Getting into hi-fi audio is a chore for most people, mostly because it means breaking the bank just for the sake of good sound. Most people would rather stick with the earphones included in the box with their smartphones; some even swear by their Apple EarPods. This doesn’t have to be the case with the Venture Electronics (VE) Monk Plus.
The VE Monk Plus (successor to the Monk) is a budget earbud that even an audiophile would approve of. The best part is, you can own a pair for just $5 (RM20).
What Is It?
The Monk Plus earphones are the successor to the critically acclaimed Monk earphones. They are tuned to be more neutral and detailed than its predecessor and while I’ve not heard the original Monks, the Plus certainly provided a much bigger sound than its small form factor would suggest.
The Monk Plus’ design is nothing to write home about, with a light plastic enclosure and a basic cable. They usually come in a half-clear/see-through shell but my unit is the Darth Black (Polished Black) version. Or if you’re a fan of red you could wait for the limited edition model to drop on Massdrop. The earphones themselves come in just a plastic bag with some hilarious graphics. Surely this is all done to reduce the overall cost and to direct all focus to the earphones themselves and the sound that they produce.
Is It Any Good?
You betcha it is. Even if you set aside the fact that the Monk Plus’ cost $5, the earphones are so capable that they give some full-sizes headphones a run for their money.
The earphones come with a pack of covers that you can put on the Monk Plus’ to not only alter their sound signature, but also their fit and comfort. You can also get an “expansion pack” that includes a variety of extra covers to take customisation to another level, just for an extra $5 (RM20).
One example setup is the Monk Plus with double thin foams. While this improves bass response on the earphones, it muffles the highs ever so slightly. It also took me awhile to find the ‘sweet spot’ when fitting the covered Monks into my ears. You’ve really got to play around with the covers to see what works best for you, and the Monk Plus gives you the freedom to do so.
As for how it sounds, the tonality of the Monk Plus is overall neutral with a tinge of warmth, making vocals sound natural whilst weighted. While being a little weak on sub-bass, the earphones have ample amounts of mid-bass without interfering with the mids. Highs are also crispy with plenty of sparkle and coupled with their prominent mid-bass these become a ‘foot-tappingly fun’ pair of earbuds when played with pretty much any genre, making them perfect for an everyday listener.
The sound stage of the Monk Plus is wide and open-sounding for an earphone this compact, although the forward high-mids give an impression that the sound stage is more intimate than it really is. Instrument separation is also decently good with above-average detail and resolution.
The Bad Stuff. Tell Me.
Now, this might or might not be a bad thing but the Monk Plus’ are obviously lacking in the looks department. An everyday person on the street would easily pass it off as a cheap Chinese knockoff. But if you’re a firm believer that “it’s what’s on the inside that counts,” then the Monk Plus won’t let you down in that regard.
The Monk Plus’ fit takes a little getting used to as well – especially if you’re using some of the included covers. Only after shifting them to the aforementioned ‘sweet spot’ will they not be a bother, although you still wont forget that they’re in your ears. Noise isolation is pretty mediocre but it sort of helps the earphones sound a little more open. Furthermore, the covers can be a little fragile so be gentle when you put them on (I’ve already managed to tear a hole in one of mine).
The earbuds, without a doubt, sound much better than they cost but there’s still definitely room for improvement. The Monk Plus can sound a little too lean at times with its low-end signature and could be much smoother. Retrieval of details and further extension of sound stage are other aspects that could be improved, but let’s not forget we’re dealing with a pair of RM20 earbuds here.
The Monk Plus earphones serve as company Venture Electronic’s stepping stone into their lineup of earbuds. Next up the VE ladder would be the Asura 2.0 (priced at $78 or about RM320) followed by the Zen 2.0 ($148 or about RM600) and going up that ladder you’ll surely find satisfaction where the Monk Plus does not fare too well (albeit at a higher cost).
Should I Buy It?
At RM20, it’s pretty much a no-brainer to give the VE Monk Plus a shot. The Monks aren’t a pair of ‘end-game’ earphones; that simply isn’t their purpose. The Monk Plus introduce you to the possibilities of sound, taking you to places you’ve never been (or heard) previously but also reminding you that this is just the start of the seemingly never-ending journey to high fidelity.
You can purchase the VE Monk Plus’ from a number of outlets, namely Venture Electronic’s official site, AliExpress and Taobao for $5 (about RM20) or $10 (about RM40) with the cover expansion pack (excluding shipping fees). You could also wait for the limited edition red Monk Plus to drop on Massdrop and grab them when they do.