Monoprice is often a good option for budget electronics. It has great prices on cables, and I’ve been a huge fan of the Dark Matter 49-in monitor I’ve been using for the past few years. Today, we have the Monolith by Monoprice M1000ANC Bluetooth headphones. At $130, it’s packing some nice features like 60 hours of battery life and ANC, but it still kind of has the budget Monoprice flavor. Be sure to hit the video below for all of the details.
Monoprice and Monolith
Besides budget electronics, Monoprice does have a rich history in audio with most of its gear falling under the Monolith by Monoprice sub-brand. Everything from headphone amps to subwoofers and tower speakers can be found. On the headphone side of things, there are options for in-ear monitors, wired headphones, planar headphones, and ANC headphones like the M1000ANC.
Overall, the M1000ANC has a nice subtle design. They aren’t too large and the headband is nice and thin thanks to the lightweight nature of these headphones. The earcups can rotate 90 degrees out so that the drivers face forward when I place them on my shoulders. They also turn in to be more compact when putting them in the included carry bag.
On the driver covers are a large L and R to quickly reference which side is left and right. A nice feature that I appreciate as sometimes I feel like I have to hunt to find out which side is which.
The headband expands with notched positions for sizing adjustments. There also appears to be plenty of flexibility in the headband for expanding the earcups when putting the headphones on and taking them off.
Physical and touch controls
Controls on the M1000ANC are a combination of physical and touch-capacitive buttons. On the right earcup, from top to bottom, there is a 3-way switch for ANC. The middle is off, down is low, and up is high.
Next up is a physical button that will toggle on and off the Dirac Virtuo Spatial mode. We’ll dive deeper into what this does further down in the review.
A single button handles powering on the headphones and Bluetooth pairing. My only issue with this is that powering on the headphones takes about a 2-second press, but the audio cue doesn’t chime in until about three seconds which lets you know it’s on and Bluetooth pairing starts at around 3-4 seconds. Often I found myself holding the power button too long, waiting until the audio prompt, which made the headphones enter pairing mode instead of just connecting to my phone which has already been paired. After a while, I got used to it and knew to anticipate this, but it was frustrating for a while.
Monolith M1000ANC: Video
Lastly, there is a USB-C port for recharging the headphones.
Over on the left earcup, the M1000ANC does have a 3.5mm port – that means the headphones can be used in an analog mode from more sources. I always appreciate this as a feature as it greatly expands the usability of a pair of headphones.
On the outside of the right earcup is a capacitive touch button that allows for multiple gestures to control media. The flat part where the Monolith logo can be tapped and swiped to play or pause audio, skip tracks, and control volume. To pause, just give it a double-tap. To skip tracks, swipe forward or backward. To change the volume, swipe up or down.
For the most part, using these controls works well but occasionally I would have to try multiple times to get my audio to pause. I mainly think this is because I wasn’t always squarely on the button.
The M1000ANC also has an ambient mode. To enable this, just hold your hand over the earcup. It both reduces the audio of the headphones and uses the external microphones to pump audio into the headphones; this is great for being able to talk to someone quickly or hear what’s going on around you. As soon as the hand is removed from the earcup, the audio returns to normal. I was impressed with how quick and seamless this mode was to activate.
Monolith M1000ANC: Comfort
There are a couple of things that I think Monoprice nailed with the M1000ANC and comfort is one of them. It’s a similar setup to many of these lightweight ANC Bluetooth headphones like the Razer Opus.
Ear cushions are very soft and supple with a memory foam protein leather material. That’s pretty important with ANC headphones as you want a good seal around your ears to block out as much background noise as possible. The earcups don’t look particularly deep, but I don’t have any issue with these pressing against my ears and causing fatigue.
At 263g, they feel lightweight as well. That makes them comfortable for long listening sessions and work well for me when working out. Heavier headphones can sometimes move around too much when I’m doing exercises like bench press, but these felt secure through a wide variety of activities.
How does it sound?
The other area that is right on the money is how the headphones sound. As a closed-back pair of ANC headphones, there isn’t much of a soundstage to speak of – everything feels close to the ear, but stereo separation and imaging are good on the M1000ANC. As instruments and audio cues come into play during Sound & Color from the Alabama Shakes, each has a different position and can easily be picked out amongst the other audio.
