Thieaudio Monarch Mk 2 Review

The Thieaudio Monarch Mk 2 is the follow-up to the successful and well-liked tri-brid IEM Monarch. In my previous review of the original, I mentioned how much I enjoyed the IEM and it's clarity and sub-bass impact and near top of the the line performance for a price well under $1000. 

The Monarch MK2 raises the price of the original from $729 to $999, with an updated internal design. The driver configuration remains a tri-brid with the same number of drivers (1 dynamic driver, 6 balanced armature drivers, and 2 EST drivers). While the driver count remains the same, there were upgrades made to the dynamic driver, which was lacking some definition and quality in the original, and the BA configuration was changed to give more emphasis to the mid-range, and letting the ESTs handle the treble range.

This re-engineering also came with a new cable that is braided with a cloth sheathing and does not require a ridiculous long set of adapters to use with your music player of choice. In addition, tips and a carrying case are included in this package.  

The design of the shell was slightly altered in this new release. The shell is narrower, but also taller, and although it is still on the larger end of the IEM size-meter, I find that the MK2 is very comfortable for me to wear for long hours and I was never bothered by its fit in my ears.

Finally, before I start talking about the sound, I'd like to give a shout to the folks at for lending me both the Monarch Mk 2 and original Monarch to try out for this review. is an official retailer of the Thieaudio line-up and carry the Monarch MK2 on their site.

Sound Impressions

The Monarch MK2 brings a nice and welcome change from the previous Monarch original. In fact, if you heard the Monarch or the Clairvoyance before, you'd probably get a decent idea of what the MK2 sounds like. In my own listening of the prior two, I found that I liked parts of each of these IEMs, and my dream would be some combination of the two. With the Monarch MK2, it's gotten most of that combination down.

The MK2 brings a nice balanced sound signature that doesn't truly emphasize really any part of the sound spectrum to my ears. The bass range is above neutral but doesn't sound overly done and not doesn't necessarily make it go too far above the mids. The treble is generally smooth and well-extended, making this one of the more balanced and thorough Thieaudio products in terms of overall frequency response and tonal balance.

I spent some time switching back and forth between the Monarch (labeled as Sample 2 above) and the Monarch MK2 and the most immediate difference between the two were the massive amounts of sub-bass present on the original Monarch that made it really stand out. It had mega bass in this respect, and going to the Monarch MK2 made it sound quite limp in some ways. But this is only in quantity. The bass quality is a little improved on the MK2 with more definition, more evenness, and less mushy roundedness that the original Monarch and Clairvoyance had. The new dynamic driver is doing its thing here and that helps it. I wouldn't say the bass definition is the strong point still, however, and while its pretty good, I do find it lacking compared to other flagship IEMs out there.

That said, though, the less powerful sub-bass and added mid-bass are the right combination to make the MK2 a much more well-rounded IEM that doesn't project too much into the actual music. The mid-range benefits great from this as it becomes more forward and distinct.

The area that did surprise me, in perhaps a negative way, was the upper mid-range. In actual measurements, it's a welcome change from the Monarch and the switch to make it more aligned with how the Clairvoyance handles this area is a much needed welcome. The original Monarch was just a bit too forward and shouty in this area, with a steep bump in the 2K range that made some of my music a bit fatiguing, despite still sounding clean, clear, but perhaps sharp.

The Monarch MK2 still has a shimmer of this sharpness in this area, and perhaps it has more to do with the BA setup than the actual FR. When I listen to female-led songs or music with brass instruments, the forward sounding nature of this IEM presentation, can still become fatiguing. It's not a massive problem at lower volumes, but is more apparent when I crank the volume up more. This is probably more of a nitpick than anything, because for the most part, I don't find this an issue in regular listen and can easily be adjusted to in the long term. 

To add to this point, this sharpness is less than that of my own IEMs such as the Empire Ears Odin and the Hidition Viento, which are a little more pointed in this region. So with that said, I think the Monarch MK2 sounds fine.

Treble extension wasn't a big deal with the original Monarch, but it is improved on the MK2 with a more smoother, and extended treble response. I do find this range to come around with a softer and more gentle smooth flow and this makes it an overall nice and semi-sweet listen.

The Monarch MK2's technical capabilities are pretty solid. I don't think anything totally jumps out of my mind and that is probably a good thing. I can't say anything is lacking in quality here, but nothing jumps out either. Perhaps this is a benefit as it lets me focus on the music and not something distinct. The soundstage isn't huge but it's not small and compact either. The imaging is solid and resolution is an improvement over the original, primarily in the low end. The reduced sharpness all-around from the original is a welcome change, but there is a distinct BA-like edge to it in the mid-range that doesn't completely go away and probably is the heaviest contributor to the harshness I occasionally hear.

Final Thoughts

All that said, I think the Monarch MK2 is a nice improvement to an already stellar set of products that were released about a year and a half ago in the original Monarch and Clairvoyance. The combination of the two's tonal differences and an improved driver have made this one a more refined listen overall, and probably hits closer to the original Clairvoyance than the Monarch, and probably would have made better sense to be named as such. 

Either way, this is a good value at the $999 price point and it can trade blows with the best of them. 

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