Today we are taking a look at the $999 USD ThieAudio Monarch MKII Tribrid In-Ear Monitors.
Disclaimer: Linsoul sent us the Monarch MKII IEM for this review, free of charge. As always, I am here to honestly convey my thoughts about the product to you. If you’d like to know more about the IEM, you could do so by clicking here.
ThieAudio is a company that specializes in the research & development of audiophile in-ear monitors as well as headphones. The brand was established in 2019. According to their statement, their goal is to serve as a creative platform by bringing together the best teams of engineers to design & manufacture high-performance, high-end audiophile products. Their statement continues by saying that for each project, they hand-select the most innovative and renowned engineers in their respective fields to oversee the design, engineering, and manufacturing of the products. In a very short period of time, they managed to become a great company that designs products for every price range on the market.
You can find our ThieAudio reviews, here.
ThieAudio Monarch MKII
The Monarch MKII is the newest tribrid from the widely popular ThieAudio company. The name MKII means that this is the second generation of the Monarch series. First Monarch, aka. MKI, or simply Monarch, debuted in late 2020. The company received a lot of feedback from fans and wanted to build another model based on the same configuration. Let’s take a closer look at the technical side of the Monarch series. The Monarchs have tribrid designs.
So what are tribrids? It is the concept of combining three different driver types in an in-ear monitor. Both the MKI and the MKII have the same configuration, each shell contains one dynamic driver, six balanced armature drivers, and two electrostatic drivers. The Monarchs actually belong to a larger series that ThieAudio calls the “Tribrids Line”. If we count the monarchs, there are currently 5 IEMs in this series. Shall we dive a little deeper into the Monarch MK2’s story?
ThieAudio’s R&D team had been following up with the reviews and comments from the audiophile community to refine the original Monarch and improve upon the solid foundation they designed. 1.5 years after Monarch’s initial release, they were ready for round two. After comments and reviews from the audiophile community, ThieAudio started working on the MK2, thinking that the Monarch’s successor should have a more balanced sound signature. The goal was to create a product with better tonal balance alongside a technically better monitor. The Monarch MKII is not just a successor created with a simple tuning change, the company states that they used this opportunity to change Monarch’s entire internal design, replacing the drivers with new versions.
They started the upgrade with the dynamic driver and they state that the new composite diaphragm driver is much more agile and capable of delivering even better, faster bass. They also state that in addition to this dynamic driver, they have also reconfigured two subwoofer balanced armature drivers responsible for the subwoofers.
The engineers continued the upgrade by doubling the number of mid drivers. The Monarch MKI is configured with two mid-drivers, while the MKII is equipped with four mid-drivers. Engineers state that this change has a huge impact on tuning, increasing technical performance and significantly reducing distortion.
The last change to the driver configuration was of course done to the treble region. The engineers updated the electrostatic drivers with the latest version for the MKII and aimed to reduce the resonance by changing the driver position inside the shell. They note that they were able to achieve a better treble response, better detail, and resolution with this change. Additionally, the team states that they have also made changes to the crossover and tuning. Well, I hope that answers some of your questions regarding the technical difference between the MKI and the MKII. Today, we’re going to be checking out the Monarch MK2 sound quality and see how it stacks up against other popular tribrids. You can learn more about the Monarch, here.
Driver Configuration: 1DD+6BA+2EST
Housing: Resin Body, Metal Nozzle, Artisan Faceplate
Cable: 26AWG Silver Plated OCC Litz Cable 4.4mm + 2.5mm + 3.5mm
Packaging & Accessories
The Monarch MKII comes in a medium-sized box. We see the artwork of the IEMs on the front side of the box and the packaging is designed in a simple yet elegant way. As soon as you open the box, the beauty of the faceplates draws your attention. There is a carrying case right next to the compartment that holds the in-ear monitors in place. The carrying case is not a very fancy one, it looks and feels ordinary. We saw the likes of it many times in Chi-Fi products. I would have wanted to see an elegant faux leather case instead of it. The rest of the accessories are inside this case.
