Effect Audio X Elysian Acoustic Labs: GAEA

General Information

In a pursuit of extraordinary experiences, Effect Audio has partnered with Elysian Acoustics Labs to produce an innovative EA take on a hybrid In Ear Monitor. This is the first collaboration between Effect Audio and Elysian Acoustic Labs, and is the culmination of a trend of collaborations between boutique audio brands to create innovative new products that blend the best of both worlds.

The sound of GAEA is tuned by both brands while keeping an authentic Elysian Acoustic Lab's house sound.

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Sound Profile

The acoustic focus for GAEA is undoubtedly female vocals. From the freshness to the brightness of the vocal cords, Gaea gives center stage to what makes the heart flutter - the magical touch of the female voice. With a hybrid Foster DD and Sonion BA drivers complemented with DiVe Pass II Dual Ventilation System, expect technical mastery on top of an emotive experience with Gaea.

For more product information, visit: https://www.effectaudio.com/gaea

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Latest reviews

grumpy213

100+ Head-Fier
Shake and Bake
Pros: Energetic
Sparkly and well extended treble
Fast and well resolving
Cons: Thin and somewhat dry
Can be sibilant and fatiguing at times

Preamble​

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Many thanks to @Damz87 and @EffectAudio for arranging the Australian tour of the Gaea as well as the Ares 8W, Cadmus 8W and Code 23.

The audio world is quite partial to a good collaboration. From influencers stamping their name on the latest and greatest of chi-fi, to Astell & Kern putting their spin on various IEMs over the years and to musical artists themselves collaborating at length to the point of their names being synonymous with one another. These collaborations can lead to a hit leaving their audiences begging for more, or simply fade away with a whimper.

And so, what comes when a Malaysian manufacturer of IEMs combines forces with … a cable maker? Before you query that, Effect Audio (EA), whilst known for their cable laying capabilities, have had previous forays in the IEM market with their Axiom and having a previous collaboration with QDC.

The Gaea is a collaboration of what seeks to be a long-running relationship between Elysian, often known for their TOTL, the Annihilator and EA who have been ubiquitous in the cable space.

The Factual Stuff​

The Gaea tour kit does not contain the original packing and so I was treated to a rather abridged unboxing experience to reveal a clamshell carry case containing some Spinfit W1s, the Gaea earpieces and a EA cable.

The Gaea earpiece themselves are fashioned out of resin and stabilised wood finished in a handsome blue hue. The EA cable is of four-wire construction and consists of a blend of copper and silver plated copper. The cable features some nice hardware featuring the same stabilised wood finish and has two of the four wires finished in blue.

Within the Gaea’s earpieces lay five drivers consisting of a single dynamic driver and four balanced armatures. Whilst not listed on the product listing, it appears that the Gaea has the DiVe pass system venting the housing to avoid pressure build up as well as driver flex.

All of this comes in at a price range of around 1300 USD.

The Opinion Stuff:​

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Sound​

Bass:​


The bass regions of the Gaea present with what I would describe as a clean tonality. The bass regions are well balanced with the rest of the frequency response and there is a decent amount of it to keep you rather engaged with the experience. The Gaea is not winning any awards for the most bassy IEM in the market nor is it copping any flack for being anaemic in this region.

Sub-bass seems to be the star of the show here the thumpy lower regions presenting with a robust enough body to keep you engaged with modern pop songs. “Seven” by Jungkook has a rather fast thumping bass line throughout the initial verse that gets even deeper and more drawn out in the chorus. The Gaea handles this excellently with the authority and speed required whilst maintaining enough separation from the mid-range as to not step on any toes.

Mid-bass is also very cleanly done with a minor boost that seems to give it a punchiness that is absent from more strictly tuned IEMs such as the Variations or the Helios, “Out of Time” by the Weeknd has a tendency for the bass drum to overlap with male vocals in a manner that overly colours the vocals, this is not the case with the Gaea. Yet it still handles old-school sample beat that is lush with any IEM with good mid-bass going.

Overall, the bass region is done in a manner that presents music in a manner that retains its fun factor whilst not overpowering the midrange or presenting an coloured warm tonality to the rest of the frequency response. There is likely not enough to please bass-heads but overall, I feel that this region is inoffensive and very well done.

Mids:​

The midrange of the Gaea is, in my opinion, a slightly mixed bag. It undertakes a slightly lifted tilt up into the upper-regions and has a slight tendency to sound and feel slightly thin in its reproduction.

