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HEADPHONES ⸜ earphone (IEM)

Lime Ears

Producent: LIME EARS
Price (when reviewed): 3400 EUR

Contact: Lime Ears Emil Stołecki
Ul. Kryniczna 32/5
03-934 Warszawa | POLSKA



Provided for test by: LIME EARS


images „High Fidelity”

No 224

January 1, 2023

LIME EARS is a Polish company founded in 2012 by EMIL STOŁECKI and KAROLINA ROMAN in Wrocław. It specializes in designing and building "personal monitor systems", i.e. headphones used by musicians on stage, and is currently based in Warsaw. We test its top model, ANIMA.

DON'T KNOW IF YOU HAD THE TIME AND THE OPPORTUNITY TO REACH FOR OUR reportage from this year's Audio Video Show (more → HERE). If not, I will briefly note that one of the most important trends noticed not only by me, but also by other magazines, was the extremely active presence of Polish manufacturers on it. In the summaries we have prepared on this occasion, both in the part regarding the MOST INTERESTING (PL) and the BEST (PL) products of the Show, Polish brands constituted a significant part, if not the majority.

And although the LIME EARS company, another Polish, unique manufacturer, was not in Warsaw this year, i will associate the AVS 2022 with its latest and most expensive product so far: earphones called ANIMA. The thing is that we met Emil Stołecki, its co-owner and designer, after one of the exhibition days in the lobby of the Sobieski Hotel. We saw each other in person for the first time and for the first time I saw the headphones themselves.


AND ITS SOMETHING TO LOOK AT. This is probably the first product of this company for which a completely new packaging has been designed. So far, these were great, but still "external" cases by Peli Products. The new box, made of stiff cardboard in black, with a colored insert "looking out" from the gap between the lid and the bottom, with an additional element put over the whole, with the screen-printed model's logo, is one of the prettiest I've seen recently. Just a few years ago, this would have been an extravagance. Today, after the lessons of the AV industry from companies whose most recognizable representative is Apple, packaging is no longer just an accessory, but an integral part of the product.

So, when we open the box, a blue greeting card catches our eye. And now - both the cardboard on which the greeting was printed, as well as the color and the word "Welcome" are perfectly matched. In fact, I couldn't have come up with a better idea myself. And immediately after that, we direct our eyes to the expressive green color with light-reflecting particles, which the body of the headphones is cover with. Company materials refer to it as "Bello Opal".

IEM or in-ear monitor headphones like the Anima are small. So for a long time it seemed difficult to make them so that they would simply catch the eye. And yet you can. And Lime Ears does it perfectly. The flat part, visible from the outside, is lighter, with the company logo on it, and the side edges - darker. The chamber outlets of the individual transducers are made of pure silver. Emil told me that it was very surprising how much the sound changed with the material from which this element was made. And silver seemed to him the most appropriate choice.

Together with the IEM we also get a set of tips that adjust the headphones to the ear. The silicone tips were packed separately, and others made of a material "remembering" shapes separately in a small box. In a separate, cloth bag we get two angular adapters. And these are not just any adapters. They feature rigid, milled aluminum bodies and gold-plated contacts, and they were made by ddHiFi. This brand belongs to DD ELECTRONICS TECHNOLOGY, a company from China's Guangzhou that has previously collaborated with both OPPO and FiiO.

Finally, there is a case in which you can keep our IEMs. Previously, we got them with great Pali Products cases. However, Anima is aimed more at premium users, and apparently it was recognized that it needed a different packaging, made of leather. The whole thing looks great, although vegans and vegetarians may turn their noses up.


ANIMA ARE SPECIAL TYPE OF HEADPHONES CALLED EARPHONES. In small enclosures, made of acrylic, we will find as many as sixteen drivers and a six-way crossover (!). Anime comes with a cable that wraps behind the ears. This type of design is called IEM, or IN-EAR MONITOR.

| In-Ear Monitor

LIME EARS IS A SPECIALIZED COMPANY focused on one type of product: in-ear headphones intended for professional use, as the so-called "personal stage monitors". It offers headphones of the highest quality and price range. As we wrote on the occasion of the Pneuma test, it is one of those Polish companies that are equally well known locally and globally. On stage, its characteristic, "customized" headphones can be seen in the ears of musicians of such bands as Katatonia, Decapitated, Happysad, Bokka, Lao Che, as well as Dawid Podsiadło’s.

⸜ Lime Ears IEMs, ANIMA (on the left) and PNEUMA.

