Thieaudio Monarch MKII

I think at the end it will boil down between Roxanne and U12T

But currently it’s hard for me to choose between the two.

I guess I will have to audition both of them.

Thank you all.

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I was thinking about getting the MKIIs or U12ts, but I’m worried about the fit for the MKIIs. I find andromedas comfortable, but when I tried out the blessing 2s, the nozzle was a bit big, and the IEM wasn’t creating as good of a seal for my ears due to the size. How does the monarch fit in this regard? Thanks!

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By saying an IEM equivalent of the U12T tuned like the Monarch Mk2 would be more interesting to compare, does that mean the Monarch Mk2 may have more enjoyable tuning than the U12T, but is technically inferior?

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Hey everyone, @Resolve entrusted me with the task of comparing the Monarch MKII to the Helios, so I thought I’d pop in with some thoughts here. I’ve also shared my general impressions of the Monarch MKII here.

The bass on the Helios, at least in terms of its frequency response profile, is more reminiscent of the OG Monarch which had gobbles of sub-bass and a distinct separation come the lower-midrange. Between the two, I think I prefer the Monarch MKII for its warmer bass curve, even though the Helios is definitely cleaner when it comes to rapid bass lines. For slam, I honestly don’t think the Monarch MKII is a very strong performer. The Helios matches it blow-for-blow in that department despite being BA, even if the bass of the Helios ultimately falls short in timbre.

Midrange wise, I think most listeners would be hard-pressed to choose between the IEMs again. The Helios is cleaner in the lower-midrange where it exhibits a dip at around 200Hz; however, the Monarch MKII perceptively has more clarity at times due to a very forward upper-midrange presentation. I also think that the Monarch MKII’s timbre is generally better in the midrange, sounding more life-like and less compressed than the Helios. However, for extended listening, the Helios’ midrange tuning comes out the winner for me. I find myself having to take breaks from the Monarch MKII when female singers are belting.

There’s a similar pattern at play in the treble. The Monarch MKII has a strong 5kHz plateau that screams “wow, detail!” on first listen, but that becomes fatiguing when I listen more closely. This isn’t helped by 1) a slight recession off of the peak, and 2) the aforementioned upper-midrange. I swear there’s also a slight metallic tinge to the treble at times; it’s not a major coherency issue, but it does sound slightly off. By comparison, the Helios is simply tuned better in the treble and has better extension to boot.

For detail, I think the two generally trade blows. The Monarch MKII’s tuning inherently gives it an edge in the upper-midrange and lower-treble whereas the Helios pulls ahead in the bass and upper-treble. It’s really hard to say which is more detailed, although I will say the Monarch MKII has more texturing whereas the Helios generally doesn’t have much - that’ll mostly be personal preference. The Monarch MKII also actually has really solid imaging, better than I was expecting given the OG Monarch’s imaging performance. Like Resolve said, I do think the Helios edges it out for a holographic presentation, but it’s pretty close. In terms of dynamic contrast, the Helios definitely wins for me. The Monarch MKII still sounds sort of sputtery and dampened when it comes to quite-to-loud gradations in music; better than its predecessor, but still not good.

Overall, I think the Monarch MKII is going to be for listeners who are after a very high-clarity, in-your-face presentation. It has excellent macro-detail for a grand, and it picks up handily where its predecessor left off (quite poorly) in more latent intangibles. It honestly reminds quite a lot of something like the Odin even if they graph differently and the Odin is more technical. On the other hand, the Helios is more palpable for extended listening (assuming you can fit the shells comfortably!) and arguably slightly more technical for the qualities I index for in something like the 64A U12t.

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Can anyone speak to the fit? I had he legacy 4 and found them to be fairly specific in a way I haven’t had with other IEMs. There are some IEMs that just seem to fit everyone (I think my ie900s are a good example). Will these fit all (more or less) ears?

