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Venture Electronics (VE) Duke - a new high-performance IEM

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  1. nmatheis Contributor
    I liked those, the foams Mo sent me, and then narrow bore silicon tips. Looking forward to the Ostry tips to hear (and measure) how much difference they make.
     
  2. mochill
    These need mo luv:laughing:
     
  3. nmatheis Contributor
    Check out what @golov17 just posted [​IMG]
     
     

    Let's get this party started!!!
     
    tumblr_mna0y5uy0M1ru1vl7o2_r2_400.gif
     
    Bananiq likes this.
  4. mochill
    Duke is awesome sauce :laughing:
     
  5. Bananiq
    Hi guys,

    for last couple of weeks, I had the honor to hear Venture Electronics - Duke IEMs kindly loaned by @james444
    I was hesitating to write some definite impressions because the pair has slight channel imbalance per mine and GF's ears in bass and midrange but mostly around 100 hz region. However this imbalance appeared to be only in slight extent and it is still a big mystery for us as James does not hear the imbalance anymore after I sent Dukes back :D

    anyways here are some impressions -

    DSCN6124.jpg


    DSCN6127.jpg
    DSCN6128.jpg
    DSCN6118.jpg

    DSCN6131.jpg
    pairs nicely with GO720



    Dukes come with bunch of great stuff.
    Apart from very useful pelican case you get also amazing range of tips enabling extensive tip rolling possibilities. They even include really quality foams that remind me Complys. I mostly enjoyed single silicone flange that looked like MH1 tips, then white dual flanges and of course foamies and Havi foamies are my favs. I must say in contrast to other members, I didn't enjoy Ostry tips that James included in a loan as I didn't find them helping to reduce sibilance.

    Sound impression

    I describe the sound signature as analytical and slightly mid-centric with nice midbass punch, forward vocals and extended treble. Sound is very detailed and airy but I agree that you might find it bright. Duke actually reminds me TWFK - BA detailed house sound found in Brainwavz B2 with better bass, low mids, soundstage and a bit less aggressive character.

    Bass:
    Bass is controlled and fast but offers nice punch. Audible when called upon but not star of the show. It extends low from 22hz but is most audible since 80hz upwards. Subbass quantity is lacking in contrast to midbass quantity. Quality is very good but I miss more bass authority considering the rest of the frequency spectrum.

    Midrange:
    Mids are good. Vocals are very detailed and brought up to front. Duke tends to bring vocals before everything else which makes it very enjoyable for vocal lovers. I like how Duke renders vocals on some songs f.e. Sigur Rós - Ísjaki which appear more laid-back on other headphones. in Morcheeba - Gimme Your Love I love the clarity of female voice. However the trade off is less instrumental musicality and somewhat congested soundfield. By putting the singer on my lap I have a feeling that I lost some depth and imagining of other instruments. Trumpets and trombones have good timbre but are less pronounced in contrast to cymbals. I enjoyed snares and mids on Police - Message In a Bottle, but the "s" sound got prominent also the hi-hats.

    Treble:
    Treble is very extended, crisp, airy, detailed and provides needed sparkle. As mentioned before the treble character reminds me balanced armature. Duke renders micro details with ease and provides very vivid analytical portrayal. However when I run Duke through a tone gen, I noticed strange emphasis on 5.3 khz - 8 khz region. When compared to rest of the spectrum, the more specifically region in 6 - 7.5 khz appears very aggressive to me even painful on higher volumes. This seems to be the cause of sibilance that I experienced with many songs on the "s" sounds or cymbals. I didn't find much difference with other tips. Foamies help but not much. Also GO720 may not be ideal to pair with analytical IEMs but I didn't hear much change across other sources. This may sound like a big drawback to some but it is common trait of analytical headphones.



    Venture Electronics Duke vs Flare Audio R2A (modded)

    Due to similar design and driver choice, I thought that Duke would be quite fun to compare with R2A.
    (To see more information about R2A mod see this post)

    Build Quality:
    Both are microdrivers in aluminum enclosures. R2A is smaller and lighter than Duke. Since I find the cable on Dukes better, jack is more sturdier and overall Dukes look they can handle more beating.

