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Monoprice Monolith THX 887 - Impressions Thread

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by XERO1, Sep 10, 2019.
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  1. adydula
    Just got my 887 and have had about two hours listening with Focal Clears, T1's, and HD 600's.

    First impression is clarity, openness, transparent and very, very quiet...absolutely an exceptional amp....TOTL for sure.

    Sonically this amp will allow you to test your source material and source gear, dac's etc...easily, with a really good set of headphones.

    Would purchase this again, no hesitation...

  2. Joong
    AAA 887 has smooth sounding with HD800S and M1060 through topping d50s 20191130_175044.jpg .
    Clarity and details are there and inviting.
    Smoothness and clarity/detail are usually opposing each other, but here they are altogether.
    Cat Music likes this.
  3. adydula
    I facilitate over at audiocircle and posted my experience to date with the Monoprice THX AAA 887:

    "Well the surprise is out...and I am very happy that my wonderful wife got me this new amp for Christmas!!

    Of course I had to open the box when it arrived today to make sure it was functional and I didnt have to return it for any possible defect. So far I have checked all the inputs and outputs for function. They all seem to work as designed, including the balanced and se jacks.

    So why did I decide to get this particular amp, JohnR, one of the circles admins, started a thread about the THX AAA amps, and I really have not kept up with all the new technology out there, so as I was reading what Schitt has done to help solve the Class AB crossover distortion with their continuity implementation in the new ASGARD 3 and other amps, I learned that THX was working on this issue as well but with higher power speaker amps.

    I watched and listened to a video with Laurie Fincham, who is Vice President of Audio Research at THX. He describes a 9 year process that led to this new THX AAA or Achromatic Audio Amplifier. In the video the focus is on the work of THX with Benchmark and the development of the Benchmark AHB2.
    The neat thing about this gentleman to me is he is an audiophile, engineer, mucic lover and a musician. So the background is he speaks to the Class A amp classification as "big, expensive, beautiful , but hot"....this again was focused on large 2 channel amps, but the parallels are there for Class A headphone amps. There are a few Class A amps that you can almost fry an egg on!! (can you say Asgard 1).

    So they didnt invent or re-invent the amplifier but as he states, they looked at the shortcomings, the physics, and developed a technology to deal with these. They have been working on this since 2006. The result is an amplifier that stays within a fraction of its low distortion right up to 1db of its full output. Distortion in the Benchark amp was about 100x lower than was seen with existing amps and the S/N ratio is much higher. Another interesting part was for them to measure this new technology it turned out to be very difficult, and they only felt they had the correct or accurate result when at least three engineers using three different sets of measuring equipment "got the same answers"....

    So they claim this technology provides a "clear window to the music". The aim of keeping the signal clear and pure was the inspiration for the new technology, AAA or Achromatic Audio Amplifier". Achromatic means "without color". The proverbial straight wire with gain.

    For more info on this you can Google THX and Laurie Finchman and oh by the way he played the string bass in a band for 17 years.

    So this is the reason I bought this amp, its a technology leader and has some of the best measurements ever to date. The techie in me had to listen with this new amp and its technology for myself.

    So how does this technology stack up for us headphone folks....one word: "EXCEPTIONAL".

    I have had only six+ hours with the amp, and it doesnt take me long to know this is a really special amp. The magic in short is THX measures the distortion as the signal crosses the Class AB + to "0" to - swings....and inverts this and re-injects it to cancel this crossover distortion..voila distortion gone (or negated). But there is more to this than just that..as always, great design and layout, power supply, low noise intergrated circuits or op amps....as the 9 year adventure evolved the quality of ICs and IC's designed and produced specifically for headphone audio amps appeared.

    The sum of all these parts can make or break anypiece of gear and make it a stellar device or just another run of the mill device with all sorts of claims of audio nirvana.

    New gear"itis" is always an issue, so I want to really be sure I am hearing what I think I am....so I brought over some friends and my most severe critic my wonderful "wife"....going back and forth eveyone liked the immediate "clarity" of the amp...comments like "gosh those guitars sound so clear, that drum sounds so much like a real drum...her voice is magnificant", "hand c;aps that sound like a human being made them"...and most of these folks were not audiophiles and think I am abit strange with all my audio stuff!! I did some blind AB switching and asked everyone which one is "better" to them and why, and then which one was more clear....all but one picked out the THX amp over the other (won't mention this one ...but its a favorite here)...

