After the popularity of their Monarch In-Ear Monitors, it was only a matter of time before Thieaudio would release a follow up, the Monarch MKIIs. A relatively young brand, Thieaudio was started by Linsoul in 2019 as a way to create high end Audiophile IEMs. Since then, they have made waves with their technological innovations, including creating the first IEMs to fully integrate EST driver technology (Monarch MKI). At $1000, these monitors are no small investment, one that most wouldn’t take lightly. I’m going to see if they live up to the hype.
What’s in the Box
- Monarch MKII In-Ear Monitors
- 26AWG OCC silver plated braided cable
- Thieaudio Carrying Case
- 3 Detachable Jack Adaptors (2.5mm TRRS, 3.5mm TRS, TRRRS)
- Cleaning Cloth
- Ear Tips (3 pairs rubber, 3 pairs foam)
Look and Feel
Right out of the box, the MKIIs give a comforting feeling of durability and craftsmanship. The monitors themselves are elegantly designed with a glossy finish on the outer plates that almost resembles cooling magma. The design is tastefully understated, and not trying to show off in a way that other brands might. The burgundy braided cable is malleable, but solid enough to where I know I won’t have to replace it anytime soon. Thieaduio presents a myriad of customization options, with six different ear tip options and 3 different jack adaptors, ensuring that the IEMs are compatible with your setup right out of the box. After a few hours of listening, I noticed some slight discomfort in my outer ear from the shape of the housing, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary for extended IEM use. Overall, I was very impressed with the build quality and thought that went into the design.
Under the hood, however, is a stark contrast to the MKIIs’ humble exterior. Thieaudio took the criticisms and shortcomings of the original Monarchs into account and refined the hardware immensely. One thing the original Monarchs were known for was its subs, and the MKIIs improve upon this by upgrading the 10mm dynamic driver to a new composite diaphragm driver, as well as adding two dedicated balanced sub drivers. The number of balanced armature mid drivers was doubled, with the MKIs having two, and the MKIIs sporting four. Rather than adding more drivers for the highs, Thieaudio chose to reconfigure and upgrade the existing high drivers to reduce unwanted resonances. In addition, advances in technology since the MKIs have allowed for a much more refined and precise tuning process.
The Monarch MKIIs have an impedance of 36 Ohms.
Like its aesthetics, the MKIIs’ soundstage doesn’t overstate. The stereo field is very wide and I felt changes in stereo width quite well. Widening effects in songs felt enveloping, but never like I was drowning in the mix. One complaint about the original Monarchs was a lack of dynamics; a complaint that Thieaudio took to heart and improved the dynamic range. I listened to Black Midi’s Sweater, my go-to track for testing dynamics, and was impressed by the amount of contrast the MKIIs were able to achieve. The sound rarely felt cheapened to create artificial loudness like other IEMs on the market, which I appreciate immensely. The MKIIs treat all dynamic levels with the same level of care.
One of the most prominent criticisms of the MKIs was the heavy boost to the lows. The MKIIs utilize the new parallel sub drivers to great effect, delivering sensitive yet present lows. What impressed me the most was the amount of subs present even at low volumes; I could hear and feel lows at soft volumes, without adding muddiness or distortion to the mix. The lows on the MKIIs are a welcome improvement.
One thing the original Monarchs were known for was their flat, studio-accurate mids. The MKIIs continue this trend with their new mid drivers. The addition of twice as many drivers allows for the MKIIs to maneuver this range elegantly. The enhanced midrange brings out more punch in the lows in a very natural way.
The Monarch’s high range blends well and never feels overwhelming. While somewhat subdued at times, reverb tails and attacks felt more present than in many other comparable monitors. They find hit a nice space in the mix that leaves room for other areas, while still enhancing the depth of field immensely. The highs never felt harsh, which is quite an impressive thing to pull off.
The Monarch MKIIs are a welcome improvement from its already impressive predecessor. I think for this price range, these IEMs are a serious contender to its competitors. The monitors bring out great aspects of the mix and the frequency ranges work symbiotically to bring the best aspects out of each other. Thieaudio’s constant technical innovations in the field of audiophile in-ears are exciting to see and I’ll be anxiously waiting how they follow this up.
You can buy the Monarch MKII here