DISCLAIMER: Lime Ears provided me with the Aether R in return for my honest opinion. I am not personally affiliated with the company in any way, nor do I receive any monetary rewards for a positive evaluation. I’d like to thank Lime Ears for their kindness and support. The review is as follows.
Lime Ears is a Polish in-ear manufacturer who’s products I’ve been listening to for nearly half a decade. Their flagship Aether was my gateway into high-end custom IEMs in 2015, as well as my debut into the review scene two years later. It’s only fitting then that we’ve come full circle, reviewing the remaster of their beloved flagship in 2019: The Aether R. Now with six balanced-armature drivers and the return of Lime Ears’ key tech – TrueSub, VariBore and a bass switch – see whether or not the R makes the cut and recaptures the brazen, boisterous charm of its acclaimed predecessor.
Lime Ears Aether R
- Driver count: Six balanced-armature drivers
- Impedance: N/A
- Sensitivity: N/A
- Key feature(s) (if any): Switchable bass response, VariBore, TrueSub
- Available form factor(s): Custom and universal acrylic IEMs
- Price: €1200
- Website: www.limeears.com
Build and Accessories
The Aether R comes in packaging I can simply call barebones. Despite the marvellous progress they’ve made packaging-wise for their universal-fit products, it seems that the bespoke side of things have yet to see such a make-over. Although the more practical packaging does make sense, since customs are generally catered towards performers, I still would’ve loved to see their CIEMs receive the same treatment as the universals. After all, in an age where visuals are the medium of communication, not going all in for a fancy box and a billet aluminium carrying case is a bit of a missed opportunity.
Nevertheless, that aside, the box does come with the bare essentials. The monitors come equipped with the stock cable, accompanied by a cleaning tool, desiccant and Lime Ears’ name card, all inside a Peli 1010 vault. Again, I cannot deny the packaging’s practicality, but for a flagship CIEM in 2019, it’s a bit disappointing to see, especially when you consider how lavish and extensive the dressings for Lime Ears’ UIEMs are. Hopefully, given enough time, they’re able to transition their universals’ packaging towards the customs, so the people who’ve gone that extra mile don’t feel like they’re missing out.
Fortunately, when it comes to the monitors themselves, Lime Ears have clearly spared no expense. Since 2015’s Aether, 2018’s Model X and now 2019’s Aether R, it’s been a constant upward trajectory for me as far as build and cosmetics are concerned. Every in-ear has looked, felt and fit better, and my R is the best of them all by a clear margin. The design is a gorgeous, green tint of their Holo Glitter design, with tiny particles that individually shimmer in the light. It’s a wonderful design to see and photograph, because you get something new with every angle, and it’s been executed superbly here.
The faceplates have been finished off with metallic logos; one for Lime Ears and one for Aether. Like the rest of the build, the pieces are laser-cut and applied impeccably. There’s neither a hint of glue on the trinkets, nor the shell-to-faceplate seams, nor the especially tricky bass-boost switch. The VariBores have been machined in a much cleaner manner too, and the fit neither errs on tightness as my Aether had, nor looseness as my Model X had. This one is just right. While I’d love to see greater consistency for their packaging, Lime Ears’ superb build and design has only continued to improve.
VariBore and TrueSub Technology
VariBore and TrueSub are technologies Emil has brought over from his experiences as an acoustical engineer. VariBore is comprised of multi-sized sound bores for the low, mid and high frequencies. The bass and mid drivers fire through a 1mm opening, while the highs have a 2mm bore with internal acoustic damping for an “open sound and smooth highs.” TrueSub was first introduced with the original Aether. After off-the-shelf acoustic filters were deemed unsatisfactory by Emil to shape the low-end, he decided to design and 3D-print one himself. The resulting filter printed in XHD resolution gives their flagship IEM what Lime Ears call “powerful yet extremely clear, textured and dynamic subwoofer frequencies.”
The Bass Switch
Lime Ears’ bass-boost switch has become a staple since the company’s classic LE3SW. It’s since made its way onto the Aether, Model X and Aether R, allowing its users the option to add a bit of warmth, presence and punch whenever they wished. Also, it’s compliant to the Fletcher-Munson curve, which states that the human ear will perceive less bass than mids or highs at lower volumes. So, this boost compensates for that in scenarios where quieter listening is more ideal.
The boost on the R occurs below 100Hz, which means it spans the sub-bass; encroaching slightly into the mid-bass. In my experience, though, I hear a slight lift in the mid-bass as well. This adds a bit of weight and body to instruments too, and creates a more coherent transition between the lows and the mids. Whereas, in switch down mode, the upper-mids are a step above the lows. The stage becomes a tad fuller as a result, but headroom, imaging and air are all maintained.