Headphones of this type are called IEM, short for In-Ear Monitor. These are in-ear headphones used by musicians as personal monitors during performances. Thanks to this, the stage is much quieter, and engineers can precisely adjust the volume as well as the proportions of individual musicians, tailored only for them. There are many companies offering IEMs both for the stage and for the home, and some of them are: JH Audio, Sensaphonics, Etymonic, Campfire Audio. Classic manufacturers of stage microphones and headphones, such as Shure, Sennheiser, Audio-Technica and Mackie, complete the range.

I’VE MENTIONED THIRTEEN DRIVERS. As hard as it is to believe, they all fit into such small enclosures because (apart from the main driver) they are tiny. The manufacturer talks about this combination of "tri-brid construction", because Anima are headphones that use THREE different types of transducers (tri-brid is a hybrid of three elements):

• one 7mm DD driver with titanium membrane for ultra-low frequencies,
• two BA drivers for low frequencies (BA = Balanced Armature), 
• two more BA drivers for low frequencies, 
• two BA drivers (in vented cabinets) for midrange, 
• two BA drivers for treble,
• four EST (electrostatic) drivers for ultra-high frequencies.

Low tones are processed in a system with the company name BADD Hybrid Low-End Technology, where BA are balanced armature drivers, and DD is the main dynamic bass driver. Lime Ears wanted the low tones to be reproduced with as little phase shift as possible.

The sound outside is emitted through three tubes. Their shape is based on the VariBore geometry that the manufacturer uses in other models. Now their shape changes along the entire length. Although not explicitly stated, the tubes are shaped like horns, similar to the horns found in loudspeakers. Emil says that it's about the best possible impedance coupling of the transducers and the ear. The new technology was called the Organic Horn Nozzle.

THE BODY of the headphones is made of acrylic. Modeling the chambers and the external shape is one of the key steps in the design process of IEMs and Lime Ears spends a lot of time on it. The finish of the headphones is unique because, in addition to the logos, brand and model, light-reflecting flakes are embedded in the acrylic. In the model I received for the test, they are green and blue, but in the photos I have also seen other color versions. The manufacturer's website says:

The first detail that attracts attention is the front tiles made of Bello Opal material. It is the undisputed king among synthetic opals. An incredibly complex and precise laboratory process allows for a mesmerizing play of colors, unparalleled in the case of any other material. Synthetic opals are physically almost identical to those that occur naturally, hence their growing worldwide popularity in the jewelry, watch and many other industries. Each tile is different. Sparkling with crystals in unique sizes and shapes., accessed: 21.11.2022.

And then there are CABLES - an element as important as the others. The Pneuma model uses a cable from PW Audio (Peter Wong Audio), based in Hong Kong, made of silver-plated copper. Anima comes with WIKING WAVE CABLES. As Emil Stołecki told me, before choosing the right one, they tested four different versions, made especially for them. And the differences between them, he added, were very significant. The model selected for the tested headphones is made of silver-plated graphene-coated copper (ø 0.05 mm x 144). The cooperation between the companies is so close that Wiking Wave Cables inlays the connectors on the cables with the same material that the earphones are finished with.

The cable is terminated in an unusual way for a studio product, but adequate for the high-end market - with a Pentaconn plug. This is a development by Sony, which accommodates a balanced connection in a relatively small, ø 4.4 mm plug - like the cables in the Anima. Balanced mini-jack and unbalanced mini-jack adapters are included.

The Anima by Lime Ears is a beautifully crafted, high-end premium product. This is a real high-end, both in terms of design, execution and engineering.


⸜ HOW WE LISTENED The Lime Ears ANIMA IEMs were auditioned in three different systems, with three different points of reference. The basic system was a mobile set consisting of a Samsung A52 smartphone equipped with an external digital-to-analog converter ALO AUDIO PILOT, with the USB AUDIO PRO application. I've been using this combination for over a year now.

This American DAC/headphone amplifier is a small but great device equipped with the ESS Sabre ES9281C PRO chip, which offers a native support for hi-res music file formats - it supports PCM digital signal up to 32 bits and 384 kHz and DSD up to DSD128 (5.6 MHz), it also decodes the MQA signal. The latter is important because - as in the case of the Pneuma model - I spent many hours listening to music from the Tidal (FLAC and MQA).

The point of reference for me were two pairs of in-ear headphones that I have been using for a long time, i.e. FOCAL SPHEAR ($ 179; test → HERE [PL]) and Lime Ears PNEUMA which have been a part of my reference system since their test in September 2021 (test → HERE). The external reference point was the HiFiMAN HE-1000 v2 magnetostatic headphones and the Audeze LCD-3. In this part, I used the Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition SACD player with the Leben CS-600X tube amplifier (test → HERE [PL]) and the headphone output on the audio file player Mytek Brooklyn Bridge.

