Moondrop Variations vs ThieAudio Monarch MKII: The Better IEM

There are only a few names in the IEM industry when you get to the high-end on the budget length. 

And two most popular names out there right now are the moondrop variations and monarch mkii. Some say there’s no need to waste hundreds of dollars more when you can get the almost same quality. But is it the case? 

So, who wins in Moondrop Variations vs ThieAudio Monarch MKII?

The ThieAudio Monarch MKII wins with flying colors in the fight against moondrop variations. It simply has a better sound quality as well as hardware than the Moondrop Variations. 

However, the Moondrop Variations does have an edge over the Monarch in the cost aspect. It’s almost half the price. This feautre gives the Variations its own place in the market. 

However, more insight is required to come up with verdicts. So, spare us a few minutes to spill the beans. Why delay then?

Let’s cut to the chase.

Head To Head Comparison

Moondrop Variations and ThieAudio Monarch MKII are both extremely competent IEMs. But there are differences introduced by the large price difference. Here’s a quick glance-

Ground of ComparisonMoondrop VariationsThieAudio Monarch MKII
Sensitivity118 dB108 dB
Impedance15.2 Ohm36 Ohm
Driver1DD + 2BA + 2 EST1DD + 6BA + 2 EST
Price ~$520~$999
Sound QualitySub-bass focused signatureNeutral plus bass boost
Build QualityLossWin
AvailabilityCheck Availability on AmazonCheck Availability on Linsoul

Here’s a chart defining how I would rate the two IEMs out of 5- 

chart comparing moondrop variations and thieaudio monarch mkii

That is but a glimpse, the devil is yet in the details. Let’s dive right into it. 

Detailed Comparison

The ThieAudio Monarch MKII wins purely in terms of specifications. However, there is more than meets the eye when you compare the two. Let’s get right into it. 

Let’s Talk about Build Quality And Design

There are material differences in the build quality and design of the Moondrop Variations and the ThieAudio Monarch MkII. These differences are often some that consumers look out for when choosing between earbuds and IEMs.

Here’s a quick glance at both the comparison of IEMS-

ComponentMoondrop VariationsThieAudio Monarch MKII
FaceplateStainless SteelArtisan

The Monarch MkII at its higher price point naturally boasts better materials. However, the Moondrop Variation wins in the design department with its unique shape.

Moondrop Variations

Let’s first talk about the Moondrop Variations. The Moondrop Variations is a decently built IEM with a sleek design at that. But it ultimately falls short of ThieAudio Monarch MKII. 

Overall, the materials that make the Variations are not very expensive. At least if you compare it with the Monarch MKII. 

a picture of moondrop variations
Source: Medium

Although it does feel good in the hands, the copper wire takes away from the durability. A fine tradeoff for almost half the price I’d say. 

However, the design is where it’s at. Moondrop Variations boasts a unique design with the model name engraved on the faceplate. The design itself defines the identity of the IEM. 

That concludes the build & design for the Moondrop Variations, let’s move on to the ThieAudio Monarch MkII. 

ThieAudio Monarch MKII

The ThieAudio Monarch MKII is a flagship IEM made with only the best of the best. The table below provides insight into the build it offers. 

As expected, the ThieAudio Monarch MkII comes with the more expensive faceplate as well as a better cable and a nozzle. 

The artisan faceplate feels more premium in hand. The silver wire also poses more durability than its copper counterpart. 

thieaudio monarch mkii picture
Source: Linsoul

As for the design, the vivid and colorful Monarch MkII is an eyecatcher wherever you take it. It both looks and feels nice. 

So my verdict for the Design and Build is that the ThieAudio Monarch MkII wins. Because despite putting up a good fight, the Variations ultimately falls short of the Monarch. 

Sound Quality

Sound quality is the deciding factor for any audiophile. It is a close fight if you consider both the IEMs. One good thing about both the IEMS is, you won’t face anything like the KZ Driver Fiasco!

Here’s a Harman Adjusted frequency response graph when you compare the Variations with the Monarch MkII. 

moondrop variations vs monarch mkii frequency response graph harman adjusted

I’ve included a Crinacle Adjusted Frequency Response graph as well-

moondrop variations vs monarch mkii frequency response graph harman adjusted

With all the mumbo-jumbo out of the way, let’s take a deeper look into the details. 

Moondrop Variations

The Moondrop Variations has a sound quality that can satisfy even the critics in audiophiles. 

The bass is punchy, the treble is crisp and the clarity is impeccable. It hits you in the right spots. Furthermore, the sub-bass did not cease to amaze me. 

On the same topic, The Moondrop Variations very accurately represent the Harman-adjusted sound frequency response graph. It also represents the Crinnacle-adjusted sound frequency response graph accurately to an extent. 

The Sheer sound quality of the Moondrop Variations places it above even their flagship Solace. But let’s see how it holds up against the ThieAudio Monarch MkII, shall we?

ThieAudio Monarch MKII

ThieAudio Monarch MKII never ceases to impress in terms of sound quality. Listening to music with this pair only leaves you asking for more. 

I’ll first address the elephant in the room, the details. The clarity and separation of the details you can hear with the IEM are phenomenal. The natural tonality is rare even in the Monarch’s competitors. 

The second point is the sub-bass and the mids. They are refined and well controlled. These aspects harmonize your listening experience perfectly. 

Furthermore, ThieAudio Monarch MkII is comparatively more accurate in the Harman and Crinacle Adjusted sound response graph. 

