Effect Audio x Elysian Audio Gaea Review: Something Unique from the Goddess of Earth


The $1000-$1600 range of IEMs has some of my favorite IEMs to date so I was excited when I heard Effect Audio was doing a collaboration with Elysian Audio and producing a new IEM coming in at $1299. I’m quite the fan of Effect Audio’s cables and I’ve heard nothing but good things about Elysian’s tuning with their IEMs. The Gaea is a 5 driver hybrid IEM design using a single Foster dynamic driver for lows and 4 Sonion balanced armatures for the rest of the frequencies. The Gaea comes with Effect Audio’s ConX IEM swappable connector system and choice of standard plug terminations.


Quick shoutout to Jordon from Effect Audio arranging a Gaea for me to review. While I always appreciate the chance to test and review products sent in from manufacturers or dealers, it never affects the rating of my reviews.


Looks and fit

The Gaea is quite the looker to my eyes and it comes with a black shell that has a beautiful stabilized wood faceplate. Every unit will have a slightly different design on the faceplate but most will have a mix of blue and orange/brown wood in the faceplate. The gold manufacturer logos on both sides are nice accents as well. The shells also have two metal vents/ports that they call the “DIVe pass II” that give the shell a really high quality look. While I can’t confirm it personally, they even include some of Effect Audio’s higher quality custom wiring inside of the IEM making the level of detail put into the Gaea somewhat over the top if not next level. The shells are a medium size IMO and I find them comfortable for long term listening sessions for at least my ears. They are big enough shells that I can’t lay on my side with them due to them sticking out of my ears a bit.

Isolation and sound leakage

Even with the two DIVe pass II vents on the shells, passive isolation is pretty good. It’s not as good as a sealed IEM but it’s about the same if not slightly better than most vented IEMs I have used before. It does however leak sound from those two big vents. If you listen at louder volumes, everyone near in quiet areas will absolutely hear what you’re listening to. Quieter volumes and even medium listening resulted in very little to no sound leakage so I think some could get away on say a flight or in bed with someone sleeping next to them at lower volumes.


Packaging and accessories

The box that the Gaea comes in is a little big for my tastes. On the outside we get some wonderfully designed line art in gold. I rarely care for box art but this and Effect Audio’s other cable boxes simply impress me. A very mature and attractive art design in general in a sea of box art anime “Waifus” from other manufacturers. While my unit came from a dealer, I was surprised by the amount of unused space inside the box. Inside is a felt section that holds the IEMs with the cable installed. A note from both companies sits on top of that. Under that is a felt case that is a little oversized but it feels nice and sturdy. It does pick up lint and cat hair like crazy though. There was a box deeper in that looked bigger and inside the two mini boxes were a set of Spinfit W1 tips and the other box had a cleaning cloth and cleaning tool. At first I thought I was missing accessories since the accessory boxes were so big but after confirming with people who have the IEM, it’s just a lot of empty space. I would have liked to see maybe a second set of W1 tips included but I think it has everything needed. I always prefer slightly smaller boxes to save on space. I do however have a lot of boxes that I store long term and I prefer saving as much space as possible.



Sound(overall)

These final impressions were done off the SMSL SU-9 connected to the SMSL SP400. These impressions are what the Gaea sounded like to my ears. This was also using the Spinfit W1 stock tips. Things like ear tip selection and DAC/amp selection will produce different results and impressions vs what my ears hear on my specific gear.



The Gaea to my ears has a brighter tuning but it’s very well controlled and finely tuned to my ears. The bass has good reach and it produces fairly good impact/slam when called for. This is by no means a bass head IEM at all but it is tasteful. While it has just enough bass thumps to make me happy and keep it out of the “lean” bass category, it still lacks a thicker sound down low. The bass hits fast and the decay is too quick for me to really enjoy more bassy tracks. The mids are wonderful here and all the instruments have great speed and great sharpness at the end of tones. Male vocals sound pretty good, though I would say female vocals are the real star of the show here. Very good presentation and presence, not the very best I’ve heard or the most natural vocals but overall great for this price bracket($1k-1.6k). The upper mids and lower treble are very much boosted and I feel they always sound on the very edge of what I find comfortable before things get too bright for me. It’s rare for me to be tolerant of strong upper mids and this is the first time in a while I’ve been ok with an upper mid focused IEM. The rest of the treble is sharp and has a good sense of air up top from my listening. As someone who really pays attention to the decay on cymbals and hi-hats, this was a very crisp set to listen to. Details came through really well on this set and I find the Gaea impressive for sure. It strikes a good balance of producing very good details without sounding too harsh in the upper frequencies. At least when used with neutral sounding source gear. I have heard better and more detailed treble from more expensive sets but almost all the other sets I’ve tried out were usually too intense for more than 10 min for me personally. While I really like this tuning, I would have loved to maybe get a stronger mid bass or whatever seems to keep the low end from sounding fuller or sticking around for a bit longer. I always prefer a stronger bass when possible however.



