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Monoprice Monolith Desktop THX Amp/DAC (#24459) - Impressions Thread

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by XERO1, Sep 11, 2017.
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  1. antdroid
    I think thats an individual choice. For me, I love it. I have a bunch of IEMs and Headphones and the ability to EQ and SAVE each one is great. I can also EQ my speakers. The ability to fine tune every setting like cross-feed and balance and everything is quite nice too. In general, the DAC on the RME is more detailed than the DAC on the Monolith, despite it using an older 4490 vs 4493 DAC. The output on the RME for IEMs is really well done and black as midnight on a moonless night. The Monolith THX has audible noise when I use some sensitive IEMs.

    The headphone output on the RME is quite sufficient on high gain, while the THX does have better output in general using balanced, but I am perfectly fine using the 1/4" out on the RME right now. I switch off and on between both (with RME being the DAC for the Monolith).

    Other than that, having a remote is a nice feature. I honestly like both of them, but I like the RME more because it has more features and sounds better to me.
  2. AresHarvest
    One thing not mentioned is the drivers. RME drivers are, in my experience, the most stable of any audio manufacturer. Fewer buffer underruns at any given setting, compared to the competition.

    Now, round-trip latency isn't a concern (or even a thing) when using an output-only device, so the fact that RME drivers can achieve extremely low output latency is probably not a concern for you. It would be if you had to monitor inputs and playback while recording, but again that's not what the ADI-2 DAC is for. But either way, it's a testament to the driver quality.

    IMO it definitely is $600 better, provided you have that $600 to spend. And it appears you do, since you already bought it. If you could only afford the Monoprice now but had to save up to get the RME instead, I would probably say get the Monoprice.

    Edit: one thing occurred to me just now. While I was demoing the ADI-2 DAC I didn't check if the crossfeed and EQ settings can be applied to the line outputs. If they can, you can get best of both worlds by pairing the ADI-2 DAC with a THX/Massdrop AAA 789. You know, if you ever want to get that additional output power.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
  3. SmokeNMirrorz
    Going further, a laboratory calibrated and certified McIntosh DAC and Preamp is pretty much untouchable. That's probably $25-50k so why not get that instead; it's better no?

    Few of us our privileged enough to not consider the price to performance ratio. The THX wins that one I believe. For most of us is that's likely the single guiding metric of what's "best" and what we wind up buying. That's why the magic MP coupon day was the final decision for my purchase. The performance I was after fell within my budget for a day and the ratio became both untouchable (it already was) and attainable.

    Price aside, clearly the RME wins on features... You utilize the RME's features for your collection that includes IEMs and the RME has lower noise with them (you just need an impedance cable for IEMs on the THX btw and noise gone). You, in your case, get a lot of additional benefits from those features. Perhaps those features allow you to tailor the sound to where it becomes better in your use case.

    However, the THX-AAA is pretty much the most linear op-amp ever made on a chip and the dual 4493 DACs in the THX is a step-up from the RME on paper at least and it's got more power. So while you may prefer the RME sound better, which could be feature/equipment choice driven, others may not and numbers likely don't support it either. I opened up my 788 and the board and build is excellent; haven't seen the guts of an RME but no reason to think it's notably better. Even if I could afford an RME I don't know that I'd prefer or even want it; since the THX already exceeded my requirements. I'd ultimately let my ears decide across the gear that matters most to the listening I'll do on it.

