VE Bonus IE: Pt. 1: A Dynamic Duo from the Clan.
Ease of fit
Bass for the loving
One of the go-to’s at the $20usd price, imo
Cons: Mids may suffer due to bass
Too much bass for some
A bit of microphonics
Cable not detachable
VE Bonus IE ($20): Pt. 1: A Dynamic Duo from the Clan.
From the website: The Bonus IE is our second-generation IEM that we created to make a statement in the highly competitive budget sector. With the BIE, we set out to provide an IEM that offers great price-to-performance as much as the Monk Plus. It’s our personal take on how a proper IEM should sound like and how you need not pay a ridiculous amount to join the Hi-Fi world. In addition, we wanted to create an EDC IEM that is durable and reliable.
Intro: In perusing Facebook on the VEClan site, I came across some disparaging remarks about Lee and the company’s offerings. Since I was a fan from the beginning of the Monk (still the best $5 spent audio-wise short of well…nothing) I quickly stated I was going to purchase one and review it. I will admit that I have been away from the offerings of VE while other items have called my attention.
Through long PM conversations, I already knew Lee was a man of serious conviction and could come across a bit gruff to some. No matter, because he was defending his work and how he approached it all. The bottom line is that it is Venture Electronics belief that all should be able to afford and listen to fine portable audio wares. No one should be separated from this pleasure. I agreed so much that over the years, I have purchased many Monk’s and distributed them to students in my homeroom class as well as fellow teachers and TA’s. The Monk sounds like a $5 top product should, provide good sound and lead into something else while keeping the listener engaged. I know many fellow audio enthusiasts who still use theirs and purchase a ready supply as needed.
Through conversations regarding the BIE Pro, Lee let on that other items would be included (all unexpected to me!). In fact, he sent the Bonus IE, the Odyssey HD, a couple of adapters (4.4 to 2.5 and 2.5 to 4.4, all balanced). It was a nice surprise and will discuss the Bonus IE first. No matter, I like both and both are worth of their own verbiage. The BIE Pro can compete with many of the other affordable Chinese offerings and should be considered in that price. The same goes for the Bonus IE.
I purchased this item with no discount other than the items mentioned above as add-ins. This has no bearing whatsoever on my review, and what I present will be an honest interpretation of each model separately. I thank Lee for the prompt service and additional material. We have talked often upon their arrival adding in necessary information as needed.
*All testing for both was done using Comply foam tips, to give a better seal, affording me to tailor the sound. The included tips are just fine, but I prefer Comply’s.
Impedance: 32 Ohms
Frequency range: 17-22000Hz
Size (diameter of shell):12mm
Driver: 10mm Dynamic Driver (N52+)
Shell: Aluminum Alloy – matte finish
Cable Length: 1.2m
Cable: 99.99% OFC 4x32x0.06mm
Headphone plug type: straight PLUG
Whether with Mic and remote: Optional
Much of the same with an SLQ cable and MMCX connectivity
In The Box:
4 sets (s, m, l, xl) silicon tips
CCA CSE ($15)
Apesonic Rain ($44)
NiceHCK X49 ($11)
CCA CA2 ($12)
Kinera BD005 Pro ($49)
BIE or BIE Pro depending ($20 & $69)
HiBy R3 Pro Sabre
iFi Zen CAN/DAC
Buena Vista Social Club
Stevie Ray Vaughan
The units came in their own square soft case, protected well. Additional tips are included.
The Bonus IE is the second iteration of an IEM from VE and uses the N52+ Magnetic bio-composite diaphragm 10.3mm dynamic driver. While many manufacturers are utilizing smaller DD’s such as 6mm to 9mm, the VE unit continues with what used to be the standard. Even with the bullet shaped housing, you can still fit a larger driver, hence the size of this one. For the price, the cable is attached, and there are some microphonics associated with the unit. For the price, the driver works and is sized to provide a solid foundation.
The pictures on the VWE website do justice to the Bonus IE (BIE from now on). Sleek of shape and with a good fit, the BIE sends all the right vibes. Formed from two halves the matte silver finished metallic shell fits together well and looks the part. A nice grate over the nozzle also prevents ear junk from falling in. A vent hole directly on the back allows the DD to breathe. Carefully placing my fingers over the holes and without adding pressure, thus inserting the unit further into my ear canal, I could sense a difference. Less bass was present when the vent hole was covered.
The cable is a plain two strand plastic sheathed OFC wire. A Y-splitter with a plastic cinch strap takes care of the top, while a straight 3.5se jack the bottom. I get a sense of a good 3.5mm interconnect cable, and that is all right in my book. No harm, no foul. Fit of the BIE is good as well, allowing deep insertion, even with the bullet shape. It does stick out a bit, but I never had a problem with the unit shifting positions with either silicon or Comply’s. Is this what you would expect from a $20 bullet-shaped IEM? Yes, and that is enough.
