Is it really possible that these open back planar magnetic headphones can outperform the $1,000 competition? They’ve been compared to some of the best Audeze, Sennheiser, and HIFIMAN open back cans.
How do they compare when you weigh each of the best and worst features? Our extremely detailed and in-depth review will highlight the most important features you’ll want to consider. Are you ready to see if they can live up to their newly-founded reputation?
If you’re anything like us, you probably agree with the importance of having all the facts before you draw any conclusions! Keep reading our Monoprice Monolith M1060 Review to see if they really are the best planar magnetic headphone!
Monolith M1060 Review – Best Planar Magnetic
Features & Technical Specs:
- Open back circumaural ear cup design
- Includes MMCX to 3.5 mm right angle headphone cable
- Also includes a hard shell carrying case
- Connectivity: Wired
- Driver Type: Planar Magnetic
- Driver Size: 106 mm
- Sensitivity: 96 dB/1 mW
- Impedance: 50 Ohms
- Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 50 kHz
- Dimensions: 11.8 x 12.2 x 4.9 inches
- Weight: 1.1 pounds
Before you move on, take a quick look at the links below that you can use to navigate our review. Each section will provide an in-depth analysis for each individual performance aspect.
Here are the 5 most important performance features you’ll want to consider before making your decision:
- Build Quality & Durability
- Comfort & Ventilation
- 106 mm Planar Magnetic Drivers
- Sonic Performance – How Do They Sound?
- Who Are These Cans Perfect For?
Now that you’ve taken a quick look at the technical specs, let’s start by examining two of the most important features – build quality and durability.
Build Quality & Durability
Before we get into the actual details about build quality and durability, you probably noticed that these cans look pretty similar to many of HIFIMAN’s planar magnetic headphones. While they do share certain outward similarities, there are a few clear cut differences that we’ll cover in detail below.
Spring Steel & Faux Leather Headband
The top piece of the headband is made of spring steel and the strap just under that is made of faux leather. Upon first glance, they look very similar to many HIFIMAN heapdhones. Are they more well-built than the HE 400i, or flimsy and uncomfortable?
As you’re holding these cans in your hand, you’ll notice that you can bend the headband outwards pretty far (pulling both ear cups away from each other). While they do snap right back into shape, this quick stress test is the first red flag in this area.
As you’re bending them outwards and adjusting the slide/click headband – you’ll start to notice that they have a somewhat flimsy and cheaper build. Does the cheaper build only apply to the headband design, or are the ear cups and padding also lacking in quality?
Wood Finish Ear Cup Housings
As you can see in the picture above, the glossy wood finish looks great and adds a nice touch to an otherwise all metal headphone. From the outside – the wood housings look great (especially if you’re a fan of wood finish on electronics). Despite the great-looking finish, it’s not the most practical or durable choice of material.
If you remove the metal grills from each ear cup, you’ll notice the wood housing surrounding the planar magnetic drivers on the inside of both ear cups. Although the wood on the outside was clearly sanded and touched up with a finish – the wood on the inside is not.
Aside from a purely aesthetic standpoint, the lack of a nice finish can cause minor issues under certain circumstances. For example, there have been a few complaints about the wood on the inside cracking when it’s overly humid or dry. Most headphone companies don’t expect us to actually open up the ear cups and look inside, so it’s very possible that they simply overlooked this issue with long-lasting durability.
Ear Cushion Padding & Rotating Ear Cups
The ear pads themselves are nice and roomy. They have oval/rectangular openings that will comfortably fit most ear sizes. They are glued on and non-removable (unless you want to buy your own glue and replacement pads).
There is tons of cushion and as you press down on the pads, you’ll probably get even more excited to try them on. Each ear cup also rotates a full 360° which is a nice bonus feature if you plan on using these as reference monitors. It’s also more convenient for storage since you can fold them flat and face-down on your desk or table.
The headphones themselves don’t fold, and the included carrying case is bulkier than most. In order to preserve their quality right out of the box, you might want to consider storing them using a headphone stand instead. Next, let’s take a look at the headphone cable!
MMCX Headphone Cable
The included headphone cable uses MMCX connectors that pop directly into each ear cup. MMCX cables are commonly used on Shure’s IEMs like the SE315-CL – which does make it a slightly odd choice for planar magnetic cans.
