1. crabdog
    Diversifying and crushing it
    Written by crabdog
    Published Apr 14, 2018 at 9:26 AM
    4.5/5,
    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
    DSC_0128[1].jpg

    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.

    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

    SPECIFICATIONS
    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

    FEATURES
    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′)

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    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.

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    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
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    Cable
    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.

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    Build
    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

    BASS
    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.

    MIDS
    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.

    TREBLE
    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.

    SOUNDSTAGE
    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.

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    Sources
    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.

    AUNE X1S 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION
    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.

    ARCAM IRDAC-II
    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.

    TOPPING DX7
    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.

    ACOUSTIC RESEARCH AR-M200
    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.

    ACOUSTIC RESEARCH AR-M20
    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.

    Comparisons
    ULTRASONE PERFORMANCE 860
    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.

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    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.
      hqssui and B9Scrambler 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 at 11:21 AM
      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 at 3:42 PM
      B9Scrambler likes this.
  2. Currawong
    Thumping bass from Campfire Audio's first cans
    Written by Currawong
    Published Apr 13, 2018 at 4:17 AM
    4.5/5,
    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

    Conclusion

    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.

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      B9Scrambler and ngoshawk like this.
  3. yong_shun
    Cascade - "The Prototype"
    Written by yong_shun
    Published Apr 10, 2018
    4.0/5,
    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.
    [​IMG]
    Opening the box, there is a leather case, again the enlarged version of their IEMs' leather case.
    [​IMG]
    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.
    [​IMG]
    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.

    Sound
    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.

    Lows
    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:

    Mids
    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.

    Highs
    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.

    Comparison
    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.

    Conclusion
    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 :)
      B9Scrambler likes 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.
  4. B9Scrambler
    CA Cascade: I wonder what Lucian would think?
    Written by B9Scrambler
    Published Apr 9, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Amazing fit and finish - Plush sheepskin pads - Bass driven signature that doesn't overpower - Sound stage
    Cons - Concern for yolk/hanger durability - Cloth cable is just alright - Impact of dampeners minimal
    Greetings Head-fi!

    Today we're checking out Campfire Audio's first foray into headphones, that being the Cascade.

    Campfire Audio (CA) is an American company out of Portland, Oregon. It is the brainchild of Ken Ball, CEO and founder of ALO Audio, a company renowned for their high end portable audio cables. Campfire Audio was a brand I had been watching closely since they released their first earphones, the Jupiter, Orion, and Lyra in mid-2015. Right at the tail end of 2017 I finally got the opportunity to check out one of their newer products, the Polaris.

    What caught my eye, and why I started following CA, was their unique design philosophy. It was unlike anything else on the market I had seen. The aggressive and edgy lines of the Jupiter and Orion were stunning with tons of detail, such as the visible screws holding on the outer face plate, and the small CA logos. I’m someone that appreciates and values design and build nearly as much as sound quality, and Campfire Audio consistently nails the visual appeal of their products

    The headphone we're checking out today, the Cascade, brings a softer but no less bold form of their design philosophy (along the lines of the Vega) to the premium full-sized, closed back headphone market. Like the broad range of in-ears that came before it, the Cascade is crafted from durable materials with a fine attention to detail in both the final design and construction quality. Having been in development for three years, I would expect nothing less.

    So how is Campfire Audio's first headphone? Let's find out.

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    Disclaimer:

    I would like to thank Caleb at Campfire Audio for arranging a complimentary review sample. There was no financial incentive provided and the Cascade is still considered the property of Campfire Audio. All thoughts within are my own and to not represent Campfire Audio, ALO, or any other entity. At this time the Cascade was retailing for 799.00 USD and could be found here on Campfire Audio's main site; https://campfireaudio.com/shop/cascade

    Source:

    For at home use the Cascade found itself being powered by my TEAC HA-501 desktop headphone amp with sound being sourced from an Asus FX35V laptop, Shanling M1, or the HiFiMan MegaMini. On the go the Cascade was pushed by my Walnut V2S/F1 dac/amp combo or straight out of the Shanling M1. My LG G5 also had a hand in driving the Cascade and did a surprisingly good job with the two having some synergy. Music quality ranges anywhere from super high quality 128kbps tracks I've been carting from device to device for the last 15 years, to the majority being 320kbps and FLAC.

    While the Cascade is easy enough to drive, I highly recommend amping it. It sounds a lot more textured, dynamic, and precise when powered properly. Otherwise, the low end comes across a little sluggish and loose. Considering the robust low end is the defining feature of this headphone in my opinion, you want that running at peak performance.

    Personal Preferences:

    I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures in my headphones I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even and natural mid-range response, with reduced mid-bass. The HiFiMan RE800, Brainwavz B400, and thinksound On2 offer unique examples of signatures I enjoy. I listen at what I would consider much lower than average volumes, based on my experiences sharing my headphones with others while set to my personal volume preferences, and on comments throughout the forums concerning gear I also own or have used.

    Specifications:
    • Driver: 42 mm Beryllium PVD diaphragm dynamic driver
    • Impedance: 38 ohm
    • Frequency Response: 5Hz-33kHz (attn -26dB)
    • Sensitivity: 100 dB SPL/mW
    • Earpad dimensions: Outside is approx. 2.75” x 4” / Inside is approx 1.5” x 2.5”
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    Packaging and Accessories:

    While I know many of you out there couldn't really care much less about packaging, I do. In my mind's eye it says a lot about the respect a manufacturer has for their product along with the initial experiences and first impressions a purchaser will have. While Campfire Audio's packaging with the Cascade is quite basic, it is full of the same charm and character experienced when I unboxed the Polaris. That's because it's basically the same thing, only larger.

    The hand drawn artwork found on the Cascade's box falls in line with their celestial naming scheme, displaying a starry night complete with a mountain range, cabin, and clusters of trees dotted in various areas around the box. Covering the front flap and top of the box is a massive sticker showing off the CA and Cascade branding with an image of the Cascade itself on the front flap. Also announced is that while the Cascade was designed in Portland, Oregon, it was “assembled in China using globally sourced components”. All of this is backed by a very stylish looking mass of swirls that looks to have been inspired by an oil/water mixture.

    The interior of the box is dominated by a large hard shell carrying case in which the Cascade and accessories can be found. This case is absolutely amazing. It is more or less an upsized version of the cases included with their iems. Along with even beefier twin zippers it has a wrist strap that can be removed if you so choose. Inside is the same woolly substance found on their smaller cases that does a great job of protecting the Cascade from bumps and movement. In addition to the case, you find a few more items tucked inside two paper slips;
    • Campfire Audio Litz Cable with Cloth Jacket; Silver Plated Copper Conductors with Circular Push-Pull Connectors and 3.5mm Stereo Plug
    • Four styles of custom acoustic dampeners with an accompanying tuning guide
    • CA branded lapel pin
    • Warranty slip
    • Instruction pamphlet
    I would have liked to see a separate set of pads made a different material, like velour or hybrid sheepskin/velour, but in all I have no complaints. The inclusion of various tuning filters and a proper guide on what each does is also a neat addition. Most other manufacturers would give you a very basic, generic description of each filter, such as “balanced”, and leave you to figure out the rest.

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    Build, Comfort, and Isolation:

    Being a headphone intended for mobile use, the Cascade is made from durable materials. The ear cups and yolks are crafted from cast aluminum, followed up by some machining to keep the weight down. The well cushioned headband is inset with stainless steel, as are all joints and pivots like those making up the folding mechanism. Many headphones are plastic in these areas which leads to failure, especially in colder climates where the plastic becomes brittle and loses flexibility. This shouldn't be an issue on the Cascade since the use of plastics is kept to a minimum and used only in places that really won't see any wear and tear, like the faceplate the pads clip to. In all fit and finish is stellar. So much so that pretty much every seam seems to be uniform in width.

    It seems right to assume that people spending the money to buy the Cascade will treat it well and not deliberately abuse it, but as they say, Schiit happens. I mention this because the right yolk on the sample received was slightly bent out of the box leading to the cup binding against it when folded. I was able to carefully return it to it's original position and it hasn't budged since which is great, although it does make me question how well these would survive multiple drops. Aluminum is rigid and tough, but isn't a metal that likes being bent. I'll be reporting back on this section in the future if this ever becomes an issue as the Cascade will likely be rolled into my daily driver rotation for the next few months and see lots more use.

    Onto the angled pads, they are flippin' fantastic. They feature a fairly steep rake of just over 1.25” at their deepest to about 1” at their most shallow. The opening itself isn't particularly large (1.5” x 2.5”), but the depth and rake give your ears lots of room to play with. That spaciousness combined with the exceptionally plush sheepskin and low resistance foam within makes for a very comfortable set of pads. While they are removable, they are permanently attached to the magnetic clipping mechanism that very securely holds them in place when installed. Speaking of which, these are the easiest pads to install and remove that I've come across. There is quite literally no effort required. Just vaguely line up the little pegs on the faceplate with the clip and let the magnets pull them in and seat them for you. It's actually perfect. Really. Now Campfire just needs to make replacement pads of various styles for us to play around with.

    The Litz cable included with the Cascade features the same conductor design and materials used on their other products, but this time wrapped in a cloth sheath. I'm really not a fan of cloth coated cables for a variety of reasons; they're usually noisy (contrary to every claim ever saying they reduce cable noise), they pick up dirt, they fray, and they often develop odd little twists here and there that keep them from ever fully straightening.

    Given Campfire Audio and ALO are part of the same family, I'm hopeful the Cascade's stock cable will hold up fine, though up near the push/pull connectors I've already noticed a few strands poking out after only a month of daily use. Keep in mind that my headphones are treated better than myself. On the plus side, it is an exceptionally quiet cloth cable, transmitting way less noise than I'm used to. The 45 degree angled jack is slim and should fit well in any case opening, be it for your phone or DAP, though it could use better strain relief. They y-split is much of the same being a compact rubber interconnect. Leading up to the push/pull connectors the cable is well-relieved but a touch thinner than I would prefer. The connectors themselves feature a tiny ridge inside and clear left/right indicators via blue and red colored rings respectively, ensuring they're always plugged in correctly. Like the ear pads, once lined up they magnetically snap securely into place. They have yet to pull out accidentally. I could nitpick and complain that the ridge location isn't mirrored on both sides, but really, who cares? It affects nothing.

    While the Cascade isn't what I would consider a light headphone, at 13.5 oz (without cable) it doesn't feel particularly heavy either. For me it is very comfortable though on the very limit of a headphone that actually fits my head. Not because the Cascade is too small, but because it's almost too big. On the smallest size it rests just a teensy, tiny bit lower on my head than I would like. Regardless, I can still wear it for the majority of an eight hour shift without getting too hot or uncomfortable, only needing to take small breaks here and there. Probably going to be a different story in the summer vs. the early spring/extended winter when this review was written. I'll have to revisit this section later in the year to let you know how it goes.

    Now, while the Cascade is almost too big for my tiny noggin, reading through the forums and impressions from others I am well in the vast minority.For most they're great, but for others that are seemingly on the small side. If that's the case for you, it is important to keep in mind that yes, the headband is well padded. However, when you stretch the cups apart it flattens out quite a bit. While hardly noticeable, when flattened there is still a tiny up tick in the padding that should be enough to keep you from experiencing a hot spot right on the peak of your cranium.

