We at AA love IEMs. From the luxurious bleeding edge flagships to the bang for buck budget products. Now we bring you the best bang for the buck supra-aural earphone (earbuds) we have found on the market – the VE Monks.
The owner is a bit of an eccentric joker, as is evident from his auto reply messages on his Taobao online store. “Leave a message, I’ll reply you when I want, don’t take it personally, I have a day job.” is paraphrasing what this Chinese business owner leaves on his auto reply.
Trash talk is also rampant as we’ve been able to gather from the Chinese earphone forums, with things like “I get a lot of people challenging my earphones, saying they can build a better product, well then go ahead! Sell them at this price and show me your sales statistics! If not then shut the fuck up!”
So we decided to check out what exactly all the fuss is about and ordered them. After all, they only cost around 5 USD.
- Really cheap
- Good for people who don’t like the more invasive ‘in ear’ designs
- Smooth natural sound
- Naturally wide soundstage due to not being in-ear
- Plain round hard plastic earbud design is not comfortable over long periods of time
- No isolation, so bass impact is anaemic
- Non replaceable cable, but it only costs 5USD so does it really matter? Just get another pair.
The earphones arrived in a black plastic bag, much like the kind you expect when buying gummy bears or cola candy. Inside is the earphone itself and some foam cover tips in blue and red. Attached are a couple business cards with a comic self portrait of the business owner, flipping the bird and a few cheeky quotes about how his product is the reigning king at this price bracket.
The build quality is reminiscent of the stock earphones you would get with your standard 90’s era Walkman. The cable feels cheap and the plug is a very vanilla straight jack. So far nothing to write home about, so we plugged them in and ran a few songs.
These are earbuds, so they’re designed to just sit in the concha of the ear and not be inserted into the ear canal. As a result, they have both the benefit and also disadvantage (depending on your preference) of providing 0 isolation to the user.
So how does this 5USD earbud sound?
Yes, no doubt the sound is leaps and bounds better than your average earbud, with higher than average bass volume and clear, crisp mids and highs.
But after the initial shock of “Hey not bad”, you realize that there are still quite a few flaws in its sound. Detail retrieval is mediocre at best. As they are earbuds and not In Ear Monitors (which will use silicon/foam tips that are inserted into your ear canal), there really is not much isolation to speak of and bass impact is rather anemic.
Prolonged listening also began to cause soreness for my ears, and the foam ear covers proved to be quite itchy. Removing them only made the soreness worse since these were probably not designed with any human ergonomics in mind.
There are a few limited editions being released sporadically, with transparent and purple housings. I haven’t had a chance to try them out though, so can’t make any comments as to the sound, but the design is basically the same apart from the colours.
To conclude: Yes, these might be the best 5 USD earphones on the market. Would we recommend them? I guess as much as we recommend that 1 dollar hot dog from the street corner. Much like that hot dog, this is a quick, cheap fix that will satisfy the shortest of needs. Something to hold you over till your next better thing.
If you are absolutely strapped for cash, don’t enjoy the feeling of in-ear designs, or are just curious what 5 dollars can buy you then by all means get them. Otherwise there are far superior offerings at the next price bracket.