July 18, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA
Headphones

Audio Effect PILGRIM NOIR Review

Today, Thomas reviews the Effect Audio PILGRIM NOIR, which is a 4-unit collaborative hybrid IEM featuring a special edition EROS S:NOIR cable. It is priced at $799.

Disclaimer: This sample was sent to me in exchange for my honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links or services. I appreciate Audio effects & Elysian Acoustic Laboratories for your support.

Click here to read more about Audio effects and Elysian Acoustic Laboratories Previously reviewed gear on Headfonics, click here.

Please note that this article follows our current scoring guidelines which you can read in more detail here.

PILGRIM NOIR Audio Effect Review Featured Image

Audio Effect PILGRIM NOIR Review

Summary

The $799 Effect Audio PILGRIM NOIR has a smooth but attractive signature, strong visual appeal, premium cable, and excellent build quality. It's a very good IEM and well worth a listen.

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8.3

Advantages

Excellent detail and clarity.

Corrects the treble harshness and sibilance of the standard PILGRIM.

Cable materials, construction and feature set.

Cons

Only one TermX connector is provided.

Cable noise and memory a little high.

Should include a more varied tip selection at this price.

Effect Audio is best known for its extensive section of audiophile cables, with some IEMs and associated products completing the line.

One of their most recent releases is PILGRIM NOIR, a collaborative effort with Elysian Acoustic Labs that utilizes their newly released PILGRIM as a basis for a more premium and higher performance version.

To create PILGRIM NOIR, a slightly modified cable was recruited from Effect Audio's Signature Series line. A second armor was called in to assist with media, a single armor replaced the dual configuration and an improved crossover was installed.

It's clear that the PILGRIM NOIR was derived from the original PILGRIM in more than just looks, but with notable upgrades and enhancements across the board. This elevates PILGRIM's strong design and philosophy to keep them competitive in a higher price range.

PILGRIM NOIR Audio Effect wrapped in cablePILGRIM NOIR Audio Effect wrapped in cable

Characteristics

The PILGRIM:NOIR uses the same dynamic driver as the standard PILGRIM but with significant changes to the drivers that handle the mids and highs.

To help bolster the midrange, a second Sonion 2300 was installed so that one could embellish the low-mid frequencies and the other the high-mid frequencies. This serves to give the Noir a meatier, denser midrange presence.

The treble was also changed, with a single Knowles armature of a new, undamped design taking the reins. This results in a smoother and more refined presentation compared to the previous Sonion-based setup.

The PILGRIM's 3-way crossover has also been replaced with a 4-way unit. This change allows for low-mid and high-mid frequency splitting between the two midrange armatures to foster a fuller, fuller sounding headphone.

The last significant feature change was the cable, swapping the excellent original model for a slightly modified version of the Eros S from Effect Audio's Signature series of cables.

While the original cable uses silver-plated copper wiring, the Eros S:NOIR uses a combination of Pure Silver Litz and Pure Copper Litz wires and features the ConX and TermX modular plug designs.

PILGRIM NOIR Audio Effect cable attachedPILGRIM NOIR Audio Effect cable attached

Design

The aesthetics of the PILGRIM NOIR match the name, with a blacked-out casing resulting in a stealthy earphone. It retains the hillock-inspired crests found on the original PILGRIM, as well as the six vents surrounding the centralized logo.

Since it shares similar dimensions to the standard PILGRIM, the Noir looks even more like the Aria MOON DROP 2021, but bigger in all dimensions. Shell depth is a particular area where PILGRIM NOIR excels.

The compact size of this headset is impressive, especially considering the number of drivers inside, as well as the crossover and Pentaconn connectors. That said, it's not as compact as the model it's based on, which has a welcome advantage that I'll get to later.

The PILGRIM NOIR is a well-built headset with gold-plated mouthpieces, minimal gaps between the various parts of the housings, and correctly aligned parts without excess glue. The mouthpiece mesh, something that can be easily misaligned out of the box, sits exactly where it should and protects the interior from dust and dirt.

While the fit and finish isn't all that different from the more affordable PILGRIM, that's not bad. I can think of several IEMs in the same or higher price ranges that fail to match the overall quality of the PILGRIM NOIR, such as the HIFIMAN RE2000 Silver or Audiofly AF1120 MKII.

The PILGRIM NOIR is a sleek, subtle headphone with an attractive design that looks as good in the ear as it does in the hand.

