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Monolith by Monoprice M1570C
November 18, 2021
Original: $599 USD
106mm planar drivers
When the company known for value-driven propositions starts asking $500 USD for headphones, we drop what we’re doing to see why. The Monolith by Monoprice M1570C is an enormous set of planar magnetic headphones hellbent on democratizing the notoriously pricey tech. For the analytical audiophiles out there, this headset offers a relatively affordable entry into planar magnet drivers, with some concessions. Let’s see what you get for your dough.
Editor’s note: this Monoprice Monolith M1570C review was updated on March June 22, 2022, to address an FAQ about the HiFiMan Sundara and to update the formatting.
- Audiophiles who specifically want balanced cables for their planar headphones will appreciate the specs of the M1570C.
- Anyone with cash to burn on wired headphones for analytical listening who already owns multiple headphones can add the M1570C to their arsenal.
What’s it like to use Monolith by Monoprice M1570C?
If you’ve ever seen those old-timey images of girls in etiquette class balancing thick hardbound books on their heads, you have some idea of how it feels to wear the Monolith by Monoprice M1570C. In a word it’s heavy. It weighs 642g—stop and think if you would wear a hat that heavy. Maybe it’s worth it for the 106mm planar magnetic drivers on board, which are more than twice the size of most large dynamic driver over-ears.
The M1570C features a molded case that shares similar dimensions with a hatbox. Inside you can fit your M1570C with its removable balanced mini-XLR cable and two sets of ear pads. It looks expensive, with subtle logos, generously sized leather ear pads (sorry, vegans), and a stealth black colorway. The headband cushion is faux leather, which means you can trade the pre-installed leather ear pads for the velour set if you don’t use animal products.
Is the Monolith by Monoprice M1570C durable?
The majority of the Monolith by Monoprice M1570C is metal, but a surprisingly weak metal. You can easily bend the arms, and in doing so create a custom clamping force to best suit your needs, but that doesn’t exactly breed confidence in this headset’s longevity—it seems more like an accident than a design choice. After an hour or so, the weight feels uncomfortable but the clamping force feels about right with the leather pads.
The test unit’s left channel sporadically cuts out if the 1/4-inch jack moves. Such an occurrence is normal after quite a bit of use with any wired headset, but not when brand new. You can swap out the cable, but it’s possible the cable’s heft causes too much stress on the connection points in the internal wiring, which means this could be a recurring issue.
It makes sense why some people swear by Bluetooth over-ear headphones anytime I must gently tap the cable in one direction or another to hear the left channel again. On that note, I assume you know that despite its closed-back ear cups, the M1570C suits home or studio use, not your subway commute.
To its credit, Monoprice ships the M1570C with a five-year warranty and a 30-day money-back guarantee. You might need this because while the price is cheap for planar headphones, it’s still a lot of money.
How do you connect the Monolith by Monoprice M1570C?
The vast majority of people do not reap any benefit from a balanced connection. If anything, it can be an inconvenience. There are currently four standards for balanced cables out there, so while you have a replaceable cable on the M1570C, it’s not necessarily as easy as swapping out one balanced cable for any other. In terms of audio quality, theoretically, it should deliver double the amp voltage and reduce noise and crosstalk. Practically speaking, you’re unlikely to notice.
While we’re at it, you probably don’t need a headphone amp for the M1570C. I have no problem driving the M1570C with my USB audio interface or my old Macbook Pro. However, it still could depend on your device. If you find the volume is low or the headphones sound kind of “weak,” you might want an amp. In which case, you might as well look for one with a balanced headphone output for the Monolith.
Does the Monolith by Monoprice M1570C have good isolation?
Like a lot of over-ear headphones, the M1570C primarily blocks out environmental high frequencies. This isolation mostly affects the frequencies above 1kHz, suppressing up to about 45dB at 6kHz. This sufficiently quiets incidental chatter but doesn’t address low-frequency noise, like what’s caused by HVAC systems, which active noise cancelling mutes more ably.
In addition, your experience relies on which set of ear pads you choose. Our testing used the default leather pads, but the included velour pads will have different variable performance.
How does the Monolith by Monoprice M1570C sound?
The M1570C ships with a fairly neutral frequency response that looks quite a bit like our studio target curve. In the mids, it has some under-emphasis, while the bass is fairly “flat.” This means you won’t necessarily want to listen to the M1570C for your favorite mids or bass-focused genres, unless it’s for critical listening, but it’s accurate like studio cans. In the highs, the headset’s only significant deviation from our house curve is about a 5dB under-emphasis at 10kHz.
Lows, mids, and highs
Sometimes all you need is to find the right music for the right headset. The M1570C makes basically all classic Motown and soul sound excellent. I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) by The Four Tops comes through sounding clear and natural.
This is a genre not exactly renowned for its heavy low end. 1960s stereo mixes often receive really wide panning of drums, or all of the drums just panned to one side. I Can’t Help Myself does the latter with basically all the high-frequency instruments (hi-hat, snare, tambourine, high string section) on the right side. On the left are the bass guitar, rhythm guitar, baritone saxophone, low strings, and keys.
First off, Stubbs and the group’s backing vocals sound detailed and clear, revealing new (to me) features of the vocal performance, like when Stubbs’ voice charmingly almost cracks at 2:26. Meanwhile, for a headset that doesn’t have much low-end emphasis, the M1570C has just enough on tap to hold down the song with the (admittedly trebly) bass guitar. One can appreciate that the frequency response of the M1570C avoids notable exaggeration in the highs, which is pretty important for a song with abundant tambourine and high strings.
