Thieaudio In-Ear Monitors

This thread will cover discussion and reviews of Thieaudio’s lineup of gear. They are a house brand of Linsoul and have 3 series of IEM products:

  • Voyager: Multi-BA IEMs
  • Legacy: Hybrid IEMs
  • Tri-Brid IEMs (dynamic driver + balanced armature + sonion EST)

I’ve been hanging on to the Thieaudio Voyager 3 for quite a long time now and I’ve been hesitant to review it for a few reasons, but now that I bought it’s sibling, the Thieaudio Legacy 3, I feel like its time to do a joint review of these two 3-driver in-ear monitors by Linsoul’s house brand, Thieaudio.

First off, the Voyager 3 was sent to me by Linsoul for a review earlier this year, while I purchased the Legacy 3 myself. The first set I received was actually “messed up”, which I’ll explain later as it’s kind of important, and I’ve received a new replacement unit from Linsoul.

The Voyager 3 is a 3-balance armature (BA) only setup, and features two tuning switches that provide 4 unique tuning options. The Legacy 3, instead, only has two BA drivers but comes with a dynamic driver (DD), making it a 1-DD, 2-BA hybrid IEM, while still retaining two tuning switches. As a quick reference, the Voyager series is their multi-BA lineup, while the Legacy series is their hybrid lineup name.

Accessories, Build, Fit

I would have expected both of these to come with similar, if not the same packaging and accessories but it seems like the newer Legacy 3 has a big step up in overall package content, at least in my opinion.

The Voyager 3 comes with a series of tips, a thick braided cable that is reminiscent of many cables you can find online by Yinyoo, Kinboofi, and the like, with appearance to be similar to their 8- or 16- core cable types. The connectors on my V3 unit were qdc-style c-pin connectors. To round it out, the Voyager 3 comes in a metal round case that opens up into two separate pieces.

The Legacy 3 also comes with qdc-style c-pin connectors and similar selection of tips. It differs in the cable and case though. The cable on the Legacy 3 is black, and braided as well, but much more flexible, lighter, and thinner, and in my opinion, a much better experience. They feel like a lightweight and more usable version of the Fearless brand cables. The case it comes with is a zippered faux-leather case which looks more attractive, albeit a little larger.

Both IEMs come with similar cards as well as a mobile phone-style pin to change the switch combos with.

Now, this is where it gets a little weird. I originally ordered a special blue flake-themed (AW11) faceplate model of the Legacy 3, but it came in with a defect which I’ll go over in the sound section. This universal shell model came with recessed 2-pin connectors and standard 2-pin cable. It’s a little odd that the replacement model, the normally available “mystique” theme, comes in a different connector style and cable connector type. The cables itself was the same material and look though.

Both the Voyager and Legacy 3 also fit differently. I felt the Legacy 3 was actually a bit lighter and smaller and fit my ears a lot better where they barely felt they were on and is easily something I could wear for hours. The Voyager 3 was a little less comfortable with its larger sized shell and nozzle angle. The Legacy 3 is perhaps the most comfortable IEM I’ve worn to date, besting even the qdc Anole VX. The Legacy 3 is almost an identical shaped design as the VX but shrunken down a bit, which works very well with my smaller ear size.

Sound

These two Thieaudio IEMs are both kind of U-shaped with a sizeable, yet tasteful bass boost, but differ in how they present the mid-range and treble areas. The Voyager 3, to me, tries to mimic something more like the Campfire Andromeda with a late rise in the treble region around 8-10K which is actually more aggressive than the Andromeda, while also having a similar bass response, which is warm and elevated, and an additional small pinna gain that still feels a little recessed in the upper mid-range.

The Legacy 3 takes a more balanced approach, with a sub-bass boost, down-sloping midrange that presents a warm, rich sound, and a larger pinna gain that’s more in-line with my preferences, and a tamer and generally laid-back treble response. It doesn’t extend nearly as well as the Voyager 3, but I find it is more pleasing and less fatiguing.

Whereas the Voyager 3 seems to take chops from the Campfire Andromeda, I feel like the Legacy 3 takes a lot of influence from the 64 Audio U12t and Fearless Dawn, which are much more balanced IEMs. In some ways, it resembles the U12t very closely in tonality, but lacks the treble extension that the Tia driver provides in the U12t, as well as some of the resolution capabilities of having multiple BA drivers handle smaller amounts of range.