Male vocals such as “Leave the Door Open” by Silk Sonic present cleanly with no overstepping mid-bass diminishing clarity but there is a sense of reduced weightiness to certain male vocals. Clean and clear yes, but there is a sense of missing emotion and natural timbre to this region. Songs such as Grover Washington’s “Just the Two of Us” presents the vocals of Bill Withers as rather recessed in the mix. Female vocals such as “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac presents female vocals with a shimmery and ethereal quality that injects a sense of airiness and sparkle that is addicting in a way. I would not say that this is a natural reproduction of female vocals but a very pleasing one nonetheless.

Attempting to draw out some sibilance, I chucked on “4 walls” by f(x) which has an abundant of sss noises sung by heady female vocals and the result was rather harsh at times. This is inevitably an attempt to trip up the Gaea and it skewed a bit too far in the bright region for me. Otherwise, instrumentalization within the region presented with a great crispness and cleanliness that tickled the eardrums. “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac, the dobro and guitar feel visceral in their presentation, sprinkled with the overlapping male and male vocals, the result is a song in the Gaea’s wheelhouse. Where the Gaea faces some difficulties is the presenting a more emotionally engaging presentation of music as it comes across as slightly tinny and thin at times.

Overall, the Gaea presents female vocals with uniquely addictive quality and instruments receive a rather good dose of crispness and clarity with this tuning. There is a slight loss in note weight, natural timbre and some emotion in this reproduction but I believe it handles it far better than the likes of the Variation or the Helios.

Treble​


The upper regions of the Gaea present a rather bright leaning tonality. The airiness and sparkle of the Gaea is something that cannot be denied with certain percussion presenting in a forward and easily discernible manner. Hi-hats that emanate through songs such as “edamame” by bbno$ hit with a crispness and clarity that provides a slight tingle to the eardrums, brushes against hi-hats in “The Demon Dance” by Julian Winding provides a wonderful contrast to the dark and moody nature of the song. However, it is not all subtleties with the Gaea, more extremely produced songs such as the piecing synths in “You & Me (Flume Remix)” by Disclosure and Flume are sibilant and somewhat harsh in their sharpness. The treble region seems to inject a sense of openness and crispness to the entirety of the frequency response, with the Gaea reproducing with some airiness to its tonality. Extended listening periods with the Gaea led to a sense of fatigue after some time, expounded with certain strings of EDM tracks. This was less of an issue with more acoustically focused tracks in my playlist but nonetheless, the Gaea required some breaks from time-to-time in order to relax from the rather bright leaning tonality.

Overall, the Gaea seems to elevate a sense of detail, crispness and sparkle in its frequency response as a priority. I don’t particularly mind this tuning given my relative lack of experience with brighter IEMs but ultimately, I can see why such a tuning would be divisive. At its best, the treble is a very rewarding experience, with the goosebump inducing reproduction of certain production providing you with a tremendous sense of drama but this is not an IEM that you can sit back and relax with as it seems to attack you with this region.

Technicalities:​


There was little to sense of wanting in the region of technical performance. The aforementioned tuning seems to heighten microdetails and injects a healthy sense of air into the Gaea, presenting itself as a readily coherent IEM.

The resolution of the Gaea is inflated on more casual listens as cleanly tuned nature of the bass and lower-mids leading into that rather healthy upper-mid and treble boost presents a leaner and thinner reproduction of instrumentalization and vocals that presents itself as “faux-resolution”. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as you are agreed with the tonality as a whole.

Staging is a bit of an odd beast to tack down with the Gaea. I don’t believe that it stages too far wide nor deep but rather presents music in the head-stage in a manner that is like a bubble slightly outside the head. Perhaps by virtue of that brighter-tilting tuning combined with its sense of airiness, there is a sense of a set of speakers in an intimate room.

Imaging within this stage is similarly good, tracks such as “Fine” by Taeyeon images a set of overlapping voices at approximately 2:30 in a manner that allows you to discern the voices from one another, but unlike more capable IEMs that allow you to state “one voice is at 1 o’clock and the other is at 3 o’clock”, the Gaea does not provide this. However, it is not all bad, the aforementioned airiness of the Gaea presents music in a cleanly separated and layered manner. In doing so, it allows the listener to dissect their music as each instrument and vocal line seems to sit on their own plane yet all coming together in a coherent and enjoyable manner.

Overall, I feel that the Gaea receives a lot of help from its tuning in terms of technical performance and for that I applaud Elysian and EA for executing this tuning in a manner that remains enjoyable (to me) and elevates detail.