⸜ Recordings used for the test | a selection

⸜ PAROV STELLAR TRIO, The Invisible Girl, Etage Noir Recordings/Tidal, FLAC 16/44,1 (2013).
⸜ SCRATCH MASSIVE,Day Out of Days (Original Motion Picture), Record Makers | Bordel/Tidal, FLAC 16/44,1 (2016).
⸜ PARADIS, Recto Verso, Toi Et Moi, Universal Music Group/Tidal, FLAC 16/44,1 (2016).
⸜ BALTHAZAR, Sand, PIAS Recordings/Tidal, FLAC 16/44,1 (2021).
⸜ THE BEATLES, Revolver Apple/Tidal, FLAC 16/44,1 (1966/2022).
⸜ JOHN COLTRANE, Blue Train, Blue Note/Tidal Master, FLAC MQA 24/192 (2022).

SACDs and CDs
⸜ CHARLIE HADEN & KENNY BARRON, Night and The City, Verve Records 539 961-2, Compact Disc (1998).
⸜ MACIEJ GOŁYŹNIAK TRIO Marianna, New Beat Records NBR Vol. 1, Compact Disc (2022).
⸜ ALICE COLTRANE, Ethernity, Atlantic/Warner Music Japan 8122-79598-0, „Jazz Best Collection 1000 ⸜ No. 9”, CD (1976/2013).
⸜ BURT BACHARACH & DANIEL TASHIAN, Blue Umbrella, Big Yellow Dog Music/Sony Music Labels Inc. SICX-30088, Blu-Spec CD2 (2020).


HEADPHONES ARE A SPECIAL product for listening to music. For years, they were "reserved" for professionals in recording and post-production studios, they were seen on film sets and in TV studios. With the advent of Sony's Walkman in 1979, this changed somewhat, and since then the distinctive orange headphones were seen on the streets of many cities.

The real explosion of interest in headphones, however, was brought about by the spread of portable players based on files, initially mp3, and then also the triumphal march of Apple's iPod. Today, the main source of music, regardless of the age of the listener and his music preferences, are streaming services that we use with our mobile phones.

The “explosion” I am talking about was an impulse for the creation of an incredible number of new companies, but also for many others that we had known for years to expand their portfolios. It has also led to flooding the market with crappy headphones, counterfeit headphones, zombie headphones that only pretend to be real. In this flood of rubbish, several companies have managed to break through, thanks to advertising and aggressive promotion, and this is by including headphones with their famous products, but often also thanks to genuine high quality. One of them is Lime Ears. And it's been a first-class company right from the start.

It was my conclusion after listening to the third model from its lineup. What's more, it's a model that replaces the excellent Pneuma headphones at the top of the price list, which seemed to be as refined as they come. As it turns out - it can be even better. And this is not only something special, but unique. It means that the Lime Ears company has a well-functioning R&D department, and the people managing it have a musical intuition.

The sound of the new Anima model is, on the one hand, anchored in what I know from the previous flagship. But it is also so different and better that you can talk about a completely new quality. This is not a "revised" Pneuma. And it doesn't matter what music we start our listening sessions with. In my case, it was a few tracks prepared entirely in the hearts of computers, with loops, sequencers and samplers, like La Calatrava from The Invisible Girl by PAROV STELLAR TRIO, Paris from the SCRATCH MASSIVE soundtrack for Day Out of Days (Original Motion Picture) or Toi Et Moi by PARADIS, which I took from < i>Recto Verso.

Each of these albums is realized slightly differently, but they also have common features, such as a strong beat, low bass and a lot of compression. The Polish IEMs allowed me to pick it up very quickly, right away, after the first few bars. It was also audible that the Paradis disc sounded the best and that the sound of these albums was incredibly deep and dense. Bearing in mind their sonic limitations, I was a bit worried about the Anima model "entering" their fabric too much and destroying the illusion, putting me in front of the sound, and not in front of the music. Nothing like that happened.

The Lime Ears behave in this respect like the best and most expensive magnetostatic circumaural headphones I know. I will say more - they behave like the best loudspeakers that I listened to, including my Harbeth M40.1. The thing is that they have a very deep sound with outstanding resolution. Please don't get me wrong, the Pneuma are perfect in this regard. The Anima is just better.