    So my first impression is this amp is so dark, or quiet..total silence, you dont know its on, across all three gain settings with the volume turned up all the way. Its a brutally honest amp, it lets you hear how good or bad your source is, its all there....you can easily discern music quality, compression etc...the often over used "garbage in garbage out" is here in spades! (in my second listening session, hour 7 I am up at o'dark thirty when the ambient noise is very low....I do detect a very slight hiss at high gain with 55 ohm Clears at the extreme position of the volume knob...in what I call never, never land...the your going to ruin your hearing land).

    If your into specs well, they are indeed very, very good. You can take a look at the monoprice site or the charts I posted below. These will make the measurebators out there grin from ear to ear....I might note there are (2) versions of this amp, one from Drop.com and this one from Monoprice. $399.

    The battle for specs never seems to end, how low can you go and for what price (note the recent Schitt Magni Hersey $99 op amps). Well Monoprice went and outdid the Drop version by a small amount but enough for bragging rights!! :>) At least with the Monoprice they were available and didnt have to wait for the Drop etc...The folks at Monoprice indicate they looked at the competition and changed out many resistors, op amps to the 888 level and a few other things to glean a 2db advantage over the Drop version)..I know "crazy" but I like it.... :>)

    Power, oh gosh, more than enough!! 16 ohms: 8800mw, 32 ohms: 6000 mw, 300 ohms: 700 mw...balanced. Less for SE. I used both no issue at all for low to high impedance T1's. Is there a difference between the two, to me not much if anything.

    The unit has a soft on/off switch, no mechannical click, it starts a on/off sequence and the power led shines red then green then white. There is a mechanical push button switch for selecting balanced or SE inputs, so if you have a balanced dac your good to go. Three position gain switch, .66x, 2.0x, and 6.6x. 1 for IEM's, 2 for most headphones, 3 for those really hard to drive cans. The output impedance is less than 0.05 ohms! The freqyency response is ruler flat...really flat...crosstalk -127db at 300 ohms! This is the world of a distortionless amplifier....or so dang close its not funny...spectacular engineering IMO.

    Absolutely no audible clicks or pops turning the amp on and off with the headphones plugged in. Headphone jacks are XLR 4 pin, standard 1/4 SE phone jack and the smaller 3.5mm SE. Very nice.

    It weighs about 3.5 lbs, runs cool, hard to tell its on...class AB....there is a switch on the back that is a byass function or a switch that aftere 2 hours without an input signal the amp turns off, the bypass is there if you want to leave the amp on all the time etc. Build quality is good, the only small issue I have is the volume pot is small and I am wondering how well it will last over time, but the warranty from Monoprice is "3" years....with my useage I will find out within a years time. The low end tracking on this unit is spot on, listening this morning at low levels I can not detect any mis-tracking at low volume levels. I have had to replace a few pots in my DIY stuff over the years for scratchy and mistracking, my ODA and BH Crack. Low level listening is very nice as well.

    So more on how does it "sound" or "not sound". I am trying not to be over-hyped but this unit is really that good...its a blanking really good amplifier, it "draws power to amplify the music signal without imparting any coloration or distortion"...this is a big claim, but it is the closest I have ever heard to this goal. Its alot like other experiences with other amps...you dont want to stop listening...but this is a new higher level. I would say this amp removes the "veil" once again...it allows your headphones to really shine according to their design. What do I mean by that...my Focal Clears I really love, now they shine even brighter...in that they are producing what the recording has in it and to the best capability of the headphone. Its like hey I just got a new set of headphones...my Beyer T1s' and HD600's never sounded so good. Live performances like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Live Anthology, Eva Cassidys, Live at Blues Alley, Sarah McLachlin, Fumbling Towards Ecasty, you can tell what the audience is doing, their reactions, just marvelous. The black background allow you to hear the drum swish's often overlooked or lost in a lesser amp. Patricia Barber has really well recorded and mastered stuff where she speaks and in between her diction you clearly hear the background instruments playing very subtley...and the room re-verberations. On early Beatles recordings its like your in the room with the "Boys"! Coupled with the Focal Clears its the best I have ever experienced and thats saying alot!!

    This amp just makes everything else better for me.

    At first one might think this amp is too thin, or bright, with no real weight, but as you play several tunes, you realize the tunes your playing are not perfect and vary all over the place, and the coloration of other amps does change the sound and the experience....this amp is brutally honest.

    Some will love it and others will not...thats ok....this is about as far away from a soft tube amp as you can get. We can discuss that specs are important or not, do they make this amp as good as it sounds?? I honestly dont know, all I do know is as I listen to the music I am smiling alot...and this is good!

