Effect Audio PILGRIM NOIR Review featured image

Effect Audio PILGRIM NOIR Review

Today, Thomas reviews the Effect Audio PILGRIM NOIR, which is a collaborative 4-drive hybrid IEM featuring a special edition EROS S:NOIR cable. It is priced at $799.

Disclaimer: This sample was sent to me in exchange for my honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links or services. I thank Effect Audio & Elysian Acoustic Labs for their support.

Click here to read more about Effect Audio and Elysian Acoustic Labs gear previously reviewed on Headfonics click here.

Note that this article follows our current scoring guidelines which you can read in more detail here.

Effect Audio PILGRIM NOIR Review featured image
Effect Audio PILGRIM NOIR Review
Summary
The $799 Effect Audio PILGRIM NOIR has a smooth but engaging signature, a strong visual appeal, a premium cable, and great build quality. It is a very good IEM and well worth an audition.
Sound Quality
8.9
Design
8.8
Comfort & Isolation
8.7
Synergy
9
Slide here to add your score on the gear!36 Votes
8.4
Pros
Outstanding detail and clarity.
Corrects treble harshness and sibilance of standard PILGRIM.
Cable materials, build, and feature set.
Cons
Only one TermX connector provided.
Cable noise and memory a bit high.
Should include a more varied tip selection at this price point.
8.9
Award Score

Effect Audio is best known for its wide section of audiophile cables, with a few IEMs and partner products completing the lineup.

One of their most recent releases is the PILGRIM NOIR, a collaborative effort with Elysian Acoustic Labs that uses their newly released PILGRIM as the base for a more premium, performant version.

To create the PILGRIM NOIR, a slightly altered cable from Effect Audio’s Signature Series lineup was recruited. A second armature was called to help with the mids, a single armature replaced the dual setup, and an upgraded crossover was installed.

It is clear the PILGRIM NOIR was derived from the original PILGRIM in more than looks but with notable enhancements and upgrades across the board. This elevates the PILGRIM design and sound philosophy to keep them competitive in a higher price bracket.

Effect Audio PILGRIM NOIR wrapped in cable

Features

The PILGRIM:NOIR uses the same dynamic driver as the standard PILGRIM but with significant changes to the drivers handling the mids and treble.

To help bolster the midrange, a second Sonion 2300 was installed so that one could embellish the mid-low frequencies, and the other the mid-high frequencies. This serves to give the Noir a meatier, denser midrange presence.

The highs were also changed, with a single Knowles armature of a new, undampened design taking the reins. This results in a smoother, more refined presentation compared to the previous Sonion-based setup.

The PILGRIM’s 3-way crossover has also been replaced with a 4-way unit. This change enables the division of mid-low and mid-high frequencies between the two mid-range armatures to foster a fuller, more complete-sounding earphone.

The last significant feature change was the cable, swapping out the excellent stock model for a lightly modded version of the Eros S from Effect Audio’s Signature Series of cables.

Where the original cable uses silver-plated copper wiring, the Eros S:NOIR uses a combination of Pure Silver Litz and Pure Copper Litz strands and features the ConX and TermX modular plug designs.

Effect Audio PILGRIM NOIR cable attached

Design

The PILGRIM NOIR’s aesthetic matches the name, with a blacked-out shell that results in a stealthy earphone. It retains the knoll-inspired ridges found on the original PILGRIM, as well as the six vents surrounding the centralized logo.

Since it shares similar dimensions to the standard PILGRIM, the Noir looks even more like the MOONDROP Aria 2021, but larger in every dimension. Shell depth is one area in particular where the PILGRIM NOIR stands out.

The compact size of this earphone is impressive, especially given the number of drivers inside, as well as a crossover and the Pentaconn connectors. That said, it’s not as compact as the model it is based on, which has a welcome benefit that I’ll touch on later.

The PILGRIM NOIR is a well-built earphone with flush gold-plated nozzles, minimal gaps between the shells’ various parts, and properly aligned pieces free of excess glue. The nozzle mesh, something that can easily be misaligned out of the box, sits exactly where it should and protects the innards from dust and debris.

While fit and finish isn’t all that different from the more affordable PILGRIM, that’s not bad. I can think of several IEMs in the same to higher price brackets that fail to match the overall quality of the PILGRIM NOIR, such as the HIFIMAN RE2000 Silver, or Audiofly AF1120 MKII.

The PILGRIM NOIR is a sleek, subtle earphone with an attractive design that looks as good in the ear as it feels in the hand.

