The following review has been authored by Mr. Sid from Mumbai, who is a valued supporter, customer, and friend of The Audio Store. We extend our appreciation to Mr. Sid for sharing his personal impressions of the Thieaudio Monarch MK3 IEM and for his commitment to providing an unbiased review, devoid of any exchange of benefits. His insights greatly enrich this blog, and we are thankful for his dedication to the world of audio enthusiasts.
For the last two years, Monarch Mk2 remained my favorite IEM. Despite owning a good collection of high-end IEMs which are almost twice more expensive than Mk2, I ended up returning to the Mk2 whenever I added new tracks to my playlist and was always mesmerised by its balanced tuning. When I first heard about the launch of Mk3, I was very excited about it. Though a few reviewers expressed their discontent about the performance of Mk3 still I grabbed the Mk3. I have now owned the Mk3 for the past 3 weeks and clocked around 50 hours on it. Following is my thought on Mk3.
Before you go further, please note that my thoughts on Mk3 are primarily expressed as a comparison with Mk2, my erstwhile favorite IEM.
Macbook -> USB connection -> RME ADI DAC/ifi Zen Dac V2. Music source – Apple Music & locally stored FLAC files – mainly consisting of English POP & Rock and Bollywood music of the 2000s, Coke Studio, Early 2000 Hindi non-film albums, etc.
It's typical Thieaudio stuff. Almost the same shape & size cardboard box, same way of presentation and same accessories as Monarch Mk2. No surprise – good or bad. 3 sets of silicone and foam ear tips are included along with a cleaning cloth & cable tie. While the ear tips are sufficiently good but I am using my AZLA SednaEarfit Light ear tips on it, mainly because I find it more comfortable than any other ear tips in my collection. The included carrying case is also of the same design & size as Monarch Mk2. It's slightly larger than other IEM cases. I am a big fan of this size of case because it comfortably takes my IEM, my USB dongle DAC and my interconnect cable.
The included cable is a good quality silver-plated copper one. It’s a very soft, supple, and well-behaved cable. While it is not a braided like the Mk2 cable but it is certainly an upgrade in my opinion purely due to its less weight and better feel. The termination is modular so you can easily swap the plug to 3.5 single-ended or 4.4/2.5 balanced termination. The modular mechanism is well-built and sturdy. Again, the experience of swapping the termination of this cable is far superior to that of Monarch MK2 which was very tight and slippery. I almost felt like breaking my Monarch Mk2 cable on several occasions while changing the termination.
Like Monarch Mk2, the Mk3 also responded superbly well when I changed the stock cable to Effect Audio Cadmus & Eros S cable and a few more Earaudio branded cables. I find the pairing of the MK3 with Cadmus superbly enjoyable as it enhances the clarity. If you love cable rolling, the MK3 is going to challenge you to try different cables.
Build Quality/Wearing Comfort:
For my test, these IEMs look very classy and somewhat understated which I like. The resin body looks and feels seamless and smooth. No sharp edges. It still can be classified as a larger size but surprisingly they fit nicely in my ear concha. I use “MS” size AZLA SednaEarfit Light ear tips on these and I can wear these easily for 60-70 minutes at a single stretch without any fatigue before taking a 5-10-minute break.
Size comparison with Monarch Mk2:
Before buying Mk3, this was the most important point for me, especially because even after loving the Mk2, I always felt the wearing comfort of Mk2 was the biggest gripe for me. I am happy to report that Mk3 is a great improvement over Mk2, at least for me. Monarch mk2 is wider overall than mk3, whereas mk3 has more depth.
As a result, the Mk3 snugly fit in my ear but due to the increased depth they bulge slightly more than Mk2. I can easily tolerate a bulge IEM look than something that is wider and hitting my concha. The Mk2 creates pressure on my antitragus and overall exceeds the size of my concha due to that I have to constantly adjust it every 10-15 minutes and even after that I cannot listen on Mk2 for more than 40-45 minutes. I have not weighed the Mk2 & Mk3, so I can’t comment on that. However, the Mk3 feels slightly lighter and the weight is also well balanced.
Sound impression: Mk3 is not an evolution from Mk2 in my opinion, but it is a new style of presentation than Mk2.
Mk3 has a very good bass shelf, the dynamics between sub-bass and mid-bass are extremely engaging and satisfying. The proportion of sub-bass and mid-bass is cleverly mixed by Thieaudio engineers. It gives you a sense of fullness & richness while maintaining the rumble of sub-bass. The bass has a very nice slam and rumble. The physicality of bass notes brings life to genres like Pop, Punjabi, Bollywood, EDM etc. Listening to “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd is pure bliss on this IEM. Certainly, the bass has more meat and texture than Mk2 but its tuning never suffocates the lower-mids which is often the case with many IEMs when the mid-bass region is boosted.
The mid-range is slightly pulled back on Mk3 than Mk2. But again, it is done very tastefully and I never feel that I am missing any midrange information. Instead, it actually creates more depth in the stage and helps in making a better holographic image than Mk2. Male vocals are fuller and denser than Mk2 thanks to the boost in the mid-bass region. Female vocals are a little bit more elevated than Mk2 in my opinion, giving a sense of better clarity. However, on some tracks where there is already high energy in the upper mids of the song, the Mk3 reaches a threshold. For some, it may be fatiguing but for me, it suits my library so I have no issues. Mk2 tuning is safer in this region and for many female vocalists, I prefer Mk2 to Mk3.
This is one area where sometimes I am unable to choose my preference between Mk2 and Mk3. The Mk3 has a great treble extension but it has more energy in the overall treble region, especially the lower treble region. The lift in the entire 3-4K range coupled with a boosted treble region can sometimes become fatiguing, especially on not so well mastered tracks. Mk2 is better as far as balance in tuning is concerned but Mk3 has great air and sense of details due to the treble extension. For someone who is looking for more calmer treble, the Mk3 may be a concern.
Other than tuning, on all technical parameters the Mk3 is better than the Mk2. However, the difference is marginal rather than a huge leap. Still, it is perceivable. Mk3 has better resolution, better layering, and better holographic soundstage than Mk2. The attack and finishing range of notes are more defined and precise on Mk3. Thanks to its tuning and technical capability, I think Mk3 is easily a more dynamic IEM than Mk2. Due to the fullness of the base region, the Mk3 timbre also feels more correct and good stereo setup like.
Another interesting note, on my Mk2 I tried to simulate the FR of Mk3 by compensating a few db here and there on the parametric EQ of my Roon DSP but I failed to get a Mk3-like result. The bass region of Mk3 is very difficult to simulate on Mk2 by equalisation.
Mk2 is still very close to my preference tuning and I can’t really choose a winner between Mk2 and Mk3. Mk3 on its own is a superb IEM. For the price the Mk2 is offered, I don’t see any competition to it except its own sibling Mk2. Generally, whenever a new version of any consumer product is launched, the common belief is that it will be better than the older one. But the same can’t be concluded for Mk3. The Mk3 is clearly on a different path. If you like Mk2 and still after 3 years feel that it is your comfort tuning, you can continue with it. It’s a brilliant IEM and I adore it. But if your wallet allows it and you want to explore a bit of a spicy and fun sound signature, grab the Mk3. Mk3 has a character, style, and boldness which you may like.
A big thanks to the TAS team - Pritam, Pankaj ji, Aishwarya, and the entire backend team for keeping me updated about the availability of Mk3 and lightning-fast delivery. They are the most trustworthy, humble, and professional team I have ever dealt with in a personal hi-fi space.