Campfire Audio Orion

General Information

-Single Balanced armature driver.

-Delivers a clean, natural full sound with remarkable top to bottom coherence.

-CNC’d Aluminium enclosure with anodized finish.

-Detailed musical presentation and minimal distortion.

-Mids are clear, upfront and uncolored.

-Deeply engaging bass; punchy and tightly controlled but fully extended.

-Two sets of silicon tip and one set of foam tip provide comfortable and secure fit.

-Detachable cable design allows you to replace the cable.

-Custom Beryllium Copper hardened MMCX earphone sockets. Ensures the cable connection is reliable over the life of the earphone.

(Information from ALO Audio)
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Pros: Great neutral-to-mid-forward sound, excellent build quality. Shows what can be accomplished with a single BA driver.
Cons: Bass and treble could both be better, and the IEM may be uncomfortable for those with smaller ears. With newer offerings from both Campfire Audio and other companies, the price/performance is not as great in 2018 as it was when first released.
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Introduction

As a IEM manufacturer, I don't think Campfire Audio needs any introduction. From relatively affordable offerings in the Comet to flagship IEMs in the Andromeda, Vega, and now the Atlas/Equinox, Campfire Audio has fantastic products at all different price points. This particular Orion is a limited edition model released exclusively in Korea back in 2016. When I was looking for my first nice IEM last year, it was recommended as an excellent option within my budget, and while I ended up throwing away any notion of a budget as I went for the Andromeda instead... I recently found these used locally for much cheaper than the 499,000KRW (~$450) price tag and decided to give them a chance.

Build

The Orion shares the same angular shell as the other non-Comet Campfire Audio BA IEMs, which I am personally a fan of aesthetically. Fit can be a bit hit-or-miss, as the sharp edges can be uncomfortable for those with smaller ears. As this limited edition version was produced before the Orion CK, it is more prone to paint chipping around the edges. (The previous owner had carefully taped over the edges to protect the shells, and because of this, these are in better condition than most others I've seen.) This Orion also came with the older Tinsel cable, as well as assorted silicone/Comply tips. In my opinion, the Litz cable is better built than the Tinsel, with a sleeker profile around the 3.5mm plug. Overall, however, I don't have any complaints with the build, and the included canvas case is excellent. (I may even prefer it over the leather one for everyday use, as it seems less prone to scratching.)

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Sound

In my earlier Andromeda review, I described the Orion as nice, but not exceptional. For the most part, I stand by my earlier impressions.

Bass extension is okay, but for the most part, I felt that it was just... there. It's clean and fast, but somewhat anemic. While all unfair comparisons, compared to the other IEMs I was listening to and auditioning in stores at the time (e.g. CA Andromeda/Polaris, Hyla CE-5, Empire Ears Bravado), the Orion simply lacks impact on the lower end.

The mids are where the Orion shines most. Vocals, both male and female, are excellent and sound natural, and instruments are detailed as well. The soundstage was noticeably smaller than the Andromeda's, but it did not feel particular small or large - pretty average for an IEM.

The Orion came across as slightly bright, but more due to an upper midrange emphasis than excessive highs. Treble extension is not particularly great, and overall, it is pretty polite and never sibilant.

As an aside, the Orion is both source and tip-dependent. When connected to my iPhone 6s Plus, there is a slight hissing in the background, which is usually unnoticeable when listening to music but can occasionally be distracting. There are no such issues when connected to the iFi Nano iDSD Black Label, though I believe a simpler solution like the iEMatch would suffice as well. With regards to tip rolling, after trying some CA silicone tips and some others (Final E-type, SymbioW), I felt that the wide-bore Azla Sedna tips were best, as they provided the best overall fit without negatively affecting the sound.

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Final Thoughts

With the release of the <$200 Comet, enthusiasm for the more expensive, yet also single-BA, Orion seems to have cooled significantly. Indeed, I think the Orion's long time in the spotlight is coming to an end, and at the full $350 retail price (or the $450 in Korea!), it faces stiff competition from other IEMs, including Campfire Audio's own Polaris or Jupiter when found as B-stock or on Massdrop. However, at the current used prices ranging from ~$175-225, the Orion is a compelling IEM, especially for buyers looking for brilliantly executed vocals. It does not achieve the same resolution of the Andromeda or the excitement of the Vega, and bassheads in particular need not apply, but the Orion shows that quantity is not everything by performing admirably for a single balanced armature IEM.