Overall:​

Bright leaning, the Gaea isn’t necessarily the everyman IEM but remains distinctly enjoyable in my books with its rather aggressive reproduction of upper-mids and treble. Somewhat untenable for those who are treble-sensitive or are looking for a laid-back listen, the Gaea presents sparkle and tingle inducing percussion in spades and doesn’t dispense with a good bass response or mid-range as a cost. The tonality leans somewhat bright and potentially metallic in its timbre at times but clear, concise and sparkly is a rather unique experience.

Synergy​

One thought coming to my mind here namely lessons learnt after multiple DAPs, DACs and Amps plus headphones and IEMs is synergy!
Hoping for the one and only holy grail Setup is maybe just a nice wish unless buying according synergy transducers.
There's a reason why people are having multiple devices in parallel or reducing inventory and keeping only the ones with right synergy

Shanling M6U​


I would characterise the M6 Ultra (M6U) as a smooth, slightly warm source with an increased sense of presence in the mids and a strong note weight.

The Shanling M6U counteracts some of the gripes that I have with the Gaea, with the M6U imparting warmth and some weight to the midrange. The result is a more full-bodied form of the Gaea in a subtle manner. The previously clean and clinical bass got a little more oomph in the mid-bass and vocals and instruments were no longer as flighty and light in their presentation. However, these changes are minor at best and at worst, negligible for those who aren’t listening critically and A-Bing their sources. As such, the M6U represents a bit of an odd pairing synergistically in that it does not lean into the tonality of the Gaea but rather counteracts it somewhat, leaving a more confusing sound signature that isn’t really sure what it is. It takes the edge off a little but ultimately is not a good pairing for me.

Mojo 2​


I would characterise the Mojo 2 as a very, very slightly warm neutral tonality with a more natural reproduction of instruments and voices with no DSP enabled.

The Mojo2 presents a rather straightforward reproduction of music with the Gaea, there is a sense of reduced weight from the M6U and a greater clarity in music. I do not believe that the Mojo2 and the Gaea leans to too far into the thin territory but rather meshes quite well, especially with the consideration that you would be able to alter the Gaea with EQ.

The bass response feels nice and fast, with less mid-bass than the M6U perhaps less of a slight treble uplift as it felt not as sibilant with songs that sought to bring that out.

The Gaea’s synergy with the Mojo2 is something that is not particularly outstanding in any regard and in this respect I hesitate to make any sort of strong statement. The Mojo2 and the Gaea work fine together.

iBasso DC04 Pro​


I would characterise the DC04Pro as dynamic, clean and has a very low noise floor. The sound signature is slightly bright in comparison to my other sources and tracks seem to “attack” you.

The DC04 Pro seems to close up the staging of the Gaea, creating a more intimate experience wherein sounds seem to be confined within a phone booth rather than a recording studio. This experience may seem detrimental but there is an added energy to music which when combined with the DC04Pro’s exceptional noise performance seems to attack you with sounds out of the blackness of silence.

This combined well with the Gaea providing less of a diffuse staging wherein clarity and separation were key points of emphasis but rather providing a more engaging and dramatic reproduction of music.

Where the DC04 Pro suffers is the perceived brighter tilt of the source versus the M6U or the Mojo2 and when working with an already lifted upper range on the Gaea, seems to enhance a sense of sibilance when listening to more harshly produced songs.

In this regard, I believe that the DC04 Pro is a rather good choice if you want a more engaging listening experience and don’t seek to have an analytical breakdown of whether you can make out a hi-hat at 2:35 of a particular song but rather want to be engaged by simply letting the music wash over you.

Cable MADNESS

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The Gaea kit came with an assortment of cables, including the Ares 8W, Cadmus 8W and Code 23. I also was lucky enough to receive the Fusion 1 tour at the same time, as well as the Diva (review coming soon) with the Ares 4W and the very lovely @GiullianSN provided me with his personal Cleo II Octa for the following cable rolling experience.

Ares S​


The entry level of the latest series of EA audio cables, the Ares is four wires of pure copper construction. The combination of the Gaea and the Ares S is a distinct sense of taming the upper regions of the frequency response, sibilance is seemingly reigned in, the bass becomes slightly more boomy and there is a slightly slower decay imparted on the Gaea. These seek to enrich what is a rather clinical IEM with some more lushness and in that regard it does so with little finesse. The stage does not feel that deep and the appeal of the Gaea is held back slightly as it is darkened by the Ares S. Overall, it fixes some problems but is as precise as a mallet in this regard and I believe some of the nuances of what makes the Gaea special is lost with this pairing

Ares S 8W​


Its smaller brother didn’t fair too well but the 8 wire version seems to be better. Compared to the 4W and stock cables, the Ares S 8W seems to bring the female vocal more forward in the mix and there is a seemingly greater sense of depth to the stage. There is a boomy sub-bass throughout my testing and slightly more mid-bass. Sibilance is somewhat still present but reigned in from the stock and ever so slightly more spicy than the 4W equivalent of this cable. There is a perceived loss in ‘energy’ with the 8W cable as it seems more slow in the decay of certain notes and combined with the boomier bass creates a sense of lethargy.