    For a closed back headphone the Cascade's passive noise attenuation is on the lower end of what I would consider average. For example, about 15 feet from my dining table is the fridge. It lets off a very audible hum. Wearing the Cascade with no music playing, that hum is muffled but still very present. Compared to the thinksound On2, a compact, closed-back, wooden on-ear, the hum is reduced to a nearly inaudible level. The Polk Audio Buckle's sealed aluminum ear cups also passively block more of this noise than the Cascade, though not to the same extent as the On2. Cruising around outside with music playing, I could still hear cars and people and the usual sounds of the city, but they weren't anywhere near intrusive enough to ruin the experience. After a few minutes, the brain will do it's thing and ignore that incoming noise for you without you ever noticing. What it comes down to; if extremely effective passive noise attentuation is tops on your list of “must have” features, see if you can try the Cascade before you buy. It might not do the trick.

    In all the Cascade is as well built as you would expect from a Campfire Audio product having been crafted with top quality materials. Comfort is excellent with me able to wear the Cascade for extended periods with ease. Passive noise isolation could be better though.

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    Sound:

    Acoustic Dampeners: The Cascade comes with four different sets of dampeners that can be used to increase mid and low frequencies. After experimenting with them all, I found the effect they had on the Cascade's overall presentation was fairly minimal and hence why they're covered in this little aside. They're a great way to fine tune the basic signature. That said, if you're looking for a set that reduces bass, there isn't one. You're going to have to resort to good old fashioned EQ which the Cascade is thankfully very receptive to. In the end, none of the included filters suited my preferences so I stuck with the stock, dampener free setup. The below impressions are based on that.

    There were two things that really caught my attention when I first fired up the Cascade for a listen. The first was that they did not present themselves like a closed headphone. The large, 42mm Beryllium PVD drivers in the Cascade deliver music with a great sense of space and air. The thinksound On2 has a good stage for a compact portable, but the Cascade completely dwarfs it. The AKG K553 Pro gives the Cascade a run for it's money in this area, but despite being a closed back headphone and terminated in a 3.5mm jack, it doesn't really offer anything you want in a portable, such as sound isolation. Or portability. Pitting the Cascade against ADVANCED's open planar, the Alpha, showed the limitations of a closed setup.

    To my pleasant surprise, even the hefty low end couldn't muddy the waters and restrict the Cascade in it's ability to surround you in your music. In addition to simply sounding much larger than it is, the level of detail in its staging is impressive. The way sound images and moves around is exceptionally well-layered and with impressive separation. Running through the entirety of BT's experimental opus “If the Stars Are Eternal Then So Are You and I” was a fantastic experience with the Cascade. I was completely immersed in and surrounded by the world crafted throughout this album. Listening to it alongside the official videos further drew me in.

    That meaty low end is the second thing that really caught my attention. This is a very full figured headphone with a bass line that dominates the balance. The Cascade isn't subtle about it's bass which is always on, even in acoustic ballads like Led Zeppelin's “Going to California”. This is a thick, heavily textured low end with excellent extension and good control. Throwing on “Desperado” by Savant showed the Cascade is a little soft and slow on impactful bass lines, but on extended sub-bass notes can provide some serious rolling thunder. The Alpha in contrast hits with greater impact but doesn't linger and hold the lowest notes with the same authority. As a result of the way the Cascade presented it's bass, I found myself listening to tracks with bass lines in place to support the track, leading with other elements. Black Tiger Sex Machine x Apashe's “The Grave (Ft. Gabriella Hook)” is a good example of this and through the Cascade got me up and moving.

    While the Cascade has a bass forward sound, other frequencies do not take a backseat. Treble is well-extended and extremely detailed, lifted slightly to give mid-range vocals presence and clarity. Even though it isn't emphasized much, it really supports the airy presentation of this headphone through it's focus and precision. Both male and female vocals are well presented, though female vocals get the nod through the level of intimacy and care with which they're presented. Adele's “Skyfall” is gorgeous example of this. Those averse to sibilance will be happy campers since nothing of the sort is present here. My workplace provides us with a wide variety of surprisingly high quality (320 mbps) ambient “nature sounds” audio files to listen to while we work. Babbling brooks, birds, storms, and other effects are backed by light woodwind instrumentation and drumming, along with chimes and other instruments and effects. Through the Cascade it all sounds eerily realistic and shows off the impressive timbre of this headphone.

    The heavy, constant force that is the low end is balanced nicely by an articulate and dare I say, delicate presentation everywhere else making the Cascade an engaging, intriguing, and very capable headphone.

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    Final Thoughts:

    Campfire Audio's first foray into the world of full-sized headphones certainly doesn't hint at their inexperience in this particular market. This is a bold product in both design and sound, hitting all the right marks out of the gate. The years of development that resulted in the Cascade were put to good use and will undoubtedly reward those that choose to invest in this particular product.

    Thanks for reading!

    - B9Scrambler

    ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

    Some Additional Test Tunes:

    Aesop Rock - Skelethon (Album)

    Daft Punk - Random Access Memories (Album)

    Elton John - Yellow Golden Brick Road (Album)

    King Crimson - Lark's Tongues in Aspic (Album)

    King Crimson - Starless and Bible Black (Track)

    Supertramp - Crime of the Century (Album)

    Infected Mushroom - Converting Vegetarians (Album)

    Infected Mushroom - Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)

    Gorillaz - Plastic Beach (Album)

    Massive Attack - Mezzanine (Album)

    Fleetwood Mac - Rumors (Album)

    Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels (Album)

    The Prodigy - The Day is My Enemy (Album)

    Tobacco - F****d Up Friends (Album)

    Felt - Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bone) (Album)

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    1. View previous replies...
    2. B9Scrambler
      Thanks man!
      B9Scrambler, Apr 11, 2018
    3. Soundsgoodtome
      Thanks for the review, what is your source and amp?

      *Thanks for the reply! I read the sound description and tried scrolling a few times for the source section but couldn't find it. Lol
      Soundsgoodtome, Apr 11, 2018
      B9Scrambler likes this.
    4. B9Scrambler
      From the review :) lol. Cheers!

      Desktop: TEAC HA-501 desktop headphone amp with sound being sourced from an Asus FX35V laptop, Shanling M1, or the HiFiMan MegaMini.
      On the go: Walnut V2S/F1 dac/amp combo or straight out of the Shanling M1.
      Alternative: LG G5 also had a hand in driving the Cascade and did a surprisingly good job with the two having some synergy.
      B9Scrambler, Apr 11, 2018
  5. ngoshawk
    A set of cans of which Bob would approve...
    Written by ngoshawk
    Published Apr 1, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Deep lucious bass.
    Right. price point to enter.
    Excellent fit-n-finish.
    Sound befitting a flagship.
    Cons - Not the most comfortable.
    Treble lacked a bit of sparkle (to me).
    Not much else!
    [​IMG]



    website: https://campfireaudio.com/shop/cascade/



    (intro written after about two weeks and 60+ hours)

    Intro:

    Listening to Roger Waters The Tide is Turning, while my 7mos old Australian Shepherd “puppy” is underfoot kind of brings things into perspective. What an incredible album Radio Kaos is. Timely then, and as much so today. Begging me to play with her, I succumb, and it is good. She is a beautiful, fantastic partner for our family, and I am so thoroughly in love, that I feel pangs of guilt upon leaving for school each day. She knows, and she copes. Upon return each day, we rejoice in that partnership again, and again. Begging us to play soccer with her outside, no matter the cold or weather…she simply loves whatever the weather; we rejoice in that unabashed love for each other. I well up now thinking of that bond. That unbreaking unconditional love only a dog can bring (besides life partners and children of course). That incredible overwhelming feeling of love drives me through each bad day (and there have been many lately…), knowing she awaits our return. Willingly forgetting that we left her alone (and yes, she is sometimes not as well behaved in the house as she should…), but all forgiven when we greet. What an inconceivably fantastic feeling.



    I mention the above not only because I love my dog. I love her very, very much; but because I do believe that this is the same love with which Ken and CO greet their workshop each morning. Guilty for having left at the end of each (most likely long) day. Guilt knowing there is still wares to be put together. Customers who have shown faith (both new and old) in those wares, with that wanting of NOW, that wanting of “I can’t wait any longer!”. I feel their anguish, those customers. Especially knowing of Ken’s reputation for somewhat upheaving the in-ear market with the excellent Jupiter, which I am lucky enough to own (now onto the Andromeda/Vega in that vein), but his uncompromising passion for what HE and company thinks is the best (notice I did not say ultimate, for a reason…) sound that they can provide. Not ultimate mind you, a craftsman such as Ken knows that they may never attain that “ultimate” sound. At least I like to think that, since I do not know of him other than what some acquaintances state through conversation regarding all audio. But, it is obvious that Campfire Audio strives to improve our sound and our relationship with sound through their products.



    Having been lucky enough to hear not only my excellent Jupiter (and previously owned Nova) along with @Pinkypowers fantastic Dorado I do get from where Ken & CO are coming from. I get it, I understand it, and I do approve of it. Wholeheartedly. They do not submit “new products” for our perusal simply to keep up with the times. In fact, there was an almost stagnation of “new” for a bit. One, which was used to catch up on their popularity. A well-earned popularity, I might add. But, while that was being done (to criticism of some, good Lord give me a break…get over it, it’s their company they do as they want…), word was out that new products were of course in the works (of course they were!). Happily, the Cascade is the result of such work.

    [​IMG]

    Initially word was that they were taking the Vega sound to a closed-back headphone, with the portability of a mid-fi priced headphone. Almost unheard of at this level (I do have the excellent VModa Crossfade ii, which are portable, wireless and significantly less expensive). Many scoffed (as I read the thread…) that it could be achieved, or that something had to give due to A) the price point, B) the portability issue, or C) the fact that it was their first foray into headphones. Lofty goals, would have been an understatement. Implausible would be a better descriptive. But, one thing of which I have observed from that distance to Campfire Audio, was that this could very well be what drives their psyche. The challenge to do something, which has not been done, or not done well-enough to their satisfaction. THAT is key to what drives them, and to why when @Wiljen asked, I jumped. He offered his pair before the tour, and until the tour is arranged for a long-term audition, Ken himself gave leave of Will to do the tour and offer the headphone for my consumption (or so I like to think…). It was through this, and I was afforded an extended listen of which I still harbor. Of which I still savor and listen. Happily, I might add. Whomever receives the pair from me after will have a fully broken in pair, with nie on 310ish hours (it came to me with 133hrs, so sayeth Will). Suffice to say it is broken in. To say I was also lucky, goes beyond that feeling of luck, into well treasure.



