Tip rolling – Anima’s sound signature is heavily dependent on the ear tips you use. Its well designed long silver nozzle with a groove in the middle allows for heavy customisation of fit and insertion depth as you can either fit the tip all the way onto the nozzle or restrict it till the first groove, which results in different fits and substantial changes in FR. You can see how differently it graphs post 1kHz in the graph with Symbio W and Spinfit ear tips. I tip rolled Anima with a variety of different 3rd party eartips too, some of which I’ve covered in the sound analysis section. Also, I highly recommend trying eartips at the first groove as some help in expanding soundstage boundaries too.
I’ve used Harman Target as reference because Anima’s bass shelf follows Harman Target’s bass shelf (but has a bit more gain) and it makes for a good indicator of how Anima’s FR graphs relatively. I have them all matched at the bass shelf (250Hz to be exact) instead of the usual 1kHz to give a better idea and comparison of FR relative to each other.
Graphs are measured using an IEC60318-4 (IEC711) setup. You can compare all the graphs on my IEM Graph Database here – Animagus Squiglink.
Summary – The blue graph with Symbio W ear tips is indicative of how I hear Anima. Overall, Anima has a fun tuned W-shaped signature with a 11-12dB bass shelf below 200Hz, fuller lower-midrange in the 400-1kHz region because of an early rise of the pinna gain peak, forward upper-midrange with around 8-10dB pinna gain and a treble presentation which is well balanced but also one that is highly dependent on the choice of eartips (as you can see in the graph). You can have very different experiences depending on the choice of eartips, so I highly recommend rolling the tips.
It has really good rumble as well as spank but where Anima really impresses is with its spacious, holographic soundstage and spectacular imaging. Another thing that I personally like is that its signature allows one to hear it at average to louder volumes comfortably, which makes for an enthusiastic and engaging listen, while having impressive resolution and detail retrieval, which never disappoints in shining a light on the smallest details and nuances in songs.
Let’s dig in deeper…
Bass – Anima’s bass config is quite impressive as it has 1DD + 2BA + 2BA just for bass duties. Lime Ears say that in simplistic terms, the dynamic driver is tuned to play 0-40Hz, the 2BA subwoofer plays 40-120Hz and the 2BA bass driver plays 100-300Hz. Anima’s dynamic driver has acoustic lowpass (spout and acoustic damper), the 2BA subwoofer has an electric high-pass and acoustic low-pass, while the 2BA lows have electric high-pass and standard acoustic damping (that rolls off highs). The bass shelf not only boosts sub-bass but also mid-bass. Even though Anima has a 11-12 dB boost on paper, because of the forward upper-midrange and treble balance, it sits really nicely in its place and doesn’t overpower the mix or ever come in the way of other instruments. Overall, Anima has excellent rumble and slam with a fairly fast transient response, all thanks to the DD and 4BA sub-woofer combo which takes advantage of the best qualities of both driver technologies.
Mids – Anima has a fuller lower-midrange presentation compared to neutral since the pinna gain peak rises much earlier than 1kHz, at around 350Hz. Now one would imagine that it would skew the natural tonality of instruments quite a bit and add some honk in the signature, but it in fact only colours the tonality with warmth. Yet, overall Anima ends up sounding fairly sparkly and airy as the treble tuning takes care of keeping stuff sounding defined and clear. Anima has around 8-9dB pinna gain forward upper-midrange with Symbio W eartips. The dip around 4kHz however takes a bit of crunch and edge away, mainly from acoustic and distortion guitars, and further contributes to Anima’s warmer lower-half of the FR spectrum. Now if you’re used to listening to reference tuned IEMs based on Diffuse Field or Harman Target, you will feel that the instruments and vocals aren’t as forward or have as strong definition as those IEMs. But if you’re one who likes their pinna gain served on the easier side of those targets, you will find Anima is warmer and has a slightly relaxed and laid back presentation in comparison. Overall, Anima’s midrange tuning makes for a more coloured listen than reference-neutral.
Treble – Anima’s treble response is quite dependent on the choice of eartips. It is sparkly and airy with some and less with others. I personally prefer the eartips which have a sparkly and airy presentation, like BGVP A07, Azla Sedna Short, Spiral Dots, Final E and Softears Ultra Clear. The best thing here is that Lime Ears have managed to implement the EST drivers properly and has a nice sparkly and airy presentation with good treble extension on top. It primarily focuses on lower-treble and upper-treble, with the 16kHz upper-treble peak adding nice airiness to the signature, which not only makes songs exciting but also greatly helps with good resolution and detail retrieval, without ever coming off harsh or intrusive.