The perceived improvements in staging and the slightly more nuanced approach to the Gaea’s FR seems to work well and I believe that this is a better choice than the 4W version.

Cadmus 8W​

The Cadmus’s silver plated copper construction leads to a number of nuanced differences from stock and the aforementioned copper cables. There is a perceived increase in the depth of stage, and contrary to popular belief, there appears to be a reigned in upper-mid and treble region. Bass quantity is reduced from the Ares brothers but it remains distinctly fast, detailed and textured in its reproduction.

Overall, the Cadmus seems to heighten the characteristics of the Gaea ever-so-slightly and presents what I experienced with the stock cable but turned up a few notches. Not the most dramatic difference but if you already love what you get with the Gaea and its stock cable, the Cadmus seems to be a % point improvement that might be worth it.

Code 23​


This cursed ergonomic beast features a rather thick copper core surrounded by various wires of varying materials. The result of this is a greater width and depth to the stage, the Code 23 feels distinctly the most spacious of all the cables in this round up. Otherwise, the bass feels more generous in its quantity with booming sub-bass being handed out in spades. However, there is a slight slowdown in the bass that feels somewhat disappointing. However, the strongest capability of the Code 23 is the perceived improvements in technical performance and the increased sense of imaging. Instruments and vocals are separated clearly and allow for a greater sense of immersion in your music. For this reason, I believe that the Code23 is a rather unique choice for the Gaea and one that I do not believe would be a bad choice.

Fusion 1​


A gorgeous gold cable featuring every material in the book with its 2 wire construction. The combination of the Fusion 1 and Gaea seemed to present a more vocal forward reproduction and a great enhancement of spaciousness. Perhaps not the level of the Code23 above but definitely within the upper range of this assortment of cables. Speed returns to the bass and it remains distinctly punchy and fun. It is faster than the likes of the Code23 and both Ares and is perhaps similar if not the same as the Cadmus. However, unlike the Cadmus, the bass remains readily apparent and quite fun in its boominess.

I believe that the Fusion 1 presents the best all-round approach to the Gaea but note that there is a slight sibilance that remains with the cable.

Cleo II Octa​

A pure silver 8 wire cable, the Cleo coalesces with the Gaea in a manner that is rather excellent. The staging capabilities compared to the likes of Fusion 1 and Code23 seems lsightly more confined but there is a sense of energy imparted to the Gaea. Bass is punchy and quantity is not lacking, sibilance in the upper mids/treble is reigned in and the perceived sense of imaging and resolution of more subtle notes in songs seem to be heightened. The Cleo, like the Fusion 1 seems to be on the best all-rounders that do not seek to overload a certain region nor take away too much. In this case, I believe that the Cleo II is a fine choice for a combo with the Gaea.

Comparisons

Vs MEST MK2​

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The MEST MK2 presents music with an emphasis in sub-bass and in the upper treble. Mids remain fairly neutral but come across as slightly thin at times. The MK2 and the Gaea share some similarities in the treble but where they differ substantially is in the upper-midrange section wherein Gaea seems to place more emphasis on vocals and eeks out some shrillness whereas the MK2 comes across as decidedly more relaxed.

Where they differ most is perhaps the technical capabilities and the way in which music is presented. The MK2 seems to take a more even approach to balancing instruments and vocals and does so with its odd “3D” soundstaging capabilities. The Gaea injects a large amount of air and upper mids into the mix in order to create a sense of space between certain instruments but there remains a distinct forwardness of vocals.

The latters tuning seems to help with perceived resolution but overall, I would give the nod to the MK2 for resolving busily produced tracks with ease in a more natural manner than the Gaea.

I feel that the MK2 represents a more balanced and approachable tuning and has the benefit of having that special sauce bone-conduction driver that seems to add a level of depth to your music.