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Specifications:


Driver: 1x Balanced Armature Driver

Impedance: 13.9 ohms

Frequency response: 10 - 19,000 Hz

Sensitivity: 114 dB

Connector: MMCX

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated to Campfire Audio in any way and do not benefit monetarily or in any other form for writing this review. The Campfire Audio Orion was lent to me by reviewer "Gloryrain" for the sole purpose of reviewing it. I will keep my review of the product as honest and as impartial as possible.

Review by: "Charlie" and from The Little Audiophile

Campfire Audio Orion Retail Price (at time of writing): US$349 (S$478) on their website

TLA Score
Physical Attributes
Comfort: 5/10
Durability: 10/10
Ease of Wearing: 8/10
Noise Isolation: 7/10
Microphonics: 9/10
Value for Money: 5/10

Sonic Attributes
Bass: 8/10
Mids: 7/10
Trebles: 7/10
Sound Stage: 6/10
Separation & Imaging: 6/10
Source Matchability: 8/10

Campfire Audio, a subsidiary of ALO, is a company based in Oregon, USA. They specialise in making high-end audio equipment, with the Andromeda being arguably the most well-known model in the line-up. Today, we'll look at Andromeda's little brother, the Orion and see how it performs.

THE BOX
The Orion comes in a pudgy blue-coloured laminated paper box with twinkly little stars dotting the box, along with what reminds me of Vincent van Gogh's painting of "The Starry Night". On the top, you'll see a big "ORION CK" with some other wording and on the front, you'll see a picture of the Orion with other wording.



Inside, you will find a plethora of ear tips, a cleaning tool, a semi-hard carrying case and lastly the Orion itself. For the price, I am happy with what is included in the box.


Note: I am missing the semi-hard case and one pair of medium Spinfits.

BUILD AND DESIGN
Housing
Campfire is renowned for it's exceptional attention to details and overall build quality. They do not cheap out on materials and build quality and the Orion here is no exception. The housing is an all aluminium shell with a Cerakote finishing to give it a greater resistance to impact, corrosion and things of such. In other words, it improves the durability of the product.



The nozzle on the Orion is also made of metal, which retains that "design fluidity" with the rest of the housing. It is extremely thick and well-built that I just cannot think of what could possibly break them in your day to day use unless you are deliberately trying to.



The connector system employed is the MMCX type which is not recessed into the housing and should be able to host most 3rd party cables.



I have no complaints about the build quality really. The choice of materials is good and the MMCX This IEM would last you years if you take care of them. I only wished that the Orion came in a few other colours. But that's just nit-picking.

Cable
The cable that comes with the Orion is an ALO SPC Litz cable which terminates in a 3.5 mm audio jack. I will be very honest, at first, it looks like those cheap cables you can find online, with its generic transparent MMCX and 3.5 mm plugs. But it really isn't.



Campfire claims that their MMCX pins and are made of the Beryllium Copper. Now, I am no expert in this field, but Campfire states that it is supposed to extend and improve the lifespan of their MMCX connector system. I personally cannot confirm how true this it, but what is true is that the MMCX's locking mechanism is relatively tight and the cable does not freely spin in the female connector at all.





COMFORT
Comfort. I understand that this is a very subjective topic and in the case of the Campfire's line-up of IEMs which uses this polygonal housing design, the question of comfort is a hit or miss really.

Unfortunately, it is a miss for me. Here's why.

To start, I get a good seal and fit with the Orion. The fit is airy and is quite shallow and everything seems fine at first. 30 mins into wearing these, I felt some discomfort, pain even, at 2 points of my ear. Namely, the Tragus and the Concha.

Looking at the Orion, I have determined the two points to be:


this significant angle here that rubs against the Concha, and


this nut that rubs against the Tragus of the ear.

Apart from these two pressure points, the rest of the housing fits me well.

Despite its metal housing and the tropical weather here in sunny Singapore, there was no significant heat buildup in my hours of testing. The same thing can be said about the nozzle area where the ear tips contact the skin.



As the fit is relatively shallow, noise attenuation is just average. It does not come close to something like the NuForce HEM1, but is very slightly better than that of the Audio Technica LS50iS, albeit less airy.

I have average-sized ears and comfort is an issue for me. I would highly suggest spending a minimum of 30 mins with this IEM to determine if the fit would work for you.

