Effect Audio X Elysian Acoustic Labs: GAEA


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



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:​




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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.




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​


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.


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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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.

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.
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.

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.

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.


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)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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)


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.


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.


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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I heard Annihilator really quick, but from others comments Anni may still be a better technical option.
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 ?
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.


100+ Head-Fier
Effect Audio x Elysian Acoustic lab - GAEA: Almost Perfect!
Pros: + Premium Build
+ Very Comfortable
+ Great staging
+ Good Resolution & Separation
+ Good midrange
+ Great energetic treble
+ Pairs well with most dongles and portable players
Cons: - Bass could be better
- Timbre feels a bit plasticky at times
- Treble in some cases maybe too hot for some... though it's not piercing
Effect Audio x Elysian Acoustic lab - GAEA: Almost Perfect!



Launched in Dec'2022, GAEA is the latest IEM release by Effect Audio, this time in collaboration with much hyped Elysian Acoustic Labs. GAEA is a hybrid with 1DD + 4 BA configuration and comes with Effect Audio proprietary cable. GAEA looks just amazing and I have found it to be very enjoyable.



Let's quickly dive into the details without making the introduction very lengthy. The GAEA features 1 Foster DD + 4 Sonion BAs and comes with custom cable by Effect Audio and also a proprietary pentaconn connector.

The GAEA is priced at $1299.


Design & Build:

The shells look very ergonomic & premium and ensure a good and comfortable fit. the face-plates are stabilized wood & resin and look awesome.

It is described as the following on the website:

The Gaea features 1 Foster Dynamic Driver and 4 Sonion Balanced Armatures. This has been awarded the gold medal by Foster for best implementation in an IEM. An unorthodox approach of implementing Sonion’s balanced armatures is on purpose to create a unique sound that is smoother and with a less metallic timbre. Both driver types work in tandem with each other to produce a gorgeous enveloping sound that is euphorically musical and yet detail focused.

This second generation of the DiVe Pass technology improves on the original that is utilized on the renowned Elysian Annihilator. DiVe Pass II introduces independent vents that now eliminates the reverberation of the back chamber and also provides optimal pressure relief in the front chamber. This reduces driver-flex issues from diaphragm compression. Full bass potential of the dynamic driver is unleashed due to better movement of the diaphragm.

All internal wiring for Gaea has been specially chosen and custom applied by Effect Audio to Gaea to further complement and enhance sonic quality. The result of a rigorous R&D process yields an outstanding cable that uses a bespoke mix of Copper and Silver-plated Copper materials. This ensures Gaea’s sound signature is achieved harmoniously with a sonic quality that exceeds expectations..




The GAEA comes at $1299 price tag and the specifications are as below:




The Box & Accessories:

Thr following are found in the box:
  • Custom cable with 4.4mm termination
  • Microfiber Polyurethane case
  • Spin fit W1 Medical Grade Silicone eartips (Multisize: S/M/L)
  • Cleaning Tool and Cloth



The Cable:

GAEA comes with custom pentaconn connectors by Effect Audio featuring the below specifications:
- Selected Premium UP-OCC Copper Litz
- Selected Premium UP-OCC Silver Plated Copper Litz
- Proprietary Dual Geometric Design
- EPO* 24 AWG 4 Wires
- EA Ultra Flexi™ Insulation
- ConX ™ Ready with Pentaconn Ear Interchangeable Connector
- Rhodium Plated Brass Straight Type Plug





Items Used for this Review:

DAC/AMP & Dongles:
@Questyle M15 Dongle DAC/AMP, Cayin C9 Portable Amplifier
Portable Players / Sources : Cayin N8ii, @Questyle QP2R, Lotoo Paw Gold Touch
Streaming Source: QOBUZ


Tracks Used:
The tracks I have used can be found from the below playlist that I have used and generally use for most reviews...


Pairing Performance with different sources:

Dongle DAC/AMPs:

GAEA had the best pairing with @Questyle M15 dongle.
The BEST pairing however came with Cayin C9 + LPGT with Class-A amplification enabled. That just took the performance of the GAEA to the next level.


Portable Players:

Obviously the GAEA had the best pairing with the LPGT & specially Cayin N8ii since that comes with Class-A amplification and a new DAC which is super resolving and not to forget the Nutubes! But those are $3500+ range also and out of reach for most people! But it performs well with other players also.


GAEA Sound Impressions in Short:


The bass performance of GAEA is slightly above average. The much hyped Foster DDs have not been found as per expectations and could be much better. That being said, the bass is not lacking or anything - just that the expectations from such an IEM is much better. The little nuances and details of the sub-bass region is clearly audible and the mid-bass comes with good amount of body & texture. tracks like: "Hotel California (Live on MTV 1994) – Eagles" and "Fluid - Yosi Horikawa" are quite immersive.


The midrange of the GAEA is quite open and clear with ample amount of texture and details. There's no bass bleed and the midrange is quite muscular and full. Vocals are very immersive and both male and female vocals come with good texture and feel very real. Instruments felt very natural and real with high accuracy and the separation between them is also great. In tracks like: "Anchor - Trace Bundy", "A dog named Freedom – Kinky Friedman" and "Ruby Tuesday – Franco Battiato" it’s really easy to get lost into the music as it comes with ample detailed transients, texture, excellent vocals and details.


The Treble is quite energetic & airy coming from the BAs of the GAEA but doesn't at any point feel piercing or uncomfortable. It has the right amount of details and texture also and the overall treble performance is therefore very enjoyable.

Treble in tracks like: "Paradise Circus – Massive Attack", "Mambo for Roy – Roy Hargrove” and "Saints and Angels – Sharon Shannon" feel very immersive and enjoyable from the treble perspective. However, in some rare occasions - I have found the treble a bit hot, but nothing piercing.


The Staging capabilities of the GAEA is surprisingly good. In fact, it might be amongst the best in the price range. It comes with the right amount of width, height, depth and is well defined and just as much as the track requires. Tracks like: “The Secret Drawer – Bela Fleck and the Flecktones” or “She Don’t know – Melody Gardot” or “Bohemian Rhapsody (live aid) – Queen” sound amazing & enjoyable. This is amongst the strongest trait of this IEM.

Imaging & Timbre:

The Imaging & instrument separation performance on the GAEA is stellar and sense of location is spot on with high accuracy. Tracks like: “Rotterdam (Or Anywhere) - The Beautiful South “or “Hello Again - Howard Carpendale & The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra” just shine through. The Timbre however feels plasticky at times.



EAxEAL GAEA vs Audeze Euclid:

Please note that the only thing these 2 IEMs have in common is the price range being close. The GAEA is a hybrid whereas the Euclid is planar driver based IEM. Hence, there are some inherent differences owing to different architecture.


Bass: Owing to the dynamic driver based bass performance of the GAEA, it gets a very slight preference over the planar based Euclid. The Euclid not far away by any means though.

Mids: The midrange of the Euclid is amongst it's strengths, but having said that - the GAEA just sounds more resolving mainly owing to the better separation. The Euclid has better texture & muscle in the midrange while the GAEA has more details.

Treble: This is where the GAEA really excels and the overall experience is very enjoyable. mind it that the SA6 is also not lacking behind in treble performance, but just not as good as the GAEA.


Soundstage, Imaging and Separation: The staging on the Euclid is just great and at par or better than the GAEA. However, the GAEA excels in terms of separation mainly owing to it's hybrid architecture.

While I had been doing the comparisons, I had shared the GAEA experiences with other people and fellow reviewers and most of them had the similar experience with GAEA like me.



The GAEA is a great performer and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It's amazing what Effect Audio & Elysian Acoustic Labs have done here.
Given the above facts, people looking to buy within the $1200 - 1300 range should definitely consider getting this and is quite recommendable.
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Oh My Goddess Gaea~ Effect Audio x Elysian Acoustic Labs Gaea | My Honest Experience
Pros: + Deep, impactful bass that gives a very engaging presentation
+ Vocals are full, powerful, clear and airy
+ Very well extended, helps in vocal and instrument clarity
+ Deep soundstage
+ Great resolution & imaging. Sounds are well separated
+ Intimate presentation, however can be a little too intimate for some
Cons: - Very forward presentation, may be a little too fatiguing for some after a few hours of listening
- Treble may be a little harsh for treble sensitive people
- Wide nozzle may pose fit problems for some
Effect Audio x Elysian Acoustic Labs Gaea


Hello and thank you very much for reading my experience of the Effect Audio x Elysian Acoustic Labs Gaea. Before I begin I would like to take this opportunity to thank @Damz87 for making this review possible by arranging the Australian Head-Fi Tour for this unit to be experience by multiple people within Australia. This is a sample unit that will be passed on to the next reviewer once I have conducted my testing therefore I do not personally own this unit however I am not paid by any parties for my feedback and all thoughts and opinions are simply my own. This is also my first time posting a fully written “experience” therefore please forgive my grammatical errors as writing isn’t my strongest suit but I shall do my best but at the end of the day, I hope my experience will be able to help shed a light on this IEM.

The Effect Audio x Elysian Acoustic Labs Gaea is a joint collaboration between Elysian Acoustic which is a one man company led by Mr.Lee from Malaysia so it has always been a personal goal of mine to own one of Mr.Lee’s IEMs because his IEM’s are extremely well known, namely the Elysian Annihilator and Elysian Diva, but they do not come cheap so when Gaea was announced I was very close to purchasing one blind but it was a toss up between the Maestro SE and the Gaea and I only had enough for one, but at the end of the day I had to let the Gaea go but I’m so glad and excited that I’m able to experience it now.

Before I talk about sound, let’s talk about a few things first. Unfortunately since this was a review tour unit, there was no unboxing experience but there are a lot of videos on Youtube that you can check out if you’re interested in the unboxing but essentially you will get this carry pouch which is like felt? It feels very nice to the touch but it is also a HUGE dust magnet. So have your lint roller ready because you’re going to need it. The carry pouch does look very nice and well made. There’s a logo from both companies etched on the top. It’s subtle but it still looks and feels very premium


If you have not heard about Effect Audio, they’re a company from Singapore who specializes in producing cables, and when I heard they were pairing up with Elysian Acoustic it’s like a match made in heaven and boy do they deliver here because the cable is simply, beautiful. That blue and grey colour scheme intertwined to each other. Talk about a cable complimenting the design of the IEM and there’s nothing I would do to change this because, it’s just dead set perfect for each other. I wish they produced this cable on its own because it’s so gorgeous but effect audio can be really expensive, almost the cost of a mid-fi IEM itself but oh look at that. I’m almost glad they didn’t release this cable separately otherwise my wallet would be in big trouble.



Let’s get this out of the way, I’m putting the Elysian Acousic Labs x Effect Audio Gaea as the IEM with one of the, if not, the most beautiful looking faceplate I’ve ever seen on an IEM. That marble like design with the color of the ocean, that muted blue with the gold logos of each company on each side. That’s how you make your IEM stand out. It’s simply gorgeous. With that cable, it’s simply a complete look. I almost purchased this IEM solely for its looks!



Fit and Comfort
No denying it, this IEM is CHONKY, BUT, you won’t feel it’s chonkiness due to how the nozzle is slightly extended, it sits slightly outside of my ears and due to its gentle curves on the sides it doesn’t apply much pressure to my ear so it was a relatively comfortable experience for me personally. However I can imagine the nozzle being a difficult fit for some people because it has a very wide nozzle.



I don’t normally talk about eartips but due to how wide the nozzle is, I find it quite difficult to use any of the typical eartips that I’ve used. So most of my spinfits don’t really work in a sense that it’s really really tight even if you manage to put it on, and even if you do, it looks like it’s covering some of the holes so I’m just concluding that you would need eartips like the moondrop blessing or variations stock eartips to put on the Gaea


Now that we’ve covered all of that, let’s talk about the most important bit, the sound of the goddess!

I love the bass presentation on the Gaea. I’m not sure if the next portion of the frequency had some influence on how the bass is presented, but while it is forward, it is deep, it is impactful. It accompanies your tracks, keeps it engaging, but never taking the spotlight away. It’s like your best wingman, you know he’s there, but he never takes the girl away from you. He’s just dancing circles around the both of you to keep the energy going while you have your moment with the girl. That’s how it feels listening to the bass on the Gaea. One of the better examples of how to make the bass present while not overpowering the other frequencies in an IEM BUT I think this was only achievable due to what they did with the midrange. Let’s talk about it.


