“Let our rigorous testing and reviews be your guidelines to A/V equipment – not marketing slogans”
Facebook Youtube Twitter instagram pinterest

Monoprice Monolith 7 Amplifier Sound Quality Tests

By

The Monolith crushed any test I threw at it.  I loved the energy and emotion that the Monolith was capable of putting on display.  Dynamics, control, and stable imaging were easy-to-identify hallmarks of the amp’s capabilities.

Two-Channel and Multi-Channel Musical Prowess

Sometimes, we purists may think that multichannel amps aren’t deft enough to command a Maestro’s baton for two-channel music.  The Monolith isn’t one of those. This amp will stand amidst any instrumental or orchestral accompaniment and impose its full control on every note.

Could it rock? I spun up the hi-res ALAC of Peter Gabriel’s 1987 Live in Athens from B&W's Society of Sound and I couldn’t stop moving to the music. “Mercy Street,” “Solsbury Hill,” and “In Your Eyes” resounded. Peter Gabriel’s vocals were timbrally natural, detailed, and controlled.  The soundstage was deep and wide and musical layers abounded with good micro-dynamic elements present. Firing up Pearl Jam’s 2004 Remix of “Black,” the Monolith/SVS one-to-punch did a superb job of seducing you into the song’s melody. But a song doesn’t need to be an anthem to showcase the Monolith’s prowess.

Rear view of the Monoprice Monolith 7

Rear view of the Monoprice Monolith 7. 

I used all unbalanced connections with BlueJeans unbalanced cables to connect the Monolith 7 to my Denon X7200WA receiver.

Led Zeppelin’s “That’s the Way” from Led Zeppelin III cast an intoxicating spell. Robert Plant’s vocals stood firmly yet ethereally dead center and Jimmy Page’s beautifully haunting riffs danced throughout.  The pinnacle showcase for me, however, was Zeppelin’s “Driving Through Kashmir (Kashmir Rough Orchestra Mix)” from the Physical Graffiti Deluxe edition.  The breadth and scope of the orchestral score was on full, glorious display.  At the 4:00 mark I just had to turn up the volume louder, louder so that when you reach Plant’s vocal crescendo at the 4:19 minute mark it was like being immersed in a wave of musical emotion.  Not a hint of strain.

The Monolith was a superb performer with jazz and R&B, while female vocalists shined in the Monolith’s sanctuary of power.  The Monolith could re-create the energy of an entire concert hall or mellow down to conjure up an intimate musical venue. Take Holly Cole’s cover of “I Can See Clearly Now” as an example. Cole’s smooth vocals sailed out across a textured sea of natural, taut bass lines. A good power amplifier isn’t only suited for bombastic passages. It’s also essential for maintaining precise control over fine details. The Monolith allowed the SVS Ultras to render the accompanying piano with deep body while recessed deep in the soundstage.

Denon AVR-X7200WA Unified immersive audio layout

I selected Denon's "unified" immersive audio layout to be able to play Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D content natively. I selected Monolith 7 to power the seven primary floor-standing channels via the Denon's  pre-outs.

Patricia Barber’s “A Taste of Honey” from Cafe Blue followed suite. Driven by the Monolith, the SVS Ultra towers exhibited beautifully controlled bass lines.  Turning to Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why” from her album Come Away with Me, her intimate, breathy vocals were in full swing. And when I spun her duet, “Here We Go Again” with Ray Charles I continually noted the ability for the Monolith and SVS combo to produce a layered soundstage with precise imaging and good depth.

I chose to power the front and rear height channels using the Denon's internal Class AB amplifier

Using the Denon X7200WA's flexible speaker assignment option, I assigned the Denon's internal amplification to power my front and rear height channels.

If you like amplifiers that sooth you with colored warmth, then the Monolith isn’t for you.  It’s a performer that strove for tonal neutrality with just about any track I tried without ever straying into the realm of cold, analytical, and un-involving.  Can the Monolith deliver in two-channel? You bet.  Multichannel? Just wait and see.

An Amplifier for Reference Surround

Lord of the Rings Extended Edition on Blu-rayNow it was time to let the Monolith loose. Volume up and all channels engaged, it was time to delight in Peter Jackson’s screen adaptation of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. I fired up the Extended Edition on Blu-ray.  The Monolith served as a blacksmith’s hammer and anvil forging the DTS-HD soundtrack into the enveloping world of middle earth.  The pounding thunder produced by the Nazgûl’s horse’s hoofs; the rustle of ten thousand Elven arrows flying through the air; the march of Saruman’s Uruk-hai army; and even Mt. Doom itself couldn’t pound the Monolith into submission.

Disc 1, Chapter 20 of Fellowship of the Ring, for example, opens with one of the many beautiful movements of Howard Shore’s near-perfect musical score.  The barbaric cries of Uruk-hai rising to life are juxtaposed by the nuanced, subtle sounds of cracking tree branches, slurping mud and dripping slime.  Bombasic sounds didn’t smear fine details nor did the amplifier’s ability to bring out audio nuances neuter its raw energy. The Monolith maintained each extreme in balance and total control. 