    Specifications:

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


    Features

    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′)





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    Unboxing:



    With familiarity comes comfort. Complacency can also be wrought, but that need not be, nor is it the case here. Familiarity is at it should, what with the recognizable Campfire Audio green box, replete with stars, camping and mountains outside of Portland; the headquarters. Familiar and appreciated, for it pays homage from whence they come. Appreciated because of that remembrance. Why change something when it doesn’t need changing? As Yogi Berra said so many decades ago, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”


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    Knowing of this beforehand, I appreciated how concise the container was, and of how accustomed people are to seeing this familiar shape. Opening said green box, you are of course presented with the familiar rectangle zippered “box” of faux leather, complete with the Campfire audio logo. Giddiness led to the opening, and again I was met with Sheepskin-like material in which the Cascade lay. Not wanting to disturb the sleeping headphone, I carefully removed the two-plain dark gray envelopes. One of which contains the excellent Litz cable almost as soft & supple as the pouch itself, the other the tuning filters. With a two-way zipper, which could keep a tiger at bay in the container due to its girth, complete with logo-laden zipper grabs of quite the heft, a long grab handle rounds out the package. Simple, superb and top quality. Nicely done, indeed. But, it is what was inside, which draws all of us to Campfire Audio, even if the zippered cocoon is worth the price of admission.



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    I was taken aback at how compact the critter looked. From pictures, one gets the impression of something truly massive, of VModa-size (I say this now owning an excellent pair…). But, just like that brand, the Cascade surprised me with compactness belying the pictures. They are also fairly light. As Will aptly described, “Built like a tank, without the tank-like weight.” I would concur, as some of my personal headphones do in fact weigh more. With a dearth of accessories, or at least the plain envelopes to me epitomizes Ken and CA. Classically represented. As it should be.

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    Fit-n-finish:

    Placing the Cascade on my cranial matter, I was taken aback at the grab pressure associated with the placement. Almost too tight, I moved my head vigorously from side-to-side with no movement at all. Almost too tight. Cushioning my ears with real sheepskin comfort, the square pads enveloped my ears, just. Fit was good, but none-too-big/small. Those with bigger earlobes could be in trouble, and some have mentioned this after receiving theirs. I did find for a time, that due to the pressure, the pad/ear cups would “swivel” inward, at an angle to which the bottom would be almost touching my ear…almost. A simple rearranging of the cup angle took care of this. I had little problem with fit, other than the occasional readjustment needed.



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    Moving beyond the ear cup, the overall approach is one of quality. Quality exudes from the very first time you remove the Cascade from its cradle. Almost too afraid to pick up the critter for fear of disturbing it, I do, and I am engaged with the overall excellence of quality. No misfits here. Tightly sewn seams, tightly fit parts, with no mismatch. One comes to expect this when we spend our own hard-earned dollar; and Campfire Audio does not disappoint. Often companies will afit glamour with their ware, much to the detriment of keeping said ware clean…think of some IEM’s you have, which are a pain in the arse to keep clean and you understand. Or most anyone’s Smartphone screen. I clean mine several time a day as a result. I just can’t stand it, otherwise.

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    But with the Cascade, you need not worry. The matte-like finish of the ear cup does not warrant worry. It does not breed fingerprints like my iPhone X screen, which I swear is like a rabbit in heat when it comes to smearing…not a pretty site mind you. You needn’t worry. Not at all. With that quality construction, comes durable material and an aesthetically pleasing look.



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    Another nice feature is the magnetic ear cups. Used to access the four included filters, a simple pull takes the ear cup off, presenting you with the area in which you can access and change the filters. At first and after reading some, I was skeptical at how easily the cups may come off. This was quickly alleviated once I did it for myself. While the cup does remove quite nicely, there is no fear of it coming undone once remounted. A nice easy feature, without the use of pins/slots and twisting. I do like this and affords easy access/change of those filters. A nice touch. Do be very careful when removing the cup as the filter is small and can easily come off. Make sure the adjustment is perfect before returning said cup to driver housing.



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    Thankfully a user tuning manual is included: https://campfireaudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Cascade-Tuning-Manual.pdf

    A softish leather band graces the headband. One in which many agree (as do I) that there be more adjustability fit-wise and a bit more cushioning. But, not all can be pleased no matter the price, and this certainly wouldn’t be a deterrent for me. My Elear gives better cushion, on the bottom, but not quite the adjustability of the Cascade. Stainless steel hinges makes for quite the durable critter at what can be a troublesome spot. No worries here, though.

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    With ample vertical adjusting, the Cascade should fit any head this side of Herman Munster. I had four notches out on each side, while wearing a hat. No problem, good fit. Again, not quite the comfort of my Elear, but ahead of the more economical Crossfade’s. With near 90-degree swivel to the rear, and what I think is about 20 degrees to the front, there is ample adjustment to fit most heads. And with about 40-45 degrees vertically, most can achieve a parallel fit to their cranium. Good stuff, indeed.

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    As for the cable, Campfire Audio took the same approach as with all of their wares…it is the Campfire Audio designed Litz wire and of plenty good quality. While I would have liked a bit more “sturdiness” to the cable, one cannot complain about the quality, nor that it WILL indeed last a good long time. And with the ability to order other cables, you shan’t be disappointed. It is a cable befitting the Cascade, and you need not worry. It does not tangle and can easily fit back into the envelop. But knowing said envelop is paper, will soon disintegrate, and need to be recycled. I simply unplugged from the headphone, wrapped carefully, and placed on top of the headphones in the case. No problem.

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    Putting the whole package together, one is privy to the entirety of Campfire’s quantity to date. And it is good. Knowing that this is their latest iteration into our pleasures is a good thing. And knowing this is their first foray into full-sized headphones, one can only think of what lies ahead. That said, I would be jumping into a future of which I would rather be surprised, so I will keep “grounded” with the Cascade.


    Equipment used/compared:

    thebit Opus #2
    thebit Opus #1S
    Shanling M3S
    FiiO x5iii

    Focal Elear (similar priced now, and model level)
    Focal Listen (closed-back portability at an “affordable” price)
    VModa Crossfade ii, wireless & wired (compared for closed-back portability, too)
    Unique Melody Maestro V2, w/ Effect Audio Ares ii balanced cable
    64Audio U8 (comparison of bass)
    Campfire Jupiter (Norne Vorpal SE & bal, flagship to flagship, same price)

    Songs used:

    Bob & Ziggy of course. Bob would be proud
    Roger Waters- The Tide is Turning
    Twentyonepilots- Guns For Hands, Trees
    Santana- Gypsy/Grajonca
    Dave Matthews-Jimmy Thing
    10,000 Maniacs- Candy Everybody Wants, These Are Days
    Stevie Ray Vaughan- I Ain’t Goin’ Give up on Love (live and studio versions)


    Overall Sound sig:

    * Disclaimer: I used the 2T filter, which was mounted for the majority of the time. Wanting to note if there was more bass and mid response with the 1T, I switched for the last of my time. Due to my inabilities, I was unable to discern a difference. Switching to the 4T, I could discern a bit more openness to the treble. Do not take that as gospel as it could very well have been placebo/brain trickery in my case. Those with better ears will probably be able to discern differences. *

    I am always loathe to give an abstract of sound, for I feel it hard to boil down into a fair bit of words the overall sound, which pervades the unit in question. There is so much more than what can be provided in a short summary, but as a good Scientist, one must be able to digest down the best qualities of their research into the pertinent. I shall try.

    Knowing this unit was still of the “less than fully burned in” I was taken by the dichotomy of the first two songs I played: Guns For Hands & These Are Days. A full deep rich sound was heard from the first, and a BOOMING bass from the second. So much so, that I had to remove the Cascade and draw down the volume. I was astounded by this utter loudness of bass. It was huge. To the point, where I immediately wondered of what I was entering into…After what I would consider an adequate brain-burn and afforded extra 10 hours or so, that harsh AMOUNT of bass settled. Running the same song, through the same volume and set up after about another 10 hours, I can report that it seemed to be an anomaly of burning in. I blame the Beryllium driver, stupid rare earth metal… (absolutely joking there…)

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    So, to boil this down into not so few words, I would describe the Cascade as full, rich warm and deep of reach. This is certainly not reference quality (I’m not even sure what that might be really, as each has their own “reference” sound…smh). A sound, which can put a smile on a dog’s face when their owner comes home. A sound, which when listening to Natalie Merchant’s sweet, sweet melodic voice indeed brings a smile. Oh, my goodness, this has the richness of a triple-layered chocolate cake at a fine restaurant. You know you shouldn’t but do simply because to not do so would insult the chef and restaurant. And both are glad you did.

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    That said, there is ample detail present. To me, when one talks of bass, and plenty of it such as the Cascade has clarity or detail does not come into mention. This is too often the case in my short ride, and humble opinion. Too often bass overtakes the overall sound quality. The VModa of which I have somewhat defies this, but with a certain sparkle up top for compensation. And it can become tedious with the wrong songs. There is no such compensation with the Cascade. None, period. The sound is allowed to speak the CA song and method, without the addition of tuning to compensate. This is a bass heavy sound, and warm as mentioned, but one would be silly not to try if that was one’s not preferred signature. It is of that quality, which it can pervade other’s preferences to the good. There seems to be no lack of quality across the board, just some enhancing. And this can be put down to the closed-back nature of the Cascade as much as tuning (OK, to a point, but I do hope you understand…).

    Noah’s Dove is a very good example. Building piano provides each note with detail and clarity of sound. Bring in that bass guitar for depth, and the acoustic guitar for more detail and you get it. You get what drove Ken & CO to do what they did. There, I said it. That’s my abstract…







    Delving deeper:

    I also struggle when pulling out the separates…due to my inadequacies and lack of formal training, I simply provide what I hear. And what I don’t, I cannot. This has saved me from entering some arguments of which I would surely lose. I provide what I hear, and that is it. Someday I will add formal measurements, but I have not the time to learn another expertise at this present time.

    Staying with that bass point, Ziggy & Bob sound simply magical on the Cascade. Dragonfly Ziggy’s seminal song to me is as detailed and of excellent quality as I would expect. I found myself playing that song over and over, as I did 10,000 Maniacs. That sound out of my Opus#2 is deep, rich and booming, while not losing too much of the upper end. Detailed, separated, spacious-yet intimate as with a good closed-back set. A sound worthy of being called a TOTL from a company, and one which aims to “go after” several of the bigger headphone companies.

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    Bass: A am enthralled with the bass presentation to the point at which I could consider this a basshead representation. Someone else mentioned that this is their “endgame,” and being a basshead that says a lot. I may not go that far, but I am still smitten with how the Cascade can present such wondrous bass, while holding excellent control of that. Too often with models such as this, there is that compensation of which I spoke before. The need to compensate by taming or uplifting another sound to match the bass. Too much, too hot treble can be encountered to balance the deep delving bass. Not here though. Control and detail are the end of that. It is one thing to enjoy thunderous bass. It is another to enjoy it AND get the clarity of a detailed presentation as complimentary. I would consider this classic Campfire Audio bass, evident especially in the Dorado, and somewhat in the Jupiter. I really wish to spend more time in the Dorado for comparatives sake, but memory will have to suffice for now. Excellent bass presentation when you need it, and an excellent foundation on which to build. Well done, Ken & CO.

