Monoprice M1070C evaluation: Large cans fall in need of Planar’s promise

Monoprice M1070C

RRP $400.00

“Heavy weight and poor clarity mean these are not the planar magnetic cans to buy.”

advantages

  • Open, airy sound signature

  • Very well built

  • Wide and deep soundstage

disadvantage

  • Incredibly difficult

  • Doesn’t work

  • There is a lack of clarity

  • Not so great for smaller heads

Planar magnetic headphones are valued by enthusiasts for their fast response, high accuracy, and low distortion compared to more traditional headphones with dynamic drivers. But planar magnetic drivers are far less common and need to be built with greater precision than dynamic drivers, which has meant some pretty steep prices in the past.

Audeze’s LCD-2 — an extremely popular planar magnetic model — retails for $900, and that’s nowhere near the most you can spend on these high-end cans, with prices easily exceeding $3,000 or can achieve more.

So the question naturally arises as to whether it’s possible to build a set of planar magnetic headphones that still take full advantage of the technology, but without the financial burden of huge cash outlays.

Monoprice answers that call with its Monolith M1070C, a self-contained set of planar magnet cans that you can pick up for the relatively low price of $400. Was Monoprice successful and should you consider the M1070C as your next over-ear headphones? I took her for a spin to find out.

megaphones

Monoprice Monolith M1070C with leatherette ear pads.

The first thing you need to know about the Monolith M1070C is that it’s big. How large? If the M1070C was a burger, it would be a Wayback Triple Triple.

Physically, they’re huge, with earcups measuring 4.5 inches in diameter and three inches thick at their widest point. But it’s their weight that boggles the mind. At 22.6 ounces, they tip the scales at more than two and a half times the weight of Sony’s WH-1000XM4 (8.9 ounces) — a set of over-ear headphones that pack rechargeable batteries, microphones, and a bunch of electronics for things like wireless connections and digital-to-analog conversion. I could only find one set of closed planar magnetic headphones that weigh more – but hardly: The Audeze LCD XCa $1,299 pair that looks very similar to the M1070C and weighs 23.8 ounces.

Not to overdo the point, but that’s more than 1.4 pounds of headphones on your head.

Monoprice Monolith M1070C storage box outside next to an iPhone 11.

Inside of the Monoprice Monolith M1070C storage case with accessories.

  • 1.
    The carrying case of the Monolith M1070C alongside an iPhone 11 for scale.

The M1070C are so large that you could easily mistake the included hard-shell carrying case for a hat box. The box has to be big because these cans don’t fold at all. They might fit in a backpack, but there’s little room for anything else.

After about an hour of sitting without support, you start craving a La-Z-Boy just so you can give your neck and head a rest.

One reason for the size and weight is the materials used. Metal abounds – particularly in the one-piece slider/earcup forks – and where plastic is used, it feels very premium. These things might make you a laughingstock if you wear them on the go, but they look like they can withstand a great deal of wear and tear.

To be fair, it’s not about building a set of planar magnetic headphones to make your next flight, bus ride, or workout session more enjoyable. But on the contrary. They are designed to give you a totally immersive listening experience at home.

headbanging

Front view of a man with Monoprice Monolith M1070C.

Monoprice did a good job padding the M1070C – they are very comfortable to wear despite their massive bulk.

The beefy headband distributes that weight over a very large surface area, but because its radius is so large, people with big heads will benefit a lot more than those with mini noggins like you.

I’ve never heard closed-back headphones sound as open and airy as the M1070C.

Monoprice offers two types of ear pads, a deeply padded faux leather “sheepskin” set that comes installed by default, and a much flatter, padded velor set. Both are very comfortable, but the faux leather set seals your head better. They also provide more room for your ears and are less affected by wearing glasses.

The velor set stayed cooler, but unfortunately reduced the clamping force of the headband due to its low thickness (compared to the lambskin set), causing the headphones to slip on the head. I’ve seen some suggestions that you can physically bend the metal back of the headband to accommodate this issue, but that’s not a strategy I recommend.

Monoprice Monolith M1070C with velor ear pads.

But even with these tools, the M1070C can get tiring. There’s just no getting around their weight, and after about an hour of sitting without support, you start craving a La-Z-Boy just to give your neck and head a break.

