Monoprice Monolith 7 Amplifier Review - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 700 Old 05-31-2016, 02:21 PM - Thread Starter
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Monoprice Monolith 7 Amplifier Review

Amplifiers are the literal heart of any audio system, pumping the electrons that bring speakers to life. A great amplifier doesn't have to perform any special tricks; all it needs to do is remain composed when operating within its specifications and go about its business as transparently as possible. Recently, Monoprice introduced the Monolith 7 amplifier ($1500), the first in a new line of affordable high-performance audio products.


A revealing view of the Monolith 7.

The Monolith 7 is a rock-solid class-AB amp that delivers 200 watts per channel to all seven channels simultaneously when presented with an 8-ohm load. There's nothing particularly fancy about it—it's a black box, after all—but it's clearly well-built with a chassis and aluminum faceplate that have a high-end look and feel. It comes with a 3-year warranty.

Monoprice works with various OEMs and does not disclose who makes any given product it sells, but the provenance of this amp is already known to folks in the forums. I'll leave the discovery process to those who leave comments. Having said that, one of the cool things about the Monolith is that it's designed and built in the USA.

Features and Setup

Unless you happen to be a powerlifter, unpacking and installing the Monolith 7 is a two-person job. Despite its modest dimensions of 17" (wide) by 7" (high) by 16.5" (deep), it weighs a hefty 93 pounds, thanks in part to its dual toroidal transformers.

The all-black chassis has a thick aluminum faceplate with a recessed power button. Thump-free power-up is a welcome feature. On the back side of the amp you'll find seven RCA inputs and seven sets of speaker terminals. There's also a ground terminal, a receptacle for the power cord, and a power switch.

The RCA inputs plus the speaker terminals are evenly spaced and line up with the individual amplifier modules contained within. If you take a peek inside the amp, you'll see its design is very clean with minimal internal wiring.

The Monolith 7 does not include balanced XLR inputs, but in typical home use (short cable runs), you'll never need the 6 dB lower noise floor that balanced connections buy you. With a listed S/N ratio greater than 120 dB, it is already silent enough for home use—I never heard any inherent hiss at all.

Attaching interconnects and speaker cables to the amp was super-easy. Large white lettering clearly identifies every input, and the color-coded speaker terminals easily handled Monoprice 12-gauge speaker wire, and they can accommodate 10-gauge or 8-gauge cable. The terminals are also compatible with banana plugs.


The RCA and speaker wire connections on the Monolith 7 are well-spaced and robust.

If you want to drive a surround system and keep distortion levels low, many AVRs can't take full advantage of the speakers when all channels are driven. Distortion goes up and power per channel goes down. Adding an external amp solves that problem for AVRs equipped with preamp outputs. Moreover, if you opt to run your system with a pre/pro instead of an AVR, an external amp is a necessity.

Performance

Once it was connected to my Pioneer Elite SC-85 AVR, the Monolith 7 sounded absolutely great, and I'd gladly assign it any and all superlatives that high-end audio writers grant the amps they review. There's hardly anything to discuss here—you feed it a line-level audio signal and it delivers speaker-level audio without mucking anything up. Its frequency response is flat (20 Hz to 20 kHz, +/-0.1 dB) with no audible distortion. Both THD and IMD are below 0.03% at full rated FTC power according to Monoprice specs.

I used the Monolith 7 and SC-85 AVR over the course of two months with a variety of speaker systems. It proved to be a very potent combo, offering quite a bit more power than the AVR on its own. Most of the time I had it, the amp drove seven of the nine channels in a 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos system, which consisted of two PSB Imagine X2T towers, two XB bookshelf speakers, a XC center, and four XA elevation modules. Since it's a 9-channel system, I used the SC-85 to amplify the front pair of Atmos modules, an easy task for my AVR.

With the Monolith in charge, the PSB Imagine X speaker system came alive during action movies. The Imagine X2T tower speakers are not all that sensitive (88 dB anechoic, 90 dB in-room) but they can make good use of 200 watts of power when they are going for the gusto. The XB bookshelf and XC center have 150-watt power handling and a similar sensitivity rating—it's the sort of speaker system that rewards ample amplification.

From a performance standpoint, I found no difference between the Monolith and other more-expensive amplifiers I have auditioned in the past. When I reviewed the Imagine X as a 5.2 system a few months back, I used a $5000 Classé Sigma AMP5—which is on long-term loan as my reference—and it offered no more power or apparent finesse than the Monolith 7. Granted, the AMP5 is much lighter and more compact than the Monolith—not to mention rack-mountable—but each AMP5 200-watt channel costs $1000 versus $215 per channel with the Monolith 7—sizeable savings for sure.

