Venture Electronics Bonus IE (BIE): Get Low

Greetings!

Today we’re checking out Venture Electronics’ (VE) latest budget earphone release, the Bonus IE (BIE).

While probably best known for their extensive earbud lineup which includes the legendary Monk, in-ears are something VE hasn’t dabbled nearly as much in, though I can think of at least four different models; The Duke, Monk IE Biggie and Smalls, and the Grand Duke which is their current flagship iem. Being a new budget model makes the BIE all the more exciting for me since the same principles that were applied to the legendary Monk earbuds apply here; quality sound at an attainable price.

Did Wild Lee and Venture Electronics succeed? I think they did. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

What I Hear

Tips: The stock tips included with the BIE are wholly generic but work well with the BIE. The small bore emphasizes it’s specialty; massive bass. Due to the nozzle design, most of my preferred tips wouldn’t stay on, but there were two in particular that matched up nicely; Spintfit CP145 and ADV Eartune Fidelity U. They sound basically the same, slightly lowering bass quantity over the stock tips. The ADV tips fit basically the same as the stock tips, while the Spintfits provide a deeper fit in case you have issues with the short nozzle.

EQ: I found the BIE to be very receptive to EQing. Using the Sound Shaper Two mk II, a vintage 12 band equalizer, I found the following adjustments to make the BIE a more balanced, yet no less fun sounding earphone with great timbre and clarity; -6dB@30Hz, -4dB@50Hz, -2dB@90Hz, -2dB@3kHz, -3dB@5kHz. These settings balanced out the low end, reduced the mild mid-bass bleed, and then reduced some of the resulting presence region focus that cropped up as a result of the reduction to the low end.

If bass is your jam, you’re going to have a ball with the BIE. Bass is greatly emphasized with excellent depth. There is no lack of visceral feedback or noticeable roll off to mar the experience. Mid-bass is big and punchy, adding plenty of warmth to the overall experience. Texturing is good but not outstanding. The crunchy, Prodigy-esque bass of The Prototypes ft. B3NDU’s “Enter The Warrior” is produced admirably, but I can’t help but want just a bit more grunge. It works very well with the smooth bass of pop and synth tracks though. Speed is pretty decent, especially considering how much the BIE slams, but there is some bleed into the lower mids that hurts resolution somewhat.

Heading into the mids, they remain impressively forward and coherent amidst the low end bombardment. With a pleasing warmth to them, timbre accuracy is excellent with none of the artificial dryness or metallic qualities much of the similarly priced hybrid competition often suffers from. Complimenting the warmth is a fairly dense and weighty presentation that sounds fantastic with female vocals. Celine Dion in her Deadpool 2 smash hit, “Ashes”, comes across just as emotional and powerful as I’d expect from such a powerhouse of a vocalist. Detail and clarity are generally good with the smoothness of the signature somewhat hiding micro details that more analytically tuned products reproduce with more authority, such as the subtle waves that headline “Orchestral Intro” from Gorillaz’s ‘Plastic Beach’. Through the BIE, the waves unfortunately just sound like static, until the volume picks up and it starts to resolve the ebb and flow more effectively. Other than that, I’ve found little to nitpick.

Treble performance is generally quite positive, minus the micro-detail issue that persists here too. The presentation has a slight brilliance region bias giving higher frequency instruments enough sparkle and air without being hissy or exhausting, while the fairly reserved presence region ensures the BIE dodges harshness. In terms of speed the BIE does a good job with notes attacking and decaying realistically, if not a tad slow. It fits in with the bass-heavy sound and isn’t a detriment since it ensures the BIE’s presentation retains consistent top to bottom.

The BIE’s sound stage is plenty satisfying. The ample low end provides a wide, deep base upon which everything else resides. I found the presentation fairly even with width having a mild advantage over depth. Default positioning for vocals is just at the edge of the ear which helps provide a decent sense of space from the outset. Channel-to-channel movement is smooth and reasonably accurate, though not quite as precise as some others in this price range. Perfectly serviceable for gaming, but better suited for mediums that do not require intense precision, like movies. Instrument separation and track layering are average, in line with other products in the price and in my opinion, considerably better than I’d expect them to be given the quantity of bass on tap.

