We reviewed the ‘bang for your buck’ Venture Electronics (VE) Monk Plus earphones not too long ago. They were incredibly fun-sounding earbuds that cost a mere $5 (RM20). Thanks to Venture Electronics’ front man himself, Mr. Wild Lee, we got to put the Monk Plus’ older brother, the Asura 2.0 through the paces to see (or more accurately, hear) if they are a worthy upgrade to the budget-friendly Monk Plus.
What Is It?
The Venture Electronics Asura 2.0 are earbuds that cost $78 (RM320), which place them right in the middle of the VE earbud lineup: between the $5 (RM20) Monk Plus and the $148 (RM600) Zen 2.0. Because of this, the Asura earphones are often considered the ‘neglected middle child’ – including even Wild Lee himself.
In terms of looks, the Asura is a mirror image of the basic edition Monk Plus with its see-through clear enclosure. The cable is also nothing out of the ordinary, except its end is now an L-shaped connector instead of a straight one.
Another difference between the Asura and the Monk Plus is in their packaging. Instead of the graphically funny plastic bag that the Monk Plus comes in, the Asura comes in a small hard-shell case. VE also includes a pack of their Expansion Pack covers and a pair of first-generation Monk earphones (while stocks last) with every Asura purchase.
Is It Any Good?
Well, let me first go over how the Asura sounds. The earbuds have an overall neutral tonality, with the high-mids to highs leaning towards the brighter side. The highlight of the earbuds would be their mid-range, which are boosted but not in any way intrusive of the neighbouring frequencies.
VE markets the Asura as ‘vocal’ earphones and they certainly do sound as such. The earbuds’ raised mids make vocals sound both clean and clear; they also stand out from the rest of the sound stage, providing a very intimate listening experience.
Like the Monk Plus, covers are provided to alter both the sound and fit of the earbud. I tried a variety of different cover set ups with the Asura: single covers, single thin covers, double covers, no covers, you name it. In the end though, I settled with using the Asura bare, without any covers. While covers help tighten the low-end, I found it muffles the highs too much for my tastes, losing sparkle in some tracks.
The Bad Stuff. Tell Me.
The VE Asura 2.0 are not by any means bad earbuds, not by a long shot. They still stay true to Venture Electronics’ promise of great sound at an affordable price. But, I still find myself reaching for the Monk Plus instead when starting a listening session.
As mentioned before, the Asura is tuned for more vocal-centric music and it does its job very well. But because of this, the buds become very situational; only when listening to genres like Jazz, Blues or Acoustic music do the Asura earphones really shine.
It’s not that they sound lacklustre with more modern genres, but when you switch over to the the Monk Plus, you’ll realise you were missing quite a chunk from both the high and low end. That being said, bass is still present on the Asura. It’s there when you need it but nothing more, nothing less. The same can be said for the highs.
The Monk Plus on the other hand handles a wide range of genres exceptionally well. They’re the more fun and exciting earphones while the Asura is more calm and laid-back.
To give an analogy, the Monk Plus earphones are like a young teenager who isn’t sure of where to go in life, so he tries a little bit of everything, and he does almost everything pretty well – albeit with room for improvement. On the other hand, the Asura is the studious older brother who stays in his room reading all he can about his single subject of passion.
Should I Buy It?
Honestly, while the Asura sounds great for the price it goes for, I don’t think it’s worth the upgrade from the $5 (RM20) Monk Plus. It has been suggested that the $148 (RM610) flagship Zen 2.0 earphones have a sound signature that resembles the Monk Pluses, instead of refining the Asura’s. Personally, because I prefer the sound signature on the Monk Plus, I’d rather invest an additional RM300 or so and go for the Zen instead.
On the other hand, if you’re a listener of more laid-back and relaxing music – and prefer a sound that has greater focus on the mid-range, the Venture Electronics Asura 2.0 might be worth some consideration.