There's nothing about the Monolith's real-world performance that suggests it can't meet its published specs. Wearing earplugs, I pushed it as hard as I dared and found that the speakers reached their performance limit without straining the amp. Monoprice isn't shy about sharing detailed test results from an Audio Precision analyzer, which indicate it is a stout performer. While I wish I had access to similar measurement gear, I'm simply not equipped to verify the sort of in-depth measurements Monoprice provides here.

Even though 7-channel amps are clearly destined for use in surround systems, I was curious how the Monolith 7 would serve as a 2-channel amp. I hooked up a pair of KEF R500 towers (90 dB/W/m, 250 watts, 8 ohms) and ran 'em full-range with a variety of Tidal HiFi tunes. KEF's tower speakers shine when provided with proper power, and as I went through my music catalog, the fidelity of the amp was commendable in its transparent neutrality and the ease with which it did its job.

Conclusion


This review is short and sweet on purpose. When an amp is doing its job right, there's precious little to discuss, and that was the case with the Monolith 7. I hooked it up, plugged it in, turned it on, and it sounded great right away and up to this very moment as I type while listening to it. The amp did not ever falter, overheat, shut down, emit a humming sound, or otherwise misbehave in any way.


Another look inside the Monolith 7.

The main flaws of this amp are not really flaws per se; rather, they are concessions to making it as affordable as possible without sacrificing core performance attributes. It lacks balanced inputs, but that's one reason it is such a bargain. It's big and heavy (unlike class-D amps with switch-mode power supplies), and it requires lots of breathing room—the cover is perforated on the sides, not just on top—but there's no fan. This is not a rack-mountable amp, but it looks handsome on a shelf.

I'm a fan of Monoprice for the nearly unbeatable value the company offers in its products. The Monolith 7 is a serious piece of gear that's available at a surprisingly low price. As a result, I recommend it without reservation while looking forward to more Monolith products from Monoprice. Thanks to products like this, the cost of high performance is lower than ever.

REVIEW SYSTEM

Sources


DIY Windows 10 PC with Nvidia GTX980 HDMI 2.0 video card
Samsung UBD-K8500 UHD Blu-ray player

Amplification and Processing

Pioneer Elite SC-85 AVR
MiniDSP DDRC-88A Dirac Live processor (for subwoofer EQ)

Speakers

Surround system


PSB Imagine XT towers (2)
PSB Imagine XC center
PSB Imagine XB bookshelf speakers (2)
PSB Imagine XA Atmos modules (4)
SubSeries 200 subwoofers (2)

2-channel

KEF R500 tower speakers

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post #2 of 700 Old 05-31-2016, 02:37 PM
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We just received our MonoPrice amplifier review sample..
This thing is a monster in size and weight, 1 concern I have is driving my Revel loudspeakers is How the amplifier does driving into low impedances..
Our test instruments are the Audio Precision cascade, and soon we will run some graphs on 4 & 8 ohm performance.. As driving a load resitor is very, very different than driving a loudspeaker. The most challenging test for an amplifier is to drive the power cube..
For listening tests this will take more time as we want to compare its sonic performance against some of the other high end power amplifier we have.

There is more technical info on the Power Cube tests if U are unfamiliar with it...
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...abpwIzmGbP9fzA.

Just my $0.02...
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post #3 of 700 Old 05-31-2016, 02:55 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M Code View Post
We just received our MonoPrice amplifier review sample..
This thing is a monster in size and weight, 1 concern I have is driving my Revel loudspeakers is How the amplifier does driving into low impedances..
Our test instruments are the Audio Precision cascade, and soon we will run some graphs on 4 & 8 ohm performance.. As driving a load resitor is very, very different than driving a loudspeaker. The most challenging test for an amplifier is to drive the power cube..
For listening tests this will take more time as we want to compare its sonic performance against some of the other high end power amplifier we have.

There is more technical info on the Power Cube tests if U are unfamiliar with it...
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...abpwIzmGbP9fzA.

Just my $0.02...
Yeah I won't even pretend I can properly measure an amp with the gear I have. The result is a subjective review that leans on specs, but I'm OK with that because folks like you are gonna get the skinny on whether Monoprice's numbers are accurate, and for now I'm holding the company to its word in that regard. I do suppose a 2-ohm stable rating would have been nice, but it would also be quite unexpected on a 7-channel unit at this price.