The cable also features a 3.5 mm right angle for plugging into your laptop, DAP, or smartphone. While it is a quality cable that’s designed to last – right angle MMCX cables are much better suited for portable use. The headphones themselves clearly are not designed to be taken with you on-the-go which is why the cable seems slightly out of place.
That being said, it is fully detachable so if you need more length or don’t want to use the right angle connector, you can easily replace the cable. In the section below, we’ll cover a few build quality concerns and what you can do to minimize any potential issues.
Build Quality Concerns
Since these cans definitely lean towards a cheaper build, you may have to fix minor issues like the headband coming loose or a wood housing slightly cracking over time. Keep in mind that the issues mentioned above about the wood housing becoming slightly cracked only occur in a few isolated incidents. For the most part, your main concern in this area will usually revolve around making modifications as you deem necessary.
For example, if you want to take the metal grills off, to take a look inside – you can use a screwdriver to remove them. (Some people recommend removing the pads covering the drivers which we’ll cover in more detail below.)
Overall, aside from the wood potentially cracking (and despite the flimsier build), these cans are pretty easy to fix in most cases. If you really wanted to preserve their initial quality, you could open up the ear cups and use your own wood finish/waterproofing solution to coat the wood. How well they hold up over time will largely depend on how you choose to store and treat them.
If the cheaper build quality and minor issues with durability haven’t steered you away yet – let’s see if these cans make up for it with stellar comfort and sonic performance!
Comfort & Ventilation
There isn’t much to complain about in terms of comfort as the ear cup padding is more than adequate and the headband does a pretty good job at evenly-distributing the weight. Let’s take a closer look at how they manage to provide such long-lasting comfort!
Comfort Compared To The Audeze LCD2
These cans are a bit heavier than some, but still light enough that there isn’t an excessive amount of weight pulling down on the top of your head. They are considerably lighter than the Audeze LCD2 (which these have been commonly compared to). When you consider that the LCD2 cost almost $1000 – the issues with durability seem a lot less problematic.
Finding The Proper Adjustment Notch
That being said, if you have a bigger head and find it more difficult to find comfy ‘phones that fit right, you may want to consider this when it comes to the headband. Although the headband does have a decent adjustment range – you may have to adjust it to its highest setting. Once you find the proper adjustment notch, you shouldn’t have any issues with discomfort whatsoever.
One Reason To Remove The Ear Pads
As we mentioned above, the padding on both ear cups is extremely plush and provides a good amount of ventilation. The only reason you may want to try and remove them is if you like to experiment with different styles of ear cups to see how it changes the way they sound.
Open Back Design & Airflow
The open back ear cup design allows for a good amount of airflow which also adds to your ability to keep these on for longer listening sessions. Next, let’s see how the 106 mm planar magnetic drivers factor into the equation!
106 mm Planar Magnetic Drivers
The planar magnetic drivers housed inside each ear cup are significantly larger than other similarly-priced open back headphones. Does the extra size add to the weight or make your music sound better?
Planar magnetic drivers are known for producing well-balanced audio playback that’s extremely hard to reproduce using dynamic or other driver types. They do add a few more ounces to the overall wearing weight but the effect they have on your audio definitely makes it worth it.
Due to the drivers that are almost twice as big as the HIFIMAN HE 400i – you get much more depth and a wider overall soundscape. The easy-going sound quality made possible by the 106 mm planar magnetic drivers makes these easily one of the best reference headphones in this price range. Read the section below to see more details on how they actually sound!
Sonic Performance – How Do They Sound?
Even though planar magnetic headphones come with the expectation of an even-keeled and well-balanced sound profile – there are slight differences from headphone to headphone. For example, some cans focus on producing an ultra crisp and clear treble. Others have a stronger focus on the low end frequencies that are often neglected by open back cans. Which frequencies do the M1060 favor, if any?
Right away, you’ll notice that the sound profile here is fairly neutral across the board. They are easily able to handle a wide range of genres (although they do excel in genres with a low end emphasis). This isn’t to say that the bass response is overpowering in any way, but there is more noticeable depth and precision in the low end.
It isn’t very common to be blown away by the low end bass response of most open headphones (regardless of driver type). As a pair of planar magnetic cans, the bass response is even more impressive. While it does remain fairly neutral, there is a significant amount of extension and depth.
Although it is noticeably extended, the lows never venture into becoming overpowering or distorted. You could compare the way they handle lower frequencies to the Philips Fidelio X2. Even though they are pretty similar in this regard, the X2 have a slightly more detailed and crisp bass response.
