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.

14 Likes

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.

1 Like

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

1 Like

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

15 Likes

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?

2 Likes

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):

6 Likes

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.

2 Likes

check out @Fc-Construct shootout with some of these IEMs he did a great job!

6 Likes

Where do you guys purchase your impedance adapters? I see Andrew used one in the Monarch review. I’m looking for a 20 ohm one. Thanks!

Check out Dunu on AEx. I got mine there, not for the Thieaudio’s , but they do heve them.

1 Like

Merry Christmas (Eve) everyone! I’m getting through my review backlog and here’s my Legacy 5 review.

Introduction

The Thieaudio Legacy 5 is a $250 4 BA + 1 DD hybrid from Linsoul that aims to capture the entry mid-fi market segment after the efforts of Thieaudio’s flagship twins. Despite having the Legacy name, it shares a number of design philosophies with the Monarch and Clairvoyance over its younger sibling, the Legacy 3. This begs the question: Does the Legacy 5 follow in the footsteps of its well-regarded predecessors or is it simply riding the coattails of success?

Disclaimer: As usual, the Thieaudio Legacy 5 has been provided to me by Linsoul in exchange for this honest review. I have not been or will be compensated in any other way.

What’s in the Box?

When I said that the Legacy 5 shares a lot of design similarities to the Monarch and Clairvoyance, I wasn’t kidding. The packaging and accessories are 100% identical. Included is a hard carrying case, the Thieaudio 2-pin 2.5mm EST cable, a 3.5mm and 4.4mm adapter, a set of S, M, L foam tips, and the cherry on top is a pair of M size SpinFits.

For those unaware, that EST cable can be bought on Linsoul for $70 and boasts all the standard cable jargon that you can read at your own leisure. It has a straight 2.5mm jack and the adapters are also straight jack, meaning if you don’t own a 2.5mm input, you end up with a stupidly long plug that’s rather ugly and annoying to use. The cable itself is rather stiff, prone to tangles, a bit heavy, has cable noise, and cable memory. And for some reason, it also hurts the back of my ears with its weight and hard braid. Suffice it to say, I do not like this cable and immediately switched it out. But hey, at least its a free 2.5mm cable.

Fit and comfort on the L5 is excellent. The shell size is quite a lot smaller than the Monarch/Clairvoyance and just a little larger than the Legacy 3. Like the tribrids, the shell is made of the same plastic-type material but it has a much subtler faceplate design with dark galaxy-like swirls on it. It’s very understated and honestly a little wasted since you (and everyone else) are likely to never really notice it. Isolation is rather decent though it does share the same vent on the top of the shell like the Monarch/Clairvoyance that prevents it from feeling fully plugged.

Sound

The Legacy 5 has a relaxed sound signature that’s immediately pleasant. Its warm, smoothed out, non-fatiguing, and I can listen to it for hours on end. This tuning would be perfect for those who want something easy to listen to while working or commuting. The technical performance of the Legacy 5 complements its frequency response quite well. Though it doesn’t punch much above its weight, it feels comfortable for the sound quality and price point that the Legacy 5 aims for.

Bass:

I’d consider the bass quantity on the Legacy 5 to be moderate. It has more of a midbass focus and seeps into the lower mids for a warm, glue-y sort of sound. It has some good nuance and separation to distinguish when kick and bass guitar notes overlap. However the Legacy 5’s bass quality is my biggest (and only) complaint for this IEM. It sounds soft, blunt, and thumpy. It lacks deep rumble or authoritative slam. This can make it a little muddy and low-res at times. For the otherwise wholly competent Legacy 5, its bass is clearly its weakest link.

The bass DD driver of the Legacy 5 is actually the exact same DD found in the Monarch and Clairvoyance. But when compared next to Clairvoyance and especially the Monarch, it is very apparent that this one of the sacrifices you’ll be making. Don’t get me wrong; for its price it’s not bad and I wouldn’t discount the Legacy 5 because of its bass. While I’d like to see a tighter DD on the Legacy for more critical listening, in some ways, the bass performance of the Legacy 5 in-line with the relaxed nature of the IEM.