Soundstage/Imaging

I found the staging was above average in width but it was very deep depth wise. This wasn’t a balanced stage but I found myself enjoying it as someone who likes a wider or balanced soundstage. This wasn’t holographic but I did find the depth to provide a good sense of placement of both instruments and vocals. All in all, the staging and imaging were great.


Note on my sound impressions

I normally don’t mention the music I test with and I honestly tend to play random songs from a pretty big personal library of many different genres. I do however have a list of tracks I do know well enough or find unique for specific things. That being said, every single bit of audio gear I review always gets the final listen on Glass Animal’s “ZABA” album since that is one of my favorite albums and it checks a lot of neat audiophile staging/imaging checkboxes for me personally. The Gaea did phenomenal here. It’s been a while since I was like “oh wow, this sounds special with this album”.


Sensitivity/Drivability

The Gaea shouldn’t be too hard to drive off most gear. My unit came in with the 4.4mm cable and I wasn’t in the mood to go unscrew this Pentaconn connector off the ConX connector to try on a single ended EA cable. I got to 29/100 on my SMSL SP400 and -44.5/0 on the newer Topping L70 headphone amp. Which I would call not very hard to drive. I also picked up zero hiss on any device I used with the Gaea.



Stock cable

This is a very pretty and flashy cable. It has a vibrant solid blue and dark smoke transparent mix of stands that really make it stand out. The plug housing and Y-split both have black anodized housing which I scratched accidently so the bare metal is showing a little(pain). The inserts on the housing are claimed to be stabilized wood like the faceplate but on first look I thought the inserts were just printed and sealed in with resin/epoxy. The cable does use a rhodium plated plug which I’m not a huge fan of. I personally have issues with this and other rhodium plugs from past to present that don’t always play nice with all my 4.4mm source gear and on some, I have to twist the plug to get the channel imbalance correct. Not sure why rhodium plugs are picky on some 4.4mm gear but I would prefer to see a copper plug in general. The stock cable also comes with the ConX interchangeable connector system from Effect Audio which I really appreciate. 


Personal gripes with the Gaea

Now onto the only gripe/concern I have with the Gaea.. The connector the Gaea uses is the Pentaconn Ear connector. I’m not sure how new this connector is and I’ve not attempted to see who else is using this connector but it looks to be a hybrid of the MMCX connector. It has a thicker pin that seems more sturdy than the fragile MMCX pin found in the connector housing and it spins freely like an MMCX connector. This Pentaconn Ear connector looks like it holds more securely than a 2 pin and isn’t a nightmare to unplug like MMCX. My issue was that when I got the Gaea in, the first day of walking around resulted in one side wiggling its way out of the connector. This was concerning and I quickly noticed the cable unplugged from both shells with little effort. I believe this is a defect in my specific unit and upon further inspection I noticed there are 4 little tabs on the female side of the connector and I very gently stuck the blade of my pocket knife in between each copper tab and with the smallest adjustment, had a secure hold from the connector that wasn’t too tight or loose. I’m not sure how common this might be in the future or if it’s an issue if you constantly cable swap on the Pentaconn Ear connector and need to adjust the tabs at some point. While I complained about the issue I had with this sample of one, I actually kinda like the concept of the Pentaconn Ear. I prefer old school long 2 pin recessed sockets(with the gaskets) but since that design is dead and very old now, I think this could be the next big thing eventually. 4.4mm Pentaconnn really changed up the balanced game so maybe this connector will do the same in a few years.


