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THIEAUDIO Monarch Mk II - Uber well-tuned tribrid IEM

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brandall10

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I wish they can build an exact KSE but well with no amplifier needed and it's driveable with normal daps/dongle.
I love kse too but just can't handle the bulk that comes with it

Having spent some time going back and forth w/ the KSE and the MkII, I'm now of the opinion that the technicalities of the KSE are too much of a bridge and will be returning these. As on-point as the tuning is, they just don't have the clarity and precision the KSEs offer and I find myself reaching for the KSEs instead and putting up w/ the annoying extra bulk and setup.

The KSE, when tuned, is truly something special. I have a hard time believing anything gets close unless another proper electrostat hits the market. It's a shame the default tuning is so terrible. If I didn't have easy access to EQ (through Roon and my Qudelix 5k) I'd certainly prefer the Mk IIs.

In regards to TWS options, I do love my Airpods Pro and hope Apple ups the fidelity some in the next revision. Axel Grell may be reknowned for his time w/ Sennheiser, but the HD800 series tuning is a bit wonky so it's no surprise his TWS is, though unfortunate given DSP can be used to correct issues.

It's really annoying how many new IEMs/headphones hit the market that are tuned by ear/secret sauce/pixie dust instead of trying to hit a preference curve. It doesn't have to be Harman, but it would be nice is there were a handful out there so there was some sort of standardization to it all. Just like w/ Topping for electronics, it's great how these ChiFi IEM brands are dragging the industry into the 21st century. And of course Etymotic has toed this line since the dawn of IEMs, just a shame few else have followed.
 
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Human Bass

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Having spent some time going back and forth w/ the KSE and the MkII, I'm now of the opinion that the technicalities of the KSE are too much of a bridge and will be returning these. As on-point as the tuning is, they just don't have the clarity and precision the KSEs offer and I find myself reaching for the KSEs instead and putting up w/ the annoying extra bulk and setup.

The KSE, when tuned, is truly something special. I have a hard time believing anything gets close unless another proper electrostat hits the market. It's a shame the default tuning is so terrible. If I didn't have easy access to EQ (through Roon and my Qudelix 5k) I'd certainly prefer the Mk IIs.

In regards to TWS options, I do love my Airpods Pro and hope Apple ups the fidelity some in the next revision. Axel Grell may be reknowned for his time w/ Sennheiser, but the HD800 series tuning is a bit wonky so it's no surprise his TWS is, though unfortunate given DSP can be used to correct issues.

It's really annoying how many new IEMs/headphones hit the market that are tuned by ear/secret sauce/pixie dust instead of trying to hit a preference curve. It doesn't have to be Harman, but it would be nice is there were a handful out there so there was some sort of standardization to it all. Just like w/ Topping for electronics, it's great how these ChiFi IEM brands are dragging the industry into the 21st century. And of course Etymotic has toed this line since the dawn of IEMs, just a shame few else have followed.
Transducers have much more limitations than electronics,m. But there are plenty of iems now following similar responses.
 

tifune

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The KSE, when tuned, is truly something special. I have a hard time believing anything gets close unless another proper electrostat hits the market. It's a shame the default tuning is so terrible. If I didn't have easy access to EQ (through Roon and my Qudelix 5k) I'd certainly prefer the Mk IIs.

Thanks for this update. What EQ settings do you use? I used the AutoEQ option and quite liked it, although one thing about the KSE's that i've never experienced with any other IEM/headphone with the high-end sizzled a LOT. I had to roll off high end by 5dB-ish, can't recall the exact cut off freq I used.

The other downside, for me, on the KSE's is I absolutely could not get a bass response anywhere close to my IER-Z1R's. I do wonder if a more powerful amp would solve that, but obviously that's not an option
 
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brandall10

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Thanks for this update. What EQ settings do you use? I used the AutoEQ option and quite liked it, although one thing about the KSE's that i've never experienced with any other IEM/headphone with the high-end sizzled a LOT. I had to roll off high end by 5dB-ish, can't recall the exact cut off freq I used.