Mids:

The mids of the Legacy 5 are the star of the show for me. I really like the way they’re presented. They have just enough forward presence to keep vocals interesting but aren’t aggressively forward and command attention. The tonal balance is really quite pleasing for pretty much all instruments. It has a warmer that doesn’t sacrifice clarity. The pinna gain is moderate and prevents the Legacy 5 from sounding harsh. That said, the warmer tuning forgoes some of that aggressive bite in electric guitars. All in all, there’s nothing much to complain about here. The icing on the cake is a rather coherent crossover from the low end DD to the mids. Maybe it’s partially covered up by the less-than-stellar bass but I don’t hear a distinct transition to the BAs.

Treble:

Like other warmer IEMs, the Legacy 5 does have a dip in the lower treble that avoids the energetic attack of the hats/cymbals. However, it does climb back up after that to maintain some upper harmonics and provide some much needed brilliance to balance out the overall sound. However, that is not to say it’s perfect. There’s a bit of peakiness that makes certain sounds pop out at you but as a whole, the treble of the Legacy 5 is unfatiguing for me. The Legacy 5 also does start to roll off fairly quickly once it approaches the upper treble. While it’s not dark, the lack of air does contribute to that warm sound.

Presentation:

The Legacy 5 is not a resolution monster and it doesn’t have the best instrument separation ability. Instruments do eventually seem to play on top of each other in busy tracks due to the lack of layering. There’s enough clarity to that it isn’t really a problem but if you’re a detail chaser this isn’t it.

Where the Legacy 5 does well is its soundstage. I don’t feel as enclosed with this compared to a lot of other budget IEMs. Obviously, as IEMs, its soundstage isn’t anything mindblowing. It isn’t crazy wide and there isn’t a lot of depth. But in combination with its tuning, the laid back nature of the sound gives enough stage to prevent it from sounding intimate. Imaging is a standard affair with that 3-blob left, center, right sound. I like the overall staging of the Legacy 5 and think that it adds just that extra layer of enjoyment compared to similarly tuned IEMs.

Should You Buy It?

Yes. At $250, the Thieaudio Legacy 5 is one of the few examples of a perfectly priced IEM. It definitely provides a much more enjoyable experience to justify the price bump over the Legacy 3 while not being so expensive that it’s a direct competitor to the Moondrop Blessing 2. Furthermore, its tuning fills a niche at that price range that not many IEMs adress. It’s a very well tuned set perfect for long listening with competent enough technicalities that doesn’t detract from its overall enjoyment.

As a testament to how much I enjoyed the comfort and tuning of the Legacy 5, it was the IEM I picked for a 4 hour flight. And its likely one of the few IEMs I’ll listen to again after this review in a more everyday setting. For those looking for a work IEM that they can listen to all day while slaving away behind a desk, the Legacy 5 should be one of your top choices.

9 Likes

I thought Thieaudio was going to slow down on the releases of their in-ear monitors but then they come out with the Legacy 4. This four-driver IEM comes packed with a single dynamic driver and 3 balanced armature drivers and retails at $195, placing it in-between the Legacy 3 and Legacy 5, both of which I’ve reviewed this year.

The product was sent to me by Linsoul, who are the makes of the Thieaudio brand and are found at http://www.linsoul.com.

Packaging

The Legacy 4 comes with a new dynamic driver that has not been used on previous Legacy series IEMs. This new DD is perhaps a welcome change as one of my biggest negatives with the previous Legacy 3, Legacy 5, and Monarch/Clairvoyance, were mainly triggered by the lack of resolution and softness of the bass range.

In addition to this change, the packaging is all-new, again! It seems like every unit I’ve gotten has come with a new unboxing experience and this one has been my favorite yet. The L4 ships in a large nylon zipper case, which when opened, houses the IEMs, matching smaller case, and tips in their own small compartments within the larger case.

The cable included is also my favorite of the ones Thieaudio has included in any of their sets to date. This one is white colored, and is braided with a soft sheathing material that has a lightweight, but durable feel to it. It’s extremely easy to wind and unwind without tangling, and is very maneuverable. I also just like the overall simple modern look of it.

The shell design is small and petite, much like the Legacy 3 in size and shape. The faceplate art is available in only one swirl pattern that features a mix of blues, yellows, and orange within in a semi-translucent black shell. There’s a single vent on the shell, and it also features a pair of tuning switches which add or subtract mid-range to the IEM in what seems like just 2 configurations total in my measurements.