On Disc 2, Chapter 35 and 36, where the fellowship encounters the goblins of Moria, the chaos of the attacks encroaching from all sides is intense and the Monolith didn’t miss a beat.  It was a full-on audio assault.  And when the Balrog chases the Frodo and his fellow-travelers to the bridge of Khazad Dum, the Monolith let the SVS Ultra setup render the Balrog’s primitive, guttural, menacing roar in full force. Glorious. This is why you make an investment in home theater.

X-Men Apocalypse on Blu-ray 4K/Ultra-HDI fired up the 4K/Ultra-HD Blu-ray version of X-Men: Apocalypse with its Dolby Atmos track.  Once again, the Monolith didn’t flinch. Scott Summers, AKA Cyclops, blasts an uncontrolled trench in the boy’s bathroom wall and ceiling with his optic blasts.  The Monolith provided ample power so that the SVS Ultras could reproduce the optic blasts exploding with full force. And, the Monolith/SVS Ultra one-two combo didn’t miss a beat when the delicate crackles of falling tile and drifting dust envelop you in the scene’s aftermath.

In the climactic scene, with the X-Men standing against Apocalypse and his four horsemen, the Monolith helped the Denon and SVS Ultra setup recreate a seamless, stable, and deep soundstage where both dialogue and sound effects moved with exacting precision.  All in all, the Monolith showcased how timbre-matched surrounds driven by the same amplification can generate sonic bliss.  The seamless illusion of space and depth transported me right into the action. Once again, dynamics never crushed fine details. Rendering details never compromised the brute force the amp was capable of delivering.

Was there any downside to the Monolith? Not really. To use a sports analogy, the Monolith for me wins the coveted 6th player (basketball) or 10th player (baseball) award.  It’s the one player who could be a starter—even a star—on any other team, but when paired in an all-star lineup might features an amp with more power and balanced inputs he becomes your absolute go-to guy off the bench. That probably sums up the Monolith best.

 

Confused about what AV Gear to buy or how to set it up? Join our Exclusive Audioholics E-Book Membership Program!

Recent Forum Posts:

tparm posts on June 16, 2020 16:14
With Class D amplification being en vogue and ATI having success with their AT52XNC series, how long until there is a Class D Monolith variant? Thoughts? Insider info????
RichB posts on June 14, 2020 15:51
Pogre, post: 1397880, member: 79914
Boom! Thanks Peng!

I am going to conclude that scooting a little closer will definitely take a little heat off my speakers at high volumes. The folks over at Ascend have been a little bit hit and miss to contact lately, with everything going on but they always eventually get back to me. I think I'm gonna shoot Dave an email and ask him ask about max spl at 1 meter, like you suggested I do with Ed for my Ultras.

You know what's interesting, tho maybe not overly surprising? My Monolith runs MUCH cooler powering my 4 ohm Sierra towers than it does my “8 ohm” Ultra towers. It's gets good and warm with the Ultras, but barely more than lukewarm with the Sierras. Even after some some very spirited listening sessions.

In general, when you consider stereo and room gain the volume at the listening position can be surprisingly close to rating at 1 meter (when accurately specified).
Ascends are among the best manufacturers at accurate sensitivity specifications.

Here is recent article on Audio Science Review:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/speaker-sensitivity-advertised-vs-measured.14072/

Adding power to speakers that perform will with power (with good distortion characteristics) can lead to listening at higher levels. A small radio can seem too loud because the distortion is makes it unpleasant. That said, I have found I enjoy my Salons for casual listening at less than one watt. Of course, I'd like a near perfect 1'st watt

THX specifications are for a single speaker but this is not representative of any realistic listening session.
To estimate my power usage I used the following procedure.

I played 250Hz, 1kHz, and 2kHz 0 DBFS (maximum volume) sine-wave tones and measured the voltage at the speaker adjusting the processor until it was as close as possible to 2.83 volts. The volume matches the speakers sensitivity rating. While playing the tone, I measured the SPL at my listening position of 11 feet.

The Salon2s are rates are 86 dB at 1 meter. The measured SPL was also 86 dB (with two speakers playing). The Salon2s are basically 4 ohm speakers that doubles to power. For my spreadsheet, this means -31 is 86 dB at 11 feet. From there I computed the attached power levels. Since I know my habits, the left column indicates those levels. Fortunately, the AHB2 amplifiers have accurate and clip meters per channel that illuminate for 1/4 seconds when the amp hits 1% distortion.
With music, they clip as expected with recording that peak at full scale (too many recording are maximized for volume).

