Elysian Acoustics Pilgrim Review: A Step Along the Journey

Elysian Acoustics a boutique IEM brand from Malaysia that's produced a number of highly acclaimed IEMs. However, they often cost a few thousand dollars and production can take quite a bit of time. Enter the Pilgrim. At $400, it offers a taste of the Elysian Acoustics sound at a fraction of the price. How well does that promise hold true? Fc-Construct takes a look.

Elysian Acoustics Pilgrim Review: A Step Along the Journey


Despite the explosion of awesome IEMs at evermore affordable prices, higher end brands are often still out of reach for many in the hobby. Even so-called “entry level” products like the recent 64 Audio Aspire 4 starts at $899, an eye-watering price for those not yet accustomed to the depths of this hobby. So it was a very pleasant surprise when Elysian Acoustics, a boutique brand from Malaysia known for some of the most lauded IEMs in the scene (such as the $1,600 Diva and $3,000 Annihilator) released a $400 IEM, it drew immediate attention.

Said $400 IEM is the Elysian Acoustics Pilgrim running a 1 DD + 4 BA driver set-up. To hit this price, Elysian Acoustics partnered with Singaporean cable maker Effect Audio to increase production and match anticipated demand. As part of their partnership, there also exists a Pilgrim Noir version with more explicit Effect Audio branding. Unfortunately, you will have to pay double the luxury tax with the Noir as it costs $800. I’ll be focusing this review on the Pilgrim as that was the only one sent to me. If I get the Noir in, I’ll (probably) do a comparison over at The Headphone Show on YouTube, so make sure you subscribe to stay up-to-date if you’re interested.

Source(s) used: Ferrum ERCO Balanced DAC and Headphone Amplifier and Apple USB-C dongle

My Elysian Acoustics Pilgrim unit was provided by Effect Audio (through HiFiGo) for review.

What we like

  • Relaxed midrange tuning that’s excellent for male vocals
  • Clean, well-extended treble that’s sparkly without being peaky
  • Tasteful bass shelf with good bass depth and impact

What we don’t like

  • A bit too much 1.5 kHz elevation can make vocals sound a touch honky
  • Pentaconn connectors make cable swapping potentially expensive

Build and Fit

Part of the reason Elysian Acoustics and Effect Audio were able to make the Pilgrim cheaper was to use standardized stainless steel shells rather than the one-of-a-kind resin artworks found in the previous models. It’s pretty cool, but the ridges on the faceplate are sharp against the skin. Oh, and it seems to be fairly susceptible to scratches, unfortunately.

As for accessories, it’s a standard affair.

  1. An Elysian Acoustics branded white carrying case
  2. A set of S/M/L SpinFit tips
  3. A black cleaning brush and microfiber cloth
  4. An Effect Audio branded 2-core silver plated copper cable. As expected of Effect Audio, this is one of the nicest stock cables I’ve ever touched. While you have a choice between a 3.5 and 4.4 mm terminations, you are stuck with Pentaconn connectors for the Pilgrim. If you’re unfamiliar with Pentaconn, it’s essentially a better version of MMCX. But due to its rarity, it means that you’ll have to hunt for cables that support it. Not that I would change out this cable.

In terms of fit and comfort, I found the Pilgrim to be OK. The fit was straightforward as the Pilgrim’s shells are ergonomic enough that I didn’t even notice it. However, the angle and size of the nozzle were felt. At 6 mm, it’s not the largest nozzle out there but it certainly didn’t disappear into my ear. You’re going to want to tip roll a bit for best results.

Sound and Frequency Response

Here is the frequency response of the Elysian Acoustics Pilgrim taken using my IEC-711 clone coupler. As usual, treble measurements particularly past the ~ 8 kHz peak are not accurate. The wide grey bands are preference bounds from research that show the limits of how much deviation/tonal colour a headphone or IEM could have from DF HRTF that people still found acceptable without it starting to be perceived as imbalanced. Here’s a great video primer if you want to know more about what that means.

In both the calibrated and raw views, we can see that the Pilgrim is a well-balanced IEM with a pronounced 1.5 kHz hump and significantly relaxed 3 - 4 kHz region. It’s not a new tuning by any means, but it’s one that is relatively less common in the IEM market. It’s particularly intriguing as it’s a bit of a reversal from the newer measurement standards where there’s a de-emphasis at 1 - 2 kHz and increased attention for the 3 kHz peak. As such, I go into this IEM not from the lens of wanting neutrality but rather seeing how these eccentricities play out in my enjoyment of music.


When I think of the Elysian house sound, I think of a big, bombastic bass response. This is the experience I’ve had with each of their IEMs that I’ve tried. This is where the Pilgrim makes its first deviation from the Elysian formula. The Pilgrim doesn’t deliver the same explosive punch as its older brothers. Instead, the Pilgrim aims more for depth and body with a very tastefully tuned bass shelf that ends at 150 Hz to seamlessly transition into the lower mids. It’s more impactful and digs deeper into the subbass than most other IEMs and as such, I would classify it as above average, especially for this price class. However, I did expect a bit more from the 9.3 mm LSR driver that was advertised. I would’ve liked a sharper leading transient edge just to give note definition an extra bit of clarity on the beater head of a kick drum, for example, to contrast the deep, resounding body that the Pilgrim provides.


