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Review: Thieaudio Elixir – Audio Alchemy

Can Linsoul transmogrify IEMs into gold?
Can Linsoul transmogrify IEMs into gold?

Thieaudio brews up another recipe for IEM gold.

Thank you to Linsoul for providing the Thieaudio Elixir for review purposes.

You may be familiar with Thieaudio. The company is the house brand of Chinese portable audio retail giant Linsoul and has made waves with a variety of very successful IEMs.

From affordable options such as the Legacy 3 to higher-end offerings like the Monarch, one aspect has been quite consistent within their lineup: the integration of multiple driver types into semi-custom shaped resin shells.

Well, that is, until now.

Can Linsoul transmogrify IEMs into gold?
Bottom Line

For the most part, the Elixir are a success, capturing the cohesiveness and smooth presentation that better single dynamic driver IEMs can produce. I just wish that they fit me a bit better and that the darn cable actually matched the color scheme of these beautiful IEMs. Even so, these have the potential to be the ideal pair of IEMs for someone.

What We Like
  • A lovely reproduction of instruments and vocals
  • Reasonable price
  • Beautiful construction
  • Smooth and cohesive sound
What We Don't Like
  • Somewhat limited bass presence
  • Imperfect fit for me
  • Silver cable connectors do not match the IEMs

The Elixir are a new approach for Thieaudio. Abandoning their successful multi-driver designs, the Elixir are single dynamic driver IEMs housed in a burl wood chamber and aluminum shell. This new design seems to have Thieaudio looking back, rather than forwards, for inspiration.

“…an analog texture unique only to the playback from the Elixir. Intended more for luxurious listening sessions rather than stage performances, the Elixir is the audiophile’s dream of a personal vintage sound system.” – Thieaudio

As a card-carrying member of the vintage hi-fi club (my main system is anchored by rebuilt 40+ year-old Marantz, JBL, and tube gear), this, as they say, is music to my ears.

I’m all about the music listening experience over the numbers, graphs, and debates around the technical minutiae. Let’s just say that I enjoy vinyl and leave it at that.

So, is this new approach simply marketing rhetoric from Linsoul, or have they really designed a palatable concoction to cure all of life’s ills? Have they transformed IEMs for the better with the Elixir and can they transport us to a golden listening era of the past?

Company Overview

Thieaudio is a creative endeavor of Chi-Fi mega-retailer Linsoul Audio. Founded in 2019, the “…goal of Thieaudio was to serve as a creative platform for gathering the best teams of engineers … For each project, we hand-select the most innovative and renown [sic] engineers in his or her field to oversee the design, engineering, and manufacturing of the products.”

The smart-looking box.
The smart-looking box.

Technical Specifications

  • Form: IEM
  • Drivers: 3-Dimensional Velocity Transducer Diaphragm Dynamic Driver, 10mm, Beryllium coating
  • Impedance (Ohm): 18Ohm
  • Sensitivity (dB): 112dB
  • Frequency Response (Hz): 20 Hz – 40 kHz
  • Removable Cable: Y, 1.2m, 2 Core OCC + OCC-silver plated Litz cable
  • Source Jack: 3.5mm
  • Cup/Shell Jack: 2-pin, 0.78mm

Packaging

Thieaudio does not disappoint with their classy packaging or generous assortment of included accessories with any of their products. Inside the black lift-off box lid embossed with “THIEAUDIO” in silver, you will find the Elixir artfully displayed and protected in foam, and a cardboard envelope below.

The Elixir are nicely presented in the box.
The Elixir are nicely presented in the box.

Lift out the envelope to reveal the blue faux leather case and accessories.

In the box

  • Elixir IEMs
  • 1.2m cable
  • 6 pairs of ear tips (S, M, L – memory foam and silicone)
  • Case
  • Paper manual
While nothing fancy, the included tips are comfortable and useful.
While nothing fancy, the included tips are comfortable and useful.
The ear tips appear to be the same high-quality assortment that comes with other Thieaudio IEMs such as the Monarch.

Cable

“The Elixir comes with a high quality 2 core of 92 wires 0.06mm Single-Crystal Copper and 24 wires 0.06mm Silver-Plated OCC Copper Litz upgrade cable.” – Thieaudio
Thieaudio's cables are typically very good.
Thieaudio’s cables are typically very good.

As is typical from Thieaudio, the Elixir cable is very high quality. While it isn’t quite as outstanding as the Monarch cable with its included balanced and single-ended adapters, it’s a nicely constructed 3.5mm cable with red/blue dots to indicate proper sides on the metal connectors and a matching y-split.

The cable is relatively non-microphonic, reasonably flexible, and entirely functional.

