Pneuma – Lime Ears’ new flagship in audiophile town!
PROS: Build quality, premium unique Signature Lime Ears stock shell design, comfortable fit, well balanced-musical sound signature, fun Ti DD sub-bass rumble and BA mid-bass punch, natural sounding midrange with good tonality, good quality treble tuning, good punchy note weight as well as resolution and instrument definition, premium PW Audio No. 10 cable and Pelican 1010 case.
CONS: Nitpicking – More musical than outright technical which can be seen as a pro or a con depending on preferences. IMO, a bit of zingy boost in upper treble could’ve been the icing on top of an already fun sound signature (cake?). Even though it comes with 3 different types of premium branded ear tips, I think more ear tip options like Azla Sedna, Spiral Dots, Final-E etc. can be included in the asking price to offer more options for fit and signature tweaking, especially since they pair even better than the stock ones.
I would like to thank Lime Ears for sending me Pneuma to test and review. I am not affiliated with the company or any of its sellers and write this review with an unbiased opinion regardless of how the review turns out.
I majorly listen to rock, acoustic, pop, metal, and sometimes popular EDM songs doing the rounds on the charts.
About Lime Ears.
Lime Ears was started by Emil Stolecki who is himself a musician, bass player as well as an Acoustics Engineer by education. In case you haven’t noticed, Lime is basically Emil spelt backwards. They are based out of Warsaw, Poland and have a very simple but intriguing line up of 5 models, Λ (lambda), Ψ (psi), Model X, Aether R and Pneuma. Lime Ears cater to both pro-musicians and audiophiles, and make CIEMs as well as universal models with very attractive and intriguing designs. Some of Poland and Europe’s breakthrough metal bands like Katatonia and Decapitated endorse Lime Ears and can be seen sporting their IEMs at their concerts.
- One 7mm Titanium dynamic driver for sub-bass
- Four balanced armature drivers
- Four-way passive hybrid crossover
- Switchable subwoofer dynamic driver
- Utilizing VariBore and BAM technology.
Lime Ears’ philosophy for tuning Pneuma.
In my chats with Emil talking about Pneuma, he told me that he not only wanted to create a hybrid IEM that is tuned to be fun, enjoyable and musical but also one that sounds natural with good tonality and timbre of instruments and low-end that is more pronounced and punchier than any other Lime Ears monitor they’ve created. Also, with him being an acoustics engineer, he’s always looking to create IEMs with a realistic sense of space and close to how different speakers react in different acoustic spaces/rooms.
With the Covid-19 lockdowns in place, they experimented with multiple dynamic drivers and crossover points to achieve the bass sound production he was wanting. After multiple prototypes, they finalised on a 7mm Titanium dynamic driver which is specifically made for Lime Ears as per their specs. What is interesting is that they decided to tune it to only handle the sub-bass section for that natural DD sub-bass rumble and dynamics while a complimenting dual-Balanced Armature was tuned to handle the rest of the bass range.
Lime Ears Tech Inside.
Lime Ears have implemented some new tech that they’ve named and trademarked as BAM™ (Backfiring Acoustically-damped Membrane) which is basically them utilising the energy radiated by back of the transducers membrane. This engineering solution was inspired by bass reflex enclosures of studio monitors and produced extraordinary results as per Emil’s R&D. Additionally dynamic woofer has been damped with carefully selected open-cell memory foam which helped decrease acoustic resonances inside of the enclosure, which in turn improves stereo separation and helps the soundstage to go deeper and wider.
Pneuma also has Lime Ears standard Varibore tech which is an acoustical design of utilising different diameter sound bores for each frequency band. For example, they use 2mm bore for high frequencies in combination with internal acoustical damping which results in open sounding smooth highs.
THE SWITCH – Switch changes level of lowest frequencies. Lime Ears say that it is approx. 3-6dB < 100Hz but I perceive a 4-5dB low-shelf boost at around 150-200Hz (if you aren’t aware how a low-shelf boost looks in a Parameteric EQ, please google). It is implemented to provide flexibility for the following,
- As a compensation switch as per the Fletcher-Munson curve theory. Basically at lower volumes, human ears don’t hear the bass quantity as nicely and for that you can flip the bass switch up to give the bass a slight boost for it to be more audible.
- To manipulate the bass level according to the quality of bass in the recording. If the bass quantity in a song isn’t as much as you like, it can increase its strength. On the other hand, if the material is not mixed properly and lows become boomy and get out of control, they can be trimmed down.
- To compensate for external noise levels. For example, if you are using your IEM in a noisy environment: airplane, subway, etc., where the low-end noise masks the lows, you can use the switch to make up for that.
Included in the box.