When I listen to both of these side-by-side, it’s quite easy to say that my preferences lie on the side of the Legacy 3. I prefer to have a good strong upper mid-range and a smooth and controlled treble response, and the Voyager 3 doesn’t have either of those. Add to the fact that it’s more mid-bass focused, rather than sub-bass focused, makes it a bit of a disaster in my book. I also found the resolution to be a bit lacking in general, so that along with the sharp and sometimes sibilant sound made the Voyager 3 not so pleasing in my book. Some may enjoy it for the treble lift and the clarity it brings, which definitely is something that the Legacy 3 sometimes lacks, but for all-around listening, the Legacy 3 beats it in spades.

And here’s why:

I think the Legacy 3’s tonality is very good, and has a really good combination of raised bass and strong mid-range and soft, but present treble. It’s missing upper-treble extension however, and this make some instruments such as violins, some higher-frequency wind instruments, and cymbals sound a bit blunted and dead at times without their full harmonic range audible. With a small bump of about 4-5dB at 12-16KHz, this can be remedied for the most part.

Now, before I go into too much more detail about the Legacy 3, I want to make a quick point about tuning concerns and possible tuning changes that may have occurred. As mentioned before, I bought the Legacy 3 originally in a blue flakes faceplate theme. It came to me with channels very mismatched. The left side had a large dip between 4-5KHz while the right side had a smaller sloped decline. This was quite audible in some songs and my first impression was, “where did the lower treble go?”

I soon did some research and determined that my left side, the one with the large dip, matched another reviewer’s measurements using the same coupler system. So, I thought my right side was incorrect. I contacted Linsoul and got a replacement sent out and re-measured it.

The good news was that they had good channel matching this time, but the tuning did not match the Left side or what another reviewer had measured before in his review, nor did it match my original right side. It was somewhere in-between. Soon after this, other reviewers with measurement rigs got their hands on this IEM and performed their measurements and 2 others matched this new set I got as well, so I am led to believe that perhaps there was a silent revision sometime after release, or maybe I just got a bad set.

Anyway, so with that out of the way, my review is about the tuning that I have today and primarily with the switches both On/On, which looks like this:

And back to my original thoughts – The Legacy 3 is well-balanced and presents a very good sound signature that I think competes well with Moondrop’s Kanas Pro and KXXS sets. In fact, I think the default tuning with switches off, are very similar to the tuning of these two, but perhaps with a little bit better soundstage and depth and bass response improvements, with other technicalities around the same.

When you change the IEM configuration to having both switches on, the tonality starts to shift towards a poor man’s 64 Audio U12t, with a large sub-bass focus, thicker mids, and a tamer lower treble. Like I mentioned before, it doesn’t have a “Tia” type driver here, which can give it better upper treble extension and so it lacks that sparkle and upper harmonics capability. It also doesn’t have the resolution power to battle a multi-BA set like the U12t, but man it has similar tonality to it that I really enjoy as an all-arounder, and the asking price starts at $119 for a universal and $179 for a custom model. Yes, a CIEM for under $200 that sounds really pleasant. This is such a bargain find!

I enjoy the Legacy 3 primarily with rock and hip hop as well as dance and pop genres. These genres really shine within the limitations of this IEM but the surprisingly well tuned and coherent nature the bass and dual-BA crossover makes this actually fun and not overly muddy. Bass impact and slam are nice with good weight, and has some level of texture that’s quite acceptable. It doesn’t have the best bass control, even for a typical dynamic driver for the most part, but is definitely above average at its $119 asking price.

The Legacy 3 still works fine for orchestral music, jazz, and folk and bluegrass music, however, the treble roll-off does make some of this music a little less realistic and a bit dull at times. This can impact cymbal hits in other genres as well, but I don’t find it nearly as distracting and obvious as I do with acoustic music, since harmonics are typically more audible in these genres.

Wrap-Up

After going through both these IEMs, it was quickly apparent which one I liked and which one I disliked. The Voyager 3 went back into the box quickly after hearing them, and each time I brought them out again, I was left unsatisfied and with ringing ears. With the Legacy 3, I was happy almost every single time I had them on, so much, that I decided to buy a custom pair to go along with the universal set I already purchased. For under $200, a custom with good tuning is pretty unheard of as far as I know. Some companies charge that much just for the custom making process, let along the entire package. So, the Legacy 3 now becomes the first Thieaudio product that I really like and fully recommend to try out, as long as the tuning stays the way it is on the current sets I’ve seen.

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Great review @antdroid.