IEM comparisons


THIEAUDIO V16 Divinity

The V16 and Gaea are polar opposites in their tuning but they both manage to achieve similar detail retrieval. The lows are more impactful and sound fuller on the V16. Even though the V16 uses BA drivers for the bass, it really does sound much stronger and performs better to my ears. Mids are smooth and detailed on the V16 but the Gaea handles mids with the same details but sounds faster and cleaner. The vocals however do sound more natural on the V16. The treble on the Gaea is sharper and has a little extra bite that gives a better perceived detail over the V16. I find I can pick up the same impressive details across both IEMs however. The V16 does sound more relaxed though in the treble and I would say those who want more speed and accuracy will want to grab the gaea and those who want a more multi genre friendly IEM that is more on the smooth side, will want the V16 in their inventory. The staging is wider and more balanced sounding on the V16 but I find the deeper staging on the Gaea does make it sound a little more special if not somewhat strange on some tracks over others. Both are great options!



Campfire Audio OG Solaris

I really like the Solaris even if it’s a little older at this point in time. The two IEMs have brighter sounding tunings but both handle things very differently. The bass is fuller sounding and has better impact/slam on the Solaris. It simply has a bass response I wish the Gaea had and makes it a fun listen in the low end. The mids on both have good details but I find the Solaris lacks a little speed with instruments. Vocals on both are fantastic with the Gaea having a little more focus and presence over the Solaris. When swapping back and forth, the Solaris sounds a little more congested in the vocals. The upper mids on both are bright and the Gaea is very strong while just staying under my tolerance for upper mids. The Solaris has more intense peaks that hit me the wrong way. The rest of the treble is where things are vastly different, The Solaris has good detail retrieval but sounds a little hollow at times. The decay at the end of tones sound slower on the Solaris where the Gaea is much faster in decay. I don’t think one is “better than the other” in the treble however. The staging on both are pretty good with the OG Solaris sounding like you're in the middle of a stage and giving a more “holographic” sense of space. The Gaea has me feeling like I’m front row with little bits of sound sneaking behind me at times. I like both these IEMs but I find the Gaea is just a bit more refined sounding than the Solaris which I use in rotation daily at work.



Amping Combinations


Topping G5

I didn’t like this pairing at all versus some of my other portables but since it’s one of my favorite DAC/amps, I wanted to include it anyway. The G5 is a brighter source but it’s perfect as my go to portable device with my laptop. I consider myself a little treble sensitive so the added brightness of the G5 pushed the Gaea a little over my comfort threshold for upper mids and treble all the time which was a no go for me. That being said, all the positives of the G5 still remain. The bass is still strong and accurate, the mids are clean and lack any lean sounding issues. The treble just has a more noticeable “ESS Sabre Glare” issue that I can notice on some IEMs over other gear. In this case I simply don’t use the pairing but for those who might not have the luxury of having multiple source gear devices on hand and might lack tolerance for sharper and brighter treble, this will be a deal breaker. If I only had a G5, it would be a dealbreaker for me anyways.

SMSL SU-9/SP400

This stack was used in my sound impressions above. I normally don't think IEMs need full on desktop gear to sound their best but I did find the Gaea did benefit from both this stack and the L70 amp from Topping. The biggest things I found going from a portable amp like the G5 or dongle came down to refinement and control. When the G5 got way too intense or the Lotoo PAW S1 pulled back on the treble too much, the desktop stacks I used always sounded better controlled and kept the upper mids under my limit for comfort more consistently. There was also the added sense of space in the staging that I really enjoyed from the desktop gear.


Overall thoughts

I really like the Gaea and I’m simply gonna call this an easy recommendation. I’m also gonna call Gaea a little more of an brighter all rounder. I think it does really well at highlighting details throughout the frequency range. It has a brighter tilt in the tuning so I don’t think it will please everyone but it’s impressive enough I would be fine using this with any genre without feeling like I’m dealing with too many trade offs. The only real problem I find with the Gaea overall is the stock situation. I’ve seen this go out of stock twice already and I’ve heard of delivery time issues on Elysian Acoustic IEMs in general. Effect Audio is handling the manufacturing I’ve been told so it seems that stock is coming in steadily as of late. I think this collaboration between Effect Audio and Elysian Audio produced quite a wonderful and special product. I look forward to checking out what may come next from both these companies in the future and I very much have Elysian Audio on my radar now. Thanks for reading!!

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