VE Odyssey HD 3.5mm Decoder Review
DAC Chip: Realtek ALC4042 (Single)
PCM 24bit – 96khz, SNR: -98dB, Power: 1 Vrms, USB Type-C Male, 3.5mm SE (Microphone: YES), 10g, Aluminum Chassis, SPC Cable
Listening Equipment: Etymotic ER4SR, HZSOUND Heart Mirror, VE Monk GO, TIN HiFi P1, Monolith M565c, Moondrop Aria. USB 3.2 Samsung S20 (Deezer)
LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING
- Smooth clean timbre that sounded natural and realistic
- Silky airy note to the timbre exhibiting pristine coherence.
- Dynamics presented in very controlled manner
- Great Treble textures and extensions with polished lush decays
- Realistic Mid-Bass punch with rich textured body and smooth decays
- Lush Mids that’s not too forward nor recessed, richly textured and smooth.
- Lush Sub-Bass with tingling and smooth seismic feedback
- Beautifully nuanced and smooth details retrieval, very transparent
- Realistic tonality to guitars, cello, percussions, and piano
- Reference class speed and transients handling, amazing dexterity
- Properly sized soundstage with natural feel to the spatial imaging
- Great separation of layers with precise holographic projection
- Impressive driving power, 75/100 volume to drive Tin HiFi P1 at great fidelity.
- Stellar synergy with about anything (no lower than 95db of sensitivity & over 100Ω)
- Very forgiving on poor quality recordings and Lo-Fi music despite being very detailed
- Stellar sibilance resistance all the time
- Clean background as observed with Moondrop Aria (122db) & HZSOUND Heart Mirror
- Very conservative on battery drain and does not get hot easily
- Power limited to below 100Ω 96db Sensitivity
- Dynamics slightly less vibrant to match the top 3 performers
- Spatial imaging and separation not as razor sharp as the top 3 performers
- May be perceived as laid back by those preferring bright, energetic sound
- No hardware volume adjuster
VE Odyssey HD (SE). The version that I have with me now is the 2nd Gen Odyssey HD that was re-released in May 20 2020, standard Single Ended 3.5mm model optimized for 24bit playback. Apparently Odyssey HD have 3 other models to cater for 3.5mm Balanced, 2.5mm Balanced and 4.4mm Balanced with 32bit options. Honestly I was quite an ass when I first came across VE Odyssey, I dismissed it totally from my initial list of #donglemadness – the largely unglamorous ALC4042 DAC chip specification blinded me from any interests of even wanting to try it. Alas throughout the journey I have learned my lessons, especially from the likes of JCally JM04Pro and Hill Audio ALC4050 of which both are beautifully implemented and tuned ALC DAC chips. While largely ALC remained the cattle-class for most of JCally or AliExpress dongle line-ups, the JM04Pro shone above them all and even impressed me more than the JM20 and CS46L41.
And so I chucked the VE Odyssey HD into my list and eventually have the SE version in my hand to play with. Oh boy, I have never felt so idiotic for my smug Lannister dismissal of the Odyssey HD early on. What I am hearing is a performance which reminded me a lot of what I heard from Lotoo PAW S1 – the level of polished smoothness that makes for a very indulging listening experience. And by now you would have noticed how I prefer the JM04Pro over JM20, that already indicated that I value disciplined smooth presentation over the sparkier energetic sound – and I am still on this trajectory, preferring the polished warm maturity of Odyssey HD over the sparkly euphonic CX-Pro.
I took a step back trying to dissect the fact that I am facing here, how it is possible for such an archaic DAC chip sounding as polished as this? For one we are talking about Venture Electronics here. My first experience with VE was the VE Monk+, and that ultra cheap $5 earbuds impressed me greatly for the asking price. Despite the insane price tags it oozes with great sound quality and many have attested to this (SQ wise). So at least there’s indication of great tuning competency here on the sound aspect, and it is reflected here as well with the Odyssey HD.
Odyssey HD was able to drive my finicky TIN HiFi P1 and Monolith M565c with great dexterity, yes I do have to crank the volume up to 75-80/100 to make it sound proper. But once volume is set it is not thin sounding at all. Despite being almost maxed out on the volume I don’t hear any stress or timbre coherence being sacrificed. That feat alone is already beyond my earlier expectations. Paired with HZSOUND Heart Mirror, Etymotic ER4SR and VE Monk GO – this is where VE Odyssey HD performed the BEST. With Moondrop Aria the overall presentation is tilted towards being warmer and will greatly appeal for those preferring this sound characteristics. It is also markedly clean from any background noise of which my Aria would have exposed easily (Aria sensitivity is 122db). Stellar control over timbre coherence is strongly evident with exemplary level of neutrality, yet it is far from being boring because somehow VE Odyssey HD managed to squeeze some vibe out while at it. Another impressive element is how VE Odyssey HD was able to retrieve Macro and Micro details with smooth nuances, perhaps not as sharp as the top 3 but this is assuredly the most detailed Realtek I have listened to so far.
With this level of tuning proficiency and maturity VE exhibited, I dearly hope they would come up with some solidly built unit to inspire confidence, something that can offer at least 2 Vrms of power (and VE would surely leapfrog to 5 Stars group if they can retain VE Odyssey HD quality in more powerful and solidly built package).
VE Odyssey HD vs. CX-Pro CX31993
- Odyssey HD exhibited better overall smoothness and timbre coherence
- CX-Pro crisper (slightly brighter) edge vs Odyssey HD polished rounded warm presentation
- Odyssey HD less dry sounding compared to CX-Pro
- Both Odyssey HD and CX-Pro still a step behind Ovidius B1 in terms of overall coherence
- Odyssey HD less likely to suffer inconsistent tuning issues over CX-Pro
OVERALL RATING: 97/100
Best Pairing: Low impedance IEMs/Headphones not exceeding 100Ω