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The Monolith M1000ANC headphones offer ANC, algorithmic spatial sound, and up to 60 hours of battery life at a lower price than AirPods.
Monoprice uses the Monolith brand for its high-end audio equipment, and the M1000ANC headphones are that brand’s base model. Its low price and advanced audio features act as a bridge between consumer and professional Monoprice products.
Unlike the Monolith TrueWireless headphones we reviewed earlier, the Monolith M1000ANC lacks a clear competitor in the Apple AirPods or Beats lineup. This makes these headphones a more compelling option for anyone seeking a sub-$200 headphone with noise-cancelling capabilities.
The Monolith M1000ANC Headphones are over-ear headphones made of plastic with a memory foam protein leather insert. These headphones can be folded into a compact form for storage, but the Monoprice only includes a small pouch for storage, not a hard case.
The headband is adjustable using a sliding mechanism that exposes the metal support bar when extended. The headphones should fit comfortably over most people’s heads, but we had to use the fully extended setup.
The build is what we’ve come to expect from a headset in this price range. Some parts are a bit shabby, but you won’t notice them when you wear them. The single attachment point for the ear cups in the headband appears to be a potential break point in the future.
There are three physical controls on the right ear piece, while only one is used regularly when worn. There is the power button, the pairing, the Dirac toggle feature, and the ANC switch.
The Dirac toggle inexplicably has a microphone icon as the button seems only to be used to turn the Virtuo Spatializer on and off. A raised bump on the button will allow you to find it without looking, although users are unlikely to use it often during long listening sessions.
The Monolith M1000ANC headphones have a battery life of 60 hours without ANC and 40 hours with ANC enabled. USB-C fast charging provides 2 hours of playback in just 5 minutes.
Using the Monolith M1000ANC Headphones
We enjoyed using the Monolith M1000ANC headphones to listen to music and podcasts. The sound is pure and emphasizes the highs and mids with minimal bass.
Something we immediately noticed were the volume levels. We tend to use over-ear headphones to block outside sound and listen to music at a medium level, so it’s loud enough to be heard but not so loud that it inhibits our ability to focus.
The Monolith M1000ANC headphones seem to run at lower volumes than other headphones. When using the volume slider on iOS, quiet levels from 0% to 50% have a decent volume from barely listening to background listening. The volume is poor and quiet in quality until about 70%, then quickly rises to much higher levels.
At 100%, the sound is noticeably lower than on other headphones, but we’re not sure if that’s a bad thing. The sound is just below the point of being unbearably loud for our ears, and the sound doesn’t distort at that level.
We’d argue that the volume should be set more evenly, and volume levels should be 50%-70% louder and more powerful as on other headphones. Since the noise ceiling is lower on these headphones, we found ourselves listening in the 70%-90% range more often.
There is a physical switch on the side of the headphones that toggles between ANC low, ANC high, and ANC off. The low setting blocks sound up to 20dB while the high setting blocks sound up to 35dB.
We found that the ANC modes act as good enough filters for the loud noise or constant hum of machinery. Start listening to music along with ANC mode, and the outside world will disappear.
The ANC modes aren’t quite as good as the competitors, but these headphones also start at $100 less than other ANC headphones.
Virtuo Spatializer uses algorithms to play audio with a “spatial” effect. Activated with a push of a button on the headphones, the effect is obvious but can be disruptive for some songs.
Some tracks take on a wider sound range as each instrument is more audible. However, some of the tracks look like a stadium effect applied and come with a lot of reverberation and reverberation.
Users’ perception of Virtuo Spatializer will vary from person to person. Many may find the effect impressive or even desirable, while others will want to hear the music as the producer intended.
Music based on the algorithm can be listened to or missed because the algorithm does not get any hints from the music file about how to properly reproduce the song. This contrasts with Apple Music Dolby Atmos and AirPods Spatial Audio files, which contain data cached in album to reconstruct tracks in 3D.
Gestures and controls
Standard controls work on your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch, so you can control volume and playback normally from your device. However, the Monolith M1000ANC headphones have on-device gestures to control playback.
- Double tap to play/pause
- Swipe forward from the center to skip the track
- Swipe back to skip to the previous track
- Swipe from bottom to top to increase volume
- Swipe from top to bottom to decrease the volume
- Cover the earcup with the palm of your hand to mute the sound
You have to tap the center fairly accurately for the gesture to work. After some training, we were able to perform the gestures without errors.
Should you buy Monolith M1000ANC headphones
Like any audio device, there are many options at nearly every price point. Headphones from Monoprice tend to stand out with better build, decent sound, and interesting smart features.
If you need a set of over-ear headphones with active noise cancellation, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another pair with the same quality and features at this price. Since Apple does not offer a competing product in this range, choosing the right headphone becomes more difficult.
If you don’t need the headphones to be unbearably loud and possibly enjoy computational spatial sound, the Monolith M1000ANC headphones are a great choice.
- Sufficient sound quality
- Incredible 60 hours battery life
- Simple pairing and controls
- The volume has an uneven slope from 0% to 100%
- Algorithmic spatial sound is an outsider
- The construction leaves us questioning its long-term durability