Great review @antdroid, as always!

You have me very tempted by these, even though they are over my self imposed IEM budget limit.

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Just a small amount more :slight_smile:
$119 and $179 universal/custom.

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Thieaudio Monarch + Clairvoyance Review

It’s always interesting to see a brand grow from its infancy into a full-fledged competitor and this is how I am starting to feel with Thieaudio, Linsoul’s house brand of portable audio gear. They started with headphones, and then moved to their bread and butter IEM products with the Voyager (multi-BA) and Legacy (dynamic driver + BA hybrid) products. I’ve reviewed a few of their products in the past with mixed results, but this latest batch of products – the Clairvoyance and the Monarch – come with great anticipation and a certain bit of hype.

Being involved in the community, I’ve gotten to discuss the tuning and progression of this brand through their owner, as well as these two specific IEM’s tuning wizard. It’s because of this, and the thoughts behind how it should be tuned that got me most excited to try these two sets out, as they were tuned with an objective and for the most part, I think these two do their tasks well.

This review will be a little unlike others I’ve done mostly because these are two similar but unique IEMs with slightly different tunings. I’m going to spend most of this article talking about how they differ than anything, but just remember that both of these are top tier IEMs in my opinion and hopefully I’ll capture that as well.

The Thieaudio Clairvoyance is $700, while the Monarch is $730, and both are tri-brids featuring dynamic driver, a series of balanced armature drivers, and electrostatic tweeters.

Unboxing

I posted a video of the unboxing experience and will just leave it at that:

To quickly summarize though:

  • Same packaging for all Thieaudio IEMs
  • Nice brown fake-leather case
  • Selection of tips
  • 2.5mm white braided cable is nice, however to use it with 3.5mm or 4.4mm requires a very long adapter

Sound Impressions

Both the Thieaudio twins, the Monarch and Clairvoyance, are well-balanced tunings with sort of reference mid-range and treble, but with elevated bass to provide a nice fun, but accurate sound. They do differ across the spectrum though, and I find the Monarch to be much more sub-bass focused and have a shoutier upper mid-range and a brighter treble. The Clairvoyance, on the other hand, is a more smoother overall sound signature, with a thicker bass region that doesn’t emphasized sub-bass, and adds more mid-bass to the sound. The upper mids of the Clairvoyance is also slight tamer, as well as the treble presentation, making this one sound a little less technical, but more musical.

When I listened to both, my first impressions were that the Monarch is right up my alley. It has the reference-type sound I really like, with a similar comparison to the Hidition Viento, but with a bigger sub-bass emphasis. Listening to it more and more, and comparing it to the Viento, I did find some things I did not like – and that was mainly the slightly nasally and shouty upper mid-range. These are very nitpicky issues, and not overly glaring however, but it is something I notice when I listen to piano music where the weight of a piano strike in this range hits harder and with more ringing.

The Clairvoyance is more equally weighted in the low-end than the Monarch. I found the Monarch to have a large subbass emphasis, while the Clairvoyance has more mid-bass, but it’s more to put it in equal playing with the subbass. In this regard, the Clairvoyance provides a more natural low end sound, and a thicker lower mid-range, while also having a more unemphasized upper mid-range and treble. The Clairvoyance does lack the deep rumble that the Monarch has, but it replaces it with a more smooth and full sound.

This is a really generic genre chart that I came up with based on music I listen to and a small sample of random music within these genres.

In both acoustic and new wave music, I found that there’s trade-offs for both of these IEMs, but both play them well. Depending on the acoustic rock though, I do partially prefer the Clairvoyance more, and with New Wave, I do partially prefer the Monarch more.

In the genres of Bluegrass, Classical, and Jazz, I prefer the Monarch over the Clairvoyance. This is due to my impressions that the Monarch has a little bit of a bigger soundstage, better imaging, and a little improved resolution over the Clairvoyance. The deeper sub-bass also gives double bass guitars a bit more rumble and drive, which tickles my ears.

When I play rock music, pop, and country music, I tend to prefer the more full and smoother sounding Clairvoyance. These genres seem to perform better with the mid-bass addition that the Clairvoyance provides, and the slightly tamer treble, does make electric guitars and any constant high percussions attacks from becoming overly fatiguing.

There’s very distinct difference when listening to these two IEMs when I listen to my stable of rock music – whether it be the layered rock tunes of Sonic Youth or The War on Drugs, or the Seattle grunge originals, Temple of the Dog and Mother Love Bone, or the more catchy tunes of The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac – I find the performance of the Clairvoyance is much better suited for these bands.