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post #4 of 700 Old 05-31-2016, 03:36 PM
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As the Monolith looks to be an ATI 1807 clone, I'll be quite curious to see if they have similar if not identical specs. The Audio Precision tests should tell all.
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post #5 of 700 Old 05-31-2016, 04:42 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by LCSeminole View Post
As the Monolith looks to be an ATI 1807 clone, I'll be quite curious to see if they have similar if not identical specs. The Audio Precision tests should tell all.
The provenance of this amp is an open secret.

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post #6 of 700 Old 05-31-2016, 08:12 PM
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Nice review, thanks Mark!

Personally, as I have done with my oither multi-channel amplifiers, I would use the outer amplifier modules as L/R instead of the inner on the theory that they will generally dissipate the most heat and thus benefit from a bit of "open" space on one side. Not sure it matters in an amp that closely-packed and given most of us only use a few Watts on average anyway. How hot did it get?

In the pictures the speaker terminals look fairly close; is there plenty of room in actual use? You said you easily slipped 12 AWG cables in..

Looks like a very impressive amplifier, should put Monoprice on the map!

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post #7 of 700 Old 05-31-2016, 08:18 PM
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I'll be curious if Monoprice has a preamp coming to go with this. Nice review Mark

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post #8 of 700 Old 05-31-2016, 08:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by DonH50 View Post
Nice review, thanks Mark!

Personally, as I have done with my oither multi-channel amplifiers, I would use the outer amplifier modules as L/R instead of the inner on the theory that they will generally dissipate the most heat and thus benefit from a bit of "open" space on one side. Not sure it matters in an amp that closely-packed and given most of us only use a few Watts on average anyway. How hot did it get?

In the pictures the speaker terminals look fairly close; is there plenty of room in actual use? You said you easily slipped 12 AWG cables in..

Looks like a very impressive amplifier, should put Monoprice on the map!
Never too hot for my cat, if that helps

Plenty of room on those speaker terminals. Here's another view...


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post #9 of 700 Old 05-31-2016, 08:28 PM
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It's a good price! I've always liked Monoprice as a company. I like Outlaw stuff too... very robust, built like tank. Their 300 watt/ch 7 channel amp needs two 15 amp circuits!

Outlaw's 200 watt version is considerably more expensive than Monoprice's at $2149. But if you're running big subs on it the Monoprice's frequency response is rated to 20Hz while the Outlaw is rated to 5Hz. But I (and most others I assume) won't be using a 7 channel amp on subs.
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post #10 of 700 Old 05-31-2016, 08:31 PM - Thread Starter
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It's a good price! I've always liked Monoprice as a company. I like Outlaw stuff too... very robust, built like tank. Their 300 watt/ch 7 channel amp needs two 15 amp circuits!

Outlaw's 200 watt version is considerably more expensive than Monoprice's at $2149. But if you're running big subs on it the Monoprice's frequency response is rated to 20Hz while the Outlaw is rated to 5Hz. But I (and most others I assume) won't be using a 7 channel amp on subs.
Someday I want to make a sub that's a cube with drivers on all sides, that rests on one corner.

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Someday I want to make a sub that's a cube with drivers on all sides, that rests on one corner.
And make 'em 24" subs! Vent the box through the floor where it rests and then to the outside. You'll have a kind of "infinite baffle". Huh... interesting. These are fun: http://stereointegrity.com/product/hs24-24-subwoofer/
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Great review Mark!

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Quote:
Originally Posted by LCSeminole View Post
As the Monolith looks to be an ATI 1807 clone, I'll be quite curious to see if they have similar if not identical specs. The Audio Precision tests should tell all.

I remember when they cloned the energy speakers , same crossover design and same drivers ,the only diference was on the aesthetics.The speakers sound was identical and measured the same ,It will not surprise me if they cloned the internal components and design from another amp.


http://www.cnet.com/news/monoprice-9...hey-different/

http://www.cnet.com/news/are-the-ene...9774-the-same/


It looks solid and very well build.
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post #14 of 700 Old 05-31-2016, 09:07 PM
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Looks like Emotiva's old designs

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Sounds like a winner @imagic but was your statement about designed and "built" in the U.S.A. true or was that a misquote since it shows "Designed and Engineered in th U.S.A."