PILGRIM NOIR shells Audio EffectPILGRIM NOIR shells Audio Effect

Comfort and isolation

The standard PILGRIM was comfortable, but the shell caused comfort issues thanks to a sharp edge that rubbed against the ear, limiting the time I could wear it. PILGRIM NOIR has solved this problem.

While it is not drastic, nor is it something that is noticeable to the naked eye, the PILGRIM NOIR is thicker than the standard PILGRIM. The extra depth is enough to keep the sharp edge on the back of the shell away from the outer ear, resulting in a headset I can wear for hours without problems.

This also helps me appreciate the gentle curves along the inner shell that rest gently against the outer ear. The more or less standard 6.1mm nozzle is perfect for tip rolling, as countless third-party options will fit.

The isolation was unexpectedly extraordinary. I say this because six vents adorn the exterior faceplate. While they do let outside noise in, it's considerably less than other less well-ventilated IEMs I've used.

The warehouse I currently work in can be quite noisy thanks to the forklifts and various processing areas active throughout the day. Despite this, only a moderate increase in volume is necessary to listen to it at comfortable levels.

However, like the standard PILGRIM, the locked frequencies are mostly high and low, with midtones standing out more prominently. I have experienced this phenomenon with other aluminum body IEMs, but not all.

Tips

I can't comment on the quality or performance of the included tips as this review sample does not come with any accessories. However, buyers can expect to receive SpinFit W1 tips in s/m/l sizes.

I tried the PILGRIM NOIR with several tips of different styles. For small diameter tips, I selected Sony Hybrids and SpinFit CP100.

These tips emphasized the warmth and thickness of the PILGRIM NOIR's lows and mids and provided a more intimate experience. The extra length of the CP100 helped provide a more secure fit and better isolation than the Sony set.

KZ's SpinFit CP145 and Starline tips represented the mid-bore style. The CP145 performed similarly to the CP100, but with more emphasis on the upper mids rather than the lower mids and low mids, while the Starline shifted the focus to the sub-bass with weaker isolation.

Campfire Audio's standard silicone tips and ADV's Eartune Fidelity round out the large bore options. Both reduced the thickness of the mid-bass, lightened the mids while increasing the brightness of the treble, and provided a more spacious sound, but this came at the expense of slight fatigue.

Overall, I found the CP145 to be the best option. They were the most comfortable, provided the best insulation, and let the PILGRIM NOIR's exceptional midrange shine.

PILGRIM NOIR Audio Effect cablePILGRIM NOIR Audio Effect cable

common wire

Effect Audio's Eros S:NOIR cable replaces the silver-plated copper model included with the standard PILGRIM. The gray case of the regular Eros S was changed to black, maintaining the blacked out theme of the PILGRIM NOIR.

The behavior of the case is satisfactory. Tangle resistance is good, but there is memory, so traces of bends and kinks are preserved.

The noise of the cable is also noticeable if it rubs or hits something. There is a chin strap to help secure the fit, which reduces but does not eliminate cable noise.

Inside the case is Pure Silver Litz and Pure Copper Litz wiring. This selection is supposed to provide improved bass performance, a wide soundstage, and greater clarity.

The straight aluminum connector has an attractive angular design and contains Effect Audio's TermX modular plug system. With PILGRIM NOIR, you can choose between balanced 3.5mm single-ended or 4.4mm options, with other terminations available separately.

The aluminum Y-split is a stunning sight with an angular design surrounding a forged carbon fiber insert with gold flake highlights. Just above it is an aluminum strip that acts as a chin strap.

Further up the cable are preformed ear guides. They feature the same aggressive curve as the standard PILGRIM cable, which is great as it does a fantastic job of keeping the cable secured behind your ear.

Finally, we have the Pentaconn plugs with an aluminum case and gold highlights. They fit tightly and sit naturally against the shell, looking quite satisfactory.

These also contain ConX modular plugs which allow you to swap out the Pentaconn plugs for something else if you want to use this cable elsewhere. However, you will have to purchase other plugs separately.

Overall, a high-quality, well-built cable with exceptional hardware and a welcome feature set. However, noise resistance and memory could be improved.

Packaging and accessories

Our PILGRIM NOIR sample was not provided with retail packaging or accessories. You should expect to receive the following with a retail example:

  • PILGRIM NOIR Headphones
  • Effect Audio Special Edition Eros S:NOIR Cable
  • Founders Note
  • Premium suede leather carrying case.
  • SpinFit W1 Ear Pads
  • The owner's manual
  • Cleaning kit
  • Warranty card

Click on page 2 below to see my sound impressions and recommended combinations.

Click on page 3 below to see my selected comparisons.

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