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ThieAudio Monarch MKII Review - Second Time’s the Charm

Introduction

The ThieAudio Monarch was one of last year’s most hyped IEMs that I didn’t actually like very much. Even though I gave it a recommendation, I did not think it warranted some of the praise it received and basically saw it as nothing more than another competitive entry for its price point. But that’s the past. Presently, ThieAudio is back for round two with the Monarch MKII. Now, I’ve noted this before, but how does a brand improve on an already good IEM? It turns out that more often than not…they don’t . Most “Pro”,“MKII”, and “X” models of IEMs I’ve heard just don’t seem to get much further - or even stack up with - their predecessors. Stack on a nearly $300 price increase for the Monarch MKII, and you might see why the spicy term “cash grab” (yes, I really said it) comes to mind and why my expectations are higher than ever. Read on to find out whether I think the Monarch MKII delivers.

This unit was provided for review by Linsoul. As always what follows are my honest thoughts and opinions to the best of my ability.

Source & Drivability

All critical listening was done off of my iBasso DX300 and iPhone 13 Mini using lossless files. The stock cable and stock silicone tips were used. The Monarch MKII takes a reasonable power to drive that is comparable to most single-DD IEMs, but nothing that any of my devices had trouble providing. Hissing was a non-issue.

The Tangibles

If there’s anything I appreciate, it’s ThieAudio’s continued dedication to improving the quality of their packaging and accessories. The Monarch MKII has eschewed the icky Slytherin green packaging of its predecessor for a much sleeker package that reminds me of the 64 Audio IEMs. Inside, the following accessories are included:

  • Microfiber cleaning cloth
  • 2-pin 0.78mm cable terminated in 3.5mm
  • 2.5mm and 4.4mm adapters
  • carrying case
  • silicone and foam ear tips

The new cable that comes with the Monarch MKII is a substantial improvement over the original in terms of quality. It’s braided with paracord and sports the high-quality hardware that more expensive cables often use. It’s noticeably heavier than the old cable, though, so usability is not as good despite the better perceived quality. The pins also protrude out from the shell more (the Monarch MKII still uses non-recessed connectors), meaning they’re more susceptible to being bent accidentally. On the bright side, this cable comes terminated with 3.5mm by default unlike the old one which came in 2.5mm, so most listeners won’t be needing to stack adapters.

The case that comes with the Monarch MKII appears to be a middle-sized version of the two cases that were included with the Legacy 4. It’s made out of synthetic fabric with a mesh pocket on the inside so that you can store some accessories. You won’t have any trouble getting your IEMs in there or storing this case in a backpack; however, it might be difficult to pocket given the larger size.

On the topic of size, the Monarch MKII is reminiscent of its predecessor which was a fairly large IEM in its own right. The depth of the shell on the Monarch MKII is slightly thinner, but not enough that I’d recommend bind-buying the Monarch MKII if you had fit issues with the original. Fit and comfort were about to be expected with my small-medium ears: I can fit them, but they stick out a tad and can get uncomfortable after a few hours. Your mileage might vary and all that per usual. Aesthetically, instead of the “split” faceplate of the OG Monarch, the Monarch MKII’s faceplate sports a consistent “lava-rock” foil. I found build quality to be good with no weak points outside of the connectors, and the Monarch MKII now has a lip at the nozzle to keep ear tips on.

Sound Analysis

The frequency response below was taken off of an IEC-711 coupler. There is a resonance peak at 8kHz, as such measurements after this point should not be considered entirely accurate. You can follow this link to compare the Monarch MKII to other IEMs that I have graphed.

Of course I had to give the OG Monarch a listen again for direct A/B purposes, and I was handily reminded of why I dislike the bass on it. It’s smeared, plasticky, and sounds like it has little texture despite the strong sub-bass shelf. By contrast, I can confirm the Monarch MKII is a solid improvement in the texturing department wherein bass notes hit with more “grip” to them and have a more natural tactility. But I can’t say I’m impressed outside of this. The slam of the Monarch MK2’s bass is rather mediocre and I hear more air being pushed in direct A/B with the 64A U12t’s BA bass on the opening drop of IVE’s “Take It” (banger of a track by the way). That’s also ignoring the still-obvious blunting issues to attack wherein successive bass hits start blurring together. To be perfectly blunt : I expect better for dynamic driver bass and there’s a good argument for this being the Achilles Heel of the Monarch MKII.

