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Effect Audio Axiom Review – All About Synergy

Cable Pairings –

A quintessential aspect of Effect Audio’s design, I wouldn’t be surprised if the omission of a stock cable was designed purely to promote cable rolling. Whatever your outlook, Effect Audio themselves offer some of the best options on the market and a slight discount when purchased in a bundle. My thoughts on each follow.

Maestro (+$99): The Maestro provides a slightly less contrasted sound with greater warmth and smoothness. While sub-bass doesn’t have the same slam and power as the larger cables in this comparison, it has a full and punchy mid-bass all the same. Separation is reduced due to the warmer nature. The midrange follows suit with a slightly more robust body and warmer tonality. It sounds a bit more coherent with a toned-down treble above. Highs don’t have the same sparkle and the leading edge is a bit smoother but those that enjoy a smoother sound with a bit more body and texture will enjoy this pairing. The stage isn’t especially wide but the imaging performance is immersive.

Ares II ($149): The Ares II represents a slight upgrade over the Maestro technically and has a slightly more contrasted sound that one may not expect from a pure copper cable. It has a deeper extending sub-bass with a tighter, more powerful slam. Bass sounds tidied up and more controlled. The midrange is slightly clearer and cleaner, vocals take one step forwards in the presentation achieving greater balance. However, it is also a little over-articulated as the Ares II brings out more treble presence from the Axiom. The leading edge is keener and notes sound more defined and vibrant. There’s greater headroom and sparkle. The stage is larger, especially wider, working to the benefit of both separation and layering.

Cleopatra (+$599): I was told silver cables were a great match and this was indeed the case here. The Cleo provides a similar depth and dynamism to the Ares II but a cleaner mid-bass giving the earphone a more linear character. It sounds tighter and more separated with greater definition and less bloat. The midrange carries over these effects, sounding slightly more present and tonally cleaner. Similarly, separation and definition are improved, and the earphone assumes a lovely euphonic yet more balanced presentation. The treble was most intriguing to me. I found the Ares II borderline too forward in the lower treble so I was surprised that the Cleo wasn’t brighter at all. Instead, it sounded more refined, less brittle in the lower treble with increases in extension, headroom and sparkle above instead. Details were more abundant and the sound more complex, yet also with less sharpness. The stage width matched the Ares II but with improvements to depth and height alongside a more holographic imaging experience.

Comparisons –

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 (1499): TheSolaris offers a similar midrange voicing paired with a cleaner bass tuning and slightly brighter treble giving it a more vibrant, contrasted sound. The Axiom is bassier with a fuller, warmer voicing. The Solaris has greater sub-bass focus and weight being cleaner and more separated. It delivers a more defined rumble and slam and a tighter and faster decaying note presentation. The Axiom has greater mid-bass impact, delivering a harder-hitting attack but a slower decay and fuller body. It sounds a more textured and equally dynamic, but less composed on faster tracks. Within the midrange, both are surprisingly similar. The Axiom sounds warmer, fuller and more laid-back while the Solaris is tonally cleaner, more revealing and mids are in better balance to the bass. Both are articulate and glossy with evident colouration. The Solaris has better separation and slightly better resolution of fine details.

The Axiom is more powerfully voiced and a hair more natural, it has greater coherence that will suit those wanting a more structured sound. Both earphones have an energetic and detailed treble, the Solaris 2020 being brighter overall. The Axiom has a more focused foreground with a more defined leading edge. Meanwhile, the Solaris has a thinner, more delicate note structure and considerably more air in the mid treble. It has a more evident shimmer and greater separation. That said, both resolve fine details similarly well, albeit with differing presentations. The Solaris 2020 has a bit more micro-detail and greater headroom while the Axiom sounds more focused and less coloured with a cleaner, more contrasted background. The Solaris 2020 takes the win on soundstage dimensions and has more holographic imaging. However, the Axiom does layer better and has slightly more accurate distance portrayal.

MMR Homunculus ($1699): The Homunculusis also a slightly warm-leaning earphone but assumes a more balanced approach. While both are full with a mid-bass focus, the Homunculus has a more balanced quantity, the Axiom being immediately bassier. The Axiom has the more aggressive driver, the Homunculus is natural, even and has a balanced attack and decay. Meanwhile, the Axiom attacks more assertively and decays at a similar, perhaps slightly slower pace. It has a thicker texture and greater dynamics. The Homunculus has better separation and a smoother, more balanced presentation. This rings true for the midrange too where the Homunculus has a more balanced presence, perhaps even a slight vocal forwardness depending on what you are accustomed to. The Axiom is warmer, fuller and more laid-back by comparison.

Yet, it is also more articulate, so clarity is actually slightly higher on the Axiom. It sounds less natural and linear but more contrasted. The Homunculus has only a light warmth but overall sounds much cleaner and more balanced. It has a more natural voicing and timbre but is less engaging in so doing. The Homunculus has slightly higher resolution. The treble is superbly linear on the Homunculus and offers strong extension. The Axiom is crisper and more energetic, treble stands out more due to its more laid-back midrange rather than forwardness. The Axiom has more bite and crispness, but the Homunculus does have greater speed and fine detail retrieval if less definition. The Homunclus sounds a bit wispier due to its EST drivers while the Axiom is more grounded albeit with less headroom. The Homunculus has a slightly larger stage but the Axiom has sharper imaging to my ears.

