Campfire Audio Polaris

Rating:
4.6/5,
  1. faceestrella
    Campfire Audio Polaris Wish Upon The North Star
    Written by faceestrella
    Published Jun 19, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Quality build and materials, Attractive and distinctive design, Wide variety of tips and accessories, Deep sub bass, Good sparkle and air, good details, engaging and coherent tuning
    Cons - Upper bass/lower mids are dipped causing drier lower middle frequency reproduction, Anodized aluminum paint can scratch against itself easily, Fit as always can be hit or miss for some, Treble could use some more crispness
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    Introduction: The amazing people responsible for Campfire Audios highly acclaimed in-ear monitors have continued to be busy at work since their initial entry into the market a couple of years back, along the way they’ve crafted some of the most well-regarded IEMs in their respective classes, from the airy, resolving Andromeda to the visceral and powerful Vega. In their journey of creating various innovations in how to extract the most out of whatever drivers they had to achieve the target sound they were looking to accomplish and not necessarily just jamming as many drivers as they could. What we have here is the Polaris, combining the familiar; the shell that embodied many of their balanced armature designs, the TEAC technology, the 8.5mm PVD beryllium dynamic driver; with the new, a hybrid dynamic driver and balanced armature design, a new aesthetic design with a two-tone color space, a non SPC cable, and what they’re calling a polarity tuned chamber, also in the vein of maximizing the performance of their dynamic driver. So, what can we make of Campfire Audios “middle child” in their line-up, slated at $599? Check it out after the break, and if you want a summary of my thoughts head on straight to the conclusion of the page.

    Disclosure: The Polaris was provided to me by Campfire Audio in exchange for a comprehensive, and honest review.
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    Packaging and Accessories: The Polaris comes in the standard Campfire Audio packaging, a relatively small box, colored blue, decorated with the camping theme and branding with the details and a photo of the model on the outside. Opening the box reveals the Campfire Audio zipper case, and inside the IEMs and the cable are inside. The Polaris comes preinstalled with their marshmallow tips. Removing the case, you will a false bottom revealing the rest of the included accessories. The included accessories are a standard set of black wide bore silicone eartips, a set of Spinfit tips, the remaining marshmallow tips; And then we have a warranty card, a quick start guide, an attractive pin, and an IEM cleaning tool. The zipper case of the Polaris has a pebbled leather outer finish that sports their logo engraved, black zipper with a logo engraving as well, the interior is lined with an almost shearling like fabric to keep the housings free from scuffs or scratches from within; The case is high quality, and seems to be relatively durable, and while the leather outer lining seems on the thin side, the case itself seems to have a lining that that keeps it stiff and hardy. Overall the packaging is simple and not wasteful, and the accessories included are a quality and attractive case, a wide variety of tips to suit almost any need or use case.

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    Build Quality: The Polaris uses the familiar Campfire shells used in their balanced armature models. The aluminum machining is wonderful, with all the bevels, and edges being precise and smooth. The shell utilizes 3-piece construction, the main housing being the textured blue anodized aluminum, with the textured lines only appearing in the upper half portion of the shell, painted in a metallic blue finish that gives a nice reflection when hit by light in various angles. The faceplate section as again anodized aluminum but this being finished in a Cerakote coating that will increase its durability; also located on the faceplate is an intricately machined Campfire logo, a breathing port for the drivers, and 3 torque screws to secure the housing assembly. The last portion is the 3D printed nozzle, constructed out of some variation of a plastic polymer with 2 ports, 1 for each driver and a nice lip to secure ear tips. The MMCX connectors are their usual beryllium MMCX connectors that add more durability. The construction of the Polaris is just wonderful, with expert machining and assembly, free of gaps, glue, or debris along the seams of the housing. If there’s anything to say the anodized finished combined with the angular housing lead it to be prone to chips in the paint, even when it’s in the case tucked away with care.

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    The cable is a 4-core Litz copper affair, with a 3.5mm single ended termination. The plug portion is reinforced plastic with nice strain relief, the Y splitter is made out of black aluminum, and the cinch is constructed out of plastic. The cable itself is “braided” in a twist configuration, and the black plastic sheathing seems soft and pliable. The MMCX connector portion is made out of hard plastic with shrink wrapped ear guides complete with the moldable metal wire. All told the cable is a simple but premium affair, with minimized microphonics and while I personally am not a fan of metal guides, it does do its job, though if it could hold memory better I think that would provide for a better wearing experience.

