VE BIE Pro & SLQ Cable ($69): Pt. 2: A Dynamic Duo from the Clan, continued.
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 was done for both 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.
Bonus IE (similar to the BIE Pro):
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
Whizzer Kylin HE01 ($79)
Thinksound in20 ($89)
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.
Built similarly to the Bonus IE, made of aluminum alloy but with a copper matte finish, the two shell pieces fit together well. “BIE” is inscribed on the right side of each IEM as well. Fit of the two shells is quite good, with little to no feel of the joint between the two. As with the Bonus, the BIE Pro also has a vent hole out the back. And just like I had with the Bonus, covering the hole modified the sound by thinning the bass response. That détente on the back area does help the user grab onto the unit as well. Slim of shape and easy of fit, the BIE Pro matches the Bonus, even providing a good lip on which the tips hold.
The finish affords good feel and controls the dreaded fingerprints as well. The MMCX jack on the bottom is of good quality as well. I get the sense of a very good tool and die makers version of an IEM. My father-in-law was for AT&T and was among the best if not the best craftsman they had at his plant. I liken the BIE Pro to his work (I still have several of his handmade tools), which is functional and good looking to boot.
The cable comes in two options, the SLQ (Soft & Lite Quad hand braided, basic cable; retail package $68) or the DIC (DI Copper, $158) with all iterations from 2.5bal to 4.4bal. I opted for the SLQ 2.5bal. If you go with a cable as an option, you can ask for 2-pin (0.78mm) or MMCX. Since the BIE Pro is MMCX, mine of course came that way. The cable is in a clear sheath above the Y-Splitter and covered in what you might know as electrical sheathing below. Soft and supple, the wind is somewhat loose, but no matter. With good strain relief from a plastic sheath at both ends, the cable is of good quality and would be at home on other IEM’s should you want to switch. The Y-splitter itself is of a type of shrink wrap plastic sheath, complete with the VE clan logo and “veclan.com” adorned. If you carefully “pinch” the black sheathing together, you can see that each wire coming through is individually sheathed in its own plastic casing. A nice touch for isolation.
For the price, the BIE Pro is easily on par with its peers. When you realize you get a quite nice cable, and with the excellent build, the Pro comes across at the top of this group to me.
Using what I would assume is the same basic set up as the Bonus IE, with a 10mm dynamic driver, the BIE Pro comes across with the same bass push but with better control. I can only assume this is due to the tuning and cable options, but more likely the former.
Synopsis: Where the Bonus IE comes with a full-frontal assault of bass, with other notes secondary (but not forgotten); the BIE Pro comes across with a more even note. Yes, there is still a very large push of bass, but it seems to be better controlled. Faster decay as well to me. Male vocals such as David Bowie on Starman sounds a bit intimate, but his voice is so sweet. Treble reach is good, and a bit toned down thankfully, but the overall signature is one of a near-seemingly V-shape, which isn’t bad to me. With sound that attacks better than decays, especially with Comply foams, you get an excellent entry sound, which lingers. Best for easy listening and not too much critical source listening, the BIE Pro comes across as quite fun, with deep reaching bass, good air of note in the mids and a pleasantly rolled treble to me. Not too sparkly as witness on Coldplay”s Life In technicolor II, which is a bright vibrant sound, especially the video version.
As mentioned, and it should be mentioned first, the bass goes deep and with excellent thump. Not quite as deep as the Bonus IE, but better controlled even if a bit slow on the decay end. This gives the lows a good richness that may not be had with faster responsed IEM’s. Kiko from Los Lobos is an excellent example here. The bass guitar work lays the foundation and one of the electric guitars clearly follows that lead. Giving that cool road on which, the vocals lie is a good representation.
Speaking of vocals, male vocals come across as rich and slightly warm to me in the mids. Higher guitar solos or just solid mids like on I Got Loaded, also from Los Lobos comes across a rocking good song. You automatically reach for the volume control to turn it up. With very good clarity as well (quite a few today do, but how that clarity plays across the separation, layering and richness of note matter to me and how I discern differences) you get a clear sense of the full band, which accompanies the vocals of David Hidalgo give than sense of spaciousness. And thankfully, there is no push of the upper mids like a couple I just posted. I would call the mids the best part of the signature in terms of detail and clarity. You still know this is a v-shaped signature, but with the clean mids you get a better sense overall.
The treble could actually have a bit better push for my tastes, and with silicons I can get that back a bit. I wish for a bit more energy but feel it would be polarizing to those sumptuous low notes and we may have a brawl on our hands. I would call them smooth with the necessary energy (vibrancy) to equate overall.
Motherboard from Daft Punk what with its swirling precision and deep bass guitar work to show off the soundstage, layering & separation. Swirling about you get a very good sense of placement, which from a single dynamic driver is quite good. Layering is about what you would expect from a 10mm bass-oriented IEM. To me it is good but not class leading, nor meant to be. There is an engaging tonality here, but not intimate. Soundstage as a result is a good cube, which (to me) is slightly less deep. This is by no means bad; in fact it betters many of late and I think too often using a gargantuan soundstage with which to judge is just flat out misconstruing an otherwise very good unit. Some of the most expensive IEM’s out there have what some would call “average” soundstage. As Song For America from Kansas comes on, I again realize that the BIE Pro is not a basshead only IEM, for the sound opens nicely for this ballad. Underappreciated for their musical genius, Kansas is an excellent musical group of the 70’s-90’s for their songwriting alone. Many of their best songs though did not fit the “3:45 hit song so we can play bunches of ads” mantra. And I am glad.
