Monoprice Monolith M560 Planar Headphones

General Information

Planar Headphones go sub $200! A good first effort, these superb value headphones pack quite a bit of the planar headphone 'experience' for not a lot of dough.

Latest reviews

MLGrado

500+ Head-Fier
Pros: Price, Comfort, Solid build quality, Spacious sound.
Cons: Average bass performance, some unevenness and lack of treble refinement. These lean to the bright, exciting side, perhaps too far for many.
Monoprice has quietly entered the Planar Magnetic Headphone market with two entries.  The smaller, portable M560, and the as of yet released M1060, that appears to be aimed at the upper end planar market dominated by HifiMan and Audeze.  
 
The M560 is a nicely built, sturdy headphone that is very comfortable.  It can be used as both an open and a closed back headphone.  The wood colored caps attach magnetically, and are easily removed and replaced.  
 
In my opinion, though, this headphone is ONLY for open back use.  When the cups are closed, the headphones take on a very nasal, honky sound that is just in a word, terrible.  Take those cups off, and the sound opens up (as should be expected) and becomes much, much more natural.  
 
These headphones require SIGNIFICANT BREAK-IN.  At first, they have little to no bass whatsoever.  A real disappointment.  But, that changes dramatically after 50 to 100 hours of break-in.  The bass really comes into its own in time.  The planar driver is small, so these will never be bass monsters, and are NOT for the basshead, but they sound nice and full and do 'audiophile' bass quite well, until pushed too hard.  Try to ask for too much and the drivers lose some of their control and a bit of distortion will creep in.  The best bass performance will be had with a capable headphone amp.  I found that the headphone output of an iPhone 6 could drive the headphones to acceptable volume, but lost some bass control when pushed.  
 
 
I would say the biggest weakness, though, is the treble response.  These are HOT in the 5khz to 10khz octave.  Which really puts the listener close to the sound, with tons of presence.  A 'front row' experience.   At first listen, this characteristic combined with the lack of bass response makes these sound VERY bright and tinny, and upon first impression one might be tempted to send these headphones back.  But rest assured and be patient; the bass will come, and the treble will settle in slightly.  The end result is still a bright, forward presentation, so amplifier matching could be very important.  I am currently listening to the M560 via the headphone out of an iFi iDSD Micro.  This is a very nice pairing, and the result is quite enjoyable.  
 
All in all, I think its a good first effort by Monoprice.  There are flaws that if addressed could take this from a good to very good, from a good value to an outstanding value.  If one is in the market for an under $200 headphone, I would suggest auditioning other known entities in the price range.  But definitely give these a listen while you are at it.  You get a taste of the planar speed and low distortion for not a lot of $$$.  
 
If you do get a pair of these, give them time.  I was all set to send mine back.  Several days of break-in changed my mind.  These are a good headphone for say, a second system, a portable rig, a bedroom setup, etc.  

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