ThieAudio Monarch MKII – Sound
So far, I have had the opportunity to test several IEMs featuring tribrid configurations. Generally speaking, I can say that this configuration usually features a “fun” sound signature and they lack the tonal balance and coherency of the BA-based multi-driver earphones. While researching the Monarch MKII, I was surprised to see that the company designed the ThieAudio Monarch MKII to address this very issue, and I immediately reached the necessary authorities to review the product.
As an audiophile who has listened to many hybrid headphones in the last 10 years, I know that it’s not very easy to achieve a perfect tonal balance and a coherent signature. However, I really like the EST timbre and impactful, rounded bass response of a dynamic driver so I would really appreciate a proper implementation of a tribrid configuration. So, did I find what I was looking for in the Monarch MK2?
Frankly, I can say that the Monarch MKII features the best tonal balance among the tribrids I’ve listened to, and its technical capability is quite impressive. It has a fairly balanced sound signature with a slightly elevated, dynamic bass response. Monarch MKII offers brilliant coherency across the spectrum for a tribrid and that’s quite an achievement. Let’s dissect the sound section into major bands and take a closer look.
The ThieAudio Monarch MKII has an elevated bass response compared to the rest of the frequency spectrum. The bass is meaty and visceral with a good amount of impact. The texture is nice also, it has a dynamic response and its DD does a great job of keeping up with speedy, bass-dominant passages. The mid-bass is controlled and it’s nowhere near boomy, which helps to keep the presentation airy and spacious. The subbass is impressive and the monitor is capable of delivering serious sub-bass when the track calls for it.
The quantity of the bass is well-tuned so it never taps into the uncomfortable levels, always staying in check. Overall, the lows of the Monarch MKII are impressive, impactful, and clean.
If you go ahead and ask me which frequency band ThieAudio has spent the most R&D hours in, I will most definitely bet my money on the midrange region. The midrange of the Monarch MKII is transparent, clean, and resolving. The imaging of the IEMs gets a huge boost from this region as Monarch has a tendency to put the vocals a little bit forward on the stage. Combine this with impressive resolution and uncolored timbre, you’ve got yourself a detail monster.
The midrange offers a good note-weight, great timbre, and very good resolution. The upper midrange is energetic and the extension is great. The energy of the upper midrange, combined with the successful midrange presentation, contributes to the perceived clarity and improves the sensation of air. I must say, without a doubt, the ThieAudio Monarch MKII offers the best midrange I’ve heard from a tribrid, up to this day. Well done.
If you like the EST treble flavor, you are going to enjoy Monarch MKII’s approach to the high range. It has no trouble reaching the top octave, without sounding harsh or overly bright. The treble shows good control and offers excellent resolution, transparency, and extension. The expansive treble is adding significant height to the image, enhancing the perceived headroom. Their unrestricted upper extension is what I like the most about EST drivers. They offer impressive air, articulation, and clarity. It is exactly the case here with the Monarch MKII.
Let’s go over the technical highlights of the Monarch MKII. First and most importantly, it offers a great tonal balance. The timbre is really good for a tribrid, not too much coloration. The MKII offers excellent PRaT and oftentimes, during fast, congestion-prone passages, the dynamic driver feels more like a BA than a DD. Speaking of fast passages, the transients, the attack, and the decay feels fast and the monitor handles multi-instrumented, complex tracks with ease.
The soundstage is not the widest I’ve heard among the tribrids, however, it still offers a good, adequate headroom with ample air between the instruments. The instrument positioning feels accurate, as well as the vocal placement. The vocals are in the dead center with instruments scattered around. I’ll throw in an example here for you to get a better hold of the staging. While Moondrop Variations offers a small concert hall-like headroom, Monarch MKII offers a jazz club-like space. Overall, I can say that the Monarch MKII offers a solid technical foundation and it is definitely worthy of its price tag.
vs. Mangird Xenns UP ($699 USD)
Mangird company recently changed its name to XENNS. Right after the name change, they launched an IEM featuring a tribrid configuration called “UP”. The XENNS UP features 1DD + 4BA + 2EST driver on each side and has a very similar build quality compared to the Monarch MKII. It also comes with a custom shell and an elegant faceplate. As for the sound, the most obvious difference is that XENNS UP has a more discernible U-shape signature whereas the Monarch’s lines are more blurred. The Monarch MKII offers better coherency and a better tonal balance across the frequency spectrum. The XENNS UP has slightly more bass, especially in the sub and mid regions.
The Monarch MKII’s presentation feels airier and it has a more spacious headroom. The Monarch MKII offers better technical capability, better congestion handling, and faster transients, too. The Monarch MKII is the clear winner when it comes to the midrange, thanks to its neutral, resolving, and detailed midrange tuning. Both of the monitors offer similar soundstage width and depth. If you are looking for an IEM to specifically listen to bass-dependant genres such as EDM, you could be very happy with the Mangird XENNS UP. If you’re looking for slightly more fidelity and balance, go for the Monarch MKII.
vs. Moondrop Variations ($520 USD)
Moondrop’s tribrid, Variations is another very good IEM. The Variations feature 1DD+2BA+2EST drivers on each side and comes with a very good package. The accessories include a brilliant cable, replacement filters, and a great set of tips along with a chic carrying case. It also features a unique, frosted shell design that we haven’t seen many examples of. Sound-wise, Variations’ strong suit is its expansive stage and spacious presentation. It offers more air compared to both its rivals.
It also sounds more effortless across the spectrum. It offers on-par imaging performance compared to the Monarch MKII, however, its bass response is not as fast and agile as the Monarch MKII. The lows of the Variations are quantitatively larger and more impactful. Switching from Variations to Monarch MKII a few times reveals that the bass texture and resolution of the Variations are lacking compared to the Monarch MKII. Still though, for $520 USD, Variations is a solid buy.
ThieAudio has done a pretty good job with the ThieAudio Monarch MKII. We are faced with a product that is almost perfect, except for a few minor details. Frankly, it is not difficult to guess that the tribrid implementation is difficult and it takes time to design and manufacture a good product, but if you ask me, ThieAudio seems to have gone through the 1.5-year R&D process quite well.
Shaped according to the needs of the market, the ThieAudio Monarch MKII has become a good tribrid alternative both technically and in terms of sound signature. If you’re looking for a fairly balanced IEM and need an all-rounder with tribrid flavor, look no further than the Monarch MKII.
Page 1: Intro, ThieAudio, ThieAudio Monarch MKII, Packaging & Accessories, Design, Fit & Build Quality
Page 2: Sound Quality, Low, Mid, High, Technical Performance, Comparison, Last Words