Sound Impressions

The Legacy 4 has a well-balanced signature that does stray a tad bright in the lower treble regions that I think some may find fatiguing over time, but this also provides a clean clarity to the overall sound. It surprisingly has good extension for this price class and I find it sounds like a better tuned and more technical Moondrop Kanas Pro or KXXS, and is priced just a few dollars more than those well-received IEMs.

The new dynamic driver which handles the low end seems like a large improvement over the previous dynamic driver found on all the previous Thieaudio IEMs. This new one has better microdynamics allowing for better punch and resolution, and does not fall behind the quality of the BA drivers as much in that department. It still isn’t the best dynamic driver I’ve heard in an hybrid IEM (MEST!) but its quite enjoyable for this under $200 price point.

It’s no longer blunted and smoothed out, and I don’t jokingly call it the Blon DD anymore. It’s also a marked improvement over the Moondrop KXXS and Kanas Pro low end sound. Those two are a single DD which handles the entire frequency response.

The mid-range of the Legacy 4 can be altered depending on the dip switch choice. While there are technically four different combinations of switches, in my testing and measurements, only two configurations make a difference. If you leave the RIGHT side on or off – in other words, OFF-OFF and ON-OFF are the same, and ON-ON and OFF-ON are the same. This is similar to the Legacy 3, where they could have just kept one switch and saved time and effort.

The midrange does change from a flatter and thicker sound to a more recessed sound that changes the overall sound from a mild U-shape to a mild V-shape signature overall. I found that I enjoyed the Right ON (flatter mid-range) more for most things, though with rock music and some more pop genres, the RIGHT OFF signature worked well as well. I would also prefer this for movie watching.

The treble range on this unit can get a little hot. It is just a tad brighter than my preferred sound signature, but only slightly. For those who are familiar with the Moondrop Blessing 2, it is pretty similar in that type of level of treble. That said, I do find this one behave a little more so than the Blessing 2 in terms of overall brightness, and it does not sound quite as lean, mostly due to the fact that it has a bigger bass shelf.

That said, when I listen to music with a lot of stringed twangs, those instruments (primarily guitars) can come across quite forward and tizzying (is that a word?). Some piano notes came across this way as well, with strikes coming in a tad sharp at times. I wouldn’t say I found these fatiguing, but I am one is quite accustomed to listening to slightly brighter than neutral gear, and the peaks in the 5KHz region is common amongst some of the gear I own and listen to regularly. For those who are sensitive to this area, it may be something to be wary about.

Treble extension is quite decent for this price range, and specifically I am going back to talking about its contemporaries here – the Moondrop dual, and even the Etymotic series, which are similar in tuning and capability. Both the Moondrop and Etymotic series sound just a bit flat and missing full treble extension. The Moondrop twins are more guilty of this however. With the Legacy 4, it does extend treble, but maybe not with the same amount of air and shimmer as some other gear I’ve heard at higher price points. That said, I am perfectly pleased with this amount for price range and I am quite content with the overall sound in general.

I’ve spent some time talking about it with regards to its competition, but how does it stack up within its own family?

I gave the Legacy 3 are mostly supportive and recommendation earlier this year and even bought the universal and custom versions. It’s a great deal for the price, however my biggest complaints with it were its lack of technical capabilities. This had a lot to do with dynamic driver sounding very mushy, but it also had a very forward and 2D sound to it. This means, I never really felt the depth was there, and it lacked good imaging and instrument separation.

The Legacy 4’s improved driver configuration seems to help out a lot here. While the sound signature is similar, the L4 does not have as much issues with mushy bass resolution, and it has a major upgrade to the soundstage and imaging. The resolution is overall much improved on this set and I would highly recommend someone who is thinking what to get between the two, that its well worth the extra $70 to upgrade to the Legacy 4. The L3 is a little more laid-back and pleasant sounding though, and should be less fatiguing due to its tamer treble response and it does not have that sharper 5KHz sound to it, but it does lack a little bit of the airy treble that I like about the L4.

When we talk about the next one up the price list, it gets a little more interesting. The Legacy 5 is priced at $50 more than the Legacy 4 and adds an extra BA driver to the count. It still uses the older DD though and that is obvious as my major complaint with the Legacy 5 was, again, the mushy, blunted and lower quality bass region. The L5 is also a more warm and lush sounding IEM, with a significantly tamer and thicker sounding mid-range and treble. It’s full-bodied in everyway, while the Legacy 4 sounds quite lean compared to it, and has an airier overall sound.

