Monoprice XXX Review

I purchased this IEM soon after its release directly from Monoprice.  Monoprice shipping took about a week to get the IEMs to me and cost a little over $50.

Pictures

Background

The in-ear monitor (IEM) market seems more competitive than ever, with a trend toward more drivers per side, hybrid balanced armature/dynamic driver designs in universal shells that are taking cues from averages of the shell shapes from custom designs to allow for better fit, comfort and seal.  1MORE seemed to make a big splash with its triple driver IEM at the $100 mark.  I think Monoprice saw an opportunity to put out a triple driver IEM at half the price to try to capture some of that market using their China-sourcing and product engineering superpowers.   I have not had a chance to try a lot of the dual balanced armature and single dynamic driver designs on the market and this is my first experience with an IEM of this type.  The IEM uses a TRRS jack and includes an inline microphone with just a single button for compatibility with Android phones.

Fit and Comfort

The shell of this IEM is surprisingly small.  It’s supposed to be worn cord down, rather than over ear which I was a little disappointed with and there is absolutely no way that it will fit wearing it cord over ear for me.  The IEM comes with 3 tips and as usual the medium tips seem to seal and fit the most comfortably for me.  There’s no removable cables or anything like that here either, so if you break them, you’ll either need to rewire them or just buy another pair.  The shells are made of what seems like a pretty sturdy plastic and are very lightweight which is important to me especially for a wire-down IEM.  The shells don’t have an especially custom-styled shell but sit in in the ear fairly comfortably.  The cable is flexible and covered in a rubberized coating that’s pretty standard for IEMs with fixed cables.  Connections seem pretty sturdy and overall build quality seems to meet Monoprice’s expected standards.

Sound Impressions

For testing, I listened to the Monoprice XXX through my Audio-GD NFB-27H.  Overall I find that the Monoprice XXX comes off a bit veiled and distant, which leaves me unsatisfied in my listening.  I’m not sure exactly how much compromise needs to be made to hit this sort of price point, and don’t have experience with other IEMs in this price segment, but whatever Monoprice chose to prioritize in making this IEM doesn’t really suit my preferences.  I have continually made sure in evaluating this IEM that I was getting a consistent seal and sound and found I didn’t really have a problem getting a comfortable fit and good seal consistently with the stock tips.

Bass on this IEM seems some what lacking.  I don’t get the extension I’m looking for in the lowest registers, the midbass seems to be slightly emphasized but isn’t clear or fast enough to be really impactful and ends up sounding sort of distant and unfocused.  There seems to be some exaggeration of the lower midbass specifically, which makes bass punchy and allows it to slam but doesn’t make up for it feeling soft and sloppy rather than truly precise and hard hitting.  I feel it rolls off in the lowest octaves and lacks a solidity and sharpness to the impacts.

Mids on this IEM are really where it sounds especially veiled and distant to me.  It seems as though there is a dip in the frequency response somewhere around 200-300Hz that accounts for the lack of weight to vocals.  Vocals have fairly good texture and air but sound like they are unnaturally distant.  I find the mids are generally clean and smooth, and are fairly even outside of that dip I perceive in the lower midrange.  

Treble continues the theme of sounding very smooth in addition to being a bit distant and somewhat rolled off on this IEM.  Treble and air generally seem to be lacking here, but what treble is here is very smooth to the point of losing out on texture.  Instruments lose their sense of distinct feel in the mids and treble and have a somewhat flat sounding, lifeless presentation.  

The distant character of the sound of this IEM lends it a sense of exaggerating staging as though the microphones used for recording a piece of music were set far away from the instrument but the soundstage sounds entirely artificial and that sense of distance makes it come off sounding more veiled.  The lack of real clarity seems to affect separation and imaging of sounds within the soundstage here as well.   

Conclusion

Overall I find that there isn’t much for me to like in this IEM.  I find the tonality and technicalities compromised here in very obvious ways that detract from my listening experience.  I find the colorations are enough that I never get to a point of just adapting to them, no matter how long I exclusively listen to these IEMs they never sound quite right to me.  I think there is an audience that prefers the flatter sound with somewhat artificially distant sounding staging because they can immediately impress in those areas until you really start to listen more closely and that initial impression breaks.  If you’re looking for a non-fatiguing and exceedingly smooth sound with bass that thuds and is a bit exaggerated, these IEMs may fit the bill.  Personally I found them to be disappointingly uninvolving and look forward to trying more IEMs to find something in the category for a reasonable price with much better performance.