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    Fit: The fit experience with this will be mostly similar to the other Campfire IEMs with similar housings, where those with a smaller or shallower auricle may have some difficulty wearing them, due to the somewhat unconventional shape, larger housing, and somewhat harder edges. However, the introduction of the new nozzle alleviates some of the older issues and may introduce some new ones. Firstly, because the nozzle is longer this means that the large shape and sharp edges are less likely to cause discomfort for those wearing them as they sit farther away from your ear, however that might also introduce the fact that it will sit more outside the ear vs the Orion, or Andromeda for example. For the most part they fit me seamlessly and should fit most people comfortably if they were able to comfortably fit the other Campfire IEMs. A unique fit to be sure, but one that works well for the most part.

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    Sound: The Polaris was tested across various devices, from the stock output of an Alienware 17 R3, an LG G6 with and without the Hi-Fi Quad DAC, an ifi xDSD, a FiiO Q1 Mk II, and the Hiby R6 with and without an IEMatch as well to be able to test it across various output impedance levels. Listening comparisons were done volume matched to ensure accurate impressions relative to volume. The tuning of the Polaris seems to have taken some influence from the “Japanese” style, meaning there’s a boost in the mids around the point where higher pitched vocals start to enter. This is complemented by good sub bass, an attenuated mid bass, and smooth but well extended treble, the full breakdown of the sound will be found below.

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    Bass: The bass reproduction on the Polaris is a tale of two parts, the first part is the sub bass and lower half of the bass, up until I’d say 200Hz or so. The sub bass extension is quite good; bass drums from “Love” by Lana Del Rey, “Way Down Deep” by Jennifer Warnes, “Down”, and “Deep” by Marian Hill, have a fullness, that while stopping short of authoritative, definitely is a focal point. The texture on the bass drum is nice with the natural timbre you expect from a dynamic driver, every hit can be felt and not just heard. The sub bass decay is moderate, with a little linger that makes it sound “organic”. The rest of the lower bass is also a little elevated, but not to the same degree as the sub bass, the presentation is a little less detailed texture, but still pleasant and it does not linger like the sub bass.

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    The other side of the coin, the mid bass is a little more attenuated as it approaches the mids. This approach gives nice spacing between the bass and the mids avoiding any bloat or overlap, on the other hand this slightly reduces the thickness and forwardness of instruments on the lower pitches as well as really deep vocals. While I wouldn’t consider them thin, they are a little bit drier, especially juxtaposed with the mids (that we will discuss further later). The dynamic between the upper and lower halves of the bass is interesting because the lower half is definitely more prominent and are intentionally not on even footing, this can be exemplified in “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz where the bass guitar overtones looms over the guitar and some of the vocal work that usually is the focus of the songs, especially in the intro. Overall the bass reproduction is boosted but well controlled in relation of the other frequencies, something especially for those looking for the “natural” bass that is more “felt”. I can definitely appreciate the Polarity chamber here.

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    Mids: The mids on the Polaris is another two headed beast, and again with a lower half, and an upper half. The lower half something we slightly touched on earlier, usually reserved for lower spectrum vocals, usually male, and full range instruments is affected the by the recess that bottoms out somewhere between 500Hz and 1kHz. In this lower half range the reproduction have a little less body, and just take a step behind when presented, probably a consequence of taming the bass. This is exemplified in the chorus of “Castle on the Hill” by Ed Sheeran especially with the rolling bass drum line that runs throughout the song, the vocals and guitar just lose a bit of resolution and definition and blends in together a bit more.

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    The upper half on the other hand is just a polar(is) opposite, there seems to be a crescendo towards 2k Hz. “Valerie” by the late, wonderful Amy Winehouse has her voice forward, almost enveloping you, and when she does mini runs during the outro the feeling gets even more enhanced. There’s a sense of “emotion” in the way it reproduces vocals, where getting the grit and texture of the voice is imperative, the Polaris nails this. A great song that really showcases the midrange response is “Hello” or “Turnin’ Tables” by Adele, in the verse she sings slightly lower notes, and when she gets to the chorus the run she makes gradual increases in the note, and the top of those runs there’s some extra “oomph” that brings it a little higher, a little more forward, it helps encapsulate the emotive sense I mentioned before. The instruments in this range follow the same formula, as the pitch increases they get better definition, and fuller rendering, think of it like the Polaris is more an Adele IEM vs a John Mayer IEM, though it still does both well.