    Mids: Of all the sounds, I have the hardest time discerning differences of the mids. I just cannot separate enough of that to competently draw conclusions. I will do my best, and you can take it as you may. That said, I do find the mids to be presented in an exemplary manner befitting a flagship. To me there can be a shouting match when one describes the flagships…“I am the flagship for a reason!!!” or “You had better listen to me NOW!!!” Not here, though. Just wonderfully presented, and a fit into the overall signature that ties all together nicely. There is a slight cow-towing to the bass, but only in reverence to how wonderful the bass really is. This would be the example of a Mother telling her three kids to all get along and play because company is coming. And they dare not cross what their Mother says…and it would be that middle child who holds all together in unison and harmony, even at the expense of themselves. My wife is a middle child…

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    There is a little bleed of bass into the mids from my perspective, and with the closed backs I have or have heard (albeit limited) this is somewhat refreshing. Sometimes bass heavy closed headphones can overpower the mids to the point where the mids throw up the white flag, knowing resistance would be futile. Giving up completely. Here though, the mids are almost completely copacetic with that and willingly take the bass into the fold, despite the overshadowing. Without a cross word, without a cross sound, and tying nicely into the overall signature. Again, think that middle child who doesn’t want to be a bother, nor any attention drawn. Their work represents themselves. And here is where the mids shine, on the upper end. Simply sublime presentation of guitars and male vocals represent to me the highlight of those mids. When I can hear Stevie Ray Vaughan or Ziggy Marley almost completely open and with natural warmth, then something has been done right. Done right, indeed. I really dig this warm sound.


    Treble: this to me, is where the Cascade falls behind my Elear, and Crossfade. Not as present, not as well defined, either. But, if I have to quibble, it really is of a minor one, as this is still quite a good presentation of treble, albeit a laid-back version. To me, the Cascade is a bit of rolled off on the top. Again, that is where my deficiency is (I know you are most likely tired of hearing that, but…), so please take a listen for yourself. What could have been the icing on the headphone cake goes a bit flat. I wish a bit more sparkle was present. And of all the sounds, I dislike peaky treble the most, as this absolutely bothers me. So, in that vein the Cascade is quite good…no harshness, not sibilant, just a bit too mellow for me. If CA had incorporated the excellent treble of the Jupiter, this darn well might be perfect. But they did not. And typically speaking something has to give, or there is that one “fault” we find, which does not suit our tastes. And, if this is the high-end Campfire Audio was after, then I do applaud them for staying true to their sound. I really do.

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    But, compared to the VModa or Focal, it is a bit flat. Compared to the Crossfade, I welcome that mellowness, as the VModa can come across as harsh after a good listen. Nothing of the sort with the Cascade. It is really quite pleasant in that vein. Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down epitomize that dichotomy. WELL too harsh on the VModa, simple melodious on the Cascade, and I listen to my anthem of the year (personal reasons, PM me and I will tell…) over and over and over. If this is the treble in which Ken & CO strove to achieve, I approve. And I would hold the same on the Elear, the song simply sings perfectly to me through the Focal, better than the Cascade. But, comparing a really excellent open-back headphone to a closed-back isn’t really fair. But, that is what I have at that price-point. Again, I approve of the effort and cannot wait for V2.

    Soundstage/Separation: While quite good for a closed-back, this really isn’t a fair comparison. While decently wide, one would not purchase this set for the soundstage. The sound would be key. And on Bob’s seminal I Know, he is speaking directly to those interested. Ain’t it good to know, defines what Cascade owners can expect, and indeed it will be good. Everything is neatly in place and does not crowd for the most part. I will call this “good enough,” and quite good for a closed-back.


    Sources: Using mainly the Opus#2 provided me with a sound worthy of two flagships. And I would hope so. Excellent detail, excellent clarity, excellent separation. All three were superb. If I had to describe in a bit more detail, it would be one of grace, melody and comfort. The two melded together in such a manner that this could be not only my home unit, but I would make it work for commuting (if I did), and office critter. I spent many hours using the combo at work, unfortunately only for about 45 minutes at a time due to my schools structure, and interruptions during plan (DRAT!!). But every evening I could, the pair was my go to set up. And I was not disappointed.

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    Combining with the Shanling M3s was not as pleasant to me. While quite acceptable, the two didn’t meld as well to me. With an overt tonality of ME FIRST!!!, I found that instead of working together, the Shanling wanted to take front and center. For something such as my FLC8S, this is fine as that is the pair I use in running and lifting. But for pure listening, it just didn’t work.

    The Opus#1s was also quite good, as I would expect. With “less” of the above Opus #2, the pair fell behind, but in keeping with the Audio-Opus tradition of clarity, and an honest open sound, the pair was very acceptable. I used this pair before shipping the Opus off to Will for his perusal, so it was only in fleeting, the two together.

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    Coming into my last night or two, I decided to bring an old friend out of the storage bin, the Fiio x5iii. Remembering when this was the Cat’s Meow flavor of the month, I awaited the updates, and virus scanning in order to run the critter. As an interesting note, I had not used the FiiO in well over two months. And it lost only 7% battery…incredible. And yes, it was powered completely off. So in power off mode, that equates to well…a darn long time! Since I was too lazy to pull an SD card from another player, I chose to stream Tidal Premium, since many of us stream as much as we do play from SD. And…I was shocked. Simply taken aback. If I had to, I would say the meld of the pair was right up there with the Opus#2, my favorite. And yes, I know even Tidal Premium isn’t the best quality sound, but the deep rich tone from the stream added into the right places with the Cascade. Me brain is still wrapping around the concept of streaming and the two together as Hometown thunders and strains from the Cascade. Except it isn’t strain. It is melodious commuting near-perfection. This is bloody cool! Heathens, might be for enjoying this pair, but isn’t that the point?! If one cannot enjoy what one has, or must have the newest greatest, then you really should find another hobby. I have fallen prey to that myself, but the Shanling M5 and the FiiO x5iii keep me grounded. And yes, I know the FiiO is “only” two years old…an eternity in portable audio I might add. While the sound from Heathens highlights the limits of each…too boomy of bass, lacking that fine detail, it is still a raucous good time! Tyler is singing directly to us in this pair, and it is a worthy listen.

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    Other stuff: I can define layers pretty well here, again for a closed-back there is a very good detailed layered presentation. Imaging speaks volumes, and is worth it’s wait (weight?...). If we had to boil this whole schpeel to one word, it would be detail and clarity. OK, two. The detail representation is very, very good. Each layer can be deciphered like that fine five-layer chocolate cake, and it is good. And, to top it off? Well…clarity. The way those details are presented is pretty clear, except for the aforementioned treble miss (to me). So there you go, detail and clarity in a closed-back headphone.


    Finale:


    As usual, I wandered, pondered, worded, scribbled, verbiaged way too much…but that is what this critter can do. The more I listened, the more I had to write about it. That is the “spell” the Cascade has me under. Call it Brain Damage, by Pink Floyd and you will most probably get it. I listen…I write…I listen some more…I write some more…then I just listen. And listen for a good long time…Pretty much everything I threw at the Cascade sounded good. Very good. Very few times did I fast forward to the next song. And that was mainly because the song did not fit the mood. And I thought about one of my initial thoughts/feelings…that odd shape and the comfort factor.

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    The longer I listened, the more I became accustomed to the Cascade fit and feel. It didn’t bother me nearly as much as the early feel. But, occasionally it did become a bit warm around the cups. Even in moderately cool temperatures it was a bit warm. Well, it is a closed-back after all. I’m not sure what could be done without ruining the sound signature, but maybe something in the future…I also enjoyed the varied personality of the Cascade per each source above. The wondrous detail of the #2 to the raucous good listen of the x5iii, I thoroughly enjoyed it! I haven’t had this much fun since trying to make the Apex Pinnacle2 falter…a fruitless ploy, I might add.


    And, the longer I listened, the more I had that thought…the same one as when I first listened to the loaner Focal Elear, and the loaner Grado GH-2…that what can I sell so I can purchase this beauty feeling and thought. Again, it was so powerful back then, that I ended up purchasing both eventually. And that nag hits me with the Cascade…not quite as hard, but just like that itch on the shoulder blade or small of your back, which you cannot reach; eventually it will need scratching. My hope is I hold out until V2 comes out, or I break down. I consider it Dirty Pool, from Campfire Audio, and I will eventually lose that game. And the bet? Well, I will let you figure that out…

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    I want to graciously (gratuitously?...) thank @Wiljen for the loan of the Cascade. Without provocation, he offered, and I jumped. I do believe that I will be unable to repeat exactly what I said then, but suffice to say, my extended time with the Cascade was a treat, a very, very good treat. I finish this listening to Willy Nelson with Susan Tedeschi’s most excellent version of Kansas City. If you have seen neither in concert, find a place close NOW and go. Both are well worth the price of admission, and dare I say the Cascade is too. I also want to thank Ken & Campfire Audio for allowing me the honor of a “pre-tour” listen. Suffice to say, that between Will & I the critter is broken in, putting myself through close to 175hrs of “torture.” Quite gracious, generous and just plain nice. It is the companies of this character, which allow us the pleasure of their wares, and I am glad, very glad. Think Ziggy’s live version of Redemption Song, from Live at Soho, and Bob would indeed smile on this pair.


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      ExpatinJapan, muffins, scott1 and 3 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. ngoshawk
      Much appreciated. The Cascade really is quite the endeavor for Campfire, and I hope I conveyed properly what a good critter it really is.
      ngoshawk, Apr 2, 2018
      volly likes this.
    3. Douger333
      Very good review! If I had any money I would be tempted... but no more money :frowning2:
      Douger333, Apr 2, 2018
    4. ngoshawk
      Thank you and I understand! This "hobby" is indeed expensive. I must contain myself!
      ngoshawk, Apr 2, 2018
  6. ExpatinJapan
    A cascade of soulfulness and beauty
    Written by ExpatinJapan
    Published Mar 22, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Smooth, excellent layering and definition, tuning filters, replaceable cable, solidly built yet light
    Cons - Addictive
    Campfire Audio Cascade Headphone Review
    - Expatinjapan


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    Campfire Audio Cascade headphone review
    - expatinjapan

    '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.'



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

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    Campfire Audio Cascade and ALO Audio SXC 8 upgrade cable

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    Ken and Caleb with some of the early prototypes of the Cascade

    I knew from various show photos and word of mouth that Campfire Audio was working on a headphone. I wondered what it would be like. Campfire Audio having sprung from the loins of its older sibling ALO Audio and whilst they possess oodles of experience with cables, amps and nowadays in ear monitors (IEMs) this was going to be a first.
    Being an unashamed Campfire audio fan I had faith, but also I had doubts. This was after all their first foray into the headphone market. Of course I knew they would approach the project with the skill, expertise and experience of past endeavors, but it is a first after all.
    Did they succeed, or did they suck eggs? Lets find out...

    Unboxing and build.

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    Campfire Audio Cascade with stock cables and iBasso DX200 (Amp 1).

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    A beautiful box. My photo doesn't really do it justice.

    Authentic Campfire Audio Headphone Packaging
    USA Made “French Paper Company” Paper
    Printed Locally in Portland, Oregon USA


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    Campfire Audio Zipper Headphone Case
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    'Cascade is the headphone that we wanted while traveling. It folds up to a compact size and is an isolated closed-back design. '

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    Warranty, user guides and a set of four Filters to tune the Cascade to your liking.

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    'Cascade
    Unmistakably Campfire Audio Sound
    42mm Beryllium PVD Diaphragm Dynamic Drivers
    Aluminum and Stainless Steel Construction '


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    '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.'