Real talk here, Gaea has a very forward presentation, almost to a fault. If you’ve listened to the Tangzu Li Shimin, the OH10s and thought those were a little too forward, then this is one you should stay away from because it is about as forward if not a touch closer to your ears than those IEM’s I’ve mentioned. However, it’s all great information getting thrown at you. You have the rumble and the impact from the bass accompanying your track, you’ve got clear, powerful, weighty vocals however it’s within the same plane as the background music as you hear all the instruments in the track. It’s another vocals being in the same plane as the background music kind of presentation. Vocals are still a touch forward but they don’t sound like the highlight of the track. Best analogy I can think of is like French kissing your crush, it feels amazing, you’re loving each and every moment of it, but after about an hour of tongue swirling, you’re going to get tired because your tongue twisting stamina isn’t as good as you thought it would be, but your crush is still swirling around in your mouth, and you’re just getting tired by the minute and you need a break. Exaggeration? Probably but that’s how it felt like listening to the Gaea. I needed a break from it after a while because it’s just all coming at my face, all at once.


If this is a preview of how the Annihilator sounds, then I’m excited yet terrified because the treble on the Gaea is high enough to give female vocals it’s bite, but it borderlines on being sibilant or harsh. I would put a caution for treble sensitive people. However, once again, due to how the sound is presented being forward, with the amount of treble provided on the Gaea, vocals sounded open, airy and clear. There’s enough treble extension to give trumpets that powerful, clear sound that they carry. It gives some sparkle and sizzle to the high hats and cymbals. It’s great depending on how tolerant you are to treble. I’ve gotten used to the Hifiman He1000v2s treble so if you’ve heard that headphone then you know how famous or infamous the level of treble on that headphone can be so if you found that or any Hifiman headphones to be sharp or sibilant, you might want to stay away from the Gaea.


The forward presentation on the Gaea gives me a very, VERY intimate experience and the separation and imaging on the Gaea helps in giving the soundstage some depth, but due to how forward the sound is, it’s still a very closed in experience, at least for me.

Despite having the amount of driver count, I’m getting a good amount of separation between each instruments and notes. Imaging between the left and right ear is great, the details are distinct and clear, which helps in a way in terms of that forward presentation because then, it’s not a big lump of mash potato of sound smashed into your ear but at the same time, as mentioned earlier, it’s a lot of information for you to decipher. I wouldn’t call it analytical as it doesn’t have the amount of resolution as the 64audio U12T has but it borderlines on that region.


Unfortunately I’ve sold most of my sources and I mainly rely on my Hifiman EF400 dac/amp for all my testing and depending on what you read on this dac/amp, it may or may not have an impact on the sound I described earlier but in terms of volume, I get to about 10 o clock not he dial on my Hifiman EF400 on the 4.4mm balanced termination which is to say it does require a bit of power to make this IEM sing and sing well.


Quick Comparisons

U12T has a more laidback presentation compared to Gaea with slightly better resolution. Sounds more analytical and a little “soulless” compared to Gaea. Bass is as punchy but it doesn’t have the same rumble or engagement as the Gaea. Vocals and Bass goes to Gaea. Prefer U12T for everything else but price is also way higher.

VS Maestro SE
If you’re talking about bass, Maestro SE simply floors the Gaea. The Gaea is merely playing catch up but it still has more than enough to keep the track engaging. Much cleaner bass due to its quantity. Both has a forward presentation but Gaea is a lot more forward. Imaging and separation is about the same. Treble is more extended on the Gaea. Gaea for treble clarity. Maestro SE for Bass. Overall, I’d still pick Maestro SE any day of the week due to my own personal sound preference.

Both have about the same bass with the Z1R sounding a lot “meatier” on the low end. Very recessed midrange, very wide soundstage on the Z1R, sharper treble than the Gaea for me especially for female vocals. Z1R for soundstage. Gaea for vocals and treble. Bass for both is fun and engaging.

So in summary, this is a match made in heaven for most. What Elysian Acoustic Labs and Effect Audio has produced is a breathtaking love child for all audiophiles to enjoy, however that beauty comes with a price because not everyone will be able to handle everything the Gaea has to offer. If you’re brave and tolerant enough to face the Gaea, you’ll be greatly rewarded. I miss the Gaea already…


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Nice review and photos! Your comparison with kissing is priceless :dt880smile:
Haha thanks very much for your kind feedback :)


New Head-Fier
Effect Audio x Elysian Acoustic Labs Gaea: The Voice of the Goddess
Pros: — Upper harmonic focused tuning that brings a great sense of transparency
— Works best with female vocals, yet has the versatility to sound great with other genres too
— Detail retrieval comparable to most TOTLs
— Relatively spacious-sounding with excellent separation
— Highly dynamic and crisp signature
— Probably the best (looking) stock cable out there
— High quality build and good-looking stabilized wood faceplates
— Good quality accessories (except for the eartips)
— Good isolation
— No driver flex
— Pentaconn Ear connectors feel sturdier than MMCX
— Selectable terminations when purchasing (although user-swappable terminations would be sweeter)
— Easy to drive
— No long wait times (unlike other Elysian products)
Cons: — Relatively large shells may not fit everybody
— Stock eartips barely fit on the nozzle
— Use of uncommon (PE) connectors limits cable-rolling possibilities
— Relatively simple unboxing experience
— Stock case gets dirty easily
— Bass response lacks texture
— Potentially too bright and sharp for some
— More analytical and reference-ish signature wouldn't satisfy those looking for musicality and ease of listening
— Price can be a bit hard to swallow
EA x EA Gaea: The Voice of the Goddess


About Me:

Hi, I’m fugu (KillerLab). A student currently completing studies in Canada. I have been an audiophile for almost 2 years, although I have had interest in audio for a duration much longer than that. I love listening to J-Pop (yes, J for Japanese), J-Rock, OSTs, and occasionally, Electronic and Classical. My reviewing style (and the way I define certain terms) are largely inspired by crinacle and Precogvision.


I have purchased this unit at a discounted price from MusicTeck in exchange for this review. Despite so, I have not been instructed in any form to write positive things about this product. Thus, everything in this review will be my own truthful experience.

(But still a big thanks to Andrew from MusicTeck for trying to make things right, and for being such a kind and responsible salesperson!)


Haven’t heard of the name Elysian Acoustic Labs? Well, neither have I, until I stumbled across crinacle’s review of their flagship, the Annihilator, a few months ago. Instantly intrigued by the way this IEM was tuned, I wanted to experience Lee’s unique sound. However, Elysian products are hard to come by, as most of their orders are placed by messaging their social media accounts. They are also notoriously known for their surprisingly long wait times (up to 6 months!). But their partnership with widely-known cable company, Effect Audio, has made the dream of hearing Elysian products (and owning one) come true. Effect Audio is handling the production and distribution of the Gaea, making it far more accessible to the general audiophile market with larger stock supplies, while also adding in their own specialties, cables (and internal wiring).

I am no cable guy, as a person who believes in science and has had personal experience determining that cables don’t change sound marginally (by various A/B testing), so I’ll not talk about how these cables sound and whatever, despite this being a collab with one of the most prestigious cable companies out there. (I actually own a few EA cables, for usability and build quality, not for “sound”).

The Gaea is a 1DD/4BA IEM that costs 1300 dollars (oof, there goes my New Year’s Red Packet and a few months’ worth of allowance).



The Gaea comes in a large square black cardboard box with gold embossed over it, pretty sweet design. Lifting the top cover reveals an opaque paper featuring a foreword from the founders of the two companies. The next layer is the earphones themselves, with the cable pre-attached and stuffed in a small compartment underneath. The bottom layer features all the accessories, three sets of SpinFit W1s, a cleaning tool, a cleaning cloth and a carrying case. I am actually reminded of my DUNU Vernus (Falcon Pro Limited)’s unboxing, as it has a near-identical layout (but the Vernus comes with more eartips and a protective mesh bag). IEM that costs more than a grand unboxes similar to something worth 200 bucks? Err… some work needed here?


Build & Fit:

Despite the unboxing being rather underwhelming, the quality of everything included is to the very least, good.

The shell is composed of black resin and a blue stabilized wood faceplate. Overall finishing of the shell is similar to the RSV, perfect polishing with no seam between the faceplate and the shell, and sports a smooth and shiny finish. While I’d say I prefer the RSV’s more rounded and elegant shape, there’s no denial that stabilized wood just looks that good. The fit is like the RSV, taking up lots of concha area which isolates sound pretty well, except the Gaea has a slightly shorter nozzle, making it just a bit more comfortable. The earpiece features a Pentaconn Ear connection, which, from memory is only seen on Acoustune products (and Sennheiser’s IE 400 and 500 Pro and Spear Lab’s Triton), making cable rolling not too easy, even though from a stability perspective, this connector does feels better than MMCX. A tiny nitpick about the build on these earpieces is that my PE sockets had quite a lot of white dust inside (polishing residue?). The cable is probably the more interesting part of this package. It sports a two-tone finish that is reminiscent of the IEM’s color scheme, with the y-split and plug having similar stabilized wood parts embedded into black aluminum. Not often do you see IEM’s come with matching cables that fit the overall theme, nice job, EA. The cable also has EA’s ConX system, allowing you to swap between the most common connectors on the market (although only PE is supplied, you can purchase other options from EA). Build quality is identical to the Ares S I have on hand (from the spec sheets, this cable also seems like a mix between the Ares S and the Cadmus), which translates to a premium feel, good amounts of heft, and low microphonics. Might I mention the chin slider? This little 8-shaped piece of aluminum fits perfectly inside the y-split, a smart and sleek design featured only on EA’s own Chiron (which is more expensive than the Gaea as a whole!). The Gaea benchmarks what a high-quality stock cable should be like. Other “boutique” companies, take notes. The black fabric case features a magnet clasp, and comfortable stores the IEM inside. Although nice-feeling, this material attracts dust and lint like a magnet. The cloth and cleaning tool are bog standard, but the black colors thankfully match the rest of the package. Well, we saved the worst for the last, the eartips. While the rest of the package has matching themes, the SpinFit W1s have a transparent umbrella, with varying colors for the base? It definitely does look quite disjointed from the rest of the earphone, but this part stays mostly in your ear, so I guess it just wasn’t as important as other areas. Might I mention that installing these eartips on this massive nozzle is a nightmare? I almost felt like I was tearing the base of the eartip off.

Actually, I take that back, the Gaea’s accessories are (generally) great, especially the cable. One step closer to 1.3k, yay.



MacBook Pro 16” 2021 + Luxury Precision W2 (Original CS43198 Ver.)
W2 Settings: Normal EQ, Normal SDF, Low Gain, LL Fast Filter, Tune 02, Ver. AS

iBasso DX170
DX170 Settings: Filter 3 (LL Fast), Low Gain, Ver. 1.03.261

iPhone 11 + ddHifi TC44C (Blue)

The Gaea is rated at 102dB/100mVRMS for sensitivity, which translates to 122dB/VRMS, and with 10 ohms of impedance, it is easy to drive. Electronic devices' native output and dongles should have no trouble powering it, good quality DAPs are out of the question. My DX170 can drive it to my normal listening levels (~67.5 dB) with around 12 volume steps on Low Gain.

All music is streamed off Apple Music, with maximum quality (Hi-Res Lossless, if available).

The Gaea’s nozzle is 7mm wide, so most conventional eartips will not fit easily, only large-bore eartips are recommended. The SpinFit W1s are a hassle to install onto the Gaea, thus I’ll be using the MoonDrop Blessing 2/Variations/S8 stock tips for this review. The nice-looking and feeling stock cable will be used for this review

Gaea CB.png

Frequency Response and Channel Matching for EA Gaea (Blue for L, Red for R, Green is my personal target, based off the SoftEars RSV)



Not off to a great start. The Gaea’s bass lacks texture. By texture, I mean adequate rumble and bass depth. Bass depth, for me, can be translated to body, the weight of notes, or “meatiness”. This makes the Gaea’s bass feel thin and even a bit dry and weightless. However, the Gaea has excellent punch and slam, thanks to its overly-fast bass transients. The levels of resolution and separation in this region are also fantastic. I can say that the Gaea’s bass is good, but not excellent or top of the class. I’ve heard better options at lower prices. According to Precog, this driver is the same one featured in Elysian’s flagship, the Annihilator, and he claims that the two have very similar performance. I guess the Gaea’s bass performance has something to do with the MT009B driver’s own quality after all. 8 out of 10 will be my score for the Gaea’s bass.


