ThieAudio seems to be quite proud of their new 3D Velocity Transducer as it features heavily in the marketing material. The diaphragm is “composed of beryllium-coated interweaving layers of multi-walled carbon nanotube sheets, which creates an extremely dense and rigid membrane capable of higher tensions and resulting in more responsiveness”.
The shells are 3D-printed from an aluminium alloy. The faceplates are made from burl wood that has been coated and then embedded in an anodized aluminium bezel. Not only do the faceplates look good, but every set also has its own unique pattern compliments of mother nature.
There’s one vent near the base of the nozzle and another one just in front of the 2-pin sockets. Overall, the build quality feels rock-solid and I find the earphones relatively comfortable. However, after longer listening sessions, the bezel’s edges sometimes dig into my ears and I need to take a break or reposition the shells.
A 2-strand Silver-Plated OCC Copper Litz cable is included with the Elixir. It’s coppery brown in colour and all of the components (including a chin slider) are aluminium. The cable handles really well; it doesn’t tangle easily and doesn’t have any significant microphonics.
Thoroughly run in the ThieAudio Elixir offers a performance that you would expect from a higher-tier IEM. It’s a technical beast – not clinical enough to be analytical but I wouldn’t call it romanticized either. With its balanced signature and emphasis on sub-bass, Elixir has a sound signature that we’ve become familiar with in recent times i.e. near neutral with attenuated mid-bass and lifted subs.
Where this potion finds its potency is in its soundstage, and instrument separation. Its tonal balance might be somewhat lacking in character but you’re sure to be impressed whether you like its tonality or not.
With a substantially boosted sub-bass, the Elixir is capable of some thundering lows. However, the mid-bass is heavily attenuated, resulting in a sound somewhat lacking flavour.
With Wheel’s “The Change” being driven by my Yulong Aurora, Elixir conveys the kick drums with an authoritative thump. But the bass guitar is relegated to the back of the mix which leads to a shortage of rhythm and dynamics.
There are positives too though. For instance, Elixir’s bass is tight and fast and doesn’t bleed into the midrange. Elixir creates spacious and ultra-clean lows with good definition. However, it’s not very textured and comes across as sounding rather flat.
Elixir’s midrange is in a word, exquisite. The precision, orderliness and the grace of the midrange are something to behold for an IEM in this price range. Each element of the sound is delivered in swift and unswerving order. Vocals have a slightly thin note size and there’s still an element of restraint, a consequence of the constricted upper bass.
The overall sound is undersaturated and male vocals lack body but are very articulate. Nonetheless, there is a sense of something missing in the lower mids; cellos and bass guitars lack presence and fullness. On the other hand, female vocals are vibrant and sonorous. But here we see a classic case of musicality sacrificed for the benefit of detail. Some listeners will love this but I personally find it a little unfulfilling.
Elixir’s treble is unremarkable but capable at the same time. It’s a safe treble tuning with rounded notes and good extension. It’s not the most resolving when it comes to micro-details but it’s crisp and light.
There’s no sibilance nor stridency present in the Elixir’s treble. This is about as forgiving as a detailed treble can get, even if it does sound a bit dry. Obviously, this is partly made possible by the stifled upper bass but one can’t help respecting what the Elixir’s treble achieves in terms of soundstage and smoothness.
Soundstage and Technicalities
It’s in its technicalities where Elixir shines above all else. The soundstage is as organized as a museum showroom. Every element is precisely positioned and defined without clutter or chaos. Instrument separation is good and the strong imaging makes it easy to locate the position of various instruments.
The stage position is neutral, neither intimate nor distant but somewhere in between. If you were to take a master class on the technical performance of enthusiast-level IEMs, I would point you towards the Elixir.
The Moondrop KATO (review here) has a single dynamic driver. Both IEMs share a remarkably similar frequency response which is probably more intentional than accidental. KATO has a more linear transition from sub-bass to mid-bass. This results in a more natural balance in the lows.
KATO’s lower midrange sounds slightly warmer and rounder. To my ears, it sounds more natural than the leaner Elixir. KATO’s upper midrange is more likely to sound slightly shouty at high volume.
KATO’s treble is more forward and sweeter in tone. That in conjunction with less sub-bass emphasis gives KATO an edge in detail retrieval. Although the Moondrop has a smaller soundstage, it has more depth and better note density.
The ThieAudio Elixir is an IEM created by a growing desire within the community for ultimate transparency. As a result, it loses some degree of engagement but it’s impossible not to admire this earphone for its technical dexterity. It’s impressively agile and would be a great match for anyone who’s sensitive to treble yet still wants to experience high-fidelity sound.