Thieaudio Monarch MKII

A lot of folks have been interested in the Thieaudio Monarch MKII as of late, and I’ve finally had the chance to give them a listen, so I’ll start this thread off and give my impressions here.

Fit & Aesthetics
Realllly nice for comfort. The original Monarch was huge, with these two end pieces protruding forwards that would sometimes make the fit a bit tricky, and the Monarch MKII is slightly smaller, not having those edges. So for me, that’s a big plus. I find the faceplate with the molten lava burnt crisp styling to be eye-catching but also not my kind of thing, I generally prefer the more subdued look, and these aren’t that. But of course it still looks nice, especially in connection with the braided cable, which is a solid upgrade in terms of look, feel and ergonomics over the original Monarch. Also, look at the snazzy termination and y splitter!

Sound Quality
Here are the measurements of the Monarch MKII done on the GRAS RA0402 coupler. I don’t want to show it relative to our original Monarch because I don’t know if our demo is representative, as they may have changed things with that version slightly after we got it (and they made it so the tips didn’t fall off the nozzle… hurray).

Also keep in mind that this coupler doesn’t have the resonance at around 8khz, and has some damping there instead.

Notes on the tuning:

It’s very good. I mean, the original was good but I like this better. The whole thing sounds a bit more balanced than the original Monarch and then it still has a solid bass boost. This leans slightly analytic with maybe a bit more energy in the upper mids than I’d like for certain genres, and so it’s slightly unforgiving there, but this also lends itself to exceptional instrument clarity and presence for certain tones like female vocals and pianos. Great for my jazz tracks. As much as it’s one of the closest tunings to what I look for in an IEM, it’s also not without a few things to highlight.

The first is that there’s definitely a slight 5khz emphasis, and this is something I remarked to @taronlissimore upon first listen. Now, this isn’t much of an issue because the overall gain for the upper mids is quite strong in general, so it doesn’t sound all that harmonically imbalanced, rather more of just a forwardness to that region, causing percussive hits to take on a somewhat unique timbral characteristic. The second quirk is that for whatever reason I hear a 10-11khz bump as well, giving it a bit of extra shimmer up top, which may or may not be to everyone’s preference.

The Monarch MKII is going to be a strong recommendation around its price this year, especially for anyone wanting something along the lines of ‘analytic with a bass boost’, and it fits quite well with the type of music I generally listen to, but for those listening primarily to more aggressive genres (like say… heavy metal), I’d recommend something a bit more forgiving in the upper mids like the Dunu SA6.

I think the next question is… how does it stack up against the Symphonium Helios. I’ll let @Precogvision take on that question, but for the moment here are the graphs comparing the two - at least with the tips that I had on each of them at the time.

Subjective aspects:

  • Detail - It sounds slightly more detailed than the original Monarch to me, but how much this is due to the improved tuning and how much of it is potentially due to other aspects is difficult to tell, but in general… yeah this is really solid.
  • Stage - Great separation and control during busy passages, even if not quite as enveloping as the Helios.
  • Dynamics - Also excellent, bass slams when called upon, very satisfying.
  • Timbre - apart from that slight 5khz forward character, I have no major issues here.
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Excellent review as ever, Andrew. Will look forward to reading @Precogvision’s comparisons- others of interest to compare would be Kinera Nanna and Shozy/AAW Pola39, which are similarly put together. A few others have compared it favourably to U12T because of bass quality and a bit less treble sharpness than U12T, but reading this I would guess on the latter you might still prefer U12T or even SA-6? For some fit also seems to be an issue, it seemed not too much for you which should reassure readers concerned about this (I am not, being rather myself built more like Dumbo, I too am hoping said appendages will come in handy for something at last!).

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So for me I’d definitely still take the U12t over the MonarchII, but I’d also take the MonarchII over the SA6 - it’s just more technically impressive. I think it would be more interesting if there was an equivalent to the U12t just tuned like the MonarchII, then it would be a more fair comparison. But with that said, the MonarchII is definitely one of the higher value IEMs out there.

Doing a live stream impressions and Q&A here for anyone interested:

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I own the original Monarch and love it.
I’m very interested in a A-B between Monarch MKII and Mest MKII.
Thanks in advance .

Excellent review and discussion on line. (How) would you advise to EQ the peak at 5k if it proves bothersome?

It’s not significant enough that I’d bother personally.

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There was prior advice for Monarch OG to use a low ohm impedance adapter, is the new FR in Mk2 such that this would no longer be needed or advised?

Yeah I wouldn’t feel the need to do that. I didn’t really prefer it with the OG either.

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Should I get this or the Empire Ears Legend Evo for rock & metal as my endgame?

Neither - get the 64 Audio U12t instead; it has a more agreeable upper midrange tuning for rock and metal IMO (a little less ear gain compared to the EVO and seemingly the Monarch II).

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Yea someone else also said I shouldn’t get the Evo.

What about the JH Audio Roxanne Aion ?

Can’t say, as I have no experience with those.

I think the U12Ts would be too sterile / boring for me.

But the Roxanne could be it.

Only one way to find out: go audition them. Happy hunting!

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At least I can get a sample of the Roxanne here. Not of the Monarch tho

My advice would be to just get the U12t, it’s not sterile or boring at all. It’s considered the GOAT iem by myself and many others for good reason. So, if that’s in consideration as one of the options you’re looking at, it’s a fairly straightforward answer from me haha.

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I’ve used the U12t for a long time for rock & metal and didn’t find it boring at all. Drums sound quite realistic for an IEM, surprisingly. You won’t be disappointed.

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Two great ringing endorsements there from 2 people in the know. @Titienne is a very experienced iem use. The U12t’s get a whole lot of love from the community for a good reason. I would definately try then. Best of luck.

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I had been holding out for the U12t but when Crinacle’s ringing endosement of the Mk2 came out, I decided I should pick those up. So far the community seems to like the U12t quite a bit more, so that’ll be rattling around in my head.

To give an idea of the sound profile I like. I have KSE1200’s and between the harman autoeq and oratory, I pick oratory’s. It’s much to my preference so far.

It’s important to note that there is a $1,000 difference between the Monarch MKII and the U12t.

I think it really comes down to this. If you have the disposable income, go for the U12t as it’s generally regarded as one of the best all-rounder universal IEMs that you can buy. But for those that are looking at more of a value play, companies like Thieaudio, Moondrop and Dunu offer great IEMs with great tunings but make some sacrifices in the detail and resolution department.

In general though, it’s a great time to be an IEM user as there are a ton of affordable options with great performance.

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