Overall a really enjoyable earphone. Despite the hefty low end the midrange is oddly clear and coherent and the treble is tuned to just the right quantity. I appreciate that this driver is very receptive to EQ so I can dial down the bass which lets the rest of the BIE’s competencies shine through. I only wish micro-detailing were better, but at this price something has to give which is fine given how nice it sounds as a whole.

Compared To A Peer (volumes matched with Dayton iMM-6)

KZ ZST X (~17.00 USD): While the BIE has plenty of entertaining bass, I actually prefer the quality of what the ZST X outputs. The dual magnet system used results in something tighter and more precise with better speed, improved texture, and less bleed into the lower mids. Heading into the mids the ZST X is cooler, leaner, and less natural sounding, though they are more clear and provide additional detail. Sibilance is more noticeable though, and notes have a hard edge to them. Similar thoughts carry over into the treble region. While both have a brilliance region bias with more or less the same reserved 7k peak, the BIE sounds more meaty and natural, save for the lack of micro detail which the ZST X resolves much more effectively. The ZST X comes across as the more artificial of the two thanks to the metallic edge of the armatures. When it comes to sound stage and technical qualities, the two trade blows. The ZST X has a smaller stage (not as wide or deep) with a more intimate default positioning for vocals. It’s imaging is also quite a bit more precise with improved instrument separation, though the BIE does a better job of layering individual track elements.

Overall I have a hard time picking one over the other. The BIE is more natural and realistic sounding but the ZST X’s hybrid setup gives it a big advantage in terms of detail and texture. I suppose the BIE is the one I’d choose for music and podcasts, and the ZST X for gaming and film.

ADV 1M (19.99 USD): The 1M has a more reserved low end with a more linear transition from lower to upper bass. While it lacks the visceral slam and punch of the BIE, it is also completely free of mid-bass bleed which the BIE has, though in low quantities. Texture, control, and speed are all in the 1M’s camp, probably helped considerably by the less emphasized bass. The BIE has a thicker, more weighty, consistent midrange which helps keep vocals clear and prominent, even across very bassy tracks. The 1M sounds quite lean in comparison with vocals having a wispy nature to them. Detail and clarity are quite similar though. Timbre is definitely more natural on the BIE with the 1M coming across a touch breathy and metallic, especially on higher-frequency instruments. Treble on the BIE is better tuned too thanks to a much more natural transition from upper mids to presence and brilliance regions. The 1M has a pretty insane peak starting at 1k, rising 18dB to 6k. As a result, it offers great detail and resolution, but at the expense of listening fatigue thanks to excess hiss and sizzle. On the wrong tracks, this over boosting leaves it sounding quite harsh, especially compared to the BIE. While the BIE is less detailed, the difference isn’t nearly as drastic as you would expect. It also has a cleaner, tighter note presentation without the 1M’s splash. Sound stage is an interesting one because they’re both great. The BIE’s massive bass gives it’s staging a better defined width and depth compared to the 1M which is more vague. On the other hand, the 1M’s leaner note presentation and improved airiness gives it a more generally spacious feel, helped out by improved imaging and similarly positive layering/separation qualities.

Overall, while I prefer the form factor and size of the 1M, the BIE is a much better sounding earphone out of the box. Using equalization to address aspects I had issues with, I could make them quite comparable, but in general I find the BIE to be the superior product.

In The Ear Admittedly I’m not a huge fan of the BIE’s design. The look reminds me of the basic, hyper budget plastic iems that would show up on AliExpress back when I first jumped into the hobby. Thankfully that’s where the similarities end. Material quality is excellent with dense metal running the show. They’re weighty without being cumbersome and feel like a quality product in the hand. Tight seams that line up well support this impression. To the rear of each housing is a vent surrounded by a circular design feature that gives your finger a bit of extra purchase when pushing the iem into your ear. The machining is clean and smooth with well-defined ridges. BIE branding can be found laser etched into the side of each housing in VE’s distinct 8-bit font. The nozzles have neatly inserted metal grills and feature an obvious lip, helpful for holding tips in place. While that’s never a bad thing, the nozzle is quite short leaving little space for the ridge of a tip to hook onto the nozzle lip. As a result, I found most third party tips failed to stay securely in place and could be easily knocked off. Not a huge deal since the stock tips are a decent match for the BIE.