While on FR, the Gaea may seem excessively shouty, actual listening suggests that that is not really the case. It definitely does have a strong emphasis on vocals and is, for sure, intense to listen to, but doesn’t sound strident at all. It is quite rare to hear a midrange performance this well-controlled. Thanks to its primarily-sub-bass-focused bass response, the midrange also sounds exceptionally clean, offering incredible separation from the other frequencies. The final part I want to touch on about the Gaea’s midrange is its texture. The Gaea might have the best midrange texture I’ve heard so far. The Gaea’s Sonion drivers are capable of putting forward every vocal inflection and detail in instruments, effortlessly. The Gaea, simply put, sounds alive and energetic. While not being close to “neutral”, the Gaea’s midrange is something I can definitely respect and appreciate. I’ll give the mids here a 9 out of 10.


Arguably the most disputable region of any transducer, as everybody’s ears are shaped differently, thus we wear IEMs at different insertion depths, thus they sound different. Well, to me, the Gaea’s treble is excellent. Fantastic extension with no major peaks nor dips, well-textured with lots of air. A minor nitpick of the Gaea’s treble is that hi-hats and cymbals occasionally have this subtle tinny and splashy texture to it, but considering everything else, the Gaea’s treble also earns a 9 out of 10.


The Gaea’s timbre is not the most natural one I’ve heard out of a multi-driver setup, but it certainly is well done. It is relatively thin and a tiny bit dry, but doesn’t have that plastickiness that certain hybrid monitors have. I have very few things to nitpick about the Gaea’s timbre, considering that there are really not many hybrid, or full-BA monitors I’d rank above the Gaea for timbre. 8.5 out of 10.

Tonal Balance Summary:

While on FR, the Gaea seems like it sports a v-shaped tonality, I don’t think quite so. The Gaea sounds to me more like a bright-neutral tonality. This is because the bass, although shows 10dB on the graphs, feels more like 5-7dB. It fails to balance out the aggressive pinna gain and treble response, allowing the upper frequencies to be picked up by the listener more easily. All of the above, combined with the Gaea’s fast transients, fits it’s targeted tonality of being a female-vocal-focused IEM. A to A+ for tonal score, as it sports a vivid signature, but can be refined just a bit more.


Technical Performance:

Transient & Dynamics:

Wow, this is where the Gaea impresses. Transients on the Gaea are quick. Instruments hit fast, vocals sound crisp, while still remaining within the realms of natural. These do translate to the small problems aforementioned in the timbre section, but I wouldn’t worry too much about that. The decay is not too extended, nor is it too quicky. It’s on the neutral-quick side, which definitely aids the Gaea in its sharp sound signature, while still retaining good texture in the mids and treble. This translates to a good transient balance, where the attack and decay complement each other to reach the desired presentation. Dynamics on the Gaea are simply excellent. The Gaea sounds incredibly energetic with a great sense of explosiveness no matter what you throw at it. Microdynamics are superb too, the Gaea is capable of capturing every last bit of small fluctuations, such as the reverb in percussions, the sustain of a grand piano, and the inhales and exhales of vocalists. There has never been a moment where I found the Gaea sounding compressed or undynamic, max 10 out of 10 here.


The Gaea’s stage is moderately wide, being capable of placing instruments “outside of the shell”. While not being particularly impressive in terms of height or diffusal (how the farthest sounds blend in perfectly with the background), the Gaea provides incredible separation between all tracks and laser-precise instrumental positioning. These feats are still enough to bring the Gaea to a 9 out of 10 for imaging, as its imaging qualities fit its profile as a reference-vocal-styled monitor.


Yea, if there’s one thing you’d buy the Gaea, it’ll be for its detail pickup. This monitor puts forth literally every last bit of detail I expect out of any track. Paired with its excellent separation abilities, the Gaea comfortably competes with multikilobuck TOTL monitors in terms of detail retrieval (from memory, the qdc Anole VX isn’t that much ahead of the Gaea in terms of detail, if at all better). Heck, I don’t even think my beloved HD 800 S is indefinitely better than the Gaea in this performance metric. The Gaea, simply put, is to the very least, one of the most detailed monitors on the market right now. To achieve this with a humble 1DD/4BA setup, while everybody else is stacking 12, 18… 24 (???) drivers to make them sound “impressive” on paper, is quite astonishing.



Although I don’t own any monitors in the same price bracket as the Gaea, I do want to compare it to a few of my sub-kilo monitors to see how much better the Gaea is, if at all, and whether it is worth that price gap or not.

SoftEars Twilight:

Gaea vs. Twilight is like Yin and Yang, the two are literally polar opposites. The Gaea focuses primarily on the upper midrange and treble, bringing out detail and texture. The Twilight focuses more on the lower midrange, providing warmth, boldness, and spatialness, or simply, ease of listening. The Gaea is definitely more technically proficient because of this, while the Twilight is closer to neutral for tuning for me. Somehow, I am able to enjoy both equally, with both being in my daily driver squad. Yet, I can’t really swap one for the other immediately (often I’d need something like the MoonDrop Variations to transition, continue reading to see a comparison with this IEM). I wouldn’t call one better than the other, they’re both fantastic monitors, but, again, are completely different in what they offer.

Gaea v Twi.png

MoonDrop Blessing 2/Variations:

What’s the 1DD/4BA that took the entire audiophile community by storm? It’s none other than the venerable Blessing 2. And the B2 is impressive because it offers excellent tuning and class-leaping technical performance. Is the Gaea better than its distant relative? Yes? The Gaea is certainly more resolving, by quite a margin actually, and has better positional accuracy and layering, and is much more dynamic, but is not strictly better in terms of tuning. The Variations, as a texturally refined Blessing 2, definitely pulls ahead of the Gaea in terms of its sub-bass response (boy, that slam and rumble…), and lacks the slight abrasiveness in the treble, thus also making it somewhat more pleasant to listen to. The Gaea maxes out on technicalities, while the Blessing 2s can potentially sound just a bit more pleasant (especially the Dusk and the Variations).

Gaea v Var.png

(Blue line is the MoonDrop Variations)

Sennheiser IE 600 (with JVC FX-10++ Tips as the stock tips are horrendous):

Actually, both of these IEMs have good amounts of mids and treble. Except, the IE 600 is an absolute bass monster. It is without question that the IE 600 has way better bass texture than the Gaea, while having equivalent amounts of slam and matching macrodynamics. Where the IE 600 loses to the Gaea though, is in the smoothness of the treble. Its 10k plateau rises too quickly, thus making hi-hats sound borderline fatiguing. The Gaea is also better in terms of soundstage width, as I do consider the IE 600 to have a rather average stage size. I also believe that the Gaea is just slightly ahead in terms of microdynamics, or small fluctuations in volume, notably in instruments. Interestingly, the IE 600 is close to the Gaea’s detail retrieval performance. It’s a bit hard to tell people exactly which one they should buy, as the two are very alike in some ways, but in some ways they’re also quite different. I guess it comes down to whether you want all the bass you can have or not, or maybe fit and isolation (the IE 600 fits much better but isolates worse).

Gaea v IE 600.png

Unique Melody MEST MkII (from memory):

Ok, I don’t like the MEST MkII, specifically its midrange. The MEST MkII’s midrange sounds tonally off, almost wrong to me. Vocalists sound like they lack energy and they are also placed too far away for me. Don’t get me wrong, I respect the MEST MkII, I can see why people like it (massive soundstage), but I won’t pick up one as my daily driver. I’d much rather save 200 bucks and buy the Gaea, which comes with a much more usable cable (that PW Audio Copper M2 is very microphonic and stiff, all the descriptors of a bad cable) and a midrange tuning I can comfortably call great. But if you like the MEST MkII, then go for it, it’s your money and your ideal sound (just demo both if you can).

Sony IER-M9 (from memory):

The kilobuck guard. The M9 is incredibly safe in, well, everything. Indeed, the M9 is tonally more pleasant than the Gaea, as it is just warm and smooth all-round. The M9 however suffers from mediocre BA bass and a general lack of dynamics. Get the Gaea if an aggressive sound signature satisfies you, get the M9 if you want to kick back and listen to music for hours on end. The Gaea has a pretty chonky shell, so if your ears are small, the M9 may be also a better choice for you.


Consider EA’s marketing as accurate, the Gaea is definitely a female-vocal-focused IEM, but it’s not just any vocal IEM, it’s one that has endgame potential. With proficient tuning across the board and technical performance that rivals any other flagship, the Gaea is, without doubt, one of my personal favorites, and one of the best IEMs in the sub-2k price bracket. Elysian's unique tuning methodology has paired really well with Effect Audio's cable design and craftsmanship to create an IEM that truly breathes life into music.
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Headphoneus Supremus
EAxEA Gaea - Kilobuck with flair
Pros: + Vibrant and energetic tonality
+ Bright yet smooth
+ Excellent resolution
+ Excellent soundstage
+ Snappy yet strong bass response
+ Consistent design theme
Cons: - Tonality can be to thin and uncanny for some listeners
- Brightness can be fatiguing for treble-heavy genres
What happens when a boutique cable maker collaborates with a boutique IEM maker? Let’s discuss Effect Audio x Elysian Acoustic Labs Gaea.


  • This review is possible thanks to the Australian Head-Fi Tour arranged by @Damz87 and @JordonEA. The sample of Gaea will be sent to the next reviewer in the tour after this review. Gaea retails for USD $1299 on Effect Audio website
  • The Monarch MkII and U12T used in the comparison were demo units from Addicted to Audio Adelaide. Check them out if you are in town. Nice products and friendly people.
  • You should treat this review as subjective impressions of an audio geek rather than an “objective truth” about the IEM. Your experience with any IEM would change depending on your DAC/AMP, music library, ear tips, and listening volume.
  • I believe that great IEMs are the ones that can achieve multiple difficult things simultaneously: (1) high resolution (elements of a mix are crisp, easy to follow and full of texture), (2) 3D soundstage with a strong sense of layering and depth, (3) bold and natural bass, (4) natural timbre and balanced tonality that can work with any genre of music.
  • I rate IEMs on the scale from 1 (poor) to 5 (outstanding). The scale centres around 3, indicating “average”, “adequate”, or “acceptable” performance. Scores are assigned by A/B tests against benchmark IEMs that represent how each score band sounds.
  • Ranking list and measurement database are on my IEM review blog.


  • Driver: 1DD + 4BA
  • Cross over: 4-ways (1 DD x Low, 1 BA x Low-Mid, 1 BA x Mid-High, 2 BA x High)
  • Connector Type: MMCX (?)
  • Impedance: 10ohm @ 1kHz
  • Sensitivity: 102dB/100mV @1kHz

Non-sound Aspects​

The tour unit came without any packaging, so I can’t comment on this aspect from personal experience. Photos circulating the Internet show a luxurious unboxing experience. The packaging and the product follow an elegant “artsy” presentation that centres upon a consistent theme: Gaea, the personification of the Earth as a goddess.

Of course, the visual design does not guarantee sound quality. Still, I appreciate the thought both EA companies put into this kilo-buck product. I mean, let’s face it. We are paying $1300 for some ear toys. They better offer something more than top-notch sound quality.


Accessories are where I have the first complaint. The case in particular. Don’t get me wrong, the case is really nice. Roomy, strong, and close with a satisfying snap. But why EA puts a felt-like material on the case’s outer shell is beyond me. The case has picked up all lint and dust from its travel across Australia.

Anyhow, we are not here to talk about pretty drawings on the box and the fuzzy case. Let’s talk about the earpieces themselves.


First, their colours are less vibrant than most online photos. The faceplates are also not as curved as in the pictures. The faceplates are beautiful with elegant dyed wood surfaces, shiny golden logos of both EAs, and covered by a glossy top coat. The faceplates are seamlessly attached to the earpieces. I couldn’t find the seams with my nail.


The earpieces are large. They are triangular rather than the oblong reversed tear shape common amongst pseudo-custom IEMs. The triangular shape helps with the fit because my outer ears are not stuffed like Monarch II. Thanks to the DiVe Pass vents, I haven’t heard any drive flex in my time with the Gaea.


