Review: VE Monk – The $4.99 Miracle

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 UnitDynamic 15.4mm
Frequenzy range18Hz-22.5KHz
Sensitivity112 dB
Impedance32 Ohms
Cable lenght1.2m

VE Monk 5

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.

VE Monk 2

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.

VE Monk 8

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.

VE Monk 3

One thing is for sure: Earbuds are back.

Conclusion

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.

VE Monk 12

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.

Bravo.

VE Monk 12

VE Monk 1

Review: VE Monk – The $4.99 Miracle
4 (79.49%) 39 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

30 Comments

  • Reply April 26, 2016

    Oleg Golov

    Not eBay, only Aliexpress & Taobao markets Venture Electronics.

  • Reply April 26, 2016

    Oleg Golov

    Monk Plus

  • Reply April 26, 2016

    Rasmus Horn

    I have always thought Monks were kind of cool. Specially the Belgian beer-brewing kind of Monks. I think I will try these.

  • Reply April 26, 2016

    Kristian Lindecrantz

    Great to see a review of affordable gear! I’d love more of these “hidden gems” it appears Aliexpress might be full of them, or maybe not? More reviews “for the people” please 🙂

    • Reply April 26, 2016

      dalethorn

      Yes and no is my feeling. Yes that affordable (i.e. dirt cheap) is good, but no for most products because the variance in sound for ultra-cheap audiophile products would mean the review wouldn’t always match what the customer gets. If the product is considered disposable, it shouldn’t need much of a review.

    • Reply April 27, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      Like Dale says, it’s a difficult one. Everybody’s budget is different so all reviews are for the people. But yeah, I guess I mostly review what I could afford. that being said, I’ll try to look at more budget gear. In Fact, we should find a budget gear writer. I might have an idea

  • Reply April 26, 2016

    Kristian Lindecrantz

    Btw i have a pair of monks on order since a couple of weeks back, hope Swedish post gets around to deliver them some time soon

    • Reply April 27, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      Might take a few weeks. It only took a week or 2 for me last time. I hope my new order (10+) arrives before June

  • Reply April 26, 2016

    dalethorn

    What’s the leather belt-like clip in the photo?

  • Reply April 26, 2016

    dalethorn

    I have the Yuin PK1 ($115) and PK2 ($39) I got from Massdrop, and I honestly don’t understand what the deal is with Yuin – they don’t sound any better than the Edifier earbuds I got, or the FiiO EM3. The Yuin low bass is more like the Apple earbuds (basically none), whereas the Edifiers and FiiO do have some bass impact.

    • Reply April 27, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      I always wanted the Yuin PK3 but as they were earbuds I never got them. I might have to check them out again. Whats the difference actually between PK1, PK2 and PK3, besides the obvious price difference? I haven’t been following Yuin enough to know (shame on me, I know)

      • Reply April 27, 2016

        dalethorn

        The PK1 is brighter than the PK2. Probably both are near neutral with the little foamy pads on. But the deeper bass is noticeably down. I haven’t had the PK3. I just got a Edifier P190/H190 with the flat ribbon cable, which looks a *lot* more durable than the Yuins. Anyway, with a judicious bass boost, the P190 has a spacious mid-to-top end and decent bass impact. I think the P190 is better than the Yuins for sure, and better on the low end than the FiiO EM3.

        • Reply May 3, 2016

          taquitosforall

          I completely disagree. I recently got the Edifier H190’s and while they sound good, they don’t come close to the Yuin PK3 for sound quality. They’re definitely better made in terms of materials than the PK3, but the sound just lets them down.

          • Reply May 3, 2016

            dalethorn

            I never heard the cheap PK3, but the H190 is better than the pricy PK1.

            • Reply May 3, 2016

              taquitosforall

              My understanding is that the PK1 is designed to be amped. Makes no sense to me (earbuds needing an amp), but if you listened to it with no amp, I’m not surprised you didn’t like them.

              • Reply May 3, 2016

                dalethorn

                Well, I currently have the Beyer DT1770, T70p, Grado PS1000e, M&D MH30, and a dozen other lesser or greater headphones, so whether a headphone or earphone needs amped or not depends on several factors of the sound. In terms of tonal quality, tightness and impact, soundstage, etc. etc., these earbuds are not comparable to the better headphones I have. But when I use a parametric equalizer from my phone playing WAV tracks, either with the phone alone or with the Oppo HA-2 and other amps, the overall sound quality gets very close to the big headphones. So the earbuds (the better earbuds) have great potential, but if you’re using them outdoors or in other somewhat noisy places, or where you’re very active like bicycling etc., then you can get “good enough” sound without an equalizer. I think that given the prices and the options users have at their disposal, these earbuds are a tremendous value.

                Edit: Speaking mainly of the FiiO EM3, Yuin PK1 and 2, Edifier P180 and 190…

                • Reply May 3, 2016

                  taquitosforall

                  I hear you. My comment was on the need to amp an earbud. Seems daft as most people wear earbuds for portability, so carrying another device works against that goal. Unless there’s a bunch of people using earbuds at home?

                  • Reply May 3, 2016

                    dalethorn

                    They are convenient to use in bed.

                  • Reply May 16, 2016

                    dalethorn

                    Amping won’t help an earbud that has no deep bass and almost no midbass. An amp could possibly help with creating a sense of warmth, but it won’t create real bass. The Oppo HA-2 certainly doesn’t create any sense of bass with the Yuins. But, I wonder what is the application for a $150 earbud? Not for the guy sitting in a moderately noisy coffee shop, and not for the EDM afictionado who needs real bass. It’s hard to imagine who is in between those applications, and yet is willing to shell out $150 (or even $129 to Massdrop) for these earbuds.

  • Reply April 26, 2016

    Reinaldo Velasquez Silva

    Are this better than the Philips SHE3590?

  • Reply April 26, 2016

    Özkan Ercan

    Monk+ is a lot better and refined than the Monk which is discontinued now. Thanks for reviewing the Monk. ????

  • Reply April 26, 2016

    Headfonia_L.

    FYI: I ordered 10 sets of the Monk + myself to give to my friends.

  • Reply April 27, 2016

    Barun C

    Great find Lieven, reminded me of the time when I got the Superlux HD 381/F/B/ Got to try these someday. Hope they are comfortable while hitting the sack.

    • Reply April 27, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      I have to say I haven’t tried sleeping with them. I tend to use custom IEMs when going to bed, but I tend to sleep on my back, so no issues for me 😀

  • Reply October 16, 2016

    Perene

    Having the magnificent first version of the VE Monk, the new Monk+ version is quite a disillusion. Less clarity, less soundstage and mids withdrawn. The outstanding vocals presence are gone. 🙁

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