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  1. B9Scrambler
    Campfire Audio IO: Forbidden Love
    Written by B9Scrambler
    Published Jul 17, 2019
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Build quality - Accessory kit - Bass quality - Texture and detail
    Cons - Fatiguingly bright - Not a very natural presentation - Inconsistent mid-range
    Greetings!

    Today we're checking out the new IO (Eye-Oh) from Campfire Audio.

    Campfire Audio is located in Portland, Oregon and was founded in 2015 by Ken Ball of ALO Audio fame. In the world of high end portable audio they rapidly became a household name thanks to the Andromeda with it's iconic design language and impressive performance.

    The IO that we're checking out today is one of their newest releases. Along with all-new packaging for the brand, it features a dual armature setup and the same angular design that is shared with many models in their lineup, and that won them great accolades from the community when they first appeared on the scene.

    As one of their most affordable models, is the IO a worthy addition to Campfire's lineup? Let's find out.

    Disclaimer:

    Thanks to Caleb with Campfire Audio for arranging a sample of the IO for the purposes of review. The thoughts within this review are my own subjective opinions based on time spent listening to the IO throughout the last two months. They do not represent Campfire Audio or any other entity. At the time of writing the IO retailed for 299 USD. You can check it out here: https://campfireaudio.com/shop/io/

    Personal Preference:

    I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. My preferences for earphone tuning are quite relaxed and as such their is no one signature I look for. The HiFiMAN RE800, Brainwavz B400, and Massdrop x MeeAudio Planamic are examples of earphones with wildly varied signatures that are enjoyable for different reasons. I generally listen at very low volumes, so keep this in mind when perusing my thoughts on how an earphone sounds.

    Sources:

    Mobile: Shanling M0 alone or with the Periodic Audio Ni amp, ZiShan DSD
    @home: TEAC HA-501 with a ZiShan DSD or Asus FX53V acting source duty

    The IO is very easy to drive and doesn't need to be amped. A phone drives it just fine. That said, since it is somewhat bright and quite revealing, it sounds best out of a clean, warm source so I do recommend a decent DAP or DAP/amp combo.

    Specifications:
    • Driver: Dual balanced armature
    • Impedance: 26 ohms
    • Sensitivity: 109dB
    • Frequency Response: 5Hz to 22kHz
    Packaging and Accessories:


    When it comes to packaging, Campfire Audio has changed things up this time around. The spirit of their past designs is still in place as they follow the same astronomical theme, but the format has changed. Similar to the Solaris, the IO comes in a fairly large, shallow square box. Unlike with the Solaris, this box is covered by an exterior sheath, sealed shut by a gold coloured Campfire Audio seal on the back. The front contains a large sticker with a mottled pattern set beneath a high quality image of the IO's earpieces and the usual company branding and model information. One more sticker is present around the side containing company info and another image of the IO, among other details that may or may not be important to the average consumer.

    Breaking the seal, the sheath unfold like the pedals of a flower revealing the main box inside. Lifting out the box, you will notice the inner sheath is printed with the CA logo dead centre, golden rays exploding outwards. It's quite dramatic. The main box itself contains the same beautiful mountainous scene found on CA's prior packaging along with more Campfire Audio branding. Lifting the lid you're greeted by the slogan “Nicely Done” printed on one of the flaps, as well as their new leather carrying case and a smaller cardboard box containing many of the included accessories. Beneath all this is your warranty card and a manual. In all you get:
    • IO earphones
    • Smoky Jacket Silver Plated Copper Litz Cable
    • Final Audio tips (xs/s/m/l/xl)
      Campfire Audio Marshmallow tips (s/m/l)
    • Wire bore single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
    • Campfire Audio lapel pin
    • Cleaning tool
    • Mesh accessory case (x3)
    Overall this is an outstanding unboxing experience, as is always the case with Campfire Audio. But...I still prefer their old packaging. It was smaller and more compact thereby using less material and producing less waste, a big plus for those that toss packaging once they get to the goods within. That said, this packaging still produces a lot less waste than what you get with various other brands (RHA, Dunu, etc.), and everything is recyclable, so take this as more of an observation than a complaint. The new box does look fantastic on display though, a positive for those of us that appreciate brands who put time and effort into crafting unique and attractive unboxing experiences.