The L5 isn’t as bad in the major technical departements as the L3, but I’d say the L4 is on-par and if not surpasses the L5 in every category – soundstage, imaging, resolution, texturing and layering. I may give the L5 a nod for coherency, because I do feel the sharper BA sound in the L4 makes it sound a little disjointed from the low end DD.

Finally, many have asked how this stacks up to the Monarch and Clairvoyance – the twins that I believe define the capabilities of Thieaudio. Both of these have well-thought-out tuning and have solid technical capabilities. I think these two still stand top of the Thieaudio brand that I have tried. I have not tried the Voyager 14 and Legacy 9 yet, so keep that in mind.

While the Monarch and Clairvoyance use that old dynamic driver that I did not like, there are a set of BA drivers that are also used down-low to help keep resolution at a good level on these two. Both the Monarch and Clairvoyance have improved resolution and don’t have as a fatiguing sound, though the Monarch is a bit shouty in the 1K range, which may affect some.

The Legacy 4 has just a slightly fuller sound in the low-end, but it does have a brighter treble region, and some may not like that. Again, there’s an emphasis in 5KHz range, so it’ll provide a lot of presence to guitars and strings for the music I listen to.

Wrap-Up

The Legacy 4 is yet another solid addition to the Thieaudio lineup that is continuing to grow and most of the ones I’ve tried are well-tuned and fit solidly within their price points, except perhaps the Voyager 3. I have got to say that I am impressed with this whole thing, and they continue to up their game in both sound capability, and also the entire package, which is full of accessories and a unique and meaningful unboxing and package of tools to use.

This one definitely competes in its price point and will get a recommendation from me. It’s enjoyable all-around, but it does have a little brighter than neutral treble, so just be mindful of that when considering products with it.

9 Likes

How are the nozzles, are they long or more stubby?

Not long but not stubby either. I think they are the perfect size for my ears.

But probably more long than stubby. :slight_smile:

2 Likes

I just noticed on Linsoul that they’re now offering a CIEM version of the Legacy 4.

1 Like

If I were to get my first IEM, this would be it.

Here’s my long overdue review of the Thieaudio Monarch and Clairvoyance! Have a happy new year!

Introduction

2020 has been a long year. Ignoring the craziness of the real world, the IEM world has had a number of big releases such as the MoonDrop Starfield, the refresh of Campfire Audio’s flagship Andromeda and Solaris, the entrance of the heavyweight Empire Ears Odin, and to end the year, crinacle’s MoonDrop Dusk re-tune of the hugely popular Blessing 2.

With so many exciting IEMs released in the past year, I figured what better way to end the year other than discussing what’s possibly the most lauded ChiFi release of the year: the Thieaudio Monarch and Clairvoyance. Today, I’ll be taking a look at these critically acclaimed IEMs and add yet another perspective for those wondering what the hype around these two IEMs are.

Disclaimer: I was lent the Thieaudio Monarch and Clairvoyance as part of Linsoul’s review tour program. Below are my honest thoughts on these IEMs. I am not compensated by Linsoul in any other way.

What’s in the Box?

For those unaware, the Thieaudio Monarch and Clairvoyance are also referred to as the “tribrids” as they contain a dynamic driver, balanced armatures, and electrostatic drivers. Specifically, the Monarch has a 1 DD + 6 BA + 2 EST configuration while the Clairvoyance removes a single BA from that setup. At $700 for the Clairvoyance and $730 for the Monarch, you could say that extra BA costs $30. The DD used in these IEMs is the same one found in the Legacy 5. The BAs and EST forgo the typical Bellsing drivers found in ChiFi in favor of Knowles and Sonion. Do note that despite being called electrostatic (EST) drivers, they are not true electrostatic drivers as you’d expect from headphone nomenclature. That is to say, they aren’t true estats like the infamous Stax headphones or the Shure KSE 1200/1500 lineup. They do not require a dedicated amp with a transformer for power. Speaking of power, they aren’t too hungry and can be driven rather easily from my Apple dongle. The Monarch actually requires less power than the Clairvoyance does despite having one more BA driver.

