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Effect Audio Gaea Review : Simply Stunning!!

I Have been working with Effect Audio for a while. One of our friends switched from THL to Effect Audio and we have been working on most of their recent products. Axiom is an IEM I admired because of its stage size, musicality and smoothness. It was a pleasure reviewing the Signature series of cables. The Cleopatra II is a special cable with superb quality but this review is about a collaboration of Effect Audio with Elysian Acoustics Labs. Effect Audio has worked with other brands before but this collaboration feels deeper. I was talking with Jordon on this and according to him this IEM, Gaea is one of many IEMs that are in the making. If this is true, we are in for a treat.

A few of Effect Audio’s previous collaborations were a bit outlandish. One was absurdly priced and others were a bit expensive for their price. What sets this collaboration apart is the deep involvement of founder of Elysian Acoustics Labs, Mr. Lee. Elysian is known of their flagship Annihilator has made some of the best IEMs in lower price ranges too and this collaboration is a clear reflection of this. Gaea barely sounds like an IEM under $1500 and this can easily be the benchmark.

Okay, okay, do you guys really read the intros? Let me know, I will love to know your opinions because this not only isn’t exactly related to sound, but takes its fair share of effort. Should I shorten this up?

Let’s talk about the IEM a bit. Gaea is a hybrid IEM with one DD and 4BA drivers. It uses stabilized wood and has pentaconn Ear connectors which are not the most popular connector in the market but it’s supposed to be a very capable one. And guess what, this IEM does not cost a lot either, priced at just $1299 ( just because the competing IEMs are a few hundred $ more expensive) while offering a lot.

Get one from here:

https://www.effectaudio.com/gaea

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?:

I do not want to assume anything here since I didn’t receive the Gaea in its retail package hence unable to make any comments on it but what I know is this IEM ships with the new Spinfit W1 tips (this too wasn’t in my package) and we get a reasonably large carry case. Let’s talk about this case since the Axiom didn’t have anything remotely like this.

This is a hard sided flap open case that has a small netted compartment with enough space to hold the cable and IEM. It has Effect audio and Elysian Acoustic labs logo on it. But oddly it has velvet on it which attracts dust particles like light attracts insects. I appreciate this, but this could have been better, they need to use better material.

HOW’S THE CABLE:

Irrespective of who you are, how good the cables you own, I don’t think anyone can deny the aesthetics and visual appeal of this cable. Its interwoven grey and blue cores look stunning and compliment the blue back plate of the earpieces. The rhodium plated 4.4mm jack too has similar stabilized wood over the metal bits, complimenting the earpieces. The cable slider is small and sweet and can sit flush inside the Y splitter. No doubt about the looks of this cable but it’s not the supplest cable for sure. There is a bit of memory and stiffness but its not bouncy and the cable guides are fairly relaxed. There is no stress reliever anywhere though.

This 4 core, 24 AWG cable uses both UP-OCC copper and SPC litz strands in dual geometric design with EA Ultra Flexi insulation on it. Even though a stock cable does not need to cater to other IEMs, this cable is equipped with Con-X and one can easily use it with other IEMs if deemed necessary (I do not want to do this I cant stop myself from thinking about the Axiom here). 

SQ OF THE CABLE:

Oh my my, this has to be one of the best sounding stock cable from IEMs under $1500. I love the way thing cable sounds, it complements the Gaea sound wise too. It has bigger stage and better treble clarity than the Cadmus and that definitely says a lot.

BUILD QUALITY:

There are a few things I will like to bring your attention to. There are two actually, one is positive while the other isn’t exactly a plus point. 

1. Use of stabilized maple wood on the back plate enhances the appeal and aesthetics of this IEM.

2. Use of pentaconn Ear connectors are kind of odd, it is not popular or common, finding any other cable maker except Effect Audio is hard. This is similar to MMCX but a bit more tightly and feels a bit sturdier. If you have other Con-X equipped cables, it really opens up a whole array of possibilities.

Except the back plate, this shell is made out of resin with layers of resin on the back plate too. It feels solid to the hand but this will not withstand a drop on hard floor. Internally Gaea incorporates a triple bore design which is aided by the DiVe Pass II dual ventilation system which eliminates reverberation, reduces driver flex and provides better air movement. 

Interestingly Gaea has a semi custom kind of shell with a minimalistic wing design. There is a hint of a wing structure and that’s it. Gaea depends more on its deeper nozzle and cable guides to provide grip and stability inside the ear. This nozzle can fit any wide bore tip without many issues.

PAIRING WITH SOURCES:

Even tough Gaea has an impedance of just 10 ohm its lowly sensitivity of just 102 DB makes it a slightly difficult IEM drive out of entry level DAPs or dongles. Pair it with something decent like the Shanling UA3 and the Gaea opens up like joyful kind.

Just like the rule of thumb, Gaea sounds superb with good and aptly powerful sources ans since it is slightly on the serious side it pairs well with warmer sources like Tri TK2 and Shanling UA3. It does not behave badly with analytical sources like UA5 but this pairing can add more energy to the treble region which might not be desirable for some. I have used the TK2 and Micro Signature for this review and power definitely opens up this IEM.

SOUND QUALITY:

Powered by hybrid technology Gaea has 5 drivers in each earpiece. 4 BA drivers are paired a DD to deliver some of the best sound quality under $1500. Unlike the Axiom, Gaea has extensive co-operation of Elysian Acoustic labs and the output is simply stunning. Effect Audio says they used Sonion drivers to eliminate the metallic timber and that’s spot-on.

Gaea is a clinical sounding studio grade IEM. It’s not a musically inclined fun sounding IEM. It aims to deliver very good accuracy with best possible precision with a mildly V shaped signature that barely has any coloration.