You’ll probably think me capricious given the way this review is going, but the midrange of the Monarch MKII is beyond a doubt the IEM’s calling card. The detail here is excellent . And not in the “this IEM has a lot of upper-midrange presence, but notes still sound plasticky and fake as hell” sense that the OG Monarch gave me. The Monarch MKII legitimately has some of the best midrange detail I’ve heard bar none: Sharp leading edges to notes and a slight texturing to decay that brings out trailing ends of vocals without coming across - by means of an analogy I enjoyed - like a photo that’s been artificially sharpened. So what’s the catch? Well, the Monarch MKII’s upper-midrange is still really forward even if it’s by no means sibilant. When some female vocalists belt, such as Taeyeon on “Stay”, I find myself wincing slightly and having to take breaks. This happens particularly when I’m listening a little louder (~75dB). On the other hand, while I by no means consider myself a connoisseur of the genre, I find the Monarch MKII to shine more with classical music. Basically…this isn’t the IEM for listeners gauging for a more forgiving midrange.

There’s a similar love-it-hate-it relationship with the Monarch MKII’s treble response. I can see the appeal of the Sonion ESTs, yet 90% of IEMs I hear with them are nothing more than either middling or subpar implementations; the Monarch MKII falls closer to the former. Its treble is characterized by strong amounts of presence at 5kHz, so percussive hits have a certain sharpness to them that screams “wow, that’s detail!” on initial listen. But it’s ultimately fatiguing. This artificial quality is exacerbated by 1) a minor slope off of the lower-treble and 2) a slight metallic tinge despite the absence of a discernible peak in the upper-treble which would usually be responsible. And speaking of the upper-treble, the Monarch MKII seemingly does not have sufficient amplitude over 15kHz; that last leg of shimmer is lacking to the shakers on the opening of Sawano Hiroyuki’s “Cage”. While this realistically does not pose a concern for most listeners, it’s only fair to point out that true electrostatics are praised for their effortless extension. You might see why, to my ears at least, this comes across as something of a “bandaid” EST implementation. And no, I will not take that back.

Technical Performance

From my review on the OG Monarch, recall my comments on its imaging performance:

[Imaging] takes on a more in-head quality with the Monarch struggling to re-create soundstage height and depth. Needless to say the result is a more 2-dimensional presentation (which is unfortunate given the impressive width) rather than one that completely envelopes the listener in a holographic bubble of sorts.

You can see I wasn’t too hot on it. In fact, listening to it again, I don’t think the OG Monarch’s imaging is even above-average for width! The Monarch MKII is a considerable improvement in this department. Instrument localization is extremely defined in the side channels and while the Monarch MKII still lacks impactful center imaging, the layering issues the OG Monarch exhibited have been almost entirely mitigated. Frankly, this is an impressive step forward and I would be hard-pressed to find myself dissatisfied with the Monarch MKII’s imaging chops.

But it’s not all sunshine and daisies. Some readers will recall one of my major criticisms of the OG Monarch lay in its dynamic range. By this, I mean that abrupt jumps in volume and vice versa in a track came across “dampened” for lack of a better descriptor. This issue has been somewhat addressed on the Monarch MKII wherein I hear more contrast to, say, Canon and Gigue’s D Major (Remastered) when the violin crescendos at 4:27. However, for a sense of physicality and macrodynamic punch to more “fun” tracks - especially those that token the bass for swings in volume - it perceptively still isn’t there. The Monarch MKII’s other problem is that for all its midrange detail, my favorite singer, Taeyeon, consistently sounds like she lacks vibrancy to the timbre of her voice. Vibrancy that I know is there on my Genelec speakers and some other IEMs. We’re very much entering the realm of wishy-washiness - that filthy word micro-dynamics comes to mind - yet, as a whole, dynamics perceptively come off more muted than I’d like on the Monarch MKII.

The Competition

This has undoubtedly been a very critical review. This is for a couple reasons. First, I’m just that picky when it comes to my sound. And two, it appears to be a popular opinion that the Monarch MKII trades blows for technicalities with top-tier IEMs such as the 64A U12t and Elysian Annihilator. In this regard, I want to reiterate that the Monarch MKII is a top-performer for midrange detail. It matches the U12t for midrange detail in A/B and even comes out on top for sheer midrange clarity! But I find the Monarch MKII’s bass and treble detail to be more questionable, which would (at least by my standards) preclude the Monarch MKII from playing with said IEMs for detail retrieval. Similarly, I don’t believe further comparison for the other aspects of technicalities I’ve discussed above is warranted.