Vs Diva​

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The Gaea’s bigger brother is the next step in the Elysian line-up, and whilst it is more expensive, it is not hugely so. The Diva has some similar traits with the Gaea in terms of its upper-mid lift leading to a forward vocal presentation. However, the Diva differs in a sense of added lower-end weight and warmth that creates a far more laid-back listening experience that is thoroughly enjoyable. The Diva’s treble also seems less aggressive and more smooth in its reproduction. The end result is a vocal forward IEM with the edges rounded and smoothed out as opposed to a fastidious and hard-edged approach of the Gaea. I definitely enjoy the Diva more for its more naturalistic and engaging presentation of music as well as the granularity in the bass-tuning switch. But the bass also is an oddity with the Diva having zero dynamic drivers compared to the Gaea’s single DD. Conventional thinking would have you believe that the Diva’s bass doesn’t hold a candle to the Gaea’s but I don’t believe that to be true. In terms of technical ability, the Gaea sacrifices timbre in the pursuit of what I term “faux detail” whereas the Diva retains detail and resolution despite its smoother and more warm production and in this regard, I would give the nod to Diva. The Diva doesn’t seem to project as spacious of a stage as the Gaea owing to its rather intimate vocal presentation which seems to eliminate any perceived extension in terms of width.

The Diva presents the Gaea’s female vocal speciality in a different context which is for me, is much more enjoyable. As such, I give the Diva the nod here but understand those who want a hard-edged and drier reproduction of music would prefer the Gaea.

Vs Helios (from memory and previous review)​


The Symphonium Helios is an IEM that I characterised as being somewhat thin and with an excellently executed treble region that extended high and was done without becoming fatiguing. The Helios, in my mind, represents the best comparison for the Gaea and I sought to see who won out.

The Helios has a lower-mid dip that does a great job of separating the bass from the mid-range but at the cost of severely diminishing anything that sits in this region and imparting a clinical coldness to the frequency response. The Helios lacks note weight and can be a little too precise in its reproduction of music to the point of reducing my emotional engagement with my music.

The Gaea has some elements of this but the drama and the excitement is retained well with its nice bass which hits slightly harder in the mid-bass region, creating a fun-factor that was absent in the Helios. The treble on the Gaea is less smooth and more peaky compared to the Helios and I would venture to say that it is far more likely to cause fatigue over time.

Overall, the Gaea has some of the traits of the Helios but presents its sound signature in a more enjoyable manner in my opinion. The Gaea, in my opinion, presents a better all-rounder compared to the Helios.

Value & Quality of Life​


At 1300 USD, the Gaea is against some steep competition in the kilobuck range. When compared to the aforementioned IEMs in the Comparison section above, I do not believe I would be incorrect to say that the Gaea is a fine choice for this price, however, I do not believe it is the safe choice for this price bracket.

It leans on the thinner side of tonality and slightly brighter than its competitors and in this regard, I do not believe it to be the “everyman” IEM.

The included accessories in the tour kit are rather skim but the inclusion of a EA cable with the ConX system is a rather good inclusion. However, points are taken off as the cable doesn’t appear to be a TermX compatible cable. The cable uses a Pentaconn connector for the IEM-side connection (P-Ear) which feels to be a better executed form of MMCX. The cable slots in and is removed easily using a guiding pin to ensure that you are not inserting it at an angle. This is a great connector in my mind as it allows freedom of movement (a win over 2 pin) and feels far less fragile than MMCX. However, the issue is that it is a rather rare connector and for those with a collection of cables may feel disappointed.

The earpieces themselves are lightweight and well-made, the combination of which seem to be a comfortable fit for myself and likely a large proportion of the market. The depth of the earpieces are fairly robust and as such may pose some problems but these fit in and stayed in my ears with little to no issues over longer listening periods.

Overall, the combination of ergonomics and the sound quality that you get from the Gaea lead me to believe that this is a rather good choice on a technical and liveable standpoint but a gamble tonality wise.

Conclusion​

The Gaea is a rather bright and thinned out IEM that seeks to heighten a sense of space and air throughout the listening experience. It achieves this in spades and provides a rather unique experience. However, unique doesn’t necessarily mean excellent and whilst I can appreciate the Gaea for what it is, it is tonally out of my wheelhouse and do not believe it would be a very versatile IEM.

For those who are sensitive to treble and for those who enjoy warmth in their mid-range, the Gaea is the one to avoid.

Overall, I would not mind the Gaea in a rotation of IEMs to which I could appreciate more open productions of music and to feel a sense of goose-bump inducing excitement with treble from time-to-time but as a standalone IEM, I believe that it fails to provides a sense of weightiness and emotional impact that I am looking for. It is clean and clinical with a bit of spice in the top end for that added drama.
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catvsgrizzly

New Head-Fier
Great choice for Female Vocal Focused music
Pros: - Presents female vocals in an elegant and feminine matter.
- Deep reaching but controlled bass.
- Well extended and controlled treble.
- Fresh and clean sounding IEMs
Cons: - Lacks warmth and 'soul' as lower mids are restrained.
- Didn't find it to be a versatile all rounder.
I recently got to test the Gaea as part of the Australian Tour. Big thank you to Damz87, Effect Audio and Elysian Labs for arranging the tour. Appreciate the chance to check out the latest innovations in the audio industry. and the chance to share my thoughts on the Gaea below.

