Effect Audio is known for their cables, but last year they collaborated with Elysian Acoustics Lab and introduced Gaea (Review link). This hybrid IEM took the higher end audiophile market by storm. It has the details and transparency we all loved and was priced to wipe the floor with competitors. It replaced the Mest mk2 as the crowds favorite IEM under $1500 but just like any other IEM Gaea too had some rough edges that put a handful of guys off. Not everyone was enjoying its dead serious approach and was looking for something that still has the details but less attacking. This write up is for them. The headline of this article could have been “How to make Gaea better than it already is” but that sounds a bit too dramatic even though that’s exactly what this is all about.
This piece is about how two things can come together and deliver something more capable than their combined value. On one hand I have the Effect Audio × Elysian Acoustics Lab Gaea, an excellent sounding IEM that delivers some of the best details and transparency one get under $2000, which speaks a lot about the capabilities of this IEM. On the other hand I have the newly launched Effect Audio Code 23. This is their mid range cable that uses a lot of tech in it and uses super high quality copper cores. If you don’t know me, I don’t care a lot about the tech used, it’s the sound quality that matters and this cable got the muscle, both physically and sonically.
Do you own a Gaea or are looking to get one? Sit tight, this article is for you. Do you love Gaea’s technical abilities and admire excellent resolving capabilities? Do you like its transparency and clarity but at times it has a bit of extra hotness which is makes it a bit uncomfortable? Do you find it’s slightly lacking with bass body and punch?
There are a handful of solutions but nothing pairs as well as the all new Code 23 from the co-developers of Gaea.
Effect Audio Code 23 and Gaea are like made for each other if you want to calm down the Gaea a bit. Gaea in its own is excellent. Its ability to deliver details and clarity is something really special but not all of us enjoy this extra bit of attack and aggression always. Code 23 makes the Gaea shed some of its rawness by curbing the edginess, controls the aggression and brings in some necessary and lovable amount of warmth into the mix. Thanks to its extra bit of meatier and full bodied notes it makes Gaea more enjoyable and less fatiguing.
P.S. I have used Shanling UA5 and Questyle M15 as sources for this article.
Let’s start with BASS:
It’s a copper cable and thanks to the fuller notes the absolute accuracy and precision takes a small hit, the tighter and slightly thin sounding bass notes are traded with a fuller and meatier body which delivers a better punch and moves good amount of air too thanks to the added volume and weight to mid bass. The biggest improvement I can feel is area of impact. It was small and the fast decay speed was making it accurate but wasn’t very enjoyable. Code 23 brings in a bigger area of impact and this decay speed lets the notes precipitate and gain some much needed amount of weight. This copper cable brings in better sub-bass extension and rumble too. It introduces juicier and impactful notes with a more layered delivery. It still has the accuracy but its extra bit of accuracy is traded for a better balance of body, details, tonality and timber.
I don’t think I had many complaints about the mids of the Gaea. It is accurate, precise and highly transparent but If you don’t like the tall notes that ended with a sharp finishing, Code 23 takes off this sharpness and swaps it with a sharp yet less aggressive bite while bringing in a bit more body and more natural timber. Make no mistakes here, this cable doesn’t make gaea smooth or anything close to that. Gaea still has the bite but it’s not aggressive anymore.
Vocals, which were a bit on the leaner and slightly thinner side are a lot more natural with tonality and timber. It’s slightly on the thicker side but that makes the vocals much more comfortable. There is no ssss.. to worry about. There is no unrequited aggression from the upper mids either. Has the transparency taken a hit? Nope, but why not? Because the stage size has grown up to the level of $3000 flagships. When I was trying to access this combo I realized the extra bit of fuller notes are not hampering the definition, resolution or cleanliness of the stage as the stage has expanded in every direction and this makes this combo a killer combo.
This is where the biggest of the differences are experienced. While the Gaea doesn’t lack a single bit of details, it’s extra bit of spark and transparency makes a heavy metal tracks uncomfortable. Code 23 takes care of this by curbing the edges without touching the resolution while adding extra bit of texture and definition to the body of notes. The only down side of the fuller notes is the lack of empty space on the floor but make no mistakes, there is no veiling to worry about.
Layering and separation are superb, on par with the EE Odin and VE8. Treble extension too is as good as it gets.
Oh no, dont worry, there are no cons with the SQ but the Code 23 isn’t a very supple or thin kind of cable. It isn’t a pocket friendly cable either, it is thick and heavy and takes a bit of effort to control. The good thing is even if the cable is stiff, it holds the shape we give it, it doesn’t have memory issues. I find it to be a reasonably well behaved cable irrespective of its size.
Initially I thought I will put some gibberish stuff here, yin-yang, completing each other kind of stuff. But guess what, I don’t feel the need to uses these metaphors here. This combination is so good that this next sentence sums it all up.
“A $1399 IEM paired with a $599 cable sits among the $3000 flagships with ease.”
This Combo easily taunts $3000+ flagships, that’s what I call “unleashing the real potential of a superb IEM”.
To sum this combo up, the Code 23 brings some stability and poise (warmth and body) to the agitated mind of Gaea while widening the boundaries (stage). If you don’t believe me, take your ears and have a go at this combo. You will simply love it, just the way I did.