Campfire Audio Comet

Rating:
4.5/5,
  1. ustinj
    From the stars comes ... COMET
    Written by ustinj
    Published Apr 10, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - 'affordable' price, build quality, premium design, full accessories, bass impact, surprising extension, versatile balanced tuning, single BA? What!?
    Cons - microphone placement on cable, midrange timbre slightly off, flat imaging, complex passages aren't its forte, not very smooth up top
    From the stars comes ... COMET.

    Introduction
    The Campfire Audio Comet is one of Campfire's two latest offerings, sporting brand new stainless-steel housings not yet seen before. Comet, surprisingly comes in as the most affordable Campfire Audio earphone yet, at $199 MSRP.

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    I'll start this review off by saying I'm a huge fan of the CA Andromeda, it's one of the few (possibly the only) IEMs that I've kept throughout my various buying / selling / trading of IEMs. Even though I value it highly as my 'endgame' IEM, I still find myself intrigued and tempted to buying and trying more affordable, value-oriented ones. I like to find hidden jewels, high-value products in today's saturated IEM market to recommend to friends and family. So you could only imagine how excited I was when I saw the Comet's announcement -- a $199 'budget' IEM from Campfire. Let's see if its relatively low price point is a result of cut corners, or if the Comet can live up to Campfire's highly lauded legacy.

    Packaging & Accessories
    The Comet stays true to Campfire's history with its packaging, nothing seems to be left out or skipped out on regardless of the $199 asking price. It comes in the typical cardboard foldout box, this time with a marigold speckled backing. Additionally, the display text is orientated along the short edge of the packaging, standing vertically -- I personally think this makes the box design look a little imbalanced due to the position of the sticker, but I guess that's how they'll differentiate from the old and new products.

    Inside the box, you find (almost) everything you'll find with any other Campfire IEM, sans Comply tips:

    • Comet & Microphone Cable
    • Black (faux) leather carrying case, with grey internal lining.
    • S/M/L wide-bored silicone tips
    • S/M/L foam tips
    • XS/S/M/L Spinfit silicone tips
    • Cleaning Tool, CA Pin
    • Documentation
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    Another thing to note is that the Comets themselves came individually protected inside two tiny microfiber drawstring bags. Nice touch, but I don't think I'll be taking the time to pack it back up like that after each use. So nothing was left out in terms of packaging and accessories. Seriously, what did they cheap out on to offer their lowest priced product yet?

    Build & Design
    The Comet is machined from stainless-steel and hand-polished to a mirror finish. The result is a housing that exudes confidence in build quality, it feels solid, heavy, and premium to the touch. Campfire explains that the stainless-steel housing will be more durable than the previous aluminum shells, avoiding the all-too-common paint chipping. However the mirror finish tends to reveal fingerprints and other bodily oils fairly easily as a result. These can all be wiped away fairly easily with your shirt / a cleaning cloth.

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    The design itself strays away from the previous mandatory over-the-ear fit, shaped more like the common 'bullet' shaped earphones. Aesthetically, the Comets are far from that -- they have a design that is reminiscent of a futuristic chrome hair dryer / ray gun, with sleek curves and defined edges where intended. Build quality has no real problems to speak of -- the stainless steel machining looks pristine and accurate, there are no rough edges whatsoever. Logo etching is sharp. MMCX connectors are sufficiently tight, and don't spin freely. The grille design of the Comet is also far above any other I've seen; rather than the budget option of a metal screen mesh, these are actually built in as a part of the stainless steel nozzle.

    From looks alone, it doesn't look like any corners were cut. Though the housing shape itself may not appeal to everyone, there is no question that the Comet's design and build had a lot of thought put into it.


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    Fit and Finish
    They are comfortable worn both up or down, though Campfire themselves mentioned that the Comet was intended to be worn straight down. However, what I have found is that due to their fairly high weight-to-size ratio, gravity can sometimes work against a secure fit when worn downwards. For that reason, I prefer to wear them over the ear most of the time. It's convenient that when I can't be bothered to adjust my IEMs, I can also wear them downwards without a second thought.

    I really recommend trying out various tips; I found the best results in both sound and fit with the smallest comfortable tips in order to achieve deepest insertion possible. I ended up using Campfire's small silicone tips, as they fit snugly and are really quite small. I also like the wide bore, as it seems to obstruct the nozzle the least and as a result offers the best sound quality.

    Unfortunately, one of the bigger problems I have with the Comet is not due to cost-cutting, but rather to giving us too much. The microphone sits too low on the wire, around chest level. This not only seems like somewhat sub-optimal placement for the microphone, but it also stops the chin slider on the cable from moving up more than a few inches. The slider is rendered absolutely useless as a result. Since I find myself wearing these over the ear quite a bit of the time, a properly-operating chin slider would have been great.
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    Apart from that, the cable is actually very soft and supple. Holds zero memory whatsoever. Microphonics are somewhat present worn cable down but mostly mitigated cable up.