Lime Ears Pneuma (1800 EUR): We’re now heading into the price range of the Axiom + cable. The Pneuma is a good alternative, including a PW Audio cable in the box and a 5-driver hybrid design. It has an adjustable bass boost, achieving similar bass quantity with it on and being more balanced with bass boost off – which I will use for comparison due to personal preference. The Pneuma is a cleaner, more dynamic IEM. It has a cleaner bass boost with equal sub and mid-bass focus. Though still lightly warm, it has much better separation than the Axiom and it more defined, articulate and dynamic. The Axiom has a harder hitting mid-bass but appears slightly less composed altogether. Its primary advantage would be its fuller tuning that some may enjoy but the Pneuma is the more technically accomplished performer.

The midrange occupies a more balanced position on the Pneuma with the Axiom being more laid-back. As below, the Pnuema has a cleaner tonality, better balance and also better resolution of fine details. The Axiom has a warmer, fuller voicing with stronger coherence. Do note as well that the Pneuma is a touch on the lean side which some may not enjoy. Both are articulate, the Axiom being glossier and more coloured here too. Both have a 5k bump, it is more balanced on the Pneuma. The Axiom is brighter and crisper with a slightly more defined leading edge. Both are similarly detailed here with difference presentations. Both also have a cleaner, darker background, the Pnuema has a bit more air and headroom that said. The Pneuma has a slightly wider stage while the Axiom is deeper. Both have sharp imaging, the Axiom is more coherent, the Pneuma more layered.

Fir Audio M4 ($1899): The M4 is a similarly tuned earphone with a brighter top-end and cleaner tonality. The M4 has a slightly more deep-bass focused low-end, trading fullness for weight and boldness. It has a more affirmative sub-bass slam and more defined rumble while the Axiom is fuller but less separated and dynamic. The M4 is more responsive and defined with greater texture. The Axiom takes a step back on technical performance in favour of a warmer tonality. The M4 has a more present midrange that sits in better balance with its bass. It has a cleaner tonality and greater clarity due to its more present upper-midrange. The Axiom is denser, more coherent and more laid-back. It is much warmer and fuller, so the two represent very different styles of presentation.

The M4 has excellent resolution but some may find it lean or cool. The Axiom caters to such with its structured and more filled-in note structure. At the same time, it doesn’t have the same separation and clarity despite being just as articulate. The treble is thinner and brighter on the M4. However, it is also a fair deal more detailed with more fine detail and better extension. The Axiom is more foreground focused with a darker, cleaner background but also less background detail. The M4 is sparklier and more energetic but its brightness and detail-forward nature won’t appeal to the same listeners that would enjoy the cleaner, non-fatiguing Axiom. The M4 has a larger soundstage and sharper imaging but the Axiom isn’t too far behind here.

Verdict –

I will preface my thoughts by reinforcing that I believe the Axiom is a serious, thought out product. It is beautifully designed, and the MU system is well-implemented from both functionality and usability standpoints. Furthermore, the sound quality lives up to the high-end pricing. It has a fun, engaging yet non-fatiguing tuning just as the company set out to achieve. Bass is textured with a great sense of drive while mids are coherent albeit laid-back. Highs are especially curious, being crisp and highly defined yet whilst avoiding sharpness and glare. This is where the Axiom will find its niche amongst other high-end IEMs where bright, revealing signatures are commonplace. If you are looking for an exceptionally well-built and detailed earphone with a fun-sized bass but are sensitive to treble, this is surely a strong candidate.

My main gripe ultimately comes down to value as the Axiom feels appropriately performing around its asking price but not quite up to par once the price of a cable is factored in. While I can get behind the message of sustainability, this shouldn’t come at the buyer’s expense from a value point of view. In transparency, the audio enthusiast part of me is in full support of bespoke cables; they’re creative, often an ergonomic upgrade and offer a valuable source of fine-tuning to exact preference. However, few would argue that it is the most cost-effective investment for those wanting to maximise sound quality. Not including a custom cable with the Axiom takes what could have been a great value proposition to a dubious one. The Axiom is a great earphone with a questionable pricing model. It remains a beautifully designed and built IEM with a unique sound tuning that makes a lot more sense if you already have cables on hand.

The Axiom is available from Effect Audio (International) for $1499 USD at the time of writing. I am not affiliated with Effect Audio and receive no earnings from purchases made through these links.

Track List – 

Billie Eilish – dont smile at me

Bob Seger – Night Moves

Courtney Barnett – Rae Street

Cream – Wheels of Fire

Dire Straits – Communique

Dirty Loops – Next To You

Eagles – Hotel California

Elton John – Honky Chateau

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

H.E.R – I Used To Know Her

Jasen – BYE

John Mayer – Continuum

Kanye West – Ye

Missy Higgins – The Sound of White

Radiohead – OK Computer

TALA – ain’t leavin` without you

The Beatles – Abbey Road

The weeknd – After Hours

Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

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