Technical Performance – I perceive a significant step up in technical performance over Lime Ears’ previous flagship – Pneuma, even though Pneuma was no slouch by itself. Soundstage width, airiness and openness is again dependent on the eartips you choose. Eartips which make Anima sound warmer and fuller have a slightly more intimate soundstage presentation because of the added warmth. Eartips like BGVP A07, Fearless Green Bore tips, Azla Sedna Short, etc. – which make it sound much more open and airy, also help it have a very open and wide soundstage. Also, fitting the tips on the first groove helps the shells move further apart, which in turn increases the perception of width. Anima has very good resolution and detail retrieval but what really impresses is the way it resolves definition and presence of each instrument in the song, how clearly their layering is perceived and how well they are separated. When it comes to tonal accuracy, Anima actually shoots for a more coloured and fun presentation than neutral-reference, which takes a bit away from true ‘instrument realism’ but nevertheless makes for quite an exciting and engaging listen.
Lime Ears Pneuma.
Pneuma is a hybrid with 1DD+4BA. I reviewed it 2 years back here. In comparison, Anima has 1DD+8BA+4EST. Both have unique Lime Ears signature tech inside but Anima is a much more complex build with 13 drivers, a 6-way crossover and a pure silver nozzle with unique ‘Organic Horn Nozzle’ geometry – which is an advancement on Pneuma’s Varibore nozzle tech. As a result, Anima’s shells are much bigger in size in comparison. On the other hand, Pneuma has a bass on/off switch which gives you two different signatures, one with a bigger bass boost. When it comes to sound – Pneuma has a more vibrant and energetic signature, which has more lower-treble energy and sparkle, while Anima is smoother, more refined but is also airier and has better treble extension. Contrary to what you see in the graph, these IEMs aren’t too bass heavy when you actually give them a listen since the forward upper-midrange and sparkly treble tuning take charge to make them sound vibrant, taking them away from sounding bass dominant. Anima’s bass presentation focuses more on sub-bass while Pneuma’s mid-bass and upper-bass are more boosted in comparison. Both have a warm and fuller lower-midrange than neutral but Anima is smoother and warmer of the too while Pneuma’s upper-midrange is more forward in comparison. Pneuma’s lower-treble is also sparklier than Anima’s while Anima sounds airier up top because of better upper-treble presence. Anima has a bigger soundstage with wider and deeper boundaries and provides a more holographic experience in comparison. Both have good resolution and detail retrieval capabilities but Anima does all of it while maintaining a smoother, more refined signature – which is easier on the ears for long listening sessions.
Lime Ears Aether R.
Aether R was Lime Ears’ flagship before Pneuma. I reviewed it here a couple of years back. It has 6BAs (double sub, double low, single mid, single high) and is their take on a more neutral-reference style signature, which borrows some cues from the Diffuse Field target but has Lime Ears’ own flavour and take on it. It has a bass switch like Pneuma, which Anima doesn’t. Aether R is a much leaner and brighter sounding IEM compared to Anima, with Aether R’s presentation being more like the Diffuse Field with the bass switch off and closer to 4-5dB of bass boost with the bass switch on. Anima has much more bass presence and lower-midrange fullness in comparison. Aether R’s bass has more BA bass attributes with quick transient response and precise delivery. In comparison, Anima’s bass makes best use of both worlds with DD like sub-bass and fast mid-bass response from the balanced armatures. Aether R’s upper-midrange is much more forward and its lower-treble is fairly bright in comparison. As a result, Aether R comes off sparkly with very strong instrument definition while Anima sounds smoother and is quite laid back in comparison. But on the other hand, Anima is much airier and has much better upper-treble extension. Aether R is no slouch when it comes to resolution and detail retrieval as its brighter character greatly helps in that regard but Anima does even better but with a smoother, more laid back signature in comparison. Anima has a bigger and deeper soundstage but also one which greatly depends on the ear tip you’ve chosen. Aether R’s soundstage and presentation is significantly cleaner but also much leaner in comparison owing to its brighter and leaner signature.
Empire Ears Odin.
Odin has 2DD+5BA+4EST and is one of the most popular IEMs in the $3k+ flagship segment. Odin comes with the OCC Copper Litz Strombreaker cable made in collaboration with PW Audio and Pentaconn. On the other hand, Anima comes with a graphene-coated silver-plated copper cable made in collaboration with Khanyayo and Viking Weave cables. Sound wise, Odin has a bass boosted neutral signature that follows the Harman Target quite closely. Odin overall has a cleaner and leaner signature with focus on neutrality, tonal accuracy and detail retrieval. Anima on the other hand has a fun signature with slightly more sub-bass, fuller lower-midrange, lesser pinna gain compared to Odin and airier upper-treble. Odin is slightly brighter in lower-treble but has more accurate tonality of instruments because of accurate pinna gain and peak rise at 1kHz. Odin has a more open and spacious soundstage because of a leaner signature, whereas Anima’s soundstage depends on your choice of eartips. With the eartips that promote an airy signature, width boundaries are similar but Odin has deeper depth. Odin has slightly better layering resolution and instrument definition whereas Anima has a more romantic and musical signature which is easier on the ears for longer sessions.
