Elysian Acoustic Labs Annihilator 2023 Review featured image

Elysian Acoustic Labs Annihilator 2023 Review

We review the Elysian Acoustic Labs Annihilator 2023, which is the company’s top-of-the-line tribrid dynamic, BA, and electrostatic 7-driver IEM. It is priced from $2999.00.

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

To read more about Effect Audio gear previously assessed on Headfonics click here.

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

Elysian Acoustic Labs Annihilator 2023 Review featured image
Elysian Acoustic Labs Annihilator 2023 Review
Summary

The Elysian Acoustic Labs Annihilator 2023 is one seriously high-performing in-ear monitor. It is also a benchmark for me regarding just how good electrostatic drivers can sound in a high-end IEM.

More than just speedy sparkling highs, you get power, dynamics, and a bit of 'fun' thrown into the tuning giving it some high energy and excitement to go along with the technical excellence.

Sound Quality
9.4
Design
9.1
Comfort & Isolation
9.1
Synergy
9.4
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9.1
Pros
Powerful low-end
Balanced timbre
Attractive-looking stock cable
Cons
Requires a bit of juice for adequate volume levels
Slight bass bloom
Could do with a bigger carry case
9.3
Award Score

We have ‘form’ for this, reviewing a model branded with one year in another. We did it with the Focal Utopia 2022 last year so in keeping with tradition we are reviewing and comparing the Elysian Acoustic Labs Annihilator 2023 in early 2024.

The Annihilator 2023 is an evolution of the original from a year or two previously though we do not have the first edition with us to compare and comment on. This is the company’s flagship hybrid driver universal IEM priced from $2999 so it’s positioned among some very illustrious high-end competition.

Just a note on pricing. There are 3 editions of the Annihilator 2023 with the Gold Plated Copper and Stainless Steel versions priced at $2999, and the sample we have here, the Titanium Edition a little higher at $3199.

Elysian Acoustic Labs Annihilator 2023 nozzle

Tech Highlights

The Elysian Acoustic Labs Annihilator 2023 is a Tribrid 7-driver universal IEM. It consists of a single Foster dynamic driver for the lows, 4 BA for the mids, and a set of dual Sonion electrostatic tweeters for the highs using a 4-way crossover. 

Like any marketing-savvy IEM maker worth their salt we have a few acronyms and some focus points that I do wish other high-end IEM makers would pay more attention to. 

The first is a DiVe Pass System which is primarily applied to the dynamic driver’s acoustical implementation. The baseline of this tech is an independent front and rear chamber design for air pressure management and reducing phase cancellation. 

The second is called a 3D AccuPost System. This is another acoustic chamber but this time it’s targeting imaging and staging accuracy.

The final point is the internal wiring with high-end wiring sourced from Effect Audio. This is a point I do like to see being given some attention to and that’s the quality of the wiring inside the shells as opposed to just the external cable. 

The Annihilator 2023 has a fairly moderate load for an IEM at 22Ω but the real eye-catcher is the sensitivity level at just 94db @100mV @1khz which is thirsty enough. Those Sonion drivers can really ‘dim the lights’ when it comes to sensitivity levels and this IEM is no exception.

Elysian Acoustic Labs Annihilator 2023 design

Design

The design of the Annihilator 2023 may vary depending on the version you pick with both nozzle and faceplate switching from gold, titanium, or stainless steel but otherwise, they all share a common transparent shell aesthetic.

Transparent resin or acrylic shells create a very unique ‘inside out’ perspective as I like to call it. Rather than the shell itself being the focus of the design, the transparency allows the internals to create most of the striking visual accents alongside the faceplate.

Think of the  VE Elysium or the Hum Dolores as some recent examples of this remarkably confident approach by any IEM maker.

Not only does it reveal precisely what it is you are using but also how you are implementing it. A tidy internal makes for a wonderful and interesting sight for the curious eye to peer inside rather than simply glance at the outside.

The Annihilator 2023 faceplate is perhaps a little on the more traditional side with its single insert and the company logo fixed centrally. It will vary depending on the color choice with the gold and stainless steel a bit shinier than the brushed stroke effect of the titanium version.