The real question on my mind was how the Monarch MKII would fare against the Symphonium Helios, the IEM I’ve praised for being “the best sounding IEM at a kilobuck”. On first listen, I was struck by transients on the Helios sounding more energetic and vibrant (see my comments above); the Helios has better dynamics. This is something I personally index more heavily for though, and further listening made apparent that the Monarch MKII has an edge in midrange resolution and less maligned BA timbre. Listeners after a more natural, upfront midrange presentation would be better suited with the Monarch MKII. Listeners after a slightly more relaxed midrange, more airy, holographic presentation should go for the Helios. My choice is clear between them; it’s the Helios and all the more so if you listen to more intense (read: shouty) genres of music. That said, I think the Monarch MKII mostly competes with the Helios, or at least I wouldn’t bat an eye at listeners choosing one over the other.

The Verdict

I was fairly milquetoast in my concluding thoughts on the OG Monarch. I didn’t like it subjectively, but I had to recognize that it was a good IEM for its respective price point. The latter half applies to the Monarch MKII; however, I’ll be the first to admit that I actually mostly like the Monarch MKII this time around. The coherency issues aren’t as glaring, the technicalities are more refined, and the tuning is slightly more palpable than its predecessor. This is what I wanted to hear from the original Monarch. The Monarch MKII is an apt tool for listeners aiming to “analyze” music and who want details served on a platter in their face. I can give this my stamp of approval if you’re after that type of sound. ThieAudio finally has my nod of respect for a strong follow-up to their most popular model and, perhaps more than anything, it has piqued my interest in their true halo model, the newly-released V16 Divinity.

Reference Tracks

  • Aimer - Hakuchuumu
  • David Nail - Let It Rain
  • Everglow - DUN DUN
  • Girls’ Generation - Galaxy Supernova
  • Illenium - Broken Ones
  • Joe Nichols - Sunny and 75
  • Keith Urban - Defying Gravity (2009)
  • Keiichi Okabe - Weight of the World (NieR:Automata Original Soundtrack)
  • Sabai - Million Days
  • Sawano Hiroyuki - Best of Vocal Works Remastered (2020)
  • Taeyeon - My Voice (2017)
  • Tiffany - I Just Wanna Dance
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The Thieaudio Monarch Mk 2 is the follow-up to the successful and well-liked tri-brid IEM Monarch. In my previous review of the original, I mentioned how much I enjoyed the IEM and it’s clarity and sub-bass impact and near top of the the line performance for a price well under $1000.

The Monarch MK2 raises the price of the original from $729 to $999, with an updated internal design. The driver configuration remains a tri-brid with the same number of drivers (1 dynamic driver, 6 balanced armature drivers, and 2 EST drivers). While the driver count remains the same, there were upgrades made to the dynamic driver, which was lacking some definition and quality in the original, and the BA configuration was changed to give more emphasis to the mid-range, and letting the ESTs handle the treble range.

This re-engineering also came with a new cable that is braided with a cloth sheathing and does not require a ridiculous long set of adapters to use with your music player of choice. In addition, tips and a carrying case are included in this package.

The design of the shell was slightly altered in this new release. The shell is narrower, but also taller, and although it is still on the larger end of the IEM size-meter, I find that the MK2 is very comfortable for me to wear for long hours and I was never bothered by its fit in my ears.

Finally, before I start talking about the sound, I’d like to give a shout to the folks at Headphones.com for lending me both the Monarch Mk 2 and original Monarch to try out for this review. Headphones.com is an official retailer of the Thieaudio line-up and carry the Monarch MK2 on their site.

Sound Impressions

The Monarch MK2 brings a nice and welcome change from the previous Monarch original. In fact, if you heard the Monarch or the Clairvoyance before, you’d probably get a decent idea of what the MK2 sounds like. In my own listening of the prior two, I found that I liked parts of each of these IEMs, and my dream would be some combination of the two. With the Monarch MK2, it’s gotten most of that combination down.

The MK2 brings a nice balanced sound signature that doesn’t truly emphasize really any part of the sound spectrum to my ears. The bass range is above neutral but doesn’t sound overly done and not doesn’t necessarily make it go too far above the mids. The treble is generally smooth and well-extended, making this one of the more balanced and thorough Thieaudio products in terms of overall frequency response and tonal balance.