    Packaging aside, the accessory kit is second to none. Final Audio tips are some of the best in the business and with five sizes included you're sure to find something that works for your ears. Campfire Audio's Marshmallow tips are a very high quality foam option. The basic single flange silicone tips are nothing special and are the sort of tip you'd find included with more budget oriented offerings. That's not to take away from their performance though. They stay attached to the nozzle just fine and consistently seal well, though I'm not a fan of how they sound with the IO. The cleaning tool will be invaluable to those with waxy ears and the inclusion of three mesh bags to keep everything neatly organized is genius. Nicely done.

    P1020811.JPG P1020812.JPG P1020814.JPG

    Build, comfort, and Isolation:

    The machined aluminum housings of the IO are adorned with a pale red anodized finish that looks pretty stunning in person. Seems to me that Campfire has improved the quality of their machining and their anodized finish. Compared to the original Polaris, the shells are much smoother. Small bumps and knocks that chipped the finish on the original Polaris have done nothing to the IO. ~10mm long stainless steel nozzles are present and have a prominent lip that does a great job of holding tips in place. These nozzles are very similar to those introduced with the Atlas and Comet and incorporate protective grills into the design. You won't have to worry about losing a filter when changing tips. Gold plated screws top things off and attractively accent the red colouring, Iron Man style. The IO use's Campfire Audio's now familiar and extra durable beryllium/copper MMCX connectors. I say extra durable because that's what the marketing blurb spouts, but also my now almost two year old and well-loved Polaris has seen tens and tens of disconnects. The MMCX connectors are just as firm now as they were out of the box. Fit and finish is as to be expected, which is to say it is fantastic. Seams are barely visible and everything lines up perfectly without any gaps or off kilter angles.

    The IO comes with Campfire Audio's new Silver Plated Copper Litz cable. It is quite reminiscent in design and thickness to the copper cable that came with the original Polaris, but with a new smoke coloured sheath. The 90 degree angled jack is smartly designed with an extension to permit compatibility with a wide variety of device cases, though strain relief is a little stiff. Less of a worry than it would be on lesser cables. My experiences with Campfire's cables have shown them to be plenty durable. Within the small, reliefless aluminum y-split, the cable divides sending two strands on each side to the ear pieces. Slotting into the top of the split is a small plastic chin cinch. It moves much more smoothly here than on older Campfire cables and as a result is much more useful. Also much more useful is the move to preformed ear guides. While the memory wire used on past Campfire Audio cables worked, I found the “memory” aspect of that title limited at best which led to the wire straightening out over time. Ditching that entirely and running with preformed guides has resulted in a much more pleasant experience since I'm not constantly rebending the wire to ensure it stays behind my ear. This is a great new cable and I was pleased to see it included with some other new models, like the Polaris v2 and Andromeda v3.

    When it comes to comfort you'd be forgiven for assuming Campfire Audio's iconic angular shell design is a pain in the ear. Maybe for some, but not for me. Ergonomics are just right with the low profile IO conforming quite naturally to my outer ear. That plus the use of lightweight aluminum, a small size that belies the chunky appearance, and a reasonably long nozzle keeps the IO sitting in a way that does not feel out of place. While I find the stubby nozzle of the Andromeda more suitable to my personal ear anatomy, I can still wear the IO for hours without experiencing any discomfort.