Kit:
I did my listening with the supplied tour kit including:
  • GAEA IEMs – aesthetically, these looked nice, no complaints. Fit wise, they were comfortable in my ears.
  • Spinfit tips – Although not typically my go-to tips, they complimented the GAEA nicely, accenting sub-bass and presenting treble sparkle. A little wiggle here and there and I was able to get a solid seal.
  • Effect Audio 4.4mm balanced cable – Aesthetically nice cable. Chunky but not problematic.
Sources:
All listening was done on my Ibasso DX240 DAP, with AMP8 MK2S module (high gain). This was a fairly good match up, presenting good control over treble and air and good reach to sub bass.

I would have loved to try the GAEA with my trusty Ifi Hip Dac, but didn’t want to risk overpowering the sensitive GAEA IEMs on the supplied balanced cable.

Source material consisted of best available Qobuz FLAC files and self ripped WAV files.

Sound:
GAEA have an interesting take on a V shaped tuning. These are very clean and fresh sounding IEMs, with a big ol’ scoop taken out of the mids.

Bass: Bass dug deep into sub bass but always tight and controlled, it was a nice compliment to the airy trebles.

Mids: Lower mids were quite pulled back, which really gives the Gaea the “fresh” and “clean sound”. However the trade of for this is that music loses warmth, grit and “soul”.

Trebles: Trebles were wonderfully well presented, prominent and extended. They are well controlled however and didn’t come across as sibilant, with nice sparkle.

Impressions:
In my first listens, I spun an array of tracks from my Qobuz favourites. Chilhop lofi tracks had a nice fresh feel to them. Beats were nice and impactful. Kick drums dug deep with fair impact and the and bass melodies (e.g. bass guitar) reached into nice sub bass. All this owing to the Foster Dynamic Driver, which presented a tight and controlled bass, with a fair presence, but never the focus or over powering. Mir range/treble Melodies and percussion were light and airy. Again, very fresh and clean.

A couple of songs from Aphex Twin’s Drukqs is where I started to find some limitations to the unique V shaped turning of the Gaea, without a balance of lower mids, the complex sound arrangements were left sounding squeaky and hollow, with little variation in texture or detail.

It was then time I read the instructions and used the Gaea as intended. Effect Audio advise that “The acoustic focus for GAEA is undoubtedly Female Vocals”. I played through an array of my favourite female artists including by Beth Orton, Courtney Barnett, Norah Jones and Massive Attack tracks with female lead vocalists….

I was quite pleasantly surprised by the result of Gaea’s tuning.

Female vocals were wonderfully wispy, elegant and feminine. Lyrics were also clear and articulate. It finally clicked with me what the Gaea, and the teams at Effect Audio and Elysian Acoustic Labs, were trying to achieve. The trade off with the tuning however, is that female vocals now lacked a bit of growl and undertones and as such… less soulful.

I should also mention that although lower mids are notably pulled back, tracks with female vocals didn’t really come off as thin sounding. The deep bass extension and the impressive treble extension still left a fulfilling (but fresh) sounding soundscape.

I must confess however, after my musings with how well it presented female vocals, I felt that I’d had my fun with the Gaea and wanting to return to IEMs with more warmth.

Conclusion and final thoughts:
Although I was a bit sceptical at first, I was pleased to find that the Gaea achieved it’s goal of accentuating female vocals. Although I can appreciate the approach Effect Audio and Elysian Acoustic Labs took for tuning, and the skill to achieve the outcome, I found that the novelty of the IEM wore off on me relatively quickly. After a couple of days of seeing what the Gaea can provide, I found myself reaching for my daily drivers such as Campfire Audio Comet and Meze Neo 99. Drivers with more apparent lower mids and warmth. The Gaea hits it purpose well, but for me lacked the versatility to really shine with a variety of genres and soundscapes.

What are the comparisons?
The $1,000 to $1,500US range is admittedly uncharted territory for me, I would love to try some others in this price range to see how the Gaea compares.

Is it worth it’s price?
Research and Development takes time, resources and innovations. Of which need to be recouped in the cost of a product. I’d say these components are apparent in the end product Gaea. If you value an IEM that presents female vocals in the most elegant way possible, than the price may justify the cost.

