Published on February 7th, 2016 | by Sunit Nandi3
Venture Electronics (VE) Monk earphones (earbuds) review – great quality doesn’t have to be expensive
I’m an avid music listener. Even though my daily stream of work doesn’t permit much recreation, like watching TV or reading books, I cannot imagine a good day without listening to music. Whether I’m studying or coding or writing on the blog, I have music always playing, on YouTube, on ShoutCast (internet radio) stations or stored FLAC (lossless) audio in my music library. And I always make it a point to keep decent pairs of headphones. This is mainly to ensure fatigue-free listening experience over long periods.
I have owned several earbuds (Apple Earpods, Creative earbuds, etc.) in the past but after I decided to switch to IEMs (in-ear monitors) about 3 years ago, I never went back. IEMs obviously possess better audio quality, noise isolation and fuller bass. Considering the fact I live in India, the interest of the general public on audio is rather non-existent (Many people think Beats, Bose, Pioneer, etc. make great audio equipment). Right now I possess a pair of Tekfusion Twinwoofers. Previously I had a JBL Tempo IEM, Creative EP630 and Soundmagic ES18.
My friend Igor told me I should give the Venture Electronics (VE) Monk earbuds a try. Not being a earbud user, I was almost about to say no, but he then told me it costs only $5. I wondered how some earbud pair costing $5 be something that could surprise me. I thought he was joking. He then got me in touch with the seller of the earbuds on AliExpress, going by the name of Zhibo Lee. Lee saw that I wasn’t convinced that something worth $5 could live up to the hype. So he decided to send a free sample on the condition I write a review and place it on any blog/forum/group if and only if I find it worthy. I thought he was kidding too. But being a man of his words, he did ship a sample on 23rd December 2015, which reached me on 6th January 2016.
And that’s how it all began.
Specs in brief
The specs are similar to most standard earphones.
- Frequency response: 18-22500 Hz
- Impedance: 32 Ohm (at 1kHz)
- Sensitivity: 112 dB (1 mW)
You can read more about the specs at VE Monk’s product page.
The product comes in a very basic no-frills (literally) ziplock bag. Not the best of first impressions, I know.
When you open up the bag, you get earphones that looks like an el-cheapo pair that you’d see in the hands of any roadside electronics vendor. Okay, so this too is a turn off.
You also get two pairs of good quality foams to put on the headphones. One of them is a full cover and the other is donut shaped.
I placed the full foams on my pair and now they look like this.
There are also 3 identical cards that mention this on one side:
“The biggest bang you’ll ever get for your buck.”
- Works GREAT with ANYTHING.
- Clear and Thundering Bass
- Intoxicating Vocals
Dare to challenge me?
And the funniest of them all:
“More information to go deeper into the hole: www.52ve.cn”
I’m not sure if that double-meaning was intended.
The other side has contact info that you may require if you need after-sales support for your earphones:
Now that our Venture Electronics (VE) Monk earbuds is ready for use, lets move on to the next section.
Usage and experience
So the first thing I did was to find out if the seller wasn’t joking. So I plugged the 3.5mm jack to my phone, a YU Yureka, and played a random song.
I was like:
Holy shit! They cost 5 f**kin’ dollars? $5???? WTF???
So far I couldn’t believe what I heard. I tried almost every song I had and it did justice to each and every one. I can say this a pretty balanced, natural sounding earbud and miles better than my Apple Earpods and Creative ones combined. Practically, it blows every other earbud I have heard. Coming to IEMs, after hearing the Venture Electronics (VE) Monk earbuds, the entry level IEMs of Sony, Philips or Creative fail to impress me.
I then opened AudioFX (equalizer) and enabled surround and adjusted the EQ per song. The earphones adapted to every change perfectly, without unnecessary reverberations, jarring or crackling you’d notice on other earbuds or IEMs when pushed beyond their limits.
The headphones work great everywhere, whether it is a PC, a phone, an audio player or a DAC.
Now I’ll describe the sound quality of the earphones.
