Monoprice Monolith 7 Amplifier Review Page 2

Music to My Ears
Shortly before I received the Monolith 7 for review, Glenn Frey of the Eagles passed away. With that on my mind, I popped in the Blu-ray of Farewell I Tour, Live from Melbourne and jumped to, “New Kid in Town,” featuring Frey on lead vocals. When I listened to the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, the Monolith 7 did the recording great justice, with its multilayered textures keeping Frey’s voice front and center and allowing the various background melodies to shine when called upon.

When I switched to the PCM 2.0 mix, the vocals took on more prominence and stepped further out into the room. The tradeoff was slightly less bass response, and as expected, the ambience from the crowd became less impactful. I’m a big fan of what multichannel music brings to the table, and it was my preferred listening environment here.

I jumped ahead to “Life’s Been Good,” which showcased the amp’s dynamics. The 5.1 mix is one of my favorite go-to multichannel music demo tracks. It starts with the song’s familiar repeated drum pattern: a single snap of the snare and a three- step beat of the kick drum. In comes Joe Walsh with his electric guitar riff, followed soon by the ample horn section. Color me impressed by the Monolith 7’s ability to render this sequence with definition and rigor far outside its price class. My reference amp is a Parasound Halo A 51, and hearing this exact track was what sold me on it. The Monolith 7, however, gave it a good run for its money, and it’s 25 percent of the price and offers two extra channels.

FLAC stereo recordings streamed from my home server were nearly as impressive. Diana Krall’s take on “My Love Is” (from Love Scenes) opens with a bass solo that leads into Krall’s dis- tinctive voice. With the Monolith 7, the pluck of the bass was natural and clear and, when coupled with the echoed snaps in the background, showed that the amp is capable of multilayered reproduction. That said, when Krall’s vocal entered, it didn’t jump out into the room as I’m accustomed to with my Parasound reference. It didn’t sound bad by any means, just a bit less nuanced. This was a common occurrence with most vocals from two-channel sources; voices failed to project in quite the same way.

Moved by Movies
Movie soundtracks are much more difficult to evaluate from one amp to the next, but dynamics certainly come into play. The Dolby Atmos mix on the Ultra HD Blu-ray of Mad Max: Fury Road is going to be a prime demo for years to come. You have the roar of the various engines, shrieking war cries, explosions, gunshots, and other discrete effects that fly at you from every direction possible; I can’t think of one sound effect missing from this movie, which, among other awards, won Oscars for Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing. The Monolith 7 handled the complicated audio track (including its plethora of pans) with ease, and even at insane volume levels, the audio wasn’t fatiguing or too bright.

Dialogue reproduction is key for any home theater amp, and the Monolith 7 was exemplary in this regard. The 10th Anniversary Blu-ray of Million Dollar Baby opens with the voice many have come to associate with that of God—Morgan Freeman—narrating the segment that introduces us to Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) and sets up the relationship with Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), the poor wannabe boxer who’s looking for a trainer. Freeman’s voice comes across with detailed precision and gives the illusion that he’s sitting in the room with you, weaving his tale. I have zero complaints about how the Monolith 7 handled this and many other dialogue-intensive scenes.

I played the amp for many hours at a time and, in some cases, at reference level driving seven speakers to see how it would perform under extreme circumstances. It passed the tests with flying colors, but I must say that it does get quite warm. After one 75-minute session of multichannel music, I used a digital infrared thermometer and measured the amp’s temperature at 152 degrees Fahrenheit (though it may have been picking up some internal heat off the vent). That’s hot enough to (slowly) fry an egg on the Teflon-coated enclosure. As noted earlier, since cooling fans have been eschewed to avoid unwanted mechanical noise, adequate ventilation is a must.

The Monolith 7 multichannel amplifier from Monoprice is one of the best and most affordable home theater amps I’ve ever auditioned. With its retail price of $1,499, its value proposition is through the roof. Sure, you can spend thousands more on a multichannel amp and get slightly better performance, but the law of diminishing returns definitely comes into play, and going with the Monolith 7 means you can save a lot of coin to invest in other aspects of your system. If you’re looking for a new amp or you’ve had an itch to jump to separates but were afraid of the added expense, Monoprice has delivered a highly affordable product that provides a near-best- in-class experience.

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mhdaniels31's picture

any conformation as to weather they are outsourcing from ATI this looks just like outlaw audio's now defunct 7 channel amplifier from ATI even the numbers seem the same and parts they didnt copy there work like they did with the energy take classic incident is this manufactured in asia or the USA did you look inside some of the specs remind me of ATI which would be great just wondering who's amplifier design is this

David Vaughn's picture
If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck....just sayin'.
etrochez's picture

Look it up!

ToddAtmos's picture

is it true that your power ratings are @1khz and if so why?

David Vaughn's picture
Nikolai's picture

Monoprice is offering this for $1199 today plus shipping, using discount code CRAZY. Crazy indeed... After watching their sales since product release, I didn't think this would ever go on sale.

thoms_here's picture

Hi David, as always thanks for your reviews.

I know that ATI makes amps for several different companies, my question is, does it ever make sense just to purchase them from ATI or is their markup too high on their own branded products?


Donald Johnson's picture

what would this amp do if I used it for the external amp or a denon 4308ci receiver ?

HavaCow's picture

Just about any external amp rated at 200wrms should make a big improvement to the sound quality. Note that most AVRs are not suited to drive low impedence high current speaker. The Monoprice amp seems like a safe bet as it is returnable if it does not sound any better. I am using a Parasound 2205a with my Denon AVR3313ci. The dynamic headroom is impressive.

uavBrianhbr549's picture

Since the Monolith now comes with XLR Balanced inputs I could assume things have only improved for this amp, but only a trained professional with a calibrated ear can really give us the please give us the scoop!