    Sound
    Initial impressions were neutral to negative. I first auditioned them at Canjam Socal 2018 -- not sure what it was, but the Comet sounded subpar, even considering its price and form factor. It sounded somewhat gritty and unrefined all over. Regardless, I decided to pick one up for the sake of review.

    Hearing them at home was completely different; the more tame environment proves itself to be more suited to evaluating tiny things such as psychoacoustics and more abstract, less obvious traits to the sound.
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    Measurement taken using a Dayton IMM-6. Take it with a grain of salt, I personally hear it as a bit brighter and less downsloping.
    General Impression
    In terms of tuning, it's actually quite clear what Campfire was trying to do with a single BA (coming from someone who was not a fan of the Orion). The Comet makes a full-hearted attempt to cover the entire frequency response, from the subbass to the (mid) treble. The overall sound signature is fairly balanced in the sense that nothing gets shadowed over and overwhelmed by another part of the frequency response. It's unlike what I expect from a single BA because it doesn't put all its effort into one region of the signature and leave the rest to fend for itself.

    Something to note is that the Comet is actually quite a bit more difficult to drive than other IEMs. I believe the rating is 97dB/mw, with an impedance of 48 ohm.
    Bass
    Bass hits surprisingly hard for a single BA, though subbass doesn't quite have that lowest-register rumble feel that my other IEMs have. Comet is punchier in the lower regions than the Orion with greater impact, though subbass quantity is more or less similar. Upper sub-bass and midbass regions are emphasized, a bit giving kick drums and 808s a noticeable bit of slam and aggressiveness but without the visceral underlying rumble. Decay is also BA-quick, so it's snappier than average as well. The fact that it could have this amount of bass without giving up upper midrange / treble presence was probably the most impressive part from the Comet.
    Mids
    Midrange sits between the bass and lower treble in priority here, both in terms of quality and quantity. Vocals cut cleanly through the mix with clear emphasis in the upper midrange, giving female vocals and guitars a desirable crunch. Midrange timbre can tend towards being slightly off, vocal notes occasionally seem to come off a touch grey and unrealistic (see -- this is slight and seems to be more noticeable on certain vocals / instruments!). I don't have any issues with vocals become shrill or harsh.
    Treble
    I'm happy to say that treble is not noticeably rolled off, even in tandem with Comet's powerful bass presence. This is a feat in its own rite, as it does not exhibit typical roll off in either ends of the spectrum -- I suppose this is the result of the TAEC implementation on the Comet. Lower treble is lifted a bit giving a good sense of clarity, and there's actually a semblance of air up there. Extension is not anything out of the ordinary, but it is not noticeably rolled off. Unfortunately, it doesn't have Andromeda's sparkle (Andromeda has become somewhat of a standard I compare new IEMs to... it's a bad idea because Andromeda's treble is not ordinary).

    Now, I have no actual qualms with the tonality of the Comet. But the things I noticed about the Comet that aren't directly related to the FR: soundstage is actually quite wide, but there's not much depth to the soundstage. It feels more like a set of stereo monitors / wall of sound in front of you, rather than a three-dimensional representation of the music. Additionally, complex passages can sometimes be too much for the Comet to handle.

    Conclusion
    The Comet has been actually quite a pleasure to listen to for the past day, though initial impressions were pretty underwhelming. For $199 it really does wonders with a single BA. I didn't expect to hear an extended sound on both ends of the spectrum from Comet, especially after my experience with the Orion. For the price, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better single BA IEM with the completeness and quality of the Comet's package (you won't). You might be able to find more accurate mid-range timbre in a $200-or-less dynamic driver IEM, but the novelty and exclusivity of a BA driver is always there -- I'm sure there are people (possibly myself) that would take this over anything else at $200, trading off the more natural mid-range timbre of a proper DD driver, for the snappiness and speed of a BA driver. What I once thought was a consequence of single BA drivers, lacking extension on either end of spectrum, is now ruled out as a myth by the Comet. While many companies are increasing their prices with each and every product release to exorbitant levels, Campfire Audio seems to be innovating in the other direction, making better products possible at a more affordable price point.

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    1. View previous replies...
    2. linux4ever
      Nice review. And most of the impressions on sound mirror my experience. And one con that I notice (but not listed as it is individual based) is that I get ear fatigue in less than an hour with this sound signature. But that's me and my ear anatomy that can't handle this sound signature. But that's one more thing to watch out for.
      linux4ever, Apr 12, 2018
    3. donunus
      Are the strange mids there with all tips including foamies? Also, the sensitivity on the website lists it the same as the orion. Was that 97db/48ohm on the box?
      donunus, Apr 13, 2018 at 5:25 AM
    4. ustinj
      @donunus it's in the manual, the specs on the site are identical to the Orion so I think they mistakenly copied it there. I don't like foamies since I can't get a deeper fit, but IMO it sounds better with silicones and a deep fit. Additionally, the slightly off timbre is sometimes not noticeable depending on the voice/instrument, so that puts into perspective how slight of an issue it is, but YMMV.
      ustinj, Apr 13, 2018 at 11:28 AM
      donunus likes this.