Today, we review the Effect Audio Gaea which is a hybrid dynamic and 4 BA driver IEM produced in collaboration with Elysian Acoustic Labs. It is priced at $1299.
Disclaimer: This sample was sent to us in exchange for our honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links or status. Many thanks to Effect Audio and Elysian Acoustic Labs for their support.
To read more about Effect Audio gear previously featured on Headfonics click here.
Note, that this article follows our latest scoring guidelines which you can read here.
Effect Audio Gaea
I consider the Effect Audio Gaea a very successful collaboration. One that offers a mature tuning with great synergy between the cable and the IEM. You get an outstanding performance on smaller outputs and decent distortion control also.
The Gaea, which is named after the Greek primordial deity, bears the hallmark of both Effect Audio and Elysian Acoustic Labs, intermixing the tuning expertise and material designs from both companies with a specially fabricated cable for the collaboration.
The previous IEM model Axiom from Effect Audio, with its focus on sustainability, was an innovative attempt featuring swappable MU modules and premium materials adorning the design; but to please serious enthusiasts? Gaea’s sound and value proposition are way more on point.
The Effect Audio Gaea is a 5-driver hybrid universal in-ear monitor. It uses a single dynamic driver and 4 balanced armatures. It uses a 4-way design that splits the dynamic driver for the lows, 1 BA for the mid-lows, 1 BA for the upper mids and 2 BA handles the higher register.
The DiVe Pass II design aims to eliminate internal reflections in the back side of the chamber, additionally, pressure release openings are placed near the nozzle to further enhance driver efficiency, allowing the Gaea to be driven efficiently on any device.
Not unexpectedly the Gaea comes with an Effect Audio cable which is specially made to match the theme and tuning on the earpieces and is available only to the collaboration package at this moment.
The 24AWG, 4-core UPOCC cable with pure copper and silver-plated copper cores complements the low impedance driver configuration to deliver a wide frequency response range over 20Hz to 20kHz and < 1% THD performance.
To push the performance further, the internal wirings are using Effect’s cable as well and the design together has achieved a really low impedance rating measured at 10Ω with 102dB sensitivity.
I have always been a fan of ultramarine and cobalt blue colors, but it would be slightly dull without the Indian yellow moon and stars on the Starry Night palette. That’s why the golden logos on top of the faceplates are spot on to make complete the visuals.
On the body, you may have noticed there are metallic air vents near the socket and also on another side of the earphone body. That is officially explained as a measure to reduce internal reflections in the back chamber, and also to mitigate driver flex issues with the front openings.
Not just the bodywork has an appealing theme, but the cable has been matched with the middle piece and connector to the DAP adorned by the same resin-infused stabilized wood material. An interesting and subtly prestigious approach that adds to the overall product experience.
Comfort & Isolation
The Gaea is medium-sized and fits comfortably on my ears without much need for adjustment, insertion is fairly deep with the SpinFit tips and the IEM is quite light so it doesn’t cause much stress.
No driver flex is detected from the dynamic driver and passive noise isolation is fairly good using the supplied tips.
SpinFit W1 flanges are supplied in the package and it is slightly more extended than most of the common tips. Although the build quality is awesome the tips attract a fair bit of dust.
I would still recommend trying tip rolling as it could fine-tune the output, especially ones with a larger bore that could potentially open up more air in the bass, or ones that allow a deeper fit.
The Gaea comes with a specially designed cable for the collaboration and has a 24AWG gauge. The 4-braid cable consists of pure copper and silver-plated copper cores both undergoing Ultra-Pure Ohno Continue Casting (UP-OCC) process and uses a Dual Geometric, Litz design.
With Effect Audio’s Ultra Flexi Insulation, the cable feels very soft and is ready for the Con-X system so users can switch between different connectors.
It is also terminated with a Rhodium Plated Brass 4.4 plug. The earphone connector uses a Pentaconn system which has a small profile and large conducting area, despite the fact that it might be easier to come off than MMCX.
Obviously, this is a high-end stock cable and when plugged into other IEMs you can notice decent openness and dynamics even fresh out of the box. The cable supports the ConX system and can be swapped to other connectors with additional parts that are not included with the Gaea.
Packaging & Accessories
The Gaea comes in a rather large-sized gift box imprinted with the goddess Gaea (Gaia) who is also known as the mother of all life. The front layer displays the earphone body unit with the cable preinstalled.
Digging deeper into the layer below reveals compartment boxes with a carrying case and SpinFit silicone tips in S/M/L sizes, there is also a cleaning cloth and cleaning stick supplied.
The Axiom hybrid IEM from Effect Audio we covered last time was quite a bass-intensive and rather insensitive IEM that is significantly diversified in tuning direction and aesthetics from the Gaea.
That said the Gaea has a much more sensitive architecture that is more dependent on decoding and amping quality than raw power in the output. The energy throughout the whole frequency spectrum is much more evenly distributed.
Impedance matching is very important when juggling with different gears. I prefer using low gain for this pair of IEMs and it works best with gears that emphasize the transients and midrange frequencies.
The Gaea sounds quite clean and dynamic out of the box but as usual, before impressions are put down, it is given more than 100 hours of burn-in.
The Gaea has decent control and bite in the lower end and maintains a neutral low-end body, sounding moderately deep and fairly extended with an expressive decay. The fundamental bass frequencies are slightly elevated to give more energy and texture to bass instruments, weighting darker voices sufficiently with a gentle hint of warmth added.
The bass sounds pretty resolving and layered even when listening out of my MacBook. Putting the Gaea on the Shanling M6 ULTRA with some trap beat tracks the bass is cleanly rendered with a good hint of warmth that gives more body to the mix. Resolution is limited but the fun tuning is enjoyable.
Generally saying the low-mids are polite but definitely not lacking, drums kick cleanly and articulation to the mid-range frequencies is very smooth. At low gain, there are great dynamics and when switched to higher gain the dynamic range is slightly suppressed and the bass body starts to clutter and wrangle.
The mids on the Gaea are slightly carved out to sound swift but not curtained nor hollowed. With the right source, it can sound very realistic with just the right weight, texture, and a slightly sweetened timbre.
It works exceptionally well with lighter, higher-pitched voices and soft voices, while darker voices sound light-hearted with the clean delivery of the mid-range frequencies.
The slightly V-shaped tuning works well with low-fi, chill music that has a thicker, soothing bass line and beautiful guitar overtones and harmonics sustaining in mid-air. Overall, there is decent separation power between the instruments and the lead singer and a good sense of space is achieved.
The treble range seems optimized for lighter, cleaner voices and it works great with strings too. While transient tones are dense and clearly expressed it never sounds overly sharp or flat.
Cymbals and hi-hats are presented with good authority to sound tight and with adequate brightness. It also authorizes lighter vocals with a good edge and a stronger sense of presence, beautifully blending it with the backing instruments without overly defining voices from other elements.
Staging & Dynamics
Staging is effortlessly delivered especially in the upper mid-range and it does not sound altered. A great sense of space is rendered with adequate brightness in the treble enhances the positioning of instruments, rendering a headroom at the size of a small lecture hall.
Bass instruments are well separated and come moderately close to the listener, and the swift midrange feels slightly more laid back yet still imaged quite distinctively. The treble is delicately handled and with a decent dynamic range, the Gaea can handle energetic voices and harsher instruments without feeling dampened.
Overall, it feels quite expansive and the Gaea is capable of handling smaller ensembles and multiple instruments in a messy mix coherently.