From the first iteration of the Monk, I became a fan of the VE sound. Robust, rich and full of bass; the Monk sounded better than it had a right to. Many do not like it, but that is all right. It cost $5 and is an easy toss-in for the gym bag, commuter bag, travel bag for when you forget your others. Or an excellent loaner to those who do not understand us. Once they listen, they ask questions. And that is when you know we have them hooked. I used to give a Monk to every student in my homeroom class at the end of the year. It was worth it. So from that humble, but boisterous beginning; Wild Lee was born and set the portable audio world on fire. Knowing full well that you must innovate or die, Lee and his engineer kept up with the hits, specifically the Zen. Many balked at the cost, until they heard them. Well, on the heels of that success came the BIE and BIE Pro amongst others. I will admit that I lost track as reviews took precedence and it was by chance, I came across a “disagreement” about the sound. For the price many espoused, you get exactly what you pay for. A solid foundation, which oozes bass character, but not without forgetting the treble note and mids. Not the most coherent, but not meant to be, the BIE follows in direct ascendance from its grandfather. Providing more of a sound than it has a right to, the bass comes across as sumptuous and full bodied. Guitar work is distinct, if not the cleanest and vocals are melancholic to vibrant depending upon the star who is singing. The BIE was meant for Billie Eilish and Dave Matthews but plays equally as well with Alex Fox and Big Head Todd & The Monsters.
In talking to a colleague, we both agree that the BIE sounds just like a VE should…better than it has a right to, in all honesty. And that is such a positive that it seems to get lost in the $5 Monk stigma from yore, which is a shame. Lee has produced what is to me fabulous bass, complete with a deep reach and what I will call a “blossom” into the mids. I would not call it bloom or bleed, for it seems to aid in the signature leading into the mids. To me a somewhat classic V-shape lends itself to hard rock where you want that deep hard-hitting bass that sounds superb, especially where you need to separate and isolate yourself from the surroundings. Deep, rich and full of vibrancy, Pink Floyd’s Great Gig In The Sky is to die for…I think the whole planet is in love with that solo. I know I am. Follow that with Comfortably Numb, and you are indeed in $20 heaven.
While the bass does cross over into the mids, they hold their own, especially when it comes to vocals. Roger Waters sounds just like he should, raspy, vibrant and almost piercing with that lower guttural sound. The purity of his voice, while also being guttural is presented in good form from the BIE. Falling a bit behind the rest of the signature, I do wish for a more even sense from all of this. But that V-shape does lend itself well to this signature, without worrying too much about the mids, which could be described as polite and not wanting to intrude.
Thankfully treble does not reach too high to counter the lows of the bass. Tamed or held back a bit, I find it pleasing with good cymbal response, if a bit withdrawn. Mind you this suits me with my treble intolerances. Plus, I would not consider this too little up top for those who also value a good note with air and clarity from that upper region. Call it the sum of the parts working better together than the individual parts. If you dissect too much you may be disappointed, so don’t; just enjoy the overall texture and signature.
Soundstage is of average to good width, and adequate height. A bit shallow to me (genre dependent), this characteristic lends itself to a frontal presence, which is pleasing, and you do not miss that depth with songs, which promote depth. Think of being front row in a bar concert. You don’t care what is behind you, for you only care of what is right in front of you. And that is enough to me. Separation suffers a bit, but not enough to bother me. Running a single dynamic driver has its limits at this price, and it is thoroughly acceptable. Alex Fox’s disco version of Guitar On Fire is a perfect case. One does not go to a dance club for the clarity and superb sound. One goes to dance and move. And here when thought of that way, the BIE is true and honest. A perfect example of what a rocking $20 sound should be. Do others of the two and three letter variety best the BIE in clarity? Yes, but you do not miss it for the involvement of them can be quite lacking. Not here. You are dropped into a full-on concert no matter the genre, and as a result layering is sufficient enough to allow you to float between levels. Instruments meld together again making the whole greater than the sum. And for this I am all in for that summary of sound.
VE Bonus IE ($20) v CCA CSE ($15):
Contacted by a vendor, I agreed to take on the CCA CSE for it is affordable and comes with a single DD and single BA. I for one am happy to see companies such as CCA going simple and working on simple designs instead of the multi-driver conglomerates. I find the CSE thoroughly pleasing with excellent bass reach and very good note up top. Competing very well with the BIE, with better air between the notes, the CSE should be considered in this price range. But I found one part to be a bit of a concern to me: there is a tinny sound to the upper mids, which to me should be tuned out. If not for that I would rate the CSE on par with the BIE; but since that particular sound is quite intrusive to me, the BIE gets my vote here.
VE Bonus IE ($20) v Apesonic Rain ($44):
Similar of bass reach and warmth, the Rain (& purple cable) aim for that V-shaped signature but with a richness that not many have in this range. With better air as well, the Rain is more midcentric. Call it a V-shaped-midcentric sound. Those mids to me come across as vibrant, but a bit pinched and forward. Countering good bass, the mids try and overshadow the treble and bass, almost ruining what could be a very good tuned unit. If you prefer a midcentric vocal forward signature, the Rain is good for that. Coherency is a bit better as well, but for sheer fun factor, the BIE trumps the Rain.
