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Monoprice Monolith Portable Headphones/Amps Preview

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Summary

  • Product Name: Monolith USB DAC Model 29512, Portable Headphone Amp and DAC Model 24460, M565C Over Ear Closed Back Planar Magnetic Headphones Model 29514, M1060C Over Ear Closed Back Planar Magnetic Headphones Model 29513
  • Manufacturer: Monoprice
  • Review Date: July 06, 2018 00:00
  • MSRP: $100 - Monolith USB DAC Model 29512, $280 - Portable Headphone Amp and DAC Model 24460, $230 - M565C Over Ear Closed Back Planar Magnetic Headphones Model 29514, $330 - M1060C Over Ear Closed Back Planar Magnetic Headphones Model 29513
  • First Impression: Gotta Have It!
  • Buy Now

Monolith USB DAC Specs

  • Model                     29512
  • DAC chipset           ESS ES9018K2M
  • Amp chipset            ESS ES9601K
  • Streaming Controller    Savitech SA9227
  • Compatibility           Windows 10
  • PCM rate    24-bits@192kHz, 32-bits@384kHz
  • Direct Stream Digital   DSD64, DSD128, DSD256
  • Signal-to-Noise ratio  122dB
  • THD+N                   -117dB
  • Output                    2Vrms@600 ohms load
  • Dimensions:  2.9”H x 0.7”W x 0.4”D (74mm x 19mm x 11mm)
  • Weight:                    0.4oz (12g)

Monolith Portable Headphone Amp and DAC Specs

  • Model                     24460
  • DAC chipset           AKM AK4493
  • Amp chipset            THX AAA-78
  • Streaming Controller    N/A
  • Compatibility           N/A
  • PCM rate    32-bits@768kHz
  • Direct Stream Digital                     N/A
  • Signal-to- Noise ratio  N/A
  • THD+N                   N/A
  • Output                    N/A
  • Dimensions N/A

Monolith M565C Over Ear Closed Back Planar Magnetic Headphones

  • Model                                 29514
  • Style                                   Closed
  • Transducer              Planar Magnetic
  • Magnetic Structure Asymmetry             Asymmetry push-pull neodymium
  • Magnet Type                 High-grade N50 neodymium
  • Driver Size              66mm
  • Power Handling                   2W (for 200ms)
  • Max SPL                 >120dB
  • Frequency Response          10Hz-50kHz
  • THD                                    <1% @ 1mW, 1kHz
  • Impedance              18ohms
  • Efficiency               96dB/1mW
  • Weight                                13.7 oz.

Monolith M1060C Over Ear Closed Back Planar Magnetic Headphones

  • Model                                 29513
  • Style                                   Closed
  • Transducer              Planar Magnetic
  • Magnetic Structure Asymmetry             Asymmetry push-pull neodymium
  • Magnet Type                 High-grade N50 neodymium
  • Driver Size              106mm
  • Power Handling                   5W (for 200ms)
  • Max SPL                 >120dB
  • Frequency Response          10Hz-50kHz
  • THD                                    <1% @ 1mW, 1kHz
  • Impedance              18ohms
  • Efficiency               90dB/1mW
  • Optimal Power Requirement                        1W
  • Weight                                17 oz.

Monoprice is a Southern California company, based in Rancho Cucamonga that specializes in electronics and accessories.  In fact, I own a number of their speaker screw type banana plugs and pins.  Since its inception in 2002, Monoprice has made several leaps in the A/V world such as their Premium 5.1 channel Home Theater system.  Many have related this product to the Energy Take Classic 5.1 with design and sound comparisons.  The most substantial contribution to the A/V world courtesy of Monoprice has been their Monolith series products, most notably their Monolith power  amplifiers.  There have been a number of reviews here on Audioholics.com pertaining to these, such as their new Monolith subwoofers.  A couple new products are the Monolith USB DAC and Monolith Portable Headphone Amp/DAC with THX AAA technology.  The USB DAC and Headphones are now available, but the Portable Headphone Amp/DAC with THX AAA technology has yet to be released.

Monolith USB DAC Headphone Amplifier

monolith USB DAC copy.jpg 

Several audio companies have small USB headphone amplifiers. Emotiva, for example, has the "Little Ego", but few can match the size of Monoprice's newest USB DAC headphone amp. The Monolith USB DAC is one of the smallest headphone amps on the market.  Since the Monolith USB amp has a DAC, it enhances or “amplifies” the sound of audio from a computer or any device with a USB connection.  It contains an internal 32-bit, 384kHz ESS Sabre DAC.  The ESS ES9018K2M chips use the patented 32-bit Hyperstream DAC with Time Domain Jitter Eliminator, which will satisfy the most demanding audio enthusiasts.  In unison with this ES9018 Sabre DAC chip, Monoprice also spared no expense and included an ESS ES9601 chip for its headphone driver.  According to ESS, this chip is the industry’s highest performance, standalone headphone driver targeted for audiophile-grade portable applications.  This driver delivers 122dB SNR and -117dB THD+N.  For a product that is only $99.99, this is quite a feat.  Monoprice also included a Savitech SA9227 USB streaming controller, which is a new product for Taiwan-based Savi Audio as well.  This controller can support 16/24/32 bit resolution and 32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 352.8, and 384kHz sampling rating.  It may seem that the limitation of this device is the system compatibility.  The information on the Monoprice website states that the device is compatible with Windows 10, but the device is also compatible with Mac, PC, iOS, and Android devices.

