It said: "torture one-self, reject mediocrity, all for our sound."
Transducer: Open Dynamic
Frequency Response: 10Hz~25kHz
Cable Length: 1.2m
Transducer: Open Dynmanic
Frequency Response: 20Hz~20kHz
Cable Length: 1.2m
Zen (left) and Asura (right)
Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality
The Zen and Asura comes in one single white box with no model name on the outside. I assume it is one of the ‘early bird’ pack for those who pre-ordered the Zen, which also get a free Asura. The 320ohm Zen is pretty much the flagship earbuds for VE, and Asura is the previous flagship. According to what I have read, Asura is more of a bang-for-buck model meant to be Hi-Fi yet not breaking the bank where Zen is meant to compete with other top-of-the-line earbuds in the market.
Accessories wise, there really are not a lot to talk about. Beside the decent hard case, all you’ll get are some foam pad. Then again, that’s pretty much the standard for most other earbuds, so nothing to complain about.
Build quality is decent. They are not Sennheiser MX895 so there isn’t any flashy metal or unique design to speak of. The earpiece housing is just the generic type, though the cable do look better than decent - with weaved cable on Asura and the straight silver cable on Zen. Can’t really say what is the material used though, as VE doesn’t list out detail spec on both models. Needless to say, I don’t think you should use them on rough situation (i.e. sport and such). Otherwise I don’t see a problem.
It isn’t easy to describe the sound signature of Zen. If MX985 is about immersion and warm where TM7 is about lush and liveliness, then Zen will be about PRaT. If you don’t know about what PRaT means, well, it is basically the ‘toe-tapping’ factor in music. The kind of factor that makes a certain headphone more ‘danceable’ than other on the same music. One of the reason is perhaps Zen has one of the best bass impact and attack I have heard on any earbud. It is not purely a quantitative matter as Zen isn’t exactly what I’ll refer as bass heavy, but the transient is certainly excellent. The vocal range is actually slightly further away when compared to TM7 (and even more when compared to the very sweet MX985), though it holds on to its own and doesn’t sound thin at all. If anything, I’ll say Zen’s vocal range is still pretty good. It gives a sense of depth while still keep a good amount of texture. In contrast, I’ll say Yuin PK1 sounds much thinner in the mid-range. Treble is quite good as well. Not as sparkly as TM7 but I don’t sense any darkness or dullness either. Soundstage is somewhere between TM7 and MX985 - not the widest, but still above average.
Asura pretty much share the same sound signature as Zen, with a similar emphasis on PRaT, but feels a bit more compressed on overall dynamic and a bit grainier on the upper vocal. Still, it is good enough that I think it will give PK1 a good run for its money. One thing to note is that, because of the 320ohm vs. 150ohm impedance between the two earbuds, Asura can sound better than Zen when they are on weak source. For example, even though they are both loud enough on my Sony A15 (10mW @ 16ohm), I can definitely tell the Zen has lost its edge and feel rather lifeless. Asura on the other hand still rocks on. But once I have A15 feeding into iDSD micro (as DAC) and O2 (as amp), the situation reversed where Zen comes up on top. So a word of caution is to consider what kind of source you will be using with these two earbuds as it can kind of turn things around.
All and all, I’ll place Zen as one of the best three earbuds I current have, among TM7 and MX985. Asura on the other hand is just a few steps down, at the middle of my top ten list, perhaps right around where PK1 will be.
From left: MX985, TM7, Asura, and Zen.
I don’t usually get goosebump when listen to earbuds , but I do when I heard something that of exceptional quality. The last time I got one is from Blox TM7 some 2.5 years ago. Since then, I have picked up Hifiman EX100, Obique ES903, a few Dasetn, Sidy (also known as BGVP) DX1, some Tingo, Audio-Technica CM707, a very cool Chinese made Dual-Driver-Matrix based earbud and last but not least, the hybrid DUNU Alpha 1 – none is bad per se and a few are actually quite good, though they never approach the top-tier level – but then comes the Zen, and in fact Asura as well. I got two goosebump in a day and it is golden.
Now we just need someone to bring these out of China.