The other downside, for me, on the KSE's is I absolutely could not get a bass response anywhere close to my IER-Z1R's. I do wonder if a more powerful amp would solve that, but obviously that's not an option
Use AutoEQ for 1500 as well (basically Harman). Also have IER-Z1Rs and prefer the KSE bass presentation... to me the Z1Rs are just a bit too much down low and have a bouncy slow decay thing going on due to being a DD (TBF this is souring me somewhat on the Mk IIs). Some dig this, but I prefer more tightness - to me the bass is absolutely glorious on the KSEs for EDM and hip-hop. That said, they're not likely pushing out the same amount of sound energy as a DD does. Seems to be an issue in general w/ electrostats and even planars.

So I do hear a bit of what I think you're saying n the treble... it seems overly airy at times, but I haven't been able to find where exactly it is, it's slight and only an issue at louder volumes (lowish volume listener, 80-85 dB)
 
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bytheway

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Just a head's up about this recently released earphone, which appears to almost split the difference between IEF Neutral (w/ bass boost) and Harman IE - below 2k IEF neutral, above more Harman'esque. For any who follow/care about crinacle's rankings, he awarded this an S+ in tuning.

I recently picked up a pair and they sound very similar to my Harman IE PEQ'ed KSE 1200... but of course w/ no EQ. I'd say these are likely an IEM complement to the DCA Stealths in a way.

Bonus is it takes just about nothing to drive them - the iPhone adaptor or laptop out on my MBP sounds about the same as more powerful DAC/amps. So they are a self-contained, very high performing rig. Aside from the cable being almost unreasonably thick (can be replaced), this hits a personal minimalist performance nirvana in a way I've been hoping to get in an IEM for years now.
Thanks for the heads up…I’m getting back into the IEM game after a decade away…with Monarch MkII, will there be little benefit to driving them via a high end DAP like Sony WM1A or HiBy RS6 vs just my iPhone out on its own or iPhone connected to the E1DA 9038S Gen 3?

That would be a totally new concept to me because of the different quality of digital to analogue conversions paths and then the analogue amplification and signal fidelity paths…

Maybe I’m totally misunderstanding, if you can clarify that would be great because I want to buy now…

Thanks!
 

tifune

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Thanks for the heads up…I’m getting back into the IEM game after a decade away…with Monarch MkII, will there be little benefit to driving them via a high end DAP like Sony WM1A or HiBy RS6 vs just my iPhone out on its own or iPhone connected to the E1DA 9038S Gen 3?

That would be a totally new concept to me because of the different quality of digital to analogue conversions paths and then the analogue amplification and signal fidelity paths…

Maybe I’m totally misunderstanding, if you can clarify that would be great because I want to buy now…

Thanks!

I don't personally understand the need for a DAP in 2021+. Even if it's a psychological means of disconnecting from the world, just put your phone on airplane mode and turn off wifi? Some DAPs put out impressive power levels, like the new FiiO M17, but again you could just get a portable amp.

IMO the E1DA 9038S is the best dongle out there, for now. L&P's W2 puts out better distortion but less power, which could be a limitation if you move to on/over-ears. Literally the only reason I can think of not to buy the E1DA for IEMs would be if you want wireless, in which Qudelix is the go-to. Again, not as much power which you may or may not need elsewhere but certainly not with any IEM I can think of

I'm an Android user, though, I have no idea what limitations may be in place for iOS. I did see an article some time ago showing surprisingly large differences between AAC decoders because it's on the manufacturer to do it correctly, not sure if Qudelix was ever tested in that regard
 

staticV3

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Literally the only reason I can think of not to buy the E1DA for IEMs would be if you want wireless
The 9038S is often too overpowered for IEMs. Despite its very competent SNR, I can start hearing hiss with the 102dB/mW BL-03 and with the 107dB/mW Se215 it gets pretty annoying. That's not really the Amp's fault though. Just the wrong tool for the job.
I did see an article some time ago showing surprisingly large differences between AAC decoders because it's on the manufacturer to do it correctly, not sure if Qudelix was ever tested in that regard
Afaik it's the AAC encoder inside your iPhone or Android phone that's the deciding factor, not so much the decoder. Correct me if I'm wrong though.
aac-enhanced-view-fr.jpg
 
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brandall10

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I tried these using a Hidiz S8, one of the best measuring dongles out there, and had trouble discerning a difference between that and the Apple dongle and headphone out from my 14" MBP. The KSEs OTOH, to my ears sound a bit sharper w/ the S8 so that's how I use them.
 