I spent some time switching back and forth between the Monarch and the Monarch MK2 and the most immediate difference between the two were the massive amounts of sub-bass present on the original Monarch that made it really stand out. It had mega bass in this respect, and going to the Monarch MK2 made it sound quite limp in some ways. But this is only in quantity. The bass quality is a little improved on the MK2 with more definition, more evenness, and less mushy roundedness that the original Monarch and Clairvoyance had. The new dynamic driver is doing its thing here and that helps it. I wouldn’t say the bass definition is the strong point still, however, and while its pretty good, I do find it lacking compared to other flagship IEMs out there.

That said, though, the less powerful sub-bass and added mid-bass are the right combination to make the MK2 a much more well-rounded IEM that doesn’t project too much into the actual music. The mid-range benefits great from this as it becomes more forward and distinct.

The area that did surprise me, in perhaps a negative way, was the upper mid-range. In actual measurements, it’s a welcome change from the Monarch and the switch to make it more aligned with how the Clairvoyance handles this area is a much needed welcome. The original Monarch was just a bit too forward and shouty in this area, with a steep bump in the 2K range that made some of my music a bit fatiguing, despite still sounding clean, clear, but perhaps sharp.

The Monarch MK2 still has a shimmer of this sharpness in this area, and perhaps it has more to do with the BA setup than the actual FR. When I listen to female-led songs or music with brass instruments, the forward sounding nature of this IEM presentation, can still become fatiguing. It’s not a massive problem at lower volumes, but is more apparent when I crank the volume up more. This is probably more of a nitpick than anything, because for the most part, I don’t find this an issue in regular listen and can easily be adjusted to in the long term.

To add to this point, this sharpness is less than that of my own IEMs such as the Empire Ears Odin and the Hidition Viento, which are a little more pointed in this region. So with that said, I think the Monarch MK2 sounds fine.

Treble extension wasn’t a big deal with the original Monarch, but it is improved on the MK2 with a more smoother, and extended treble response. I do find this range to come around with a softer and more gentle smooth flow and this makes it an overall nice and semi-sweet listen.

The Monarch MK2’s technical capabilities are pretty solid. I don’t think anything totally jumps out of my mind and that is probably a good thing. I can’t say anything is lacking in quality here, but nothing jumps out either. Perhaps this is a benefit as it lets me focus on the music and not something distinct. The soundstage isn’t huge but it’s not small and compact either. The imaging is solid and resolution is an improvement over the original, primarily in the low end. The reduced sharpness all-around from the original is a welcome change, but there is a distinct BA-like edge to it in the mid-range that doesn’t completely go away and probably is the heaviest contributor to the harshness I occasionally hear.

Final Thoughts

All that said, I think the Monarch MK2 is a nice improvement to an already stellar set of products that were released about a year and a half ago in the original Monarch and Clairvoyance. The combination of the two’s tonal differences and an improved driver have made this one a more refined listen overall, and probably hits closer to the original Clairvoyance than the Monarch, and probably would have made better sense to be named as such.

Either way, this is a good value at the $999 price point and it can trade blows with the best of them.

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Just for reference, I actually listened to a Headphones.com demo unit of the original Monarch and it measured differently than the original Monarch I reviewed and measured, which will explain why my bass impressions were different than what was shown in the review graph:

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Looking to buy these (when they are in stock at Headphones). Have you heard anything to indicate unit significant unit variation? Your last graph is a bit concerning. Thanks for the review. Solid as always.

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The Monarch MK2 afaik does not have this issue, because well, I only have 1 sample.

The original Monarch looks like there was a little more bass in the set that I recently listened to versus the one I reviewed when it originally came out. I don’t have that old set anymore, so I can’t confirm for sure, but the new one did sound bassier than the MK2 version for sure, and the FR shows that above.

Either way, the Monarch 1 is still a good IEM. More bass doesnt hurt it too much either. I prefer the MK2 overall, and think its a solid buy.

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This is obviously not an ‘expert review’, like some of the others’ here, and I do not go into any of the technicalities in detail… I just love music and gear that enables to reproduce it well… This is my own experience and ‘judgement’ (of one person only).