    The passive isolation of the IO is kinda weird. Low and high frequencies are significantly dulled when I have them inserted, Final Type E tips installed. This is great. Oddly though, vocals come through loud and clear, if not slightly dulled. As a result, I can have a video on in the background at my normal listening volume, IO inserted into my ears with no music playing, and follow along with the host/commentators just fine. This is actually really handy when using the IO in an office setting where you need to be able to hear your colleagues. That is, as long as you're not using foam tips. Those tend to sop up vocals and muffle everything.

    P1020817.JPG P1020818.JPG P1020819.JPG

    Sound:

    Tips: I found wide bore tips exacerbated the mids and treble making the IO flop over the edge into being overly aggressive. Small bore tips like the included Final Audio E-Type, foams, and other small to medium bore, soft silicone tips (ex. Sony hybrids, Spintfit CP100, etc.) were preferable since they curbed some of that edginess. My testing was done with the included Final Audio medium tips.

    The IO has plenty of treble on tap giving it quite a bright presentation. Hi-hats, chimes, etc. are quite vibrant and can get tiring quickly. This was noticeable on King Crimson's live recording of “Indiscipline” off the 'On Broadway' collection. In the first couple minutes the drummer gets to show off his skills and you are assaulted by a barrage of hi-hats. On the plus side, notes are fairly well-controlled with a satisfactory amount of space and air present. This keeps the IO from coming across congested and muddied when a song get busy. Attack and decay are expectedly quick, but not so snappy as to sound unrealistic. Detail and clarity are quite good too and I never felt I was missing out on any fine details, or that the IO was smoothing over imperfections. It sounds quite unforgiving and quite revealing actually.

    Vocal presence in the mid-range is somewhat inconsistent. On some tracks, like Tom Walker's “Now You're Gone”, both male and female vocalists sound forward and prominent with neither standing out more than the other. Other times, like on Radiohead's “Weird Fishes”, vocals fall back and sound recessed in comparison to the bassline and high hats, especially in the closing moments. This really only happens with male vocalists and it varies from track to track. The IO certainly feels most at home with female vocalists though. I was somewhat surprised with the IO since it handled Nicki Minaj well. Many earphones with unique mid-range presentations tend to make her sound very nasal, but that isn't the case here. Running through “Ganja Burn”, her vocals are smooth and sweet, blending in perfectly with the simple instrumentals and background accents. When it comes to guitars and other instruments, timbre is too light but I otherwise enjoy the presentation. Take for example, Havok's “Covering Fire”. Riffs chug away with a sublime attack and wicked texture. Pianos fall much into the same realm, as heard on the 51 second piano solo opening Supertramp's “Bloody Well Right”. While the piano doesn't sound quite right, it still manages to be entertaining and serve its purpose of pulling you into the track to preparing you for the eventual crescendo. The IO's mid presentation is off, yet it didn't manage to ruin the immersion of a good track, even one I've listened to as much as “Bloody Well Right”.

    The IO is fairly light on bass, but it's some quality stuff. First off, extension is outstanding for an armature with the IO able to reproduce the opening rumble on Kavinski's “Solli”. While it's often hard to tell thanks to the lack of emphasis, the IO can certainly provide a satisfying low end experience. Juice Aleem's “The Fallen” absolutely relies on it's strong bass line to carry the track and the IO takes it on like a professional. Texture is fantastic too, as evident on Tobacco's work on his joint effort with Aesop Rock, 'Malibu Ken'. The IO picks up all the grunge and distortion Tobacco layers onto everything, and tosses it back at you with aplomb. In addition to having plenty of texture, the IO's low end is pretty quick, as is common with armatures. Each note of the rapid double bass found throughout Havok's album 'Time Is Up' is well defined.

    When it comes to sound stage, the IO's intimate presentation results in a fairly “in-the-head” type of listening experience, with effects and notes dancing off into the distance every once in a while. It really shines in it's depth portrayal which keeps instruments and effects well layered and separated, and restricts their ability to interfere and blend in with each other. Imaging is quite good with sounds very accurately transferring across channels. I found the IO to be a nice companion when playing competitive games like Counter Strike or PUBG where accurate imaging helps give you an edge in testy situations.