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

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    The pads are removable and are so securely fixed by magnets I didn't even notice during the initial photo shoot. No matter how much I twisted and turned they stayed attached easily.


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    '42mm Beryllium PVD Driver
    Cascade delivers exceptional musicality and openness. It has a soundstage that expands well beyond the listening space. It possesses sonic traits not found in typical ‘closed-back’ headphone designs.
    Specially crafted custom drivers are at the heart of Cascade. Powerful and impactful sound with excellent speed and micro detail retrieval. Superior highs extend over precise and controlled bass notes. '


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    'Premium Materials, Durable Build
    Creating a portable audiophile headphone requires using materials that are up for the job.
    Light weight forged and machined aluminum cups paired with stainless steel components. This provides added strength in the places where you need it most.
    Premium sheepskin ear pads are not only comfortable, but they provide excellent isolation. '


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    '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. '


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    'Campfire Audio Litz Cable with Cloth Jacket; Silver Plated Copper Conductors with Circular Push-Pull Connectors and 3.5mm Stereo Plug '

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    Push/pull connectors for easy entry and release.

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    The stock cable is free and easy in its movements.

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    Specifications
    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 inch tall
    Inside ID is approx – 1.5 inch wide x 2.5 inch


    Features

    42 mm Beryllium PVD diaphragm dynamic driver

    Sheep Leather Detachable Headphone Pads

    Cicular ‘Push-Pull’ Connections

    Cast + Machined Aluminum Cup and Hanger Arms

    Steel headband, pivot and joints

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

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    Size, fit and comfort

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    Caleb of Campfire Audio showing the easy fit of the Cascade.

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    My head in horizontal circumference is around 58-59cm. Curiously the same size as our family soccer/football ball...
    Over the top of my head from ear to ear is approximately 28-29cm, our heads often being more oval in shape, well mine anyway.

    I delicately pasted a picture of T.Hanks on top of my ugly mug to give an idea of fit.

    For me the fit is quite comfortable and my dainty pixie ears fit inside quite comfortably. The pads take a short amount of time to break in, soften and loosen up to better fit the contours of the head, offer a decent seal and place the ears slightly closer to the drivers.

    I am able to wear for quite a considerable amount of time with no discomfort like a yogi.

    My head being smaller than some I reluctantly bent the head band slightly to get a better seal on the pads and a tighter grip on the sides of my head.

    Earpad Dimensions Outside OD approx – 2.75-inch wide x 4 inch tall
    Inside ID is approx – 1.5 inch wide x 2.5 inch
    Sheep Leather Detachable Headphone Pads.


    Campfire Audio is at present working on offering a larger head band option.

    "Wiiiiiiiiillson!"

    [​IMG]



    Sound

    'Designed with portable use in mind, Cascade is a durable headphone for use at home and on the go. The more you listen, the more you’ll find you’ll want to keep it with you, where ever that might be.

    Cascade has excellent high-frequency extension; cymbals sparkle and expand on a wide soundstage. Mids are clear and uncolored.


    The bass response is special; rich in texture and well defined. All qualities you won’t find in a typical closed back design. '


    The listening was mainly done with the iBasso DX200 using amp 1 and the stock cable to maintain some sort of continuity during the break in/burn in process.
    Standard Flac 16/44 on shuffle mode was generally employed.
    Volume 95/105 on high gain or 105/115 on low gain (approx).
    Stock pads with no filters used.

    It ended up more a journey of discovery or even an epic odyssey than a review...

    [​IMG]
    Campfire Audio Cascade and ALO Audio SXC 8 upgrade cable to iBasso DX200 (amp 4).

    Early impressions from zero hours up to the 150 hour mark.
    (iBasso DX200 using amp 1 and the stock cable)

    Here are some of my basic findings from intermittently picking up and listening to the Cascade whilst I leave it to get the recommended hours (150-200 hours).

    They have certainly improved with time.
    The unboxing photos were done last Friday and I gave them a brief listen.
    With the iBasso DX200/amp 1.

    Friday afternoon: A little rough around the edges soundwise. A bit rusty and crusty. Like they were trying to perform but were restricted.
    Saturday morning: Still a few rough edges but not as prevalent as the first listen.
    Saturday afternoon/24 hours: Got that Vega feeling.
    Sunday/ 48 hours or so: Still got that Vega sense about them.
    Monday, midday/ approaching 75 hours: Symphonic.
    Tuesday morning: combination of Vega and Andromeda.
    Tuesday afternoon/ 100 hours: Depth and width. Vocals and music more balanced.
    Great layering and sound stage.

    Wednesday.
    With Opus#1S - because I thought I should break/burn both in.
    (Combo breaker- I shoulda stuck to DX200 for consistency in my findings- apologies).

    Wednesday evening/124 hours: Smoother, deeper, exquisite.
    The ear pads also need breaking in for a decent seal.
    Lovely vocal representation.
    Bass at times still a bit slow and lingering.
    Hits deep (whatever that means - I had a cold and fever that evening and today).

    Thursday(Today)
    Back to iBasso DX200/amp1
    Thursday/today/in bed with a cold/150 hours:

    Overall the Cascade has tightened up considerably. Bass is faster and tamed.
    Track reproduction is accurate and leans towards a reference sound.
    Sound stage is more noticeably expansive and instruments well placed.
    Vocals centered well within ones skull.
    Even though the pads haven't been properly broken in the fit is better.

    Quite stunning.

    [​IMG]
    Campfire Audio Cascade with stock cable to Opus#3

    Reaching over 225 hours now.
    (iBasso DX200 using amp 1 and the stock cable)

    After about 200+ hours the bass suddenly drastically tamed (more so than at 150 hours), and was less boomy than earlier, more controlled and the decay was much faster. Still ample enough bass, but not the defining feature as at first listen. Refined.

    Using the upgrade cable, but I did first test it at about 150 hours with the upgrade cable and took some notes and then put it on the burn in.

    Going to go back to the stock cable tomorrow and recheck my findings.
    200+ certainly seems to find the sweet spot.

    The next day: Using the stock cable I found the above findings to be accurate, although the upgrade cable has various benefits in resolution, detail and imaging I was able to perceive easily the jump from 150 to 225+ hours had certainly refined the Cascade.

    [​IMG]
    Campfire Audio Cascade and ALO Audio SXC 8 upgrade cable to iBasso DX200 (amp 4).

    Over 400 hours now (OMG, what a jump).

    (iBasso DX200 using amp 1 and the stock cable)

    I feel I have failed you my dear readers. I did intermittently pick them up and listen but the weekend interrupted the proceedings and my fastidious note taking.

    What I noticed was that the refinement continued although not as drastically as from the 0 - 200 hours mark. There was another The significant part is the speed, everything has sped up considerably overall.

    bass is quick and responsive, the deep, low slow rumblings pre 150 hours has been replaced by an entirely different creature.

    At this point I had to plug in my general reference spot IEM the Campfire Andromeda and recheck my imaginings. More bright in the top end, and those mmm mids.

    Back to the Campfire Audio Cascade. definitely that sub bass is pumping, upper bass is strong and fast but not over aggressive.

    Vocals are nicely matched to the recording of the track and not artificially forward nor recessed. They seem to have achieved a decent balance.

    Sound stage is satisfying wide.

    Imaging and instrument placement is excellent, I find myself stopping writing and listening to the music and wondering did I just hear that or not. Listening to The Clash 'Radio clash' where the sounds are coming from all directions is a cacophony of satisfaction.

    Lets carry on, but with random shuffle to get rid of any control of choosing tracks and have the unexpected and see what happens..

    Joy Division 'Novelty' even sounds well mastered. Those drums thumping along that they employ so well, the emotion of Ian Curtis voice communicating itself with depth and feeling.

    Lana Del Rey 'Cherry' makes my head vibrate with its sub bass at times, the vibration of the bass contrasts starkly with the control of the vocals, so smooth.

    Lou Reed 'Perfect day' is a pleasant track in its presentation, dark in its vocal undercurrent of meaning. The track has a lower bass at is foundation with the strings floating above it all and just under the vocals. Soaring. Stirring.

    The Pixies 'Caribou`, 'Dead'. The Pixies generally a good test for any dap or earphone with their quiet/loud, fast/ slow style.

    lana Del Rey 'Pretty when you cry' is detailed and subtle, restrained in the way that the track presents itself, the Cascade staying congruent to the intended style. Deep music with contrasting lush and clear vocals.

    The Smiths 'Last night I dreamt that somebody loved me' - I forget which earphone or dap I reviewed when this track came on and so moved me. The piano and roaring crowd at the beginning giving me goosebumps then the track bursting through. Imaging and separation excellent. Sound stage wide and with clarity.

    David Bowie 'The prettiest star' has fantastic clarity and detail, resolution is near perfect. more tame in the lows but with far reaching highs that extent without any sibilance.

    Throwing Muses 'Bright yellow gun' is a driving track that is heavy with upper bass and lower mids. but the cascade handles them well, keeping a bit of space in what can often be a congested track.

    The Fugees 'Killing me softly' The bass thumps along, vocals as usual are soaring and excellent. fast.

    The Velvet underground 'There she goes again' well as many know the early VU wasn't recorded so well, but who cares, its the Velvet underground!

    Norah Jones 'The long day is over'. Good old Norah, a staple of audio show daps. I like her though.
    The usual lush and meandering journey of mids and vocals is suitable smooth and refreshing.

    The Beatles 'Eleanor Rigby' (stereo) comes across superbly. Recorded more for a home system probably as was the main method of listening at the time still translates across to a set of earphones nicely, with the vocals going from right to left and centering. Lovely seperation.

    The Chemical Brothers 'Let forever be' made me turn down the volume a wee bit from before.
    Deep, full, beating bass.

    Massive Attack 'Saturday come slow' it seems some sort of synchronicity is attracting bass full tracks to my current shuffle rotation.

    Mazzy Star 'I've gotta stop' careens along as Mazzy Star does so well. rambling along in a blissful state. the cascade retains the dreamy atmosphere and presents a large sound stage.

    Nina Simone 'Gimme some' is light and the instruments separation is well done, although the recording of the instruments positioning isn't great. Vocals clear and realistic.

    Mud Flow 'The sense of me' is a recent recording and really showcases what the cascade can do well.
    Full heart beating bass, soaring emotive vocals, strings individually plucked.

    Natalie Merchant 'Seven deadly sins' has prominent, clear vocals. Great strings.

    Tricky 'Pumpkin' is heavy in the lower reaches. The female vocals still reach above it all.

    Dire Straits 'Brothers in arms` is well reproduced through the Cascade. Excellent.
    Compared the cascade to the CA Nova, no comparison, Cascade trumps.

    Discharge 'Free speech for the dumb' ooh, something messy. Handles the extremes well.

    Hole 'Softer, softest' has nice tight and fast bass, gliding guitars. The width, depth and height of these headphones is amazing.
    Vega time. the Vega seems lighter with more space, more treble extensions and less mids.
    The Cascade is more closer to linear at times with more bass and mids. Fuller sound, larger sound stage.

    Rammstein 'Du hast' is accurate. Loses nothing. very engaging.

    Black Flag 'Scream'

    Radiohead 'Thinking about you'. Light, fresh. Jangling guitars, vocals crisp and correct.