My verdict for the sound quality segment is that the ThieAudio Monarch MkII takes the crown. However, that is only compared to the Moondrop Variations. It has fierce rivals in its price point like the U12T. 

It simply offers more than the already competent Moondrop Variations. I’ll move on to the final segment now. 


This part is for the more tech-savvy folks. This part explains the comparison of the hardware side of things for both the IEMs. 

Moondrop Variations

The Moondrop Variation drives a single dynamic driver, dual BA, and dual Electrostatic drivers by Sony. That technology gives it the audio quality I’m a fan of. 

Furthermore, the Moondrop Variations have an impedance of 15.2 ohm. That is on the lower side for high-end IEMs. While lower impedance sounds good, it is not. It matters most when choosing between high and low gain headphones

On the same topic, Variations have a sensitivity of 118 dB. That means it is capable of putting out sound louder than most IEMs. While that is up to preferences, it is definitely an advantage. 

But what about the ThieAudio Monarch MKII?

ThieAudio Monarch MKII

ThieAudio Monarch MKII boasts a single dynamic driver, six balanced armatures, and dual Electrostatic drivers. That is the secret behind its magic. 

Secondly, the Monarch MKII has an impedance of 36 ohms. The higher impedance is what allows the crisp details of the sound it produces. 

Lastly, Monarch MKII has a sensitivity of 108 dB. That is loud enough to fulfill your audiophile needs. 

With obviously higher specs, ThieAudio Monarch MKII still holds the crown. 

Setup Cost

Cost can be a deciding factor for many audiophiles, especially beginners in the hobby. There is a drastic difference in setup cost between the Moondrop Variations and the ThieAudio Monarch MKII.

Moondrop Variations

I’ve calculated the Moondrop Variations setup cost in the table below. 

ComponentCost (in $)
Moondrop Variations520
Spinfit CP155 Eartips11.5
Tanchjim T-APB T300B+T300T Eartips15

There isn’t much for the Moondrop Variations in terms of setup cost. Eartips would be the only worthwhile mod to go for. 

Depending on your tastes, you could either go for the Spinfit CP155 or the Tanchjim T-APB. Audiophiles primarily prefer these 2 eartips though there are many more. 

The Setup cost of the Moondrop Variations by the end comes down to $531.5-$535.

ThieAudio Monarch MKII

The ThieAudio Monarch MKII setup cost is substantially more compared to the variations. The table below explains the reason why. 

ComponentCost (in $)
ThieAudio Monarch MKII999
Shanling UA2 DAC80
iFi Hip-dac2189

The Monarch MKII already comes with top of the line cable and eartips. However, it is lacking in efficiency. You’ll need a DAC amp to make up for it and get the best out of the IEM. 

The DAC amp I’d suggest is the Shanling UA2. But if you have some change to spare, then you could go for the fancier iFI Hip-dac2. 

That brings the setup cost of the Monarch to the range of $1079-$1188. That’s approximately 2.2 times the price of setting up the Moondrop Variations. 

Which IEM is Worth Your Investment?

My verdict is that you should choose the ThieAudio Monarch MKII if you’re not bound by a budget. Here’s a table listing out the wins vs losses for the IEMs.

AspectsMoondrop VariationsThieAudio Monarch MKII
Sound QualityLossWin
Design & BuildLossWin
Setup CostWinLoss
Check AvailabilityCheck Availability on AmazonCheck Availability on Linsoul

So, ThieAudio Monarch wins in most categories across the board. However, Moondrop Variations is putting up the fight at only half the cost. 

Furthermore, although it is not as good as the Monarch, it still provides decent enough audio. Not to mention the sleek design it offers. 

The Moondrop Variations is a safe choice for average consumers and beginners in the hobby.  Especially those who want a taste of the premium. However, it’s different for audiophiles.

Audiophiles always like to go for the best. Price really does not matter to these folks. The ThieAudio Monarch MKII simply delivers on that end. 

Its sound quality is much better than the Moondrop Variations. So, it’s a no-brainer for them to go for this one. If you have the budget I would also recommend you go for the ThieAudio Monarch MKII. 

However, things change if you consider the Moondrop Blessing 2: Dusk IEM. This $330 IEM loses against the Monarch, but does put up a better fight than the variations. 

So, if you’re bound by budget, you’re better off going for the dusk instead. Especially because the setup cost is lower. 


Will Moondrop Kato Be A Good One To Pick?

Yes, Moondrop Kato is a good one to pick. Apart from the listening experience, all you need is having a better-built quality. Interestingly, several designs are substitutable for each other parts. It holds a separable braided silicone cable. And you can switch it between the metal nozzles and brass.

Do Singers Wear IEMs And Why?

Yes, Singers Wear IEMs. In-ear monitors can cancel out outside noises. As a result, singers can introduce their ears to hear exactly what they want. However, producing sound in the ear while rehearsal in empty rooms will be very different.

Are Moondrop IEMs Durable?

Yes. Moondrop IEMs in general are built with decent materials and they are built to last. That remains true even for the cheaper models. However, that is by no means a testament for extreme conditions. 

Final Words

Hopefully, you get all the details of Moondrop Variations vs ThieAudio Monarch MKII. This comparison will make you think deeply before buying. 

Also, you have now a decent idea of a perfect IEM while coming this long way.

Let us know if you are still confused.

That’s all for today!

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