    DSC_0949.JPG IMG_4703.JPG IO.jpg

    Select Comparisons (volumes matched using Dayton iMM-6):

    EarNiNE EN2J (267.00 USD): The EN2J and it's twin armature setup is much more balanced. Mids and treble are more forward than bass which is quite neutral, but neither steps forward as aggressively as it does on the IO. IO offers better extension in either direction, most noticeable in the bass which rolls off before really offering anything in terms of sub-bass. The EN2J's bass is impressively quick and articulate, but I can see the lack of presence being a turn off for most listeners, especially given the IO isn't particularly bassy itself. Mids on the EN2J are less forward but more balanced and slightly more detailed. They also feature that distinct breathy tone characteristic of EarNiNE's in-house armatures. This unfortunately means it's timbre isn't 100% spot on either. While the EN2J's sound stage is reasonably intimate, it comes across slightly wider but not quite as deep as the IO. Imaging, layering and separation is pretty even across the two with the IO offering slightly improved layering. Between these two, the EN2J does the mid-forward, treble prominent signature a little better. The IO certainly takes the cake in the low end, but I prefer the overall balance and presentation of the EN2J.

    In terms of build, the IO is much more impressive. The EN2J isn't poorly built by any means, but it's steel housings lack the attention to detail in terms of fit and finish thanks to prominent moulding lines and plastic nozzles that detract from the premium aesthetic they were going for. The brushed aluminum face plate is also very susceptible to scratches, though it does look good. I quite like EarNiNE's cable. While it doesn't feel as durable as Campfire Audio's, the light, flexible sheath completely stays out of the way. I love it. Comfort on both is excellent, though the IO fits me more naturally and remains less intrusive despite the extra size. I think it comes down to the nozzle design which forces the EN2J deep into my ear canal and pressed up against my outer ear. I also find I have to fiddle with it more to regain a lost seal.

    ADV GT3 w/ reference filters (299.00 USD): The single dynamic GT3 also has a skewed signature, this time towards a v-shaped sound. Bass doesn't dig quite as far as the IO's armature but with the IO's lack of sub-bass presence it doesn't feel like it. Mids of the IO are more forward and prominent, upper especially, yet similarly detailed and clear. Timbre is more accurate on the GT3. Treble on both earphones is sharp and crisp with the GT3 sounding tighter and more controlled. The GT3's peak around 6k gets tiring, though I can say the same for the IO's peak further up. The IO has a more intimate presentation with a smaller sound stage, but provides a more impressive job of moving sound between channels. Layering and separation is equally good. I prefer the IO at lower volumes while the GT3's dynamic provides more entertainment at high volumes, though that treble can be unpleasant.

    In terms of build both are outstanding with flawless fit and finish, top tier cables, and cool designs. GT3 has a slight advantage in that it brings tuning filters to the party, whereas the IO is more ergonomic. Not only is it heavier, but the GT3 has a very sharp rear end which in some ears will cut into flesh and cause discomfort. I thankfully don't have that problem during regular listening, but on a few occasions I have forgotten about that edge and when going to lay down jabbed my ear when the iem pressed into the pillow.

    BGVP DM7 (299.00 USD): The six-armature DM7 has a more balanced signature with tighter, less aggressive treble, but it lacks the extension and upper treble presence making it come across somewhat numb. Mids on the IO are generally more forward and crisp with better clarity and additional detail, though somewhat artificial and thin when compared to the DM7. DM7 has the lead when it comes to timbre. On select tracks, such as Radiohead's “Weird Fishes”, vocals on the DM7 come across more prominent in the mix. Bass on the DM7 doesn't extend as far and sounds heavier, slower, and more mid-bassy. IO has a wider, deeper sound stage and does a better job of portraying various layers to a track, as well as separating individual elements. DM7 sounds more constricted and almost congested in comparison. I prefer the DM7's overall tune but appreciate the IO's technical proficiency.