Pe8er

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My 2 cents from a slightly different angle: don't buy these if you're into metal, industrial and the like unless you will EQ. 2-4k area is very unforgiving to electric guitars and at least to my ears, the sound is "shouty" and fatiguing.
 
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brandall10

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My 2 cents from a slightly different angle: don't buy these if you're into metal, industrial and the like unless you will EQ. 2-4k area is very unforgiving to electric guitars and at least to my ears, the sound is "shouty" and fatiguing.

I listen to that and more and didn't have an issue, but I'm also 45 years old and don't know if I'd feel the same when I was younger. Again, this area in particular is between IEF neutral and Harman IE, so if you're familiar with those preference curves, you should have a good idea how this will sound from a tuning perspective. If Harman is bright or edgy in the upper mids to your ears, probably best to avoid.
 

tifune

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The 9038S is often too overpowered for IEMs. Despite its very competent SNR, I can start hearing hiss with the 102dB/mW BL-03 and with the 107dB/mW Se215 it gets pretty annoying. That's not really the Amp's fault though. Just the wrong tool for the job.

Afaik it's the AAC encoder inside your iPhone or Android phone that's the deciding factor, not so much the decoder. Correct me if I'm wrong though.
View attachment 174219

That's interesting, I've used my Gen3 with over a dozen IEMs and never noticed any hiss including w my daily drivers the IER-Z1R. The 2 possibilities that jump out at me are: your hearing is simply better than mine, or my EQ of choice (-12dB preamp, [email protected] w 0.2Q) keeps the hiss low enough that I can't detect it.

And yes, you're correct about the encoder - that's exactly the article/graph I had in mind.
 

Dealux

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I didn't like the MKI. I reckon I can get better treble extension and transition into the upper treble from my Etymotics (with third party tips) than any shallow fit IEM. The original Monarch sounded quite hollow in the upper treble. It was well tuned overall but it sounded like an overly EQ-ed headphone with that missing treble extension. And it had an 8K peak that annoyed me at times.
 

bytheway

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I don't personally understand the need for a DAP in 2021+. Even if it's a psychological means of disconnecting from the world, just put your phone on airplane mode and turn off wifi? Some DAPs put out impressive power levels, like the new FiiO M17, but again you could just get a portable amp.

IMO the E1DA 9038S is the best dongle out there, for now. L&P's W2 puts out better distortion but less power, which could be a limitation if you move to on/over-ears. Literally the only reason I can think of not to buy the E1DA for IEMs would be if you want wireless, in which Qudelix is the go-to. Again, not as much power which you may or may not need elsewhere but certainly not with any IEM I can think of

I'm an Android user, though, I have no idea what limitations may be in place for iOS. I did see an article some time ago showing surprisingly large differences between AAC decoders because it's on the manufacturer to do it correctly, not sure if Qudelix was ever tested in that regard
Thanks for the wise words of advice , very helpful
 

gofishus

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I don't personally understand the need for a DAP in 2021+. Even if it's a psychological means of disconnecting from the world, just put your phone on airplane mode and turn off wifi? Some DAPs put out impressive power levels, like the new FiiO M17, but again you could just get a portable amp.