Looks wise, the Monarch and Clairvoyance are pretty much identical except for some shiny orange speckles on the Monarch’s faceplate. The pearl-like finish and iridescent sheen is rather eye-catching; the promo pics on Linsoul’s website seriously does NOT do a good job showcasing how good it looks. The packaging of the twins are identical with the exception of the labeling sticker on the box. It comes in the standard Thieaudio green cardboard box with a set of S, M, L foam tips, M sized SpinFits, a hard carrying case, and the Thieaudio EST 2.5 mm cable and its corresponding set of 3.5 mm and 4.4 mm adapters. In fact, the packaging is identical to the Legacy 5 and you can read my not-so-positive rant on the EST cable there.

Fit and comfort on both IEMs were about standard for me, though they aren’t the most comfortable in the sense that they disappear into my ear. It has a nozzle size of 5 mm which I’d say is a bit above average. While my unit does not have a nozzle lip, Thieaudio has since added it for the newer ones in production. The shell of the tribrids are definitely on the large size and for some reason, I find the Monarch to be slightly more comfortable than the Clairvoyance despite them having practically the same shell. Maybe it’s just my ears.

Sound

To be completely honest, I was not immediately blown away by these IEMs. They’re both tuned extremely well but I wasn’t overly impressed with their technical performance at first listen. Resolution wasn’t immediately leaps and bounds better than what I was used to. Soundstage was within the realm of what you’d expect IEMs to be (i.e. eeehh). Admittedly, I had very high expectations of these IEMs from the hype that surrounded their release. To be honest, it was the sound of diminishing returns.

Despite saying all of that, over the next few hours and days of listening, the Monarch and Clairvoyance convinced me that they’re worthy of their price tag. The Monarch’s tuning is a lot leaner than the Clairvoyance thanks to a very controlled subbass boost and treble forwardness. In my view, the Monarch is an IEM that demands attention. It’s not an IEM that you can forget about in the background. On the other hand, the Clairvoyance takes a more conservative approach. It has a lightly warm midrange and a relaxed but still present treble. The Clairvoyance has an easier-to-listen to presentation that fits perfectly into a work from home environment. Between the two, I greatly prefer the Monarch.

Bass:

The Monarch has a heavy subbass focus that hits deep. It both slams and rumbles with a great sense of impact and unique texture. When the right notes hit, it can be very satisfying to listen to. They accomplish this through dedicating the DD and 4 BAs solely to the bass. However, this does come at a cost: I find that the bass performance isn’t wholly consistent. Certain notes, especially on the kick drum, have an awesomely deep rumble and weight to them. Other notes that don’t fully leverage the Monarch’s bass setup are less impressive and more akin to the Clairvoyance. Furthermore, in my initial listening, I could actually hear the blending of the BA and the DD though I haven’t been able to notice it again after the first couple of days.

The Clairvoyance’s bass is a fairly standard DD affair. It doesn’t have that sense of awe like the Monarch does but still provides a respectable performance. While it does rumble when needed, it has much more of a warm, full-bodied midbass focus compared to the Monarch. Where the Monarch flattens out at about the 125 Hz mark, the Clairvoyance is sustained until around 200 Hz, right before the lower mids. This makes the Clairvoyance the bassier of the two to my ears. The Monarch feels like “neutral with a subbass boost” while the Clairvoyance is overall “balanced”. There’s a good sense of nuance and resolution in the bass, a far cry from its blunt and low-res sounding siblings. Despite sharing the same DD, the difference in bass quality from the Legacy 5 is mindblowing. The choice of BAs working in tandem with the DD makes a serious difference. Transients are very good on the Monarch and decent on the Clairvoyance. For those who want a low end that “fills the room”, you’d want the Clairvoyance over the Monarch. The sterility of the Monarch may sound just a little thin for some people. Personally, I really enjoy the Monarch’s bass presentation for its uniqueness and often deeply satisfying subbass.

Mids:

The mids of the tribrids are excellent with what I’d consider about an ideal pinna peak placement right around 2.5-3 kHz. While they both have forward leaning vocals, there is a significant difference in tonality. Compared to the Monarch, the lower mids of the Clairvoyance are ever so slightly elevated. Combined with the increased bass presence in the midbass, the Clairvoyance clearly has a lusher tone over the Monarch.