SOUND QUALITY
Note: Sound Quality was tested on my AK Jr

With only a single doing the lifting, it is far behind the Andromeda in terms of driver count. But Campfire knows better - driver count isn't the final word in sound quality. It's how you implement that one driver. Coming in at US$349 on the Campfire Audio website, this IEM is by no means cheap if you compare it against most single BA driver IEMs.

So, are these worth your money? Long story short, for the solid build quality, it might be worth the money if you are rough on your IEMs. Sound-wise, they aren't bad. It's just that you can get an equally competent IEM for less. Read on to find out why I think so!

Soundstage, Separation and Imaging
As the seal is on the Orion is quite airy, I do find the soundstage to be wide as it is deep. On the track "Keep Coming Back" by Richard Marx, the soundstage starts very near and extends out sufficiently far. Soundstage isn't the widest I've heard in the price range, but it is above average. The same can be said for many other tracks I've tested. Kudos to Campfire!

Instrumental and vocal separation is impressive. Instruments and vocals in no way feel compressed or "mushed" together. John Mayer's "Clarity" (how coincidental indeed) from the album Heavier Things is able to show the Orion's ability to separate the drums from the vocals from the acoustic guitars from the trumpets and so on. In short, I'm pleased! The presentation is like this:

Sound Signature
Campfire Audio claims that the Orion has a (and I quote): "Reference sound signature and flat sonic delivery; Orion delivers your favourite tracks as they were recorded."

Do I agree? Not exactly. I felt that the Orion has a slight U-shaped sound signature with more bass emphasis as compared to treble emphasis. Treble rolls-off a little early and doesn't extend very far. As such, the Orion does not deliver enough treble details and isn't the most resolving IEM, especially in its price range. Just my opinion.

The Orion is, however, not fatiguing to listen to, with it's rolled off treble. I can listen to this IEM for hours on end as sibilance is not a problem with the Orion and there are no unnatural peaks in any of the frequencies. Decay and speed are quick in the mids and bass regions, which makes this IEM relatively agile, even in fast-paced, high-tempo tracks.

The Orion is one of those IEMs which is able to balance technicality and musicality beautifully. There is a little bit of colouration in the vocals, which does spice up the music a bit. Just a little bit.

Through my time with this IEM, I found that this thing shines in rock genres.



Bass
The bass on the Orion is slightly accentuated and has a good sub-bass extension, which in turn adds some weight and fullness to the overall sound signature. However, the sub-bass does lack some rumble and impact, which some listeners would interpret as fun or musical. Depending on your taste, you might or might not like it.

Mids
The mids are, what I feel, the best part of the Orion. Vocals take a frontal presentation which manages to be intimate, yes, but unintrusive. There is weight to both male and female vocals and it sounds oddly natural and there is no graininess in the vocal texture. I put on my sibilance test track "New Face" by Psy. Nope. Error 404, no sibilance found. Sibilance is a stranger to this IEM.

Guitars... this is getting me excited. Acoustic guitars are crunchy and very well textured. Bass guitars as in the song "Clarity" have a good weight and resonance to them.

Trebles
The treble region is relatively smooth with no significant peaks or dips and even on tracks with a high treble presence, no sibilance is exhibited by the Orion. Treble extension on the Orion isn't exactly impressive. However, it does deliver a notable amount of clarity with whatever treble that is present and sounds quite natural to my ears. All these add up to a rather forgiving treble signature which should not highlight poor quality recordings.

PAIRING
Alternative Ear tips
Acoustune AET07


With the AET07 tips, there is a slight improvement in the treble region and recovers a bit of treble detail. Vocals sound a little unnatural with this tips. Bass is relatively untouched.

Final Audio Type E


I like to call the Final Audio Type E the "magic tips" as they are able to synergise with most IEMs. Not this one though. There is an improvement in the bass impact, but everything else goes to s***. Vocals sound muted and veiled. Slight sibilance is also introduced into the treble. In short, the tonal balance of the Orion is thrown off with these tips.

At the end of the day, I would still recommend using the stock tips or wide bore tips

SELECT COMPARISON
Note: All prices stated were at the time of writing.

Campfire Audio Orion Vs Shure SE535 LTD [S$729]
I think this is a good comparison as both the Orion and the SE535 LTD are the individual company's attempt to manufacture a neutral sounding IEM.

Compared to the Orion, the Shure SE535 is flatter sounding with slightly less bass quantity and more veiled vocals. The way I described how the SE535 LTD sounded was that it was like "(The vocalist is) singing behind a piece of cloth". The treble extension on the SE535 LTD seemed to extend out further but is a smoother and less detailed treble overall. Nonetheless, this is the more neutral of the two and would be, arguably, a better stage monitor if that is what you are looking for.