The first thing I noticed with the mids is how relaxed it is. There’s a subtle recession in the upper mids to subdue vocal energy. Yet vocals are still perfectly clear and pushed slightly forward in the mix. This is a product of that 1.5 kHz hump that plateaus into the 4 kHz as seen on the raw graph. It makes male vocals stand out in particular, though female vocals can come off as a touch honky.

Compared to newer IEMs like the MoonDrop Dusk and DUNU x Gizaudio DaVinci, the Pilgrim’s mids will undoubtedly come off as coloured. However, I find it to be a rather pleasant colouration. That earlier ear gain imparts a certain grittiness and texture with instruments like the electric guitars. It’s an engaging, easy-to-listen to IEM that works great for slower, ballad-like recordings but still holds its own in energetic tracks. My only nitpick is that I find myself taking the Pilgrim out every now and then to let my ears “breathe” a bit from the persistent warmth that it presents.


The other call of an Elysian Acoustics IEM is its treble response. They all carry a well-extended, sparkly, and sometimes, intense treble. The Pilgrim inherits the better two of those characteristics. It’s bright and reaches far into the upper treble with a sparkling treble that doesn’t come off as peaky or harsh in any way. While I think the sparkly-ness can be a tad artificial sounding, the Pilgrim definitely has one of the best controlled treble responses in an IEM, especially under $500.

It manages this by having a slightly elevated lower/mid treble that provides the necessary sharpness to give instruments a clear note definition. It’s a particularly important feature of the Pilgrim to help balance out the 3 - 4 kHz recession in the upper mids. It’s clarity, but in a different form. As we approach the upper treble, the Pilgrim slopes off in a very tactful manner. Treble notes have a subdued brilliance; not too bright or overpowering, but still very much present and contributing. I find that while some IEMs made to be bright do technically “extend” deep, it’s often a farce. They do so with excessive peaks between valleys that comes off as timbrally imbalanced. With the Pilgrim, it’s first a focus on the attack, then an accentuation of the shimmer and decay. This keeps the Pilgrim’s treble sounding whole and coherent, and is why I think it’s an excellent take on treble implementation.


The staging of the Pilgrim is average. Good horizontal width with no height or depth. Imaging is decent in placing instruments relatively in the stereo field and gives some separation so notes aren’t smushed together. Overall, it is a bit flat feeling.

As for resolution and detail retrieval, it’s about what I’d expect from a good IEM at this price. It’s not a standout quality of the Pilgrim, but at the same time, I don’t get the sense that I’m missing out on too many notes. Sometimes I’ll hear an extra couple of notes in a riff or passage that I normally don’t notice and that’s about it. From a technical standpoint, what I most appreciate about Pilgrim is the increased dynamics from the subbass weight. It’s not much, but it does add an extra layer of enjoyablity when notes land.

Comparisons to the Effect Audio x Elysian Acoustics Gaea

The first IEM from Elysian Acoustics I properly reviewed was the $1,300 Gaea. I consider it to be the most extra of the Elysian IEMs I’ve heard. It’s an intense listen where it seems that every part of it is turned up to 11. In that sense, the Pilgrim is a shadow of the Gaea. It practices much more restraint, particularly in the upper mids where there’s significantly less energy. The bass and treble are similarly tuned down, both in volume but also in technical ability. The Pilgrim has less dynamic impact, resolution, and staging ability. Where the Gaea is meant to be an attention-grabbing showcase of what “high end” is, the Pilgrim is more down to earth. Yet I would actually consider the Pilgrim to be a better everyday carry sort of IEM as the high intensity of the Gaea can start to become fatiguing, especially if your library is already full of energetic tracks.

All of this to say that I think the Pilgrim does carry the vision and DNA of its creator. It doesn’t seem to be a product made just to fill a spot in the market, like so many collab products seem to be doing nowadays. To me, the Pilgrim is a genuine attempt at releasing something that bridges the gap between the somewhat cookie-cutter fare of (admittedly great) budget IEMs and the more boutique, esoteric world of higher-end products. The Pilgrim Noir at $800 on the other hand… that, I’m more weary of.

Should You Buy It?

Maybe. If you’re interested in buying the Pilgrim, you’re probably a few layers deep into the hobby already. Not many people start with a $400 IEM you can only buy from a specific Chinese storefront. As such, I think the Pilgrim has value as a unique, but still very sensible, alternative tuning style to what’s on the market. The better than average bass quality and excellent treble control wraps all of it up in a neat little bow. For those curious about the Elysian Acoustics sound, the Pilgrim is a nice little sampler at a relatively affordable price without committing to the full course like the Gaea. But in the grand scheme of the ever-competitive IEM market, the Pilgrim doesn’t do enough to set itself up as a strong recommendation.

Of course, people often ask for comparisons. Personally, I’m not compelled to give an in-depth comparison with other recently hyped up IEMs like the DaVinci, Thieaudio Hype 4, MoonDrop x Crinacle DUSK, or Hisenior Mega5EST as they are fundamentally a different type of IEM. Those IEMs are variations of a similar goal - endgame neutrality in the midrange (per updated tuning guidelines courtesy of the B&K5128). The Pilgrim has set out to achieve something a little different, something with more contrast to paw at your perspective of music. And I think that’s perfectly fine. If you get the Pilgrim, it probably won’t be your first, nor will it be your last. As its name implies, it’s an IEM that represents the audiophile’s journey. It’s a pitstop, one that is worth visiting if you have a chance.

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