Rank #16: Lime Ears Aether


Aether has a lightly enhanced mid- and upper bass, providing the midrange with a warmer tone. In addition, the bass provides a bit of warm air to the stage, especially in its ‘up’ setting. But overall the stage remains airy enough to be classified as such, even though it isn’t clinically clean. In overall quantity, Aether’s bass can be considered roughly neutral in its ‘down’ setting. When the switch is turned up, the bass gains in body and impact, while providing a bit of additional fullness to the sound.

But Aether’s bass has one major problem: its bottom end extension – this isn’t a particularly hard-hitting bass. The emphasis on the higher bass regions rather than sub-bass results in a warm, soft, bass, which is quite natural in tone. But it lacks a bit of that bodily feel. And while its speed is ok in the tighter down setting, it trades some off for quantity in the ‘up’ setting. In addition, its definition isn’t very high, resulting in a somewhat woolly bass – the bass misses just a bit of aggression and punchiness. As beautiful as Aether sounds – the quality of the bass forms somewhat of a dissonant in its otherwise harmonious tuning.

The midrange is very nicely balanced. It has a slight, but essential, inherent warmth to its tone. It’s definitely warmer than neutral, but not overdone; more of a spring breeze type of warmth, than a hot summer. Accordingly, the midrange refrains from sounding dry or analytical, without sounding thick or cloudy – there’s a certain delicacy to the presentation. The tonal balance between midrange and treble is simply very good, with a natural tone as result. As a result of the bass, there’s a bit of added body that makes notes thicker.

This returns in its vocal presentation. Vocals have good size, feeling thick in their overall proportion. But even so, they’re laidback on the stage. In addition, the core of the vocal is not very dense. Aether’s vocal presentation is somewhat similar to 8.2: although their size is good due to the bass, they don’t necessarily have a great amount of body or density. The vocal presentation is shifted towards articulation, rather than that throaty sense of power a truly full-bodied midrange can give. This might seem like nitpicking, and it partially is: their tone is pleasantly warm. Especially female vocals sound clear and sweet, while male vocals have an appropriate amount of warmth. Most importantly, this is a vocal presentation able of conveying emotion.

Aether’s upper midrange is enhanced around the 5 KHz region. Accordingly, it sounds both clear and warm, resulting from the tonal balance between the bass and upper midrange peak. There’s a certain naturalness in the presentation, mixing beauty with clarity. This is an upper midrange that enables you to drift off while listening: beautiful and soft, a perfect blend to dream away with some piano music, or acoustic guitars. But it’s an upper midrange that works well for all kinds of music; whether classical, band-based music or EDM, Aether sounds both natural and accurate in tone – yet with a romantic touch.

Aether creates its clarity by an upper midrange peak, rather than the treble itself. The dampened treble response results in a smooth, slightly warmer treble tone. Accordingly, the overall tonality benefits from its tuning. While this might suggest that the treble takes a step back in the presentation, this certainly isn’t the case. The treble is very much in line with the midrange. It doesn’t need to shout for attention, but works with the midrange to create a very coherent sound.

Especially the upper treble takes a smooth approach. Accordingly, it isn’t as upfront in its detail presentation, although all of the detail is there. Similarly, it doesn’t make for an overly sparkly monitor. However, the tuning is essential for the naturalness of the presentation – you can’t have it both. The treble itself has an average definition, it’s not lacking, but it isn’t the most precise in its articulation. It does however have a nice pace, resulting in a natural flow of the music. Finally, the treble extends to roughly 11-12 KHz before dropping off; a more than adequate performance.

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About Author

Nic is currently in pursuit of a PhD degree in social neuropsychology, while trying not to get too distracted by this hobby. In pursuit of theoretical knowledge by day, and audiophile excellence at night. Luckily for him, both activities are not mutually exclusive which helps to lighten the workload. Always on the go, Nic's enthusiasm for hi-fi is focused on all chains of the portable system: iems, cables and daps.

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