Venture Electronics (VE) Duke

REVIEW - Venture Electronics (VE) Duke - Royal Sound





Website & Availability: veclan.com

Price: $198~208.


Accessories:

The VE Duke include a large number of eartips in different sizes and shapes, from single flange wide and narrow tips, double and triple flange, and 2 styles of foam tips. There's also a small carrying case and clip.



Build & Design:

The Duke features an aluminum alloy shells, very compact and weightless tube shape form factor. The nozzle diameter is same as the rest of the body which is already short. The cable is rather thick, like the one used on the Monk and Asura 2.0, and quite plain looking. It is almost identical to the Monk's cable, stiff and holds a strong memory effect, and not as friendly as the Asura 2's. Microphonics is quite strong and very annoying. A chin slider is lacking and the strain relief on the housing end doesn't inspire much confidence; proper care should be taken. On the other hand, the L-shape plug is well finished.

 

Fit, Comfort, Isolation:

With its so small design the Duke depends just on the eartips. Unfortunately, the sizing of some tips is off, being way too large for the Duke nozzle or too narrow, and finding the right tips might be quite an odyssey even with aftermarket ones. The included foam tips were actually pretty good, and Sony hybrid and Spinfit fit well, too. Regardless, the Duke is a very comfortable IEM that should fit well even for the smaller ears.
Isolation is below average due the obvious rear vent, which is needed for the Duke special sound quality performance. Foam tips might help a little more, but nothing above average. Blocking the vents improves the isolation noticeably, but totally ruins the sound.


Sound:

The Duke is one of those 'one of a kind' IEM I've ever tried. For the price it has a very unique presentation and excellent sound quality. The overall sound signature manages to nicely balanced and a bit towards the bright side of things, a bit aggressive, yet very refined and delicate. It is also extremely eartip and fit dependent and also rather picky and source revealing. Unlike the VE earbuds, Asura and Zen, with their higher impedance rate, the Duke is more efficient but not as much as its tech. specs would suggest. Actually, it's comparable to the old RE-0, and interestingly enough they do share some acoustical characteristics.

Bass from this micro dynamic driver is tight, accurate, but lacks the rumble and texture that a more bass focused dynamic in-ear, such as the MA750 or GR07 BE should offer. It is also very fast and probably one of the fastest dynamic drivers, which reminds a lot to the CKN70. Thanks to its wider and open presentation, the Duke present lower notes more natural than the RE-400 and less colored than the RE-600. The transition from upper bass to lower midrange is quite linear and very smooth. The use of foam tips tends to help to add some extra bass quantity that is a bit north of neutral without missing the high detail. Compared to a DBA02/B2 the Duke can move more air and offer a better extension, texture and layering and thicker note but overall they're both very similar next to more consumer-friendly tuned earphones.

The midrange triumphs in clarity and transparency, very neutral to slightly prominent at most, natural with practically zero coloration. It's cleaner and very well balanced with the low end with outstanding level of clarity and detail. The RHA MA750 mids are less forward next to the Duke, a bit cleaner but also less colored and thinner in the lower midrange region. It could be found as a tad aggressive sounding compared to much more laid back Hifiman RE400, being with an obvious crisp presentation. On the other hand the DBA-02/B2 and R-50M are more energetic towards the upper midrange which tends to be more tiring. Texture is excellent and well compared to the RE-600 for instance, but both Hifman sets have the upper hand in vocals presentation being sweeter, forward and more engaging. The Duke may also sound thinner with male/lower vocals, unless a good source is applied; the Lotoo PAW5000, for example, showed a beautiful synergy in the whole midrange and made the vocals really shine. With its dynamic driver, the VE Duke sounds less dry and more a tad more convincing than the Rock-It R-50, but also less liquid with a darker background and more solid notes.

There's a noticeably emphasis towards the upper midrange which keeps going up to the lower treble and rest of the treble which makes the Duke a rather bright and very crisp sound IEM full of energy and sparkle. It's not as forgiving or as sibilant free as the RE600, and also very picky with source in this aspect. Treble extension excellent, very similar to the MA750, and yet feels more natural than the sharper MA750 and definitely not as hot as any TWFK based in-ear, even next to either the GR01 or DN-2000 which have been tuned with a slightly more relaxed treble for those brilliant drivers.





The overall presentation of the Duke is extremely open and airy, with a most natural instruments separation and positioning, but still not the last word in sense of space. The soundstage is well-rounded, with better depth and height, although the actual width will depend more on the source in use; quite an achievement considering the Duke is just a micro dynamic driver. Layering is very nice and the sound has a fairly realistic timbre well compared (and potentially easier to like) to the MA750. The MA750 is still more enveloping, with better 3D imaging and ambience and much larger in stage. Dynamics are much better than a BA based such as the DBA-02 and the Duke easily wins over hybrid sets like the similar priced DN-1000 in terms of coherence, something to be expected from a single dynamic driver.


Conclusion & Value:


For a first (and currently only) IEM model, Venture Electronics has a lot to offer in terms of pure sound quality with the Duke for the asking price. While the compact design is very comfortable, there're still some reservations about the overall build quality and finish for the $200 tag. Isolation might also be a deal breaker for some, and finding the right source could be a headache. The bass quantity might not suit the bass-heads, nor will the midrange fit the rich mids centered fans either, but the nicely balanced signature and highly detailed sound is well suited for most genres as an excellent all-rounder set.