I did find that the Orion has a wider soundstage and a much better instrumental separation. In fact, the difference was so noticeable that the Orion made the SE535 LTD sound congested or compressed in a way.

CONCLUSION
Overall, the Campfire Audio Orion is a good sounding IEM. It has a pleasant, forgiving sound signature which retains treble clarity. The intimate vocals and a polite yet unrecessed bass add volume to the music. The good balance of technicality against musicality makes for a very pleasant listen. The build quality is also phenomenal and would survive the daily rigours of life.

However, I felt that comfort wise, this IEM is just not up to par, depending on who you are asking. The sharp angles do contact certain pressure points in the outer ear and honestly, just causes pain. The forgiving sound signature enables the listener to listen for hours on end, but the comfort issue for me just didn't allow this.

Another thing is the price. US$349, for a single BA IEM is not a small sum of money. Though Campfire Audio has implemented this Single BA driver very well, I feel that you would be able to get multi-driver IEMs, which performs similarly (in terms of performance and not sound signature) for a lower price.

I should end off by saying that, yes, the Orion does sound pretty good, but it isn't the cheapest nor is it the most value for money IEM out there. Well, that's just my humble opinions of the Campfire Audio Orion and I hope you've enjoyed the read. Stay safe and happy listening! Charlie, out.

Do check out our WordPress site at https://thelittleaudiophile.wordpress.com/ for more reviews!
voxie
voxie
Thanks for a very good and honest review. Enjoyed the read.
thelittleaudiophile
thelittleaudiophile
You're so very welcome! Thanks for the kind words :)
Pros: well built, solid neutral sound signature, comfortable
Cons: cable microphonic, lacking in bass, underwhelming for metal
Disclaimer:
I received this Campfire Orion as part of the Australian/New Zealand tour that ALO Audio/Ken Bell arranged. This is my honest opinion of the Campfire Orion, and I am in no way affiliated with or work for ALO Audio. Thanks to @d marc0 for organising this and letting me join in a little late.
 
In addition, this review will not focus on technical aspects of the equipment. Rather I will focus on their representation of music to me. My enjoyment or boredom, bliss or disappointment with the equipment. Think of it as an emotional review.
 
Introduction:
 
OK, so I told myself last year – “just get back to Head-Fi, find a suitable setup, and leave…” I’m still here, after realising that the community had matured so much since last decade, yep 2009! The ability to now take part in tours and auditions opened up a whole new world of experiences. Now I was able to test out some great equipment, without the commitment, it’s like Friends with Benefits.
 
Thus far I have been given the opportunity to review the Aune X1S and Jays q-Jays. This time round, I was given the opportunity to take some more IEMs for a spin – introducing the Campfire Orion in-earphones
 
Official product page: http://www.aloaudio.com/campfire-audio-orion
 
 
Hardware:
 
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
The Orion are delivered in a sweet and simple cardboard box, with the goodies inside. The earphones were nestled away in a beautiful fur(?) coated carry case, with the tips and other accessories hidden under a neat little false bottom.
 
ORION1.jpg ORION2.jpg
 
 
 
The contents of the box included:
  1. Campfire Orion IEM ear pieces
  2. MMCX terminated, silver-plated IEM Cable (1.35m) with gold-plated 3.5mm L-plug
  3. Tips:
    1. 3 pairs of Comply TX 400 tips (S, M, L)
    2. 3 pairs of foam tips (S, M, L)
    3. 3 pairs of silicon tips (S, M, L)
  4. Cleaning tool
  5. Carry case
  6. Campfire Audio logo pin
  7. User guide
 
RRP: $349 USD (~$500 AUD)
 
ORION3.jpg
 
 
 
BUILD & DESIGN
When I first saw the ALO Announcement I had flashbacks of Jony Ive (from Apple) talking about chamfered edges and build quality of the iPhone 5. In ALO’s words, “Orion’s design integrates single balanced armature drivers into a machined aluminium enclosure”. These are solid IEMs. You can feel the weight, I personally love seeing the screws and the rugged edges of the earpieces. The nozzles as well are solidly built, I always used to worry about my old Westone’s and Shure’s with thin nozzles, in fear I’d break them.
 