    So what I am going to do is to start a comparison rotation and see how that goes...I also want to try out several dacs, for the first time I have an amp that will not get in the way and allow me to more objectively hear what the other pieces in the chain are doing or performing.

    Right at this stage with now 6 hours of play, would I buy this again: Answer: YES.

    Smiling again
  4. bryceu
    Just read your longer comment as well. I'm very pleased with my THX 887, paired with the Verite Open. I've had several other amps in hand to pair with the Verite and none can compete with the THX887 in its ability to cleanly resolve detail, its ruler flat tonality, and dead silent background (both when nothing is being fed into it and during playback). Some of the other amps I have do specific attributes better, but the traits that the 887 has keep bringing it back to me as a must keep solution for transparency and lack of any distortion. Really a great product (or more so technology).
    Marutks likes this.
  5. Joong
    Thx aaa might means the end of all audio amplifications
  6. adydula
    No, I dont think so....some people will still prefer softer more colored amps....I am not rushing out the door to sell my Bottlehead amps or other SS amps...but they will probably get less useage for me.

    I spend a lot of time to listening with different amps to compare for myself, in my environment with my ears....others will have differing opinions for sure.

    What this technology allows for or rather promotes is vendors re-looking at their stuff to compete and make better products...at least I hope!

    bryceu likes this.
  7. bryceu
    Yea I wouldn’t say the THX AAA amps are an end-all or total end-game type amp. While they do offer amazing technical performance, they can be a bit bland to listen to, the mids especially. The stage width and depth, although nicely sized, is a bit artificial sounding as well. The Mjolnir 2 or Liquid Platinum for example will get a more natural imaging and stage experience. While a purist might like the linear accomplishments of the THX technology, many will prefer a more engaging and musical experience of tube amps and even other SS amps.
    THX technology is definitely a keeper in my collection, but not going to be my sole solution.
  8. adydula
    Well for $399 they are pretty close to a TOTL amp IMO. The weakness are more cosmetic and low cost switches, knobs etc....to keep this performance the design kept the cost down, hence no fully balanced etc....the designer and others have commented on this and what was important to achieve such stellar measurements and results.

    I think the imaging is absolutely superb....recording that have the left and right channels, then a vocalist in the middle, but offset from center comes out very well....a great soundstage, and this to me is not coming from the amp. but how the mics were placed in the recording venue or studio. This amp gets out of the way....its your headphones and source material that has more to do with soundstage than "this" amp.

    The bland comment comes from our experience of listening to lesser amps, that have distortion and coloration....IMO.

    Great material comes thru as recording good or bad.

    Crappy material is indeed crappy, give you that bland sound etc...

    Music comes in all kinds of "quality" and a lot of it is indeed crap, compressed and poorly done again IMO.

    This amp not only offers a great audio experience due to its technical design and parts...it just disappears.

    Why are you selling your Mjolinir2 and Liquid Platinum if they are so good??

    wh01sjongalt likes this.
  9. bryceu
    With all things “audiophile,” it will always remain subjective.

    Your TOTL (end-game) isn’t going to always be someone else’s.

    Selling the Mj2 or LP because they both accomplish the same thing, keeping both isn’t necessary. As far as a preference between the two it’s pretty dead even.

    Both Mj2 and LP amps offer superior dynamics and more natural (accustomed to) sound versus the 887, so keeping one is in the cards.
  10. adydula
    Thats cool, the one thing we agree on is it is indeed "subjective" !
    bryceu likes this.
  11. bryceu

    Listening to the synths and all the other textured sounds in here via the RME ADI-2 > THX887 > Verite Open, is quite the experience...

    The resolve of detail that the 887 is capable is simply remarkable when paired with the speed of the Verite.

    The dead silent background of the RME ADI-2 is really demonstrated well by the THX887.

    Excellent pairing.
    Marutks and Cat Music like this.
  12. Majestyk
    Does this unit have vents?
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  13. Marutks
    no vents, but THX887 doesn't get very hot
  14. bryceu
    Yea mine gives off almost no heat.
  15. adydula
    I have noticed with 55 ohm Focal Clears there is no audible hiss with gain positions 1 or 2, but with gain 3 there is hiss at the 2pm position....granted the high gain 3 position is meant for those
    higher impedance headphones, just wondering if any of you have heard this?

    With low impedance cans, 35 ohms I can hear this hiss in gain position 2 at 2 pm as well, but not in gain position 1.

    Cat Music and Marutks like this.
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