and rhythmic, it doesn't give any feeling of bass deficiency at all. In fact, that strong, bouncy bass it what pulls you in and makes you want to boogie.

    I don't have any other good buds to use for comparison, so I pulled some of the Head Fi Greatest Hits iems out of the draw, just for comparison.

    Zero Audio Duoza-gets a bit more body to the mids, more mid centric, and goes lower. The lows are not as sharply defined, though, open space not as "open", slight haze, more highs, but also, on some recordings (not all), some sibilance.

    Havi B3-more sensitive, closer perspective, stage not as wide or deep, bass flabbier, silence/space between instruments not as clear (this is a really strong suit of the Zen), mids less present, overall not up to the Zen

    Fidue A83-again, bass goes somewhat lower, powerful, but a bit looser, stage is wide and deep depending on recording, highs the best of the group (but again, at the cost of a bit of sibilance on some recordings), vocals more up front than Zen on some recordings, similar on others.

    Adding the line out/MicroZOTL2 was instructive; these babies scale up. That is, give them better gear higher up in the chain, they sound better. Specifically, with the MicroZOTL2 in the chain, things are even more open sounding, clear, bass tighter, stage wider and deeper, makes a great combination. I put on another great track, Dave Douglas Quintet's "Bridge to Nowhere" from a FLAC CD rip from the album Time Travel, which confirmed my impressions from earlier listening. Treble opens up, cymbals, while still not up with the best I've heard, are more present, that ride cymbal that drives much jazz more immediate and keeping things sailing along, while that fabulous bass just drives the tune even more. Some more depth, tonal richness, layering become apparent when using the MicroZOTL2 as the amp. I know most of you are likely to use something like the Cayen C5 rather than the MicroZOTL2, but I wanted to see how much up-scalability (the word police are going to get me for that one...:D ) the Zens have, a sure sign of quality, and they pass the test quite nicely.

    Similarly to iems, I think even more so, exactly how you insert them makes a HUGE difference in sound, so experimentation is key.

    So, have to eat my words as far as buds go, was convinced they'd never be for me, fit and sound issues to much for me. Now, I have to say they make a great addition to my headphone collection. No, they don't replace the TOTL over ear (HE-1000) or my ciem (acs Encore), but they complement them, deliver good sound, good enough not to have me rip them out of my ears and reach for the big boys (which DOES happen with many of my other phones now), and give me a break from the over and in ear comfort issues that can come with both these TOTL cans (I'm in the minority who don't find the HEK particularly comfy; don't have time to go into the Encore story, maybe over a beer one of these days...)

    Highly recommended.
    "This Bud's for you!"
      nick n and peter123 like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. doctorjazz
      $750 is a pretty good price for the Encore...
      I haven't written them off, think they are really hard to get a good fit with, at least for me. When I have them perfect, they really do have a naturalness and depth that is quite pleasing. The top end seems to fall off a cliff, but I think it is at least partly because of fit/seal issues-they sound great when I press down on them just over the opening to the ear canal, which is supposed to mean I'm not getting that seal. Have already sent them back numerous times, trying to hold off but one of these days back they go if I don't get the fit/seal thing down. The Zen is just great sound, and SO much easier (and cheaper).
      doctorjazz, Oct 16, 2015
    3. drbluenewmexico
      GREAT review doctorjazz!  how did you get to stay in your ears? i couldn't get my touring set
      of Zens to stay in my ears at all when i moved my head in response to their excellent PRAT!
      using the MicroZotl to drive earbuds is CRAAAAZY man, but then again this is head-fi!!!
      (i did the same actually when i had them on tour and they do sound Wonderbar through the Zotl2!
      using them for Ponography is more realistic.  i wonder what V2 of the Zen will bring? hope you
      get to review the new ones coming out soon.......thanks for posting your impressions doctorjazz!
      drbluenewmexico, Oct 16, 2015
    4. doctorjazz
      Crazy Glue is always an option...
      doctorjazz, Oct 16, 2015