Monolith M560 Planar Headphones

Great build, sound, and semi-portable. A steal at $200.

I bought these on the chance that they might be good, with just a few early reviews in. I have been listening to them for a couple of weeks now, a couple of hours per day. Here is my take.

DAC/Amp: Schiit Jotunheim
Other headphones I compared them to:
AKG K7XX
Sennheiser 558, 6XX
Foxtex TH-X00
Alessandro Music Series One
Hifiman he-350

Build quality: Good at any price, and outstanding at this price. They are made from premium materials - real wood and metal; these are rock solid and designed to last a long time.

Comfort: Fine, and I have no trouble listening to them for hours on end. They are definitely less comfortable than my Sennheisers or AKGs, but those are pretty much perfect, and a tough act to follow. The earcups are weird - for me, they are not quite over the ear, being over the ear at the bottom, but touching a bit at the top. If you have small ears, they will be great. If you have big ears, you might not like these. For me (I have pretty normal-sized ears), they're passable. I lent them to a friend who said that they didn't really fit on his ears and didn't like the feel, but he's used to ultra-comfy Sennheisers.

Sound:

Open, these sound really good. Soundstage is pretty normal (not too wide, not too narrow, but just right). They are reasonably accurate across the frequency range, though I did have to EQ them a bit (+2.5 dB around 80 Hz and a +1-3 dB curve through the upper midrange) to make them suit my taste. Once I EQ'd them, I really liked them.

The thing that is really special is something that I don't have a great word for - "texture", maybe? These sound incredibly good with big horns, strings, breathy voices. There is detail that I do not hear with any of my other headphones. It's special, and the main reason I have been picking these up over my other headphones again and again.

Using these closed, with the magnetic wood caps installed, is a big compromise. The soundstage disappears, frequencies are squeezed and missing (I didn't try EQing it out, but it's not a good starting point). I didn't listen to them for long this way, as I have no reason to use them closed. If you share an office with someone, being able to switch them to closed might come in handy, but you will never want to use them closed for sound reasons. My Fostex closed headphones are way better than these in closed mode (although they were twice the price too).

Portability: I'm going to take these with me traveling. They sound pretty good plugged into my phone and don't need an amp to sound decent. They fold up flat, and the case is nice. They are pretty big, but are thin in their case, so they are definitely portable if you have a backpack or mid-sized bag to toss them into. The build is designed for some light squishing - it's solid and I have no doubt that these will survive some abuse in my backpack.

Summary: Great value, solid build, sound great open, big but still portable. Get them for the "texture". Can't wait for the M1060s!

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