Summary:
I have not experienced enough ~$1K IEMs to feel justifiably confident in recommending to avoid these, if that is one’s budget. It might be true, as some expert reviewers claim, that for some listeners, these are of the best overall in this price range. All I can share is that, to my ears, these just do not sound good enough, overall (technically), especially when it comes to the bass (quality), ‘resolution’ and staging.
Again, I emphasize, I have too little experience with similarly priced IEMs to be able to evaluate them ‘for their price’. Personally, I would have paid more for a better pair or tried to audition hopefully better alternatives of similar cost.

[Primary daily drivers:
Over-the-Ear Open-Back:
Sennheiser HD800.
IEM:
64 Audio U12T.]

I purchased the Monarch Mk2 (for simplicity, I will refer to them as just ‘Monarch’), as soon as they became available for pre-order, when there were still hardly any other reviews available, just after reading Crinacle raving about them and placing them at the very top #1 (!) of his IEMs ranking list with an ‘S+’ tone grade and an ‘S’ technical grade (on his list, the U12T, which I own and am well familiar with, by comparison, is ‘S’ for both).
I greatly appreciate the U12T - it is so good - I love it… It is obviously not the focus of this review here (other than in a comparative context), but, despite the price difference and independently of it, the comparison here might be both relevant and revealing, simply because:

  1. Me writing this review is inevitably the result of my prior experience, which is, positively, better enabled by it (or, potentially, negatively affected, if unconsciously biased).
  2. In this case of the Monarch, given Crinacle’s popularity and perceived authority, by many (my past self included), I feel the need to share my experience even more strongly - not that my evaluation alone matters but, if mine is not a rare exception, it can help substantiate a different, very different, view on how these are (and how they compare).

I have no need or wish to try to engage a reader, through manipulating one’s curiosity, by leaving my judgement to the end - it is clear from what I have already written that these, in my opinion, are nowhere nearly as good as what Crinacle’s rating suggests (and nowhere nearly as good as the U12T, as implied by his very rating system; ‘value’ - how good a pair is for its price is, in his system, a separate additional , 0-to-3-stars, rating dimension; in his list, IEMs are graded for their sound quality, technical and tone, in an ‘absolute’ sense - independently of price, not in the relative sense, as in how good they are for their price).

I experience the U12T’s technicalities and tonality to be really really good, bass included, but if there is anything I sometimes wish to have been different / better for me, it is in the bass (U12T is BA only) - for some music I sometimes crave the bass tactility / timbre of a good dynamic driver; purchasing the Monarch, I was thinking to myself, that if they are technically as good as the U12T, yet tonally superior, imagining some U12T level of technicalities, with an even better tonality (Monarch is BA, but also DD, EST), that would have been nothing but an upgrade for me.

The earbuds of the Monarch are beautiful, in my opinion. Generally, I prefer a minimalistic design, in both form and looks (e.g. U12T minus the logos), but I actually find the faceplate design, with its homogeneous uni-color scheme and warm earthy hues (both unlike its 1st gen. predecessor), as well as the way it reflects light, a pleasure to look at.

The earbuds-to-cable connectors are not recessed, which is a potential durability disadvantage (the same with the U12T) but also an advantage just because of the ease of using aftermarket cables which are much more common in this flat form factor.

The build is otherwise great.
There is a lip finish on the nozzle to make ear tips stay on (the U12T does not and it is a con - tips are held in place only by a significantly tight fit, without being better secured in place thanks to a lip resistance to sliding; experimenting with different tips for the first time, it was not infrequent that I found myself with an ear tip stuck deep inside my ear canal).

Comfort, for me, is great - no less good than the U12T - the smooth and more rounded shape makes up for the larger size; personally I find them even more comfortable when force is applied (e.g. when I lay down on my side with my head on a pillow).

The cable is excellent.
It matches the earbuds in color and is beautiful, in my opinion. It is not prone to tangling, it is flexible and lays flat.
It is a braided paracord-sleeved design, which I find more comfortable than plastic sleeves - more pleasant to touch and less prone to tangling.
Very usefully, the cable is modular, with three switchable terminations.
It feels high quality.
This is the best cable that I have ever experienced (the one that came with the U12T was a sad joke, one of the worst).

