Venture Electronic's Asura 2.0s

After my review of the famous Monk+, Lee at Venture Electronics sent me one of their mid-range offerings: the Asura 2.0s. In the configuration that I received, it costs a cool $88, with a TRRS 1/8" auxiliary connector as the termination. Although it has a very high impedance (150 Ω), its high sensitivity (110 dB SPL/mW) allows it to be relatively competently driven from a phone or portable player.

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Fit and Form

The Asura 2.0s arrived to me in a very convenient, small, zippered case. It has a hard shell with a nice fabric wrap around it, and a rubber "Venture Electronics" branded patch on the top. Inside is the main cavity, and a mesh pouch for carrying the included 1/8" TRRS to 1/8" TRS adapter.

Also sent to me were two of VE's "Ex-Packs", one with a slew of rubber wings, rounds, shirt clips, and red/blue foam covers, the other with the same, but in black/white. I found, just as with the Monk+, that the foams which have a hole in the center served me best in terms of sound and comfort. I'll quote the section explaining the differences in sound between the different options that I wrote in my review of the Monk+ below, for context.

"I'd like to make an aside about the foam covers. 4 of the 32 that I received were the type that have a hole on both sides, not covering the center of the earbud. The rest were the standard type that cover the entire head of the earbud. I found that the aforementioned 4 were the perfect balance of increased bass and increased ability to stay in my ears. With the better seal that these covers allow, they do bump up the mid-bass a bit, the full covers slightly more than the partial covers. The rest of this review, particularly the sound section, will speak to my experience using the partial covers."

The same is true for this review - my comments on sound are made with the holed foam covers being used. 

Speaking just to the physical design of the headphones, they take a step up in appeal from the Monk+. I'm a fan of the silver cable and the smoke-colored shells, which allow a little peak into the internal design of the headphones. The right and left earbuds are labeled with a small "R" and "L" on the shaft that extends out of the main body, and each is labeled "Asura".

The cable is pretty average, not too stiff, not too flimsy. It is somewhat microphonic, but I never noticed it once music started playing at my normal listening level. The Y-splitter is high quality, and made of metal. The same is true for the source-end termination, although it is labeled with the VE logo and "VECLAN.COM". Slightly ostentatious for my tastes, but that's a matter of personal preference. The included TRRS to TRS adapter is exactly the same that I received when I ordered my Monk+, and is of good quality. Aside, there is a cable retainer above the Y-splitter that did a good job of helping to keep the earbuds in my ears, by applying downward pressure on the earbuds themselves.

I'd like to make a note about the power requirements of these headphones. Although I can get them to an acceptable listening level from my Pixel, that does require running at full volume. They really, really benefit from good amplification, from a high power source. My Astell&Kern AK Junior does a wonderful job, as does my Neurochrome HP-1. For anyone considering these and planning to run them off of a phone, I would recommend getting a competent, relatively high power portable player/DAP in conjunction, as there is a noticeable jump in sound quality, as a result of the way the impedance curve of these headphones interacts with lower power sources.

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Sound

These feel like a more workshopped version of the Monk+ to me, with some notable differences. Bass performance is increased, with better thump and punch, the mids are absolutely lush, and although they stray from natural a little bit, they are a very pleasurable listen. The treble extends naturally, with ease, and adds a great feel for sparkle and air to the sound signature.

Isolation is minimal, given their design, and sound leakage is very similar to a pair of Apple EarPods. These would not be out of place in public, as they don't leak anywhere near as much as truly open-back headphones. Someone right next to you might catch a few vocals, and some of the higher frequencies, but not much more than that, and only at higher listening levels.

The soundstage is relatively small compared to full-sized headphones, but is slightly larger than your average IEM, given the (functionally) somewhat-open design. The imaging and separation are about average, with good placement and distance between separate parts of tracks. These do form a very cohesive image of the music which, when combined with the sound as described above and below, is very pleasant on a casual listen.

Bass

Songs used: Mountain Lion by Moon Hooch, The Entangled by Noisia, and Three Ralphs by DJ Shadow

The bass is very tactile, which I understand is not the most common descriptor out there. It has a great sense for texture and touch, even if it is slightly recessed when compared to the mids. These drivers can move a lot of air when called for, though, being able to deliver pretty impressive punch and slam for the form factor. However, generally speaking, the bass is less so impactful than it is controlled, with good fidelity to source, not missing any intended texture or transients. This comes through in electronic music particularly well where, even if they don't inspire head-banging in the same way that the TH-900 might, they convey well the details in the low-end that headphones like Advanced Sound's Model 3 might gloss over. Sub-bass extension is lacking, though, although that was to be expected. The notes are still present once the music reaches truly low, but they are extremely quiet and don't have the rumble of which I've become enamored.

Key descriptors: tight, controlled, and textured

Mids

Songs used: Bright Lights by Gary Clark, Jr., Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head by Gorillaz, and Hajanga by Jacob Collier

Now, the highlight of these headphones. Although not extremely clean, and not necessarily very accurate, the mids are very satisfying. They are lush and liquid, with a great sense for pleasant sound. They don't come near the accuracy that I just left with Periodic Audio's IEMs, but they allow for a very pleasurable presentation of both genders of vocals. In line with my prior comments on lushness, instruments do lack a little bit of detail, but they still come across as relatively defined, generally speaking. What I mean by lack of detail is that the sounds of guitar picking, the breaths of a singer between notes, and other things of this caliber are missed by these headphones. Something that I'll touch on more in the "Wrap-Up" section, but feel compelled to mention now, is that these are a very pleasant casual listen, even if they miss a few points on the technical side of my review.

Key descriptors: lush, enticing, and liquid

Treble

Songs used: Drum Head by Kall Binaural Audio, Morphogene by Machinedrum, and Tio Macaco by Snarky Puppy

The treble extends without much strain, and adds a great sense of air to the sound signature. Cymbals are conveyed well, with good detail in their transient forms. I only encountered sibilance once or twice over the entire review period for these headphones. There isn't much noticeable peakiness, which helped these headphones remain non-fatiguing in extended listening periods (upwards of 3 hours).

Key descriptors: extended, airy, and inoffensive

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Wrap-Up

In re-reading this review, I feel that it leaves my opinion on these headphones somewhat ambiguous. I, to a degree, fell in love with the combination of holistic technical competency and aural pleasantry that I found in Periodic Audio's lineup recently, and these take a very different approach to music. While they do lack detail in the mid-range, and don't have best-in-class imaging/separation, the cohesive image of the music that they form, with lush mids, textured bass, and treble that adds a sense of air and sparkle, is very pleasant on a casual listen. While those who prefer very analytical headphones will likely not like the Asura, those that simply want something with a real ability to entice the listener, these may be a good bet.

Disclaimers

These headphones were provided to me by Lee at Venture Electronics. I am not being paid by anyone to write this review, to endorse the product reviewed, or for the content that I put in the review.

These headphones were powered by an Astell&Kern AK Junior, a Google Pixel, a Neurochrome HP-1, and by whatever soundcard is in the motherboard of my computer.

I have had these headphones for about a month, and I have put about 30 hours of analytical listening through them during that period.

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