The Axiom is rated at 32Ω and 112dB SPL and for my money, it does need a resolving quality source to sound optimal. If you put it on the phone or laptop, the bass sounds boomy and lackluster in clarity.
This is less obvious listening outdoors in a café or a train but not so much when you listen to it in a quiet room. Pairing with a silver cable the bass body slims down a bit and will also add a stronger sense of definition though by pushing up the volume you will realize a stronger source is the best solution.
When putting the Axiom on my desktop setup which is currently the QX-D1 and SGA-1 from Soncoz, the bass impact is a lot more solid and clean, with the vocal sounding more weighty. Ultimately you will still need more power in the output for most designs that involves dynamic drivers.
In all cases the background is very quiet and little to no noise can be detected even when paired with a low-resistance 8-core cable.
In general, the Axiom is malleable and it works great with different gears to sound engaging and dynamic as long as there is sufficient power. It has the right peaks to not compromise clarity and excitement with strong dynamics and a well-defined bass performance.
With all three cables tested it sounds deeply immersive with its timbre favoring instrumentals especially acoustic instruments the most.
With the Cleopatra cable, you are most likely to get good synergy and balance, the EVO 10 will sound darker and more V-shaped, further boosting some details in the lifted areas. The Maestro is a good starter that has satisfactory resolution and a rather balanced signature.
The elevated Axiom bass poses a challenge to some sources. You will need good power, control, as well as a good synergy to achieve the most enjoyable sound and balance.
Larger diameter dynamic drivers always require more power to sound opened up so a powerful baseline dongle that sounds optimal for me is something like the L&P W2. Stronger output power definitely favors the performance on the Axiom and checking the higher gain on this dongle offers the best dynamics.
Testing with the latest Cayin RU6 dongle the mids are buttery smooth. Acoustic elements sound gorgeous on this combo with a full-bodied tone. Songs that have strong beats, acoustic elements, and synthesized bass instruments are in particular enjoyable with an intense mid-bass and expressive, moderately fast decay.
There is zero sibilance with this pairing, perhaps rolling off a bit early, but clean and separated enough in the upper mids to not kill the air. Especially so when using the Cleopatra cable that gives the vocal timbre more body and sweetness.
The warmer sounding and powerful Shanling M6 is a nice match and complement the tuning on the Axiom with full-bodied mids. Playing some old Japanese songs, Cantopop, or other albums from the ’70s with strong reverb and textured chorus lines, the M6 pairing sounds smoothly articulated and groovy.
Playing tracks like KDA’s LOL theme song and Blackpink albums the heart-pounding bass work best with this combo. There is a lot of space rendered in the lows, not the strongest in resolution but definitely one of the most immersive bass performances out there.
Moving on to the more defined and balanced FiiO M11 Plus Ltd, there is ample resolution. The bass is also energized through a higher gain setting. There is some good synergy with EVO paired to the Axiom sounding steady and textured in the mid-lows.
With the slightly pushed-back vocal positioning, the tranquil timbre draws the focus deeper into the music. The sweet spot is at a higher volume and you will find the vocal image and mid-range instruments holding up well when you crank up the output.
At the top of the Earsonics hybrid line, we have the STARK that consists of an 8mm dynamic driver and a 5 BA setup.
The STARK is fully metallic in design but uses Zinc and Magnesium alloy materials which double as a mechanical damper. This French assembled IEM also implements Earsonics FUSION crossover technologies to reduce phase issues.
Both designs are unique with contrasting colors and reflective parts. The STARK IEM is slightly heftier on the hand than the Axiom and if you put them together you can feel a great difference in their design approach.
The STARK is a lot more industrial looking and has a well-layered design that gives more room to the sound chamber. The Axiom looks a lot more luxurious with that jadestone adorning the faceplates, as well as the glossy rim that circles it. Also, the modular design on the Axiom makes it more engaging to use.
The STARK is bassy, but so is the Axiom. However, the STARK demands more control and precision than raw power while Axiom can accommodate higher gain and output power, converting it into sheer bass strength and depth.
I find the STARK has more synergy with dongles and the Axiom needs DAPs or amps to reveal its full performance. The STARK is much more sensitive with its smaller dynamic driver.
When the two go head-to-head, the STARK does not feel as energetic or spacious as the Axiom especially when paired with desktop amps. However, a better tonal balance is achieved with the vocal sounding more weighted.
Using the Maestro cable to compare, the Axiom kicks deeper and you can hear more detail in the bass decay. The STARK is energetic in the bass level but not as elaborative in the sub-bass region.
With more drivers inside the STARK brings more texture and resolving power into the mids. However, it is not as airy as the Axiom down at the lower end.
Overall, the STARK sounds bassier, or less resolving and airy in the bass. It is fuller in the midrange, in such a way that it works well with classical music to sound soothing and relaxing.
The Axiom can move more air and further emphasize the dynamics, putting more attention to the lower and upper mids. This results in a smoother but less forward vocal image and timbre. When giving it enough power, there is more room to scale.
FAudio Dark Sky
Priced closer to the Axiom the Dark Sky is the latest single driver in-ear from FAudio. The Dark Sky adopts a 10.2mm rigid DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) driver membrane stacked together with another artificial fiber membrane layer.
According to FAudio they also implemented the brand’s T.B.A.C (Triple Built-in Acoustic Chamber) technology, which includes metallic structures on the front and rear chambers that lower distortion by clamping the driver structure securely.
The Dark Sky has a smooth navy finish, and when compared to the Axiom you can feel their variance in design direction as well as tuning. While both earpieces are metallic in structure, the Axiom has more elements blended into the designing the housing, so more bling or a more sci-fi look than the stealthy minimalist Dark Sky.
While the Axiom features a switchable socket for multiple cables, the Dark Sky comes with a nicely manufactured stock cable terminated in 2.5mm and comes with 3.5mm and 4.4mm convertors.
All are welcome features and the build quality of the products from both manufacturers is equally good.
Having just one driver inside the Dark Sky, this IEM has some resemblances in sound to the Axiom. In particular, the recessive midrange that colors the output on the slightly dark side and stresses the dynamics.
Rated at 24Ω and 114dB SPL the Dark Sky is easier to drive, even with a good quality phone. It also scales with a stronger current to sound more dynamic and textured.
Being less sensitive, the Axiom takes more juice than the Dark Sky to drive well. If not the sound loses cohesion between the big bass driver and BAs. When sufficiently driven it swings stronger in the bass and sounds more dynamic and textured in the upper frequencies.
The single driver Dark Sky design offers excellent articulation and smoothness with any pairings. It also sounds denser and more forwarded in the vocal range, though it does not radiate an image as strong and as deep as the Axiom when it comes to acoustic instruments and brass instruments, due to the Axiom’s much larger dynamic driver size.
The Dark Sky can easily pair with various gear to sound textured and resolving, and it does scale with higher power and control on higher-end DAPs.
I find more malleability with the Axiom that can scale with more power. Especially the bass that can go bigger and deeper, as well as Axiom’s midrange that is more sensitive to cable rolling too.
The Effect Audio Axiom is a complex and innovative approach to in-ear monitors with its MU system design. Beyond that, the Axiom has a convincing musicality in its performance combined with possibly a very luxurious appearance. For me, the Axion has outdone the IEM’s very expensive predecessor, the King Arthur.
Axiom is all about that bass, and together with the Mu module versatility with differing cables, EA has created an engaging product experience. This would be a recommended IEM for mainstream music genres listeners and those looking for musical performances with a juicy low end.