The Monarch’s efficiency is relatively low for an IEM, surprisingly, to me, needing some amplification for peak performance (the U12T is much more efficient and needs no amplification at all). Personally, I do not care about this that much, because I anyway do not use headphones plugged directly to a phone / laptop using their built-in DAC, and anyway needing to have an external DAC, it might as well be a DAC x Amp combo (USB dongle or a battery-operated portable one).

And then, there is the sound… This is not a bad sounding IEM, but it is difficult for me to imagine that it is a $1K IEM (though, again, I have little experience with IEMs of this price); the major issues with the sound, for me, are in the bass - this is definitely not the high quality dynamic driver bass that I was hoping for, as well as just in the overall level of ‘clarity’, for lack of a better word, and staging.
I do like the frequency response but when it comes to the bass - its quality is really disappointing - it is just not good - neither dynamically impactful enough nor sufficiently resolving.
I find these to be too limited in speed and staging and lacking in definition and clarity, as is more noticeable in busy passages - some instruments do not sound life-like or just right, almost muddy at times, and with hardly any sense of a perceived space within which it is all happening.
To my ears, when it comes to technicalities, these do not come even close to the U12T; their soundstage, imaging, detail retrieval, clarity, speed, dynamics are all just not in the same league as the U12T - they are just significantly less refined in every way.
I can enjoy the Monarch, and I do, but only when I am less clear myself, and when the mode I am in is more like passive hearing than active listening - then I can find myself ‘merged’ with the music, as a whole in a space-less non-dual subconscious-like way - one with it and the flow of time; when a more conscious (and more dualistic and potentially critical) listening is my mode, wanting to be consciously aware also of everything within the music, appreciating everything that can be revealed, the way it is represented, and the way it is all arranged together and contained in space - it is then that I find myself unfulfilled and disappointed.

The Monarch is definitely not an upgrade from the U12T, and it is also not good enough to own, for me, even as an additional pair, for the dynamic bass I was looking for (nor for any other quality - in the relative context of its perceived performance compared with the U12T).

I always try to remember, again and again, to never buy anything without auditioning it first, but sometimes I forget :slight_smile: .
I excuse myself, this time, because in these times of pandemic, it is really just almost impossible.
Still, I at least could have, and should have, waited to hear the impressions of Resolve and Precogvision (based on my experience so far, theirs are the reviews that I resonate with most; in the specific case of these, my experience is closer to that of Precog than it is to Andrew’s).
But, having been suggestible, as a result of the way I had perceived Crinacle and trusted his reviews, and here I am - the state of ‘the buyer’s regret’ :slight_smile: , with the hassle of needing to sell / return.

[On a side note, I really do not understand how it is possible that Crinacle can rank these as he does.
Judging by his popularity, he is obviously very successful at what he does, which I assumed meant something / more; maybe it does not.
Also, practically, reviewing as many headphones as he has reviewed, he has been provided with such a wealth of experience as a reference, which makes it even more difficult for me to understand. Those ranking grades, despite the subjectivity disclaimers - they are not a matter of a relative preference only. I can understand why he would hail their tone, based on the frequency response (coupled with his personal preference, of course), but that is not all there is even to tonality alone, though since much of it is in the ‘intangibles’, it does make it difficult to argue with. But when it comes to technicalities… - ‘S’? - no way.]

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No risk on your side these things get crazy resale value so you won’t be out of pocket much.

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Monarch Mk I and Clairvoyance were critiqued for poor DD performance. Mk II should fix those critiques. Not enough it seems.

What I did learn in the hobby is, we have different priorities in sound. Some things that bother one person are a minor inconvinience for someone else and vice versa.

I think the next step in the hobby is rank list clustered by preferences.

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I just got mine and your comments are pretty spot on. I have the Fourte Noir, and it is like you said for the U12T, for analytical listening 64 audio just nails it. Monarch Mk2 is really more suited for passive listening (while doing other things) or when you just want to relax and not get lost into the songs.

But while I was also interested in knowing what Crinnacle top rank iem sound like and if it would replace (it failed miserably) the not so well ranked Fourte Noir that I really love, I just think for me it is a good secondary headphone to go bluetooth with fiio utws4. It doesn’t sound awesome, but at the same time, I do enjoy it and did not get a buyers’ remorse.

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