Going through the BIE Pro the song provides me with the vibrant tone of which I recall every time I saw the group in concert, which was many. The viola of Kerry Livgren perfectly complements Steve Walsh’s exceptional voice. And through the BIE Pro, I get a realistic sound, which is quite acceptable to me.
VE BIE Pro ($68) v Whizzer Kylin HE01 ($79):
Starting with the clarity, the HE01 is better. This comes down to tuning, since both are of the single dynamic drvier variety. Using silicon tips, there is a slightly more vibrant tone to the HE01 as well. And while it has good bass, it does not have the sheer thump that the BIE Pro has. I would also say the HE01 is a bit more open, especially in terms of airiness. The mids are pushed a bit more forward to me, giving less of the venerable V-shaped signature.
If you value clean clarity-driven sound, the HE01 is a good one at this price. If you want a more engaging, more bass-driven sound, which does not forget that there are vocals, then the VE model would be the choice of the two.
VE BIE Pro ($68) v Thinksound in20 ($89):
Included here for a couple of reasons, the Thinksound is right in the same price bracket. If I had to define one headphone, which matches the BIE Pro closest, it would be the fabvled ON2, by Thinksound. Purchased used, the over ear headphone is just a hoot in which to listen. Booming bass, but not wildly out of control, the ON2 is the headphone I use over all others when I need motivating or a quick pick-me-up. So, when I saw they in20 was coming out, as a resurgence of the company, I jumped in to support the company.
Using a single dynamic driver itself, in a missile-shaped wood shell, the in20 comes with a mic and a non-detachable cable. I would say the bass reaches as deep, and with a bit better control than the BIE Pro. It also bleeds into the mids, but not at the expense of the control. Mids are flush with smooth texture, but a bit tamed down compared to the BIE Pro. With a bit more vibrant touch up top, this comes down to whether you like the wood shell, bass on par with each other and a bit of a pinched mid sound (in20) with more up top but vibrant; versus, thumping bass, good vocals and a treble, which will not bite. I like both and will give more in my forthcoming in20 review.
VE BIE Pro ($68) v Kinera BD005 Pro ($49):
Kinera seems to be the company, which tries hard to please all by changing their tuning strategy to meet the flavors of the month. While I liked early iterations, the BD005 Pro takes a slightly different approach. Smoother than most at this price, the BD005 Pro offers something the others cannot. An engaging sound, which makes you sit back and appreciate your music.
That smooth texture is aided by a slightly more intimate sound. But this does not mean it is boring. Of the ones mentioned here, it probably has the most vibrant (for good or ill) mid-section of them all. This can place the mids in the forefront of your listening stage, and come across as a bit in your face, but the succinctness of note is good enough not to make too much of a scene. If you do not mind the lesser amount of bass, and a bit thinner sound, then the BD005 Pro may work over the BIE Pro. If you prefer a more bass-heavy note with to me a thoroughly engaging signature, then the BIE Pro would be the choice.
VE BIE Pro ($68) v Bonus IE ($20):
Now that the Bonus IE is posted, I can compare here. Taken separately, the Bonus IE is a phenomenal unit at $20usd. With bass to make you quiver in your boots, the Bonus can hold its own on that aspect alone. But, when you throw in the solid mids and slightly turned treble to it, you get an immense value driven IEM. Not the most coherent, nor having the best clarity; but when taken into context against its competition you find the Bonus IE to be quite good. Some find its signature “boring” and “uninspiring.” I would counter that for the chosen market segment it hits the target perfectly. If you want a bass-heavy IEM for your commute or to take with you in the gym or that pick me up, then the Bonus is a great one with which to do all of the above. If you want better control of that massive bass, with quite nice mids, then the BIE Pro should be in your consideration.
The BIE Pro was a whim purchase after some grief was thrown VE’s way. I have always supported VE for the Monk and the economical option it provided. I have purchased and given away many, many pairs. Never meant to be an “audiophile” earbud, which really chocked some people off, it was meant to provide the listener with solid sound at an incredible price. And it does, whether the detractors want to admit it or not.
The BIE Pro follows the same suit providing excellent bass response, with mids, which are pretty darn clear and clean, and treble to my liking; which means they do not offend. Not the best clarity out there, but the BIE Pro works for diverse genre such as heavy metal, rock, jazz and guitar work; both acoustic and electric. So, it is pretty much an all-arounder, with added bass. Add in that it comes with a very good MMCX cable and you can change the sound a bit with other cables.
While it may not appeal to those who value first and foremost an airy clarity-driven presentation; the BIE Pro gives you that engaging energy, which engrosses you in your music. It is easy to use, can be tailored instantly a bit with tips, and comes ready to go portability-wise. An affordable entry into the sub-$75usd market, and one, which should be taken very seriously if you want that engaging sound with the added bass push. To me, this is a nice departure from the typical IEM’s at this price and one I value highly very much. It will be in my go-bag.
I thank Lee and VE for the quick service and the additional items sent. For the price, this is a very fine unit, and should be taken into your consideration if you value something, which does not fit into the normal “norm” of sound at this price. I really like it.