Venture Electronics - Monk Lite


REVIEW: Venture Electronics (VE) Monk Lite - Standard & SPC Editions




An introduction to Venture Electronics (or VE) is not really necessary at this point of time. A small company that started out with a couple of earbuds in the very simple design but offered a high sound quality for the price, and brought one of the bang-for-buck items, the original Monk earbud. Later on, replaced with the Plus and 2.0 version keeping the same great value with a few changes in the design and tweaks to a better sound. Now they released the new ‘Lite’ line with the most obvious changes over the too generic design into a more compact and ergonomic form factor, but also with a few differences in the overall sound presentation. Nonetheless, the value is still great!


Specifications


Price starts from U$D 6 for the Standard version and from $ 30 for the SPC version. Below is a copy of the different available options found on the Monk Lite product page



While the Monk Standard arrives in a simple plastic bag with some pairs of foams, the SPC is well arranged inside a box and a nice carrying case and extra foam sets.



The earpieces on these Lite versions are made of solid plastic material with metal grills at the inner part. On the outer part there some vents that have some effect on the sound presentation. As the ‘Lite’ tag may suggest, the design is smaller and slimmer than the previous models which had a more generic housing. Personally I didn’t had any serious issues with those, but they were a bit large; good for larger ears but for medium and below the fit was not best. These Lite are not also more compact but also boost some better ergonomic fit.
As for the cable it depends on the version. The Standard Monk Lite uses a similar (if not the same) cable as the Monk Plus which has some memory effect right out of the box but fades away after some days. It doesn’t tangle easily and is comfortable enough for what you could expect at a lower $10 earphone. On the other hand, the SPC Monk has a better cable material, smoother to the touch and just a bit more pliable; both have a rubbery outer coating. There is also an added cable slider on all the Lite cables which was missing on the previous models.



For the sound quality impressions, they both been driven out of the Aune M1s, Hidizs AP200, PAW Pico, xDuoo Nano D3 as DAPs, and for amp and DAC the XD-05, DragonFly Red, Headamp Pico Slim. All of these are capable to drive the Monk SPC with 120ohm to a more than needed level with good sense of dynamics. Note that the SPC here is the balanced 2.5mm version which was also tested with the Aune M1s balanced output.

Overall, both Standard and SPC models are rather similar in the signature and take a bit different presentation than the Monk PLUS or other VE earbuds. The two Monk Lite still have some differences to each other, but it’s more about the refinement, coherence and tonality of the sound. It’s also worth noting that the foam pads have an important effect, mainly boosting the bass region and smoothing the treble with a bit thicker, more laid back midrange. Surprisingly, I preferred the thin full foams with the Standard while the donut type foam or no foam with the SPC.

The sound is not necessarily balanced but has good amount of each frequency. If the original Monk was more mid-bass and midrange focused with a more laid back treble and the Monk Plus more lively and extended, then the Lite is a bit of a mix of that. The bass has good presence, a bit more forward, mainly on the mid-bass than the sub-bass region, strong punch (especially with the foams on), and good texture and with a fair level of dynamics. Not too fast but has the control and doesn’t affect the lower midrange, rather gives it a warmer/richer tone. Mids aren’t particularly forward but not recessed either. They have nice texture and sweet quality for female vocals, if just a bit dry overall. On the Standard, the foams works much better for a smoother midrange even at the expense of losing some sense of air, but gives more musicality. The SPC works better without foams (or less foam, like the donut foams), sounding more resolving and still forgiving on the upper mids (whereas the Standard loses in control and can be harsher). The treble is a tad elevated, not bright but has enough presence not to sound dull or off; less energy than the highs on the Plus, though rarely missing. The focus is more on the lower treble so upper treble is less obvious.

In a closer A/B comparison (with a 3.5mm adapter on the SPC), the SPC Lite shows better bass quality (if a bit less quantity), tighter and cleaner towards the lower midrange. The midrange is more open and clear with a more natural tonality. The treble is much better controlled and less sibilant even w/o foams. Not real gain in dynamics, but more resolving and can perform better with a stronger source or a little extra amplification. I cannot point out whether it’s the wire material or the higher impedance what makes the difference, but regardless it is a better sound earbud.

All in all, the two VE Monk Lite earbuds continue the same good value and nice sound quality for their affordable price tag. The Monk Plus with a more v-shaped signature may be more balanced and all-rounder matching a wider range of music genres, while the Lite are more suited for a bit more warmer sound or vocal centered music. Sonically, they’re not meant to be an upgrade over the Plus model, but an alternative for a different presentation. The main improvement is on the design which will probably suit for more buyers thanks to the better thought and compact shape. And nonetheless, a nice addition to the VE Clan.

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