Let’s take a closer look at the accessories. The Monarch MK2 comes with a 26-AWG thick silver-plated copper cable. The wires are in litz configuration and the cable is specified by ThieAudio to contain high purity (OCC) copper. The cable uses a proprietary connection system that the company calls “Smart-Switch”. The plug is removable and replaceable on the fly, so switching between balanced and unbalanced plugs is quick and easy. Monarch MK2 comes with 3 different plugs. balanced 4.4mm, unbalanced 3.5mm, and balanced 2.5mm.
The build quality of the cable is pretty good, the connectors feel solid but they are a bit heavy due to the thick metal housing. Furthermore, the cable has a braided fabric texture and its ergonomics are good. The cable also comes with memory wire hooks for increased stability. Let’s talk about other accessories other than the cable. The Monarch MK2 comes with a total of 6 pairs of eartips. 3 pairs of these are made of silicone material, and the remaining 3 pairs are made of foam. To be honest I would have liked to see a little more tips options in this price range. In addition, a stylish leather cable tie is provided with the cable. That covers all the accessories of the Monarch MKII.
Design, Build & Fit
Top-notch. The IEMs look like gemstones and the craftsmanship seems quite good. I can’t find any imperfections on the shell or on the faceplate. The Monarch MK2 has a custom acrylic shell, so it’s about as tough as acrylic IEMs get. Combining black resin and artisan faceplates seems to be a pretty good idea, it looks really good up close. The faceplates feature a textured design and glow beautifully under any light source. The colors and foil texture of the faceplates resemble the molten magma and it looks very unique in the ear.
In fact, the Monarchs must have attracted the attention of a few strangers, so they felt the need to come and ask me the model name while I was sitting in a cafe. Furthermore, the IEMs have metal, 6mm wide nozzles and because it’s a commonly used nozzle width, aftermarket tips are easy to find and use. There is also a vent on the side of the shell, most likely for the 10mm dynamic driver inside.
We know the Monarch looks great on the ear, but how about the fit and comfort? The Monarch MKII has 9 drivers on each side and you know how much space EST drivers occupy. When we take this into account, it is quite possible to say that the shell of Monarchs is not very large. It seems that Thieaudio tried to keep the Monarch’s size as small as physically possible. As for comfort, frankly, I wasn’t very happy with the included eartips. The included silicone tips didn’t suit my ears well and I don’t like foam tips in general, so I turned to aftermarket silicone tips.
After a few hours of tip-rolling. I noticed that the larger the core diameter of the tips, the more balanced the Monarch sounded. So I gave up SpinFits and everything else and decided on Block Ear+ and Spiral Dots instead. Both of these series fit exceptionally well on Monarch and they offered the most balanced sound out of many other options.
After finding the most suitable eartips for my ear anatomy, all my issues were gone and the experience was quite positive. I did not suffer from any pain or discomfort with the Monarch MKII, even after long listening sessions. With custom in-ear monitors, we often see that the earphone shell is designed to be held up or supported by the cymba region of the ear. The Monarch MKII, on the other hand, has a more rounded shell and is designed to stay comfortably in the concha cavum area instead.
I must say that this design works best for multi-driver earphones as the angular approach may not work with every ear out there. Many companies use thousands of scans of ears to optimize and find the best fit, however, in my opinion, nothing beats the good old smooth and rounded shell. Long story short, I don’t think you will have fit issues with this IEM unless you have abnormally small ears. I often forgot that I was wearing it!
Furthermore, I’m glad that ThieAudio uses metal nozzles and flat filters. They are much easier to clean compared to exposed bores. Extra durability is another bonus. Overall, I am quite satisfied with the design, build quality, and fit. I think ThieAudio did a stellar job with the Monarch MKII.
The review continues on Page Two, after the click HERE or by using the jump below.
Page 2: Sound Quality, Low, Mid, High, Technical Performance, Comparison, Last Words