Venture Electronics Monk (Original Version)
I was introduced to these by a classmate on the 15th of March and I was so impressed based on just a minute or two of listening that I decided to order them the same night. Impulsive decision yes, but the low price of $5 (+$2 shipping) convinced me that it was a good purchase. As I told myself, it's cheaper than a meal at Nando's.
Well I just received it this morning, the 31st of March. I plugged it into my Fiio X1 and was immediately impressed all over again by the sound quality. The first song I played was "Trains" by Porcupine Tree as I felt it would be a strong start for my ownership of these earbuds.
As I expected, the acoustic guitars sounded lifelike and clear. As the song picked up pace, it never lost the sense of clarity that is so essential when listening to such complex compositions. (compared to pop music) The middle section with the acoustic guitar on the left channel and the banjo on the right convinced me that this was money spent extremely well.
You see, these earbuds don't look like much. They look like the cheap Sony/Panasonic earbuds I used as a kid with my first Sony Walkman. I haven't used earbuds in over a decade. These do not sound like any earbuds I remember. The soundstage is vast, the widest of any audio gear in my current lineup and the imaging is extremely accurate. The separation is also breathtaking, I listened to "Space Oddity" by David Bowie and felt that the two vocal lines were lifelike and satisfyingly equal in sound without any sort of overlap.
Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" album also benefits from the sound of the VE Monk as it gives a very "surround" feeling that is a good pairing with the album - which has many samples of voice recordings darting from channel to channel to add a sense of paranoia/madness to the album theme.
The bass is good but nothing to write home about. I was advised by someone in a HeadFi thread that the full foam pad (it comes with two sets, one with a hole in it and one full) leads to a loss of resolution. I feel that the loss in resolution is quite minute and the benefit of the full pad is more warmth (and bass) to the sound. Also, it makes acoustic instruments sound better - especially guitars. Along with my ZMF Omni, this reproduces acoustic guitars the best in my current collection. For this reason, I would not recommend trying to use equalizer on these earbuds. A neutral as possible source works best with them. In my case, this is my Fiio X1 as my Dragonfly 1.2 DAC is a little bright.
But don't get sidetracked with thinking about bass. These earbuds are all about the mids. These beat my Grado SR80i at their own game by having an aggressive and fast mid reproduction but with the clarity that the Grados don't have. However, the Grados handle EDM and beat-heavy music a bit better than the VE Monk. This isn't an earbud for fist bumping, but rather for hearing an incredible vocal and acoustic sound. MTV Unplugged recordings sound right at home with the Monk, you can actually place yourself front and centre in the crowd.
As for comfort, they are extremely light and you can easily forget you have them on. They don't need to be adjusted harshly or pushed in deep as they give the full experience with a light attachment to the ear. The cable is twice as thick as those of my Zero Audio Carbo Tenore so I'm grateful for that, less anxiety for me. It literally arrives in a small and clear plastic pouch with a push-to-seal and a few promotional cards from Venture Electronics.
It's quite incredible that this experience can be made available for its price + a wait. I just checked AliExpress and found them to be sold out currently, for good reason. The hype is quite real and for what this does well, it is exceptional. Just don't expect to be able to listen to it in crowded public places because of the sound leakage and don't expect any deep sub-bass.