A tiny audio company based in Shenyang, China, Venture Electronics has taken the audiophile community by storm. For one thing, its Monk Plus earbuds deliver sound quality rarely found in the earbud category—and they cost just five dollars (five dollars!) a pair. As for the man behind the product? Well, he’s got a loyal following of his own.
The head of the company, who simply goes by “Wild Lee,” speaks online with an uncommon candor and a sense of humor that his fans (all of us at Massdrop included) just can’t seem to get enough of. He’s a big personality trying to make better audio accessible to the world. So when Audiophile Buyer Matt Takaichi got the chance to ask him a few questions, we knew it was gonna be good.
How did Venture Electronics form? Who are some of the key people in your staff?
We r a small 6 men company. everybody is as important as the next, but I am going to focus on the 3 of us that are more involved in the audio gear part of the biz. we also do collaborations with other teams in other projects areas, like building app and website~ of course, I am heavily involved in that as well, but I don't think it is something I am here to talk about today.
1. Lee: I would like to think that I am somewhat known among our fans and this head gear community. my job is mostly being the sales rep, talking to our suppliers, cutting deals, and most important interacting with the fans. I would have an idea for something then run it by kk and eventually Mr Qu, but I pretty much call the shots on everything~
2. Sam: guy who does all kinds of stuff around money. for instance, when I need a paypal account, he will have to make one for me. and of course he does so much more as the anchor of the company: my partner, he has to be there so I can sleep in~ and occasionally has to tell me when I am wrong.
3. kk:the brain behind all our products. if I have a vision, his job is to get it done. he always jokes about how often I say something is impossible or somewhere next to it~ and then ask him to do it, then ask again in a very short time, like I am asking him to be god~ like "And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light." he is pretty much top 5 in China as one hifi critic (reviewer) who also love all kinds of tech stuff, so a conversation about ping-pong turn into "who has the best racket competition"~
Within seconds of listening, it’s quite obvious that the Monk Plus vastly exceeds a price of $5. Why is it priced so low?
Again, before calling ourselves one hi-end audio company, I would like to think that we are IT folks + head gear nerds first. so the goal here is not to make as much money as fast as we can, we wanna it to be our legacy. I would like to think that my Monk Plus is the living proof that it doesn't cost that much more to make a good audio product~
If I could, I would have given the monks for free as google is doing. but we obviously are not google, so we can sell them a bit higher than the cost, and spread our vision of the sound to the world. so far I am very grateful for all the support that I am getting globally. it enables us to have a better chance to beat our own record each time, like the Old Monk was more than decent, but I knew I could have done more, and when it comes to the Monk Plus, we finally could afford to give it everything we got while still keeping our mouth fed and even keeping some for our next even more awesome projects. (and yes, there are some not far away)
What plans do you have in the future for the Monk Plus? To what extent do you think the word of mouth from the Monk Plus will spread?
to be honest, I am still debating what I am going to do with them, and I think the guideline for my actions will be "get monks to more people in the world"
What benefits will Monk Plus customers have in sound quality if they were to upgrade from the Monk Plus to one of your higher end models, such as the Zen or Asura?
If u have the proper gears, of course both Zen and Asura will sound a lot better~ but hifi is a hobby that requires more than just a fat wallet. as I haven't gotten the chance to really start selling our amps yet, among those hundreds of our Zen owners outside of China, how many had actually gotten to hear its true potential? but hopefully once our site is ready, we will let them know.
You have mentioned attempts of people trying to rip off of the Monk Plus design, or trying to get you to offer an OEM service in which they would rebrand the earbud. What is your response to these attempts?
For anybody who r stupid enough to ask me about "rebranding", my only answer is fuck ~no~ and to those who r trying to rip off our design, I don't really give a fuck~ those assholes more than likely have never ever spent any bill on any of our toys other than for the purpose of faking them~ And I am pretty happy about it actually, cuz now we r apparently fake-worthy. though I know we r a long way from sennheiser, but it is definitely a sign for a very bright future.
There’s a certain realness to your internet personality, especially on display in your Reddit IAMA thread (http://dro.ps/ventureelectronicsiama), where you seem to genuinely be speaking your mind and having a fun time chatting with potential customers in a way most corporate representatives would not. What made you want to be so open on the internet?
I become my own boss so that I can do pretty much whatever I wanna do (obviously most of the time within the boundary of law and moral guidelines) and I deeply appreciate those who put up with me when I am being absurd, which, to be honest, is quite often. but it is not a matter of if it is fun to do so, cuz I would be miserable if I am not being myself. And yes, I definitely enjoy being myself with my fans, it is why I love this job so much~ well this and the fact I can buy all the toys with company money and not be yelled at by the wife.
Why do you call yourself Wild Lee?
I normally call myself Lee, but I am pretty bad at remembering people's names, so I figured that I should make it easy for the guys to remember mine. I use my family name Lee, or u can say i am too lazy to come up with a proper english name for myself. I got this "wild" from one of my friends from France, who started calling me this after I beat him one too many times in Guilty Gear~
Who are some of your personal heroes?
in the real world, Steve Jobs. in the fiction world, I love way too many stories to name them all. Star Trek, Gundam, The wire, X files..............
What is some of your favorite music to listen to on your earbuds?
to be honest, I spend most of my time these days with earbuds when I am watching TV series, Anime, or playing video games. But I found myself for quite a long period of time spending most of my music hours on the OST of NES Castlevania 1 with the Zen 2.0 lol
Interview by Matt Takaichi (https://www.massdrop.com/profile/Matt.T/comments)
Check out the Venture Electronics Monk Plus: http://dro.ps/monk-plus