    Norah Jones 'Nightingale' I won't skip this as I have for a few doubled artists. Norah Jones is great for pin pointing some finer points of presentation for daps and ear/headphones.

    Bass, vocals/mids, treble or Bass, vocals/treble, mids. I am still deciding in which order they are most dominant. can on occasion be track dependent or it could be my bad ears.

    Opus#2.
    Opus#3.
    Opus#1S.
    Shanling M3s
    Echobox explorer
    Shozy Alien+
    FiiO X7ii

    I had written some notes about each dap but found that I kept repeating myself as the findings between the daps were generally similar as regarding the Campfire Audio sound signature. (Then as you can see below I went back to it anyway...SMH)

    The defining feature of the Cascade is certainly the bass, whilst not overly domineering of the whole signature is is certainly noticeable even after significant burn in.
    The highs dont disappoint, and whilst imaging is excellent there is certain evenness overall that drifts the earphone towards a linear area, even though it is not that. Confused yet?
    The mids are present but not like say in an ATH-ESW9, the highs bass are there but not like an ATH-ES10 where it is fatiguing and uneven in its approach. A soft v? A tick mark?

    If you like a strong fast, controlled bass, clear, concise and realistic vocals, enough treble to please but without losing that small concert venue intimacy, and with a touch of mids to give it body without veering into lush or muddy territory you will enjoy the Cascade.

    Slightly linear, a tad reference but with enough bass to dispel those notions yet never departing too far from the original intention of the artists recording.

    [​IMG]


    I listened to the CA Cascade with a few daps.
    Stock cable, no added filters.
    Volume matched with a SPL meter.
    All on high gain.

    FiiO X7ii: Smooth, upper bass, light, fairly even, medium sound stage.
    Opus#2: Nice low end, more mids present. Slightly forward vocals, expansive.
    iBasso DX200 (amp1): More definition, lots of space, excellent separation, good balance.
    *I will have to try some other iBasso DX200 amps with the Cascade.

    Echobox Explorer (UAPP app): Fast, more brighter, lots of space, even. Detailed. Mids a bit more noticeable. Bass where it counts.
    Opus#3: Clear, clarity. Bright. spacious. Light. Defined. Nice low end. Tight bass thump. Nice separation.
    Shanling M3S: Fairly linear, natural. Great depth and width. Accurate.
    *Echobox Explorer and Opus#3 had some similar traits.

    Opus#1: Medium sound stage, fairly linear, more mids. Slower upper bass.
    Opus#1S: More forward, energetic, more depth and space. Nice sound stage. Upper end sparkle.
    Shozy Alien+ (short delay sharp roll off filter): Lively, deep, good separation and imaging. Good sound stage. Deep bass.
    (Short delay slow roll off filter) similar to Opus#1S.

    Summary. Whilst all the daps are fairly reference by todays standards. The output impedance being from under 1 ohm OI to 2 ohm OI: Opus single ended out (recalling daps OI from memory) results in slightly less bass at 2 ohm OI and more definition at 1 ohm OI.
    There are slight but noticeable differences in general signature and overall performance (detailing, timbre, imaging, layering, sound stage etc) but these are largely incremental,..but noticeable.

    I was less focussed on the Daps performance and more delving into the headphones themselves.
    This was more to confirm things in my head, pointless in some ways considering the similarity of daps these days. wrks better with BAs rather than DDs or headphones. oh well. For science! To infinity and beyond!

    The Campfire Audio Cascade has an extremely uncolored mids, its easy to think of V shaped, U/u/v etc, or even W as the vocals come into play. Careful and concentrated listening will reveal what is fairly obvious anyway to most general listeners...that the Cascade most certainly has 'dat bass', but after settling in it is quite controlled, fast and definite, mids are perfectly present, not lush or over emphasized but tuned in the background like a sub woofer for a home system. There, but not in your face, reasonably uncolored. The vocals are smooth and beautiful, Highs reach out, but no too far.

    In a way its a Vega/Dorado cross over with a touch of Andromeda - but being a headphone there is just so much more.


    [​IMG]
    Campfire Audio Cascade with stock cable to Opus#2


    Some headphone comparisons.
    I don`t have any appropriate similar headphones to compare with the Cascade, but nevertheless, onwards and upwards. price points are all lower.

    Round 1:
    Campfire Audio Cascade: Deep, full, full bass and lower mids. Vocals well matched to the music. Treble isnt lacking but isnt the defining feature.


    Audio Technica ATH-ESW11: Nice and smooth, a bit thin. great highs and mids. More body and sound stage than the ESW9. bass is ok, a bit light. vocals forward. (I used to love these when I bought them- I might sell them now #sadface).

    Audio Technica ATH-ESW9: Tame with nice mids and highs. (My first big headphone purchase. since refurbished and used by my son).

    I have the ATH-A900 upstairs but will pass on them.

    Round 2:
    Campfire Audio Cascade: See above. Smooth, coherent, imaging and timbre is excellent. handles volume well. fast defined bass, treble is present but understated. Superb layering.

    Meze 99 Neo: Quite beautiful. Great definition, slow lingering deep bass, some mids, more treble than the Cascade. Vocals forward. Controlled. Brighter than the Cascade.

    Meze 99 Classics: A bit darker and warmer than the Neo. can be congested. Highs can be sharp.

    In terms of Performance the Cascade was the clear winner in this uneven comparison.


    [​IMG]


    Filters

    'Custom fit acoustic dampeners to find the sound that is right for you. '

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    From the manual:
    'The lower number value of the acoustic dampener the higher the level of mid and low frequency will be.'

    Stock cable
    Filter 1T: Evens out a little bit. Slight tweak. Sweet at times.
    Filter 2T: Mids coming up now, treble much more noticeable. A sense of space.
    Filter 3T: Sound is a bit fuller now, the mids coming into play. Treble not over bearing. Bass not absent but still quite active. Lots of 'body'.
    Filter 4T: Prominent mids and treble. Bass relaxed in to the background.

    The filters certainly change the frequencies, experimentation with the filters can be a bit time consuming but rewarding as one can discover a particular signature suited to their tastes and one that has synergy with their source and music tastes.

    This is similar to the iBasso DX200 and FiiO X7ii swappable amp systems. A great idea by Campfire Audio.

    I am undecided on my particular favorite. perhaps 2T or 4T with the stock cable.

    At first I misread the blurb to read:
    'The lower number value of the acoustic dampener the higher the level of mid and HIGH frequency will be.'
    Instead of the correct:
    The lower number value of the acoustic dampener the higher the level of mid and low frequency will be.'
    Which caused me to go back and forth multiple times checking and rechecking until I read it correctly the next day. SMH.


    I will eventually be using the Campfire Audio Cascade with the upgrade cable, so I will wait and see how that results with no filter first.

    AL0 Audio SXC-8 and the Filters
    Filter 1T: Surround and slightly holographic. Defined. Layered. Lightness.
    Filter 2T: Clear with lots of space. Mids quite present. Strong bass.
    Filter 3T: Deep. More bass. Mids more prominent. Treble not as active.
    Filter 4T: Fuller, more intimate. Warm. Slight high extension. Mids take front seat. Forward at times.

    1T would be my personal choice of Filter with the SXC-8 cable.

    As I noted earlier the pads are removable and are so securely fixed by magnets I didn't even notice during the initial photo shoot. No matter how much I twisted and turned they stayed attached easily.

    8420315F-F165-4DC1-8DD7-20BF029453C4.jpeg
    3764C536-1EC2-442B-B77B-A2A2BC8FC5FA.jpeg

    '...headphone pads are soft sheepskin, attached via magnets and replaceable.'

    ALO Audio SXC 8 cable.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Campfire Audio stock Litz cable (Silver plated copper with cloth jacket)
    versus
    ALO Audio SXC 8 x 22 awg silver plated copper cable


    Early impressions after 150 hours.

    Cascade stock cable
    1: Still a bit bassy, a pad scrunching evened it out a bit.
    2: Clean sound, still bass - sub bass.
    Deep. Fairly flat. Needs more definition.
    3: More delicate. Fairly even. Still that 'boom, boom'.

    SXC-8
    1: Fuller overall. Still dat bass. But more control(?).
    2: Clears it up a bit. Better separation. More space.
    3: Bass lingers.

    After 300+ hours

    Cascade stock cable
    It has balanced out more. Bass is tight and controlled. Still full bass. Clean defined sound. Even, not overly dramatic.

    ALO Audio SXC-8
    Beautiful. fuller, sound stage expanded. Imaging exquisite. Instrument separation and general timbre is excellent. Resolution and detail are greatly improved. Vocals are gorgeous. It comes alive in a sense.

    Changing to the SXC-8 made me stay up for another hour past midnight - aural bliss.

    *Results may be skewered due to using the iBasso DX200 Amp 1 for stock cable and Amp 4 for the SXC-8.
    *I will also experiment with the Vega and Andromeda with MMCX Litz 2.5mm to an iBasso 2.5mm to 4.4mm adapter and also the MMCX to 4.4mm SXC-8 cable ultilizing Amp 4. (see further below past the colorful pictures).

    D96F98AA-26E5-4F57-A03D-DB877204F53C.jpeg

    The cable Y is quite long so I made a neck slider out of the tiny velcro strips which come wrapped around IEM cables.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    ALO Audio Litz MMCX to 2.5mm to iBasso CA02 2.5mm to 4.4mm adapter
    versus
    ALO Audio SXC-8 MMCX to 4.4mm.


    [​IMG]

    Hopefully to further shed some light upon the differences between the two cables going out on a side limb here. The important part being they both share the 4.4mm connection, and hence the same iBasso amp 4 unit for consistency.
    Using iBasso DX200 with Amp 4. Low gain.
    JVC Spiral tips.

    Campfire Audio Vega:
    ALO Audio Litz: Bass, though not as heavy as the Cascade, lots of space, extended highs, subtle mids. Excellent resolution and clarity.
    ALO Audio SXC-8: More clarity, increase in space, more body, rich.

    Campfire Audio Andromeda:
    ALO Audio Litz: Open, wide sound stage, lovely mids, extended in all directions, exquisite layering and timbre. Light.
    ALO Audio SXC-8: Lovely body, layering is defined, imaging is definite and clear, deep and full. large sound stage.

    Campfire Audio Orion:
    ALO Audio Litz: Soft, even, mids, linear.
    ALO Audio SXC-8: More definition, slightly wider, still mainly retains linear signature.

    Campfire Audio Lyra ii:
    ALO Audio Litz: Fairly linear, reference leaning, nice light touch of body, very gentle. Upper bass and lower mids quite complementary towards each other.
    ALO Audio SXC-8: More speed, increase in body and timbre, imaging improved, vocals more silky smooth.

    Campfire Audio Dorado:
    ALO Audio Litz: Bright, and low ended. Medium sound stage at times.
    ALO Audio SXC-8: Deep full bass, clear vocals, highs clear but not over extended, mids come up more. Larger sound stage. More depth and body. Smoother.