    In terms of build, IO is vastly superior. The DM7 is 3D printed which is in itself just fine, but my DM7 is a bit sloppy around the nozzle and in general feels less durable and looks less premium than the IO. There is also that loose MMCX port issue BGVP is currently dealing with, or has already dealt with if you're reading this well into the future. Speaking of MMCX, both products have very nice cables with the DM7's being thicker and more impressive looking. I think they're equally solid, but I will say Campfire Audio has the better preformed guides. BGVP's are somewhat loose around the cable and when it flexes you can hear ticking as the guide sticks and rubs against the wiring within.

    Final Thoughts:

    The IO is the kind of product that makes me hate having to put down a score when posting a review to Head-fi. One on hand, I entirely understand the criticism that has been levied at it's unique tune. It's bright, it can be tiring, it can be kinda harsh, and it's not particularly natural sounding. I also found the mid-range inconsistent in it's presentation across a number of vocalists. On an objective basis, it has issues.

    However, enjoyment of an earphone is a subjective experience because everyone is unique. A headphone that measures near perfect, assuming the Harman curve is our target for perfection, will be both loved and hated because there is no one tune that everyone universally considers “good”. The IO isn't an earphone for the majority, and that's okay. Those who like it are probably going to like it a lot. It's a fun, vibrant listen with decent technical prowess, great bass that takes you by surprise, and loads of detail and texture to go around. I wish it was a little easier on the ears and that it's midrange and treble peaks were more relaxed, but that's where an EQ comes in, pending you're not opposed to tweaking your purchases.

    While the IO's sound signature is tuned for a specific crowd, the rest of the package is undeniably, universally fantastic. The unboxing experience is fun and attractive, and once you get inside you are treated to an extensive accessory kit filled with useful tidbits, like Final E tips, multiple mesh bags to organize and store everything, and a fantastic leather carrying case. Criticism has been levied at this case because it looks like something you'd store make up or coins in. I see where people are coming from with that. However, such cases are ergonomic and designed to be carried and interacted with frequently. This new case is just as spacious inside as Campfire's old cases, but significantly more pocket friendly and easier to get the product into and out of. I think it is a fantastic addition and have no issues with it's inclusion.

    I like the IO, warts and all. If a bright, mid-centric earphone sounds like your jam, give it a shot. You'll probably like it. It does that sound fairly well. For everyone else, there are lots of other products out there to cater to your specific preferences

    Thanks for reading!

    - B9Scrambler

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

    Some Test Tunes:

    Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Album)
    Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That? (Album)
    King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
    King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
    Supertramp – Crime of the Century (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 Bonet) (Album)
    Michael Jackson – Thriller (Album)
    The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes) (Track)
    Jidenna – Long Live the Chief (Track)
    Skrillex – Ragga Bomb (Track)
    Big Grams – Run for Your Life (Track)
    Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (Track)
    Aesop Rock – Fishtales (Track)
      F700, Dsnuts and antdroid like this.
  2. antdroid
    Campfire IO
    Written by antdroid
    Published Jul 5, 2019
    2.5/5,
    Pros - Wide soundstage
    Fast speed and transients
    Good detail retrieval at this price
    Wonderful aesthetics and accessories
    FIt is very comfortable
    Improved Cable
    Cons - Mid tuning is recessed and veiled
    [​IMG]


    Introduction
    The all-new IO is the latest from Campfire Audio, and features a whole new packaging style and build than their previous iterations. The new IO features two balanced armature drivers within each of its garnet red shells. The IO has a sensitivity of 109 dB SPL/mW and 26 ohm impedance at 1KHz, and is being offered at $299, putting it between the Campfire Comet and Campfire Orion, in terms of affordability.


    I received this loaner unit as part of The Community Preview program at The HEADPHONE Community, which is hosted by headphones.com. This review was conducted over a couple weeks using various sources (DAPs, desktop amp/dacs, and out of an iPad).