I personally however didn’t find any more enjoyment in listing to music compared to $199 and $330US IEMs (being the Campfire Audio Comet and Moondrop Blessing 2 Dusk).

Would I recommend the Gaea?
You’d have to really, really love female vocal focused music for this to be a home run. I’m sure there’d be this market out there that the Gaea would resonate really well with. If female vocal focused music is your thing than by all means, the Gaea is your IEM. Otherwise it’s a hard one for me to recommend as a standalone IEM, or even an addition to a collection.

This was a lot of fun, big thank you again to Effect Audio, Elysian Acoustic Labs and Damz87 for the tour. Happy listening everyone.

GiullianSN

Previously known as CrocodileDundee
Effect Audio x Elysian: Gaea, the voice of the mother of it all.
Pros: + Product lore (IEM design, sound signature, cable, package, name...all aligned perfectly)
+ Resolution
+ Technicalities
+ Fit
+ Paring responsiveness (tips, cables, sourcing)
+ Price
+ Works better for female vocals
Cons: - Upper mids/treble forwardness (It can be a pro, depending on the expectation)
- Cable material pairing
- Bass light (it can be a pro, depending on the expectation)
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Disclaimer

Just to get this out of the way first. These IEMs were bought by myself directly from Effect Audio as part of a whole package of goods I got as part of a search for CA Supermoon trials and comparisons (project: “Save the moon” on separate and funnier posts in other threads). Due to that I got a discount for the Gaea. (Thanks @JordonEA )

Before even starting I would like to remember that I’m not a professional reviewer and I'm doing this for fun and love for the music. Sonic impressions are completely subjective and in this case it’s my unique opinion, feel free to have yours, but always remember to respect your forum colleges.


Introduction


Effect Audio is a company that needs no introduction in 2023. A lot of the most praised cables in the market today are part of Effect Audio Line up. Classics like Leonidas II have been on the list of people that heard it before. The recently released Cleopatra II became an instant classic for its special sound signature that contrasts with most of the Pure Silver cables (More to come about this one).

Elysian on the other hand is more of closed group brand, as a one man show brand, it's really hard to get any product and waitlist is for months. But when I tried Elysian X IEM in 2022, it went straight up to the top of best IEMs and now I understand why people love his IEMs. It's mids and highs are one of the best on the market. When I heard that EA was joining forces with Elysian to bring to the market an IEM together, it instantly got my attention and ow man how they got this one right on the looks. Top 1 of most beautiful IEM on the market today. Sound is controversy, but we will go through it.

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Follow along and let’s have a look/listen together. As usual, my reviews are a bit of a journey through a few of my loved songs and commenting the good and bad of the gear. My Playlist, as you will see, is mostly Rock/Metal/Hip-hop.


How does it sound?


Gaea has been quite a polarising IEM since its release. Many mentioning it's bright or thin. But in a clear way, we can see the direction that the companies went for the sound signature. In my experience with it and my playlist, it can be both and can also be enjoyable. It's like bitting the forbidden fruit. It is extremely picky with Ear Tips; I settled down with SpinFit CP155 due to its low end improvement and open up the soundstage making it less bright and thin.


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Low End


When I see a DD for lows I expect the rumbling and textures of it. But Gaea delivers a clean and tight low end. In some songs it lacks that "humph" I like from the fest kick drums from metal.

A good example of controlled bass is on Wiz Khalifa - Ain't No Fun, Gaea still gives a good rumble, but not overwhelming one, it's still enjoyable, but not a basshead level. On the other hand, Gaea brings the upper frequencies forward, together with a good amount of details.

As a Metal example of the Gaea's low end, you can have Manowar's Battle Hymns, which after 4min it has a great drums elevation With Gaea, you have a tight kickdrums and tom-toms, but the biggest emphasis goes to the high hats and I would really love to have a few dBs more on the mid to high bass and lower mids to have that "humph" this songs needs to make you headbang.


High Mids and Treble


Well… many praises Gaea's capabilities on the upper mids/highs and I agree with that, but not all are perfect. You can see on Motorhead - Bomber, how it can get congested in the region and you would want more clarity.

The drums on Cream's White Room after 4:00 rumbles well controlled and on a step back on the stage as I expect it to be. Gaea does this beautifully.

Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil can be a good example of separation and staging, you can hear each instrument on a different layer and position of the stage, in this case not immense, but well placed and with Mick's voice right in the centre of the band. This song does not have the punchiness of a drum set of other metal songs, so it helps on not getting congested. It's clearly not a perfect technical IEM, but it does it quite well for its price.

