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VE Monk Plus Review - Great For You And A Nightmare For Audiophile Snobs!

Having seen the Venture Electronics Monk Plus Standard Edition (VE Monk Plus) earbuds on my Facebook feed often enough, I was extremely curious how a 500 Peso piece of kit can be getting so much love on the Interwebs. So when GIZGUIDE top dude, PJ, sent me a unit for review, I promised him I’d review the unit fairly and without any audio snobbery.
VE Monk Plus Review
The king of budget buds?

I had my doubts about the VE Monks, still. For one, the name "Monk" does not really inspire any confidence like to say "Phantom Master 4" - as in Trinity Audio, which I was recently drawn into because the name "Phantom Master 4" sounded so badass!    

VE Monk Plus Specs

Driver type: 15.4 mm Dynamic
Frequency response: 8 Hz to 22 kHz
Impedance: 64 ohms 
Sensitivity: 112 dB +/- 5 dB (1 mW)
Connectivity: 1.2 m 4n OFC copper w/ TPE coating and gold plated 3.5 mm jack
Weight: 15 g
Price: PHP 450 (no-mic), PHP 550 (w/ mic) PHP 800 (w/ mic and volume control), PHP 1,500 (Espresso Edition w/ braided cables)

Unboxing / Accessories

The non-resealable black plastic bag
The non-resealable black plastic bag

The VE Monk Plus does not give a solid first impression because it comes to you packaged in a non-resealable black plastic bag that is printed with quirky artwork (that bald dude with glasses!) and broken English.  Looking at it from a distance makes you think that it's a bag of gummy bears!
Everything inside
Everything inside

Tearing open the package will reveal the earbuds and 4 pairs of full foam covers.  The foam covers are thick, durable, and fit snugly over the earbuds.

Build Quality / Design

Microphone w/ buttons
Microphone w/ buttons

I had no trouble installing the foam covers on the Monks. I chose the black pair because black matched up better with the smooth, glossy copper-like finish of my review unit.  VE calls this color “Coffee Gold”.
Gold plated 3.5 mm jack
Gold plated 3.5 mm jack

The shells that house the dynamic drivers, as well as the front and side output ports, are solidly built and manufactured cleanly – no excess materials that can cause sharp edges. Factory quality control at Venture Electronics must be pretty good.

The headshells are connected to a generous 40 plus inches sturdy of matte black cable with a chin strap located with the Y-splitter. It’s easy to miss the chin strap because it’s also in matte-black.  The cable is terminated with a 3.5 mm gold-plated stereo jack. The jack has a solid feel to it and its barrel is sized right for easy handling.  The only gripe I have with the build is that there are no cable strain reliefs built into the earbud shells. Since earbuds are meant for mobile use, strain reliefs would help ensure the long-term durability of the product.

Comfort / Isolation

Since the Monks are earbuds, isolation is just what you’d expect. For outdoor use in the humid metro, earbuds are a great balance between sound quality, personal safety, hygiene and not looking like a dork.

If you want to look like an idiot, you can use over-the-ear headphones in your daily commute, and achieve both aural bliss and safety. Good luck on the gunk and sweat build-up on your cans after a month or two though! With earbuds, all you need to do is replace the foam covers with a fresh pair, and you’re good to go again.  Personally, I do not like being totally detached from my surroundings so I have space in my arsenal for a great sounding earbud.

I had zero comfort issues with the Monk as I listened to Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti on my iPod (from “Custard Pie” to “ Sick Again” - that’s 15 songs in all!) or as I binged-watched Season 2 of Voltron - The Legendary Defender on my Macbook Air.  

Sound Quality

Side by side with the Espresso Edition
Side by side with the Espresso Edition

As far as earbuds go, and their inherent limitations, the Monks are freakin’ awesome sounding! I plugged them on both my 160 GB iPod Classic and my Fiio X5-G3, and they wasted no time in establishing their presence as they are very easy to drive.

Bassheads will appreciate the monk's ability to present a bass signature (although not very deep-these are earbuds ok?!), that is firm, solid, and expressive. The mids are not overbearing but slightly forward and communicates a lot of detail. The Monks also express a detectable level of warmth in the mids. This for me is VE’s ace in the tuning of the Monk since it allows you to use the Monk for extended listening sessions without the fatigue associated with digital sources.        

On the entirety of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti (ripped at 320kbps), the Monk’s dexterity and accuracy were evident as it presented the "Greatest Double Album Ever Made" into a solid wall of relentless blues rock that was addictive, coherent, and enjoyable.

To test the Monk on a modern recording, I cued my 320 kbps rip of Within Temptation’s “An Acoustic Night at the Theatre”. As expected, the Monk did not disappoint. The somber electric piano intro to “Pale” and the acoustic guitar coming in 18 seconds into the track presented a poised and intimate portrait of the Dutch symphonic metal band’s acoustic set.
This “intimacy” becomes even more evident when vocalist Sharon den Adel slides into the first line of the song.     

As mentioned earlier, I binged watched Season 2 of Voltron - The Legendary Defender. The Monks delivered the electro-symphonic soundtrack of the intro sequence with great coherence. Sound effects we’re rendered solid as well - the team’s hyperspace jumps, the battle scenes and explosions all came through convincingly.  

VE's online store sells a balanced version terminated with a 2.5mm TRRS plug. I'll take the plunge and place an order for this one soon since my audio experience tells me that a balanced version will open up the soundstage a little more without changing its trademark sound.

Taken in its entirety, the Monks are quick, energetic with a balanced tone and above-average clarity.  The soundstage is upfront and narrow.  This takes you extremely close to the source of the music, and this is precisely what you want when using earbuds.   


Regardless of its dirt-cheap price point, the VE Monk Plus proves that the earbud platform can deliver great sounding audio. Personally, I'd pay 3 times more for the Monk Plus. 

Considering its retail price, the Monk Plus is unbeatable in its price to performance ratio. This happens rarely in consumer audio and technology.  So, go out and get yourself a pair. You'll rock on to your tuneage, and get to stick your tongue out at the "high-end" audiophile snobs!

Build / Design - 4 (five if it had strain reliefs!)
Comfort / Isolation - 4.5 (it isolates well for earbuds)
Sound - 4
Average - 4.16 / 5
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