Into 4 Ohms, the AHB2s deliver 180 WPC and they are not clipping at -10 so these numbers are conservative.
I also plugged in these numbers into the Crown power calculator: 3.5 meters, 101 dB, 83 dB sensitivity (for 4 ohms) and the required power is 773 watts.
My measurements and calculation show 64 watts stereo or 128 watts for a single speaker.

37113
37114

The Aquaman 4K BD has some formidable bass and I turned it up -15 (which is 3 dB louder than I found comfortable) and there is no clipping and the Salon2 3 8 inch woofers are really moving.

Unfortunately AVR amps are seldom measured as diligently as dedicated power amps and not going into protection is not a good indicator of distortion driving reactive loads. Those measurements don't really exist. We know a lot about how amps play 1 kHz sine-waves into reactive loads.

- Rich
operamatt posts on June 14, 2020 08:31
Verdinut, post: 1397824, member: 80194
Those Monolith amplifiers are really well designed affordable amplifiers. You won't regret your purchase.

Are you an opera nut too? Because of my user name, it's not hard to guess who is my preferred Italian composer. If that is the case, maybe we could exchange comments at some point. In my collection, I have the complete Verdi Parma Opera series on Blu-ray, apart from all his operas on CD. That's only part of my opera collection.

I know quite a bit about opera singers and I am very critical about them. I studied classical singing. As a lyric tenor, I used to sing solos with choirs, and also sung in restaurants as a hobby. It was indeed a passion.

Cheers!
very cool, i also trained as a classical musician. my mane instrument was voice but i was a pianist & director as well. i’ve chosen a different path for my life but the love for classical music is still there.
PENG posts on June 13, 2020 09:23
Pogre, post: 1397880, member: 79914
Boom! Thanks Peng!

I am going to conclude that scooting a little closer will definitely take a little heat off my speakers at high volumes. The folks over at Ascend have been a little bit hit and miss to contact lately, with everything going on but they always eventually get back to me. I think I'm gonna shoot Dave an email and ask him ask about max spl at 1 meter, like you suggested I do with Ed for my Ultras.

You know what's interesting, tho maybe not overly surprising? My Monolith runs MUCH cooler powering my 4 ohm Sierra towers than it does my “8 ohm” Ultra towers. It's gets good and warm with the Ultras, but barely more than lukewarm with the Sierras. Even after some some very spirited listening sessions.

I just clarified my comments a little, but we were typing at the same time.

The Ascends are likely more sensitive and have better phase angles than the Ultras. I discussed power requirements with Ed before, you (may be not you but people who think amps are always needed for 4 ohm speakers) will be shocked if you know what he said..
Pogre posts on June 13, 2020 09:18
PENG, post: 1397878, member: 6097
Okay then, the Ascends in your system will still be the bottleneck as it is only rated 500 W maximum short term peak. You will need about 660 W to hit reference level with one speaker from 15 feet.

The Monolith can output only a little more than 500 W average short term dynamic peak, that's 1,000 W peak, two channel driven into 4 ohms.

Calculated results based on Ascend specs, for one single speaker:



Input data required:
Input data
Unit


1) Speaker nominal impedance (Ohms)
4.00
Ohm


2) Sensitivity in dB/W at 1 Meter


dB


3) Sensitivity in dB/2.83 V at 1 Meter
90.00
dB


4) Seating distance (1 foot = 0.3048 Meter, 1 Meter = 3.281 foot)
4.57
Meter


5) Room gain for speaker placement near walls/corners, enter 0 to 3 dB max., to err on the conservative side
3.00
dB


6) Desired additional amplifier headroom (dB) Recommended minimum is 3


dB


7) Target SPL - THX reference is 85 dB, with 20 dB of headroom
105.00
dB









Calculated values from the input data:
Calculated values



Sensitivity loss at seating distance (dB)
13.20
dB


SPL/W at seating distance calculated from the input data
79.80
dB


Amplifier power output based on 2.83 V and the assumed impedance at 1 Meter
2.00
Watt (W)


Power increase in multiples needed to achieve target SPL
331.46



Power increase in dB needed to achieve target SPL
25.20
dB









Calculated amplifier output power required:





For the target SPL at seating distance
663.66
Watt (W)


For the target SPL at seating distance, with the desired headroom included


Watt (W)


Boom! Thanks Peng!

I am going to conclude that scooting a little closer will definitely take a little heat off my speakers at high volumes. The folks over at Ascend have been a little bit hit and miss to contact lately, with everything going on but they always eventually get back to me. I think I'm gonna shoot Dave an email and ask him ask about max spl at 1 meter, like you suggested I do with Ed for my Ultras.

You know what's interesting, tho maybe not overly surprising? My Monolith runs MUCH cooler powering my 4 ohm Sierra towers than it does my “8 ohm” Ultra towers. It's gets good and warm with the Ultras, but barely more than lukewarm with the Sierras. Even after some some very spirited listening sessions.
Post Reply