ORION4.jpg ORION5.jpg
 
 
 
TECH SPECS
Driver: Single Balanced Armature Driver
Impedance: 14 Ohm
Sensitivity:  113 dB SPL/mW
Frequency Response: 10Hz - 16KHz
 
For a better read on the technical details, checkout Brooko’s review: http://www.head-fi.org/products/campfire-audio-orion/reviews/15678
 
About Me:
 
As with any tour or review, these are my opinions and observations with the Campfire Orion and my hardware. For the purpose of this audition, I used the following equipment –
Source: iPod Classic/iPhone 6S using a mixture of Apple Lossless and MP3 files
Amplifier/DAC: HeadAmp Pico Portable Amp/DAC
Headphones: 1964Ears V3 (for comparison)
 
My taste in music is quite peculiar and focuses heavily on heavy metal – in all forms (from death to Viking, from prog to heavy, from pagan to Mongolian!). A majority of my listening was with bands such as Iron Maiden, Fallujah, and Caligula’s Horse & Ne Obliviscaris. However, I still enjoy a variety of genres, so also included Jazz, Blues, Rock, and Classical.
 
ORION6.jpg ORION7.jpg
 
 
 
 
The Listening Experience:
 
So my first listen was with the Comply Tips, the comfort and fit are as perfect as custom in-ears. Despite the machined edges, I worried they would either feel heavy, or the earpieces would be uncomfortable, but I was taken by surprise. The nozzle was larger than I was used to, so took me a couple of tries to get the tips on, but once they were on, I was listening to my music in no time.
 
Music listened to for this review:
Florence and the Machine [acoustic/MTV unplugged] (female vocal)
Diana Krall (female vocal – jazz)
Lorde (female vocals – alternative)
Steely Dan (jazz/rock)
Anathema (female vocals – alternative, post-rock, progressive)
Fallujah (atmospheric technical death metal)
Ne Obliviscaris (progressive black metal)
Gojira (technical death metal)
Caligula’s Horse (progressive)
 
My initial impressions were:
Bass: tight and controlled, lacking impact
Highs: slightly untamed – female vocals were slightly piercing/painful at times
Comments: felt slightly uncontrolled on some quicker/complex metal songs, really great with female vox
 
As I continued my time with the Orion’s, I decided that I’d mark these as being flat/neutral in terms of sound signature. The IEMs do not overly favour any aspect of sound, they were overly bassy nor were they unyielding in the highs.
 
I started off in a different direction this time, instead of heading straight to all my niche metal genres, I decided to play some Florence & The Machine (acoustic set) and Diana Krall. The Orion’s shined with the female vocals. They were luscious to say the least, and both vocalists demonstrate different vocal ranges, which sounded beautiful on the Orion’s. I thought I’d give Lorde a go, merely just to chill and take advantage of the Orion’s strengths with female vocals. Again, I was impressed, even though I’ve listed bass-impact as a con for these IEMs, this worked well for Lorde’s Royals, as some of my other experiences have left me with the bass overpowering the vocals.
 
I moved toward some Steely Dan to get a better feel for the soundstage and instrument separation, and again the Orion’s came through. The flat/neutral signature favoured the female vocalists, and also the jazz/rock combination. So far so good, I spent more time listening to my more subtle genres, and only experienced a minor issue with some female vocals feeling a bit too harsh/piercing (listening to Anathema).
 
So far they were pleasant. Until I got to my more complex music…..
 
Unfortunately this is where I struggled with the Orion’s. I couldn’t spend a lot of time listening to Fallujah or Ne Obliviscaris as the Orion’s struggled with the speed/attack/complexity of the music. There were times in the slower sections of the music I could appreciate the instrument separation and soundstage, but the moment the tracks got to their heavier/complex sections, the Orion’s just struggled. Things just felt congested when I know they shouldn’t be. Aside from that, the lack of bass emphasis left powerful songs such as And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope leaving me underwhelmed (keep in mind this song has double bass kicks that hit 240bpm).
 
ORION9.jpg
 
 
Value & Conclusion:
 
Overall, the only fault I found was the underwhelming experience with my favourite music and genres. That’s not to say the IEMs are bad – this is where the personal preference aspect kicks in – they are great for what they are, and as mentioned were favourable for most of the other listening I did.
 
These IEMs would definitely suit those out there who prefer a more neutral sound signature, controlled low-end, and who aren’t big on heavy metal!
 
Thanks again to ALO, Ken and Mark for the opportunity to take these for a spin!
Deviltooth
Deviltooth
Solid review.  It's good to learn how an earphone responds to the reviewer's favourite genres.

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