Where the under-emphasis of mids and neutral bass can impede listening for enjoyment is with a track like Any of Sense of Time by The Inbreds. For context, this 1990s alternative rock song is composed entirely of vocals, a lot of bass guitar, and drums. If you planned to simply listen for accuracy the M1570C can do that adequately. On the other hand, with the under-emphasis between 200-1000Hz, and the neutral bass response below 100Hz the whole song lacks oomph. The drums and vocals sound perfectly fine.
Here are a couple of things to know about the M1570C: it already has an excellent frequency response, and it has low distortion. This means that if you don’t play with EQ, it’ll basically lend an honest sound reproduction. Additionally, those who EQ can do so with a pretty light touch, as it doesn’t require much altering.
Should you buy Monolith by Monoprice M1570C?
If you plan on close listening for short stints or want headphones that effectively recreate an audio engineer’s left-to-right pans, the M1570C might be right for you. In the highs, it sounds really good. Additionally, the mostly neutral mids and bass make it a good candidate for equalizing. However, keep in mind the weight and extra-large dimensions limit its portability and use cases.
Concerns to flag for the M1570C center on cable design. Given that almost nobody needs balanced cables, the added size and weight to the cable seem unnecessary and possibly detrimental to functionality. This is frustrating for an expensive headset. While Monoprice might offer a lot of planar magnet goodness relative to the price, this cable implementation needs attention. Alongside the too soft metal frame, it makes you wonder what $499 USD (or more) should be getting you.
The upshot is replaceable parts extend the life of the M1570C. Monoprice stands by its products with a solid warranty and a 30-day return policy. Fundamentally, good sound is still present. So maybe it’s worth the risk to give the Monolith a chance—just maybe consider using an airplane pillow for neck support after a few hours.
To be clear the Monoprice M1070C and M1570C headphones sound almost exactly the same. The M1570C has slightly less bass, and slightly more treble, except above 10kHz where it has a little less emphasis than the Monoprice M1070C. In all cases, the deviation between them is smaller than 5dB, which is barely noticeable.
In my testing between the two units, for whatever reason, the M1570C better distributes its weight across my head, whereas the M1070C seems to mainly sit on one small spot of my crown. I’m not confident why this is, because the headphones look basically identical. It only serves to make me question quality control, as does the M1570C left channel cable issue.
With its unbalanced cables and cheaper price, the Monolith by Monoprice M1070C is almost the exact same pair of headphones. It retains the heft and size of the M1570C, but it sounds very similar and usually costs a bit less. In testing, the cables performed without a hitch.
This comparison is less between apples and oranges, and more between two red apples. Unless you have a specific preference for balanced connections (which the M1570C has), just get the one that’s available or cheapest at the time. Neither is different enough to warrant paying more.
What should you get instead of the Monolith by Monoprice M1570C?
Basically, the only other name in budget planar headphones is HIFIMAN. Try the Drop x HIFIMAN HE-X4 for about half the price or less, and more than 200g lighter than the M1570C. Because it’s open back, you’ll leak sound into the room, but almost nobody commutes with planar magnetic headphones anyway.
It is also worth considering the Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X, which is built better, sells for about $200 USD less, and sounds great. The quality velour padding blows the decent but not superb M1570C velour ear pads out of the water. Mercifully, the DT 700 PRO X weighs significantly less than the M1570C, too. The competition for planar magnet drivers may be slim but for accurate headphones, it’s pretty tough to justify $499 USD on the M1570C when stacked against studio headphones with dynamic drivers.
Frequently asked questions about the Monolith by Monoprice M1570C
The M1570 is an open-back headset, while the M1570C is a closed-back headset. With the M1570, you may experience what many audio enthusiasts refer to as a “wider soundstage” than with the M1570C. The tradeoff is that housemates will hear what you’re listening to should you choose the open-back variant. Both use 106mm planar magnetic drivers and share the same 5Hz-50kHz frequency response.
The Monolith by Monoprice AMT is a completely different kind of headset compared to the M1570, and its $999 USD further proves its niche appeal. The Monoprice Monolith AMT uses air transformer (AMT) drivers, which are different than your standard dynamic and planar magnetic drivers. See, AMT drivers are accordion-like and a cross-section of one of these drivers may look like corrugated cardboard. The bellow-esque plane allows for more surface area to move air, so the driver doesn’t need to move as far to create sound. This makes the driver more efficient and better at producing high frequencies, all while introducing less distortion than dynamic drivers.
The M1570C is a closed set of headphones which makes it a bit more versatile and gives you the option to use it when commuting, though it’s a bit bulky for that. When you don the 1570C, you’ll notice that high-pitched sounds are blocked out a bit, which can’t be said when wearing the Sundara open-back headphones. The benefit you gain with the Sundara, however, is a more representative production of auditory space and and a more consistent midrange frequency response.
Both headsets follow our studio curve, but the Sundara sounds a bit better out of the box and requires less tweaking (though the M1570C sounds very good too). Aside from the open-back grilles on the Sundara, HiFiMan’s headset has a suspension band that uses gravity to adjust to your head which differs from the more traditional headband of the Monolith M1570C.
Since the Sundara is cheaper and sounds a bit more similar to what our house curve posits as the platonic ideal, we’re keen to recommend the Sundara over the M1570C and even the M1070C for that matter. You can learn more about the Sundara in our HiFiMan Sundara review.