The nozzles are as large as the Moondrop Blessing 2 but shorter. Gaea seems to favour a shallow to medium fit rather than a deep fit like Blessing 2. The Gaea would fit shallower if you use larger tips, and you might hear some extra treble peaks. Using small tips to fit the Gaea deeper can remove these peaks.

Since Effect Audio is a cable maker, let’s discuss the stock cable.


From the visual perspective, the cable is a win. This is the first time I have seen a cable made especially for an IEM. The same stabilised wood is used for the wire splitter and the plug. The colour of the wires complements the colour of the faceplates. The size of the cable also matches the size of the earpieces. The cohesiveness of the visual presentation is just satisfying.


From a usability point of view, I’m disappointed. The cable is too stiff and refuses to cooperate during photo shoot, making the whole session a chore. It refuses to wrap properly, even with roadie wrap technique. It bends in unexpected ways, like having its own mind. At least it does not hold memory like the ALO cable that comes with Andromeda 2020, but I have cables from XINHS that behave better.

How it sounds​

Sources for listening tests:

  • Fiio K7 (for all A/B tests)
  • Shanling M6 Ultra
  • Hidizs S9 Pro
Local FLAC files ripped from CDs or bought from Qobuz were used for most casual listening and A/B tests. My playlist for A/B tests can be found on Apple Music here.

Spinfit W1 tips were used for all listening tests.


Tonality and Timbre: 4/5 - Good​

Frequency response of Gaea against Monarch MkII. Measurements were done with an IEC-711-compliant coupler and might only be compared with other measurements from this same coupler. Visit my graph database for more comparisons.


Tonality or “tuning” is where objectivity and subjectivity meet. Objectivity exists in the squiggly lines above, called Frequency Response (FR) graphs. They are created by sweeping a signal from 20Hz to 20kHz and measuring the corresponding loudness coming from an IEM. Unless a human operator deliberately tampers with the microphone or the data, FR does not care about the price or prestige of an IEM and, therefore, is “objective.”

However, human listeners are not microphones. Our ears and brain interpret the sound and decide whether it is “enjoyable.” It is also beneficial to remember that when you play a note on a musical instrument, multiple sounds (fundamental and harmonic) appear simultaneously and mix together. Achieving a life-like balance between frequencies and adding a tasteful amount of imbalance (“colouring the sound”) is the hallmark of an excellent tonality.


Gaea’s tonality can be described as bright and vibrant but balanced against bass and treble air. But before we move on, look at that channel matching!

First, let’s talk about vibrancy. Some IEMs and headphones have a “flat” presentation where most instruments and vocals in the mix seem to be at the same level, with little contrast between instruments and between different times in the music. Other IEMs sound like rollercoasters or a photo with a saturation tuning up. Gaea belongs to the latter rather than the former. This characteristic can be seen from the graph with the 10dB difference between the midrange (500Hz) and both the bass and the upper midrange.


Secondly, let’s talk about the most controversial aspect of Gaea, its brightness. To my ears, all instruments and vocals sound brighter than how they usually sound. For example, Bach’s Chaconneperformance by Itzhak Perlman sounds brighter and lacks a bit of body and warmth that I expect from the Strad (I think?) used in the recording. Ed Sheeran’s vocals in all albums sound slightly brighter with less body and weight. Other commercial music shares the same situation. However, the brightness rarely reaches the point where vocals and instruments sound odd unless you do back-to-back A/B tests against other IEMs. I would say Gaea pushes the upper limit of “natural”.

Whilst a bright signature is questionable, the execution of that signature has a finesse that, IMHO, deserves some praise. Simply put, Gaea is bright but not peaky, edgy, or sibilance (beyond what is already in the music). Usually, when an IEM is tuned “bright”, it has treble peaks at 3kHz, 5kHz, 8kHz, and possibly 12kHz. Between these treble peaks are valleys. The result is that some sounds would be randomly boosted like ice picks to the ears, whilst other high-frequency details would be masked. The results can be “sparkly” but generally “sibilance”, “peaky”, “edgy”, and ultimately fatiguing.

Not with Gaea. The boost is smooth and evenly from 1.5kHz to 5kHz, with a strategic dip at 6kHz to control sibilance. In fact, the raw graph of Gaea looks as smooth as a smoothened graph from other IEMs. To me, it’s the hallmark of skill and has some implications for the perceived technical performance of these IEMs.


Thirdly, let’s talk about Gaea’s bass. For some reason, I had a precognition that Gaea has no bass. I was wrong. The amount of bass of Gaea is perfectly balanced against its midrange, meaning the drums and the bass wouldn’t overpower the rest of the band. They do not disappear behind the singer either. The bass boost is clean and does not invade the midrange.

The bass shelf itself is also tuned with a balance between punch (midbass, around 125Hz) and rumble (“true” or sub-bass, below 60Hz). Gaea has a nimble but substantial “BOOM” when rendering bass drops, but it also has a physical rumble. The rumble does not overpower the bass response and reduces the impression of bass punches like Monarch II. At the same time, the bass is not “all punch, no rumble,” like some old-school mid-bass-focused IEMs and headphones. The texture of Gaea’s bass is also quite adequate.


Finally, the “air”. Gaea is an airy, open-feeling IEM with a large soundstage. What does it mean? For example, when I listen to the Bach Cello Suite No.1 recorded in a nice hall, I can effortlessly hear the reverb of the cellos against the hall before fading into nothingness. This lovely effect benefits everything, from classical recordings to overly-produced commercial music.

How did Elysian Acoustic Labs achieve that? Look at that beautiful 10kHz dip followed by the 15kHz peak. If you are familiar with 64 Audio TIA’s treble, you already know the sense of space and micro details this 15kHz peak provides. (Knowles’ research confirms the benefit of such a 15kHz peak, but whether you trust their research is another story).

Conclusion: it’s hard to rank the tonality of Gaea. On the one hand, the brightness can lead to discomfort and unnatural tonality, which are 3/5 at most. On the other hand, the brightness (and the rest of the frequency response) is well done, with a singular focus toward a vision: bright, clear, detailed, and vibrant. Such finesse is 5/5 material. So, I decided to take the average of two perspectives: 4/5 - Good.


Retuning / EQ suggestions: Here is how I would retune the Gaea to remove the oddness but maintain its vibrant character. It’s actually straightforward and can be done with a simple 10-band graphical EQ:

  • The uncanny and tinny feeling is due to the imbalance between the 500Hz and the 1.5kHz region, so you either boost 500Hz or drop the 1.5khz. To my ears, the 500Hz is perfectly fine, but the 1.5kHz is 3dB too high. The problem can be fixed by lowering the 1.5-2kHz region by around 3dB.
  • The harshness of Gaea is due to too much energy around 4-5kHz. I found that a 3dB cut at 4kHz does the job.
  • Interesting observation: the upper midrange of Gaea after EQ looks identical to Monarch II, but 2dB higher across the board for that vibrancy that Monarch might lack to some listeners.

Resolution, Detail, Separation: 5/5 - Excellent​


Resolution is a fascinating subject due to the difficulty of pinning down what it really is. To me, “resolution” can be separated into “macro” and “micro” levels. The “macro resolution” is synonymous with instrument separation. In general, if note attacks are very crisp and precise, musical instruments in a song would be distinctive even when they overlap on the soundstage. The “micro resolution” dictates how many details you can hear at the note tails. Many IEMs are good at macro- but mediocre at micro-resolution. A few are vice versa.

Whether you look at separation or detail retrieval, Gaea’s resolution belongs to the top echelon. Let’s take One Winged Angel, performed by the Game Music Collective, as an example. When I swapped Gaea to Blessing 2, the gatekeeper of the “good” (4/5) resolution, I immediately noticed a slight reduction in instrument separation and the clarity and definition of individual instruments. The choir was hit the hardest. B2 has less separation and definition of individual voices, making the choir more blobby and less defined than Gaea. Here, I should highlight that Blessing 2 is already a resolving IEM that sounds crisp and detailed. The differences are highlighted due to A/B tests.

The Dragonborn Comes by Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Sabina Zweiacker gives the same impression. Everything is more well-defined, separated, and less “blanketed” with Gaea.

The beautiful Paganini Caprice 24 performed by Daniel Lozakovich highlights the gap between Gaea and the Blessing (by the way, where has the time gone? The last time I found Daniel Lozakovich on YouTube, he was a child prodigy. Now he is a young man). The violin sounds harsher on Blessing 2 due to its 3kHz focus. At the same time, Gaea reveals many more nuances, such as the slight touch of the other strings and the scratch of the bow against the strings. The airy ambience and reverb of the room are rendered so much clearer on Gaea as well. Even when I increase the volume of Blessing 2 to give it an advantage (“louder is better”), it just cannot catch up to the Gaea.


The resolution advantage of Gaea stems from both the implementation of its BA drivers and its tuning. Gaea’s bright tuning has a “shock and awe” factor. At all time, the IEM always act like, “HEY! LISTEN! LISTEN TO THIS ONE! RIGHT HERE! DO YOU HEAR THIS DETAIL? RIGHT HERE!” It’s also completely devoid of warmth and mud in the lower midrange that gets in the way of details.

That said, I don’t think Gaea is the best regarding the actual resolution. For instance, after Gaea’s initial shock and awe wore off, I realised that anything Gaea can reveal, my plain old and muffled/muddy Andromeda 2020 can, too. In A/B tests, it is clear that Gaea suffers against the big guns, like U12T and Monarch II. We will talk more in the comparison section.

Still, Gaea’s resolution is still up there with the bests. 5/5 - Excellent.

Percussion Rendering: 4/5 - Good​

Percussion rendering reflects how well the tuning and technical performance of an IEM work together to recreate realistic soundof a drum set. Good drum hits have a crisp attack (controlled by frequencies from 4kHz to 6kHz), full body (midbass frequencies around 200Hz), and physical sensation (sub-bass frequencies around 50Hz). Good technical performance (“fast” driver) ensures that bass notes can be loud yet detailed. IEMs that cannot control bass very well tend to reduce the bass’ loudness to prevent muddiness.

Gaea’s bass and percussion rendering are better than my initial expectation.

As mentioned above, Gaea’s bass quantity is balanced against the rest of the spectrum. These IEMs do not feel bass light unless you are used to IEMs with more bass than midrange, such as the U12T. And at no point, the bass intrudes into the midrange.


The bass quality is also better than expected. Gaea is tuned for high-quality bass that feels snappy with quick attacks, medium to short decay, and a good sense of rumble. This is not the “all rumble, no punch” bass like Monarch II. It is also not the “all midbass and no rumble” like some old-school bass-boosted IEM. For instance, the bass drops 1:25 of despacito is oh-so-satisfying. The bass hits “WHAM!” immediately with no “hesitation”, unlike the Monarch giving more rumble than punches. At the same time, there is texture and a sense of rumble on the decay end of the bass drop, unlike the Blessing 2.

The details and separation within the bass region are pretty good. I can easily distinguish the kicks from the bass guitar in Eye of the Tiger (anyone still listens to this song? I looked it up to see what the fuzz is about, and now I can’t stop repeating. Send help).

The texture of the bass is also decent. For instance, the lower strings of cellos sound like “brrrrm” rather than “umm umm.” The lack of warmth might make cellos sound dry, but I still enjoy listening to Bach Cello Suites with Gaea.


I’m not saying that Gaea’s bass is perfect, though. The biggest problem, to me, is that Gaea’s bass is not the show’s star. It’s not big. It’s not bold, and it’s not super dynamic. It’s just … there, doing the job adequately and efficiently.

At the other end of the spectrum, hi-hats and cymbals are very prominent in the mix with decent detail. However, I find cymbal crashes to be a bit too splashy. Pulling the treble energy down a touch can help.

Taken as a whole, I say bass and percussion rendering of Gaea fall squarely in the “good” level - 4/5.

Stereo Imaging (Soundstage): 5/5 - Excellent​


Stereo imaging or “soundstage” is a psychoacoustic illusion that different recording elements appear at various locations inside and around your head. Your brain creates based on the cues in the recording, which are enhanced or diminished by your IEMs, DAC, and amplifier. Some IEMs present a wide but flat soundstage. Some present a “3D” soundstage with layering, depth, and height. In rare cases, with some specific songs, some IEMs can trick you into thinking that the sound comes from the environment (a.k.a., “holographic”)

Gaea’s soundstage is a highlight of its performance, even in the context of kilo-buck IEMs. Due to the treble extension, Gaea has the uncanny ability to trick you into thinking that the sound comes from around you, especially if you are outside in an open environment. For instance, when I left my office and turned on the music with Gaea the first time, I had to check whether I connected the cable correctly. For a moment, I was pretty sure that the music came from the outside world. Such a “holographic” effect depends on the music and your surrounding environment, but it is there.


