TECHNICALITIES and PAIRING:
I haven’t paired the Elsa with a lot of sources, it has an impedance of just 15ohm and sensitivity of 105db making it one of the easiest IEM to drive. The first source I tried with it, the Tri TK-2 sounded sooo good that I didn’t have to think about another source. But then pairing is a critical part for an IEM. I switched to the more budget friendly Fiio KA3 and the Elsa doesn’t budge. It still delivers like a champion. Yes, the sharper and tighter notes of the KA3 are reflected on the Elsa but it isn’t making a lot of difference to its base abilities.
I have seen BA based IEMs being unaffected by sources and the Elsa is closer to this type as I did A-B with Fiio KA3 and Tri TK-2. It does reflect the extra or lack of bite, definition and energy of the source but the effect is not big enough to make you change your perception of the IEM.
Elsa houses 5 Knowles BA drivers in a 3 way crossover design. It has one BA driver handling the bass, 2 are incharge of mids and 2 more handle the treble. I really do not care a lot about the number but the Elsa has surrounded it with some of the heavyweights.
But sound quality is somewhere the Elsa bullies the heavyweights Like Andromeda and Vision Ears VE6XC. I won’t go as far to state that it out plays these IEMs in every department but it doesn’t sound like an inferior IEM by any margin.
Elsa is not an outright analytical sounding IEM like the Ara or Holocene. It has a more subtle side to it with a bit more musical and cohesive tonality. It’s equally neutral and colorless with a well balanced signature. Surprisingly Campfire Ara is a flatter sounding IEM even when it has 4BA drivers to handle the lower end.
I am using stock cable and stock tips for this review.
Most of us are aware of the inabilities of BA drivers to produce the best sub-bass extension but it seems this was a tuning barrier which a lot of brands are unable to breach. Unsurprisingly Shozy knows a good deal about this. Their Pentacle was one of the bassiest BA based IEM in the market and the Neo BG5 wasn’t a slouch either.
Elsa with it’s single BA driver doesn’t really try to ace the BA bass like Pentacle but does have one of the best sub-bass extension and unlike many brands the lower end isn’t tuned for excessively tighter notes with dead serious tuning. Elsa has a very musical and engaging presentation with a fuller Mid bass which retains as much essence as possible of the lower end notes without giving up precision and accuracy. The mid bass is meaty with a healthy punch and respectable air movement. There isn’t any loss of details but if you wanted the dead serious accuracy and precision this might feel a bit slower as the notes have a more precipitated feel because of a more musically paced decay. Upper bass has very good details and clarity without losing any details or transparency.
Loving this IEM is easy and it gets easier as we go forward from here.
The transition from upper bass to lower mids is exceptionally good, it’s better than what the more expensive Andromeda V3 has to offer. This region has the right amount of energy to keep things exceptionally balanced. It doesn’t have a W shaped sig so there isn’t any elevation or lack of energy around the vocals.
I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting this much of all-rounder performance from this IEM. It barely has a foot wrong when it comes to PRAT. It has excellent precision with enjoyable rhythm and the decay and reverbs are very good. Both vocals and instruments have the desired amount of texture and body giving them a more natural and required amount of throaty feel. Keep in mind that it’s a more analytical IEM than a musical or fun type but the musical side is not ignored either. While the DUNU SA6 has an edgy and unfinished feel, Elsa has more maturity and definition. Instruments have more complete and well defined peaks which are filled with details but are not high on aggression and do not have any jitter. There is not extra energy to be wary of at the upper mids either. With all these things, there is admirable amount of space and air between instruments, the separation is a lot more cleaner than anything priced under it. It has excellent contrast and crispiness across the spectrum.
In short Elsa’s mid range is simple, clear and precise.
The question is.. Do you come in peace, because Elsa, doesn’t want to hurt anyone. It has the accurate amount of energy and sparkle which keeps one seated without disrupting the comfort. There are plenty of details and the clarity is very good too. It’s very good and not excellent because the Elsa takes a safer path. It doesn’t put out the more aggressive side of the notes, it handles the sharp and edgy notes with care and composure. This can be seen as a boon or curse. Those who do not want the piercing type feel of some high energy notes will be thankful while the brave ones will say this is a lacking the extra bit of attack and forceful bite.
Basically, Elsa has a limit to the amount of energy a note is allowed carry in this region, it simply does not serve any hyper hot notes. It just simply is filtered, the dirt is cleaned and the peak is neutralized. Worry not, no notes are harmed in this exercise.
As usual, not a single not is missed, the details in between the notes are clearly audible. Treble extension is of the highest quality too, without any compression or lack of energy. Layering and separation too top notch. The cleaner and slightly fuller notes have their own charm.
STAGE AND IMAGING:
There hasn’t been a single instance where a Shozy IEM had a bad stage but the Elsa really excels at it. It barely has any congestion to it, there is excellent amount of air between instruments and the layering and separation is top class. No part of the spectrum takes the majority share. Elsa’s stage has very good height and X-axis depth, Z-axis is well developed too. It doesn’t have a very surrounding kind of feel of the more expansive flagships like Nocturnal Eden or VE7 but has more 3D stage when compared to DUNU SA6 and Campfire Holocene.
Imaging too is excellent. Most of the notes originate from the same plane, majority of upper mid and treble notes find their presence out of the head. All the notes are placed precisely which is helped by one of the best sonics.
VS Campfire Holocene:
Holocene is a beast of its own kind. It is one of the most complete IEM in its own and unlike the Andromeda V3, Holocene doesn’t have any loose ends.
So how does it fairs? It’s a bit of an mid forward IEM, it doesn’t really pay a lot of attention to the rest of the spectrum. Extension at both ends is very good but the Elsa has better volume and energy at both ends, its sub-bass and upper treble are better than Holocene. Holocene has a more energetic finishing with the mid range notes. Elsa has a more subtle and less sharp finishing across the spectrum. Stage size of the Holocene is a bit smaller in the X-axis.
VS Campfire Andromeda V3:
VS DUNU SA6:
When we purchase something what do we have in our mind? I say its satisfaction. And this IEM is simply satisfying. Asking anything more form an IEM at this price is practically foolish. I am not pleased with how Shozy has been conducting their promotions though, which is practically zero. There is barely any effort from the brand to promote their IEMs. Nevertheless, let’s look past that.
If you can’t tell from my review.. I am seriously impressed with what this IEM has to offer at just $750, specially the composure and maturity. It simply emulates the Vision Ears VE6. This is a fairly good upgrade to the critically acclaimed DUNU SA6 too. If you want to upgrade from the SA6 this should be the one without freaking the bank. It has similarly impressive balance of everything while delivering better edge and finishing definition with a bigger stage.
This is an Ace of an IEM. Its resolution and definition is benchmark worthy. Transparency is as good as it gets. Extensions at both ends are excellent. There is nothing to complain about. Maybe the universal model can do away with the wide nozzle, and maybe the cable can be a bit more aesthetically pleasing.
Sound wise, I really do not see anything that has to be altered. It’s an IEM that anyone and everyone can enjoy without having 2nd thoughts, keeping in mind that it’s not a bass head IEM. It’s technical and sonic abilities are simply excellent.
It’s one of those few IEMs which bring a smile on my face. I am.. Satisfied..