The cable of the BIE is not a flashy braided cable as seems to be the norm nowadays. It’s more old school than that being a reliable, bi-strand, black rubber sheathed unit. I loved it on the Monk v2 and +, and I love it here. It doesn’t transmit a ton of noise, tangling isn’t a huge deal, and it’s shown itself to be quite durable. The hardware is nice too with a compact, rubber straight jack with decent strain relief. The rubber y-split is tiny so no relief is needed. Surprisingly, above it rests a chin cinch. This is a feature that is sorely lacking on budget earphones so big props to VE for adding it. Surrounding the cable leading into each earpiece is a long, flexible strain relief with left and right marking so you know which channel is which.

Comfort with the BIE is pretty decent. The traditional barrel shape of the housings works just as well cable up as it does cable down, giving those who prefer one or the other the option. There are no sharp edges or odd protrusions to cause discomfort either. It’s a pretty straightforward fit, with potential hindrance coming only from the aforementioned nozzle length and difficulty finding third party tips that will stay on, pending the stock tips don’t work for you.

In The Box The BIE did not arrive in any sort of formal packaging, instead showing up in a clam shell case with the earphones and tips inside. In all you receive;

  • BIE earphones
  • Clam shell carrying case
  • Single flange tips (xs/s/m/l)

The case has a bold triangular rubber logo threaded to the jean-like material that covers the rest of the case. It is visually appealing and feels durable. Inside there is plenty of space for the earphones, spare tips, and a small DAP like the Shanling M0 and/or a dongle like VE’s own Odyssey HD. It will be a bit thick for those with tight pockets, though I have no issues carrying it around in mine. The ear tips are the familiar plain Jane type you’ve seen with a million other products. They’re reasonably comfortable and seal reliably enough, which is all you can ask for in this price range. Overall a functional accessory kit.

Final Thoughts Given the somewhat mixed response to the Monk IE Biggie and Smalls and the extremely competitive price point the BIE resides within, I have to admit it was the product Wild Lee sent that I was least interested in. The measurements I saw when it was originally released didn’t help since I typically prefer products that have considerably less bass. However, any doubts I had were immediately smashed during my first listen. Heck, I even reached out to Lynn with Ngoshawk right away to express my excitement and confirm what I was hearing. I NEVER do this. Even though that initial excitement waned over the last couple months, I still think the Bonus IE is the real deal.

The BIE is one of few products that I feel are a legitimate contender in this price range. Unlike something like the Blon BL-03 which [according to the community] needs the cable and tips replaced out of the box and even then probably still fits poorly, the BIE ticks every important box, out-of-the-box; build, comfort, sound quality, and price. Sure, a removable cable would be nice at this price, but you need to step up to the BIE Pro for that. Improved micro-detailing would also be a plus, but you can bring some of that back if you’re adept with an equalizer.

If you want a bassy, natural sounding in-ear that gets the essentials right, check out the BIE. I’d be surprised if you’re anything less than satisfied.

Thanks for reading!

– B9

Disclaimer A big thanks goes out to Wild Lee for reaching out to see if I’d be interested in covering some Venture Electronics’ products, and for sending over the Bonus IE for review. The thoughts within this review are my subjective opinions and do not represent Lee, Venture Electronics, or any other entity. At the time of writing, pricing for the Bonus IE started at 20 USD for the standard version. You can check it out here: https://www.veclan.com/engappliance_sel_one?eng_ApplianceVo.eac_id=35 / www.aliexpress.com/item/33009006408.html

Specifications

  • Frequency Response: 17Hz – 22kHz
  • Sensitivity: 115dB
  • Impedance: 32ohms
  • Drivers: 10mm dynamic

Gear Used For Testing Huawei P40, VE Odyssey HD, Earstudio HUD100, Earmen TR-Amp, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501, ADC Sound Shaper Two mk II

Some Test Tunes

Supertramp – Crime of the Century

Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid

King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic

King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black

Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma

The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy

Steely Dan – The Royal Scam

Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams

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