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Monoprice Monolith USB DAC Amp and M1060C Planar Magnetic Headphones Review



  • Product Name: Monolith USB DAC Headphone Amplifier and M1060C Over Ear Closed Back Planar Magnetic Headphones
  • Manufacturer: Monoprice
  • Review Date: July 30, 2018 09:00
  • MSRP: $100 - Monolith USB DAC Headphone Amplifier, $330 - M1060C Over Ear Closed Back Planar Magnetic Headphones
  • First Impression: Gotta Have It!

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 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.  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 model #10565.  Many have related this product to the Energy Take Classic 5.1 with design and sound comparisons.  I believe the most substantial contribution to the A/V world courtesy of Monoprice has been their Monolith series products.  There have been a number of reviews here on Audioholics.com pertaining to these, such as their Monolith subwoofers, and recently the MP-65RT bookshelf speakers.  I had a chance to preview a few of their newest headphones so when Monoprice asked if I'd be interested in doing a full review of their Monolith USB DAC headphone amplifier and the M1060C Closed Back Planar Magnetic Headphones I immediately said "Yes!".

Monolith USB DAC Headphone Amplifier

The Monolith USB DAC headphone amplifier is one of the smallest headphone amps on the market. The amp arrived together in one box with the M1060C headphones.  Nestled inside, the DAC had its own individual package within the larger box reminiscent of a small jewelry box.

DAC box.png

The purpose of the Monolith USB DAC amp is to enhance or “amplifiy” 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.  The only limitation with this device is system compatibility.  The information on the Monoprice website states that the device is compatible with Windows 10, but in fine print one of the images on their website states that the device is compatible with Mac, PC, iOS, and Android devices.

Monolith M1060C Over Ear Closed Back Planar Magnetic Headphones

M1060C OE alternate copy.jpg

The Monolith M1060C is the second pair of headphones that Monoprice has added to their Monolith line. The M1060C, like the M565C, are based on the M1060 Open Back Planar Magnetic Headphones.  The M1060 Open Back Headphones are $299.99 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 keep with the rounded shape. 

M1060C box.jpg     M1060C open box.jpg     M1060C open case.jpg

The M1060Cs came packaged in a hard, black card stock box that has a glossy Monoprice Monolith logo imprinted into it.  Pretty nifty.  The M1060Cs were then enclosed in a zippered case, which was wrapped in a material similar to a speaker grill screen.  Inside the case were the M1060Cs nestled inside a shaped insert customized to fit the headphones.  The thinner piece of the case, once opened, contained a netted material attached halfway up the flap that held a “Thank you” card with customer support information. 

M1060C OE accessories copy.jpg

There was also a plastic zip locked pouch that carried the canvas wrapped detachable 6ft. 2.5mm – 3.5mm audio cable audio cord and 1/4” to 3.5mm audio adaptor plug.  Replacement cables from Monoprice are available for $14.99.  The M1060C are not clearly labeled which side is which.  With some deduction, I found that the cushions are shaped in such a tapered fashion that the only way they could fit comfortably over each ear was to place them a certain way.  Then I was able to listen in true stereo.  I had my other pair of headphones handy (AKG K511). They are clearly marked and I was also able to compare the two and confirm my deduction.  The M1060C are a considerable upgrade over Monoprice's older model, the M1060 in regards to impedance.  The M1060C has 18ohm impedance vs 50ohm impedance with the M1060.  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 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. 

Set Up


For the majority of the listening tests I played music through my 8” Samsung Tab A and my desktop computer.  My desktop set-up included a Mac Mini, which was connected via headphone output to an old NuReality VHT-100 Vivid 3-D Theater sound processor using a male 3.5mm to male L/R RCA connector.  The VHT-100 was then connected to an Auxiliary input of a Bose Wave Radio III using another male 3.5mm to male L/R RCA connector only in reverse.  These are the only methods of which I use any pair of headphones including the ones I currently own, the AKG K511 that can be had on Amazon for around $87.   Although these are not in the same league as any planar magnetic headphones, they do offer a good comparison.  I plugged the DAC into my Mac via USB, which my computer easily recognized.  I was able to switch back and forth from the DAC to no DAC to compare.  The music sources I used were Pandora Radio (played through my tablet and computer) and my personal CD collection (played through my computer).

Listening Tests

Mobile Device

For this portion of the demo I used my mobile device.  I know this is not the method of choice of seriously listening to music, but society is listening to music more in this fashion.  So I felt it was fitting to perform part of my demo in this way.  I did not use the DAC amplifier since it is a USB device.  This is where Monoprice’s yet to be released Portable Headphone Amplifier and DAC with THX AAA technology would be beneficial.  Thus, I only used the M1060Cs alone.  I was able to switch between the M1006C and my K511s to compare. The M1060Cs were obviously not noise cancelling, but they did manage to block out much of the outside noise when sound was played through them.  While wearing them, they did feel a little heavy for my liking and I thought they were going to slip off my head a few times so it took some adjusting to alleviate this.  If I'm going to listen to music through headphones I want them to be comfortable.  These are very comfortable headphones with a generous amount of cushion.