A unique aspect of Gaea’s sound is how it mimics a two-channel speaker system. Simply put, most IEMs place the centre of the soundstage (where vocals and main instruments locate) right inside my head or slightly in front of it. If an IEM has a “3D” soundstage, it distributes the rest of the music in a ball of sound around the centre with depth, layering, and even height. With an excellent treble extension, IEMs can fling the far-most layer of the soundstage into the physical world, creating the “holography” effect I mentioned above.

Gaea takes that whole ball of sound and pushes it a few steps away from me. With the right track, it feels like I’m listening to my speakers in front of me. This sense of distance resembles the Final Audio A8000 and the 64 Audio Trio. At the same time, Gaea can perfectly place vocals and instruments very close to my ears, such as the whispers in Bad Guy by Billie Eilish.

The placement of sound within the soundstage is, of course, precise, with a clear sense of direction and distance. I had a good experience watching movie video clips and playing games via Topping G5 with Gaea. ASMR videos, especially the ones with 3DIO microphones, sound surreal.

Conclusion: 5/5 - Excellent.

Source Pairing​


Gaea is not as annoying as Andromeda 2020 when it comes to pairing. Even with balanced output, I did not hear hiss across my dongles, DAP, and desktop setup.

Most of my listening was done with Shanling M6 Ultra, Topping G5, and FiiO K7. I did not have a good experience with the BTR5 and the Hidizs AP80 Pro X. These devices kill Gaea’s sense of depth and treble details, making it flat and lifeless.

I couldn’t try the Apple dongle as the sample comes with a 4.4mm cable, and I don’t want to detach the cable unnecessarily and wear out the connectors. Still, I recommend a proper battery-powered DAC/amp (e.g., Topping G5) or a full-sized DAP when investing in a high-end IEM like Gaea.

Some Comparisons​


In this section, I compare Gaea with Monarch Mk II and U12T. You can use my ranking list to compare Gaea with others. Due to how I rank IEMs, if two IEMs score the same, they perform more or less similarly.

G.O.A.T. by Polyphia:

  • Gaea is much more sizzling and harsh compared to Monarch Mk II. On the other hand, Gaea has a larger soundstage than Monarch, where instruments spread out further away from each other. Drum hits are also snappier on Gaea, even though Monarch rumbles more.
  • U12T slams much harder than Gaea. Every note is more well-defined on U12T, even though the U12T is not as bright as Gaea. The sense of air and nuances around instruments is also higher on U12T than on Gaea.
Dragonborn (Skyrim main theme):

  • Monarch rumbles way more than Gaea, though each drum hit feels less snappy. Vocals and chants have more body and weight on Monarch compared to Gaea. However, Gaea has a larger and more 3D soundstage than Monarch.
  • U12T makes Gaea sound tinny and weak as if the entire lower part of the spectrum is lost. The sub-bass rumble is more robust and noticeable on U12T throughout the tracks. However, the vocal chants sound like they are located further away on Gaea than on U12T.


  • Gaea is more sizzling than Monarch. Back-to-back A/B tests also reveal a metallic tint in the vocal tonality on Gaea that I usually don’t notice. The Monarch is slightly more detailed than Gaea. Monarch rumbles more, but Gaea has snappier and more satisfying punches.
  • U12T sounds fuller across the spectrum compared to Gaea. Music notes are more well-defined on U12T without extreme brightness.
Presto movement of Summer Concerto:

  • Gaea sounds larger and more spread out than the Monarch. However, instruments are more separated and micro details of the strings come through clearly with the Monarch.
  • Gaea pulls the whole orchestrate one step back from me compared to U12T. However, the U12T sounds crisper and more micro-detailed.
Flute Partita in A Minor, 4th movement:

  • Monarch sounds fuller and reveals more micro details than Gaea. For instance, you can hear nuances beyond the notes, such as the flute’s pads and keys and the sound of breath within the tube.
  • U12T sounds fuller and more detailed than Gaea without the excessive brightness.



You don’t need a multi-kilo-buck IEM to enjoy music at an “audiophile” level. This statement is truer with every new release from talented and dedicated Chi-Fi companies working at the lower end of the market. IEMs like EAxEA Gaea are squarely luxurious products where some constraints are sacrificed to make something exceptional, where breakthrough happens. In the case of Gaea, you exchange the usual demand of a perfectly balanced midrange for a bright and vibrant sound that pushes the boundary of “natural” sound. Whilst I don’t believe that Gaea has achieved an unheard level of technical performance, I do believe that it has pushed the 1 + 4 driver topology to its limit. Suppose you are after a luxurious IEM with solid technical performance, bright signature and snappy bass response. In that case, EAxEA Gaea should be on your radar.

March 12, 2023
Nice review. I definitely think my unit was a bit cursed but I’m glad yours turned up good. I struggled so much to enjoy it but it seems to have an audience.
Woah, finally a transducer that you and I completely agree on! This is EXACTLY how the Gaea came across to me as well. Talk about a thorough review! Well done, bro! 👍😎


New Head-Fier
Gaea Review
Pros: Bass
They are beautiful
Unboxing experience
Cons: Treble sibilance for me (on certain songs)
Gaea Review

Please forgive me as this is my first review. So, a little bit about me might be useful to know, to even know if this review will be useful to you. I am an idiot, and typically like less than normal tunings. I tend to like warming or bassier sound signatures and tend to dislike Harman, or more “boring” signatures. Like a true idiot I will tend to blind buy sets because they look nice or seem interesting. I have found most sets tend to be at least decent in ability above $250, so this will be nit picking small parts. I celebrate people and the things they like. If you say I like X and not Y, I am with you even if I disagree. In such a subjective hobby, I like that people can find their own voice and their own likes. As a typical older person, treble is nice if I can hear it. My major breaking point is if a tuning in the treble region makes a strong sibilant S sound. If it does, then I cock my head like a dog hearing something they do not understand, but with a little more displeasure look.

I also tend to buy a lot of my gear used, so while the Gaea is not my most expensive set, it is one of the more expensive sets I have purchased new. I am writing this as a buyer, and have not received any compensation at all the write it, in any way shape or form. I purchased this set at musicteck.


I was not expecting to write a review while unboxing or there would be more (or any) pictures here. The unboxing experience is one of the best I have experienced. The beauty of the set cannot be understated. The cable and IEM are both top notch. I was in awe when first opening the box, which is not normal as I am a pretty jaded person. This however leads to one of my drawbacks, the cable is drop dead gorgeous and I want to use it on so many other iems…. but you cannot (Pentaconn connector). Well, it appears you can with the ConX adapter available at effects website, but after buying the IEM at this price it would be nice to not have to purchase a different connector.( https://www.effectaudio.com/conx-2022)


The sound stage I would place at bigger than normal for what I hear at this price point. It sounds decently deep and wide for an IEM.



This is not a basshead set. Since most of my most beloved sets are bassheadsets (though I do love my 2019 Solaris), I am surprised I like the bass on this set as much as I do. While not being a basshead set it hits decently hard and decays only slightly more quickly than I would expect. It doesn’t thump as my ideal set would, but it thumps in a really good way.


I think the Mids are the highlight of this set. Instruments sound crisp and sharp. They hit in general as I would expect. There is nothing that makes me think something is off at all. Vocals (both male and female) really hit, they are lush and on point. Female vocals are wonderful and full.


This is the area that made me think about removing half a star. Not because they are bad but because of personal taste. Treble is good, details are great, air is wonderful, and other parts are ….sharp. There are certain songs that the sibilance just hits me wrong. It does not hit in how I can ever listen to this IEM, but in a that’s unpleasant, skip that song sort of feeling.

To me this is an easy recommendation, even with my treble issue. It is still within my top 5 used sets.


500+ Head-Fier
Beautiful goddess
Pros: Comfortable
Well tuned
Cons: Nothing major

I had the opportunity to spend two weeks with these in return for my honest opinion, this hasn't influenced the rating or thoughts at all. Thanks to @Damz87 for organising!


My iPhone doesn't take great close photo's, this was the best I could get, but there are plenty of photo's out there of these beauties.

Design and technical specs:

When you first see these IEM's you're taken aback by their look. Absolutely beautiful faceplate with a cable to match. I'm used to heavier IEM's of this size (FIR Audio / Sony IER-Z1R) but these are also extremely light. The tour package didn't include the retail box but from looking at pictures this is also extremely nice.

Some specs (lifted from effectaudio):

Technical Specifications (IEM)

  • 5 Drivers Hybrid In Ear Monitor (1 Dynamic Driver & 4 Balanced Armatures)
  • 4-Ways Crossover system (1 DD x Low, 1 BA x Low-Mid, 1 BA x Mid-High, 2 BA x High )
  • DiVe Pass II Dual Ventilation Technology*
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20KHz
  • Impedance: 10 ohm @ 1khz
  • Sensitivity: 102db/100mV @ 1khz
  • THD ≤ 1%
  • Proprietary mix for Internal wiring and custom cable by Effect Audio
  • Aesthetics (Stabilized wood for faceplate and cable accessories)
  • In Package Accessories: Microfiber Polyurethane case, Spin fit W1 Medical Grade Silicone eartips (Multisize: S/M/L), Cleaning Tool and Cloth
    • This second generation of the DiVe Pass technology eliminates reverberation of the back chamber and provides optimal pressure relief in the front chamber thus reducing driver-flex issues from diaphragm compression. Full bass potential of the dynamic driver is unleashed due to better movement of the diaphragm.
Technical Specifications (Effect Audio Custom Cable)
  • Selected Premium UP-OCC Copper Litz
  • Selected Premium UP-OCC Silver Plated Copper Litz
  • Proprietary Dual Geometric Design
  • EPO* 24 AWG 4 Wires
  • EA Ultra Flexi™ Insulation
  • ConX ™ Ready with Pentaconn Ear Interchangeable Connector
  • Rhodium Plated Brass Straight Type Plug
So 5 drivers, 1 DD with 4 BA. The tips included are very comfy (I had them already) and top quality. They do change a little with tip rolling but I mainly stuck to stock. The tour kit came terminated in 4.4mm however you can select the 2.5mm/3.5mm/4.4mm when purchasing. The cable, while looking fantastic, also felt nice and I had no concerns throughout my time with them.

Equipment used:
  • Sony Walkman NW-ZX507
  • Sony TA-ZH1ES
  • Topping D90/A90

Comfort and tips:

They fit my ears well and stayed in. As mentioned earlier they are very light and I kept them in for hours with no issues. Tip wise the included ones are great (Spinfit W1), the nozzle is quite large so other tips need to stretched quite a bit to fit. Default tuning (which I will talk about below) is a little bright, I did try with Final E tips and it took a little bit of the brightness away but my impressions will be based around the default package.


TL;DR - U Shaped sound and well tuned across the board with great presentation


The low end is nice. Slightly elevated (sub bass focus), with a bit of rumble but not too much. Nicely textured. Overall I enjoyed the bass but there are other options if you're a bass head. For everyone else you won't have anything to complain about.


Clear, detailed, neutral (i.e. not warm) for the most part, lower mids perhaps a little lean. Doesn't suit all genres but for the rock and electronic music I listened to with these it worked really well. Vocal's a good, male were perfectly nice but not a standout, female vocals were very nice with some real highlight moments for me.


Overall I found them to be fine, a little bright on some tracks, but for the most part they were just about right. No sibilance for my ears but I don't think I'm overly sensitive to it based on what I like.

Soundstage / Imaging:

Great. Quite a decent circle/ball, quite wide but also sufficient depth/height. Instrument placement was also great for an IEM. Good 3D presentation as well, had a few behind the head experiences with these on.


This worked well from my three sources, I preferred it from the Sonys as I think it toned the brightness down a little. Very easy to drive as well using 4.4mm balanced, would have no issues using 3.5mm from most sources I would imagine. No noticeable differences between my portable Sony and the TA-ZH1ES, it also sounded fine from both desktop setups with no audible hiss. On the desktop ones I used a 4.4mm extension (silver) cable which made no difference to the sound.