    Per sff2008 and your dilemma of choice: if not both, I'd let my ears make the final decision by listening to the pre-outs feeding your amp/speakers if that's 80% of your listening (get the XLR cable if nec < $30). Test your cans, fully evaluate the the feature set and its control over the the sound and your overall pleasure. If lots of presets is critical then the choice is clear. If the absolute best sound is the priority then only you can decide. ; )
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
  4. SmokeNMirrorz
    If you get that XLR-4 to 2xXLR-3 cable or similar then you have the connectivity without any soldering or alteration. If having your connections on the front is an issue then with soldering you can rewire the existing pair or rear XLR-3 input connectors to the same pins as the XLR-4 used by the front headphones (or the adapter cable). If this is done then the front XLR headphone jack and the rear stereo XLR outs would both be controlled by the volume together. You'd give up the XLR-3 stereo inputs (they get desoldered) and your warranty just to have rear mounting. It might be reasonable, though, if you're largely dedicating it as a balanced preamp with the other inputs.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
  5. AresHarvest
    So we're looking at a choice between a $480 item and an $1100 item. Do you feel that your $25,000-50,000 item is an apt example of expanding budgets? I get that it's hyperbole, but come on.
    antdroid likes this.
  6. phthora
    Can you, uh... expand on that idea? I'm having a hard time coping with this information.
  7. franz12
    The RME would be side grade at best, if setting aside all those features. I did a head-to-head comparison between this and ifi Pro iDSD ($2500). I would say they sound just slightly different. I wouldn't say one is upgrade from the other.
  8. antdroid
    Yes, if you took away all the features that make the RME ADI-2 unique and more expensive, then it would be a side-to-slight upgrade. But that's not what it is. You get a truckload of additional features and better display and interface. And you are paying for that additional benefit and features.

    Again, I like both units. You have to decide if you need the additional features or not.

    @phthora - I dont really know how to really explain it, but when I use with my Focal headphones, I can definitely pick out more detail using the RME as a DAC than when not. It just might be better implemented. I don't know.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
    phthora likes this.
  9. therealness
    Ok. I own a studio and I’m gonna step in here. Buy the monolith. Save the money. Unless you live in music, it’s likely overkill for features you don’t need. Wait for a Monoprice sale and buy it. It’s honestly amazing and so reasonably priced. The dac chips alone are $100, I can only imagine the thx chips are similar. It’s amazing, get balanced cables and enjoy. Save the $1000 and buy a better dac for your home speaker setup.
    SmokeNMirrorz, stimuz and lgcubana like this.
  10. lgcubana
    Periapt has me on a 3 week turnaround time, for my balanced cables; which is really making me impatient to test out the full capabilities of the THX 788.

    Could you expound on the THX’s ability to produce better output on the balanced connection ?
    E.g. more detail, better presence or just louder

  11. stimuz
    I ordered a cable too. I really wasn't going to, but then I realized I have 3 headphones that can use dual 2.5mm to XLR so why not. That said, single ended I haven't even gone past -10 DB and I'm told +16 is where it caps out, so I really just ordered the cable because I wanted a longer cable.

    I honestly don't see how dac/amps beyond this point can be better from a functional standpoint, but I can see the argument for features like a remote and saved EQ settings which I assume they COULD patch into the firmware eventually if its on their radar. Then there's tubes, which are entirely subjective, which I'm personally not a fan of since I'd rather just EQ and it always screws with the lows.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019
  12. stimuz
    Yea, for an all in one it checked all the boxes. Good dac, good amp, looks nice. Those are pretty much all my boxes for an amp or dac.
  13. antdroid
    My two issues with the monolith are no preset saving and line noise which is audible on highly sensitive headphones. Most over-ears should be fine but it's not great for IEMs which I can hear the noise in quieter parts of music or movies. The ADI2 is black out clean on both outputs and has the additional functionality.

    I still use the Monolith when I want to drive a more powerful hungry planar headphone but the RME does do alright on high gain. The most noticeable difference for me was when using a highly dynamic Focal headphone (which are sensitive and have low impedance) using balanced on the Monolith vs using the RME. The RME sounded more compressed on normal gain, but switching it to high gain solved that. I can see the super power hungry headphones performing better on the balanced output of the monolith.

    I'll just mention this again: either amp/DAC combo is extremely solid for their class. To me, it comes down to feature set and possible sensitivity to line noise. An iFi IEmatch or any noise attenuator will help correct the noise problem for the monolith.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019
  14. sff2008
    Two follow up questions about the Monolith. One, is EQ adjustment only for headphone out or will it work with the RCA outs to powered monitors? Two, if I wanted to have the XLR ins rewired to outs, does anyone know of a place that offers such a service?
  15. lgcubana
    On the re-wiring: if you can find a local TV and or stereo repair shop. You could go wild, Wild, West and use someone that services game consoles, for overheating issues; as they usually have good soldering skills.
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