    In summary: The sound stage is increased, mids brought up a tad, more coherency, smoother, overall body has depth and the layering is more defined. Via the better clarity instrument placement and separation is more noticeable.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Manual
    https://campfireaudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Cascade-Headphone-Manual.pdf


    An interlude


    [​IMG]
    Campfire Audio Cascade, ALO Audio Continental V5 and Shanling M3S

    A great match, the Continental V5 seems a lovely match. the added power and the gorgeous definition with an overlay of lushness brings the Cascade magically to life.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Campfire Audio, iFi Nano iDSD Black Label and Shanling M3S
    The Campfire Audio Cascade seems to pair fairly friendly with many devices.

    [​IMG]
    Gaming time.
    I quite enjoyed using the Cascade for gaming. Although I didnt really test out all the various dac and amps I have at my disposal. Too busy 'Stayin alive, stayin alive!'

    Price

    The Campfire Audio Cascade retails for US$799 from Campfire Audio or approved distributors.

    [​IMG]

    Overall

    The Campfire Audio Cascade headphone is a tour de force. A success within a crowded market.

    I was very curious as to how their first foray into headphones would result in design and sound. To my eyes and ears it is a thing of beauty.

    With an array of 4 (+1) filter settings to craft the sound to ones liking the Cascade is quite versitile.
    If using the stock cable I would most certainly employ them as my sonic tastes are fairly specific.

    The suggested upgrade cable ALO Audio SXC-8 seemingly improves all aspects of an already high performing headphone. It truly is like a piece of jewelry. So shiny. Fairly weighty, yet also supple and barely a hint of micro phonics.
    yet also the supplied cable when combined with the filters is no slouch either.
    Also I have read that HD800 cables are compatible.

    The Cascade need many hours to open up. I recommend 150 hours +. set em and forget em for a few days...If you can.

    I find the Cascade a comfortable fit of my average sized head and pixie ears.
    At one stage I listened for over four hours at one stage whilst reviewing with no discomfort.

    It is a solid and well built headphone, but surprisingly light despite its looks.

    If you like a strong fast, controlled bass, clear, concise and realistic vocals, exquisite layering, detailed and smooth, with enough treble to please, a large sound stage but without losing that small concert venue intimacy, and with a touch of mids to give it body without veering into lush or muddy territory you will enjoy the Cascade.

    [​IMG]


    Thank you to Campfire audio for sending Head pie the Cascade for review
      volly, Passenger11, ngoshawk and 4 others like this.
    1. donunus
      How was the pairing with the iFi Nano iDSD Black Label? Anything to take note of there?
      donunus, Apr 1, 2018
    2. ExpatinJapan
      Nothing significant. The Cascade pairs well with most things, but it does like a bit of power.
      ExpatinJapan, Apr 1, 2018
    3. donunus
      ok so it can still improve quite a bit when getting something better than the nano
      donunus, Apr 1, 2018
      ExpatinJapan likes this.
  7. Wiljen
    Cascade - an over ear that is all Campfire
    Written by Wiljen
    Published Feb 25, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Big sound, fantastic extension at the low end, lots of details, built like a tank
    Cons - Price point. Warm signature may not appeal to everyone.
    tree1.jpg

    First off, a huge thanks to Ken at Campfire for allowing me the privilege of taking the Cascade to Carolina Canfest and sharing it with the other members there. It got a lot of attention at the show and sparked a lot of positive comments. My review is based on that same sample that was taken to Canfest and the thoughts presented are purely my own and were not coerced in any fashion, nor was I financially compensated for this review.



    Unboxing

    The Cascade arrived a couple days before the show via Fedex. Upon opening the Fedex box, I was greeted with a pleasant green and black cardboard box with the name prominently displayed on the top. On the front flap of the box, there is a photo of the headphones but other details are not displayed on the box. In the overall, I was slightly underwhelmed at this point. Knowing the retail price, the packaging is a bit pedestrian.

    boxdetail.jpg


    That observation fades quickly once the box is opened. Inside the box is a leather hard shell zipper case with a carrying strap, a CA pin, and two small envelopes. Inside the case is lined with a soft synthetic wool that does a good job of cushioning the headphones themselves.

    caseinner.jpg caseouter.jpg

    The only knock here is that the case doesn’t have a separate compartment for the cable so leaving it on the headphones in the case may ultimately end in scratches. Also, worth noting, is no adapters come with the kit. If you order a 3.5mm cable, you will need to supply a 6.3mm adapter to use the Cascade with home equipment or to purchase an optional additional cable.



    Build

    First impression is, the Cascade is dramatically overbuilt. In looking at it, I expected the weight to be substantial and it is, but not nearly as much so I had anticipated. Most of the cascade is made of metal of one form or another. From the top down, you have a spring steel headband covered in foam and wrapped in a black pleather cover with the Campfire logo across the top. The headband terminates with steel hinges that allow the earpieces to fold in for storage. Below the storage hinge is another hinge also made of steel that allows the cups to rotate on the vertical axis for comfort and fit adjustment. This vertical hinge allows 90 degrees movement toward the rear and roughly 20 degrees of motion past center toward the front for a total range of roughly 110 degrees of adjustment. The cups attach to the headband via a single connection at the mid-point of rear of the cup. The connection between the cup and band provides the horizontal adjustment for the cups and allows from 5 degrees past vertical to 25 degrees less than vertical. From the outside, the cups and gimbles appear to be all aluminum because they are. All steel parts are carefully hidden inside the cast aluminum shell which allows Campfire to carefully color match the anodizing of the aluminum to the color of the pads and headband for a very classy high-quality look. The cups are cast aluminum, anodized in a flat black, with the CA logo in bright silver at the lower edge of each cup just above the jack. The jacks are recessed bi-pin designs and are in keeping with the rest of the design in being equally over-engineered and strong. Left and Right are clearly marked on the inside of the gimbles along with the serial number clearly displayed.

    Pads are leather and memory foam filled. These are very reminiscent of the Dekoni Memory foam pads for the Beyer and Fostex products if you have had a chance to try those. Attachment of the pads to the earpiece is via magnet. I initially questioned the security and durability of this arrangement, but after a couple weeks with them, I have had no trouble with any slippage or movement. On the inner surface of the pads is a permanent damper at the bottom center and a place for an optional damper immediately above the earcup. I will discuss the filters a bit later in the review. At this point, lets suffice it to say the filters work and are well designed if the documentation leaves a little to be desired. I would love to see a set of FR graphs with each filter mounted and without filters just to give a little more detail and set the expectation. Having said that, I’m not a believer that FR tells the entire story, but they are a nice reference point to have.

    onbox.jpg

    Cable

    The cable is understated and overbuilt like everything about the Cascade. Without dissecting it, some questions remain but what I can tell about it is. It is a stranded braided cable wrapped in a PVC cloth coating (that may as well be Kevlar from the strength of it). At the single terminus, a 45 degree 3.5mm TRS jack with black soft rubber strain relief. While well made, this is probably the single point in the whole design that looks like it might be subject to breakage. It is a typical 3.5mm jack which somewhat limits the armoring that can take place, but the jack doesn’t show the over-engineering that the jacks on the other end of the cable exhibit. At the Y end of the cable is a soft black rubber strain relief followed by an inch-long steel connector housing with recessed bi-pin connections in the center. The connectors have a blue or red band on them for ID and a pin that indexes the pins. Overall the cable is one of the most well designed and overbuilt I have seen. One complaint, why not make it black to match the rest of the aesthetic? (I know if that is the worst I’ve got, it aint much of a complaint).

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    Fit and Isolation

    I’ve mentioned the adjustments in the build section but it is worth saying that they do an excellent job and the range of adjustment allowed everyone who tried them at Canfest to find a comfortable fit as well as trying them on children ranging from 7 years old up. So, if they will fit my over-sized noggin comfortably and my neighbor’s 7-year-old equally well you know the adjustment range is substantial. The pads themselves are soft enough that they don’t bother the temples of my glasses and seal well around them. To those who don’t wear glasses, you have no idea of how big a deal that really is. My ears fit inside the pads from front to back with very little room to spare. On the upper and lower I have about 3/8 of an inch of open space between my ear and the pad. Isolation is good. With no source enabled, you can hear some ambient sounds but they are reduced by roughly 4db. This cannot be thought of as great isolation as you will hear some ambients through them. Once the source is enabled, this is quickly forgotten as the driver quickly delivers enough volume of sound to make anything outside the headset disappear. Leakage is absolutely minimal. I have been unable to tell what others were listening to while standing less than a foot behind them. Even when leaning over to place my ear directly in line with the cup on my wife’s head, I could not hear anything clearly enough to discern what the song was. So, for blocking noise out when not in use, they are not the equal of an in-ear for isolation, but when in use, don’t expect to hear anything but what the source provides.

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    Sound

    Burn-in - Ken warned me that the burn in on the 42mm Beryllium driver was more than most drivers need. He wasn’t kidding. Out of the box the bass was very dominating and over the next 150 hours, they have improved with each day. I put them on pink noise for 3 solid days before the Canfest meet and that helped a good bit, but they have continued to open up since the show and I’m not sure how good they will eventually get as I can’t promise they are done with burn in yet. I’d estimate 150+ hours and if they are fully burned in, it is just barely.

    Bass – Big! This will be the first thing you notice about the Cascade, Big bass. Not loose, muddy, slow, or ugly, just big. Extension at the low end is simply superb with the sub-bass easily rivaling anything I have had the pleasure to listen to. While a lot of headphones have a lot of mid-bass and roll-off as you go further down in Hz, the Cascade manages to keep its bass quantity all the way down into the 30hz range before you start to hear any significant roll-off. In running test tones, I was able to begin to hear a loss of clarity and volume between the 28Hz and 24Hz test tones but everything above that was at full volume and clarity. Bassheads will appreciate the Cascade but what is more amazing is so will those who generally shy away from anything that says basshead approved. To most of us, basshead approved is synonymous with huge mid-bass hump, lots of bleed into the mids, and a total loss of detail in favor of lots of visceral thump. The Cascade manages to deliver the visceral experience without sacrificing detail and with only minimal bass bleed into the mids.

    Mids - If the Bass is the first thing you notice, the upper mid-range is a close 2nd. Lower mids are slightly colored by the bass and slightly recessed in comparison, but the upper mids and the presence range are surprisingly good. The combination of bass and mids makes for a full, warm signature with lots of thickness in the vocal presentation. Initially, I thought the warmth was at the expense of detail, but the more these burn in, the more detail cuts through. I’m a skeptic about the impact of burn-in but on these I can say unequivocally that it makes a difference. Do not judge these on the first 50 hours as it will be a genuine disservice to you and them.

    Highs - Highs are well extended and very polite. The treble is definitely a full step behind the mids and bass and can easily be dismissed if not listened for specifically. I threw a couple of Jethro Tull tracks (Hunting Girl and Locomotive Breath) at the Cascade specifically to see how Anderson’s flute would come through. I was surprised at how well rendered and realistic sounding it was. I had discounted the upper end of the range due to the overall warmth of the signature. Lower treble is well behaved and sibilance was only present in places where I know it is present in the recorded track. Top end air and sparkle is somewhat limited due to the overall warmth of the signature but cymbals are still rendered well enough to be believable if not perfect.