IMO the E1DA 9038S is the best dongle out there, for now. L&P's W2 puts out better distortion but less power, which could be a limitation if you move to on/over-ears. Literally the only reason I can think of not to buy the E1DA for IEMs would be if you want wireless, in which Qudelix is the go-to. Again, not as much power which you may or may not need elsewhere but certainly not with any IEM I can think of

I'm an Android user, though, I have no idea what limitations may be in place for iOS. I did see an article some time ago showing surprisingly large differences between AAC decoders because it's on the manufacturer to do it correctly, not sure if Qudelix was ever tested in that regard

Several reasons:
-DAP can be more convenient than carrying a phone + portable amp/dac combo
-DAP has more fine tuned granular volume control and media playback controls
-DAP has microSD support (we all know microSD support is dying in the phone business now)
-doesn't take up your phones battery life
-higher end DAPs can optimize the circuitry and software for audio output i.e HibyOS

The only major con IMO is the price of DAPs can often exceed phones
 

Dealux

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-DAP can be more convenient than carrying a phone + portable amp/dac combo
For IEMs, a simple and cheap USB dongle can do the trick.
-DAP has more fine tuned granular volume control and media playback controls
My phone has 100 steps of volume (but it is a Samsung phone; other Android phones are different). You can also use UAPP to access USB DAC directly with plenty of sound options.
-DAP has microSD support (we all know microSD support is dying in the phone business now)
128 or 256 GB should be plenty for storing offline media. DSD is a stupid format and a waste of storage space.
-doesn't take up your phones battery life
I don't know that has ever been an issue for me.
-higher end DAPs can optimize the circuitry and software for audio output i.e HibyOS

The only major con IMO is the price of DAPs can often exceed phones
Still doesn't offer better sound than a USB dongle.

Exactly. DAPs are already running on outdated low spec hardware with outdated Android that renders the device obsolete in a few years, much like a phone.
 

Jimbob54

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For IEMs, a simple and cheap USB dongle can do the trick.

My phone has 100 steps of volume (but it is a Samsung phone; other Android phones are different). You can also use UAPP to access USB DAC directly with plenty of sound options.

128 or 256 GB should be plenty for storing offline media. DSD is a stupid format and a waste of storage space.

I don't know that has ever been an issue for me.

Still doesn't offer better sound than a USB dongle.

Exactly. DAPs are already running on outdated low spec hardware with outdated Android that renders the device obsolete in a few years, much like a phone.
With you 100%. If you can stomach either local files, tidal or qobuz, an android phone, uapp and a good $100 or less dongle destroys most DAPs
 

gofishus

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With you 100%. If you can stomach either local files, tidal or qobuz, an android phone, uapp and a good $100 or less dongle destroys most DAPs

How does it destroy most DAPs? Has anyone here done a comparison? I have a Shanling UA2 which is a great dongle for under $100 but it doesn't destroy my AK SE100 or Hiby RS6 DAPs at all. Even if you go up to the highest end dongles like the Luxury&Precision W2 or Caiyin RU6, they're very performant sure, but it doesn't destroy a Lotoo PAW Touch Gold or AK SP2000 or LP P6 Pro at all.
The only thing you can say is a dongle is better value because those DAPs all cost thousands of dollars and dongles are much cheaper. But a sub $100 dongle won't destroy a $2000 DAP. Who are you kidding.
 

gofishus

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For IEMs, a simple and cheap USB dongle can do the trick.

My phone has 100 steps of volume (but it is a Samsung phone; other Android phones are different). You can also use UAPP to access USB DAC directly with plenty of sound options.

128 or 256 GB should be plenty for storing offline media. DSD is a stupid format and a waste of storage space.

I don't know that has ever been an issue for me.

Still doesn't offer better sound than a USB dongle.

Exactly. DAPs are already running on outdated low spec hardware with outdated Android that renders the device obsolete in a few years, much like a phone.

It's ridiculous to claim that a $1000 or $2000 DAP doesn't offer better sound than a $100 USB dongle. If this were true, the DAP market would never sell. Going by chipsets until recently, dongles topped out at a ESS9038Q2M (AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt, Shanling UA2, FiiO KA3) which any DAP > $1000 could outperform technically with an ESS9038PRO or AK4499EQ, and R2R dongles like the Caiyin RU6 just released - years after the first R2R DAPs like the Hifiman R2R2000 came out
 
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