Monoprice claims a frequency response of 20-20kHz from the 40mm drivers. Throughout that range, the M1000ANC headphones keep a well-balanced sound with deep lows that aren’t out of control. I’d put them more in the reference category rather than a fun sound that enhances low-end frequencies. But, the lows are deep and never muddy. Pop tracks and metal tracks are a blast with controlled lows that give a solid base for the rest of the audio range.
Mids are also well represented without a noticeable boost or cut. They’re right where I like them for metal like my favorite test – “Mist” by Protest the Hero. Guitars are easily distinguishable. If anything, there is a slight boost in the upper mids giving the M1000ANC a bright sound overall.
On the highs, once again, things are bright but kept well under control. There were some interesting things happening with cymbals on “Mist.” The hi-hat was clearly audible, almost more forward than I’m used to, and sounded a bit of the compressed side. There were a few cymbal audio cues that I had never really picked out on “Dancing with a Stranger” by Sam Smith.
Overall, the sound from these headphones is great for multiple genres of music. There isn’t an app to customize that sound at all but I think that most people will be happy with the default EQ. If you are a bass head that wants more low-end, you might want to look elsewhere.
Monolith M1000ANC: Dirac Virtuo Spatial
Another interesting feature here is Dirac Virtuo Spatial. This mode is designed to enhance the soundstage by “creating a spacious, natural soundscape beyond the physical confines of your sound system.”
In use, it does make the audio sound more spacious. On pop tracks like “Dancing with a Stranger” by Sam Smith, this worked well to make the sound like there is a broader soundstage. It’s hard to describe, but it sounds like the headphones are pulled away from your ears a little bit and the audio is coming from further away to the left and right. It keeps most of the same audio quality through there, but I did notice some changes.
On songs like Mist by Protest the Hero, It is more of a mixed bag. It did seem to widen the sound but I noticed that it also makes some EQ changes that I didn’t care for. It changed the sound of the guitars enough that I usually preferred having this mode turned off. The good news is that it’s easy enough to enable and disable so you use it as you like for the audio you listen to. I did enjoy it on most pop tracks and even “Hotel California – Life on MTV” by the Eagles.
How’s the ANC?
I also found ANC to work well. There are two different modes – one of which is more aggressive. Like ANC in other headphones, it does most of its work removing lower frequencies.
It’s a hybrid system with microphones both inside and outside of the earcup; I typically used it on the high setting. When indoors, it works great for taking out the sound from the AC in my office. When outside, the microphone can easily pick up wind noise on breezy days. This is also something I noticed on the Razer Opus. As much as I love the idea of ANC for running outdoors, it will add wind noise to your audio.
Monoprice fit and finish
My only complaints with the M1000ANC revolve around small fit and finish items. The touch controls can be a little troublesome for me. I usually prefer a physical button as they are easier for me to locate.
The power-on time, audio cue, and Bluetooth pairing combination were also pretty frustrating to me. I did get used to it after a while, but I think that could be designed a bit differently.
One other small thing is when the headphones are powered on and connected to a device, the voice audio cue says something like, “Sot connected.” That’s what it sounds like to me, at least. It’s not a big deal, but it’s just another thing that detracts from the overall premium feel of the M1000ANC.
It also feels a bit cheaper than the price point would suggest. Often times that can be equated with the lightweight nature of these headphones, but even the swivel and collapsible pivot points just feel cheap. But, I haven’t had any durability or quality issues with the headphones yet in my month-long testing.
Monolith M1000ANC: Battery life
ANC takes a considerable chunk of time off of the battery life; total playback with ANC off is up to 60 hours when enabling ANC will bring that down to 40. For most people, I can’t imagine this is an issue. Recharging is easy with the USB-C cable.
For good-sounding ANC headphones without the premium price tag, the Monolith by Monoprice M1000ANC delivers without breaking the bank. If you want the best in terms of quality sound, controls, and features, you’ll have to pay much more than the $130 asking price for the M1000ANC.
If you’re looking for something that sounds good, has good battery life, and good ANC on a budget, then the M1000ANC is a good choice. You might just have to look past a few frustrating bits.
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