VE Bonus IE ($20) v NiceHCK X49 ($11):
When offered the X49, I looked at the price and had some consternation. But knowing the respect Mr. Nicehck’s had across the board, I waited. And after reviewing the mini-bullet shaped IEM, I understood what the respect was for. Providing a thoroughly pleasant signature at a very affordable price follows what Lee has done at VE. I will never fault that of anyone. I called the X49 one of my favorite budget IEM’s of all-time. For $11 you cannot go wrong, much like with the $5 Monk. With regard to the BIE, it is like VE took the X49 and said, OK this is what we can do to complement that at $20. The X49 has very good coherency for the price, but due to its diminutive size cannot match the BIE for sheer bass. It isn’t meant to nor should it be thought of that way. It is an excellent economical IEM, which should be kept close at hand for those quick listening times or for when you forget your normal commuters. That said, the BIE will now also accompany my go-bag everywhere as well. Both should be included in your go-bags and listened to often.
VE Bonus IE ($20) v CCA CA2 ($12):
Coming from another vendor, the CA2 is a single DD meant for one thing…bass. Promoted as a
“heavy-bass earphone,” the CA2 certainly rings true to that. I find its level of bass quite intoxicating, especially for the price. Not the most coherent, but not meant to be; the CA2 is a pretty amazing IEM for $12. Not quite on par overall as the X49 or BIE, but if you desire bass first and can stand a bit of mid-pinched compression, the CA2 is quite good. That said, it suffers that same tinny tonality of the CSE, which limits my like of it. Plus, I really, REALLY wish the “letter conglomerate” would find a better cable. This cable is used across multiple platforms & multiple IEM’s, and it still tangles far too much. Get your stuff together and make a cable, which does not tangle such as this…oh and include a case!!!
VE Bonus IE ($20) v Kinera BD005 Pro ($49):
I have heard many Kinera models, and it seems they are constantly searching for their niche in the market. Subject to some issues, they produce(d) many value-oriented IEM’s as well as some more expensive models. I liked many of them when taken in isolation. But, when it comes to the BD005 Pro, it seems Kinera has hit that niche. Providing an almost antithetical Far East sound, which is warm, rich and with as pleasant amount of bass one could be forgiven when thinking this could be from a US manufacturer, or Euro sound. Such is the richness of texture presented in the BD005P. I find it thoroughly satisfying when Alex Fox comes along with his superb guitar solos. That warmth makes me think of a Spanish beach and all is well. The BIE has better bass reach, but a bit less control. Mids are a bit better controlled in the Kinera, and there is a pinch of over-sparkle in the BD as well. Not grating, but close. If you prefer a richness of sound, with a bit less bass and a warmth of sound, which gives you the warm & fuzzies, the Kinera would work. The BIE is for that more immersive time and bass when you go full in.
VE Bonus IE ($20) v BIE or BIE Pro depending ($20 & $69):
On second thought, kept separate because I want to keep each distinct…
This was a wonderful surprise. When Lee mentioned to me, he was sending some other items (all in another review, except the BIE Pro), I had no idea to booty he would include. He’s serious about improving the brand and the items within. If you have checked out his videos (a very nice addition to what he does) he has laid out much. I for one am eagerly anticipating the future for VE because of this and because of the Bonus IE (properly named here, because it deserves to be named that way). The Bonus IE has monstrous bass. So much so, that even my EE Legend X and Hero have applauded in respect. That says a lot, and I am willing to bet late at night the trio gets together so the more expensive bass units extraordinaire can pass along tidbits to the younger, more affordable unit.
We look to our listening devices to gain pleasure. We look to our listening devices to get away. We look to our listening devices for encouragement and compassion. We look to our listening devices to keep our sanity, or to while the hours away on a long ride or commute. We do this because it provides us solace and peace going into a tough day. Other times we use it to unwind or wind up as the case may be. We do all of the above because we can. And the ultimate expression of the above is that it makes us happy and content. And if our listening can make us content, then that is enough. And the Bonus IE makes me happy. Very, very happy. It is a superb example of what an IEM can sound like for $20usd. To say it has vaulted to the top of my list at the sub-$50 IEM range is a very mild understatement. If you like massive bass, than can be a bit overwhelming to those who are not of the bass heavy persuasion, then you owe it to yourself, your significant other and your dog (dogs are cool, and dogs are the best) to run to your keyboard and purchase the Bonus IE. You may only listen to it occasionally, but it will indeed put a smile on your face and make you happy it did.
I thank Lee for including the Bonus IE in my purchase of the BIE Pro (review forthcoming). He asked me to start here with this review, and after listening to both he need not have worried. The Bonus IE can and does stand on its own.