Lime Ears Pneuma’s box is simple but stylish with tasteful usage of the colour green here and there because after all we’re talking about a brand called ‘LIME’. As soon as you open the classy cardboard box with Lime Ears branding, you’re welcomed by a Pelican 1010 case put in lime green confetti which actually looks like a bed of grass. Even the included Spin Fits are different shades of green to denote their size. Here is a list of all that Pneuma box contains –
- Pelican 1010 case
- Cloth lace pouch x 2 (One for ear tips and one for IEM+cable)
- Ear tips – 3 Symbio W hybrids | 4 Green-coloured Spin Fits | 1 Comply Foam
- Cleaning tool
- Emil Stolecki business card
- Warranty card
Shells – Pneuma comes stock with a newly developed ‘Signature Lime Ears design’ inspired by sacred geometry and seed of life patterns, which is very cool because Lime Ears Signature designs are otherwise €100 extra per side. The diffused multi-colour design funnily reminds me of Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto era where the band’s stage as well as the instruments were painted in similar trippy colours by an artist called Paris. I liked that so much that I even contemplated painting one of my Stratocasters in a similar way. Since that would’ve been an expensive affair and could’ve gone south real bad, I think Pneuma will safely fill that artistic hole in my life of having something I owned painted in similar cool trippy colours. Jokes aside, Pneuma’s design is one of nicest innovative and artistic stock shell designs I’ve come across recently which doesn’t demand a massive upcharge as it is included in the stock pricing. It is also unique enough for everyone to recognise the IEM from a quick look.
The build quality of the shells are top notch. They are made out of resin but the way they are hand-made and lacquered makes them seem more solidly built than a lot of other universal resin IEMs I’ve tried. Maybe their weight adds on to that confidence as the shells have a reassuring weight but aren’t heavy per se. The artistic colouring, cool grainy ‘Seed of Life’ pattern and overall finishing on these shells is very well thought out and executed. All curves and contours are very smooth. Lime Ears logo and Pneuma’s ∩ logo on top part of the shell is also very nicely implemented with the same grainy font as the Seed of life pattern.
Nozzles – What I want to point out is Lime Ears’ attention to detail which is very nicely seen in their usage of their characteristic smoke coloured metal nozzles which come on all their universal IEMs. Now they could’ve gone with simple resin nozzles which would’ve been a continuation of the resin body and cost them nothing extra to make but they made the effort of going and asking multiple CNC-milling companies to make these nozzles to their specifications, where only one of them agreed to do it for the small quantities Lime Ears were wanting to order. The nozzles are very nicely milled, plated with Ruthenium and finished to perfection. The nozzles take on ear tips really well and have a nice lip to hold them in place. The quality of the nozzles instils confidence and negates my fear of accidentally chipping the resin when tip rolling like a madman.
Here’s something funny – Emil told me that the galvanisation process is carried out by a bunch of badass old ladies smoking cigarettes in an old mill on the outskirts of Warsaw. He went into detail of how the mill is old and vintagey and how those ladies work in there. I can’t tell you the kind of vivid image that story created in my mind. It was like they were in a Guy Ritchie movie! Lol! For this reason, I’ve been pushing Emil to start a blog of his own with such stories, to give us all more insight into the inner world of Lime Ears and the IEM manufacturing business. He surely has a knack for storytelling.
Cable – Since this is Pneuma’s flagship IEM, they decided to include a premium cable in the package – PW Audio No. 10, which is PW Audio’s 10 Anniversary edition cable. PW Audio has kept the materials used in making this cable a mystery and the only information known publicly is that the cable features single crystal OCC wires and that it uses four 24AWG thickness conductors with a fibre core for extra strength. This is a very nice addition because I think all IEMs in this price range should come with nice premium stock cables like this but a lot of them sadly don’t. The cable is very supple, easy to wrap with nice good quality 2-pin connectors and gold plated jack. The chin slider has PW Audio logo on one side and Lime Ears logo on the other. What is most important is that Pneuma pairs very nicely with this cable and I kinda preferred the ergonomics and pairing of this cable with Pneuma over many other 3rd part premium cables I own.
Case – It’s the popular Pelican 1010 case which is one of my favourite IEM carrying cases too. They are extremely well built and comfortably store the Pneuma, cable and ear tips.
Fit, Comfort and Noise Isolation
Pneuma fits my ears very comfortably owing to its ergonomic semi-custom shell design, which is better than Aether R for my ears. Pneuma’s shells are a smidgen bigger than Aether R’s but it is the shell depth mainly that fills up my concha better and along with the optimum nozzle length, helps provide a very nice snug fit. They remain comfortable for hours on a stretch. Isolation depends on the choice of ear tips but for me personally, tips like Symbio W, INAIRS foam, Comply foam, Azla Sedna, etc, provide isolation close to what I get with CIEMs.