Effect Audio PILGRIM NOIR shells

Comfort & Isolation

The standard PILGRIM was comfortable, but the shell caused issues with comfort thanks to a sharp edge that rubbed against the ear, limiting how long I could wear it. The PILGRIM NOIR has resolved this issue.

While not drastic, nor something you would notice at a moment’s glance, the PILGRIM NOIR is thicker than the standard PILGRIM. The added depth is enough to keep the sharp edge of the back of the shell away from the outer ear, resulting in an earphone I can wear for hours without issue.

This also helps me appreciate the soft curves along the inner shell that lay smooth against the outer ear. The more-or-less standard 6.1mm nozzle is perfect for tip-rolling since countless third-party options will fit.

Isolation was unexpectedly outstanding. I say this because six vents adorn the outer faceplate. While they let in outside noise, it is considerably less than other, less well-ventilated IEMs I’ve used.

The warehouse I’m currently working at can be quite noisy thanks to the forklifts and various processing areas active throughout the day. Despite this, only a moderate increase in volume is needed to listen to it at comfortable levels.

However, like the standard PILGRIM, the blocked frequencies are mostly highs and lows, with mid-range tones coming through more prominently. I’ve experienced this phenomenon with other aluminum-bodied IEMs, but not all.

Tips

I cannot comment on the quality or performance of the included tips since this review sample did not come with any accessories. However, buyers can expect to receive SpinFit W1 tips in s/m/l sizes.

I tested the PILGRIM NOIR with various tips of different styles. For small bore tips, I selected Sony Hybrids and SpinFit CP100.

These tips emphasized the mid-bass and mid-range warmth and thickness of the PILGRIM NOIR and provided a more intimate experience. The extra length of the CP100 helped give a more secure fit and better isolation than the Sony set.

SpinFit CP145 and KZ’s Starline tips represented the medium bore style. The CP145 performed similarly to the CP100, but with more emphasis placed on the upper mids instead of lower mids and mid-bass, while the Starline shifted focus to the sub-bass with weaker isolation.

 Campfire Audio’s standard silicone tips and ADV’s Eartune Fidelity round out the wide bore options. Both reduced mid-bass thickness, lightened the mids while bringing up the treble brightness, and provided a more spacious sound, but this came at the expense of mild fatigue.

Overall, I found the CP145 to be the best match. They were the most comfortable, provided the best isolation, and let the PILGRIM NOIR’s outstanding midrange shine.

Effect Audio PILGRIM NOIR cable

Stock Cable

Effect Audio’s Eros S:NOIR cable replaces the silver-plated copper model included with the standard PILGRIM. The grey sleeve of the regular Eros S was changed to black, keeping with the PILGRIM NOIR’s blacked-out theme.

The behavior of the sheath is satisfactory. Tangle resistance is good, but memory is present, so remnants of bends and kinks are retained.

Cable noise is also noticeable if it rubs or bumps against something. A chin cinch is present to help secure the fit which reduces but does not eliminate cable noise.

Within the sheath are Pure Silver Litz and Pure Copper Litz wiring. This selection is supposed to provide improved bass performance, a wide soundstage, and greater clarity.

The aluminum straight jack has an attractive, angular design and contains Effect Audio’s TermX modular plug system. With the PILGRIM NOIR, you can choose between 3.5mm single-ended or 4.4mm balanced options, with other terminations available separately.

The aluminum y-split is an impressive sight with an angular design surrounding a forged carbon fiber insert with gold flake highlights. Just above is an aluminum strip acting as the chin cinch.

Further up the cable are pre-formed ear guides. They feature the same aggressive curve as on the standard PILGRIM cable, which is great, as it does a fantastic job of keeping the cable secured behind the ear.

Finally, we have the aluminum-sleeved Pentaconn plugs with gold highlights. They snap in tightly and sit naturally against the shell, looking quite satisfying.

These also contain ConX modular plugs allowing you to swap out the Pentaconn plugs for something else if you want to use this cable elsewhere. You’ll need to buy other plugs separately though.

Overall, a high-quality, well-built cable with outstanding hardware and a welcome feature set. Noise resistance and memory could stand to be improved though.

Packaging & Accessories

Our sample of the PILGRIM NOIR was not provided with retail packaging or accessories. You should expect to receive the following with a retail example:

  • PILGRIM NOIR earphones
  • Effect Audio Special Edition Eros S:NOIR Cable
  • Founders’ Note
  • Premium Suede Leather Carrying Case
  • SpinFit W1 Ear tips
  • Owner’s Manual
  • Cleaning Kit
  • Warranty Card

Click on page 2 below for my sound impressions and recommended pairings.

Click on page 3 below for my selected comparisons.

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