In the mid range, there is a somewhat warm and fuzzy (like a blanket) tonal quality. The mids are comfortably warm and laid back and, at times, have an almost subdued presence. The vocal clarity is very detailed and light. How do they highs sound?
In the upper range, highs have fairly clean detail separation and there are no audible sibilance peaks. They are very nimble and remain well-balanced across a wide range of headphone testing tracks.
As we briefly mentioned in the first section, there are thin pads between the grill and drivers. You may notice a very slightly reduced high end, depending on your personal taste (and how detailed you like your treble to sound).
Some people choose to remove the foam pads in order to get more detail in the upper range. Once again, performing your own modifications isn’t absolutely necessary. (We wouldn’t recommend trying to modify them unless you know what you’re doing.) They sound great with or without the pads inside each ear cup but if you prefer cleaner highs – removing them is just one way you can open them up a little bit more.
They sound great out of the box, but if you think they need a more detailed treble, you might want to try removing the foam. In the past, some people have described hearing a weird ringing edge at higher frequencies (around 5 kHz). This issue has since been resolved and usually tends to occur on defective models that were released in the first wave of original models.
Soundstage & Imaging
The M1060 are significantly more open than most open cans which adds even more depth and precision to their deep and spacious bass response. Their soundscape is significantly wider than the Sennheiser HD 600 (which are known for having a slightly narrow and condensed quality).
Overall, the imaging accuracy is above-average although not as laser-focused as you might like it to be. Extremely detailed center imaging is slightly lacking and what you get instead is more detailed left, right, and precision from behind you.
Detail Separation & Pairing With A DAC/Amp
The level of detail separation is audibly more elevated than usual, but not quite as spacious as others. In the lower and upper range, there is a good amount of detail separation but the bass response is still the main focal point. They aren’t v-shaped by any means and for the most part remain fairly neutral and flat.
In order to bring out each of the qualities mentioned above, it’s recommended that you pair these with a quality DAC/amp. We recommend trying the Audioquest Dragonfly Red or another DAC/amp that can easily drive most open headphones.
How Would You Describe Their Overall Sound Signature?
If we had to describe the overall sonic performance and sound signature of these cans, here’s our best shot: Their easy-going playback almost feels like a cushion of audio wrapping a warm blanket around your ears. (Hopefully that makes sense.)
What we mean by that is that you won’t experience any listening fatigue AT ALL – even after several hours of critical/casual listening. The warm and fuzzy (like a blanket) tonal quality makes for an extremely enjoyable listening experience.
Who Are These Cans Perfect For?
While these cans do have their downsides, they would be perfect for you if you’re looking for a much more affordable open back planar magnetic headphone. Once again, they are widely regarded as performing better than the Audeze LCD2 (which usually retail for over twice as much).
As long as you don’t mind taking the slight risk of having to perform minor repairs (since we know that the build quality isn’t the best by any stretch of the imagination) – you should be pleasantly surprised by their overall comfort and performance.
All things considered, the wearing weight is far from overbearing and more evenly-distributed than you might expect. If you took away the plush ear cups, comfortable fit, and well-rounded sonic performance – these would have a hard time holding their own weight in this class.
Whether you’re a fan of music with a low, mid, or high end emphasis – it would be hard to recommend you look elsewhere. The fact that these can be used for both casual and critical listening, make them a clear Top 10 competitor in the sub-$1,000 price range.
Take a quick look at the review table below to see the criteria we used to calculate our final rating out of 10. You can also see the most important pros/cons to consider before you make your decision.
Now that you’ve read our Monoprice Monolith M1060 Review what do you think? Are they really the best affordable planar magnetic headphones? Do the issues with build quality and durability cancel out their comfort and sonic performance?
If you’d like to see more information or customer reviews, use the link below!
Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below! If you have any questions about anything else we covered here, feel free to ask below! We always do our best to respond as quickly as we can! Thanks for stopping by to check out this review, we hope to see you here again!
Sonic Elevation: Ride The Waves.
Build Quality & Durability7.0/10
Comfort & Ventilation9.0/10
Planar Magnetic Driver Performance9.5/10
MMCX Headphone Cable8.0/10
- Sounds Better Than $1,000 Open Cans
- Extended Bass Response
- Warm & Easy-Going Tonal Quality
- Treble Is Well-Balanced & Fairly Detailed
- Long-Lasting Comfort
- Cheaper Build Quality
- Uses An MMCX Headphone Cable