Monolith Portable Headphone Amp/DAC with THX AAA Technology

monolith portable HP amp angle   copy.jpg

This new device looks similar to OPPO’s HA-2SE, which is now discontinued as OPPO is no longer manufacturing new products.  This amp utilizes the THX AAA-78 amplifier design for 2x400 mW of clean power output.  As stated on their website, this technology design reduces the harmonic, intermodulation, and crossover distortion by 20-100x for a realistic and fatigue-free listening experience.  This also reduces power consumption for long battery life.  For superb sound quality, Monoprice included the flagship AKM AK4493 DAC from Asahi Kasei Microdevices with VELVET SOUNDtm technology.  This 32-bit DAC supports PCM input signals up to 760kHz and DSD (Direct Stream Digital) input of 2.8Hz-11.2MHz.  As if that wasn’t enough, this device also includes Dirac Sensaround II decoding to allow the listener to experience audio through their headphones as though they were listening through their loudspeakers.  This feature can be switched on or off depending on your preferences.  There is an LED display that shows volume level, battery life, signal bitrate, and several menu options.  The product finish seems to be an attractive brushed black metal.  On the top right of the device is a volume knob.  On the bottom of the portable amp are mini USB inputs and the right side of the device is four buttons.  There is one “home” button, an “up” button, a “down” button, and an “enter” button. Not much information is available on this product as it is not available until later this month for $279.99.  Stay tuned on the Monoprice website for more details.

Monolith M565C Over Ear Closed Back Planar Magnetic Headphones

M565C OE phones copy.jpg

Monoprice has also developed a couple of Closed Back Planar Magnetic Headphones, which are currently shipping.  One of these additions to the Monolith line of products is the M565C Over Ear Closed Back Planar Magnetic Headphones, which retail for $229.99.  This model is a redesigned version of the Monoprice M565 Over Ear Headphones, which still retails for $199.99.  One of the other features the M565C is the new asymmetrical magnet structure.  This new magnetic structure allows the 66mm driver to be much more efficient with enhanced clarity and imaging in its closed back design.  These headphones have a slightly better impedance than the previous models with 18ohms vs 32ohms, though on the website it says it has 20ohm impedance.   Another discrepancy is the frequency response.  The website has both 10Hz-50kHz and 15Hz-50kHz listed.  There is probably no discernible difference, but it should be listed correctly and since Audioholics has always been known for pursuing the truth in audio and video we'll find out.  These headphones are not specifically noise reducing, but as a closed back set of headphones I am sure it stills provides decent outside noise reduction.  The finish still has the wood grain look as the older model, which is a nice touch in my opinion.  These cans also feature a detachable 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable with a ¾” adaptor.  The 13.7oz M565Cs also feature faux leather wrapped thick cushioned earpads along with a cushioned headband for added comfort.

Monolith M1060C Over Ear Closed Back Planar Magnetic Headphones

M1060C OE phones copy.jpg

The second pair of headphones that Monoprice has added to their Monolith line is the M1060C Over Ear Closed Back Planar Magnetic Headphones.  The M1060C, like the M565C, are the newest model of a previous pair, the M1060 Open Back Planar Magnetic Headphones.  The M1060 headphones are $199.99 meanwhile the M1060C  are $329.99.  Still keeping with the wood grain trim, the M1060C now have the wood grain as full caps to provide the closed back nature of the cans and still with the round shape.  These 17oz headphones also include a detachable 2.5mm – 3.5mm audio cable.  The M1060C have a considerable upgrade over the older model in regards to the impedance.  Comparable to the M1060, the M1060C has 18ohm impedance vs 50ohm impedance.  The 106mm driver is the same size and frequency response is the same at 10Hz-50kHz.  The M1060C is slightly less efficient than the older model as well as the M565C with 90dB vs. 96dB respectively.  These headphones would probably benefit from one of the portable DACs mentioned in this article or one of the desktop DACs available on the Monoprice website.

Conclusion

Monoprice has really progressed in the A/V world in leaps and bounds within the past couple years. Just two years ago Monoprice wowed us with their Monolith Home Theater Power Amps, Air Motion Cinema 5 Bookshelf Speakers, and prototype 15" subwoofer that debuted at CEDIA 2016. Since then Monoprice has continued to expand their Monolith line with numerous products including these portable headphone amps and headphones discussed here.  Their new 10” and 12” subs have been reviewed at length in a recent article by James Larson.  Monoprice has now become a true contender in this arena known as A/V.  They will continue to be a force to be reckoned with especially with their prices being as reasonable as they have been.  Stay tuned for a demo report on the M1060C and the USB DAC Headphone amp in the new future.  If you have any of these products or any others offered by Monoprice, please post your comments in the thread.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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Kevin is a blue-collar family man and A/V enthusiast who was introduced to music and movies by the age of five. He took courses on Film Music and Film History in college just for the heck of it along with receiving his BFA in Illustration from Cal State Fullerton. He grew up listening to music on vintage equipment, and soon took an interest in home theater.

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