The tangle-free 6-foot, 2-inch braided headphone cable should be long enough for you to find a nice, comfortable place to sit when you want to use a receiver, headphone amp, or other fixed audio source. But like the headphones themselves, the cable has real weight; I don’t think you’ll want to use it on the go. It doesn’t have a locking mechanism where you plug the separate left/right 3.5mm plugs into each earcup, but there’s not much reason to worry about accidental disconnection – the earcup sockets are very tight, and it would take an almighty tug require to pull it plug free.

Big cans, big sound

Close-up of the Monoprice Monolith M1070C with planar magnetic driver ports.

Now to the point. How do these gigantic cans sound? I have very little experience with Planar magnetic headphones, so I can’t offer comparisons to other Planar models, but I can tell you one thing: I’ve never heard closed-back headphones that sound as open and airy as the M1070C.

They give you the same sense of space as an open plan design like this Sennheiser HD 560S, but with the added benefit of being able to seal off the outside world. It creates a soundstage that is almost as deep as it is wide. On Phil Collins’ classic In The Air Tonight, the haunting opening notes sound like they’re being projected from afar, perfectly amplifying Collins’ warning that he can hear it coming…etc.

I give Monoprice full marks for trying to bring planar magnetics to the masses, but their execution falls short of the mark.

From an EQ perspective they’re relatively neutral, with a slight bias toward low-end bass that not everyone will love, but I do enjoy that extra warmth. If the M1070C has one weakness, it’s a lack of clarity. Given Planar Magnetic’s reputation for improved audio (and clarity in particular) this came as a surprise, but there’s a noticeable softness in detail across the frequency range. If you have a well trained ear you will probably hear it right away, but it became obvious to me after doing a bunch of A/B tests with other headphones like the Sennheiser HD 560S, Rode NTH-100, Audio Technica ATH-M50x, and Sony’s WH-1000XM4, all of which cost less (and in some cases significantly less) than the M1070C. And yet they all scored better in terms of clarity than Monoprice’s monster cans.

Side view of a man with Monoprice Monolith M1070C.

Does the openness and spaciousness make up for that? If the M1070C cost half as much and weighed half as much then I would say yes. But if you’re shelling out $400 for a pair of headphones and have to contend with the M1070C’s massive bulk, you should be able to expect top-notch sound quality that rivals (and preferably exceeds) what you can get similarly priced dynamic driver headphones, and unfortunately these cans just don’t deliver.

I give Monoprice full marks for trying to bring planar magnetics to the masses, but their execution falls short of the mark.

Our opinion

Planar magnetic headphones often deliver audio performance that can surpass traditional dynamic driver models, but that extra punch comes at a hefty price tag. Monoprice’s Monolith M1070C effectively lowers the entry-level price of Planar Magnetic, but they don’t deliver on the promise of better sound.

Is there a better alternative?

If you’re determined to go planar magnetic with the closed back, the much cheaper ones are $200 Monoprice Monolith M565C were rated highly by WireCutter. Its reviewers found their sound exciting and detailed, and “beat pairs that cost hundreds more”. That sounds exactly what I would expect from Planar Magnetic and from Monoprice. At 13.7 ounces, even their weight falls within an acceptable range.

If you’re happy with an open design and want a premium set of over-ear headphones for critical listening, this is the Sennheiser HD 560S offer excellent sound, light weight (8.4 ounces) and soft comfort. They’re not powered by planar magnet technology, but once you hear them, you won’t care.

how long will they last

The M1070C looks very well built with lots of quality materials, which is partly why it weighs so much. But that robustness has to be more than superficial: Monoprice backs these headphones with an exceptionally long five-year warranty, giving the company unequivocal confidence in their longevity.

The headband isn’t interchangeable, but the ear cushions are. If you don’t like the two types that come with the M1070C (or they just wear out), it won’t be hard to find replacements.

Should you buy them?

No. While they’re plushly padded and comfortable to wear, they’re extraordinarily heavy, which reduces wear time before fatigue sets in. And while they have an open and airy vibe, their lack of clarity in a set of $400 headphones is unacceptable, especially when there are so many great alternatives.

Editor’s Recommendations



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