    This review was originally published at https://www.headphones.com/blogs/news/campfire-audio-io-dual-balanced-armature-iem-review

    The All-New Campfire Package

    Campfire Audio products have all featured interesting and unique sound signatures that may or may not appease everyone, including myself, but one thing that is universally praised is their packaging and bundled accessories. They’ve always hit high marks with their presentation, quality and abundant accessories and customer service, and the 2019 refresh takes the high benchmark to another level.

    The new packaging is a real treat to open up and look at. CFA stepped up their already top-tier packaging and accessories bundle for this new line of IEMs. I was surprised to see that this came with 3 sets of mesh shell cases. These cases were recently offered to help protect the anodized shells from scratches and dents, and now you’ll have a few extras in case you lose one or two.

    The garnet-colored shell is more of a dark red/purple tint than what I thought of in the photos, but they look stunning to me. The gold-plated screws contrast perfectly with the red shells and really make these look striking.

    [​IMG]

    The IO also changed the shallower nozzles from their previous lineup and replaced them with the longer Solaris-style nozzles and this makes this shell much more comfortable for me than the Andromeda/Orion and previous generation Campfire products. I barely feel these on my ears and the sharp edges don’t touch the back of my ears anymore.

    [​IMG]

    The new storage case design is reminiscent of a small coin purse, and looks very nice. It’s made of real leather, and hand-made in Portugal. The outside of the case is soft, but sturdy enough, and the inside is padded with wool-like material. It definitely smells the part of genuine leather.

    Finally, the new dark gray colored cable is a treat to use, especially when compared to the previous cables used in Campfire products. The cable is thinner than the ones packaged with the Andromeda and Solaris, which I have with me, but is much more usable. Gone away is the memory wire hooks, and replaced is a pre-formed hook that I very much prefer. The cable is soft and flexible, and does not tangle easily, which is a huge improvement over the previous cables.

    [​IMG]


    IO's Unique Sound

    The Campfire IO has an interesting, and unique signature and I think it’ll be unusual to many people. The IO is a relatively flat tuning, but has a different mids-profile than more common sound signatures do, which may put many people off. Besides, that, the IEM has very good technicalities and wide soundstage with plenty of details. But let’s go over some of the things I’ve discovered in more detail during my time with the IO.

    [​IMG]

    Bass
    The low end of the IO is extremely clean and has a touch of warmth to it. The subbass does dig down, but generally stays even keeled throughout. There’s a lot of good to say about how fast the bass attack is, and how good the layer is in this area. It takes a similar general approach of the Campfire Orion in this regard, but boosts the bass and extends it further down, all the while, improving upon its detail level.

    This is not an IEM for bassheads. Its for someone who likes quality over quantity and I think the IO does well here, and generally recommend it for songs that are focused more on bass and treble, as it does both of those quite areas quite well.

    Mids
    The mids are another story though. I find them quite wonky, and it has a lot to do with the sharp peak between 1-2KHz followed by a complete cliff, which enders the upper mids almost absent. This is where I find the IO to have quite a “unique” signature. Because of this, I find that a lot of the presence energy inadequate and lacking.
    In terms of listening, I find vocals are recessed and off, and specifically female vocals have a weird haze to it. Cymbals, guitars, and other string instruments also exhibit this behavior. It has a low fidelity sound to it – a veil. Deeper male vocals don’t exhibit the same issues as females, though there still is a weird tinny-haze to them occasionally.

    In more detail, for a few songs I listened to which feature prominent female vocals like “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, the voice of Stevie Nicks is just off. The bass line sounds good, but the cymbals just lose their sense of splash. Nick’s voice is extremely distant, and not only that, she sounds like she’s off-stage behind the curtains somewhere. It’s like the drummer is playing on stage by himself, and the rest of the band is behind the curtains. It’s unusual to me.