“Burns Attack” by Paul Oakenfold

The first song listed in this demo was an electronic track from Pandora titled “Burns Attack” by Paul Oakenfold off the soundtrack for the 2004 Anime film, Appleseed.  This song employed the typical electronic sound associated with many of Oakenfold’s cuts.  The song came through the M1060Cs very light and airy, but very detailed.  The bass beat was encompassing, pounding, but not overwhelming.  The sound emanating through the M1060Cs gave the impression I was listening through my home stereo.  At first, the sound of the M1060Cs sounded a little underwhelming because it was not in my face like the sound through my K511s.  This has to do with the sensitivity rating of my K511s and the M1060Cs, which are 113dB and 90dB, respectively.  The M1060Cs will definitely benefit from a portable headphone amp or like I did, you can simply pump up the volume.  This meant I had to turn my volume up past the recommended volume setting of my Tab A.  The sound difference between the M1060Cs and my K511s was honestly not considerably different at moderate volume.  Only at high volumes did the M1060Cs show their true colors.

“Heartache Tonight” by the Eagles/”Another Brick in the Wall, pt.2” by Pink Floyd


Next up was the Classic Rock genre of music, which happens to be one of my favorite types of music.  I decided to put notice on two tracks in this genre.  The two songs were “Heartache Tonight” by the Eagles off their The Long Run album from 1979 and “Another Brick in the Wall part 2” by Pink Floyd off their album The Wall also from 1979.  Played through the M1060Cs, both of these iconic songs displayed exceptional stereo imaging.  I heard individual drum hits from bass to hi-hats very distinctly.  On “Heartache Tonight”, I was able to discern two guitars coming from left, right, and one dead center.  Glenn Frey’s lead vocals were also front and center.  Don Henley’s last little drum riff at around the 4:25 minute mark moved from right, center, and then left.   “Another Brick in the Wall part 2” sounded as though it was performed on a stage and it took place right in front of me.  The M1060Cs produced the bass drum beat and the bass guitar very solidly.  The M1060Cs were very revealing in this particular genre of music and I liked it.


Moving on with my demo, I switched gears onto my Mac Mini desktop setup.  First I played music through my computer by merely plugging in the USB DAC into the rear of my Mac Mini (which was recognized immediately) and had the sound come through my Bose Wave Radio.  I also removed the DAC to compare the sound and I did notice a slight difference favoring the DAC.  I also did this with the M1060Cs and I noticed a more considerable difference.

“Run Through the Jungle” by Credence Clearwater Revival

The first song of mention played through Pandora off my desktop system is “Run Through the Jungle” by Credence Clearwater Revival off their album Cosmo’s Factory from 1970.  This is by far one of my all-time favorite songs.  With the DAC plugged in to the Mac Mini and played through both the Wave radio and the M1060Cs the music displayed more clarity and stereo imaging than played without the DAC.  With the DAC plugged in, the M1060Cs revealed more of their frequency response of 10Hz-50kHz.  It played the highs and lows with much authority and no amount of strain.  All in all the M1060Cs were extremely non-fatiguing. It was though I listened through bookshelf speakers rather than a pair of headphones.  John Fogerty’s vocals were clear and present all around meanwhile the rest of the band was heard from either the left or right side.  Another song of mention that displayed similar attributes to the CCR song was “Rock’n Me” by the Steve Miller Band from the album Fly Like an Eagle from 1976.  Steve Miller’s vocals soared above all other audio, while the sound of his fingers sliding across his guitar strings were more noticeable.  Gary Mallaber’s drums and Lonnie Turner’s bass were very distinguishable.

CD Collection

the-mummy.jpg Last of the Mohicans.jpg

I decided to throw in a few CDs for this demo.  The ones I listened to were mostly from my film score collection.  I have heard these CDs countless times.  I know how they sound while played through headphones.  A notable track was “Imhotep” by the late Jerry Goldsmith from The Mummy (1999) soundtrack.  This track, like so many of his film scores, Jerry Goldsmith utilized extensive brass and percussion.  The use of the tambourine was also used and very noticeable to the right.  The subtle vocal tracks and percussion were above everything else and seemed to come from afar.  The overall sound of the track was very atmospheric.  Another atmospheric track that I decided to test out was the “Massacre/Canoes” track from the film score to Last of the Mohicans by Trevor Jones.  Trevor Jones also used percussive elements but not as concussive as Jerry Goldsmith.  Strings were also more prevalent on this driving rhythmic track.  The M1060Cs really allowed me to envision the scenes of the movies these tracks were from and replicated the surround effect as though I listened to these tracks in surround sound.

Just for giggles, I decided to plug my K511s into the DAC to see how they sounded.  They sounded good but compared to the M1060Cs, they sounded muffled.  Using the M1060Cs it was a considerable difference through the DAC than without as though a veil was lifted.


Monoprice has really progressed in the A/V world in leaps and bounds within the past couple years.  Monoprice has now become a contender in this arena known as A/V.  I believe they will continue to be a force especially with their prices being as reasonable as they have been.  For just $99, this DAC is quite a bargain among other USB DACs such as the Little Ego by Emotiva, which is $149.  The M1060Cs are another very good choice if you do not want to or do not have the means to spend on products such as the HiFiMAN SUSVARAs $6,000 price tag.  My experience with these two products made me think more about the benefit of spending a little more on components for a better desktop experience, especially on a budget.  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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