That is why the sounds from the mentioned albums were perfectly separated in terms of timbre and dynamic, but also "shared", so to speak. They shared a common DNA and musical concept, so they did not fall apart into small fragments. It also helped that the new Lime Ears headphones have extremely low-set sound. There is less treble than in the Pneuma or HD-800 from Sennheiser, my external reference point. In turn, my reference HiFiMAN HE-1000 v2 sound a bit higher.

| Out Albums Series


New Beat Records NBR Vol. 1

MACIEJ GOŁYŹNIAK TRIO is a band that came out strong with it debut. The album Orchid was released in the "Polish Jazz" series (Vol. 85, 2020). It's hard to beat something like that, especially since musicians have a problem with the so-called "curse" of the second album. The album was released by New Beat Records on September 16th 2020, and a vinyl edition was planned for November. Let's add that the Lime Ears company is friends with the Gołyźniak trio.

Perhaps that's why the trio approached the new album a bit differently. It has two inspiration vectors. One is personal - it was dedicated to the leader's grandmother, Marianna, who appears almost tangibly in the album's closing ballad I Miss You Grandma. The other is space. Gołyźniak himself talks about it, and the title Solaris confirms it. Piotr Metz, the author of the essay on the cover of the album, followed this lead. Let's add that the trio was joined by ZBIGNIEW NAMYSŁOWSKI on saxophone in the first track, and ŁUKASZ KORYBALSKI supported them on trumpet and flugelhorn in the remaining tracks.

The album was recorded in an unusual way, because by the musicians themselves. All members of the trio Maciej Gołyźniak (drums), Łukasz Damrych (piano, synthesizers, Rhodes), and Robert Szydło (bass, double bass) contributed a "sound producers", "mix and mastering" was prepared by Robert Szydło, and "music production" by the leader. It is unusual in that it carries many dangers. Musicians do not have, by definition, distance to the recorded material. And it is necessary for something really good to be created. They are also not usually proficient in production techniques. The uniqueness of Marianna lies in the fact that the sound production on it is fantastic.

The sound of Marianna is therefore unique. This is rare nowadays. This is because it combines a warm, almost soft sound with selectivity. It's playing with panache, with a rich imagination and without fear of the consequences. This sound is "free" in the sense that it seems as if for musicians stylistic limitations were just a reflection point.

It's also a different sound than 99% of the recordings that are currently being released. It is based on very low bass. Both of bass guitar and kick drums. The bass changes from track to track. What remains unchanged in each subsequent piece is its saturation and precision. Sometimes it has a clear attack, and at other times it has a softer attack, but it is always readable. We can use it to test even the best systems.

The drums are much darker than usual. The treble was not emphasized here, but it was filled. The whole thing sounds not like from microphones placed right next to cymbals or drums, but more like from microphones placed in the middle of the studio. Anyway, in Mints, Her Favorite it certainly was. The percussion recorded on Marianna is incredibly dynamic, one of the coolest sounds I've heard recently.

The other instruments are "placed" on the long reverb. Whether piano, grand piano or wind instruments, they have a long "tail" behind them and are distant from us. So while the rhythm section stabilizes the sound, setting the gravity of the tracks in front of us, the other instruments open them to infinity. This album is unusual musically and sonically perfect. It is a rare case of a combination of musical and sonic sensitivity - but real sensitivity, not learned rules. Therefore, it’s getting from us, a distinction ˻ BIG RED BUTTON ˺ for sound perfection.

LET'S BACK TO IEMs. THE SURPRISE FOR ME was that after several hours of listening - and I listened for many days, at different times, whether it was writing texts for you, reading, or finally falling asleep in the evening - I came to the conclusion that this is a much more natural sound. I have the same with loudspeakers, I'm used to such an assessment in their case. And yet tested headphones always seduced me with outstanding detail. I was contradicting myself in this way, because I know that resolution is precisely the lack of details thrown in the face, and subliminal details that create the richness of the sound.

I will try to explain it. The Anima model is not detailed. It's simply resolving. So when, after the sampled material of the aforementioned artists, I reached for the indie pop-rock music of the Belgian band BALTHAZAR, i.e. music created mainly with live instruments, I immediately heard greater depth, breath and "flow". The synthetic bass in the song On A Roll from their latest album Sand had weight and a strong "base", and the backing vocals scattered across the channels nicely "glued" to the center of the stage. Never separately, but always selectively.