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Now going to the real potential of the Gaea…when cable rolling. Starting from bottom up in price and focus on EA cables as they offer the great ConX that is perfect for cable rolling.


Gaea + Ares S ($179,00)


Ares S is an impressive cable in general, especially considering its price point. Together with Gaea, it opened up a bit of that lower mids and slightly vailed the upper frequencies to reduce the sharpness. But it reduced a bit of the clarity of the signature. It's the first "improvement" compared to the stock cable.


Gaea + Cadmus S ($199,00)


Cadmus S is a great cable, but it is a bit harder to match in general. For the Gaea, the benefits of this beautiful cable was not seen to come to live on the Gaea, it sounded similar to the stock cable but with a bit of steroids. I would keep the stock cable mainly for aesthetics.


Gaea + Ares S 8W ($279,00)


It adds a layer of smoothness, palpable texture and weight to the higher mids, bringing it a step back, while loosens the lower regions, giving it a bit of the low end that everyone have been asking for. I think this extra punch at the bottom and the texture on the upper ends balances Gaea's signature and ticks all the boxes of what people have been complaining about it (thin sounding and lack of low-end punch). All of that with an organic soundstage. (Iron Butterfly - In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida)

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Gaea + Code 23 ($599,00)


Here the things start to get interesting. Code 23 brings what was already great to a new level. But It makes pairing harder as well. It pairs greatly with shouty or IEMs with emphasis on the upper range. The case of the Gaea, it significantly tames the upper range and wakes up that DD low end that everyone expected from Gaea. It extended both ends of the frequency response, gave a bump on the low-end, and pushed back the upper ranges. These fine tuning are quite noticeable in Manowar's Battle for the Hymns, where the high hats are not strong as before.

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Gaea + Cleopatra Octa ($1.599)


Ok Ok…here is the real deal. Cleopatra 8W is the cable to beat with Gaea, but at a price that is higher than the IEM itself and a bundled price that you can buy Lee's more refined IEMs, like Annihilator.

Either way…let's go…

Everything that I said on Ares 8W and Code 23 on a premium level and keeping the detailed and clarity of a silver cable…That's Cleo. If you want that "humph" on the metal songs kick drums, but you also want to keep Mick's detailed voice without being pierced by the high hats…That's Cleo. It's the perfect pairing. It rounds up the edges of the higher frequencies without dropping the details, it wakes up the lower mids and high bass while it’s extending the sub-bass and treble. It completely won me over with Pink Floyd's Wish You Are Here guitar solo, which can be bright in some IEMs, but well textured is a pleasure to listen.

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Final Thoughts (trying to put them together, actually)


Gaea is a wolf in sheep skin. It is one of the most beautiful packages around today. IEM, Cable, lore, and packaging are spot on to the companies involved. The name, resembling a mother of all, so many analogies that we can make with this product and the partnership between EA and Elysian.

It can be well underrated at first listen depending on the market and expectations. Well, expectations is everything in this hobby. When we put the expectations in the right place, we appreciate some products more. Gaea is a clear example of that, it is tuned to have emphasis on the top frequencies. If one is not looking for that emphasis, so Gaea is not for you. On the other hand, it is quite sensitive to cable and source pairing, therefore is a cheap high resolving IEM for experimentation and it can be fine tunned to bring the closer to a warmer tunning, can bring even more high frequencies details and so on.

Final final thought is, before ruling out Gaea by comparing it to bigger hitters, manage your expectations and be open to tip rolling cable rolling (EA ConX helps a lot), you can find a great IEM here and an initial taste of what the famous "Lee treble" is. If time is too short for that experimentation and the signature is not what you're looking for…than you already have your answer. :)

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GiullianSN
GiullianSN
I heard Annihilator really quick, but from others comments Anni may still be a better technical option.
magicguy
magicguy
I must receive Gaea in a few days for test purpose (a friend lent them to me for a few days).
I've taken note of the tips (cp155). I'll use SP1000/Amp and Hiby R8.
In Pentaconn cable I will be more difficult, I only own ConX on 2 cables : EA Code 51 and EA Onyx... Sadly my Liquid Links Venom is only 2 pins... We will see.
Any advice ?
GiullianSN
GiullianSN
as I did there, start with the stock cable, play around with Tips but give time to your ears to adjust to each tip and check which one you like the most (comfort, seal, sound...) then you start to play with cables. I have an impression that Code 51 will go well with Gaea. But let us know in EA thread your findings. I'll be looking forward for that.

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