The treble is pretty clear and to the point with no drops and dips. It doesn’t taper off after a certain frequency like certain IEMs do. The hisses, gasps, shrieks, whistles, etc. heard clearly. Cymbals and bells resonate but the after-ringing is a bit toned down. Overall the treble is fulfilling and it clearly outperforms earphones worth 10-20x its cost in this segment.
The mids sound neutral and unadulterated. They feel complete and fuzzy warm. Vocals and acoustics sound like a blessing sent from heaven. The natural and smooth timbre of male and female voices is an enjoyable experience. Emotional songs are spine chilling. The guitar, violin, sitar, banjo and other stringed instruments add to the pleasant symphony. The earphones clearly win this segment. Classical, acoustic, country, pop, jazz, folk, blues listeners and most other genre listeners would find this product a great one.
The bass is sufficient and exceptionally well for an earbud (as most earbuds have next to no bass). The bass guitar and most percussion instruments and drums (read high- and mid-bass) sound warm and punchy. However, since it is an earbud, you won’t notice the sub-bass (below 100Hz), as you don’t get a proper seal like with an IEM. For bassheads and dubstep listeners, this could be a deal-breaker. For everyone else, the amount of bass is more than enough.
Soundstage and imaging
The soundstage is wide and open. And it sounds like it dynamically expands according to the song being played. Live performances feel 10/10 perfect. You can close your eyes and very well imagine yourself on the stage. The virtual surround feature on most audio players work better than expected. The placement of the instruments and vocals are accurate. The VE Monk gracefully handles most surround settings. On the other hand, most entry level headphones/earphones miserably fail in this segment and turn turtle when virtual surround is enabled, as unneeded reverbs and resonance creep in.
To conclude, the Monk is a great earphones pair for most listeners out there. Considering that its an earbud, one cannot expect it to provide heavy bass or noise isolation, but it is exceptionally good for an earbud. It has a sound signature and balance that most entry- and mid-level earphones don’t have. One can easily listen to music with the Monk for hours without fatigue.
Finally, we come to an important deal-breaker while buying headphones.
The VE Monk earbuds only look cheap. They both feel and are very sturdy. The earphones are made of strong ABS plastic, while the cable and the jack are insulated with a thick layer of PVC. The earphones won’t crack easily when dropped and the cable won’t rip apart if accidentally yanked around or tangled. The jack itself is very nicely assembled and won’t break under legitimate human hand pressure due to its flexibility. There is no rubber coating or whatsoever that will decay/degrade with time and expose the metal conduit.
When you look at $15-$100 earphones (earbuds and IEMs) in the market, you will see that most of them are very fragile and the manufacturer includes a hard carrying case. The cable usually gets damaged in 2-3 years of use and one side of the earphones fail. Most people usually buy a new pair, as repairing thin cables is a hard task. Whether making earphones deliberately fragile is a marketing tactic by manufacturers to keep selling units year after year, is something which I am yet to find out.
The VE Monk earbuds aren’t plagued by these issues, so I expect it to last at least 3 years.
- Exceptionally good quality earphones with well-balanced sound
- Crystal-clear clarity with vocals and acoustics
- Very good build quality
- Price ($5 only)
- Missing sub-bass due to incomplete seal
- Earbuds mean that noise isolation is not perfect
Getting one for yourself
You can buy the Venture Electronics (VE) Monk earbuds from AliExpress for $5. The shipping cost varies from $3 to $6 depending on where you live, so the total price for one pair comes to $8 to $12. Click here to buy.
Alternatively, you can place an order directly by sending an e-mail to [email protected]. For e-mail based orders, payments are handled by PayPal.
The Venture Electronics (VE) Monk earbuds are a great product for listeners who appreciate the quality of their audio experience. It has a unique sound signature and balance that makes it suitable to majority of music listeners. The audio quality is unmatched and it performs better than earphones that are anywhere from 10x to 20x its cost. One can listen to music for hours without any fatigue. Moreover, the build quality is really good. Great quality doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. This is by far the most value-for-money earphones I’ve ever used.
So why are you waiting? Get a Monk for $5 and experience the pleasure for yourself.
Thus, the earphones did turn out to be review worthy. And as I promised, I wrote this review.