    DSCN6139.jpg
    Duke on left, R2A on right. Notice Duke's sturdier jack and cable ends


    DSCN6132.jpg
    Notice the R2A are smaller than Dukes with endcap not fully closed.


    Accessories:
    VE Duke nails this category too. You get amazing case and loads of tips to play with. Can't be beaten by Flares cheap pouch and 1 pair of Comply. Flare you have something to learn here - I guess such fancy pelican case would be appreciated by many R2 owners :p


    Sound comparison:
    Initial differences in sound signature are as follows:
    - Dukes have more aggressive treble (@6-7.5 khz) and quite less pronounced bass than R2A. R2A sounds fuller and appears "effortless" and relaxed yet not lacking in details. Dukes portray low level details more like TWFK BA - in your face fashion. R2A have black background. Definitely lower fatigue than Dukes which seem to be shouty in comparison. R2A is more natural and balanced.

    DSCN6133.jpg

    Bass - R2A steals the show. After the mod the bass is not overly emphasized (as is the common complaint on stock R2A) and sits very well with the rest of the spectrum. Bass hits fast and with authority. Very well controlled. Not a basshead IEM but I just love how Flares render bass. With 'Phaeleh & Geode - Neon Melt' R2A offers authoritative, catchy, toetapping low end. On OST tracks like 'The M83 - Oblivion (feat. Susanne Sundfør)' the R2A evokes grander feeling. Anyways the R2A bass is one of the best quality I heard. Attack and decay seem to be same on both earphones.

    Midrange - Dukes bring mids forward. R2A were more laid-back. After the mod however, they opened and are more vivid and lush but still may appear slightly laid-back in comparison. Dukes mids are brighter but not harsh. 'Jonsi - Go Do' - showed me how enjoyable mids and treble can Duke reproduce. Nevertheless, I find R2A mids warmer, cleaner and more real. The singer may be surrounded with instruments in R2A but is positioned and defined well. Upper vocals seem more relaxed. The emphasized low level details and analytical presentation of Dukes makes them more revealing but also grainy. R2A appears cleaner in comparison. Blackground of R2A allows me to pick nuances more clearly and adds more space to instruments. In this term R2A is more forgiving but of course still much less rewarding with low quality material. On the other hand Duke is more aggressive and less forgiving. I find R2A breathy and enjoy the timbre of wind instruments like didgeridoos, trombones, trumpets much more.

    Treble - R2A have delicate treble which appear smoother in contrast to Duke and I didn't find 6-7.5khz region aggressive / digital sounding as opposed to Duke. This might create thinness across the spectrum and cause fatigue in Dukes. Dukes have more energy and sparkle on very top end also provide more air. Duke is clinical and precise. Very suitable to monitor any flaws in music production.


    With Dukes I have a feeling that I have some kind of microscopes in my ears enabling me some superpowers. I feel like I can hear a pin dropped on the floor during orchestra playing. This may be really revealing but also fatiguing and I experience ear fatigue after short time of listening to Dukes. I cannot put them on higher volumes as opposed to R2A. Of course this depends on everyone' personal standpoint of Analytical sound signature.

    Space - Dukes soundstage is more intimate, less out-of-the head than R2A but still very good depth. R2A portrays rich, engaging, wide 3D soundstage and I noticed that it tends to somewhat bring most panned sounds in front. Depth and height is amazing. Imaging and separation is best I heard. Duke is not far behind though. Tonality and timbre of acoustic instruments was preferred on R2A.