    Details - The Cascade is a detail monster. That will be the most controversial statement in this review for two reasons. 1.) Those who do a cursory listen will discount the details due to its warm nature. 2.) Anyone who listens without burn-in will not hear what I am talking about. If you give them time to completely open up, the bass becomes a bit more polite and backs off just a ¼ step. That is enough to let those upper mids and lower treble really shine and details are fantastic. Micro detail is present from the bass all the way up through the lower treble and for me and my love of blues rock, the ability to render detail in the lower registers is a welcome thing. Too many headphones think details below 250Hz don’t exist and as such they are lost. The Cascade instead surfaces those details and does so with great care. Take a listen to the walking bass line at the opening of A view to a kill (Duran Duran) and I think you will agree.


    Filters – The Cascade comes with four filters to help alter the mid-bass signature. Those expecting the kind of changes in signature provided by the FLC8s or Lz A4 filters will be disappointed as the impact of the filters is very subtle in the Cascade and may go undetected. The first thing about the filters that needs to be discussed is how they are intended to be used. The Cascade comes with 4 filters that are small cloth pieces with different pore sizes ranging from 7 micron to 15 micron. The different filters are identified by the notches at the edge of the filters. No notches is 7, square is 10, triangle is 12, and circular is 15. As the pore size increases, so does the amount of sound the filter allows to pass so expect to see the biggest impact from the filter with no side notches and the least from the one with circular notches in the sides. Placing the filters is most easily accomplished by removing the pads and placing them pad side down on a hard surface. On the back of the pad, you will see a white permanent damper on the lower side of the driver port, and a cutout for the interchangeable damper opposite it (immediately above the driver cutout). Place the damper of choice so that the not in the top of the damper lines up with the pin hole for aligning the pad to the ear-cup. Once aligned, gently place the ear-cup on the pad. The magnets do the rest and the pressure holds filter in place better than one would expect. It became apparent at Canfest that expectations of the filters were not well defined, nor was where and how to mount them. The system is fairly straight forward once you know the intended use but would still be helped by a few frequency response charts to give a more exact idea of what impact to expect.

    Because each filter has successively larger ports, combining them does nothing additional to alter the signature. If you think of them as screen wire, once you filter out something using a small screen, adding a larger screen after it catches nothing further. It might be possible to alter the signature by placing a 2nd filter over the permanent damper at the bottom of the pad, but without knowing the pore size of the permanent damper, this is conjecture at best. If it is already 7 micron or less this again would presumably have no impact on the sound. To my ear, the number 2 filter (Square notches) reduces the mid-bass just a hint and opens the lower mids slightly which is a welcome change to my ear. I started with the #4 and worked up, finding the #1 was a just a bit too much and started to have a negative influence on the upper mid range so I quickly stepped back the filter 2.

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    Soundstage / Imaging The soundstage on the Cascade is very much that of a closed back design. It is intimate but does manage to show both height and width in better proportion than expected. The depth of sound stage, while good is the place I think it is most obvious that the Cascade is a closed design. If the soundstage is not as large as some designs, the Cascade manages to make up for it with fabulous instrument separation and imaging. Even in the small space of the soundstage, audio cues are well placed and it is easy to envision the seated orchestra in their proper positions on stage. This is a major accomplishment for any headphone let alone an introductory offering from an outfit known for in-ears. Kudos! to Campfire.


    Sources The Cascade played reasonably well from both an HTC M9 and an Iphone 6+ using the 3.5mm jack as well as an Iphone 8 using the apple lightning to 3.5 adapter. With the Cascade designed for the portable market, one would expect that. The fact that when you introduce amplification the Cascade scales right on up along side the improvements in DAC and amplifier is the bigger surprise. Making headphones easy to drive has been done, making them scale well has also been done. Making them do both is a much more rare occurrence. It is worth noting that the Cascade does indeed like a bit more power than most phones can provide and the addition of something like the Walnut F1 or Xduoo Xd-05 will insure that you are able to get the most out of the Cascade if you are using a low powered device for a source.

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    Comparisons


    Aeon Flow Closed
    - The Aeon is far more balanced with bass and upper mids coming across as very thin compared to Cascade. The treble is considerably more forward on the Aeon and comes across as hotter when comparing to the warmer darker sound of the Cascade. These two are so different that it is hard to draw comparisons. At first I would have said the Aeon was more detailed but after more listening, I think the brighter signature makes it seem more detailed when in fact the two are nearly equal. I am torn on this as both headphones have things I really like but neither has all the features I look for in a headphone.

    Sub-bass - Cascade

    No Mid-bass hump - Aeon

    Forward Upper mids - Cascade

    Treble Extension and Sparkle - Aeon

    If you like a brighter signature the Aeon is going to be your choice, if you like a warmer, thicker sound the Cascade has it in spades.


    Audio Technica W5000 - I had a very short time to compare this one so impressions are very limited. I found the w5000 considerably more balanced, faster on both attack and decay when compared to the Cascade with more detail but very thin in the presence region.


    Sennheiser 598C - The 598C is a bass first affair not unlike the cascade. The difference being bass is much looser on the 598c and not as well extended. The Cascade is much more visceral when compared to the bass of the 598c. clarity is better on the Cascade as well as the 598 has a tendency to get a bit muddy on busier tracks. Both have some bleed into the mids but the 598c suffers from exaggerated upper mids that will be too prominent for some. For me, the 598c is just over the line and is fatiguing as a result. The Cascade is much better mannered in the mids and doesn't have the same "in your face" mids as the 598c. Treble extension is better on the Cascade and less veiled and recessed when compared to the 598C. To my ear, my comments on the 598c could easily be swapped with the AD MSR7 as both have similar signatures although I think hte MSR7 is a bit less congested when compared with the 598c.


    OPPO PM3 - PM3 goes deeper in sub-bass but has less bass quantity. Similar warm/thick mids on both, upper mids maybe slightly more revealing on the PM3 vs the cascade but not by a big margin. Both are smooth, warm, with big bass capability. Hard to contrast as these are more similar than different.


    AKG 553 - Similar to Pm3 and Cascade. Larger soundstage to the 553 than either the Cascade or PM3. 553 is slightly ahead PM3 is bass depth and slightly behind Cascade in bass quantity. 553 exhibits good extension at the low end as did its predecessor the 550 but differs in that the 553 shows a mid-bass hump similar to the Cascade. Upper mids on the 553 are even more recessed than the PM3 when compared to the Cascade, making female vocals in particular sound thin and lack a bit of life that is present when using the Cascade. (Here the 550 is better than the 553 as its upper mids while still not as good as the cascade are much forward of the 553). In the treble region, the 553 is well behaved and has really good extension but somehow manages to lose a step in the lower treble regions and as a result doesn't have the air or sparkle one might expect. Imaging of the 553 is very good and perhaps a bit better than the cascade again based partially on size of soundstage.



    Shure 1540 - Bass extension is similar to Cascade but tends to distort significantly as volume increases and can get really muddy on busy tracks. I'll admit, I listen at levels on the higher side so this is a huge point in favor of the Cascade. If you listen at more moderate levels, you may not be as impacted by this. The mids are recessed significantly as the 1540 has a very V-shaped signature. Here the Cascade outshines the 1540 by a considerable margin. Vocals are a bit thin and veiled due to this recess and those looking for something primarily for vocals would do best to avoid the 1540. Treble is much more forward on the 1540 than the Cascade with a spike in the 9-10kHz range that can result in cymbals sounding sharp and unrealistic at times. The one place the 1540 really impressed me was in soundstage. It has more dimension than most closed backs and seemed considerably larger in all dimensions to most other headphones compared in this review. It should also be noted my listening to the 1540 was done with an amp as it needs that extra punch to do its best work.


    Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro - First off, yes I know - not even slightly portable between their size and 250ohm rating, these are a use them at home with an amp proposition only, having said that, they are also the closed back I judge all else by. Sound wise, the 1770 has great bass extension and good control. What differentiates it from the Cascade is the transition from bass to mids. The 1770 is very clean in the transition with minimal bleed into the mids where the Cascade is a much more gradual transition with significant bleed-over. Mids are similar in that both are slightly laid back and warm presentations. Treble is the typical "Slap in the face" of most Beyers and is much more prominent than that of the Cascade. For those that like a bright signature, the Beyer may be enjoyable but for those that are treble shy, the Cascade will be a better option as it is much less fatiguing for long listening sessions. Soundstage is also much larger on the 1770 as it is 2nd only to the 1540 in overall size and a bit more evenly shaped as the 1540 has good width but the 1770 outclasses it in depth and height.


    Meze 99 Classics - Big bass with good extension, very similar to the Cascade. Upper Mids are much more recessed on the Meze and as a result, vocals come across as somewhat thin and a bit behind other instrumentation. Treble extension is good on the 99 but quantity is lacking. Neither the 99 or the Cascade are treble forward designs but the vocal range of the Cascade is more engaging than that of the 99 to my ear.



    Comments/thoughts from Carolina Canfest

    In taking the Cascade to Carolina Canfest, I must say the feedback was predominantly positive. Comments broke down into basically 5 lines of thought.

    1.) Build Quality: That the Cascade's build is top notch cannot be denied.
    2.) Sound Quality: Details and micro details are better than expected by most who tried them. Consider the fact this is in a loud environment so isolation was also key to being able to hear any details.
    3.) Sound Signature: The Cascade is definitely a mid and bass centered affair, which is not to say the top end is bad, just not emphasized. Even with filters, these are a mid-forward/bass forward design.
    4.) Soundstage: Somewhat small due to closed back design but still well shaped, intimate, manages to have better dimensions than expected.
    5.) Filters: Universally not well understood. No marking on pads to show proper alignment, no diagram in manuals to show usage clearly. Video on website makes no reference to proper use of filters or show filter placement. Additionally, most were confused on what impact to expect each filter to have when used.

    A set of FR charts showing each filter would go a long way to dispelling some of the confusion along with a video or still shots of placement of the filter properly on the pads.



    Conclusions


    I think the name is absolutely appropriate as the Cascade mountains are full of peaks and valleys, smaller ridges, and all sorts of terrain features. The more generic term Cascade refers to a multi-stage waterfall, with lots of fluid motion and features packed into an overall beautiful scene. For a first offering in the on/over ear space, the Cascade makes quite a statement. Big sound, warm signature, tons of details, tank like design without tank like weight, good comfort even for those of us with glasses, and attention to details that we have come to expect from Campfire products. With an MSRP of $800, the Cascade sits squarely in the cross-hairs of some very big named competitors and if it were not up to the task, it would fall flat very quickly. Instead what the Cascade manages to do is put every one of those bigger names on notice. Campfire is now in the Over-ear business and they intend to raise the bar just like they did for in-ears. Knowing the progression that Campfire went through to get to the Andromeda, I can’t wait to see where their full-sized line goes next. The Cascade is a great headphone in and of itself, but if it is a harbinger of things to come, Wow! Just Wow!

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    1. View previous replies...
    2. Wiljen
      Sorry, don't have that one to work with. If I get a chance I will try to listen to it.
      Wiljen, Mar 8, 2018
    3. jkim951
      Thanks for the review, it seems like CA stuck with the more "musical" yet detailed approach like the rest of the line up rather than a more "neutral" experience.
      jkim951, Mar 14, 2018
    4. Wiljen
      Nothing neutral about the Cascade for sure. It is by all definitions a go big or go home affair.
      Wiljen, Mar 15, 2018
      drbluenewmexico likes this.