It is one of the bigger or chunkier IEM form factors out there with more of a subtle level of contouring than a deep cut or aggressive styling you tend to see on high-end resin monitors such as the comparatively tiny Vision Ears EXT or the SWEEAR SR11. It kind of reminds me of a fatter Empire Ears Wraith or close to the Noble Audio Kublai Kahn dimension-wise. 

Elysian Acoustic Labs Annihilator 2023 stock cable

Stock Cable

Elysian Acoustic Labs have teamed up with  Liquid Links to deliver a beautiful if somewhat chunky stock cable for the Annihilator 2023. 

The precise choice is the company’s Martini which is a mid-range offering at approximately $350 though there is a considerable line-up of cables from Liquid Links ranging from their TOTL Venom at over $1k to the Conti at $150.

The 1.1m Martini is an 8-wire 26AWG palladium-plated silver and gold-plated copper hybrid with a triple layer concentric alternate twisting geometry stuffed inside a soft transparent PVC jacket.

That in itself looks like most good quality aftermarket cables but less so the finishing with some stylishly branded chrome-finished aluminum and blemish-free barrels for the splitter and plug.

Yes, they are chunky and they do add a fair bit of weight to the overall Annihilator 2023 design but I can forgive that because their smooth curvature exteriors look so good.

This sample came with the 4.4mm terminated version and one hint I can give, particularly to HiBy R8 II users with the thick TPU case, is to turn it on its side when inserting as it’s too big to connect in the upright position.

Also, the Annihilator 2023 is the first IEM I have reviewed that uses the Pentaconn connector system instead of 2-pin, IPX, or MMCX. It does remind me a little of the IPX system with a single small barrel connection and it does seem stable enough though not as flexible as MMCX or as universal as the 0.78mm 2-pin option.

Elysian Acoustic Labs Annihilator 2023 nozzles

Comfort & Isolation

The Annihilator 2023 is a relatively large monitor and it does make its presence felt in your ear. Nevertheless, I found it a relatively comfortable fit and quite secure during use. 

The nozzle is quite thick which presents its own set of challenges for tip rolling. Elysian supplies only one set of SpinFit soft silicone single flange wide bore tips which I find very agreeable inside my ear but a bit of a challenge to easily slide over what is an aggressively-sized nozzle lip.

I suspect the supple nature of the tight-fitting silicone stem on the ear tips makes it a little more stubborn than I would like but you get there in the end if you softly roll it over the nozzle lip. Do it too quickly and it curiously folds as it slides over which I have never seen a tip do before.

The isolation is about par for a hybrid IEM being a little behind the VE10 and equal to if not slightly superior to the FiR Audio Radon 6 and Noble’s Viking Ragnar.

Tips will play a role in how well the Annihilator 2023 isolates but given the wide nozzle and only one set of supplied tips your options out of the box are more limited than I would have liked.

Elysian Acoustic Labs Annihilator 2023 accessories

Packaging & Accessories

The Annihilator 2023 packaging is square-boxed cute and kind of reminds me of the older Unique Melody packaging from several years ago.

The outer is a more flamboyant gold finish with some clean branding on the outside with the inner working similar to a jewelry box style with a slide-out tray and the IEMs and cables front facing on the top shelf. There is plenty of velvety padding to keep the IEMs safe and secure.

The accessory lineup is decent if not awe-inspiring for such a lofty price point. You get a dinky suede-finished branded carry case, a cleaning cloth, ear tips, a warranty card, and a small foldable company brochure.

Elysian Acoustic Labs Annihilator 2023 case

Carry Case

The Annihilator 2023 carry case is very pocketable which is a plus but it just about fits the Liquid Links Martini stock cable and drivers.

There is a small mesh netting on the ceiling to hold the stock tips also but to get everything to fit securely I did find I had to detach the drivers and place them separately into the gap between the cable loop or else the case wouldn’t close properly.

I probably would have felt more comfortable if the case was a little bit bigger or deeper and had a zip finish as opposed to just a lid. Something closer to the Unique Melody Multiverse Mentor case size would have been perfect. 

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

Click on page 3 below for our selected comparisons.

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