    In another track, Norah Jones’ “Seven Days”, the haze is not quite as apparent when listening. Jones’ voice doesn’t suffer quite as severely as Nicks does, but I can hear just the slightest of energy missing. It’s not until I start A-Bing back and forth with other IEMs that I notice the severe lack of mids.

    I A-B’d many IEMs with the IOs to get a grasp of how other IEMs stack up and one by one switching between the IO and the other model (e.g. Etymotics ER3SR, BGVP DM7, Moondrop Kanas Pro, Campfire Solaris, Campfire Andromeda, Knowledge Zenith ZS7, to name a few), it was like lifting the curtains and letting the rest of the band be heard again.

    Going from one of the “other” models and back to IO was like sucking the energy right out of the room. To me, it felt like a bright sunny day, with glorious spring time flowers and animals walking around, and then all of the sudden, dark clouds rolling in, darkening the scene, and the cute animals hiding in fear of the incoming weather. Maybe this is a little bit of an exaggeration, but for someone who is used to listening to more balanced mids, I find the IO tuning of this area very lacking.

    Treble
    The treble region performs well on the IO, despite the upper mid void. The IO extends further into the treble ladder than the Orion and with more sparkle and air than the Comet. While cymbals and hi-hats have good splashy characteristics, they do sound a tad hazy and muffled, as is the entire sound profile.

    Equalizer
    To attempt to see if I could adjust the frequency response to further match my preferred sound signature, I tried to elevate the upper mid between 3 and 5KHz up quite a bit to bring presence energy back and for the most part it’s successful. That said, it’s not perfection. The edges of vocals and strings have fringes of hazy artifacts remaining, and this could be a combination of the extreme equalizer gains and the remnants of the unique sound signature the IO presents.


    Select Comparisons
    [​IMG]


    Etymotics ER3SE
    The Etymotics brand started the In-Ear headphones phenomenon and their diffuse-field tuning has remained consistent and popular over the years. The ER3SE is one of their newer single BA products and makes a great comparison and contrast to the IO. The ER3 and the Etymotics bread and butter ER4SR have similar sound profiles, so this generalization can be attributed to both models.

    The IO outpaces the Etymotics in soundstage width and depth, and the dual-BA set up really help the IO extend bass and treble better than the ER3SE. I found the detail resolution of the IO to also outshine the Etymotics, however it’s the mid-range tuning that I find the ER3 outperforming the IO by a significant distance. Much of this is already covered in the main body of the review, so I won’t go over it again. The ER3 is a much more intimate sound, but is very neutral and balanced sounding, albeit maybe lacking a little bit of sub-bass and general bass response. The IO does everything right and better for me, except the mids.

    [​IMG]


    Campfire Andromeda
    A lot the initial discussion when IO was announced was whether it would be the “baby Andromeda” or not, much like the Orion was hyped up to be. While I find the IO is closer to the Orion as a “baby Andro” contender, it’s not quite there due to its mid-range issues. The bass is lighter on the IO than on Andromeda, but the treble region is equally as exciting and impressive. The mids, while somewhat tame and laid back on the Andromeda, is much more balanced and even-keeled, and does not sound off to me.

    [​IMG]


    BGVP DM7
    The latest BGVP DM7 IEM is priced similarly at $299 as the IO. The two differ quite a bit after that. The DM7 bass response is slower, but denser, but still well controlled. The IO extends higher and has a much wider soundstage and I’d also give the nod to IO for detail retrieval and general technical ability. Again, the mids is where these differ quite a bit, with the DM7 having a much more mid-forward sound, and the IO having a distant, and unique mid signature.
    [​IMG]


    Moondrop Kanas Pro
    The Moondrop Kanas Pro is priced at $179 and one of my favorite IEMs at any price point. The Kanas Pro follows a tuning reminiscent of the Harman IEM Target Curve with slightly less lower-bass elevation. As some may know, the mids of the Harman Curve as a little bit recessed, but I find that the Kanas Pro is still more up front in the mid-range than the IO. The bass elevation is similar on both, but the IO is quicker and has better layering. The Moondrop Kanas Pro detail is similar but may be a tad behind the IO, but the general sound signature is much more coherent across the board. The IO extends treble noticeably better than the Kanas Pro, due to its upper end energy.