All these details and subtleties, however, resulted from the sound itself, and they did not create it. That's why I was getting a lot of information. A rich sound is just such a sound, and not created the other way around, that is, when we have to build ourselves a musical picture from many small details. For example, I really enjoyed listening to the very long ELVIN JONES solo in the opening track Revival: Live at Pookie's Pub, because it was clear, extremely dynamic and pure. Even though it "claimed" the whole stage for itself, when in the 15th minute you can hear the telephone ringing, slightly to the right, although quiet, it was not muffled by the headphones.

With the bass of these headphones, it's an interesting thing. The Pneuma model was equipped with a separate "subwoofer" that could be activated with a micro-switch located on the side of an earcup. Without activating it, the headphones had a very even and clear sound, which lacked nothing. I've been using this model for the last year realizing the live sound of small bands, with singers, acoustic guitars, drums, bass and keyboards. The console was digital, small (Berhinger) so nothing special.

However, you can't replace live sound with anything else, it's a separate category of sound. And while mixing the sound with the Pneums, I noticed that it was generally better if the bass was turned off in them. It was lacking a bit of saturation then, but the sound was cleaner and more even. While listening to music at home I reached for the aforementioned switch from time to time and "boosted" the sound. I knew it was a departure from "fidelity," but I was also glad of it because I was enjoying listening even more. That's a good trade-off, I think.

With the Anima model, this is not needed and we get both. Headphones, as I say, sound lower. Their highs are more resonant, have better definition, but also seem less detailed than many other models. This is what high resolution means. And I heard exactly the same thing with low tones, but in a different context. They were low, well defined, saturated, and at the same time more selective than in the Pneumas, HD-800 Sennheiser, not to mention Beyerdynamic DT-880 Pro Limited Edition, which I also use when mixing music from time to time.

The kick of a kick drum, whether live or from a recording, was perfect with the new Lime Ears. Like the bass extension. When Paul McCartney played Here, There And Everywhere, a song from the Revolver by THE BEATLES, he was not artificially weighted, because it was not strong, but it was not slimmed down either which often happens. The cymbals on this album were shown brilliantly.

And yet Revolver was recorded on a 4-track tape recorder with multiple intermixes that degrade the clarity of the sound, consisting in recording instruments and voices on three tracks and mixing them to one or two - and so on. This technique is called bounce. Anyway, the Anima's bass is low, massive and rich, yet it seems more "real" than that of the Pneuma model, whether with the switch "ON" or "OFF". They do not need a switch, because the resolution, dynamics and tonal balance are different in them. Better.

⸜ ANIMA vs PNEUMA The first thing we notice when comparing the Pneuma and Anima is the lower efficiency of the latter. Simply connected to any headphone amplifier, it will require pushing the volume knob up, or an amplifier with a higher output. In practice, this turned out to be irrelevant, because both the ALO Audio Pilot converter/amplifier, as well as the direct headphone output of the Samsung A52 smartphone had enough juice for them.

As I’ve mentioned before, the sound of the new Lime Ears is cleaner, yet seems darker. I think that the amazing precision with which the Anima draw the sound plays a big role. Never before in my system have I heard such perfect acoustics of the CHARLIE HADEN & KENNY BARRON’s Night and The City and MARK HOLLIS’ solo release. Especially the amazing atmosphere of the latter was truly impressive. The material recorded on a 32-track digital reel-to-reel Mitsubishi X-800 tape recorder and recorded on a stereo analog tape was recorded with two tube microphones. And one can clearly hear that.


I FOCUSED ON MANY DETAILS, but it's not about the details at all. To be honest I'm not very interested in them. The Anima model is an incredibly internally organized product that has the ability to convey a lot of information at once, but in an orderly way. And because of this, we have the impression that the sound does not consist of details, but is simply ... sound.

Their sound is dark and dense. But also very resolving. They have a very low bass that is faster and more selective than with the Pneuma. It's amazing how this bass foundation builds the scale of the sound - it's big and stereoscopic. Of course, we are talking about headphone listening, but that's how I perceived it. The depth of the sounds, both in terms of timbre and 3D dimensions, were above average, even phenomenal.

Because the Anima is one of the best headphones I've ever heard. And this regardless of the type of construction. The magnetostatic HiFiMAN HE-1000 v2 give you more breath, but at the expense of consistency. In turn, the Audeze LCD-3, also planar, have a similar, dark treble, but they are clearly colored (warm), and the Lime Ears are ultra-transparent to the sound material.

Therefore, it is with great pleasure that we award the Anima model with our most important distinction, GOLD FINGERRINT ˺. This is a truly unique design.


Reference system 2022

1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

AC Power

Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

  • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:


Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC