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Campfire Audio CASCADE

  • Premium Select Materials
    We wanted to be sure our first headphone was as good as the earphones we make. Close attention to each component is critical to achieving this goal.

    The headband, joints, and pivot are all made of stainless steel. This makes the traditionally weakest parts of a headphone the strongest. The cups and hanger arms are aluminum; cast and then machined to reduce weight.

    Our headphone pads are soft sheepskin, attached via magnets and replaceable. Each element’s design is there to improve your ownership experience.

    Detachable Cable
    Cables are where we started with ALO audio so we know the importance of including an awesome cable.

    That is why we include our acclaimed Litz cable with Cascade. It has the same conductor design and materials as the Litz cable included with each of our earphones.

    Here we’ve added a special cloth jacket to the cable. It minimizes microphonics and adds a level of durability to the cable for headphone use.

    Designed for Portable
    Cascade is the headphone that we wanted while traveling. It folds up to a compact size and is an isolated closed-back design.

    It sounds excellent with your portable DAP or phone. And it scales with ease in your home set-up.


Recent Reviews

  1. kevingzw
    Release the Beast!
    Written by kevingzw
    Published May 18, 2019
    Pros - Built like a tank, Beautiful accessories set, PHAT Bass, Cloyingly warm sound, Superb Imaging, Unfatiguing sound-sig.
    Cons - Heavy build, not the comfiest headphone, THICK bass masks other frequencies, highs are slightly muted.
    Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/headsoundreviews/
    Follow me on my Blog: https://headsoundsblog.wordpress.com

    Take note that this review is not being sponsored, this is an accurate reflection of my opinion. YMMV

    Campfire Audio is an audio brand from Portland, Oregon. Starting out as ALO Audio, a company primarily focused on selling high-end headphone and IEM cables, the Campfire Audio rebrand began its foray into the competitive IEM market.

    From their universally acclaimed “Andromeda” to the entry-level “Comet”, Campfire Audio has carved a name for itself among the Porta-audio community in the last 4 years, cementing them as a reputable IEM brand.

    When news came around that Campfire Audio was developing an “audiophile” pair of headphones, the hype surrounding its impending release grew. What started out as a passion-project turned out to be a tiresome, 3-year “R and D” process. As a result, the “Cascade” was born. Featuring 42mm Beryllium PVD drivers, these headphones were conceived with the purpose of emulating the “sealed-sound” of an IEM. A bit of an oxymoron, but I’ll explain further as we dive deeper into my review.


    $1099 (AUD)


    Cascade is a culmination of a 3 year engineering effort to bring our signature sound to a headphone.

    The result is a portable, closed-back headphone that sounds and performs like it’s open. Even better; it has the unique sound you expect from a Campfire Audio headphone.

    Campfire Audio

    • Frequency Response: 5Hz- 3kHz
    • Impedance: 33 Ohms (1kHz)
    • 100dB SP/mW Sensitivity
    • 5 oz (without cable) or approximately 383 g
    • Inside ID is approx.-1.5-inch-wide x 2.5 inch


    Like its siblings in the Campfire Audio line-up, the box itself is sourced from an American-made, French paper company. As someone who appreciates writing on high-quality paper (Tomoe River, Midori paper company), I deeply admire a company that takes pride in its packaging. The color-saturated prints and the leafed-lettering oozes personality. Their cohesive aesthetic distinguishes their brand from the rest of the market.

    A product is only as good as its packaging.

    1. Campfire Audio Cascade + Campfire Audio SPC Litz Cable
    2. Campfire Audio Headphone Case
    3. Campfire Audio Pin
    4. Filter Set (4 pairs of Damping Pads)
    5. Warranty Card
    There isn’t much to criticize. The lavish leather headphone case is basically an enlarged copy of their IEM cases, with the same faux-wool lining and leather outer-shell. Sadly, the bulky, over-sized case is hardly portable, taking up too much real-estate in my backpack. The case does come equipped with a leather sling; in case someone wants to carry it around like a man-purse (not the most practical option).

    Overall, the accessories included are more than substantial.

    Design and Build:

    The headphone is built like a brick ***house. According to the Campfire Audio website, the headphone is almost entirely made out of machined aluminium and stainless steel. From the reinforced yokes to its oblong ear-cups, the build itself feels virtually indestructible. The all-black paint job and its angular edges reflects unpretentious, industrial design

    The downside of using an all-metal (almost) build is its combined weight; it is a hefty headphone. If you’re looking for something suited for long-listening sessions, this is not for you. If you’re looking for an ultra-portable over-ear headphone, this might not be for you either. Yes, the Cascades are collapsible, but it still occupies a significant amount of space.

    The ear-pads and headband-padding are made out of sheep-leather. In spite of the headphone’s heavy mass, the plush padding helps to ease the pressure exerted on my head and ears.

    The lambskin pads are magnetically attached and easily switched out should they wear out over time. Do take note that the replacement pads are proprietary to Campfire Audio. The headphones are equipped with HD800 connectors; an odd choice considering the multiplicity of common connector types available in the market. Nevertheless, I have zero qualms with that decision.

    My biggest gripe with the Cascades lies in its cable. While the cable is made out of high-end components, the cloth/fabric sheath retains too much memory. The cable bends and twirls uncontrollably. To make matters worse, the fabric is incredibly rigid, resulting in a cable that is barely malleable. It is almost impossible to undo the kinks that form along the cable. In addition, the Y-spit and 3.5 mm termination feel remarkably cheap.

    This was a huge oversight on Campfire Audio’s part. It’s hard to not nit-pick when they’ve nailed every other aspect in its design.


    The headphones aren’t exactly “closed” per se. There is a tiny, pinhole-sized vent at the top of each respective earcup. As a result, it doesn’t seal as well as other closed-backs in the market. In spite of this, it still isolates fairly well. Be prepared to turn the volume pot up in louder settings. Don’t expect Bose levels of NC.

    At Home: My apartment is generally quiet. In an undisturbed setting, I used the Creative Super X-fi DAC/Amp at approximately 70/100 steps.

    At a Coffee Shop: Slightly noisier, with more ambient noise in the foreground. I used the Creative X-fi DAC/Amp at approximately 82/100 steps, a slight increase from a “home” setting.

    Google Pixel 2 XL Test (Now Playing): Thankfully, the placement of my Pixel 2XL next to the Cascades on my head did not trigger the now-playing feature (can’t say the same for open-back headphones).


    Track List:
    • Neko Case- I wish I was the Moon
    • Mahavishnu Orchestra- Be Happy
    • God of War (PS4) OST- Valkyries
    • Fleet Foxes- Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
    • Diners- Little Pad

    • Aune X1s
    • Creative “Super X-fi” DAC/Amp
    • Shanling M0


    The Cascades are easily powered by the aforementioned source. However, it performed exceptionally well with the Aune X1s in particular, as expected from its higher output power and quality DAC. Nevertheless, the Cascades are a forgiving headphone that pairs well with most sources.


    PHAT. THICC. In your face. Campfire Audio held no restraint in tuning this bass beast. The low-end is bombastic, with meaty sub-bass rumble and mid-bass punch. The Cascades boast an unconventional tuning, sustaining each bass-note as long as it can.

    At this price point, most audio hobbyists would expect your typical mid-range boosted, clarity-centric headphone. Campfire Audio has instead, turned that philosophy on its head.

    The bass is fun, exciting and never fails to emulate the chamber-like pressure of an IEM with a proper seal. Unfortunately, the monstrous bass-response does bleed into the mids, overshadowing the vocal-range and other instrumentation in the foreground.

    It is important to note that this is not your run-of-the-mill, “Beats by Dre”. I’m simply using headphones in the same price bracket as referents.


    The Cascade features a treble section with air and sparkle. Stringed instruments are given ample space to breathe, never coming across as strident in the process. Oddly enough, the Cascades allow the treble to decay at the exact moment when vocals start to sound raspy, hitting the acoustic “sweet spot”.


    It is safe to say that Campfire Audio has opted for a V-shaped response on these bass-cannons. The mid-range remains clear, with enough presence for it to remain coherent. However, there is still a noticeable dip in the upper mids, with vocals placed further back in the entire mix. The PHAT bass complements the mid-range by backing it with weight and heft, creating an almost “tube-esque, vinyl-like” warmth that hearkens back to an analogue age.


    Highs are well extended, rolling off at the opportune moment so as to avoid ear-piercing sibilance. Considering the gargantuan bass response of the Cascades, its highs are surprisingly distinct, unfazed and undeterred by its explosive bottom-end.


    The piston-like bass response overwhelms the sound-stage, stealing its thunder. Expect an intimate presentation when compared to its open-back counterparts in the market (Hifiman HE-560, HD800). I would describe the stage as a circular sphere, your head as the metaphorical center.

    On the other hand, imaging is razor-sharp, allowing you to unconsciously pinpoint the placement of instruments and vocals with ease. This an impressive feat for a closed-back headphone. There are some occasions where the bass proves to be too thunderous, drowning out everything else in the process.

    For their first headphone release, Campfire Audio has undoubtedly, created an unorthodox creature in a crowded sea of high-end, reference headphones. In a market where developers strictly adhere to the Harman Target Response Curve like dogmatic scripture, it is refreshing to witness a company carve its own path.

    Like the Audioquest Nighthawk, this headphone is bound to polarize listeners with its velvety tonality. Nevertheless, I believe they will develop their own cult following as time goes by.

    If you’re looking for a reference headphone with clinical precision, look elsewhere. If you’re up for an unashamedly fun listen, this is the headphone for you.
      B9Scrambler and Shane D like this.
  2. baiyy1986
    Campfire Audio Cascade Review-Thunderstruck
    Written by baiyy1986
    Published Jul 16, 2018
    Pros - Powerful sound.
    Excellent speed.
    Great detail retrieval.
    Build quality.
    Reasonable price. ( Compares to some ridiculous overprice cans)
    Cons - The warm sound may not suit everyone.

    The unit I reviewed is part of a review tour set up by Head-Fi members Wiljen. Huge thanks to Ken and Wiljen and everyone involved in this tour.


    6.jpeg Intro:

    Campfire audio is a well-known American manufactory famous for its high-quality IEM. Andromeda is one of the most iconic IEMs in the market, which bring huge success to the company. Then in recent years Campfire audio also launch serval IEMs with the great build and sound quality. With huge success in IEM market, Campfire first time ever launch its new portable, closed-back headphone Cascade.

    Cascade feature 42mm Beryllium PVD Diaphragm Dynamic Drivers. Beryllium is one of the superior material for the diaphragm of a high-frequency electroacoustic transducer. The driver components were manufactured through a method known as PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition), which is a process that involves depositing thin layers through the condensation of the vaporized element onto a form. Compare to other drivers like Aluminum and Titanium, Beryllium has the lowest mass, the highest stiffness, the lowest Poisson Effect, the highest speed of sound, and the highest tensile strength of the acoustically useful light metals. Also, the beryllium diaphragm exhibits substantially more output in the two octaves from 3 to 12kHz than all of the standard materials.


    Build Quality:

    The build quality of Cascade is maybe the best I have seen.
    It is phenomenal. Aluminum and Stainless Steel Construction make it looks solid but not heavy, a nice weight on your hand. Sheep leather detachable pads are very elegant and plush, it feels like the whole pads are “hug” you into the Cascade. Also, It is very easy to replace because of the magnetic design. The clamping force is firm but not make me any discomfort. This plus the sheep ear pups give you a very good seal and secure fit. Again these pads are really really good.
    The headband is touching my head, but nothing uncomfortable. The cable is lightweight also durable. Cascade use the Sennheiser HD800 style of push/pull connectors which is very easy to use.


    Sound Impression:

    Cascade has a very powerful and impactful sound signature, excellent speed and detail retrieval. It is very fun to listen to and it sounds open. The overall sound signature is warm, great quality bass, mid is a little recessed but still can have some impact. Scalability is incredible.

    During my almost 7-day listening, I used cascade 80% of the time in my office 20% at home.
    What I listen: Jazz, Light Electronic music, Rock etc.
    I try different filter but I prefer no filter, so I will not cover filter sound different in this review.


    In office: MacBook pro and mojo, Player: Jriver;
    At home: Audio-GD Master 11, Player: Jriver;
    IPad pro, player: HibyMusic.
    All music file are using DSF or lossless 16 bit/44.1khz or higher FLAC file

    I prefer to use MacBook directly with Cascade which still provides very nice sound without DAC/Amp. The synergy of Cascade and mojo is okay but because even Mojo give more detail but they both have warm tonality, sometimes it is just too much.
    I am a little surprised after hearing Cascade pairing with Audio-GD master 11, I personally preferred this synergy, it makes the sound tight and provides a much cleaner sound. It shows Cascade has very nice scalability compared to some other bass-head headphones which typically lack. This might be a reason I still prefer it for in-home use rather than portable use.

    Cascade is very source sensitive. One little default of the file or player will lead to a huge difference of the sound quality. When I play “Hotel California” DSD file using IPad pro's "HibyMusic" app and there is low-end distortion I never noticed. Same DSD file plays on master 11 using Jriver, there is no distortion at all and that is the first time I noticed it.

    12.png 13.jpeg

    Bass: Cascade hits very hard, deep, great quality bass. It puts the entire low-end in front of you. Overall best bass quality I have ever listened, Try MJ’s Billie Jean and ACDC’s Thunderstruck which will give you thunder-like bass.

    Mids: Mids is not his strength, but not like some other bass-head headphone, which you can’t feel the mids. Cascade still has some light impact which you still can hear it effortless.

    Treble: Treble is a little roll off, but keep its crispy taste, a little forward presentation. Try Kenny G Always if you like Saxophone.

    This is very interesting. When you listen to some good quality recordings. you really can feel the size of the recording studio, with Cascade, it feels much more obvious. The different recording you can easily feel the different size of the recording studio, You can tell where the boundary is, which make the song much more interesting and fun to listen with. Try the Norah Jones Day Breaks album. Very relaxing sound with some low-end emphasis. Then listen to Peter Gabriel Sledgehammer. You can feel the drum sound reflect the wall and tell how big is the studio. But at the same time, some of the song you will feel too busy to keep too many things in this little room.
    11.jpeg 14.jpeg

    Conclusion and some thought:

    Overall, a good product is the reflection of its creator. Good product has its own soul. People know what they want before they design a product. Cascade is a great product, if Ken is a chef, Cascade is one of the best treats he gives to this world. On the other hand, IMHO, Cascade is some kind of overkill for portable use. Because of some ergonomic design, you really can feel the compromise for its portable purposes, imagine how good it will be if it is a full-size can. But this is really a great start for a company. At $799 price point, this is an absolutely fantastic headphone if you want a fun, entertaining campfire house sound signature, great speed great detail retrieval, but also has great scalability.
      B9Scrambler likes this.
  3. ryanjsoo
    Campfire Audio Cascade Review – Nostalgia & Awe
    Written by ryanjsoo
    Published Jun 7, 2018
    Pros - Spacious and open
    - Terrific build quality
    - Great technical ability
    - Scales incredibly well
    - Tuneable
    Cons - Big sub-bass won't suit everyone
    - Headband shape won’t suit everyone
    Introduction –

    Campfire Audio requires no introduction in the modern day, but just a few years ago, many were scratching their heads at cable manufacturer ALO Audio’s foray into in-ear monitors. It’s evident that their efforts were a huge success with the Andromeda and Vega quickly becoming benchmarks for their respective sound signatures and driver types. The Cascade represents the next step in the company’s evolution, as their first closed-back over-ear headphone.

    Utilising 3 years of development and growing experience, Campfire offer a headphone featuring 42mm berrylium drivers and the same gorgeous build quality that we have come to expect from the company. With an isolating closed-back design combined with deep, plush lambskin ear pads, the Cascade strives to find versatility between home and portable use, catering towards audio enthusiasts of every kind. You can read more about the Cascade and treat yourself to one here.

    Disclaimer –

    I would like to thank Caleb from Campfire Audio very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the Cascade for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the headphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

    Accessories –

    It’s almost amusing to see the same packaging from Campfire’s in-ears expanded for the Cascade. Campfire’s signature box design makes a return as does their terrific zippered carrying case, this time scaled up in size. The included hard case is gorgeous with a full grain leather exterior and soft faux shearling interior that prevents the headphones from becoming scratched while providing some drop protection on top. Inside the case are the headphones themselves in addition to the included accessories within two paper pouches. One contains the cable and warranty/instructional papers with the other containing 4 pairs of filters that enable the user to fine-tune the sound of the headphones.

    Design –

    Sloping lines, smoothly formed edges and a smooth finish all define the Campfire’s first foray into a market of flashy and abstract portable designs. The Cascade rather comes across as subdued with a design language translated from their previous in-ears. Accordingly, we’re gifted the same unyielding metal construction and a sense of styling that is distinct and industrial if not as low-profile as competing models. In line with other premium portable headphones from Bowers and Wilkins and Bang and Olufsen to name examples, the Cascade makes use of lambskin leather that beautifully compliments its cool stainless steel/aluminium complexion. The result is a headphone that’s both solid and luxurious. Though the metalwork is immaculate, I do have qualm with the finishing on the headband as there’s no sealing strip where the leather meets the inner frame to prevent fraying.

    Ergonomics are a strong point of the Cascade though it does come at the cost of portability relative to competitors. The headphones are in-between a home and conventional portable headphone in dimension, with very deep angled ear pads and a reasonably wide headband. In return, the headphones are very comfortable; their wide headband spreading weight evenly and their spacious, ultra-plush pads flattering with great long-term comfort. The pads magnetically attach, enabling easy replacement while permitting users to swap out sound tuning filters. I did find the headband to lack curvature, forming a mild hotspot on the top of my head after several hours of listening. That said, as its frame is made from stainless steel, I was able to form the headband into a more ergonomic shape (I take no responsibility for damage should you choose to do the same!).

    The Cascade uses a traditional stepped headband slider. They were quite loose on my unit, lacking defined click, but with barely adequate tension to maintain their position. This could be unit specific, however, as other reviewers have not expressed similar concerns in private correspondence. Like Master & Dynamic’s headphones, I had to maximise the setting of the slider due to the shape of the headband. That said, Ken has expressed interest in an extended slider that would permit a larger range of adjustment on retail models. As a result of their strong seal, the Cascade can get a little hot though in return, they provide above average noise isolation. They don’t attenuate nearly as much as class-leading active noise cancellers from Bose and Sony or certain portable headphones such as the Oppo PM3, but suffice for public transport and commute when combined with their full sound.

    Using their experience with cables, Campfire elected to use dual entry HD800 connectors on the Cascade; reasoning that, though not widely adopted, they have the lowest fail rate on the market. I didn’t personally experience any intermittency and both connectors engage with satisfying action. The cable itself is very pleasing too, with silver plated litz internals and a durable yet supple fabric sheath. The Cascade’s cable is smooth and compliant with zero memory and minimal microphonic noise. The terminations are well-relieved and Campfire’s pre-moulded connectors all look professional and coherent. Campfire offers a range of terminations, my 3.5mm variant has a pocket-friendly 45-degree plug, a wise choice for its intended uses.

    Sound –

    Tonality –

    The Cascade is discerning, flamboyant and engaging. Those searching for anything vaguely neutral will want to look away, they are clearly V-shaped with abundant sub-bass and vibrant treble. The Cascade isn’t lacking in-between, maintaining fair linearity and a very pleasing tone, ensuring natural midrange voicing and an impressively organised image. Treble is very crisp and airy from factory with filters enabling users to tone down highs to achieve a smoother presentation. On a side note, I did notice that pushing the ear cups in to flatten the ear pads brought the midrange forward. I would presume that as the ear pads wear in, the headphones will become more balanced. The Cascade received over 200hrs of burn-in prior to review to ensure optimal performance.

    Filters –

    Campfire includes 4 tuning filters, all providing various levels of damping. As the number increases, the filter attenuate more high-frequency presence, thereby creating a warmer, smoother sound. I found the 2nd most conservative filter to suit my preferences best, smoothing treble while retaining some crispness and edge for acoustic. I felt the headphones sounded under-damped stock as they become noticeably more detailed in this configuration simply by smoothing treble peaks and improving control. Higher numbered filters sounded a little over smooth and warm to my ear though, of course, this will be up to individual preference.

    On the flipside, if you want even more clarity and high-frequency presence than even the vanilla tuning, users are able to remove the white “fixed” filters on the bottoms of each earpad. This results in a brighter, more open sound but also a very thin, unnatural midrange. I would not recommend this configuration and it’s clear that the white filters are adhered to the pads for a reason. The beauty of this system is its flexibility. Though they don’t have a transformative effect, the differences between each filter are distinct and effective. One can see this in play just by reading reviews online with almost every reviewers opting for a different filter.

    Bass –

    The Cascade is a creature of rumble and visceral kick on behalf of its very elevated sub-bass and flawless extension. Sub-bass hits with precision and rumble assumes a physical character that flatters genres such as electronic, R&B and rap in addition to gaming and film. This is offset by a more modest mid-bass emphasis enabling a tone that is fairly clean, with noticeable but not obtrusive warmth. Accordingly, low notes are bold and impactful but the Cascade doesn’t sound overly full and woolly as its emphasis is mainly contained within the very lowest frequencies. Upper-bass is fairly neutral, enabling greater midrange transparency and preventing over-warming of the Cascade’s presentation. Bass is a little omnipresent as a result of its emphasis, though due to its excellent control, bass doesn’t drone nor does it become congested on busier tracks.

    What impresses most about the Cascade’s low-end is its control, reminding very much of Campfire’s Vega; a dynamic driver in-ear with big sub-bass reeled in with surgical control. Though its notes are large, the Cascade maintains definition, preserving detail and texture. Sub-bass is tight, especially considering its level of emphasis, reaffirmed by a very solid, coherent impact at the very bottom. Though the Cascade doesn’t strike me as an especially fast headphone, compared to lower-end headphones with similar tuning and even the similarly priced MDR-Z7, the Cascade thoroughly impresses with its ability to follow complex passages; a by-product of its great control paired with a nicely considered mid-bass emphasis. Really, the Cacade’s bass is very respectable in quality, there’s just a lot of it and you can have too much of a good thing.

    Mids –

    The Cascade’s midrange is laid-back on a whole, but clean and slighty bright, treading a fine line between clarity and balance. To my ears, Campfire have found a fair middle ground with a nicely revealing signature set to a fairly neutral tone. This is achieved through slight attenuation of the lower-midrange that serves to counterbalance the headphones emphasized bass, and a slightly enhanced centre midrange that produces a presentation slightly biased towards vocals over instruments. The Cascade pairs this tuning with a slight upper-midrange lift that feeds more evenly into its elevated treble while providing additional midrange clarity. As such, the Cascade has a clearer presentation and an almost exaggerated sense of separation at the cost of a little body and linearity. I wouldn’t characterise the Cascade as a realistic sounding headphone as a result, though due to its excellent tone, it remains naturally voiced and upholds respectable transparency.

    It should be noted that though both male and female vocals are well-present, they’re still laid-back relative to the Cascade’s enhanced bass with treble presence depending heavily on the chosen filter. At times, male vocals sound slightly chesty on behalf of its enhanced bass while female vocals hold constant spotlight with slightly greater presence and reduced colouration. The Cascade layers very well even if it isn’t perfectly balanced and its excellent resolution enables great background detail retrieval. With the right filters, mids are refined and smooth with accurate articulation, lacking negative traits usually associated with V-shaped headphones. True to its slight brightness, instrumentation is crisp and the nature of the headphone’s treble tuning avoids overly emphasised sibilance. Again, this is subject to change with filters, as I did find the Cascade to sound more explicitly cool stock. Mids are very well done unless you absolutely prioritise timbre.

    Highs –

    Up top, the Cascade is revealing, resolving and terrifically well-extended. Lower-treble has slight emphasis resulting in a more aggressive presentation of foreground detailing and nicely crisp, if thin instrumentation. Using the included filters can have quite a profound impact here, attenuating peaks to produce a more even and detailed image. With my preferred filters installed, instrument body is bolstered, becoming slightly organic, with the higher resistance filters further pushing the Cascade into smoothness. In this configuration, the Cascade is a very detailed headphone that scrutinises background detail in addition to being superficially clear. It delivers excellent micro-detail retrieval, especially with acoustic, in addition to naturally decaying cymbals and well-resolved high-hats. Regardless of filter choice, the Cascade’s elevated middle-treble always shines through, enhancing air and aiding shimmer.

    It sounds very open as a result, a large contributor towards its spacious stage. Compared to a lot of other brighter headphones, the Cascade’s emphasis here is well-considered, I wouldn’t call them over-bright and middle-treble doesn’t overshadow detail lower-down. The Cascade’s background remains fairly clean and composed when combined with its excellent control. The same can be said for its upper-treble. Ironically, with a lot of high-end headphones and in-ears, upper-treble emphasis can become a bit excessive; it does showcase the level of extension they’re capable of but can skew their tone and timbre. In this regard, the Cascade is nicely done, it doesn’t possess the same upper-treble energy as Campfire’s BA in-ears, but retains plenty of sparkle without throwing its technical prowess in the listener’s face. Regardless, the headphone’s impressive extension is always evident through its high resolution, micro-detail retrieval and organised stage.

    Soundstage –

    Probably one of the first aspects that creates an impression on first listen, the Cascade’s soundstage is very spacious while maintaining coherent imaging. It has a nicely rounded presentation with great expansion in all axis, achieved through its airy tuning, well-extended treble and laid-back vocals that emphasize depth. Some have even likened the Cascade to an open back headphone, and though it’s certainly no HD800 and lacks the same sense of natural expansion, the Cascade is roughly on par with the average open-back.

    Layers are very defined and the Cascade’s background remains well-detailed despite being so expansive. Imaging is respectable, especially considering the nature of the Cascade’s tuning, likely a result of its more linear midrange. Separation is generally pleasing too, with controlled, agile and slightly thinner notes working in conjunction with a spacious stage to produce a very delineated presentation. Bass separation is the weakest element due to its sub-bass emphasis that can overshadow mid-bass details, and treble can get slightly busy at times.

    Driveability –

    With a low 38ohm impedance and 100dB sensitivity, the Cascade is quite easily driven to high volumes from a portable source. For the majority of listeners, even a smartphone will provide sufficient volume. Despite this, the Cascade scales immensely well from higher end sources. It definitely benefits from a strong amplifier and has the resolution to take advantage of a resolving source. Even coming from the Fiio X7 II, running the Cascade from my Schiit Magni 3 desktop amplifier yielded a noticeably more controlled low-end with tighter sub-bass and greater separation. Its soundstage noticeably expanded and micro-details were easier to discern. Select pairings below:

    iPhone 6S: Loose, woolly bass with little definition. Slightly warmer tone. Midrange is fairly balanced but slightly more laid-back and lacking a little transparency relative to dedicated sources. Less detailed, pleasing air and resolution. More intimate soundstage with less defined layers. Lacking separation. Liveable, impressive but not ideal!

    Echobox Explorer: Slightly fuller bass, mid-bass a little woolly and lacking some control. Midrange is slightly fuller, but still fairly transparent, upper-midrange is laid-back producing a denser image. Enhanced detail presence, crisp and clear, nice air. Good resolution, great soundstage expansion but mediocre layering and separation.

    Fiio X7 MKII (AM3A): More vibrant, slightly lifted mid-bass, larger bass notes. Slightly forward upper midrange, enhanced midrange clarity. Well-detailed with nice air. Great resolution, medium soundstage expansion with clear layers and good separation.

    Shozy Alien+: Very balanced, clean, great bass control, more neutral tone. Transparent midrange, slightly clearer. Slight lower-treble emphasis aids midrange clarity and detail presence. Nice air and resolution. Medium soundstage expansion with clear layers and great separation.

    Hiby R6: Very balanced, clean, well-controlled bass. Slightly diffuse sub-bass slam relative to the DX200/Magni 3 combo, but also a more neutral bass tone. Transparent midrange, slightly less dense but clear and balanced. Well-detailed with nice air. Nice resolution, great soundstage expansion and layering. Well separated.

    iBasso DX200 (AMP5): Very balanced, clean, extended bass with nice control and definition. Transparent midrange, very slightly full-bodied vocals. Excellent detailing, slightly enhanced air and terrific resolution. Great soundstage expansion and layering, well separated.

    DX200 w/Magni 3: Very balanced, very clean bass with a slightly more physical quality. Excellent bass control, slightly more neutral tone with enhanced definition and separation. Transparent midrange, slightly clearer on account of more controlled bass. Excellent detailing, enhanced air and retained resolution. Expansive soundstage with great layering and separation.

    Comparisons –

    All comparisons below were running through the DX200 + Magni 3 setup, volume matched using an SPL meter.

    Oppo PM3 ($450): The PM3 does not compete within the same price class, but it is my personal portable headphone benchmark. It features planar magnetic drivers and a very balanced signature that contrasts to the vivid Cascade. The Cascade is immediately more V-shaped and more resolving with greater extension at either end. The PM3 has a slight sub-bass emphasis while the Cascade has a fairly significant boost in addition to slightly more extension, producing considerably greater slam. The Cascade also has more mid-bass though its low-end is tighter and more defined despite the PM3 being more balanced. The two diverge heading into the midrange where the PM3 is full-bodied with sustained emphasis through its upper-bass and lower-midrange.

    By contrast, the Cascade sounds cleaner and a little more transparent on account of its more neutral upper-bass and attenuated lower-midrange. The PM3 has a more present midrange overall, it’s very linear with an especially realistic timbre. The Cascade is brighter and thinner, but not excessively so. In return, it’s clearer while retaining a pleasing amount of body. The Cascade layers a lot better and it has higher resolution throughout, aided by its clearer tuning. The PM3 has a small bump in its lower treble for detail presence before a moderate slope into an attenuated middle and upper treble. On the contrary, the Cascade is emphasized all the way through, most notably within the middle-treble.

    Resultantly, the PM3 sounds dark and mellow while the Cascade is rather open and airy with a brighter background. The Cascade extends a lot further up top which accentuates its openness and contributes towards its higher resolution. When it comes to soundstage, the Cascade is the clear winner, considerably more spacious in all dimensions, more layered and a lot more separated. At twice the price, the Cascade provides all the technical upgrades one would expect and its tuning really capitalises on its strengths. Of course, the PM3 is a lot more balanced, but on a technical level, this demonstrates that driver type should not be considered a limiting factor.

    Sony MDR-Z7 ($800): The Z7 is another high-end closed-back dynamic headphone with a bassier tuning. Compared to the Cascade, the Z7 is slightly more balanced but also less transparent and technical. Both dig very deep when it comes to bass, with the Z7 producing greater impact due to its greater sub-bass emphasis. The Z7 isn’t as bassy overall, but as it has a greater focus on mid-bass with a less emphasized sub-bass. I personally prefer its less emphasized sub-bass, but it sounds more bloated and tubby due to the nature of its tuning. It’s also more obviously warm in its presentation where the Cascade is more neutral in tone. In addition, the Cascade has noticeably greater control and it’s clearly more defined and detailed within its lower registers as a result. The Cascade also has a considerably more natural midrange.

    Of note, the Z7 has a sucked out lower-midrange combined with over-articulated vocals on account of its more pronounced lower-treble. The Cascade on the other hand is fairly neutral through its lower-midrange. Combined with its more neutrally toned bass, it’s more transparent, natural and refined. Vocals are slightly more laid-back but have more realistic body and timbre. The Z7 has a forward upper-midrange that enhances the presence of female vocals and increases midrange clarity. That said, the Cascade is again smoother and more natural in this regard where the Z7 is more vibrant but also quite unnatural. The Z7 is a well-detailed headphone accentuated by a clear, crisp lower-treble that brings details forward in the mix. The Cascade is considerably more linear through its upper-midrange and treble, providing more naturally bodied instrumentation.

    It’s the more detailed headphone even if it lacks an iota of crispness compared to the enhanced Z7. The Cascade also extends further up top, it has immediately more sparkle, a little more air and noticeably higher resolution than the Sony can. The more linear nature of the Cascade’s midrange and treble tuning works wonders with its soundstage. The Z7 actually has the advantage with size and, in some regards, separation; it’s an immensely spacious headphone and its thinner midrange sounds nicely delineated. That said, the Cascade is immediately more layered with clearly superior imaging. It has greater background detail retrieval and separation overall is higher. It’s the more nuanced, coherent headphone if less superficially vibrant and clear.

    Verdict –

    Over the years, audiophiles have been conditioned to appreciate (almost exclusively), a balanced or neutral orientated style of tuning and with it, have gained a hyper-critical perspective on almost everything else. As an enthusiast with such a mindset, my first minutes with the Cascade were quite a shock yet despite this, I came to thoroughly enjoy my time with the Cascade. It goes without saying that most headphones carry a V-shaped signature, so what makes the Cascade more unique than most is its technical prowess; enabling them to uncover more and more detail over longer listening periods. In another sense, the Cascade is also a poignant reminder of the bassy, hyper-engaging gear that introduces most listeners to the hobby in the very beginning; and it’s one of those products that makes me question my own preferences and whether one can concretely categorise what brings them enjoyment.

    For Campfire, the Cascade not only represents their first non-in-ear design but a refinement of the V-shaped signature initiated by the indomitable Vega; realising great vibrancy without skewing midrange tone. As someone who highly values timbre, the Cascade cannot be universally recommended, despite its technical ability. Still, I’m sure it will be a sound that many will love and many will grow to appreciate. It’s not balanced, neutral or realistic, but executes its tuning through marvellous control. I’m especially enamoured by the Cascade’s midrange that shines through with its clear yet natural voicing achieved through careful transitions that achieve overall coherence. I have to thank Ken and everyone working with him for providing an experience that was surprising, engaging and most importantly, memorable.

    The Cascade can be purchased from Campfire Audio for $799 USD. I am not affiliated with Campfire Audio and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.

    Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed my review, please see my website for more just like it!
  4. Monsterzero
    B-B-B-Bass in Your Face
    Written by Monsterzero
    Published May 16, 2018
    Pros - Bass,build quality,design,easy to drive
    Cons - bass,price
    Intro: I am an admitted mids-head,rather than a basshead. I found the Cascade to be too bass heavy naked,so my thoughts that follow are from listening with the 2nd strongest filter in place.

    Build Quality/Comfort/Presentation:

    I found the build quality to be excellent. Well built with a smart design. The magnetic cup/pad design will hopefully become more popular with other companies as it made pad rolling to be a breeze.

    I have read others complain about the comfort of the headband,and while I agree that the weight could be better dispersed across the band,I didnt find the Cascades to be uncomfortable on my shaved head. Im guessing having a full head of hair would help further.

    The only problem with the design for me was the narrow width of the pads. Theyre simply too narrow for the average ear.

    Sound and Technicalities:

    The Campfire Cascade is a very warm headphone. I admittedly enjoy a warm tilt to my headphones, I think however that the Cascade is too warm, especially when used sans the included filters.

    Lows: These are a bassheads dream. Theres gobs of bass to go around,from impactful midbass slam to the deep rumble of sub bass. Its quite clear that Campfire gave zero thought to trying to make these anywhere close to neutral...and they succeeded.
    Unfortunately as mentioned by others, the bass often times creeps into the mids,which muddies up the detail quite a bit,especially with older,warm recordings.

    Mids: While I wasnt particularly impressed with the mids in general,for a bass-centric headphone however,these have pretty good mids.
    V-shaped but not to an extreme degree I would recommend these to a basshead who happens to like mids. For a midhead who happens to like bass,not so much. The above forementioned bass bleed really detracts from the mid section.

    Treble: The highs are relaxed to my ears,which I rather enjoy. Detail retrieval isnt this headphones main strong suit,nor is it a weakness,but given the alternative of these,or a fullblown treble heavy screech machine (like the DT770) I will take the Cascades relaxed treble everyday of the week.


    Compared to the comparably priced Aeon Flow Closed, the Cascade has a narrow sound stage. However i did not find it any more or less narrow than many closed back headphones, but this is not the expansive width (nor depth) of the AFC either.

    Amping: The Cascade is a breeze to drive,whether it was direct from my LG V20,or an Ibasso DX50 or from a AGD R2R-11 the Cascade delivered essentially the same performance,punchy warm controlled bass.

    Final Thoughts:

    My wife,who is a pop child of the Eighties absolutely loved the Cascades. I found that with modern music that had a lot of slick,studio board created bass The Cascades sounded phenomenal. In addition, bright music and/or EDM,rap,hip-hop,and even some hard rock like AC/DC these headphones are a ton of fun.

    My son,whom is a metalhead, hated the Cascades. I would fall somewhere in between,neither loving nor loathing my time with The Cascade.

    If I was just starting out in this hobby and had $800.00 to spend I feel that there are better ways to get going in this hobby rather than the Cascade. However if youre in the market for a portable closed back,already have a competent home system in place, dont want to be bothered with carrying around an amp, and your musical tastes lean towards bright poppy tunes and enjoy bass in abundance then the Cascade might be the exact headphone youre looking for.
      Wildcatsare1 likes this.
  5. heliosphann
    A CASCADE of Bass
    Written by heliosphann
    Published Apr 30, 2018
    Pros - Build quality, accessories, portability/ease to drive, bass quality
    Cons - Price, bass quantity, midrange issues

    The unit I reviewed was part of a loaner tour set up by fellow Head-Fi members. I appreciate the opportunity to be included in the tour and a big thank you to everyone involved. This is also my first experience with Campfire audio products. I'm personally not a fan of IEM’s, so I had never demoed any of their gear before.

    Build Quality/Comfort/Presentation:

    I was immediately impressed with the packaging and presentation of the Campfire Cascade. Inside a colorful product box is very handsome looking black hard shelled case with a removable clip-on arm strap. Inside I found the Cascade's neatly folded up on a bed of a faux-wool looking material. It’s been some time since I’ve used headphones with a folding headband, but Campfire has designed a solid and well constructed system. Overall the Cascade’s build quality feels quite premium. Aluminum and stainless steel is predominately used, most notably in critical areas like the folding hinge.

    The earcup housing swivels slightly forward and goes completely 90 degrees back to lay completely flat. The earpads are premium feeling sheepskin and are very plush and supple. Their opening isn’t that large, but my ears fit just fine and I found them quite comfortable. The headband is wrapped in a durable feeling, synthetic material. There is a decent amount of padding under the apex to help prevent hot spots. During my time with the Cascade, I didn’t have any comfort issues and found them pleasant to wear over extended periods of time. They also seemed to stay firmly put on the move. Note that I have a pretty average sized head, so user comfort could vary depending on head size.

    Isolation is good for a closed back, but it’s not quite the best I’ve heard. The included silver plated copper Litz cable is excellent. It’s cloth covered, very malleable and the perfect length for portable use. My only real big issue with the build is the choice to use the same connectors as the Sennheiser HD800 uses. I’ve never been a fan of this connection type and I think there’s much better choices out there that are the same/similar size. According to Campfire, they find these connectors almost fail-proof, so that’s the reasoning they went with them. Also included are several acoustic dampeners so the user can tweak their overall sound. I’ll comment more on these later.

    One thing I’ve heard mentioned a few times is that the Cascade looks rather silly on your head. The NAD HP50’s were my go to portables for quite some time (and I still like them quite a lot, especially for the price), and they have an even more ridiculous looking headband. Overall I rather like Campfire’s design choices and feel they’re rather unique and attractive. As far as how they look on your head? I personally don’t care, but I supposed if you live in a house made of mirrors it might matter.

    Sound and Technicalities:

    The first thing you notice with listening to the Cascade is the bass. The 42mm beryllium coated pvd drivers have some of the best low end impact/slam I’ve heard on a pair of portables. These can be head rattlers for sure, and bass-head’s will no doubt love this about the Cascade’s sound. While I don’t consider myself a “bass-head”, I do like elevated bass if it works with the overall tuning. Unfortunately, I didn’t find that the case with the Cascade. Lets go into more detail.

    Lows: Like I already mentioned, the bass response of the Cascade is no doubt their highlight. Rich and robust with plenty of presence, punch and rumble. I’d consider it very high quality on a pair of portable closed backs. Unfortunately for me, I found that the quantity is just too much on most sources. Using the supplied acoustic dampeners, you can reduce the amount of low end. However, even with the highest dampener used, I still felt the bass bleeding into the mids. Sub-bass is rather good, but doesn’t reach down quite as much as some other headphones I’ve heard.

    Mids: I’d consider the Cascade’s overall midrange competent, although not terribly exciting. I already touched on the overreaching bass bleeding into the lower mids, which I felt distracting on certain tracks. Instruments overall sounded good and were fairly realistic sounding. Clarity is solid, although I found the upper mids to be withdrawn somewhat. Not egregiously so, but some vocals seemed too sit too far back in the mix.

    Treble: The Cascade is slightly rolled off in the highs and lacks upper extension. This can be adjusted somewhat with the supplied tuning dampeners, but they still fell short for my tastes. Besides the lack of extension, I didn’t have really many issues with the treble. Much like the midrange, it was pleasant sounding and not very offensive. The absence of air and sparkle hurt the overall tuning for me. I almost wish they would have went full V-shaped with the signature as it could help balanced out the excessive mid-bass.


    The Cascade really excels with some of it’s technical abilities. Detail retrieval is very competent and also overall has good transient response. I found the soundstage to be quite good for a closed-back. Expansive, yet not artificial sounding. Imagining and instrument separation are really exceptional, especially when paired with a high quality gear/source.

    Gear pairing:

    True to being a portable headphone, the Cascade is very easy to drive. It sounded competent from pretty much everything I threw at it. I ran it on multiple DAP’s, smartphones and everything up to my Liquid Gold/Yggdrasil combo. Surprisingly, I found that the Cascade scaled quite well. Despite how easy it is to drive, the drivers really seemed to come alive with more power. Although running them on full sized rig rather defeats their portable form factor, they would do well with a desktop home/office setup. I found a neutral/leaner sounding setup also benefited the Cascade due to their warmer sound. My favorite pairing was directly out of my HTC u11 smartphone, which is very lean and bright sounding. It actually tamed the over enthusiastic bass enough for my tastes and sounded more cohesive tonally.

    Final Thoughts:

    Campfire has delivered a solid first effort for their first full sized headphone. Most of my issues rely solely on the Cascade’s tuning, but many people will no doubt enjoy their sound. If you’re looking for a high quality portable headphone and primarily listen to Hip Hop, Pop, Electronic and Modern Rock, the Cascade might be worth looking at. I do feel the $800 price point is perhaps a little high for a portable with such a specific tuning. I would be much more enthusiastic about them if the were a few hundred dollars less. Still the Cascade is a very premium feeling product, and I’m excited to see what Campfire delivers next as far as full sized headphones go.
    1. RGLM
      Might have to start saving...
      RGLM, May 1, 2018
  6. SilverEars
    Looking for hard hitting bass?
    Written by SilverEars
    Published Apr 29, 2018
    Pros - Closed back, portability, plus for hard hitting bass lovers, good for wide genre of music, balanced upper frequencies
    Cons - Lots of bass, mids can be a bit on the warmer side
    Disclaimer: The headphone I’m reviewing is a demo unit provided for an on-going tour.

    Campfire Audio is a name I’m pretty familiar with as I thoroughly enjoyed their TOTL iem offering, the Andromeda. So when it was announced that Ken has been developing a headphone, piqued my interest. This headphones is the Campfire Cascade, which is the one I’m reviewing.

    Cascade is a closed back headphone utilizing 42mm Beryllium PVD Diaphragm Dynamic Drivers. In terms of looks, it doesn’t have the typical rounded shaped headphone cups, but rather a rectangular shape. It’s not the largest cups for the ears, but fit my ears just fine, but feels like there is a bit of a limited room even if my ears are considered compact in size. People with bigger ears may find it more constricting.

    The headphones comes in this large box similar to the small sized box that comes with their iems.

    Within the box, contains a carrying case with the headphones inside, two envelopes. One of the envelopes contains the warranty card, two quick guides, and the filters. The other envelope contained the headphone cable.

    The pads are easy to take out to swap out the filters. Nice feature of the Cascade is that the pads are held on by magnets on the pads and the drivers. So, it’s quite easy to pull out the pads, slide the filter in, and placing the pads back on. Pads go back on in precise placement by magnetic attraction without any fiddling. This is quite refreshing from headphones that take a bit work to pull out the pads. Sometimes they use little plastic coupler that you can accidently damage or wear out over time, or worse, they maybe adhered with an adhesive.

    When I heard that these headphones come with filters, I expected to be some sort of foam inserts you find with MrSpeakers headphone. The filters used for the Cascades are totally different as they are not foam of any kind, but a cut sheet of plastic film that is placed on top portion of the earspeakers. There are 4 different types of filters sized from 1T to 4T, and with increasing number, the pore size increases from 7 to 15um. Each filter can be identified with a specific notch shape as shown on the quick reference guide provided.

    Filters can be applied by pulling out the pads, and placing it on top of the round portion of the driver that is located at the center. There is a notch at the top that the top notch of the filter film can be aligned.

    The quick guide(for the filters) provided states, “The lower number value of the acoustic dampener the higher the level of mid and low frequency response will be.” So, I decided on lowest filter, 1T, and I didn’t notice much of a difference in sound. Upon further investigation on the forum threads, somebody recommended to just not use filters altogether, and I thought there was a slight difference without the filter, reducing some warmth and bringing out more mids coherency, and highs in general. The bass response on the other hand, I couldn’t tell if there were reduction or not as the bass of the Cascade is very strong that if there is some reduction, it should be quite noticeable, but I couldn’t tell.

    The cable came inside the black envelope. I was quite surprised the entire cable fit inside there. The cable isn’t long, and terminated with a 3.5mm connector. The driver connectors on the cable is same connectors used for HD800 headphones. The cable is covered in fabric material, and doesn’t get coiled up or has memory, which is quite nice. It’s quite light as well, and I think the cable works quite well for portable use.

    Upon initial listen, first thing I noticed was hard slamming bass large in quantity. I immediately had to turn down the volume as that was a whole lot of hard hitting bass. I never had this the other way around, usually it’s the treble side I’d adjust the volume for.

    Well, I can say, it’s for people that want to feel the music as there a highly significant bass presence to these. These in particular to many other headphones, pushes out significant bass, particularly the mid to lower mids bass. The bass hits very hard with it’s mid bass region, and outputs a particular woofer like resonance effect as well. Listening to genre like pop, hiphop, R&B, you get hit with these type of bass, particularly in large quantity. The hard bass gets reveal, but quite significantly if the track contains it, but if it does not, you won’t get hit with such hard bass. But a bit of warning, bass hit really hard and quite significant than the avg. Be forewarned.

    When I got these, there was already a filter placed in the drivers, 1T, or the filter that should(according to the quick guide) should have the lowest level of mids to bass, and I still found the bass to be quite high and significant. Matter a fact, these headphones has the greatest bass quantity I’ve ever heard on an headphone. This maybe because I’m into more balanced response, and therefore I don’t have much opportunity with bass rich headphones..

    A forum member mentioned that the lowest bass quantity would be without any filters applied, so I tried them without any filters. Although I didn’t notice much of a difference in terms of bass quantity(still quite high), taking out any filters seems to increase mids clarity slightly and seems to be slight increase in lower treble as well.

    I can say that these headphones do sound like Andromeda(in the mids to upper frequencies ignoring the bass), particularly without the filters. It does have have a bit of that warm lower-mids presence to sound. This response is a bit above neutral that mids can come off a bit on the warm side. Mids sounds a bit less clear due to the warm nature of the signature(especially with the filters). What’s really interesting though is that even with such a large volume of bass, the bass doesn’t bleed much to the mids for a closed headphone, but there is still that warm presence in the mids that provide greater weight to the mids, and therefore find the mids to be reduced in clarity slightly compared to a response with lower bass quantity, but overall, it’s got to be the clearest sounding headphone for such large quantity of bass. I think the way the Cascade FR being emphasized more toward the mid to lower mid bass, probably keeps the bass from bleeding to the mids significantly. I didn’t hear any mids to upper mids-recession. I think the upper frequencies are well balanced.

    Overall, I find these to be fun sounding headphones that with modern genre, and pop, by adding much ummph in the low end. These headphones do quite well with modern and pop genre of music, and doesn’t sound incisive in the upper frequencies. It’s not a response that you’d hear much sibilance either, which is a trait I like about the upper frequency response. It should play well with wide genre of music.

    If you are looking for hard hitting bass with a bit of warmth, you should definitely look into the Cascades. It’s a good option for those love bass(have a particular taste for hard hitting bass), and looking for something that works portably. I’m not much of a bass-head, but can’t deny that these in general do sound good(but, lower bass would of course be closer to my preferred sig).

    Like I’ve mentioned, these are suited for portable use being a closed back, comes with thin light cable with 3.5mm termination, and being easy to drive(which would be suited for portable devices),

    I find that it does sound similar to Andromeda if ignoring the significantly raised mid to low-mid bass. It seems CA has similar philosophy for it’s target response. Overall warm, but without too much upper-mids treble, and articulate the treble with lower treble(but, not with too much in quantity), and in some cases like the Cascade, push lots of bass. Since I’m not really a bass-head, what I wonder about is, how the Cascade would sound without so much bass. I do find the upper frequencies pretty nicely done that I don’t hear any tonal abruptness, and sounds relatively smooth. So, I think a Cascade without such large quantity of bass would be the type of response that would jive well for me.

    I’d like to thank Ken Ball from CA in providing opportunity for us to demo the Cascades.
  7. Jackpot77
    Campfire Audio Cascade - Substance with Style
    Written by Jackpot77
    Published Apr 26, 2018
    Pros - Solid metal construction, stellar bass, outstanding physical texture to the sound, big sound, musical but balanced tuning, emotive midrange, crisp treble
    Cons - Bass will be too much for some, have to detach cables to fold and stow in carry case, pretty much nothing else
    Price: $799

    Product site: https://campfireaudio.com/shop/cascade/



    These headphones have been provided to me by Campfire Audio for the purposes of this review, along with their SXC8 4.4mm balanced cable. There is no incentive (financial or otherwise) for giving these headphones a positive review, and all the words and opinions expressed within are my own (no matter how misguided!), with no editorial input from Campfire Audio.

    This review was originally posted on the UK based audio blog I contribute to (Audio Primate) and is being posted here for the benefit of any Head-Fi'er who may be interested.

    About me:
    I'm a fairly recent convert to audiophilia but a long time music fan, also aspiring to be a reasonably inept drummer in my spare time. I listen to at least 2 hours of music a day – generally prefer IEMs for out and about, and a large pair of headphones when I have the house to myself and a glass in my hand. I have converted most of my library to FLAC or 320kbps MP3, and do my other listening other listening through Tidal HiFi. I am a fan of rock, acoustic (apart from folk) and sarcasm. Oh yeah, and a small amount of electronica. Not a basshead, but I do love a sound with some body to it. My ideal tuning for most IEMs and headphones tends towards a musical and slightly dark presentation, although I am not treble sensitive in general. Please take all views expressed in my posts with a pinch of salt – all my reviews are a work in progress based on my own perceptions and personal preferences, and your own ears may tell you a different story


    Campfire Audio are a brand that are quickly becoming one of the defacto “go to” manufacturers on the current audiophile scene for high end portable audio. Based out of Portland, Oregon (USA) and headed up by Ken Ball, this American audio powerhouse originally sprang from Ken’s other business selling high end audio components and amplification, ALO Audio. Despite the fact they have only been around for a couple of years, they have quickly slipped into the fabric of the audiophile upper echelons with releases like the Jupiter, Andromeda and Vega, utilising advanced tuning techniques in the IEM shells and unusual driver materials to keep the driver counts down while producing some of the most well regarded IEMs in the $1k bracket.

    I first heard a Campfire Audio product when the Nova was made available on the group buying site Massdrop. As Campfire don’t currently have a UK distributor (at time of writing), the only way for me to hear their take on sound was to jump in with both feet and buy blind. To cut a long story short, while the Nova wasn’t my own personal endgame in terms of preferences, there was something in the skill of the tuning that very much appealed to my inner sensibilities, so I made it my goal to hear as many more of their lineup as I could, whenever the chance arose. Having since heard (and reviewed) their 2017 flagship models (the Andromeda and Vega) and loved both very different takes both IEMs produced, I was hugely intrigued to hear what Ken & Co could cook up with a 42mm over-ear driver, so I positively jumped at the opportunity to review these headphones once the chance came up.


    Campfire Audio are becoming synonymous in their IEM range for the simple elegance and diminutive size of their packaging, and the Cascade certainly doesn’t veer far from that established blueprint here. The headphone is initially presented in a dark green cardboard box, with a grey constellation pattern meant to evoke the feeling of sitting around a campfire and staring into the stars (hence the name of the brand, or so the story goes). On the top face of the box is overlaid a classy grey and silver sticker with the name of the headphone and some basic information in shiny silver writing, set on a swirling grey background. It is simple but undeniably classy, with the front face of the box carrying more information including a picture of the headphones, the relevant certifications and a nice holographic Campfire Audio sticker verifying the serial number of the headphone. The rest of the box is bare, with just a couple of stick-drawing trees and a small Campfire Audio logo in gold breaking up the starry green and grey backdrop.

    Opening the flip top lid of the box, you are presented with a large faux-leather headphone carrying case, in the same form as the iconic carry cases from their IEM range, including the faux-wool interior cushioning. Removing the carry case and opening it reveals the headphones themselves, along with two small black envelopes. Tipping out the contents onto the table will reveal the ALO Audio headphone cable that comes as stock, a small Campfire Audio pin, a warranty card, two sets of instruction manuals and some small acoustic tuning inserts.

    The manuals for things like headphones are usually of the strikingly obvious variety, and don’t often offer much in the way of any useful insights. The main manual follows this format, providing some useful info on how to detach the earpads from their magnetic assembly, but otherwise sticking to the tried and tested format of “plug this in here and place on head”. The second manual is far more interesting, as it details the effects of the four different acoustic damping filters that are provided with the Cascade to tweak the tuning.

    All in all, it’s a classy presentation, not overly ostentatious but definitely in keeping with the pricetag of the gear. It sets a good tone for the whole first listening experience, and as the headphones fold into the carry case, is actually not a horrific size in terms of the overall package when you actually have to store it on a shelf somewhere. Off to a good start.


    Build quality and aesthetics
    Taking the Cascade in hand, they are a sturdily built affair, sporting a solid aluminium frame with a padded headband and ultra-thick detachable earpads which are held on by a magnetic fastening system. The entire headphone feels sturdy and robust, even down to the metal extenders that move with a solid click as the extend and retract. Despite the all-metal build, the weight is pretty reasonable, and is well distributed across the head when worn. I have a head that is only marginally smaller than an elephant (or so I’ve been told), and occasionally I can feel a slight hotspot right in the middle of my skull after protracted periods of wear, but this isn’t a huge concern for me personally. Otherwise, the clamping force is firm but not overpowering, the swivelling earcups and plushness of the memory foam padding making for a very good seal and secure fit.

    The pads click on and off easily, with a strong pulling force to keep them in place when they are on your ears. As mentioned, the foam filling is on the thick side, with a ergonomic wedge shape to the pads that is thicker at the back of the headphone, following the contour of the head. The size of the pads is on the smaller side of the circumaural scale, being only marginally bigger than the circumference of my ears. The softness means that this isn’t uncomfortable if your ears do touch the outside of the padding, but if you do have ears that wouldn’t look out of place on the front cover of the BFG, this will probably be a snug fit. The detachable pads also allow the user to fit one of the four included tuning filters into a specially designed gap between the driver and the pad, allowing some subtle fine tuning of the sound. The act of placing the micropore fabric over the driver vents is a delicate process for those with fat fingers, but they stay in place very well once you have the pads back in place, so isn’t an odious process to change whan you fancy a slightly different tang to the presentation.

    The Cascade use the Sennheiser HD800 style of push.pull connectors, and these are angled out of the bottom of each earcup at 45 degrees. This allows for a nice solid cable connection, and naturally angles the cabling forwards so it lays more easily across the chest. The cable connectors and socket both look well machined and fairly robust, so should last through multiple connection and disconnection cycles. This is handy, as the cables need to be detached from the cups before being stowed in the carrying case. In conjunction with the hinges in the headband (just above the extender on both sides), this does allow the Cascade to pack down into a very compact shape for ease of transport in their case for taking on the bus/train/plane.

    Finally, the included cable is a high-quality fabric sleeved cable from Campfire’s sister company ALO Audio, terminated in an angled 3.5mm connector. The cable is a silver-plated copper cable, and is very flexible, with practically no microphonics or memory effect. The grey sheathing is less “custom” looking compared to the exposed insulation of something like the SXC8, but it is still in keeping with the overall aesthetic, and the lightness and manageability of the cable go a long way towards making the portable experience more practical.

    Overall, these headphones feel sturdy and beautifully put together, and sport an angular industrial design that doesn’t take up too much real estate on the skull. They look different (and not in a bad way), and pack down neatly and easily, giving the impression that they will survive a multitude of trips wherever you intend on taking them without the slightest hint of trouble. Like much of Campfire’s design work, they are definitely a bold design, but unless you really hate the industrial look they are going for, these tick all the major boxes for a top of the line headphone.


    Initial impressions on the sound signature
    The Cascade is unabashedly a Campfire Audio product in terms of the tuning, sharing a similar sonic slant to both the single DD in-ear monitors on their current range, the Lyra II and Vega. For the uninitiated, this means depth, a weight to the sound you usually only get from sitting in the front row at the World Anvil Dropping Championships and some world class musicality. While it has balance, this is not a headphone for the neutrality-lovers out there. It has bags of bass, a detailed and forward leaning midrange, and a decently crisp treble.

    The first and most prominent frequency range is the bass, and it’s here that the Cascade takes full advantage of the Beryllium driver technology to present a sound that is big, bold and punchy. It had the same sort of presence as their flagship IEM the Vega, verging on basshead levels of quantity and slam. Straight out of the box, it occasionally approaches boominess with some poorly mastered tracks, but manages to keep enough of the beast in its cage to cruise just inside the lines. After 200 hours of use, the bass (or my ears) has tightened up, giving a superb sense of dynamism and texture to the lower end, with no small amount of snap. Despite the size, the bass doesn’t overshadow or bleed into the midrange, managing to keep from drowning the lower registers of the vocal ranges in mud or haze. Big, bold and musical are the order of the day here.

    The mids are slightly forward and verging on the intimate side in terms of stage position, but a little behind the bass in volume level. Detail levels are surprisingly high for such an overtly fun tuning, with the Cascade being able to spit out gobs of fine detail and texture when required. Guitars sound damn fine, carrying a physical substance and crunch that works superbly with most genres of rock music. The presentation is densely layered, hitting you with a tightly defined wall of sound without sounding cluttered or congested. Vocal delivery is throaty and emotional, and remains fairly even handed when portraying both male and female singers. Overall, musical and thickly detailed is how I would describe these, taking the sort of tuning that worked so well for the Vega and adding a little tweak.

    The upper end is crisp but not overblown, sitting somewhere between an XXx and XxX sort of tuning. Ken @ Campfire recommends >75 hours of burn in for the drivers to really relax and start showing their true colours, and while I’m neither a believer or disbeliever, the treble does seem to have moved more to the fore as the hours have racked up, so be prepared to give your brain or the drivers time to break in before you pass judgement.

    Again, detail level is high, with a crispness to the leading edge of the notes that adds just a splash of bite to the otherwise warm and musical tone of the Cascade. They are far from congested or dark, but there isn’t a huge feeling of air or sparkle in the upper registers for me, with the treble staying firmly planted just above the midrange rather than glittering off into the rafters. Lovers of 1000C treble heat should probably look elsewhere for their dose of in-ear acupuncture – these cans are definitely not tuned for the stereotypical HD800 fan.


    Getting into the main talking point of these headphones, the bass is something that will polarise the card carrying “audiophiles” out there. With a sound that is thick and beefy, the Cascade kicks out a huge amount of body in the lower end. It isn’t a bass that is woolly or loose in its presentation, and carries a nice sense of agility and punch, but it is BIG. It’s the sort of bass that feels almost tactile, filling the lower end of the frequency range with a sound that is rich, velvety and textured. It lends a very musical and “live” feel to the sound, evoking the chest rattling feeling you get at a good gig when the bass and drums kick into gear.

    In terms of balance, the Cascade shares the load fairly evenly between the mid and sub bass frequencies, with a slight tilt in the midbass and then a strong and linear descent into true sub bass (or as true as you can get from a pair of over ears) without and loss of power or emphasis. The bass quantity is definitely a way north of neutral, verging on basshead territory depending on which filter setup you use. It shares a similarity with its IEM counterpart the Vega in that no matter how big the bass feels, it doesn’t feel like it is overshadowing or muddying up the sound above it.

    Speed is good, if not quite planar-quick, with a crisp snap and sense of dynamics that keeps drum hits clearly separated in the midst of the most demanding of tracks. “Coming Home” by the prog / rock supergroup Sons Of Apollo starts with a thunderous fill across the width of the kit from Mike Portnoy, and this rolls from left to right across the back of the Cascade stage like a tidal wave. Each strike of the drumhead occupies its own space, both in the X-Y axis and also along the Z-axis, giving a three dimensional feel to the rhythm section.

    The bass guitar on this track is thick, distorted and lightning quick, and the Cascade keeps up with the frenetic fretwork easily, providing a thick and rasping low end to the crunchy guitar and vocal histrionics going on above. Another bass growler on my review playlist is “Bad Rain” by Slash, and this absolutely roars on the Cascade. The bass riff that kicks in at the 20 second mark fills the lower left half of the soundstage, and sounds so rich and thickly textured you could probably sell it as a steak in a Michelin starred restaurant. The inner detail here is top notch, presenting layering and resolution in the lower end that is of the highest order, especially for a can in this price bracket. You can hear the heavy gauge strings on the bass guitar vibrating after each hit, slowly starting to fade before the next note hits the ear. Despite the thickness, this is sound with body but no bleed, keeping each strike distinct and taut against the listener’s eardrum.

    In comparison to some of the bassier IEMs I have, I find the Cascade presents the lower frequencies in a physically larger and slightly more diffuse way, filling more of the sonic picture in my head. The imaging is actually pretty tight, but the overall presence just feels a little more physically real to my ears.

    Switching to something a little funkier, “Here Come The Girls” by Trombone Shorty kicks off with a driving bass and snare drum intro, then the titular brass comes to the party. The Cascade captures the energy of the song, each bass drum hit landing with a solid physical impact and the snare packing a seriously heavyweight punch. The bass quantity adds a richness to the lower end of the horn section that makes the song sound organic and alive, each instrument having a solid and thick foundation to the underside of the notes that plants the music firmly in the listeners’ brain.


    “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk sounds sublime through these headphones, the liquid chocolate of the bassline dancing around the ears and dropping lower and lower without losing emphasis. Some drivers can leave the bassline sounding a little one-note as it scrapes the floor of the track, but the Cascade is able to pick up the fine differentiation between the notes without iver-analysing it and losing the inherent Rogers and Pharrell funk that gives the song its heart.

    Another genre that benefits from the Cascade’s loud and proud bass stylings is funk, with both Rock Candy Funk Party (yet another Joe Bonamassa driven supergroup) and the more bluesy crossover from artist like Keb’ Mo’ sounding at their toe-tapping best through the Campfire cans. “Stand Up (And Be Strong)” by Keb’ Mo’ is a current favourite, mashing a bluegrass style fingerpicked blues riff up against some vintage Stevie Wonder hammond organ and a whole heap of funk in the rhythm section. The bass is multi-layered and thick, propelling the song into the front of your brain and getting the feet tapping involuntarily. The Cascade is very good at that, the thick and full bodied sound just feeling so damnably engaging that you end up losing yourself in the music and just going along with the flow. At the end of the day, you can talk technicalities until the sun comes up, but sometimes it just has to be about how a particular headphone/DAP/amp makes you feel with a particular piece of music, and the Cascade has this pretty much nailed.

    Rounding out the bass, “Heaven” by Emile Sande tests out the sub capability of the Cascade, and once again it doesn’t disappoint. The track kicks off with a meaty thrumming, the sense of vibration building slowly in your ears until it feels almost physical. To be fair, this isn’t the most sub-bass I’ve ever heard in either an IEM or over-ear, but it is definitely north of neutral, sitting nicely weighted against the beefy mid-bass to round out the sound without overly tilting or skewing the signature. EDM lovers will be well served with this headphone, the Cascade punching out each kick drum and snare impact with a visceral authority, contrasting well against the physical hum of the sub bass tones.

    “Why So Serious?” from The Dark Knight OST underlines the prowess on display, the ominous rumbling as the track passes the 3 minute marker really sucking the listener into the sound, and slowly pulsing in the ears as the track starts building again. As mentioned, this isn’t the biggest sub-bass I have ever heard, but it is present, dense and physically involving, which is all I really want from the low-low end of my headphones.

    In summary, the bass on display here is large, tight, fully textured and capable of excellent layering and detail retrieval. More than that, though, it is just downright involving and fun, putting a big grin on your face and a little shudder in the soft grey stuff behind your ears as it plows through each track you feed it. Yes, it demands attention, but it manages not to overshadow the rest of the music in the process. If you are looking for anaemic texture-but-no-substance “audiophile” bass, you have most likely come to the wrong set of cans, but for everyone else who loves a bit of meat on their music, the Cascade are as close to perfect as they can get for this particular tuning.


    In its naked (no filter) configuration, the mids aren’t recessed, but sit a little behind the bass in terms of stage presence. This has balanced out a little with brain/driver burn in, but my personal preference for the Cascade is running with filter #4, which adds a little more emphasis on the mids to the mix (to my ears, anyway). If the bass is the talking point of the Cascade, the mids could be its most unexpected strength.

    In keeping with the presentation below, the midrange is thick and meaty, sounding rounded and muscular. There is a subtle detail and clarity to the presentation that lays underneath, however, and once your brain has tuned in to it, it can provide a very pleasant surprise. This can reminds me of the way the Questyle QP2R presents music – plenty of body and richness, but never at the expense of the detail sitting behind. The Cascade are actually one of the more resolving headphones I have heard, allowing the listener to resolve small details on well known passages of music that can be muddied or obscured by other cans. This is the difference between treble emphasis (which can artificially boost perception of micro-details) and actual resolution, where the details are present in the music for the listener to discern, rather than being pushed up against the front walls of the soundscape demanding attention.

    For avoidance of doubt, these are NOT headphones that will take on detail monsters like the HD800 in a straight micro-plankton sifting contest, but they also deserve more credit than they seem to be getting for the actual insight into the music they provide.

    Starting with “Everybody Knows She’s Mine” by Blackberry Smoke, the first thing I was looking for to test out the clarity of these ‘phones is the acoustic guitar lick that comes in over the chugging electric at around the 20-second mark. The Cascade give the main riff a meaty and thudding sense of body, but the acoustic guitar still comes through clear and neatly defined, sitting just on top of the main sound. On some IEMs and headphones I have, this lick can be swallowed up by the body of the amplified guitar underneath, or sticks to it like an unfortunate bug on a windshield as it blows by your ears, but the Cascade manage to avoid both of those outcomes. There is plenty of other macro-detail in this track that is pulled out well, the jangle and resonance of the acoustic guitar strings as chords are strummed playing into the periphery of the sound and adding a nice layer of texture to the main body of sound.

    Sticking some vocal testers into the mix, “Whiskey And You” by Chris Stapleton sounds powerful and rich, avoiding traces of sibilance or harshness as the raw sounding chorus kicks through. The weight of the mids and bass beneath fill in the gaps around the singer’s gravelly roar, keeping the detail in place but sounding very forgiving on the hotly mastered ballad, which can sound unpleasantly ear-shredding on sharper setups. “Starlight” by Slash also passes the sibilance test, the nitro-fuelled wails of Myles Kennedy coming through with texture and power but no unpleasant edge or harshness as it soars. The body around the track allows the vocals to hit the limits of listenability without bothering the eardrum, and more importantly without compromising on the inner detail. The Cascade present both male and female vocals with the same level of prowess, voices in the lower register coming out just a shade thicker due to the bolstering effect of the bass underneath it, but not enough to unbalance the delivery.

    The last of my vocal stress tests belongs to Emile Sande. Whoever mixed and mastered “My Kind Of Love” from her debut album either directs spends their leisure time directing an off-off-waaaay off Broadway show consisting of recordings of babies screaming for 3 and a half hours, or has a serious high range hearing deficit. The track is sharper than a bag full of scalpels, and is positively punishing on some gear. Again, the Cascade keeps a lid on the harshness, making the track listenable if not fully enjoyable. While the vocal presentation is usually on the warm and slightly sweet side, even the Cascade has its limits, so while this is definitely a headphone that brings the best out of most things you feed it, there is too much detail underneath to fully hide a really bad recording.


    Guitars sound sublime on the Cascade, both electric and acoustic types sounding big and dynamic. A decent portion of my music library involves either of these instruments, and the thick and beefy sound of a chugging rock riff just sounds right through these cans. To put it simply, this is a headphone that is tuned to excel with all types of rock music. There is a thick, viscous feel to the body of the notes, hitting with genuine weight and presence. Despite this, the presentation doesn’t feel muddy or clouded, keeping a nice sense of separation between each of the large bodies of sound. The sounds feel full bodied, carrying a thickness through the middle of the note and just sharpening up around the edges to retain the detail.

    The Cascade isn’t picky what it sounds good with, either. From radio friendly AOR (“Be Good To Yourself” by Journey) through instrumental tracks (“Crazy Joey” by Joe Satriani) to something like Metallica or the Foo Fighters, all sound thickly resolving and full of life. The Satriani track is particularly well recorded, and the Cascade revels in putting the little sonic cues around the stage into focus, playing the reverb from Satriani’s wailing guitar cleanly into the space between each note.

    Moving to something a little more funky, “Stand Up (And Be Strong)” by Keb’Mo’ channels Stevie Wonder into the finger-picked guitar that sits on top of the pure funk bassline and hammond organ. The bassline is thick and driving on this track, but doesn’t cloud the acoustic guitar accents, all coming together to generate a toe tapping gospel/funk/blues fusion that actually got my feet moving while I was writing this paragraph. The Keb’Mo’ album this track is taken from is actually pretty good for testing headphones, with some high quality recording and plenty of subtle micro-detail in the tracks. “Gimme What You Got” is another funk/blues number, which starts with a barely audible count-in from the drummer that is picked up on one of the drumhead microphones. On a lot of gear it can blur together with the opening organ notes, but the Cascade manage to present it faintly but clearly in the back of the soundstage.

    Piano and keys are also represented with authority, with a warm and natural sounding timbre that prioritises weight and physical impact but still retains detail (noticing a theme here?). The piano evokes more of a smoky jazz bar theme than a classical recital in Carnegie Hall, carrying more weight on the bottom end of the notes, but that fits in nicely with the overall tone of the Cascade. On “Your Heart Is As Black As Night” by Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa, the opening piano bars sit on top of a rolling bassline, and set the tone perfectly for the sweeping jazz-soul of the track. They sit just underneath Hart’s throaty vocals, accentuating the bass without getting drowned in it.

    So, we’ve discussed how the Cascade chews through rock tracks like an 80s roadie, and how it treats wailing walls of sibilance. How does it do with the more civilised end of the spectrum when you feed it some classical music? The answer to that is: pretty damned well. It lacks the super-expansive soundstage and uber-detail of something like the HD800 to really give you that “in the opera house” feeling, but for most classical or classical-fusion fare, the Cascade present a more than adequate sonic picture. Stringed instruments feel full and weighty, cello and violins carrying a sackful of texture in each bow stroke. The relative bass emphasis adds a fair slice of sturm und drang to passages like “Orpheus In The underground” or “Toccata & Fugue”, sacrificing stage size for a more intimate but heavyweight presentation of the music. “Danse Macabre” by Dual & the London Session Orchestra sounds full and rich, the violins taking centre stage. This presentation is more orchestra as a wall of sound than a full symphony, but no less moving or engaging for it.

    In summary, the mids here are weighty, smooth and warm but still carry plenty of peripheral detail and bags of texture. They are slightly in the shadow of the bass, but certainly never overshadowed by it. In terms of staging, they are still further forward than neutral on the stage to my ears. They make rock and other guitar music sound excellent, and make a pretty good fist of correct tone and timbre for other stringed instruments and piano. In isolation, they provide a beautifully tuned take on a musical midrange that doesn’t sacrifice detail. In concert with the bass below and the treble above, they make even more sense. These aren’t mids for the audiophile purist, these are mids for the music lover, and like the rest of this headphone, are all the better for it.


    Considering these are a set of headphones tuned for bass presence, the treble is a pleasant surprise, packing a good anoint of presence and very good clarity. “Starlight” by Slash starts with a screeching guitar harmonic, which comes through clear and strong on the Cascade, sounding deliberately dissonant but not grating. It isn’t the most emphatic or forceful rendition I’ve heard, but it certainly isn’t lacking. The rest of the track has some gentle guitar fretting and reverb sounds that the Cascade havens equally well, presenting them softly in the upper layers of the sound without letting them be overshadowed by the thickness of the sound underneath.

    Cymbal crashes and hi hats on the track feel realistic and deftly emphasised, providing a percussive backdrop to the music without distracting. Again, not the splashiest, but the decay feels weighty and real, cutting through the music and dying down shortly afterwards. The sound isn’t overly tizzy, having a very realistic (to me) timbre.

    Sticking some more electronic fare into the playlist, the upbeat synth of “Drinking From The Bottle” by Calvin Harris carries a chunky presence, sitting a little further back on the stage than the mids and bass but not feeling overly shelved or rolled off. This treble is clean and thick, painting itself across the ceiling of the soundstage rather than echoing out Ingrid the distance. There is a small element of sparkle hiding in the occasional synthesiser run, but this isn’t a headphone that screams Beyer or Senn HD800 when you think about how it presents itself up top.

    This is a headphone that concentrates more on purity and blackness in the higher registers, presenting a treble that is crisp and crunchy, but doesn’t sparkle in the same way as its stablemate the Andromeda. There is delicacy and detail in the upper reaches of the music, but it feels a little more reserved compared to the titanic midrange and bass to my ears. Listening to “Mountains” by Emile Sande, the sweeping strings and delicate finger picked acoustic guitar float about in the top end of the song, showing a nice level of finesse without dominating proceedings. This headphone feels a little more present in the treble than IEMs like the Vega and Lyra II from the same manufacturer, carrying just enough edge in the treble to let the notes cut through the notes around them and retain their clarity without getting lost in the body.

    “Theme” by the classical duo Duel is rendered with a twinkling finesse that underlines the credentials of the treble, strings dancing around in the upper left and upper right quadrants of the sound, the delicate pluckings of other instruments like the harpsichord (I think – ironically, I used to fall asleep in music lessons in school) adding finesse to the more emotive orchestration underneath. The whole album (also called “Duel”) is actually fairly eye opening through the Cascade, the twin violins and smattering of synthesiser and other more modern electronic instrumentation being beautifully presented as the tracks ebb and flow.

    The general tone of the treble lends a more enclosed rather than spacious feel to the sound, with the notes dying away into silence a little quicker like they would in a well damped room or packed music venue, rather than echoing around a larger hall or audio space. This doesn’t feel cramped or squashed, and for a closed back can the soundstage is still far more than adequate, so the tuning choice here sits well with me in terms of the overall cohesion of the sound signature. For those who had issues with the Vega’s treble (I wasn’t one) and wanted something a little more , the Cascade may be just the thing you are looking for.


    Separation, soundstage and layering
    The Cascade have a naturally compact soundstage, presenting a big sound that hovers around the circumference of the head. They are slightly above average for a closed back headphone in that respect, but still clearly a closed back model in direct comparison to open-backed models. It presents with good depth and height, however, lending a feeling of scale and size to the notes that give the presentation a “big” feel to it, even if it doesn’t wander off too far while playing with your ears.

    The staging is relatively forward and intimate rather than spacious and distant, the size of the notes and the stage they play on pulling you forward into the mix, rather than leaving you sitting a few rows back in the crowd. Vocals are strongly centre-field in the stage, coming down through the top of my head on a slight angle for most tracks, as if I was sitting on a chair with the singer standing up and performing in front of me. Imaging is strong on this headphone, allowing “live” recordings like Better Man by Leon Bridges to place the instruments in the room in exact places, notes drifting forward over your ears and sitting at the back of the sound depending on which instrument is playing. There is a gentle whistle at the end of the chorus (around the 1:05 mark) that floats in just from the left, giving a strong picture of the backup singers in their position in the cavernous room this track was recorded in.

    Separation is good, hard panned instruments pulling well to the left and right of the soundscape and multiple strands of music resolving themselves clearly in the ear without bleeding together or being bulldozed by louder passages of music. Layering is similar, with the Cascade more than capable of stacking multiple textures and tones into the same musical space without becoming blurry or smeared. The feel of the sound is dense but detailed, and rewards critical listening by allowing you to move around the various strands in a well recorded track without too much mental effort. Given the relative size of the stage, the peripheral instruments never stray too far on the x-axis from the main central image, but again, this is in keeping with the overall presentation.


    Cable choice
    The Cascade uses the push/pull HD800 style of cable connectors, so there will be a plethora of available upgrade cables available from the usual aftermarket suppliers if you want to experiment with different cable “tones” for this beast of a headphone. The demo unit I got sent was lucky enough to come with a 4.4mm terminated version of the ALO SXC 8 upgrade cable, currently being sold on the Campfire and ALO websites for $349. Like the stock cable, it is an SPC configuration, this time in an 8-braid form with transparent sheathing and the eyecatching ALO 4.4mm golden connector plug at the end.

    As these are the only two cables I currently have using this type of connector, and one of them (the SXC8) runs balanced, I wasn’t able to do any thorough A/B comparisons. To my ears, the SXC8 sounds a little richer in tone out of the balanced out from my ZX300, and the Cascade does seem to benefit from the additional power at the same matched volume levels. The SXC8 is a beautiful looking cable, and while it lacks the absolute flexibility and lack of microphonics of the stock sheathed ALO cable, it does look and feel premium. Added to the additional benefits of being able to access the sonically superior (to my ears) balanced amp pathway of the ZX300, it has become my cable of choice for the Cascade. It does suffer a little with microphonics and stiffness, so if you are mainly intent on using the Cascade as a fully portable unit on your daily commute, you will probably want to stick with the highly capable and more manageable stock cable, which has no real stiffness or microphonics to speak of. On the other hand, if you do have access to a 4.4mm balanced source and intend to listen to the Cascade in more “stationary” locations (coffee shop / office / home) then the SXC8 does help to my ears to bring a small but noticeable improvement to the signature – as mentioned, the ZX300 is known to have a “better sounding” balanced out due to the way the device is put together, but as always, we are talking about very small margins here, so please take that opinion with the appropriate grain of salt.


    Power requirements and matchability
    The Cascade share many similarities with their fraternal stablemate the Vega, and one of them is their approach to amplification. Neither unit needs to be amplified, with both being able to produce louder-than-comfortable output from things like mobile phones or typically underpowered DAPs like the Sony A-series. That being said, if you do apply the power, both models do a very good job of drinking it up, scaling in dynamic impact and power as the wattage increases, and taking a slightly tighter grip on the lower end. I don’t have any true face melting power outputs at my disposal, but running the Cascade off my desktop CMA400i from Questyle or the portable Continental V5 from ALO, the extra juice adds a little something to the sound that suggests that these should be fed as much power as you have on tap when you have the chance – you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.

    In fact, if you have a CV5, you should definitely consider welding it to the cable of the Cascade, lest you forget to use these together. On paper, the warm and tubey sound of the Continental may not be the best match for the already warm and deep tones of the Cascade, but the additional voltage swing the CV5 is capable of putting out takes a slightly firmer hand on the rudder in the more lively bass passages, and the staging of the amp lends itself well to really flesh out the stage of the Cascade in the ears in all three directions.

    In general, though, the warm and thick sound of the Cascade will typically benefit from a cooler source to really unlock the levels of detail and resolution that the drivers are capable of. Paired with the Sony ZX300 in balanced mode (using the ALO SXC8 cable kindly provided with my review unit), the Cascade double down on the thick and warm element to their sound, with the ZX300 adding more solidity to the already prodigious bass on display with its classic Sony house sound. For some tracks, the texture is so rich and decadent that you could probably market it in a patisserie, but for others, it flirts with the border into stuffiness. Music never sounds anything less than good, but if you aren’t a fan of overly warm signatures, this may not be the best pairing for you. Personally, I do enjoy this pairing for the huge feeling of substance it is capable of evoking, but as always, one man’s nectar may be another man’s poison (or whatever the analogy is!). One thing the Sony does have to counteract the effect on the bass is a naturally expansive soundstage, which does go some way to alleviating the warm air in the midrange by giving it a bigger stage to play on.

    The Echobox Explorer produces similar results to the above, with less solidity in the bass but without the expansive staging properties of the ZX300, pulling the music into a denser and smaller central image. This isn’t a great pair up to my ears, and again while it still doesn’t sound bad, it isn’t a coupling I have reached for since my initial listens.

    The best matches in terms of DAC signature I have found from my collection have been the LG V30 and the CMA400i. The V30 provides ample power to run the Cascade, and the naturally cooler and more analytical tint to the sound allows the full clarity of the mids to come through a little easier. The CMA400i takes things up to the next level, the neutral/revealing tone of the DAC bringing out more of the potential of these cans without losing their warm and engaging sound. The unusual “current drive” technology employed by Questyle also plays very nicely with this headphone. Given the CMA400i shares some sonic similarities and much of the same technology as the QP2R (from memory – I have never compared the two in the same room), I suspect that the QP2R will also be a very good source pairing for the Cascade.



    Focal Elear

    The Elear is Focal’s entry into the high-end dynamic driver headphone market, with a list price of slightly more than the Cascade as at time of writing. The Elear are an open-backed headphone, with a unique “M-Dome” driver design and a mostly metal construction rivalling that of the Cascade.

    Starting with sound, the Cascade has a bassier tuning, losing out slightly in dynamics to the Elear, carrying more body to the low end and a slightly less crisp feel to the presentation. It carries a little more physical impact down low, but can lack a little of the Elear’s class leading dynamic punch in the midrange with more frenetic tracks. That isn’t to say the Cascade is lacking, as it does sport a hugely dynamic sound itself, but just isn’t quite at the stellar level of the Elear in this specific regard.

    Tonally, the Cascade are a warmer headphone than the Focal, with voices feeling slightly more forward in comparison to the Elear. The Elear has a slightly leaner tone, so carries a little more texture in the midrange, where the Campfires tends to sound a little smoother and more emotional in its delivery. Audible detail retrieval and resolution is similar between both, with the Cascade keeping pace with the Elear, despite the increased bass presence. The Elear feels the “crisper” of the two cans, but this is due to its relative lack of warmth and bass compared to the Cascade. In contrast, the Cascade feels the fuller and richer of the two, with a more enveloping sound. Guitars sound crisp and spiky on the Elear, and solid and meaty on the Cascade. Drums hit with visceral immediacy and then relax on the Elear, but hit you slower yet a lot heavier on the Cascade, and linger a little longer to see the damage done. The Cascade also has the advantage of the four included tuning filters, giving you a total of 5 variations on the main tuning to find your preferred sound, in comparison to the fixed tuning of the Focal unit.

    In terms of driving power, the Cascade requires a little less juice from all of my sources except the LG V30 (which has its high gain output triggered by the 80 Ohm output of the Elear). Comfort wise, the Elear feel a little lighter and less “present” on the head than the more solidly built and sturdy feeling Cascades. The Cascade offers far superior noise isolation, and has smaller earpads which hug the outer ear a lot closer than the Elear but feel a lot softer and plumper. The Cascade also leaks practically no noise into the surrounding environment, in comparison to the portable loudspeaker effect of the Elear.

    In terms of presentation and loadout, the Cascade sports a less ostentatious but more practical package, with the “usual” Campfire loadout and carry case being far more portable and usable than the more regal but less practical presentation box of the Elear, which is the same size as most 1980s teleevisions and sadly doesn’t come with a portable alternative. It looks very foam filled and plush, but the sheer volume of real estate it takes up makes it difficult to store.

    The cabling is also more practical on the Cascade – the Elear’s amp friendly 6.3mm connector is married to a 3m rubberised monstrosity of a cable, fixing it firmly in the non-portable (and frankly unwieldy) category, and is a lot less ergonomic and user friendly to actually use without resorting to the aftermarket cable landscape.

    Build quality on both headphones is high, but the Cascade edges it overall, with a more compact and sturdy feel to the construction. It is marginally heavier on the head, but the weight distribution is good and it feels more robust and solid than the Elear. It also molds more completely to the shake if the head and ears when worn due to the rotating earpads, in comparison to the Elear’s fixed pad design.

    Overall, both headphones are heavy hitters in their price brackets, with the Elear costing about $200 more than the Cascade at current street prices. Neither is an outright winner, with the Elear having a crispness and dynamism to its sound that the Cascade can’t quite match. The Campfire model parries in response with a weightier bass, a warmer and more intimate feeling sound (the word vinyl-esque keeps springing to mid) and a feel of physical substance to the notes that the Elear can’t outdo. If I had to pick just one, I’d probably go with the Cascade – it shares a similar stage size but adds a chunkier feel to the sound without losing detail (once you get used to the presentation), and is usable both as a portable can on things like the daily commute, and a sit at home listening pair, which the open backed Elear can’t do. I wouldn’t like to give up the Elear’s unique sense of dynamism, however, so it wouldn’t be a decision that came without a downside.


    Audioquest Nighthawk

    As a closed back portable can, the Cascade actually has more in common physically with the older brother of the Nighthawk (the Nightowl), but in terms of sound, the Nighthawk shares more of the Cascade’s sonic DNA. Both headphones share a rich, warm tonality, with a generous bass response and a smooth but surprisingly detailed upper end.

    Starting in the bass, the Cascade has slightly more weight and noticeably more punch down low, with the Audioquest model hardly being bass shy, but presenting in a softer and less aggressive manner. Quantity is also higher on the Cascade, but not by a huge amount overall. The Nighthawk is more centred around the mid bass, with the Cascade having a more even spread between mid and sub bass. Detail levels and texture are similar on both models.

    Mids are slightly softer and more romantic on the Nighthawks, but a touch more emphasised in comparison to the Cascade due to the lower quantity of bass in the Audioquest model. The Nighthawk does very well at conveying the emotion in a vocal, due to the almost smoky delivery through the midrange. In contrast, the Cascade feels a little crisper and more raw in its delivery, with a more obvious texture to the sound. Guitars sound crunchier and more aggressive on the Cascade, but have a more natural tone on the Nighthawk. Piano sounds equally good, if different, on both. It almost feels like comparing an impressionist painting from one of the old masters (the Nighthawk) and a modern Ultra-HD photograph of the same scene (the Cascade) – the Nighthawk is the more stylised, with the Cascade providing gobs more audible detail and contrast.

    The treble is similar on both, erring more towards clear and silky rather than glittering and sparkly. At a push, I’d say the Cascade has the better audible extension, but despite the lack of emphasis, the Nighthawk can also push up into the higher reaches as well when needed. Quantity is definitely higher on the Cascade, with the slightly sharper edge to the notes contributing to a crisper and cleaner feel to the sound, and more overt detail retrieval.

    Comfort is won quite easily by the Nighthawk, with the floating headband and super comfortable ear cup construction, plus the more generously sized ear cups. The Cascade is more robust and suitable for portable use, with the Nighthawk feeling fragile and lightweight in comparison to Campfire Audio’s all-metal bruiser. The Nighthawk also leaks like a post-iceberg Titanic in terms of letting sound out, whereas the Cascade is deathly silent. Conversely, the semi-open Nighthawk actually manages to block slightly more external noise out than the Cascade, which lets a surprising amount of noise in even the music isn’t playing.

    The Nighthawk has a tuning that isn’t as forward as the Cascade, giving a slightly more spacious air to the sound, and pulling you a few rows further back from the stage as a result. The Cascade sounds more direct and punchy, with the ‘Hawks having a more laid back feel to the presentation. In terms of stage size, the Cascade presents a slightly wider staging, with a more pronounced sense of L/R separation. Dynamics are won easily by the Cascade, which is second only to the Elear for sheer punch and impact on my own personal listening experiences to date.

    Overall, these cans exhibit two very different approaches to music reproduction; the Nighthawk is perfect for losing yourself and floating off into beautiful music, and the Cascade is for those times when you want your tunes to suck you in, grab you by the throat and drag you round the room until you agree to start grinning and tapping your feet like an idiot. Both sound absolutely stellar, and are now my two favourite sets of over-ears. If you are a fan of uptempo rock, electronica and a more vivid, Vega-like sound, then the Cascade are an easy choice. If you prefer more laid back and acoustic tracks, or prefer a softer and more tube-like tinge to the sound with the ability to let you drift deep into the music, the Nighthawk would be my suggestion.

    I said to Ken Ball when I agreed to review these over-ears that if they managed to knock the Nighthawks off their perch as my all-time #1 over-ear headphone then they’d be doing pretty well – while there are still some things that I’ll choose the Nighthawks for (soul, relaxed acoustic and old vinyl records), if I had to choose just one or of the two, I think the Cascade has just taken the new top spot for me. Congratulations, Mr Ball – I doff my cap to you.


    MrSpeakers Aeon Closed

    This seemed like a good comparison to make (and I handily happened to have both sets of cans in my possession!). The Aeon Closed has won plenty of accolades as the best closed back headphone of 2017 on various audio sites, and shares the same closed back construction and price point ($799) as the Campfire model.

    Starting with build, the Aeon have a metal and carbon fibre build, with a super-thin Nitinol frame and self adjusting leather headband in comparison to the Cascade’s solid metal frame and leather padding. The Aeon feel extremely light in comparison with the Cascade, and sit on the head almost effortlessly, the half moon shaped earpads enclosing the ears neatly and providing more space for the larger ears out there, in comparison to the more compact Cascade ear-slots. As a trade-off, they feel very flimsy in comparison to the Campfire model, feeling better suited to stationary listening and more delicate handling. Comfort is definitely won by the AC, rivalling the Nighthawk for long term wearing comfort.

    Accessories are similar, with both coming with top notch carrying cases and a nice but simple display box, and the Aeon providing one tuning pad insert compared to the Cascade’s four. The ALO stock cable is more ergonomic and easier for genuine portable use than the Mr Speakers DUMMER cable that comes with the Aeon, although both are high quality.

    Moving on to sound, the two headphones are far more different than similar. The Aeon are a painstakingly neutral and crystal clear sounding headphone, with just a splash of warmth with the foam inserts and enough body not to sound thin. The Cascade are almost the polar opposite, with an exaggerated sense of musicality and far more weight and dynamism to the music. The Aeon are the sort of headphone you listen to when you are trying to unwind and sink into the music, and the Cascade are the headphone you listen to when you want to wind back up and live and breathe the tunes coming in through your ears.

    Starting with bass, the Cascade has a much higher amount of both mid and sub bass than the lightweight Aeon. Slam and impact go to the Cascade, with the Aeon exhibiting a great sense of texture and a similar extension down into the deep sub bass, but without a huge amount of physicality to back it up. It almost feels like comparing a dynamic driver IEM with a balanced armature model – the bass on the Aeon is quick, extended and packed with detail, but just lacks the physical sense of body that the Cascade are capable of conveying. This changes slightly when the Aeon are hooked up to some serious desktop or portable amplification (my favourite combo being the ALO CV5), the sound taking on a slightly more bodied and substantial tone in the bass, but still nowhere near as punchy and powerful as the Campfire model.

    Mids are slightly cleaner sounding on the Aeon (especially in the sans tuning pad configuration) due to the relative lack of bass. They are thinner and more spacious sounding, lacking some of the physical solidity of the Cascade that is imparted by the titanic bass sitting underneath. The feel is a little more laid back on the Aeon, where despite the leaner note structure, there is less edge to individual notes and a little less dynamism in the sound. The Aeon feel like the more detailed of the two headphones (although there isn’t a huge amount in it), with the cleaner presentation and greater air between the notes making things sound a little crisper, despite the lack of “edge”.

    In the treble, the Aeon present a cleaner and crisper tone, with less weight and more airiness to the notes. There is a slightly sharper tint to the tuning (especially without the foam tuning insert), and comparison to the more rounded and weighty treble of the Cascade. Microdetailing and room noise are actually on a similar level between both headphones, but the Aeon presents the information with a greater sense of space and lightness around the notes, making it easier to discern some subtle phrasings and tiny scraps of sonic information against the less full sounding musical background.

    In terms of amplification requirements, the Cascade is the easier of the two headphones to drive well, and can generally be run off most sources (mobile phone, DAP etc). The Aeon will generate sufficient volume off most things. although with a sensitivity of around 93dB it can take a lot more of the available volume pot to do so with some devices. Where they differ is that the AEON need a powerful source to sound their best, exhibiting that planar tendency to really come to life with some big current and wattage flowing. The Cascade respond well to amplification too, but don’t actively need it to get close to their full potential, unlike the AC.

    Looking at isolation, the Aeon closed are the more isloating of the two headphones, being able to block out external noise more effectively than the Cascade. This doesn’t overly affect the Cascade in portable situations, as the increased bass output in comparison to the Aeon Closed helps mask the background noise more effectively anyway. On the flipside, the Cascade are far better at keeping noise in behind its metal earcups, with practically no leakage out to the nearby listeners – the Aeon is actually noticeably worse in this regard, still not leaking much but being more easily audible when using them in bed next to a sleeping partner, for example.

    Lastly, as far as soundstage and separation go, the Aeon has a slight advantage, pushing the sound further out of the head along the X-axis, and pulling musical information further out onto the edges of the sound with hard panned audio cues, giving an impression of a bigger stage. The relative neutrality of the note thickness the Aeon portrays in comparison to the Cascade helps here, carrying enough warmth not to sound dry or analytical but not particularly meaty or thick. This gives the instruments a little more breathing room between them in the soundscape, and makes the Aeon a more “spread out” presentation. Please note that of these headphones are closed back, so the observations are relative to each other – neither will have a huge soundstage in comparison to a true open-backed can.

    Overall, these are two headphones that both aim for a musical presentation, but take two very different routes to get there. The Aeon presents clean, crisp tones with a wider staging and a pleasing sense of warmth and purity, whereas the Cascade puts out a thicker, more densely packed sound. You would be splitting hairs in terms of technical capabilities, as both resolve very well for the price bracket, and neither has any major issues or flaws. This is definitely a battle of preferences – if you value portability, bass presence and a thicker, lusher presentation, then the Cascade would be my tip. If you prefer a more neutral and laid back tone with a splash of warmth, and intend to do more listening at home or out and about with a powerful DAP/amp combo, then the Aeon would be the go to here. Both are stellar examples of what can be achieved in the sub-$800 price range, and both are equally worthy of the praise they are receiving.



    Price $799
    Driver type 42mm beryllium PVD dynamic driver
    Frequency Response 5Hz – 33kHz
    Weight 383g
    Cable 4ft silver plated copper (SPC) litz cable
    Pad type Sheep leather, detachable
    Impedance 38Ω
    Sensitivity 100 dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz
    Connectors 2 x push/pull circular connectors (HD800 style)

    Overall thoughts
    The latest evolution of the Campfire Audio “house sound” is definitely going to be a polarising one. Ken and Co seem to have a clear idea of what tuning they want to achieve with their flagship products, differentiating themselves from the rest of the marketplace with their failure to adhere to the recent audiophile sentiment that “bass is bad”. The Cascade are a headphone tuned to appeal to the soul rather than the brain, making you feel the music rather than analyse it. Could they have dropped the bass tuning down a few dB for a more subjectively balanced sound across the range? Yes, they could. Would it have been such a compelling offering if they had? In my humble opinion, no it wouldn’t.

    The Cascade manage to marry a technical proficiency with a big fat slab of musicality that makes the combination both rare and admirable at the same time. These won’t appeal to everyone in the marketplace, but they shouldn’t be written off as “just a basshead can” or for Vega fans only. There is plenty of technical prowess in the presentation, a beautiful sounding midrange and a bass presentation that comes close to standing in front of a proper music venue amp stack on occasion, all wrapped up in a compact and portable package that looks almost as good as it sounds. This isn’t tuned with some nod to the audiophile version of political correctness, and it feels all the better and more enjoyable for that unwillingness to compromise.

    Objectively, I think they could have made the holes in the earpads a little bit bigger to accommodate all ear sizes, but as they are detachable, I’m sure that will be an easy upgrade if they wanted to do that at some later point. They could also pad the headband a tiny bit more for better comfort in marathon listening sessions. Neither of these things are issues or dealbreakers for me, and they are certainly comfortable enough for my daily use cases (1-2hr stints, a few times a day). This is just nitpicking, as otherwise the whole Cascade package presents music in such a unique (and uniquely “Campfire”) way that I can do nothing else but be impressed with the musicality and sheer enjoyment they bring to my ears. For people with huge heads, oversized ears or a chronic aversion to bass: you may want to look elsewhere. For everyone else who enjoys listening to music rather than the gear it is played on, these are a stone cold certainty for one of the best choices you can make under $1000 in this hobby at the moment.

    Hence, we come to my rating. A 5-star rating across the board is pretty rare, and in the case of a headphone that patently won’t cater to everyone’s tastes, could come across as slightly biased. While I am happy to admit that the Campfire house sound plays beautifully with my own personal listening preferences (see the “About Me” for more details), that isn’t the reason I have given this the hen’s teeth rarity of a full house. It isn’t because I thought it was like an improved version of the Vega (which is my current highest scoring review on the site). No, I have given this the top rating as I genuinely feel that Ken Ball and team have nailed the exact sound they were shooting for, in at a pricepoint that is competitive or better than its peers.

    Please bear in mind that a headphone at this price won’t be 2 or 3 times better than a headphone coming it at $250, but even in the heady arena of diminishing returns this is an easy recommendation if you have the cash to consider it. It’s getting boring to write this about Campfire gear, but this is very much another case of “Nicely Done”.
      Goldvein, Wildcatsare1, WK446 and 8 others like this.
    1. scottm18
      Thank you for including the V30 as a source. That's what i am using as my player so it feel even better now about giving these a run and see how they do :)

      It's between this and the much more espensive Focal Clear. This phone just cannot power planar drivers well enough as found with both HE-4xx and HEXv2.
      scottm18, Apr 30, 2018
      Jackpot77 likes this.
    2. mcconnel
      Phenomenal review - you best be getting paid for this.
      mcconnel, Aug 15, 2018
  8. crabdog
    Diversifying and crushing it
    Written by crabdog
    Published Apr 14, 2018
    Pros - Rich and engaging, full-bodied sound
    Impeccable build quality
    Detachable cable
    Filter tuning system
    Compact, foldable, portable
    Cons - Not for those seeking neutrality
    Cable connectors badly positioned for laying the headphones flat and may, over time cause damage to the cable

    There has been a somewhat limited number of choices lately when it comes to high-quality portable, closed back headphones. The Campfire Audio Cascade looks to fill that gap and that is what we’ll be looking at today.

    Anyone who has an interest in high-end earphones surely knows the Campfire Audio name. Heck, even those who don’t own any TOTL IEMs are likely familiar with it. In almost all earphone discussions from the budget entry-level to the pinnacle products, you’ll see the brand mentioned again and again. People are always asking how X, Y, Z compares to something from Campfire Audio’s lineup.

    Mention things like Andromeda, Vega and Lyra in any conversation among audio enthusiasts and people know exactly what you’re talking about. Anyway, enough with the preamble. Let’s get into the review.

    Campfire Audio website.

    This product was provided for the purpose of an honest review. I’m not affiliated with the company and all observations and opinions here are my own.

    • Rich and engaging, full-bodied sound
    • Impeccable build quality
    • Detachable cable
    • Filter tuning system
    • Compact, foldable, portable
    • Not for those seeking neutrality
    • Cable connectors badly positioned for laying the headphones flat and may, over time cause damage to the cable

    5Hz–33 kHz Frequency Response (attn -26dB)

    100 dB SPL/mW Sensitivity

    38 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance

    13.5 oz (without cable) or approximately 383 g

    Earpad Dimensions Outside OD approx – 2.75-inch wide x 4 inches tall

    Inside ID is approx – 1.5-inch wide x 2.5 inch

    42 mm Beryllium PVD diaphragm dynamic driver

    Sheep Leather Detachable Headphone Pads

    Circular ‘Push-Pull’ Connections

    Cast + Machined Aluminum Cup and Hanger Arms

    Steel headband, pivot and joints

    Litz Cable – Silver Plated Copper with Cloth Jacket (4′)


    Package and accessories
    The Cascade comes in a tasteful cardboard box with the familiar Campfire Audio styling. It’s predominantly green and speckled with stars, while the top and front sides have a swirling grey and white pattern. On the top you can see the model clearly printed, along with a brief description and some of the key features. The front flap has a small image of the headphones with some branding and a barcode.

    What struck me at first sight of the box was its small size. I knew the Cascade was dubbed as a portable headphone but seeing the box made me think they must be quite small, like a cross between supra-aural and full-size. However, that is not the case, as you will see in just a bit.

    DSC_1530.jpg DSC_1526.jpg

    Opening up the outer cardboard box reveals a semi-hard faux leather, zippered carry case with a carrying strap. It’s quite compact; easily small enough to carry around in a backpack or travel bag. On the top side, the Campfire Audio branding is embossed onto the lid.

    When you open the carry case you’re presented front and centre with the gorgeous headphones, nestled snugly into a sheepskin-like padded interior. The case’s lining feels soft and luxurious and it’s a really nice change from the usual foam padding we see so often. Apart from the headphones, there are only two black envelopes which contain the accessories. Here’s what you get:
    • Cascade headphone
    • Faux leather carry case
    • 4 x sets of tuning filters
    • Acoustic Dampener tuning guide
    • Use and care instructions
    • Detachable Litz Cable with Cloth Jacket
    • Warranty card
    • Campfire Audio pin
    DSC_1534.jpg DSC_1541.jpg

    The supplied cable is a Litz silver-plated cable with circular push-pull connectors and special cloth jacket which reduces microphonics and adds durability. Only time will tell about the durability but it does look and feel very sturdy so should not be a problem.

    As far as microphonics go; there’s practically none whatsoever. This is a very, very quiet cable, in fact, one of the quietest I’ve ever (not) heard. The cable feels strong but at the same time, it has just the right amount of suppleness, so it sits and rolls up really nicely. I’m usually not fond of fabric covered cables but this one is excellent.

    I’m also really pleased that CA went with the HD800 connectors. The cable plugs in really securely and firmly, so there’s no fear of it coming loose or falling out, yet it’s extremely easy to connect and disconnect from the headphones with very little effort or force. And of course, it also means that should you wish to use a third party at some time, there are plenty of options to choose from.

    The connectors are colour coded for easy identification and have very good rubber strain reliefs. At the Y-split is a hard rubber strain relief embossed with the CA logo. It’s small and unobtrusive but works perfectly well and adds to the overall satisfaction I get from this cable. Finally, the cable terminates in a 45° angled 3.5 mm, Gold-plated plug with another solid strain relief.

    DSC_1547.jpg DSC_0089[1].jpg DSC_0090[1].jpg

    A quick glance at the Cascade or even a picture of the Cascade gives you an immediate impression of solid build quality. Once you get the Cascade in your hands any lingering doubts will be swept away as it is clear that this headphone is built to last.

    Constructed from stainless steel and lightweight aluminium, the headphone is unquestionably premium in materials and engineering. Those robust materials do add some extra weight to the headphone but not enough to be a burden in any sense.

    DSC_1554.jpg DSC_1549.jpg

    The headband consists of spring steel, covered with black pleather. On the top side, the Campfire Audio branding is embossed into the pleather in a subtle and tasteful manner. Beneath the pleather cover is a layer of foam for comfort.

    Inside the headband is a steel adjustment slider that clicks into place at your selected extension. This connects to the steel joint. As you can probably guess, the joint is what enables the headphones to be folded.

    Next is the pivot, which allows the earcups to oscillate in both directions. This serves to provide a better fit on your head and also lets you lay the headphones flat around your neck or on a surface. This pivot connects to the arm that attaches to the earcups. At the bottom is another pivot that provides roll and pitch movement of the earcups.


    The Cascade’s lightweight, machined, aluminium earcups have an anodized finish with the CA logo embossed in silver just above the cable jack. Speaking of the jack, this is the only fault I can find in the Cascade’s physical design: If you want to lay the headphones flat around your neck or on a surface, the connectors meet end to end. This can put a lot of stress on the cable just below the strain reliefs as it basically bends the cable at a 90° angle. It probably won’t be an issue but it’s worth consideration IMO.

    DSC_1557.jpg DSC_0127[1].jpg

    Finally, we have the soft, sheepskin earpads. They’re attached via magnets which is by far my favourite method because it makes removing and attaching them so quick and easy. The earpads are angled to give you a better fit and seal on the side of your head. These are really lush and luxurious and the sheepskin leather feels divine.\

    Comfort & Isolation
    I personally find the Cascade to be a very comfortable headphone. The headband does stretch out quite wide, so only a small area rests on the top of your head but this doesn’t really bother me unless I’m wearing the headphones for a long time.

    As for the earpads, they are just fantastic. They’re super soft and deep enough to prevent my ears from touching the driver cover inside the earcups. Some people have complained that they’re too narrow but I have no issues with that at all, even though I have fairly large ears.

    When it comes to isolation, the Cascade performs fairly well but doesn’t eliminate as much external noise as you might expect. This isn’t really a negative though because once the music starts playing you’ll barely hear anything else.

    What the closed backs do extremely well, however, is prevent noise leakage, making the Cascade perfect for public transport or use in an office environment. You would need to play your music at ear-damaging levels before it would bother anyone else nearby.


    The Campfire Audio Cascade Sound
    For the majority of my testing, I was using the 4T / HD15 filters (more info on the filters below). This tamed the bass a little bit which was more fitting to my preference. Although the midrange did lose a hint of richness in the process, this was my preferred setup.
    As recommended by Ken Ball from CA, the Cascade was given over 150 hours of burn-in before I started any critical listening. All testing was done using the stock cable.
    The Campfire Audio Cascade gives a first impression of being unabashedly bold and boisterous. It’s rich, full-bodied and energetic. You’ll notice its powerful bass right off the bat but the more you listen, the more you’ll come to appreciate its other subtleties.

    Having said that, the bass is always the star of the show, regardless of which tuning filters are applied or how many hundreds of hours of burn-in you’ve administered. In short, if you don’t like a heavily accentuated low end, the Cascade is probably not for you.

    As I alluded to above, the Cascade’s bass is pretty huge. It’s definitely leaning towards the realm of the basshead and overshadows the overall presentation. That might sound like a condemnation but I assure you that is not the case. What makes the Cascade outstanding is its ability to have that massive bass but retain clarity, resolution, separation and a natural tonality throughout the rest of the spectrum.

    The sub-bass digs deep. Really deep. Deep enough to make you think that Godzilla is stomping around your backyard. But again, the magic is that the overall tonality is still very accurate, making the Cascade a rare beast.

    With the HD15 filters in place, even Trevor Morris’ The Vikings (OST) did not sound too bassy. In fact, that entire album has never sounded so good to my ears. Listening to “Journey to Kattegat” with the Cascade, it’s not difficult to imagine yourself setting out across the sea in a Viking ship under a blue sky or traversing the cascading (see what I did there?), rocky hillsides around Denmark.

    As we get into the midrange the Cascade flexes its muscles once again. Despite the bassy overtones that are always present the mids remain clear and detailed with a very natural tonality. Naturally, the low midrange carries over some warmth from the bass and this fills the sound with a natural amount of body and richness.

    Another surprise is how resolving the Cascade is and its ability for layering and instrument separation. Vocals are rich and smooth and tracks like Lalah Hathaway’s mid-focused “Forever, For Always, For Love (Live)” highlight the Cascade’s mastery of the midrange. Her sweet vocals simply ooze forth with a lush density, while the guitars sound clean and uncoloured. They are incredibly textured and have a physicality, almost as if you could reach out and touch them.

    Although the Cascade’s treble is fairly relaxed in its presentation, achieved by sitting further back than the bass and mids. It has very good extension and wonderful, crisp notes. This is an important factor, as it gives the sound airiness, retains a hint of sparkle and is non-fatiguing at the same time.

    Just like the rest of the Cascade’s presentation, the treble notes have good tonal accuracy. It is linear in its transition from the lower to high treble without any noticeable peaks or dips. Despite its laidback nature, the treble doesn’t struggle to keep up with the bass or midrange thanks to that great extension and definition.

    While the soundstage is not particularly wide, it’s still good for a closed headphone. Fortunately, the Cascade provides a good amount of depth as well and this greatly enhances its layering and instrument separation. While the bass notes are decidedly thick, those in the midrange and treble are not, so the stage maintains space and doesn’t become congested or adversely affect the dimensions too much.

    Vocals are positioned quite forward and intimately but there is sufficient space between them and other instruments to keep the stage from feeling crowded. With its solid mids and treble definition, the Cascade has a solid grasp of imaging and positioning.

    Filter system
    I’m just going to touch briefly on the filter system here. The changes in sound between various filters are fairly minor so doesn’t drastically change the overall presentation. It is always nice to be able to customize a headphones signature more to your preference though, without having to resort to modding it yourself.

    There are 4 sets of tuning filters provided, and they’re basically just little fabric pieces with different pore sizes ranging from 7 microns to 15 microns. The filters are named 1T, 2T, 3T and 4T. In a nutshell, the higher the number, the more the bass and to a lesser extent, the midrange are slightly attenuated.

    Changing the filters is really simple. You just remove the earpads (super easy with the magnet system) and place the chosen filters in the space provided above the driver. That’s all there is to it.


    Although the Cascade is described as a portable headphone, I’m sure there will be many people who, like myself, use them primarily at home or with a desktop setup. For that reason, I’ve added some desktop DACs for comparison.

    The X1S has an energetic, transparent signature that works well with the Cascade but demands a lot of your attention. Its 32bit Sabre DAC provides excellent resolution and instrument separation. The soundstage has good depth and imaging is great. Despite being a more affordable DAC, the X1S performs really well, with a clean, dark background and excellent sense of timing and lack of jitter.

    With the irDAC-II, the Cascade’s soundstage is wide and spacious. Layering and separation are superb, as is the timbre and sense of rhythm. Strangely, this DACs smooth presentation doesn’t dull the Cascade’s sound or further ‘thicken’ the bass. Great dynamics and extension at both ends round up the presentation, making this an awesome DAC to pair with the Cascade.

    The DX7 brings out a fuller bass and less sparkly treble. Smaller soundstage and less instrument separation. This was surprising as the DX7 is generally lean and resolving but this matchup was pretty ordinary. It might be due to an impedance mismatch or something else causing the lack of synergy.

    AR’s newest DAP has a neutral and airy sound that brings out the best in the Cascade. It has a very wide soundstage and excellent layering and definition. Bass notes are faster and leaner but still have lots of impact, making this one of my favourite pairings.

    Excellent definition and imaging. Lots of depth in the soundstage. Vocals have extra density and instrument separation is really strong. Treble notes have a bit less sparkle. The layering and imaging are what stands out to me most with this DAP, along with the clean, black background and potent driving power.

    ATC HDA-DP20
    This little DAP is a bit of an unsung hero, in my opinion. Although its feature set is basic and the battery life average, it has a great sound. Soundstage is very large and maintains good layering throughout. It’s a linear and transparent sound that works really well with the Cascade. The bass feels less dominant and more in balance and there’s an added airiness that makes the Cascade sound a little less in your face.

    The Performance 860 is vastly different in sound to the Cascade but they do share some similar physical traits. For example, they both have rotating earcups so the headphones can be laid flat around your neck or on a desk. They both also have a similar size and shape and are meticulously crafted, though the Ultrasone is primarily plastic compared to the Cascade’s metal construction.

    The Performance 860 has a much more linear presentation in comparison to the Cascade. Its bass is close to neutral but has very good extension and is able to dig deep without significant roll-off. The midrange is leaner with less richness, which at times can make the upper midrange a little aggressive but female vocals tend to have more prominence.

    Both have a relaxed treble but the 860’s is slightly more forward. In regards to resolution, the Cascade holds up really well considering the fullness of its bass. The 860 has a wider soundstage with less density in midrange instruments and vocals.

    MEZE 99 NEO
    Meze Audio’s Neo has a similar sound signature but there are some key differences. It has a comparable amount of bass but with less weight and impact. The midrange has less density, making vocals less rich but gives them an airier feel. This makes the stage feel a bit more open, at the expense of some resolution and layering. It’s in the treble where these two headphones sound most similar to me, both being laidback but with nice, clean edges and good extension.

    If you like the sound of the Meze 99 Neo or 99 Classics, you’re sure to like what the Cascade has to offer. On the other hand, if the Cascade is out of your price range, the Meze headphones are a very solid and more affordable alternative.


    Campfire Audio Cascade Conclusion
    In recent times it seems like Campfire Audio can’t put a foot wrong, and the Cascade looks to continue that trend.

    Something to keep in mind is that this is CA’s first attempt at a full-sized headphone. When a first attempt is this good, it more often than not points to good things to come in the future and I can’t wait to see what they do next.

    There can be no doubt about the Cascade’s solid construction. You’ll know this as soon as you touch it.

    The Campfire Audio Cascade has a bold, energetic sound, defined (on the surface) by its dominant bass. But it’s bass done right. A resolving midrange and clear but relaxed treble seal the deal. Currently, there simply aren’t many other closed-back headphones in its price range that can compete.

    *This review was originally posted on my blog over at Prime Audio.
      noplsestar, ngoshawk, volly and 2 others like this.
    1. B9Scrambler
      Nice review! I found myself setting them down on the edge of the table/desk so the cable could hang as straight as possible. Drives my wife nuts to see them sitting like that because she's worried they'll fall, lol.
      B9Scrambler, Apr 14, 2018
      crabdog likes this.
    2. crabdog
      Glad I'm not the only one worried about that haha. Hopefully, it won't be an issue but if the cable fails in the future I'm sure it will be at that point just below the strain relief.
      crabdog, Apr 14, 2018
      B9Scrambler likes this.
  9. Currawong
    Thumping bass from Campfire Audio's first cans
    Written by Currawong
    Published Apr 13, 2018
    Pros - Great bass, clear (if recessed) mids and quality treble. VERY entertaining to listen with. Portable. Good cable.
    Cons - Headband needs to be wider front-to-back for better comfort. Pads may be too small for some people.
    Ken Ball has a long history with personal audio. Starting out by soldering his own headphone cables and modifying headphones well over a decade ago, then manufacturing amps and DACs, and now producing IEMs and headphones, his progression has been somewhat backwards from normal. Now with the Cascade going into production, he has come full-circle.

    Featuring 42mm Beryllium PVD Diaphragm Dynamic Drivers inside an entire custom design which is designed to be portable, yet produce an “open” sound, they are entering the market at the $500-1000 segment. The $700-800 price point is significant to me as is double the $350 standard the original Beats set and the point now where headphone quality starts getting serious. For regular, non-audiophiles, the idea of spending over $1000 on a pair of headphones is crazy, yet one of the most common questions people ask who are considering the jump to serious headphones is whether they will be an improvement over their $200-350 headphones.

    My impression from the manufacturers’ side is the aim of getting the quality of their 4-figure headphones down into something that can be viably manufactured and sold for under $1000 without serious compromises, yet is still better-sounding than sub-$500 headphones.

    HiFiMan seemingly nailed this with the HE500, which started at $899 ($100 below the Audeze LCD-2 at the time) and then dropped to $699. That, along with their tuning and the more ready availability of higher-current-output amplification, made them a huge hit and showed there was a market for what I might describe as “entry level high-end”.

    As well as HiFiMan, MrSpeakers has entered into that market with the Aeon Flow and Aeon Flow Open models, and prior to that Sony had with the MDR-Z7. Now Campfire Audio, the IEM-manufacturing offshoot of the more well-known ALO Audio has entered the fray.

    Campfire Audio Cascade-D75_8301-Edit_.jpg

    The first surprise upon receiving the Cascades were how small the box is. I’ve complained in the past about headphones coming in ridiculously-sized boxes that weighed more than the headphones themselves (Sennheiser, I’m looking at you) so I was happy to discover that inside the box is the faux-sheepskin-lined case with the headphones parts inside.

    Surprise number 2 was how light and thin the cable is. I’ve said before that I think part of Ken’s success with his IEMs has been the good-quality cables they come with and this is no exception. The source termination is a 45-degree angled plug in the manner of V-MODA and the headphones use the HD800 connector. While an unexpected choice, Ken states that while the connectors are difficult to work with, they are very reliable.

    For me, this was handy, as I have now amassed a collection of HD800 cables, including a Reference 20 that was part of my Studio Six purchase. Importantly though, it is part of idea that they should be used as a pair of portable, high-end headphones. This harks back to the days when ALO Audio was modifying Ultrasone headphones, including the Edition 9, which were often bought by people wanting high-end, closed-backed portable headphones.

    While the Ultrasone Edition 9 is no longer made, essentially the same headphone can be purchased as one of the Ultrasone Signature series models, with, funnily enough the Signature DJ selling for the same price as the Cascades!

    Campfire Audio Cascade-D75_8309_.jpg

    As headphones intended to be portable, aside from their ability to fold, their profile is somewhat smaller than, say, the Massdrop Focal Elex. The front-to-back size of the earpads, being the widest part, is exactly 3/4s that of the Elex (7.5cm vs. 10cm). Likewise the headband front-to-back thickness. Folded, you’ll need a space that is 17.5cm in diameter at their widest point and 14.5cm at its narrowest. The case, in comparison, is about 19x16cm and 9cm thick.

    Manufacturing quality is excellent, really only behind Focal, whose headphones I’d describe as “flawless”, with precision machined parts. Really the only area I’d consider to be an issue is when it comes to comfort, but that again is a result of their portable design.

    The magnetically-attached earpads are soft and deep and the headpad well-padded. However because it is thinner than usual, it tends to press a bit on the top of one’s head. The ear pads too, as they are smaller than usual, with only a 4x6cm opening (Focal’s are 5x7.5cm) will cause issues with people who have large ears.

    For me, my first day of listening was a bit uncomfortable, but was fine afterwards. The rather firm clamping force is balanced out by the soft and wide contact area of the ear pads. The cable entry sockets point sufficiently far forward that even the rather long plugs on a Kimber cable weren’t an issue.

    Campfire Audio Cascade-D75_8314_.jpg

    The Cascades were intended to have a similar sound signature like the Vegas, the Campfire Audio flagship dynamic driver IEMs. The Vegas have an unashamedly thunderous, but detailed bass and somewhat recessed mid-range, the treble being quite ear-tip dependant. At first Iisten I felt that the Cascades were somewhat over-the-top too at both ends of the spectrum, but after leaving them playing pink noise overnight for a few nights (they require “burn-in” according to Ken) they started to settle down.

    Campfire Audio Cascade-D75_8275_.jpg

    To allow for a degree of personal tuning, 4 sets of filters are included which fit over ports under the ear pads. While removing the ear pads is easy, since they are only held in place by magnets, placing the filters, which have no means to adhere beyond a bit of material friction, is a bit fiddly.

    However, once placed, the treble is tamed slightly and the mids have a chance to make their presence better felt. I usually find the treble of headphones such as MrSpeakers Ether Flow and Aeon Flow Open to be a bit too muted for my tastes, however I ended up settling on the 12µm pore filter, which brought out just the right amount of treble for me, bringing down to a level similar to those other headphones. Each progressively coarser filter lowers the treble a bit more, allowing one to take the edge off just as much as desired.

    Campfire Audio Cascade-D75_8316_.jpg

    I ran the Cascades out of a wide variety of equipment, ranging from a $129 Bluewave Get up to an iFi Pro iCan, Soundaware P1, ALO Audio Studio Six and Hugo 2. What was readily apparent was just incredibly well the Cascades scale. While being readily easy to drive with a 100 dB@1V sensitivity and 38 Ohm impedance, I could easily make out, for example, how much wider and deeper the sound was out of the Studio Six versus the Pro iCan.

    I was constantly amazed how excellent and distortion-free the mids and treble were when listening. To being with, the treble quality, at my moderate listening levels, is, in my opinion, faultless. Out of the Hugo 2, which I felt was the best match given the feeling of slightly greater upper-mid and lower treble strength from it versus other equipment (let the arguments about “neutral” begin) the Cascades excelled with music such as old jazz and pop that had been mastered with an insufficient amount of bass.

    The mid-range delivered vocals and instruments in a way which, if not as forward as other headphones, was mostly excellent, despite being a bit overwhelmed by the bass. Sibilance in the vocals on tracks where it was prominent was also somewhat noticeable, despite the inserted filters. On tracks where instruments were most prominent I had almost no complaints, given how sensitive I am to them, especially piano. With guitars and violin there was a touch of sharpness, which was fine at moderate volumes but a little fatiguing at higher levels.

    That had me feeling that the Cascades were best suited to higher-quality music and the faults in recordings were somewhat noticeable.

    Campfire Audio Cascade-D75_8311-Edit_.jpg

    Whereas with the Utopias I found the Pro iCan’s bass boost just the ticket for older, less bass-strong music, the Cascades did the job for me without any tuning required. Granted, the Utopias can draw out more detail from a high-end system than the Cascades, but for a lot of music I like, such as with many older recordings, I could enjoy listening to a greater degree.

    What is more, the perceived sense of width to the soundstage belies the Cascade’s closed-back design. While some of this is obviously the result of the mid-range being further back than usual, where the bass doesn’t intrude too much, it was only classical music where I wished for a more spacious sound.

    With more modern music, which more often than not has a great deal of bass, the bass-strong presentation of the Cascades, despite the precision of delivery, could be a bit much. Using the above example, listening to classical, you want to feel the cellos and drums, and the stronger than neutral bass makes that happen. But with modern music it made the sound rather oddly overwhelming on some tracks and the soundstage cluttered, something that is more likely a consequences of the ear pads being smaller than those of full-sized headphones.

    To begin with, the bass from the Cascades rolls off at its deepest levels (for which the 10 or 20 Hz bass boost from the Pro iCan was helpful). That leaves them with slightly less than the most ideal degree of rumble. Then with mid-bass strong music, I sometimes felt that the bass had run off and gone wild, not quite being in harmony with the rest of the sound.

    Much like the Vegas did with IEMs, I’m glad that Ken chose to give his own take on how headphones should sound, instead of just attempting to be neutral. Sony seemed to do the same thing with the MDR-Z7, but didn’t quite succeed. If I would have one wish, it was that the bass would go down flat to 20 Hz, but without sacrificing the excellent mids and treble.

    Campfire Audio Cascade-D75_8280_.jpg

    Headphone Comparisons

    Massdrop Focal Elex
    A very good example of the difference between these two headphones is Dead Can Dance’s Spiritchaser. On Song of the Stars, the track starts with the deep rumble of a didgeridoo and much of their music covers a wide range of instruments alongside amazing vocals. The Cascades brought out the rumble of the of those instruments, while the flatter-tuned Elex brought the vocals more front and centre.

    Sony MDR-Z7
    The Z7 has a closer tuning to the Cascade, with a strong bass. It also has the comfort advantage with a design that is light and easy to wear for long hours. However it lacks refinement in the mid-range and treble, with a bit of harshness coming in. This is easily fixed with the “tape mod” (see my video on Z7 mods) bringing them closer to the Cascades. However the Cascade seems to scale more with its incredibly listenable mids and treble. The Z7 seems to manage to keep more spaciousness to the music with slightly better imaging.

    MrSpeakers Aeon Flow
    The funny thing about switching to these immediately after listening with the Cascades was that I immediately thought “Where is the bass?!?”. The Aeon Flow seems flat to a fault — monitor flat, so I had to go back and listen with them separately at the start of a listening session as it felt like all the fun had gone.

    Selected music impressions.
    Cascade with Norne cable, Massdrop Focal Elex with stock cable, Sony MDR-Z7 with Kimber cable and tape mod.

    I decided to use a fairly recent evaluation playlist (#82) for the Cascades, plus some old jazz and pop as already mentioned as I wanted to experience more familiar tracks with the bass-strong tuning.

    Oye Como Va - Santana

    The presentation is very entertaining, but I wish the guitars were more forward, as it is part of what makes this track so great. Of course, this can be achieved by turning up the volume, but the soundstage closes in as a result.

    Angel - Massive Attack

    It’s not just the strong bass line that makes this haunting tune what it is, so even at a moderate listening level the headphones end up vibrating and the vocals and other instruments are a bit far back to be ideal. In the sections of music where things get busy, the soundstage becomes somewhat cluttered.

    Hey Lion - Sofi Tukker

    I thought that the bass of this dance track was going to be too much, but it worked better than expected. As it is entirely electronic with vocals, I was more interested in the entertainment aspect of the sound than anything else, and the Cascades very much delivered that.

    When I Get My Hands on You - The New Basement Tapes

    I partly listen to this for the low bass rumble and the slight roll-off down at 20 Hz is noticeable here, but doesn’t detract significantly. The track is presented with good spaciousness with vocals presented beautifully, if less forward than other headphones.

    Old Man - Neil Young

    It’s the great job with vocals and guitars that makes this track a pleasure. At the beginning of the track the pluck of each note is a pleasure. The chorus becomes a bit cluttered and a bit of harshness creeps in to the higher vocal notes. This is tamed somewhat with amps such as the iFi Pro iCan and Studio Six.

    Arlington - The Wailin’ Jennys

    The opening drums have a wonderful impact and the vocals are beautiful, if a somewhat pushed back by the bass.

    The Elex, in comparison, brings the vocals right forward, but the drums sound more distant in return. That leaves more overall space and less clutter as the track becomes busy, but less impact.

    The Z7 is darker-sounding, somewhat like the Cascade. The vocals are also pushed back a bit by the bass. They also have a bit of harshness in the mids and treble without mods.

    Extrapolation (album) - John McLaughlin

    This is one of those classic jazz fusion albums that is so very’70s (though it was released in 1969) and is the perfect candidate for the Cascades. The guitar bounces off the walls while the drums and cymbals are delivered beautifully, the double-bass filling in the sound nicely.

    Gear impressions

    For fun I made up a portable rig with a HiFiMan Mega Mini and ALO Audio Continental V5 (CV5). The Mega Mini is a $99 minimalist player with a basic headphone drive — enough to stick in a shirt pocket to use while catching the train or similar. The Continental V5 is a very revealing portable amp, like a mini Studio Six. Out of the Mega Mini, which has only minimal power output, I could listen OK with the Cascades, but the bass was clearly not as in control as when I added the CV5 to power them. It was an enjoyable listening set-up though.

    With larger amps and DACs, I switched to using custom HD800 cables from ALO Audio, Norne Audio and Kimber Cable. With those, the Cascades powered easily out of Chord’s Hugo 2. For some reason I felt that the Hugo 2 brought out a bit more in the upper mids and wasn’t quite as smooth as, say, Audio-gd’s Master 9 amplifier and R2R 7 DAC set-up. However using the Hugo 2 as a DAC to iFi’s Pro iCan, I could discern the better performance of the more effortless ALO Audio Studio Six. Given that the amp is from the same stable as the headphones, this might not be so much of a surprise.


    Overall the Cascades are an excellent first entry onto the market. While I’m sure some things about the design might be improved in the future, what sticks with me is the outstanding clarity and musicality of the headphones. Their ability to scale with better sources, amps and cables could also make them an excellent choice for someone who wants a great pair of full-sized headphones.

    Campfire Audio Cascade-D75_8308-Edit_.jpg


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  10. yong_shun
    Cascade - "The Prototype"
    Written by yong_shun
    Published Apr 10, 2018
    Pros - Nice leather case
    Lamb skin leather earpads
    Cons - Boomy Bass
    Cloth Cable
    First of all, this is my first review in Head Fi and wish to say hi to all the Head-Fiers here! :clap::clap:
    English is my second language so please bear with me if there are some grammatical errors :cold_sweat:

    Waited long for this model to be launched in Singapore and yeah finally I got it 2 weeks ago.
    Burned 200 hours and decided to write a review for this.

    Physical Appearance

    The box of Campfire Audio Cascade is the bigger version of their IEM - Enlarged to fit in the Cascade. Very simple design but eye-catching.
    Opening the box, there is a leather case, again the enlarged version of their IEMs' leather case.
    I like the case a lot because the inner part always provide sufficient cushion to absorb the shock and protect the "gem" in the case. Together with the headphone, there is a cloth cable terminated with 3.5mm jack. The cable disappoint me because I am expecting it to come with braided cable.
    The earpads of this headphone are genuine lamb skin leather on memory foam which able to give you extra comfort. One good point of genuine leather earpads is reducing the chance of earpads peeling off. This is one major issue for audiophile in Singapore because of the humidity here.

    I have to admit that I was so impatient and I had a try once I opened it. It gave me a shock because the presentation is merely messy :frowning2: After 200 hours burn, everything get better. The soundstage is opened up and the separation is there. Campfire Audio always have very good separation, soundstage and details. I am using Campfire Audio Nova now and I love it. However, Cascade sounds a bit different from the traditional Campfire Audio's sound signature.

    The lows is strong as compared to Campfire Audio balanced armature driver lineup. I think the bass is closer to Campfire Audio Vega, boomy and engaging. This will definitely suit those who like the bass of Vega. I am not a bass head so this is a No-No for me :frowning2: The upper lows is slightly too strong to the extend it bleeds to the mids. I appreciate mids a lot and hence this deducts some points as well :frowning2:

    As usual, the mids are smooth and forward. I love mandopop and mid to me is the most essential part. Campfire Audio has never disappoint me in this that's why it is always the best for me. Male vocal are solid and powerful while the female vocal are extended but not to the extend of causing fatigue for long listening. The only cons is as mentioned, the upper lows have slightly bleed towards the mids.

    The highs are well extended. I like the highs because it is not too sharp or roll off. This solve the problem that I am facing with my Nova now because the high is rolled off by a huge extend.

    Soundstage and Imaging
    I do not think I need to comment much on this portion because Campfire Audio always ace the soundstage and audio imaging. It will not disappoint you.

    I did a comparison with SONY MDR-Z7. Z7 attracts me slightly because of its well controlled bass. I would say the bass kills my interest in Cascade - too boomy.

    The change of cable will able to improve the sound quality for sure but it will burn your pocket a hole. Nonetheless, this is the very first headphone from Campfire Audio and I believe they will come out with more and better headphone to fulfill my expectation to them :)
      Spie1904 and B9Scrambler like this.
    1. Soundsgoodtome
      What is your source/amp?

      *thanks for the reply!
      Soundsgoodtome, Apr 11, 2018
    2. yong_shun
      I tried with a few DAPs (WM-1Z, Fiio X7 Mk II) and my phone (LG G6).
      yong_shun, Apr 11, 2018
      Soundsgoodtome likes this.


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