And one thing about the cable REALLY bothers me.

The Elixir are clearly carefully designed to be beautiful objects. The unique burl wood faceplates are impeccably constructed and finished. The black bodies and gold-colored aluminum that surrounds the burl are a perfect match in tone and color to the wood, and look good with the bronze-colored cable sheath.

Unless your Burl has a last name of Ives, let's not mix silver and gold.
Unless your Burl has a last name of Ives, let’s not mix silver and gold.

So, why are the cable’s aluminum bits for the connectors and y-split silver in color? Seriously, silver doesn’t match the Elixir at all! This is especially obvious when the cable is plugged into the IEMs and the silver and gold are beside each other.

Yup, a nit-pick, but it appears like you are using a cable that happens to fit, rather than one that is intended for the Elixir.

Black or matching gold highlights, rather than silver, would be a far better choice for the cable.

“Hand paired specifically for the Elixir, the stock cable perfectly complements the aesthetic and sonic pleasures of the IEM.” – Thieaudio

No. Unfortunately, it does not – at least as far as aesthetics go.

The case has a magnetic clasp.
The case has a magnetic clasp.

Design

Cable matching aside, the Elixir are undeniably a beautifully crafted pair of IEMs.

“Each Elixir unit is handcrafted from precision printed and CNC components… The faceplate is milled from a limited quantity of solid genuine burl wood block, which is coated before being embedded within the aluminum bezel.” – Thieaudio

As with all things constructed from wood or other natural materials, each pair is unique, and the wood pattern and texture will differ every time. The burl isn’t a simple wood grain and is reminiscent of astronomical photos of the storms on Jupiter. The final result is complex and gorgeous.

The burl pattern reminds me of the distinctive storms on Jupiter. (From: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill)
The burl pattern reminds me of the distinctive storms on Jupiter. (From: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill)

The remainder of each IEM body is a single flowing piece of black aluminum, with a small vent near the lipped nozzle and another on the top edge near the flush 2-pin connector. “THIEAUDIO” and “L” or “R” are written in easy-to-read white on the black.

The shape doesn't quite fit my ears.
The shape doesn’t quite fit my ears.

Comfort

Overall, I find the fit to be merely OK. The Elixir’s contours seem more generic and less ergonomically shaped, and as such, they just don’t seem to fit me as well as the Monarch for example, even though the Monarch bodies are far larger.

The nozzle angle is a little too forward than is ideal for my ear shape, and this affects the seal and resultant sound. After playing around with the included ear tips, I finally settled on the medium-sized silicone tips, but I’m still not convinced I’m getting a perfect fit.

In the end, they are certainly usable and reasonably comfortable, but the lack of feeling like “these things are made for me” will likely impact how often I pick the Elixir out to listen to, which is a shame, as they have much to offer sonically.

As always, fit is entirely personal and YMMV. Undoubtedly, there are folks out there who will fit the Elixir perfectly!
The Elixir make a good first impression.
The Elixir make a good first impression.

Internals

Never ones to shy away from technical-sounding lingo, the Elixir sport what Thieaudio calls their newly developed “3-dimensional Velocity Transducer diaphragm, dynamic driver”. Say that three times fast.

“A completely innovative driver unique from traditional dynamic drivers, the 3D Velocity Transducer 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 internal structure of the driver is also novel, utilizing stronger pole magnets and a completely copper voice coil actuator, unlike traditional aluminum ones used in most dynamic driver assemblies.” – Thieaudio

Exploded view of the construction. (From: linsoul.com)
Exploded view of the construction. (From: linsoul.com)

They manually test and pair-match each set of drivers before hand-assembling the Elixir. Additionally, Thieaudio claims that the acoustic chamber housing the driver is engineered to tailor the tonal signature.

The Elixir are quite efficient (18Ohm impedance, 112dB sensitivity) and should have no problems being driven by most portable sources.

Thieaudio Elixir Sound

The stated sound goals for the Elixir are a “balanced and natural tonality” with a sound that is “free of any harsh abnormalities or lacking at any frequency interval.”

Full disclosure, I tend to gravitate to warmer sounding audio gear with a solid low end and non-fatiguing highs. As mentioned before, my love of vintage 70’s era Marantz 22xx receivers matched to large JBL monitors is far more on the big warm side of sonics than critical listening.

The Elixir should be tuned to my tastes. And, for the most part, they are.

I auditioned the Elixir primarily with my portable Hidizs AP80 Pro and Chord Mojo combo, with a mix of funk, rock, pop, and folk.