I was thinking this was a product of a cheaper to build nation.?
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post #17 of 700 Old 06-01-2016, 12:44 AM
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Thanks for the review Mark and great job Monoprice.
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Originally Posted by losservatore View Post
I remember when they cloned the energy speakers , same crossover design and same drivers ,the only diference was on the aesthetics.The speakers sound was identical and measured the same ,It will not surprise me if they cloned the internal components and design from another amp.
i doubt they "cloned" anything, it was more than likely made at the same factory. klipsch are pathetic, they even mass-sued their own dealers because they sold their speakers online!
a lawsuit and a settlement does not mean klipsch is correct and monoprice were doing plagiarism.

for example the factory in china could not care, and say ok to produce the same speakers for monoprice. or the necessary agreements thru klipsch were not there. klipsch could still make a hell of a mess if they want to..

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i doubt they "cloned" anything, it was more than likely made at the same factory. klipsch are pathetic, they even mass-sued their own dealers because they sold their speakers online!
a lawsuit and a settlement does not mean klipsch is correct and monoprice were doing plagiarism.

for example the factory in china could not care, and say ok to produce the same speakers for monoprice. or the necessary agreements thru klipsch were not there. klipsch could still make a hell of a mess if they want to..

The crossover design was virtually the same and the speakers measured virtually the same.but I understand what you mean. I didn't mean to use the word (clone).

I didn't say that the amp is a clone. also it could be possible an agreement with (X) amp company.


I have no problem on buying the amp. Im looking for an amp and this one is now on my list.

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post #20 of 700 Old 06-01-2016, 02:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by laserjock II View Post
Sounds like a winner @imagic but was your statement about designed and "built" in the U.S.A. true or was that a misquote since it shows "Designed and Engineered in th U.S.A."

I was thinking this was a product of a cheaper to build nation.?
My statement is in fact accurate, I spoke to the senior product manager about that and I also asked for a fact check right after I posted the review.
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post #21 of 700 Old 06-01-2016, 05:01 AM
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Never too hot for my cat, if that helps

Plenty of room on those speaker terminals. Here's another view...
Thanks Mark, good to know.

I'm not a real cat fan, though, so could you push it a little harder during your tests, heat it up a bit?

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post #22 of 700 Old 06-01-2016, 05:27 AM
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My statement is in fact accurate, I spoke to the senior product manager about that and I also asked for a fact check right after I posted the review.
Wow, even more impressive that they can make this so affordable.

I should have snagged one during the sale.

Thanks for your review.
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post #23 of 700 Old 06-01-2016, 05:34 AM
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Originally Posted by laserjock II View Post
Sounds like a winner @imagic but was your statement about designed and "built" in the U.S.A. true or was that a misquote since it shows "Designed and Engineered in th U.S.A."

I was thinking this was a product of a cheaper to build nation.?

I've been to the ATI factory (own an ATI 2007) and watched them build the amps there. Now what I saw was workers putting together all of the pieces that make up the amp. I don't know where those pieces come from. At the time they designed, engineered, and built amps for a number of expensive "brands".
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for some things is not possible to sources all individual components from the US, but as long as the bulk of them come from the US and the assembly and testing is done here it falls into that Made/built in US bucket

curious as to how this does @4 ohms

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post #25 of 700 Old 06-01-2016, 06:34 AM
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The passive cooling and low noise floor are a big deal, and should be major considerations for people pursuing high dynamic range.
Too often, people only focus the output side of dynamic range, and not the noise floor.
This is highly preferable over a commercial amp with a high noise floor and fans, but otherwise similar specs.
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post #26 of 700 Old 06-01-2016, 07:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by laserjock II View Post
Sounds like a winner @imagic but was your statement about designed and "built" in the U.S.A. true or was that a misquote since it shows "Designed and Engineered in th U.S.A."

I was thinking this was a product of a cheaper to build nation.?
If it's the ATI design, it's designed in America.
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post #27 of 700 Old 06-01-2016, 07:30 AM
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This looks like my Outlaw 770 "the 100LB brick" that I purchased many years ago for $1500 and it's still going strong and does a fantastic job. It is an ATI design like my Outlaw.
https://www.outlawaudio.com/products/770.html
http://hometheaterhifi.com/volume_9_...r-11-2002.html
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post #28 of 700 Old 06-01-2016, 08:08 AM
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Nice writeup! I cant wait to order one!

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post #29 of 700 Old 06-01-2016, 08:47 AM
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Great review Mark! I appreciate the simplicity of your words on this one. Great amp, even better price. Bravo!
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post #30 of 700 Old 06-01-2016, 09:27 AM
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Mark;
AVS should pay for you to get trained on using the Audio Precision device and also they should buy one for your reviews. Subjective reviews a getting a bit outdated.
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