I really enjoyed my time with the Gaea. For someone looking to upgrade to an IEM which suits modern Rock/Pop/Electronic music this would work really well. They look great, sound great, and are decently priced for the quality you're getting here. I was never left wanting when listening to them.

Personally, I have a decent collection of IEM's that covers what the Gaea offers so won't be adding them, but they'll certainly be on my recommendation list to others for this price point.
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I don't understand the gripe about the 4.4? These are readily available in 2.5, 3.5 and 4.4.
@04gto i wasn’t aware of that, the tour kit I had was just 4.4mm, I’ll update! :)
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These are on the way to me, so they will be only the second IEM I have listened to in 3 weeks, as I'm burning in my CA F5 ciem. Which also has a 5 driver design in the same price range, so should be good for comparison!


1000+ Head-Fier
Something Unique from the Goddess of Earth
Pros: Good detail retrieval, Wonderful looks, Brighter but balanced tuning, Deeper soundstage
Cons: Brighter tuning not for all, Bass lacks a little impact, Doesn’t pair well with brighter sources at all.

The $1000-$1600 range of IEMs has some of my favorite IEMs to date so I was excited when I heard Effect Audio was doing a collaboration with Elysian Audio and producing a new IEM coming in at $1299. I’m quite the fan of Effect Audio’s cables and I’ve heard nothing but good things about Elysian’s tuning with their IEMs. The Gaea is a 5 driver hybrid IEM design using a single Foster dynamic driver for lows and 4 Sonion balanced armatures for the rest of the frequencies. The Gaea comes with Effect Audio’s ConX IEM swappable connector system and choice of standard plug terminations.

Quick shoutout to Jordon from Effect Audio arranging a Gaea for me to review. While I always appreciate the chance to test and review products sent in from manufacturers or dealers, it never affects the rating of my reviews.

In the US, the only authorized store that sells the Gaea are my friends over at @MusicTeck . In other regions, HiFiGo sells these and that is who I received my review set from. I would recommend HiFiGo for the Gaea if you wish to purchase outside of the US or HK.

The Gaea can be purchased directly from Effect Audio at their site below:


While I always prefer to order from the manufacturer directly , I’ll link to Musicteck below as well should EA run out of stock:

HiFiGo for the overseas friends as well:
Onto the review of the Effect Audiox Elysian Audio Gaea! My personal preference is a hybrid/tribrid IEM where I get good hitting bass and have a detailed treble with decent mids. When it comes to an over ear headphone I prefer a spacious sound with a deep low end, the mids to be more forward and the highs to be a little bright with some sparkle. I listen to a lot of genres but I hover in the classic rock, blues and edm music with some rap here and there.

Gear Used​

IPhone 14 Pro Max with headphone adapter, THIEAUDIO V16 Divinity, Campfire Audio Solaris,Topping G5, and SMSL SU-9 feeding the SP400 amp.

Looks and fit​

The Gaea is quite the looker to my eyes and it comes with a black shell that has a beautiful stabilized wood faceplate. Every unit will have a slightly different design on the faceplate but most will have a mix of blue and orange/brown wood in the faceplate. The gold manufacturer logos on both sides are nice accents as well. The shells also have two metal vents/ports that they call the “DIVe pass II” that give the shell a really high quality look. While I can’t confirm it personally, they even include some of Effect Audio’s higher quality custom wiring inside of the IEM making the level of detail put into the Gaea somewhat over the top if not next level. The shells are a medium size IMO and I find them comfortable for long term listening sessions for at least my ears. They are big enough shells that I can’t lay on my side with them due to them sticking out of my ears a bit.

Isolation and sound leakage​

Even with the two DIVe pass II vents on the shells, passive isolation is pretty good. It’s not as good as a sealed IEM but it’s about the same if not slightly better than most vented IEMs I have used before. It does however leak sound from those two big vents. If you listen at louder volumes, everyone near in quiet areas will absolutely hear what you’re listening to. Quieter volumes and even medium listening resulted in very little to no sound leakage so I think some could get away on say a flight or in bed with someone sleeping next to them at lower volumes.

Packaging and accessories​

The box that the Gaea comes in is a little big for my tastes. On the outside we get some wonderfully designed line art in gold. I rarely care for box art but this and Effect Audio’s other cable boxes simply impress me. A very mature and attractive art design in general in a sea of box art anime “Waifus” from other manufacturers. While my unit came from a dealer, I was surprised by the amount of unused space inside the box. Inside is a felt section that holds the IEMs with the cable installed. A note from both companies sits on top of that. Under that is a felt case that is a little oversized but it feels nice and sturdy. It does pick up lint and cat hair like crazy though. There was a box deeper in that looked bigger and inside the two mini boxes were a set of Spinfit W1 tips and the other box had a cleaning cloth and cleaning tool. At first I thought I was missing accessories since the accessory boxes were so big but after confirming with people who have the IEM, it’s just a lot of empty space. I would have liked to see maybe a second set of W1 tips included but I think it has everything needed. I always prefer slightly smaller boxes to save on space. I do however have a lot of boxes that I store long term and I prefer saving as much space as possible.


These final impressions were done off the SMSL SU-9 connected to the SMSL SP400. These impressions are what the Gaea sounded like to my ears. This was also using the Spinfit W1 stock tips. Things like ear tip selection and DAC/amp selection will produce different results and impressions vs what my ears hear on my specific gear.

The Gaea to my ears has a brighter tuning but it’s very well controlled and finely tuned to my ears. The bass has good reach and it produces fairly good impact/slam when called for. This is by no means a bass head IEM at all but it is tasteful. While it has just enough bass thumps to make me happy and keep it out of the “lean” bass category, it still lacks a thicker sound down low. The bass hits fast and the decay is too quick for me to really enjoy more bassy tracks. The mids are wonderful here and all the instruments have great speed and great sharpness at the end of tones. Male vocals sound pretty good, though I would say female vocals are the real star of the show here. Very good presentation and presence, not the very best I’ve heard or the most natural vocals but overall great for this price bracket($1k-1.6k). The upper mids and lower treble are very much boosted and I feel they always sound on the very edge of what I find comfortable before things get too bright for me. It’s rare for me to be tolerant of strong upper mids and this is the first time in a while I’ve been ok with an upper mid focused IEM. The rest of the treble is sharp and has a good sense of air up top from my listening. As someone who really pays attention to the decay on cymbals and hi-hats, this was a very crisp set to listen to. Details came through really well on this set and I find the Gaea impressive for sure. It strikes a good balance of producing very good details without sounding too harsh in the upper frequencies. At least when used with neutral sounding source gear. I have heard better and more detailed treble from more expensive sets but almost all the other sets I’ve tried out were usually too intense for more than 10 min for me personally. While I really like this tuning, I would have loved to maybe get a stronger mid bass or whatever seems to keep the low end from sounding fuller or sticking around for a bit longer. I always prefer a stronger bass when possible however.


I found the staging was above average in width but it was very deep depth wise. This wasn’t a balanced stage but I found myself enjoying it as someone who likes a wider or balanced soundstage. This wasn’t holographic but I did find the depth to provide a good sense of placement of both instruments and vocals. All in all, the staging and imaging were great.

Note on my sound impressions​

I normally don’t mention the music I test with and I honestly tend to play random songs from a pretty big personal library of many different genres. I do however have a list of tracks I do know well enough or find unique for specific things. That being said, every single bit of audio gear I review always gets the final listen on Glass Animal’s “ZABA” album since that is one of my favorite albums and it checks a lot of neat audiophile staging/imaging checkboxes for me personally. The Gaea did phenomenal here. It’s been a while since I was like “oh wow, this sounds special with this album”.


The Gaea shouldn’t be too hard to drive off most gear. My unit came in with the 4.4mm cable and I wasn’t in the mood to go unscrew this Pentaconn connector off the ConX connector to try on a single ended EA cable. I got to 29/100 on my SMSL SP400 and -44.5/0 on the newer Topping L70 headphone amp. Which I would call not very hard to drive. I also picked up zero hiss on any device I used with the Gaea.

Stock cable​

This is a very pretty and flashy cable. It has a vibrant solid blue and dark smoke transparent mix of stands that really make it stand out. The plug housing and Y-split both have black anodized housing which I scratched accidently so the bare metal is showing a little(pain). The inserts on the housing are claimed to be stabilized wood like the faceplate but on first look I thought the inserts were just printed and sealed in with resin/epoxy. The cable does use a rhodium plated plug which I’m not a huge fan of. I personally have issues with this and other rhodium plugs from past to present that don’t always play nice with all my 4.4mm source gear and on some, I have to twist the plug to get the channel imbalance correct. Not sure why rhodium plugs are picky on some 4.4mm gear but I would prefer to see a copper plug in general. The stock cable also comes with the ConX interchangeable connector system from Effect Audio which I really appreciate.

Personal gripes with the Gaea​

Now onto the only gripe/concern I have with the Gaea.. The connector the Gaea uses is the Pentaconn Ear connector. I’m not sure how new this connector is and I’ve not attempted to see who else is using this connector but it looks to be a hybrid of the MMCX connector. It has a thicker pin that seems more sturdy than the fragile MMCX pin found in the connector housing and it spins freely like an MMCX connector. This Pentaconn Ear connector looks like it holds more securely than a 2 pin and isn’t a nightmare to unplug like MMCX. My issue was that when I got the Gaea in, the first day of walking around resulted in one side wiggling its way out of the connector. This was concerning and I quickly noticed the cable unplugged from both shells with little effort. I believe this is a defect in my specific unit and upon further inspection I noticed there are 4 little tabs on the female side of the connector and I very gently stuck the blade of my pocket knife in between each copper tab and with the smallest adjustment, had a secure hold from the connector that wasn’t too tight or loose. I’m not sure how common this might be in the future or if it’s an issue if you constantly cable swap on the Pentaconn Ear connector and need to adjust the tabs at some point. While I complained about the issue I had with this sample of one, I actually kinda like the concept of the Pentaconn Ear. I prefer old school long 2 pin recessed sockets(with the gaskets) but since that design is dead and very old now, I think this could be the next big thing eventually. 4.4mm Pentaconnn really changed up the balanced game so maybe this connector will do the same in a few years.

IEM comparisons​

THIEAUDIO V16 Divinity​

The V16 and Gaea are polar opposites in their tuning but they both manage to achieve similar detail retrieval. The lows are more impactful and sound fuller on the V16. Even though the V16 uses BA drivers for the bass, it really does sound much stronger and performs better to my ears. Mids are smooth and detailed on the V16 but the Gaea handles mids with the same details but sounds faster and cleaner. The vocals however do sound more natural on the V16. The treble on the Gaea is sharper and has a little extra bite that gives a better perceived detail over the V16. I find I can pick up the same impressive details across both IEMs however. The V16 does sound more relaxed though in the treble and I would say those who want more speed and accuracy will want to grab the gaea and those who want a more multi genre friendly IEM that is more on the smooth side, will want the V16 in their inventory. The staging is wider and more balanced sounding on the V16 but I find the deeper staging on the Gaea does make it sound a little more special if not somewhat strange on some tracks over others. Both are great options!

Note: I did run the V16 with its stock cable when I compared to the Gaea. I just had to retake photos so I was too lazy to swap the cable on the V16.

Campfire Audio OG Solaris​

I really like the Solaris even if it’s a little older at this point in time. The two IEMs have brighter sounding tunings but both handle things very differently. The bass is fuller sounding and has better impact/slam on the Solaris. It simply has a bass response I wish the Gaea had and makes it a fun listen in the low end. The mids on both have good details but I find the Solaris lacks a little speed with instruments. Vocals on both are fantastic with the Gaea having a little more focus and presence over the Solaris. When swapping back and forth, the Solaris sounds a little more congested in the vocals. The upper mids on both are bright and the Gaea is very strong while just staying under my tolerance for upper mids. The Solaris has more intense peaks that hit me the wrong way. The rest of the treble is where things are vastly different, The Solaris has good detail retrieval but sounds a little hollow at times. The decay at the end of tones sound slower on the Solaris where the Gaea is much faster in decay. I don’t think one is “better than the other” in the treble however. The staging on both are pretty good with the OG Solaris sounding like you're in the middle of a stage and giving a more “holographic” sense of space. The Gaea has me feeling like I’m front row with little bits of sound sneaking behind me at times. I like both these IEMs but I find the Gaea is just a bit more refined sounding than the Solaris which I use in rotation daily at work.

Amping Combinations​

Topping G5​

I didn’t like this pairing at all versus some of my other portables but since it’s one of my favorite DAC/amps, I wanted to include it anyway. The G5 is a brighter source but it’s perfect as my go to portable device with my laptop. I consider myself a little treble sensitive so the added brightness of the G5 pushed the Gaea a little over my comfort threshold for upper mids and treble all the time which was a no go for me. That being said, all the positives of the G5 still remain. The bass is still strong and accurate, the mids are clean and lack any lean sounding issues. The treble just has a more noticeable “ESS Sabre Glare” issue that I can notice on some IEMs over other gear. In this case I simply don’t use the pairing but for those who might not have the luxury of having multiple source gear devices on hand and might lack tolerance for sharper and brighter treble, this will be a deal breaker. If I only had a G5, it would be a dealbreaker for me anyways.

SMSL SU-9/SP400 & Topping E70V/L70​

The Su-9/SP400 stack was used in my sound impressions above. I normally don't think IEMs need full on desktop gear to sound their best but I did find the Gaea did benefit from both this stack and the E70V/L70 stack from Topping. The biggest things I found going from a portable amp like the G5 or dongle came down to refinement and control. When the G5 got way too intense or the Lotoo PAW S1 pulled back on the treble too much, the desktop stacks I used always sounded better controlled and kept the upper mids under my limit for comfort more consistently. There was also the added sense of space in the staging that I really enjoyed from the desktop gear.

Overall thoughts​

I really like the Gaea and I’m simply gonna call this an easy recommendation. I’m also gonna call Gaea a little more of an brighter all rounder. I think it does really well at highlighting details throughout the frequency range. It has a brighter tilt in the tuning so I don’t think it will please everyone but it’s impressive enough I would be fine using this with any genre without feeling like I’m dealing with too many trade offs. The only real problem I find with the Gaea overall is the stock situation. I’ve seen this go out of stock twice already and I’ve heard of delivery time issues on Elysian Acoustic IEMs in general. Effect Audio is handling the manufacturing I’ve been told so it seems that stock is coming in steadily as of late. I think this collaboration between Effect Audio and Elysian Audio produced quite a wonderful and special product. I look forward to checking out what may come next from both these companies in the future and I very much have Elysian Audio on my radar now. Thanks for reading!!
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Great review! Thank you for the write up. :L3000:
Nice review! Agree with your pros and cons :L3000:
A wonderful and detailed review! My opinion about Gaea is almost exactly the same as yours. Thanks for the review!


100+ Head-Fier
Unbalanced Detail
Pros: Detail
Vocal Timbre
Cons: Bass Response
Treble Response
Proprietary cable connectors
Preface: I have had this IEM for a few weeks and I have really struggled to give it a rating. There are two main reasons I struggled with it; this is a technical champion with tuning that is just NOT for me. So this left me in the conundrum: how do I review something objectively and give it a rating that it deserves? I decided that I would give it a 3.5 because I would never listen to the Gaea by choice.

Sources used: I listened mostly with either an Apple Dongle and Spotify or My Questyle M15 and Spotify. I listened with local flacs, but I personally can’t hear the difference.

Build: This IEM is built excellently. The shells are a very nice size and are beautifully designed. They have a nice blue swirling effect with a very nice logo on each ear. The cables feel sturdy and lightweight. I don't believe that cables alter sound enough for me to think about it, but it is a gorgeous cable with a nice weave and ergonomic fit that's not too loose or too stiff. A+ for build. I can wear this all day without pain. The cable is one of the selling points of this set so while it's a bit lame that it is a proprietary cable, the stock cables are gorgeous and should be considered a major selling point of the Gaea.


Tonality: As a general overview of the Gaea's tonality, I would call it Harman neutral specifically to 2017. My biggest problem with being "harman neutral" is that harman is ridiculously shouty. If you have read my other reviews, my ideal IEM is a reduced pinna with a bit of a U shape. I am a bass player at heart and losing bass guitar plucks and mid bass lower mid punch is just unacceptable. The treble is on the very bright side and is borderline sibilant. I don’t really like what Elysian was going for here, but it definitely fits for certain genres

Gaea Harman 2017
graph (33).png

Gaea compared to my target
graph (34).png

Bass: This is the biggest failure of the IEM to me. Bass is so masked behind the treble that I really struggle to find it. If I had to compare it to other IEMs in this price tier, I would say it's the bottom tier of kilobuck bass. Sub bass can rumble, but the decay feels unnaturally fast and hollow. Kick drums lack the slam that I expect, but can be heard. On Marcus Miller's Detroit, the bass fails to cut through the other instrumentation. This is especially odd because the instrument separation farther up the spectrum is incredible (spoiler alert). There's not much for me to say here other than the bass here is pretty bad and the timbre in the bass to lower mids isn't a strength here.

TLDR 3/10: no slam, no impact, no color

Mids: I would say the mids are actually a strength despite some of the things I said earlier about the tonality. The mids are dry as a bone. They seem to have not much going on and I actually think that's a strength for a few reasons. It allows for a very analytical listen. The details aren't lost in the color. Tom Petty's guitar work is clear and centered right in the middle. The vocal works of Eddie Vedder, Dave Matthews, Jerry Garcia all sound quite natural. There is an incisiveness to each string pluck, snare hit, trumpet blast and piano hit. Having a nice and flat mids region creates a very natural sense of spacing imaging. Too much warmth and things get lost, too much brightness and it can be distracting. If you want to analyze your music, if you want to hear every detail of what's being played, this is the IEM you want.

TLDR 7/10: It's dry, but very accurate

Treble: I wouldn't say I hate treble, but I definitely don't like it. I want it to extend and be heard, but I don't want it to be the only thing I hear. The Gaea is for people who love the top end. Female vocals absolutely shine. I don't really know why, but I have never listened to much music that heavily features female vocals. I really like BLACKPiNK, which is very fitting for an IEM like this. Each vocalist comes through crystal clear and the subbass bounce matches. On songs like Spoon by Dave Matthews Band, Alannis Moriesette sounds like an angel. Ariana Grande's vocal feats sound absolutely gorgeous all the way through. It's not all perfect though. High percussion sounds borderline like nails on a chalkboard. Violins and fiddles are the absolute death of me on this IEM. Bela Fleck's Vertigo is one of my favorite tracks to test speed and separation and I couldn't make it to the end. Bluegrass can really hit that high treble in ways that are absolutely unbearable.

TLDR: 5/10 Female vocals are stellar, higher end treble like rides, cymbals, violins are very abrasive and unenjoyable

Imaging: Alright, if nothing has scared you from this point, you have made it to the good part. The detail retrieval on this is absolutely insane. You can hear the breathing of the pianists such as Keith Jarret on Live in Kolin. On Traffic's Low Spark of a High Heeled Boy the head stage is incredible. You can hear the depth of the stage with claps and other noises that sound like they're coming from all different directions. on 7 rings, but Ariana Grande you can hear background vocals that are very hard to notice if you have never heard them. At 1:41 you can hear her say things like "closet" and "beaming". I have never caught these vocal phrases on anything, not HD800s, not Verite Closed, not A12t etc. I can keep going.

Imaging 10/10. You can hear anything that's in the mix. You might even start hearing things that weren't in the mix but maybe were in the artist’s dreams. I really have no idea what I'm saying, but just trust me it's amazing.

Conclusions: This IEM is certainly not for everyone. It is sharp, lacks bass and is hyper detailed to the point of fatigue. If you want something that is engaging, incisive and purposeful, this is your IEM. Each string pluck, note sung, drum hit and trumpet blast feel like they're going to attack you; It is visceral and engaging, but perhaps too aggressive. Elysian has made something special here that I personally don't want to hear again. I like an all natural timbre with a slight mid bass punch. I need more emotion in my music and the Gaea just doesn't deliver that. It's a machine made to deliver the most detail right into your ear holes.

My recommendation for a similar IEM in the same price bracket that might be a bit more enjoyable would be the Helios. Helios is a fantastic IEM that suffers from a terrible fit. It has a similar of tilt tuning leaning more bright, but is balanced much better than the Gaea. Sonically, the Helios is a more balanced well rounder.

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Thanks for reading and please don't hesitate to ask any questions!

Also if you wanna mess with the graph a bit check out my squig at Squig Link!
Please do a review for other Elysian products aswell. I really enjoyed reading your works and looking forward to hearing about your future reviews. Thank you.
If I get my hands on them, I will be sure to review them! I would love to hear them at some point.


No DD, no DICE
Effect Audio x Elysian Gaea: A Clear Conundrum
Pros: Exceptional clarity and treble quality
Zero fatigue treble despite the elevation
Very well made
Quality stock cable with ConX
Cons: Upper midrange forwardness can be fatiguing
Bass lacks impact and prominence
Large nozzles can be uncomfortable for some
Unconventional tuning (can be a pro too)


It’s always interesting when a cable company ventures into IEM design, but unlike Effect Audio’s previous homegrown effort, Axiom, they’ve partnered with a specialist IEM maker in Elysian Acoustic Labs for their new collab, Gaea.

QM Lee, the mastermind behind Elysian’s now-famous Annihilator and X flagship IEMs, is renowned for his tuning prowess. Going against the grain of bass-fronted designs, his IEMs are in essence perfect contradictions, often featuring strident, elevated midrange or treble that somehow still presents as silky smooth and balanced, with exceptional quality.

If you’re looking for the same sort of funky tuning and Elysian DNA in Gaea, you’re in luck. This is not your traditional IEM by any stretch, and even though the marketing spiel speaks of earthiness and female vocal bliss, as you’ll soon see, it’s not exactly what you’re getting.


Packaging and accessories

Priced at $1,300 retail, Gaea is a premium product by any measure. It ships in an environmentally-friendly gold-flecked black cardboard box, adorned with an intricate gold foiled design of the primordial Earth goddess herself.

Removing the lid reveals a translucent sheet inscribed with a feel-good greeting from (EA founder) Suyang and (the other EA’s) Lee, beneath which the blue stabilized wood earpieces nestle inside matching foam core cutouts. The top tray holding the earpieces lifts away to expose an accessory box that holds two smaller boxes, one labeled ‘Ear Tips’ – one set of SpinFit’s new medical-grade W1 tips in three different sizes; the other labeled Cleaning Kit – a lint-free cloth and wax picker brush.

EA also includes a sturdy felt-covered case with a magnetic lock and internal mesh pockets that comfortably holds the IEMs and cable along with the packaged accessories. Just be aware that the cover material will attract every bit of dust, hair and fluff it comes in contact with.


Design and fit

This is my first encounter with an Elysian IEM, and I believe it represents the new smaller shell design Lee is rolling out for his other IEMs too. It’s still a fairly chunky IEM, nicely finished in a thick-feeling solid gloss black resin shell and lacquered blue wood faceplates. EA and Elysian logos are emboss-foiled in gold on each earpiece respectively.

While the shells themselves aren’t too cumbersome, I find the nozzles on the thick and fairly long side, which usually spells trouble for my small ear canals. Sadly, my fears were confirmed as soon as I tried to fit one of my go-to eartips, Sony’s EP-EX11, onto the bulbous nozzles. No go…they stretched over the nozzles with some difficulty, only to pop back off almost immediately. Spiral Dots were the next tips I tried, and while they slid on easily, they also slid off easily, remaining firmly wedged in my ears. Final’s E-Type tips were only marginally better; I managed to get them on, but eventually one or other tip slid off the nozzle.

Long story short, only Acoustune AET07 and the stock SpinFit eartips seemed to fit. Even then, the smallest size stock tip was too big for me, which meant the nozzles couldn’t sit very deep, leaving the earpieces to dangle from my ears, balanced on the stems. This wasn’t totally uncomfortable, given how light the earpieces are, but a word of warning to anyone with similar ears to mine: this is not the most comfortable IEM I’ve used, nor could I use it for anything but shorter sessions without some sort of discomfort.

On a positive note, I really like the colour-matched cable, with its stabilized wood splitter. The cable itself features gold and blue EA Ultra Flexi plasticated sleeving, with a combination of 24awg OCC copper litz and silver-plated copper litz wires. It also features EA’s proprietary ConX system, letting you switch from the stock P-Ear connector to mmcx or 2-pin connectors for use with other IEMs. P-Ear is meant to be a sturdier variant of the swiveling mmcx connector, though I found it to be more fragile and prone to bending than the shorter, stockier mmcx connectors I have on other cables.