Rather than a typical v-shaped sound, the Elixir have a slight low-end bump with a fairly prominent upper midrange and a somewhat tame treble response. This tends to make things sound more smooth than ultra-detailed and provides an enjoyable listening experience. They aren’t dark or veiled, and vocals really jump out and shine with the Elixir.

“The Elixir project aims to achieve one principal goal – capture the spirit and emotion of the sound while maintaining a natural tonality that stays true to the recording.” – Thieaudio

The generality that cohesion and tonality benefit from a single driver design seems to prove true for the Elixir. Instruments and voices really do sound pure and present a natural true-sounding impression. The Elixir also do a good job imparting a sense of space, and the sound never comes across as congested or claustrophobic.

The extremes, both high and low, are fairly tame and the Elixir aren’t the most dynamic sounding pair of IEMs I’ve encountered. The high end stays clear and fairly extended, but these aren’t excessively airy or crisp sounding and err slightly more towards smooth, easy listening.

The low end is where the Elixir could have a little more life to better match my tastes. There isn’t a whole lot of punch or impact with bass hits.

While it’s possible that this may be (at least partially) due to never quite achieving a perfect fit in my ears – certainly the quality of the seal greatly influences bass response – I believe this to be more a feature of the IEMs themselves than my unique fit situation. Again, YMMV.

Frequency response graph as measured on a IEC 603118-4 compliant occluded ear simulator (OES).
Frequency response graph as measured on a IEC 603118-4 compliant occluded ear simulator (OES).

Bass

“The extremely rigid structure of this new diaphragm achieves incredible punctuality in the sub-bass. The bass has been focused to powerfully kick in when required, but not disturb the natural tonality of the overall sound signature, especially when the music doesn’t call for it.” – Thieaudio

The Elixir bass is a matter of quality over quantity. The tonality is very good and they stay clear and controlled, but I could do with a bit more slam.

This is a more accurate than fun presentation, but I tend to like more mid-bass punch. The extension is quite decent down into the sub-bass region, which does help the bass presence.

I can’t help but pine for a bit more oomph.

The Elixir seem to respond well to EQ to add more mid bass weight.

Midrange

“Rather than a hard “V”-shaped tuning profile used in most in-ear devices, the Elixir’s mids have been carefully adjusted to be balanced and neutral, with the slightest touch of warmth that elevates the sense of a vintage and lush sound.” – Thieaudio

The mids peak around the upper midrange, which adds a touch of energy and makes voices and instruments more forward in the mix. The midrange tonality is very convincing and real-sounding and this is where the Elixir really shine. Guitars sound simply great, vocalists sound present and natural, and everything is oh-so clean.

Perhaps this is the vintage and lush sound that Thieaudio was going for in tuning the Elixir. If you equate a smooth but natural sound signature with analog and vintage, I’d say they succeeded.

Treble

“…the treble had to be detailed and resolving, without introducing any resemblance of piercing or shrill metallic timbre. Following the now well-established natural decay curvature found in all of THIEAUDIO’s signature series in-ear monitors, the Elixir’s upper frequencies deliver a smooth yet precise relay [sic] of every miniscule detail in the music.” – Thieaudio

Compared to Thieaudio’s hybrid and tribrid designs, the Elixir treble is quite polite. Resolution and detail are good and things are forward without being ‘too much.’ It’s not the shimmery sparkly heights of magnetostatic drivers but is a more integrated sound signature that continues the tonality from the somewhat elevated upper mids.

The sense of space and vocal impact seems to be reinforced by the treble tuning and the Elixir do a great job balancing clarity with a grounded and reasonably meaty overall sound.

I just wish I found the fit as good as they look and sound.
I just wish I found the fit as good as they look and sound.

Where to Buy

Conclusion

I admit it, I get interested whenever Thieaudio announces a new pair of IEMs, in a way that few other Chi-Fi companies capture my attention these days. There is so much repetition and it’s beyond my abilities to keep up with all of the flavor-of-the-week IEM releases.

So, when Thieaudio announced they were releasing a whole new driver setup, and that the tuning is inspired by vintage audio, I was quick to agree to review the Elixir. Especially interesting is the near USD$200 price point, which makes them on the affordable side of the Thieaudio lineup.

For the most part, the Elixir are a success, capturing the cohesiveness and smooth presentation that better single dynamic driver IEMs can produce.

I just wish that they fit me a bit better and that the darn cable actually matched the color scheme of these beautiful IEMs.

Even so, these have the potential to be the ideal pair of IEMs for someone. Unfortunately, the shape of my ears means that someone just isn’t me. With a little hocus-pocus and transmutation, perhaps the foreseeable Elixir 2 may suit me a little better.

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