Vocals have a good sense of space on both IEMs, being placed cleanly forward and taking center stage. Both male and female vocals perform just as well on both. Neither are harsh nor sibilant. Vocals on the Monarch have a slightly aggressive front to them while the Clairvoyance are a touch relaxed. This is likely due to the minor mid elevation in the 1-2.5 kHz range. Likewise, electric guitars have a gritter and more engaging sound on the Monarch. Acoustic instruments have a homely tone on the Clairvoyance while they sound sharper and more defined on the Monarch. Overall, I wouldn’t say the mids of the tribrids are especially unique or have some romantic quality to them. They’re just really good with an instantly agreeable tonal balance, though with a different flavor on each. I prefer the midrange of the Clairvoyance.

Treble:

The treble of the Clairvoyance is present but restrained. It has good extension and provides plenty of clarity without being fatiguing or distracting. Hats and cymbals are tamed but have a very natural voicing to them. I don’t notice any outstanding peaks or oddities in the treble. Where most other IEMs fail the treble test for me, the Clairvoyance passes it comfortably without overly dampening the sound and killing transient energy.

On the flip side, the Monarch’s treble straddles the line of almost being fatiguing without ever crossing it. It’s rather omnipresent and in-your-face for me, like I’m constantly being reminded that I’m listening to the Monarch. Like the Clairvoyance, the Monarch’s treble has a natural tone, but is distinctly more crisp with more brilliance in the shimmer of hats and cymbals. There’s a great sense of clarity in each note that rings out. In addition, the upper harmonics of brass instruments have just that extra layer of energy to it, making it a treat whenever they appear. The treble of the Monarch falls neatly in line with my preference for treble, though a bit of a longer decay would be nice. Needless to say, I greatly enjoy it.

Presentation:

The soundstage of both IEMs aren’t anything amazing. They still have that centered, in-your-head feeling. For the most part, the horizontal soundstage is constrained to between the ears but occasionally they do surprise me with notes that stretch those limits. There is limited height to the soundstage though at times there is good depth, especially on the Monarch. Imaging is quite decent. There’s plenty of nuance across the horizontal stage though depth is limited to two planes. These are not IEMs you buy for a vast sense of stage. Notes do seem to fight for the spotlight and layering is limited. The Monarch does a much, much better job here than the Clairvoyance, likely due to the leaner midbass tuning. While far from bad, it’s clear that the staging is a relative area of weakness compared to the prowess of the other parts of these IEMs.

While I initially wasn’t super impressed with the resolution, I gotta say, after listening to these IEMs for a while and then going back to my more budget range gear, the step up in resolution is definitely noticeable. Rather than a big step forward like I experienced in the Fearless Dawn, it’s a lot of tiny little improvements that I notice every now and then that comes seamlessly together. Like the layering, the Monarch has better resolution. While part of it has to do with its more sterile tuning and forward treble, I suspect that its improved transient response really adds a subtle bit of extra clarity. Switching to the Thieaudio Legacy 5, it’s like a whole other layer is missing. This is the threshold level of resolution that I expect top tier IEMs to have.

Should You Buy It?

Yes. While I think both IEMs are excellent, having heard both side-by-side, I’d buy the Monarch hands down every time. Personally, when I think about reaching HiFi or endgame, it’s more about just tuning or technical performance. I want something unique, something that fills a gap that others leave behind. For me, that is the Monarch. I love its forward treble response and its bass hits like few others do. It’s not a perfect IEM but for the price and what it strives for, I think the Monarch is an extremely compelling one-of-a-kind option with nothing yet on the market to challenge it. On the other hand, the Clairvoyance’s safer, less aggressive tuning is a double edged sword. It’s a great IEM but it doesn’t reach for more than that. While the $700 price tag places it firmly below some of its competitors in the Viento and Sony IER-M9, the used market does open a lot of doors to IEMs near the kilobuck range.

If you’ve made it this far into the review (or just skipped to the end) and want a simple way of thinking about these two IEMs, here’s my perspective on them. Get the Monarch if you really focus and listen to music when you do. If you’re someone who really wants to immerse yourself in the sound while commuting or lounging. Get the Clairvoyance if you want a very solid and safe set to listen to. If you’re someone who listens to music while working on something else and just want some good sound to keep you company. The Monarch is better for more energetic genres like EDM or pop. The Clairvoyance does better with more acoustic music.

Hopefully this review helps clarify things for those still on the fence for the Thieaudio Monarch or Clairvoyance. As I say goodbye to these IEMs and start a new year, I hope 2021 continues to bring IEMs that redefine the limits of sound quality and price performance.

13 Likes

Really enjoyable read @Fc-Construct. An excellent comparison review. Happy New Year.

1 Like