    [​IMG]


    Overall

    Overall, I found the IO to be technically capable and having a lot to like about them, however with one single fatal flaw – the mid-range issues. To me, I enjoy upper midrange to be a little bit more forward, and to provide the energy to what I am listening to. It does not have to be over the top and doesn’t even need to be totally even – see my Solaris review – but the IO just doesn’t cut it. The excessive 1.5KHz peak topped with the absent upper-mids makes this something I personally do not enjoy for about 85% of my music library.

    The few genres I did find the IO to work well in are some male-dominated acoustic music, drum and bass music, trip hop, and other genres that focus much more heavily on the upper and lower bounds of the audible spectrum. There’s just too much veil in the mids to make me content with listening to music in a different way than I have my entire life.

    That’s a little bit unfortunate because I otherwise love the IO’s package. Great build, color choices, fit, accessories, and presentation, to go along with some really great detail resolution, speed, and a wide soundscape that mark the high points of the IO.

    In the end, I was hoping for an improvement in the Orion, which in many ways it did, but it also killed off the best part of the Orion – the mid-range coherency.
      F700 and B9Scrambler like this.
    1. Perfectofi
      Ears are genetically different....perception of sound is different from one human to the next (genetics and enviornmental exposure over time).....the mids comments around this IEM is way off for me PERSONALLY(my ears hear it this way but would not try to influence you either way)....is this because the highs and lows are more forward for a BA and it is confusing to the ear? curious indeed
      Perfectofi, Aug 2, 2019
  3. mvvRAZ
    Andromeda lite done right
    Written by mvvRAZ
    Published May 13, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - - The design and fit
    - Natural, pleasant, easy-going sound
    - Great soundstage and spaciousness
    - Great accessories and cable
    Cons - - Can sound somewhat too distant, lacking intimacy and intensity
    I only had about half an hour with the IO at the Munich High End a few days back, so take this review with a grain of salt.

    I am currently using the Andromeda S as my daily driver, and absolutely in love with its sound signature, intensity and neutrality/naturality.

    Now, the IO is considerably lighter and as such, somewhat more comfortable as well. It instantly found itself at home in my ears (i didn't even have to change the tips or play with those, just pop and in they went). Their design is also absolutely gorgeous, in a dark red with gold screws, they would fit right into an Iron Man movie. Also they make a fine tribute to good old Tony.

    The case that it comes with is absolutely lovely, the cable fits well with the color scheme of the IO and performed adequately when I tested it with my Andromeda S.

    Now, onto the sound. My impressions are somewhat limited as I didn't have too much time to spend with them, but I will make sure to go to my local dealer and grab a pair for a proper listen.

    I listened to a few tracks and they instantly struck me as a lite version of the Andromeda (also confirmed by the guys at Alo Audio). The instruments and vocals sounded somewhat less intimate than the Andromeda, and certainly more distant. The soundstage was quite impressive for a twin BA design, and there was a certain airy feeling. They certainly punch far above their weight class, easily outperforming the Polaris (which I found to have the same weakness as the IO but the bass was just far too intense and invasive) and the Noble Audio Sage (which can sound somewhat too dense, lacking a more spaced out presentation). On the other hand, the Sage performs quite a bit better in the treble region but lacks in the lows.

    I really enjoyed the lows of the IO, as I generally like a tight, accurate and controlled bass that doesn't spill over in the lower mids, which the IO did absolutely great in.

    All in all I think the IO can make for one amazing daily driver, something to be listened to at work for example, where the intensity of the Andromeda can be plain distracting and even overwhelming at times. They present a fun, natural sound that very few competitors in that price range can boast.

    Certainly would recommend :)