Vision Ears VE8.
Vision Ears VE8 has 8BAs (2xBass, 2xMids and 4xHighs) with a 3-way crossover. VE8 has a fuller midrange signature with sparkly lower-treble. Anima has more sub-bass rumble and has a more dynamic presentation. VE8 has fuller sounding mid-bass as well as upper-bass. VE8 has fuller than neutral lower-midrange in the 250-500Hz whereas Anima sounds fuller than neutral in the 500-1kHz. Vocals and instruments have a slightly more forward presentation in Anima because of more pinna gain. VE8 sounds a bit recessed in upper-midrange in comparison. VE8 is sparklier in lower-treble whereas Anima sounds slightly more even. Anima has better upper-treble extension and sound airier up top. VE8 has a wide soundstage presentation but it is Anima’s soundstage that sounds deeper and engulfs you more than VE8’s. Anima has slightly better detail retrieval and layering, primarily because of better upper-treble extension and a sense of airiness which shines a nice light on the small nuances and details in the songs. VE8’s lower-treble brightness does help with detail retrieval but also brings out vocal sibilance in some songs.
64 Audio U12t.
64 Audio U12t has 12BAs and is one of the most popular IEMs in the world, with one of the best VFM propositions as a TOTL IEM. So, I always deem it fit for a comparison regardless of the other TOTL IEM’s asking price. U12t has a bass boosted neutral signature but with slightly easier pinna gain compared to the Harman target. In comparison, Anima has a more fun and coloured signature and presentation. Even though U12t has BAs for bass, it has very DD-like rumble, slam and punch but Anima has slightly more sub-bass rumble because of a bigger bass shelf. Anima has a slightly warmer lower-midrange presentation but both have a similarly forward upper-midrange presentation. But it is U12t which sounds slightly more natural and has better tonality because of more accurate pinna gain peak rise at 1kHz, where Anima starts much earlier and ends up having a more coloured presentation as a result in comparison. Both have similar sparkle in lower-treble but Anima has slightly more presence around the 8kHz, which sometimes stands out in some songs but doesn’t sound harsh as such. Both are airy up top and have good treble extension but Anima has slightly better mid-treble response and presence. Anima has a slightly bigger soundstage as well as better layering resolution. U12t is no slouch and has excellent technical performance for its asking price.
With me having covered everything in detail, I reckon the main question I haven’t yet answered is – if Anima is worth its €3400 asking price. Frankly, I’m the guy who doesn’t really like exponentially rising, sky rocketing prices of audio products but I’m also the guy who will not tell ‘you’ how ‘you’ should be spending ‘your’ own hard earned money. The frank answer is that Anima is definitely a step up in build, tuning and technical performance compared to its preceding €2100 flagship IEM – Pneuma, and does manage to play in the big leagues of 64 Audio, Empire Ears and Vision Ears IEMs I’ve had the pleasure of hearing/testing, where it does some things better, while some not as well as others (which can be said for most of the IEMs in the competition as well). I as a musician/audio engineer and audio enthusiast personally think that top dollar TOTL products need to be the ultimate refinement in reference-accurate tuning with excellent natural tonality, timbre and technical performance, but am also aware that it’s not what everyone looks for in this highly subjective hobby, especially in the audiophile world. For that reason, I’ve tried taking a neutral and objective approach in my sound analysis and tried to limit myself to only explaining what I’m hearing with graph measurements as added support, for you to decide if Anima is for you or not.
For me, Anima is a fun and engaging IEM with good technical performance; one that I had quite a good time listening and testing. It’s an IEM that had a high engagement factor for me, making me want to keep listening to it and try it with my old music collection as well as discover new music with, with it being a musical and fatigue free listen for long sessions. There are some things tonally that takes it away from a neutral-reference tuning and likability of its fun and coloured tuning will all come down to personal preferences. I can definitely recommend auditioning it if you get the chance – something I recommend for all expensive products in general, be it audio or guitar gear. Do remember to keep your eartips handy and try it with a variety of tips since its signature is highly dependent on the eartips you choose – which is another thing that makes it quite an interesting IEM. If you’re interested, look out for tours that Lime Ears will be organising in the near future and be sure to let me know how you like it here in the comments if you do.