Pros – Open detailed wide airy headstage. Copper cable has a purple lustre. Earbud design is safer in a town or city because outside sounds can be heard.
Cons – Heavy cable, can pull on the drivers. Earbud design has low isolation.
Purchased by myself from VE directly. Retailing at $158 for a limited time, as of October 2019. Wild Lee, owner and force of nature behind the legendary VE brand, has said that you are basically getting the cable and paying nothing more for the Zen LL Earbuds. Existing Zen owners can upgrade for $88. All for a limited time, much in the tradition of VE’s philosophy.
Wild Lee wanted to make the “most comfy sleep earbuds” there are. He also wanted a pair of earbuds that would satisfy the most demanding of all day gaming sessions. Here they come, ready or not! I had previously contacted Lee one Sunday a few weeks ago via the Facebook VE Official Club, and was interested in a Zen Odyssey Edition. To his credit, Lee told me to hang on and wait for a product he thought would suit my exacting standards better. He said he would be back in touch. With the numbers of customers he has, I didn’t expect to hear from him again. Sure enough, a man of his word, Lee was back in touch with me about the LL Dice. I took him up on his offer, and the result arrived at my door 2 days ago. I can now share with you my most recent purchase.
About the Zen and it’s siblings
VE is most famous for the VE Monk range. Earbuds that have audiophile quality for $5? Yes! Surely everyone reading this must know by now, but if you don’t; let me tell you – the dream is real! You can buy a decent sounding earbud from VE for $5, still to this day. You want proof?
Taken from the Veclan.com website tonight… You see? I wasn’t kidding!
And how do those $5 earbuds sound? For goodness sake! Buy 1 and find out! As Wild Lee would say – they’re f******** $5 man! What you got to lose?!! Ahh, the rants….we, the clan, (I’m a clansman I think), live for those outpourings from the Wild One! Suffice it to say, this is not the marketing strategy we have become accustomed to. But, it seems, for VE, they have found a nice little gap in the ever so solemn world of portable audio. How? Because people are seeing a very different approach here. It is zany, wacky, has a great sense of humour, and VE does not take itself too seriously, until it comes to value for money…..
A visit to the VE site and the Facebook page will give you an idea of what I’m talking about. There are a few choices on the pages therein, and AliExpress also support this Chinese brand, as you’d expect. The choices range from the $5 VE Monk to the CIEM Grand Duke which is made to order at $1298. So far, I have discovered that you get what you pay for with VE. I haven’t any idea how the Grand Duke sounds, but for a company that gives so much listening pleasure for so little (in terms of the Monk), how good must the Duke sound?
The Zen LL is the latest in a range that was started back in 2015. The LL has plenty high enough sensitivity, 109 dBs, to sound loud through your smartphones. It has a relatively high impedance, 150 Ohms, to start to scale well when partnered with a DAP, such as my Fiio M11. Not every DAP is created the same, of course, but Lee has given his seal of approval to the Fiio M11. The Fiio gets the LLs going with plenty of juice at 82/100 on low gain. I mean, that is pretty loud, but being in my 50s, I wanna hear it. Just below the Android volume warning and the Zen’s start to sing from my Samsung S7.
Loud enough- it would need a bit more volume outside
Packaging? Not much! You get a tin case which is tough enough to travel anywhere without causing damage to your precious possession
An EX pack, which holds a variety of solutions for keeping these darn things from falling out of ears, something they love to do. This is why time and effort will reap it’s reward in getting to the right comfort and fidelity that these earbuds can bring. There is everything from solid foam to foam donuts, rubber O rings and, what suited me, rubber commas I’m gonna call them. I have one large for my left ear and one small for my right ear. Crazy, but true nonetheless.
$5 if bought separately
There’s a black box which holds the tin, which holds the earbuds….
The black box, glam’d up with a posh bit of copper
And that’s yer lot. No fancy foam inlaid pleatherette jewel boxes which end up in the loft, as fetching as they are. Simple eh?
The build and finish of these Dice Editions is a mix. The cable has a purple glow to it when caught in the right light, it is gorgeous, it is reassuringly heavy, and sure to put a smile on my face when it catches my eye. All the terminations look super strong and are terminated at the jack and the Y split. But there is no chin adjuster, or strain relief on the cable. The weight of the cable does tend to create an extra strain when worn on the inside of my coat, for instance.
The styling of the Zen is the self same as the $5 Monks. No influence on sound quality, but the VE’s long straight down driver shell is beginning to look a bit plain and dated, at least to my eyes.
Don’t expect an IEM punchiness from these, that’s lesson 1. These are open earbuds. They work on the principle of a large driver, with good components and precise tuning. Taken from a Facebook message today from Lee : “we are the only company in the world who has proper acoustic chamber on earbuds”. What does this all equate to? An excellent sounding, airy signature which has some super wide headstaging effects on some of those micro effects that only we headphone users no lots about. Let me explain further. I don’t wish to blow smoke up anyone’s behind and lose you all in a load of flowery hyperbole that means nothing without taking on board some mind altering substance. The cymbals can be heard at the sides of the buds, as if they are not coming directly from the drivers. That’s what I mean by a wide headstage.
VE Zen LL Dice Edition – their working day is over – til tomorrow then
You and I know when those little bits of magic are coming in the song, don’t we? The LL has some of the sparkle that evokes HD800 and IE800 signatures. This is what can be achieved with a really decent earbud. I am not saying that the Zen is an HD800 rival. What I’m saying is; if you like what the Sennheiser HD800 can do, but taking them out for a walk seems to attract a lot of unwanted attention, then maybe this is a mini me solution to your problems. There is no hint of harshness in the mid or high frequency range of the Zen LL’s. They have a balanced sound signature, which is not bass light, nor has the bass been boosted. It has not got the slam of an iem and has not been artificially enhanced to make it sound like it has. Don’t worry; you’ll get used to it. There will be owners of the VE Monk, Monk Lite, Zen and Zen Lite that read this and wonder whether this is something they should be trying out. Zen people, you will get the chance for these at $88. I paid $158 and you can see what I think about them. I’m very glad I made the investment.
Earbuds let the outside World in. They are open. Walking in our towns and cities with the Zens and most noise can be heard pretty clearly. That may make a person feel safer. The earbuds leak, but in a quieter environment shouldn’t be particularly intrusive beyond the person sitting next to you. Where the Zen’s really perform is in your own personal space, be it rolling countryside or killing aliens online. That’s where the magic lies.