As mentioned earlier I am using Tri TK2 and Shanling UA3 for this review and an aftermarket tip for this review.

BASS:

I love this IEM, it has some of the best details I have heard under $2000 but I am not going to mask its niggles either. Let’s to straight to the point, I am not saying that its competitors are doing better here either but the sub-bass extension of this is not the best. The Solaris 2020 manages to deliver deeper notes but it’s better than the Mest mk2. What the Gaea does better is the area of impact and rumble. There is decent amount rumble with nice heft to the mid bass region. It has an aptly voluminous slam and punch, area of impact isn’t big but the impact is lasting. It’s not the softest but isn’t hard like Mest mk2. It has enjoyable and well defined resolution and layers. Is the Gaea very tight? Not really, I will label this precise and accurate with good amount of air and body. Decay speed is tuned to deliver best possible amount of information without being slow or lousy. If the track demands Gaea makes room for the slower note exhibiting its dynamics and flexibility. Upper bass isn’t aggressive and integrate nicely into the lower mids.

You guys already know that I am not strict with the lower end but Gaea manages to score high in my books.

MID RANGE:

This IEM is something really special. Lows might not be its best point but from here on this IEM is like a scalpel in a seasoned surgeon’s hand. It barely puts a foot wrong. Yes, no denying that the lower mids are slightly in the V but there is no loss of details or clarity and things only get better from here. The level of transparency and resolution delivered by the Gaea is superlative. The most intricate details are well defined and feel effortless. While doing all this Gaea doesn’t mess up the basics either. Both tonality and timber is spot on. What I love here is the heft of notes, no note feels hollow while having a realistic and natural decay. There are no dips in energy of instruments around vocals which is a great thing but come with their own downside.

Vocals are on the accurate side. Both male and female vocals are closer to natural with plenty of texture to them. But I somehow would have liked a bit fuller and grunty male vocals, filled with authority and throaty delivery but that’s totally an unreasonable ask from a BA based IEM targeted for precision and accuracy. Nevertheless, the female vocals are superb. Notes have very good height and the definition from origin of the notes till the finishing is superb, exhibiting the class topping technical abilities.

Where is the down side.. Hmm.. Can I say there is none? Should I say that? Let’s not beat around the bush.. Gaea with its class leading transparency and clarity doesn’t hold back it’s aggression and bites with love but doesn’t realize that not everyone is comfortable with this extra bit of energy. Yes, there is a hint of sharpness, pair it with a warmer source like Tri TK2, iFi Gryphon and Chord Mojo and enjoy the delicacy without any worries.

HIGHS:-

I don’t know what the expectations were from this IEM but this has been an absolute stunner. The sparkly and lively treble region is the biggest example of this. It does not try to skimp on the details or clarity at all. So should one be worried about sharpness or sibilance? No need for that, Gaea easily and nicely maintains its composure staying well clear of uncomfortable notes let it be cymbals or violins or any other instrument. Lovely tuning for some who does not like it when the treble notes are less emphasized. Gaea manages to extract the finest of details without an artificial feeling.

The transition phase from upper mid range to lower treble region is excellent with very good transparency and clarity. Gaea has very good treble extension and maintains high transparency deep into the spectrum. The beauty of this IEM is its resolution, texture, cleanliness and the exuberant definition and this might not have been possible if the notes were restricted. You might be thinking, oh is he saying this is sibilant or trying to hide something? Worry not my friend, there is barely anything to worry about. Don’t expect it to sound very organic though (like the SD5 and Solaris 2020). Separation and layering is superb with plenty of air and space between instruments. The treble stage is well spread, assisted by the excellent sonics. The bigger than average stage size helps a lot with instrument placements and density. If you love treble, tingling instruments and super fine details, Gaea is the one to get.

STAGE AND IMAGING:-

To be a good IEM having a well expanded stage is a must and Gaea has one of the bigger stages around this price. It not only has very good stage expansion in every direction it has one of the cleanest stage irrespective of price thanks to its control and precision. This stage closer to the head is not the tallest but distant notes bring a taller stage. Width is very good while the depth is much better than competing IEMs like Mest mk2 and even the U12T. Unlike the VE6 and VE7, Gaea has superb sonical abilities. It places instruments around the head with excellence in both anterior and posterior imaging and when we add in the pinpoint instrument placement the whole experience simply turns out to be stunning. Except some vocals and bass notes most of the mid and treble notes are projected out of the head.

Another excellent aspect of this stage is its flexibility, unlike the axiom this doesn’t have any issues with limitations and can dynamically expand if the track demands. I made an interesting observation, unlike most IEMs, Gaea has a linear midpoint for most of the notes giving it a very lovable projection.

COMPARISON:

VS MEST mk2:

CONCLUSION:

If you jumped straight to conclusion, worry not, I can write the whole sound part here but let me summaries it. One word is “STUNNING” and another one can be “BENCHMARK”. Lets expand, Effect audio along with Elysian Acoustic Labs has tuned the Gaea to deliver some of the best details with excellent transparency and clarity with an as natural as practically possible timber and tonality for an IEM of this kind of tuning. It has one of the most realistic reverb and decay. There is no artificial dryness or rigidity.

In simpler words, if you want an IEMK under $1500 which has excellent clarity and details Gaea is the one to get. Forget about others, keep this in your mind and you can forget about the rest.

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Suman Sourav Meher

Suman Sourav Meher

My humble audiophile journey started in 2010, when I was in college, where I fell in love with the elements, nuances, and variations of this mesmerizing world. The ability of tiny earphones to recreate amazing sounds made my bad days tolerable and good days better! Now I am a full-time audiophile with a preference for musical tracks, especially vocals and engaging ones. I must admit I am addicted, but not to drugs or alcohol, but to earphones. Come join me as I share my experiences, bad or good, and let’s have some fun!

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