    R2A are harder to drive



    some additional pics

    DSCN6136.jpg
    grilled Duke's nozzle vs open R2A nozzle

    DSCN6141.jpg
    R2A making love to Duke :)


    Conclusion:

    After rereading this impression may seem that I am only bashing Dukes but the opposite is true. They are best analytical IEMs I have heard so far. But it just tells how capable R2A are in my opinion. At $199 MSRP Duke is a good value.
    Considering my sound signature preference I clearly prefer R2A at £79 Kickstarter price (£175 MSRP). I definitely enjoyed Dukes and I am really grateful that I had a chance to hear them, so many thanks to you James!

    I recommend Dukes to all detail freaks, treble lovers, singer lickers, critical listeners and maybe audio / mastering engineers, who are probably not so sensitive to ear fatigue.
    I recommend R2A to all Havi lovers :) also to ones who are after effortless, spacious, sweet, relaxed and extremely natural, fatigue free listening.

    YMMV - please take into consideration that all ears are different and your experience may differ :)

    Thank you for reading.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2018
  6. RedJohn456
     
     
    Awesome write up thank you for the impressions! I actually sold my R2A in favour of the duke :) Am not really an analytic lover but with the Havi foam tips, the clarity is nothing short of breathtaking. The Havi foam tips makes it more balanced for me, treble wise and I often found myself using it for hours at a time. I also enjoy the stock double flange tip but by far the havi foam tips are my fav with the Duke [​IMG]
     
    Some people also reported success with the ostry tips which reduced the treble as well. If you get a chance to try any of these tips, give it a shot you might be surprised. And James is epic. He let me borrow some of his stuff with no hesitation, the guy is a legend [​IMG] 
     
    Edit: Am also a huge Havi lover :p
     
    Bananiq likes this.
  7. peter123

    Thank you for writing :wink:

    Although I think differently about them than you I really enjoyed reading your review.

    Great work!
     
    Bananiq likes this.
  8. Bananiq

    I know you sold them! initially I wanted to sell R2A too for the same reasons like you did. Actually your R2A vs Duke comparison made me really interested in Dukes. But glad I did the James' mod and experimented with endcap on R2A - that really made difference. I would be happy if you could listen to modded R2A and see what you think.
     
    Thank you Peter! Actually I know how you love Havi too, so would be totally interesting how would you rate Flares.
     
  9. RedJohn456
    Oh lookie whats this?
     
    4.jpg 2.jpg
     
    3.jpg
     
  10. golov17
    11405161_1598371147092854_1552309553_n.png
     
  11. james444 Contributor
    Thanks for your kind words, @Bananiq and @RedJohn456!
     
     
    I think your comparison is pretty much spot on and I'd like to stress that the modded R2As sound significantly different from the stock ones, less bassy with clearer midrange and better treble. However, I think it all boils down to whether people like a more forward and analytical (Dukes) or a more laid-back and non-fatiguing sound signature (Flare R2As). In my book, they're both very capable IEMs and definitely among my favorites.  [​IMG] 
     
    Bananiq and RedJohn456 like this.
  12. Hisoundfi Contributor
    Duke review is up, Enjoy!
     
    http://www.head-fi.org/products/venture-electronics-ve-the-duke/reviews/14350
     
    james444, RedJohn456 and golov17 like this.
  13. nmatheis Contributor
    Good read, Vince!
    :beerchug:
     
  14. RedJohn456
     
    No problem James, you're the best! Hmm my biggest issue with the R2A was how hard it was for me to get a good consistent fit as I was relegated to using comply foam to get the sound that I liked. And even slightly shuffling the the housing affected inside the ear canal affected the soundstage for example. In the end it was so too fiddly for me, and its probably just my freaky ears! 
     
    But you really can't go wrong with either the Duke or R2A, good to have variety [​IMG]
     
     

    Awesome review bro :) Enjoyed reading it! Gotta say, the photos look fantastic, using new gear?
     
    Bananiq likes this.
  15. Hisoundfi Contributor
    RedJohn456

    Thanks for the compliment friend. The Duke is a really good IEM.

    All of the pictures were taken with my LG G3 phone and edited. I'm getting better at getting good photos. I find that lighting and backdrops plays a huge part in this.
     
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