Tech and specs

Gaea is a five-driver hybrid IEM, with one Foster-made dynamic driver for bass and four Sonion balanced armatures covering mids to highs. A four-way crossover connects the bass dynamic driver with the low-mid BA, mid-high BA and two high-frequency BAs. The dynamic driver is dual vented (DiVe Pass II Dual Ventilation Technology in marketing-speak), primarily to prevent driver flex from what I understand.

With a 10-ohm impedance at 1khz and a nominal sensitivity of 102db at 1khz, Gaea is not difficult to drive. It needs 5-10 clicks less juice than most of my other IEMs, volume matched.


Sound Impressions

First and foremost, your impressions of Gaea will depend on the tips you manage to fit on them. As mentioned earlier, I couldn’t get any of my go-to tips to fit, and even the stock tips were a struggle, both to get onto the nozzles and then into my ears. The two tips I liked most with Gaea are Final E (when they stay on), and, more consistently, the stock SpinFit W1 tips.

Tonally, Gaea has a U-shaped tuning profile, with a moderately emphasized (10dB) sub-bass shelf, a ‘generously’ elevated pinna gain/upper-midrange, and a likewise elevated but un-peaky treble response. If I were to sum up the sound presentation in three words, I’d say clear, crisp and aggressive. This is not a sit back and relax sound, nor a warm and romantic sound. It’s in your face, all the time, with no letups.

To break it down for you, I’m going to flip the usual bass-mids-treble order because I feel Gaea is a treble and mids-first IEM.


I’m no treblehead, quite the opposite, but I respect and appreciate good quality treble, and Gaea has that in spades. Elysian is known for its treble tuning quality, and Gaea is no different. Even though it lacks the e-stat drivers of higher-end Elysian-made IEMs, the Sonion BAs used here are tuned to perfection, delivering a crisp, energetic yet smooth and evocative treble.

Listen to Miri Ben-Ari’s violin solo in the build-up to Armin van Buuren’s Intense, and you’ll hear the soaring intensity of the strings with almost pitch-perfect timbre, for example. String sections of classical pieces like Max Richter’s recomposed version of Vivaldi’s Winter 1 is another good example. But keep in mind this is not necessarily a true-to-life reproduction; I find treble levels elevated well above the norm, to my ears, and coupled with the even-more-intense upper midrange, the ‘wall of treble’ sound can be unnerving if you’re not used to it.

This makes Gaea a bright-leaning IEM. Sibilance is actually very well controlled – better, in fact, than many less-trebly IEMs – and while much of that is tip-dependent, this is still ranks as some of the better ‘elevated’ treble I’ve heard in an IEM.


If Gaea’s treble is too much for you, hold on to your hat when you hear its midrange. There’s so much presence and energy in the midrange – especially the upper midrange – that you’ll struggle to hear anything else above the din.

Lower midrange is neutral, maybe even dipped slightly below neutral, so male vocals, come off a bit thin, especially without any added midbass support (see below). Some male vocalists like Neil Diamond sound less raspy or chesty in their performance (Hello Again a great example from the fabulous The Jazz Singer LP). Higher-pitched male vocals, like the Weeknd’s contribution to Lana Del Rey’s Lust For Life, are pushed further up the octave scale by the steep rise to the upper mids, so are generally exempt from the low midrange dip.

Female vocals, however, are where the designers seem to have set their sights. There’s a real presence and forwardness to female vocal music, even though quality swings between perfectly sweet and wincingly shouty. If you’re a fan of bright, articulated, crispy vocals of the female persuasion, you’ll find a great partner in Gaea; not so much if you’re after the soft, soothing and romantic.

Listen to Rosie Thomas singing Why Waste More Time and you’ll think exactly that (I actually turned it off pretty quickly). Rosie has a beautifully articulate and young-sounding voice, very closely micced, but Gaea makes her sound like a pre-pubescent teen. I’m not a K-pop/J-pop listener, so I’m not sure if this is the effect that lovers of this type of music go for, but if it is, they'll want to give Gaea a listen.

More energetic female vocals, like Nevve in Seven Lions’ Island, are so bright you’ll want to wear shades before pressing play…but, that could be a good thing if you want that sort of energy in your life. Likewise, Ilan Bluestone’s Will We Ramainsounds epic on Gaea, and even though I personally find it too much, I’ve spoken with many who don’t.

Real instruments, on the whole, fare quite well. Timbre is believable, and even higher-frequency midrange sounds, like stick hits and shakers, don’t land with too much zing. As midrange blends into the treble, it maintains a fairly even keel, and there are no sudden spikes up top that make instruments or vocals sound ‘off’, as is the case with some overexuberant upper-midrange and lower-treble-elevated IEMs.


Bass is where I have most of my issues with Gaea. Even though I don’t enjoy an elevated midrange, I can respect the tuning for where it’s aiming. But I’m far more particular about bass delivery, and while I get that the bass here is mostly meant to support the upper frequencies, I don’t think it does so particularly well.

Delivered by a Foster dynamic driver (the same driver used in Elysian’s current flagship, Annihilator), the bass is focused more in the sub-50Hz sub-bass region, with a linear drop towards the lower mids. That’s not the issue, since I actually prefer a sub-bass focus. What I don’t like I how fast the bass decays. It sounds unnatural to me.

The big bass drums that kick off A Fine Frenzy’s Elements are punchy, sure, but they decay so quickly you’d think you’re listening in an Anechoic chamber. There’s also a lack of sub-bass extension that renders the subtle sub-bass rumble in Kristin Hersch’s Your Ghost almost inaudible, especially with the elevated midrange placing the accompanying guitar strums far further forward than I’m used to.

While the driver is adequately vented, giving it more room to fully express the bass notes, I actually find the bass levels too low and the delivery too fast to balance out the rest of the frequencies. As such, I find bass notes are too often masked by the elevation of the other frequencies, upper midrange in particular.

All of the above suggests the bass is tuned to play a supporting rather than a leading role in the mix, and that’s exactly how I hear it. There’s a flatness to the bass delivery that means it never dominates, even where bass weight is called for. It lacks some of the richness, detail and texture you’d expect from a more forward bass presentation, and so if you’re someone who prefers bass that lays a foundation for the music and does little else, you’ll probably find Gaea to your liking. Bassheads, or even bass enthusiasts, won’t find much to like here however.


Technically, Gaea is a very competent performer. Resolution, partly due to its clean and extended treble, is excellent, though not quite class-leading. Stage is natural, with decent width and depth, but can start to feel cramped when music gets busy, especially bright busy. When that happens, instruments tend to smear and vocalists shout over each other. Play the crescendo to Daft Punk’s Contact and you’ll feel every shred of the violent interstellar explosion it depicts.

Instruments and vocals are otherwise well separated, but imaging is just ok. I get a good sense of where instruments are placed on the stage, but it’s more a general layout rather than pinpoint precision. That’s probably because some sounds, especially higher pitched metallic instruments and guitar strings, tend to dominate.

Gaea is quite dynamic, especially in midrange- and treble-dominant tracks. It’s an exciting, involving listen, not an IEM I could ever kick back and relax with. There’s an energy to the sound that can be quite fun with the right music (electronic music in particular), and those who love their jazzy music aggressive, their Dire Straits crispy, and their electric guitars crunchy, are going to enjoy the ride.

Conversely, it can be quite unforgiving of poorly recorded and brighter, compressed music. Modern pop would have to be well mastered to sound good without overloading, especially female vocal-fronted pop, and I’m not convinced you’ll survive a strident soprano opera with these.

Overall, Gaea is certainly…different to what I’m used to. Right off the bat it doesn’t have the bass quantity or quality I enjoy, but is not the worst I’ve heard here by any stretch. Midrange, while rich and dominant, is somewhat overdone, and treble, well, there’s lots of it too, but in a good way.

It’s not your mainstream tuning, and it can be peaky and coloured with many genres. But for those wanting something that challenges convention, and eschews the usual bass-dominant tuning of many modern (Western-tuned) IEMs, it could have much appeal. If you love your treble, and aren’t sensitive to upper-midrange forwardness, you may even find Gaea to be right in your lane.


Pairings and comparisons

I won’t be going into source pairings in detail, so I’ll just say that Gaea seems to be quite source-sensitive. For example, I found it far more agreeable using Sony’s smoother, more evenly-tuned WM1Z compared to HiBy’s RS6, which tends to double-down on upper-mid-forward IEMs. HiBy’s new RS8 R2R flagship was even better than the Sony, although possibly less forgiving of Gaea’s upper-mid stridency.

Just be aware of this when auditioning Gaea for yourself, and unless you’re a masochist, try avoid overly bright sources.


Campfire Audio Supermoon ($1,500). Campfire’s new single-driver planar was designed specifically as a custom IEM, so a direct comparison with Gaea isn’t really fair, especially when it comes to comfort. Sound-wise, Supermoon’s is a bass-dominant tuning, with a more neutral midrange and sparkly, extended, but not quite as elevated treble as Gaea’s.

Both IEMs have a brighter and arguably slightly ‘digital’ tonality, but I do find Supermoon sounds smoother through the bass to midrange transition, especially with vocals. Supermoon’s treble can display some metallic timbre or digital ‘glare’ on occasion, but where it doesn’t, I find it to be an easier listen than Gaea with my library.

Where Supermoon is, to me ears, unarguably superior to Gaea is resolution, cohesion and staging. Gaea is more dynamic, and the its higher frequency delivery is more natural. Your choice between these two will come down to how much brightness you prefer up top, and in turn, which one plays better with your music library.


Sony IER-Z1R ($1,800). I find it quite ironic that the IEM that’s roundly considered one of the least comfortable for many users is significantly more comfortable in my ears than Gaea. The Sony’s thinner, shorter nozzles work better with my ear anatomy (small ear canals), and also take a much wider range of tips without issue.

Sonically, I consider the Z1R’s bass almost peerless, with a deep, weighty, powerful and articulate sub-bass to midbass elevation that gives music a cavernous space in which to play. Compared to Gaea's anaemic bass, it's no contest. While Sony's midrange is considered recessed by some, I hear it as very clear, clean and more analogue-sounding than Gaea’s. Male vocals on the Sony are quite neutral, like Gaea’s, while Gaea’s female vocal delivery is notably more forward and less natural or organic than Sony’s.

Treble is interesting, because both IEMs have excellent quality treble. I feel Gaea’s treble quality is slightly handicapped by its upper-midrange aggression, though, while Sony’s, by comparison, is sparkly and precise but also more elevated in the lower treble, which could be bothersome for those with a lower treble sensitivity. Technically, I feel Z1R has the upper hand across the board, though you could argue the two are more similar than different in resolving ability and dynamics.


Closing thoughts

I’ve read so much about Lee and his uniquely-tuned IEMs, but until I tried Gaea for myself, I couldn’t quite make sense of them. Fast and aggressive but also…smooth? Bright and clear but also…balanced?

These are just some of the contradictions I hear with Gaea, and while I can categorically say that it’s not the type of sound I go for, I can see why so many people enjoy it.

Ironically, I like it least for the ‘theme’ it represents: earthy female vocals. Gaea makes female vocalists sound much younger and more aggressive than they are, and some male vocalists too, but I think that was the intention. If you want a warm, organic, jazz lounge-type tuning, or something to relax or mediate to, I don’t think Gaea is the right fit. But for gym workouts, motivation sessions or some headbanging fun, why not?

Cosmetically these are well-made IEMs, befitting their premium pricetag. While I personally have issues with the chunky fit, that’s specific to my anatomy, and I’ve seen very few complaints from others in this regard.

I think Effect Audio made the right move by enlisting a reputable and talented IEM tuner like Lee for their Axiom follow-up. This is a much better IEM all-round, and while it hasn't quite won my approval, it could very well win yours.

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Sadly, they go past fatigue for me into near ear pain. The upper mids are just too much for me. I should have known looking at the graph.
Ace Bee
Ace Bee
I had a slight inkling to may be go for Gaea...but after reading this, NOPE! Dodged an arrow, and thanks to you entirely, @gLer ! May be will go for something else...twilight perhaps? Let's see...for now trying to make a deal for a Custom Art Go One :)
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so cool looking, work of art
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