One of the most distinguishing bands that really show off the differences between the two of these IEMs is Daft Punk. I listened through the entire Random Access Memories album on both of these, and there’s some very audible differences. In “Giorgio by Moroder”, the sub-bass focus of the Monarch really shows its strength towards the end of this track where the heavy bass is skull crushing while it sounded rather tame, but filled-in, on the Clairvoyance.

On “Contact”, the final section of this track is a insane mix of sounds, percussions, synths, and a heavy bass line. Many IEMs fail to give proper instrument separation and also clearly define each layer of this multi-layered track. The Monarch handles this song with absolute ease. It’s quicker transient response and improved imaging over the Clairvoyance really shows its characteristics here. That’s not to say the Clairvoyance fails, because it doesn’t but it just doesn’t quite have the separation capability nor does it have the raw bass impact that the Monarch provides, and this is why I feel like in EDM music, the Monarch’s added clarity and sub-bass focus makes it a more fun and exacting experience.

Wrap-Up + Comparisons

At this point, I just want to reiterate that both of these IEMs, the Clairvoyance and the Monarch, are two of my favorite IEMs that I have listened to, and the fact that they are tri-brid IEMs at a relatively low price makes these two sets a industry disrupter and a market statement from Linsoul and Thieaudio. There’s little to not like here, and recommending these sets is easy for me. They work well with a lot of music, and they have a price well below comparable products, and in fact, you can get both for the same price of it’s competitors. That’s saying something.

Let’s talk about some of those competitors…

Hidition Viento-B

The Viento-B was one of the IEMs that I recall was the inspiration behind these two twins. It has some characteristics of both of the Monarch and Clairvoyance, and probably leans closer to the Monarch in general sound, but I kind of feel like it can compete with either one. The Viento is more coherent and I think a more natural tonality than both of these two IEMs, but the Clairvoyance and Monarch both have much better bass texturing and just overall natural bass sound. While the Viento-B does have a nice bass shelf, the Monarch has a bigger subbass shelf, and the Clairvoyance has more bass presence in general. The Viento-B is less shouty than the Monarch and is probably more in-line with Clairvoyance though.

In this case, even though I have the Viento-B, I think I’d take the Monarch over the Viento-B personally.

64 Audio Nio and U12t

The U12t and Nio are two pairs of similar IEMs from 64 Audio that are also in-line with the Thieaudio twins. The Nio is a bit bigger in it’s bass presence, in the fact that it hits harder with more slam and impact, but not so much as it’s subbass. When looking at that, I think they are comparable to the Monarch. The Nio is probably a good mix of both bass characteristics of the Clairvoyance and Monarch, but more emphasized than both of the Thieaudio products. This is mostly because the treble is more tame on the Nio and U12t than the two Thieaudio IEMs. The Monarch is clearly the set that has the most bright signature.

Unique Melody MEST

I was not able to demo the MEST side-by-side with the Thieaudio Monarch and Clairvoyance, so I don’t have any opinion that can be fully taken. From memory though, I feel like the MEST has better texturing and imaging ability than both the TA products. The MEST is a tad narrower at times, but it has a chameleon-like soundstage that morphs around depending on the song. I think resolution of the MEST is top notch, and may be slightly better than the TA, but the Monarch and Clairvoyance have it beat for tonality and are easy to recommend for overall non-fatiguing listening.

Video Review

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Great review! You have a wonderful way of describing the sound of what you’re reviewing, and comparing to other things, so I havea good baseline for whether I might like them or not. For example, I would probably prefer the Clairvoyance because I’m very sensitive to shouty upper mids or painful treble.

They both seem like giant killers at that price. How would you compare them (in particular the Clairvoyance) to an even cheaper giant killer, the Moondrop Blessing 2? Are they worth the higher price?

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Just posting my review of the ThieAudio Monarch, along with some measurements done on the GRAS RA0402:

Tip Comparison:

Channel Matching:

Impedance Adapter Effects (175 Ohm):

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Great review @Resolve, and thanks for answering my question above regarding the comparison versus the Moondrop Blessing 2. So basically it depends on budget: they’re both great IEMs, but the Monarch is a step up from the Blessing 2 if you can afford the higher cost. From what you and @antdroid have said, it still sounds like the Clairvoyance is the one to get if you predominantly listen to rock music, so I can’t wait for your review of that.

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