First thing you notice after getting the earbuds in the correct position are the mids, and then the bass kicks in. The better an earbud fits, the better the sound quality will be but most earbuds just aren’t famous for their bass presence and impact. That’s where the VE Monk surprised me most as its bass is full bodied and has good punch to it. I do need to use the red jackets, or the fit is too loose and there hardly is any bass. The VE Monk mids also have good body while treble is fairly on the soft and easy side, so I guess they’re fairly balanced overall.
|Driver Unit||Dynamic 15.4mm|
The VE Monks don’t have a typical high-end audiophile tuning as so many call it. It is a bit too warm, smooth and slow for that. The VE Monk is mostly musical and it combines that with a good level of detail and space. Of course the VE Monk for $4.99 isn’t the most detailed device on the market but it does score really high for what the enjoyment level is concerned. The Monk leaves me with a mixed feeling: it sounds natural and it doesn’t at the same time. Let me explain. Looking at the slightly boosted bass section you can’t really call them natural sounding but the mids and the vocals are very natural sounding. The VE Monk does have a hint of darkness depending on source and recording quality but I can’t call them dark in general.
Bass goes reasonably low but it isn’t the most detailed and layered. Because of its body and punch however it simply is very addictive. Besides the impactful bass, the thing that excites me most are the great vocals which have lovely timbre and sound quite natural. Lana Del Rey’s “Honeymoon” album gives me goosebumps and with the VE Monk she has the sexiest voice on earth. Treble is soft and doesn’t extend too far. Treble is easygoing and smooth and won’t offend anyone. For some it might even be too soft. Layering and depth from bass to highs overall isn’t that special but it’s a whole lot more than I expected from a $5 earbud. Monk’s sound stage isn’t small and again you get more than you expect. There are a lot of more expensive IEMs that don’t score this good, that’s for sure.
As said, the Monk sounds different depending on the jacket, or no jacket used. The main difference for me between the open and closed jacket is that the open jacket seem to have more clarity and a slightly “lighter” or more forward sound. Bass impact and body seems to be a bit less but this might all be the result of the Monk not fitting as tight in my ear as the foam isn’t as thick. Without jacket they are way too loose for my ears and as a result I get a very thin sound with hardly any bass impact/body. With your ears however that might be a completely different story.
The VE Monk does seem to easily forgive and I’ve listened to all kinds of music ranging from Sepultura to Frank Sinatra to Billy Joel and even Katy Perry (Nathan’s fault). The VE Monk only has one real downside: being earbuds, they don’t isolate at all and using them on the go when there is noise, people talking, cars driving, subway sound, etc isn’t recommended. That also means other people might hear what you are listening to and I just can’t stand that. I use the VE monk at home or in my office when it’s quiet. Best result. Happy me.
Source + Fiio + Apple
The VE Monk is quite easy to drive and easy to pair. It works on and with everything, even your 5 year old smartphone. If you’d want to, you could clear up the VE Monk’s signature a little using a lighter or more clear sounding source. The Cayin N5 delivers a big bodied sound, the L3 has more detail and better extension, the AKs are clean and clear with more detail, etc.
The only real other earbud in my collection is the Fiio EM3 that was built for use with the mini M3 DAP. It is available for $14.99 only and it clearly is a wink to the VE Monk, but with added mic function. The VE Monk is the most fun to listen to as it has the bigger bass and full bodied mids. The Fiio is a bit more refined and detailed and gives the impression of sounding more forward because it has less body in bass and mids. Layering and separation do is better in the EM3 and it’s a lot of fun as well, it just isn’t as addictive as the Monk is (while it technically actually is the better one). When I use earbuds however I’m not going for the most detail and best this or that, I just want to chill and enjoy whatever I am listening to. Both score great, but the monk just is that tad more seductive.
Apple’s stock earbuds from my iPhone 5C might actually be the most detailed and extended of the three but they in no way have the impactful bass of both the VE Monk and Fiio EM3. The mids also don’t have the same body yet layering and separation is better with the stock Apple iBuds. I don’t like how they look and certainly not how they feel in my ear but they do sound clean and clear, yet thinner.
One thing is for sure: Earbuds are back.
The VE Monk (and the EM3 for that matter, review later) has surprised me in every possible way. For $4.99 there really is no complaining. Could it be better? Yes. Is there anything better on earth for this price? Definitely not. What a product! They could easily be selling the VE Monk for a lot more if they did some fine tuning to it (but please don’t).
For $5 they are very good and the Monk has quickly won me over. The year still is long but the VE Monk just might be the surprise of the year for me. When – not if – you order, you should really buy a whole bunch at once as they make great gifts to hand out to your family and friends for X-Mas or any other occasion. Seriously, get it now and thank me and VE later.
The VE Monk was availability via the official Aliexpress store. You could also get the Monk with the expansion pack which gave you more styles of ear foam + a set of “budlocks”. Check out their product page on AliExpress as it is quite funny with mentions of Beats. There’s also a mini sound review they did themselves. Also check out the thousands of feedback posts while you’re at it, you’ll clearly see that VE rocks.
The normal Monk isn’t available anymore but it now is the Monk Plus. I’ll be reviewing this as soon as I can, but I suggest you buy it already, don’t wait till the review is published or they’ll be all out again.