“Low-End” here refers to price, not quality - well, at least that’s what I hope for. Fortunately, there’s a bounty of lower-priced pens on the market right now, including many great options that you can find for less than $20. Today I’ll take a look at two pens I recently picked up for the first time: the Nemosine Singularity and the Monteverde Monza. The Singularity has been around for a while, developing what turns out to be a well-deserved cult following, but I can’t see Monteverde getting any traction with the Monza (much less their more expensive pens like the Giant Sequoia) unless they improve the quality control on their nibs.
Nemosine Singularity: A Solid Budget Option
My review of the Nemosine Singularity is pretty straightforward: at the $20 or less price point, it’s a great pen. For a while now I’ve heard about Nemosine’s stub nibs: how they are narrower than you’re typical stainless steel stock stub (this one is .6mm, my sweet spot for stubs/italics), and are relatively smooth writers. All true, and the pen itself seems well-built and should hold up fairly well for a sub-$20 plastic demonstrator.
One of the Singularity’s key selling points is the wide range of available colors. I opted for the pink “Azalea” demonstrator, but the Singularity is also available in Aqua, Clear, Magenta, and Onyx. With the exception of the “Clear” and “Onyx” versions, these are brightly colored pens that manage to pull off pastel colors without seeming childish or cheap. The plastic feels thick and relatively durable, though I wouldn’t expect a $20 pen to last forever, and you may have issues with the threads or cap cracking over time. (I’ve not experienced this or heard an inordinate number of complaints, it’s just a general observation about how less-expensive pens seem to wear. This would apply to basically any plastic pen at this price point, and even TWSBI has not been able to avoid the issue with much higher-priced products.)
The Singularity fits nicely in my hand, posted or unposted, though the pen’s light weight lends itself more to posting. The black plastic section is slightly concave and comfortable, though if I had one gripe I’d like to see just a touch more length to avoid rubbing up against the threads.
If I had been deep into fountain pens as a college student, the Singularity would be up there with the Pilot Metropolitan and the Lamy Safari as a great student pen that would offer a serviceable writing experience without breaking the bank. The Monteverde Monza, on the other hand….
Monteverde Monza: Save Your Money
Monteverde has gone on a bit of a tear recently, releasing multiple new pens at various price points. The Monza is apparently Monteverde’s attempt to break into the “inexpensive plastic demonstrator” segment, and rather than develop an original design they’ve gone with what appears to be an “homage” to cigar-shaped pens like the Sailor 1911 Standard and the Montblanc 144/146. That said, the Monza looks nice, and I opted for the “Honey Amber” demonstrator. Other color options include “Gray Sky”, “Island Blue”, and “Crystal Clear”.
My frustration with the Monza started early. First of all, I went to ink it up and the converter didn’t fit in the pen. Based on what I’ve read online, some retailers advise to “push really hard” to seat the converter on the back of the feed, but I had no luck. Maybe I didn’t push hard enough, but I was already so skeptical of the quality that I didn’t want to risk shattering the feed (or even the section itself). That gives you some idea of how bad the fit was.
After tossing the converter aside, I ended up going with a cartridge (Kaweco Ruby), and spent a solid 10 minutes attempting to get ink to flow. The nib barely wrote out of the box. The culprit was a misaligned feed, inserted so poorly that it caused the tines to twist. In other words, what looked like a complete absence of quality control on the part of the manufacturer. This isn't an isolated incident with Monteverde nibs, and it's not limited to their lower-priced pens.)
Note: If I recall correctly, my Monza box came shrink-wrapped in plastic. If you like the look of this pen, and want to go ahead and buy one, be sure to request that your retailer open it up so they can check the nib, unless you’re comfortable doing adjustments yourself.
I frankly don’t understand how Monteverde can put so much effort into making their pens - packaging included - look pretty good, but apparently take no steps to make sure they actually write. I’d gladly pay $10-15 more for a pen if it meant the pen had been tested, though I’m not sure such a drastic price increase would be necessary, given that Nemosine can sell the Singularity for $3 more.
Why should Monteverde invest the time and resources into quality control? Because once I pulled, reset, and aligned the nib, the Monza is actually a very good writer. The stock medium steel nib is nothing to write home about in terms of line variation or character, but this one is very smooth, and the pen itself - once it was fixed - makes a great knockaround pen: one that I would have loved to have had as a student. Even now, it's one I'll keep around in my travel bag.
Takeaways and Where to Buy
Of these two pens, the Nemosine Singularity is the clear winner and would get my recommendation. The relatively solid build and excellent stub nib for this price point makes it pretty much a no-brainer for someone looking for a colorful demonstrator in the beginner / “student pen” category, or simply anyone looking for an inexpensive fountain pen that they don't have to worry about losing or damaging.
The Monteverde Monza, on the other hand, has some potential but the quality control is far below what I’ve seen elsewhere at (or even below) this price point. The fact that I had to pull, reseat, and straighten the nib, in addition to the fact that the supplied converter didn’t fit the pen, drops this into the “yes, if you’re prepared to tinker with it” category along with the Noodler’s pens and $0.99 Chinese pens from eBay. I suspect, however, that most in this pen’s target audience would either return the pen or throw it away if they received it in the shape that I got this one.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. While I purchased these pens from Pen Chalet, I did receive a discount due to my sponsor/affiliate relationship.