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    Treble: The top end of the spectrum for the Polaris is the most straightforward. It is well extended, linear, and free of harsh peaks or sibilance in my testing with cymbal crashes not even close to wince inducing. The TEAC module allows the balanced armature to introduce a moderate amount of air, just enough to “space out” the sound and add a good dose of sparkle that really gets to shine when violins, saxophones, or pianos get some focus. Treble response is clear and open, not sounding or muffled at all, and the detail retrieval in this spectrum is quite good, not exceptional but good. In “Feels So Good” by Chuck Mangione the saxophone delivers notes pleasantly even when it works up the scales, and the solo has good definition even once it gets busy. Daniel Jung’s rendition of “Titanium” sounds nice and resolving and is not shrill, however it reveals that the top end is a little soft and could use some more bite or crispness, evident in drum solos cymbals sounding good, but feel like it needs a little bit extra. Overall the treble reproduction is pleasant, giving a good amount of air and sparkle without being too hot that it could turn some people away or be too fatiguing. While I could personally do with some more sharpness, the overall tone is well defined and lends nicely to the overall signature of the Polaris.

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    Presentation: The emphasis on the sub bass and upper mids, work together in creating a more intimate presentation, somewhere along a Lounge feel, where most of the vocals lightly surround you, lending in a more intimate feel. The staging width wise is not particularly expansive with cymbals and other complementary sounds appearing just outside the ear, however there is nice depth to it, helping to give a sense of good layering, and everything not just being shoved at the same time. Separation for the most part is good, detail retrieval is good as well and except for the lower mid, mid bass section where they can be slightly lost in the mix when busy, there’s good technical proficiency here that you definitely don’t feel you’re sacrificing detail for the fun sound.

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    Conclusion: The Polaris is an intriguing entry, and a specimen that encapsulates things being greater than the sum of its parts. It has elements in the bass and midrange that when viewed in a vacuum would seem to indicate a lack of cohesion, but when you put it all together it paints a beautiful sonic image, that in fact does work hand in hand. Campfire Audio has combined their signature design and build quality, integrated their staple technology, and added upon it some touches we haven’t seen before in their product range, and have a take on their tuning that is emotionally captivating and engaging, while still more than enough resolution to remind you that this a premium IEM. Powerful sub bass that then tapers off in the transition, then full emotive vocals with a slant towards the upper register, and smooth but well extended highs with nice sparkle all of which with a slightly intimate delivery. Something to consider if you’re looking for more “fun” and engaging tuning at this tier, Campfire Audio has another winner with the Polaris and one at $599 is, in my opinion one of the better value propositions to be had. Simply a well rounded IEM that is both immensely enjoyable in sound and exceptional in quality.

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    Originally published at: http://faceaudioreviews.blogspot.com/2018/06/campfire-audio-polaris-review-when-you.html
    1. misteral201103
      Great review - a friend of mine chose these recently while we were out on an auditioning session. I think they sound lovely - actually preferred them to the Andromeda!!
      misteral201103, Jun 26, 2018
  2. Nymphonomaniac
    Deliciously tuned audio dream.
    Written by Nymphonomaniac
    Published Mar 23, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Incredible level of details, immense soundstage, great round bass performance, great imaging, fast PRaT, sturdy and light construction, good cable
    Cons - not for extremely treble sensitive people, blue paint of aluminum shell part can be scratch a little too easily compared to invincible cobalt cerakote part.
    CAMPFIRE AUDIO POLARIS REVIEW :

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    SOUND: 9/10
    CONSTRUCTION: 9/10
    VALUE: 7.5/10


    A friend of mine gently lend me this IEM and I want to thank this secret friend greatly for giving me this opportunity to try high end IEM from a price range that I can’t afford easily. Sure, in the past I own Westone ES2 as well as Grado GS1000e, but since i’m obsess about chifi budget IEM I just never go above 200$ price anymore, but well, perhaps the Campfire Audio will change my mind about this as I don’t consider his 600$ price unjustified, especially in term of sound value.

    Now I want to say DAMN YOU to my friend, cause I really don’t wan’t to send this IEM back to him and go back to my KZ ZS6 copy cat of this incredibly resolved and muscular Polaris. This love story was just an illusion…..unfortunately. To be clear, I never heard any Hybrid IEM that sound that good and can deliver easily an impressive level of details, the Polaris ''just'' have 1 dynamic + 1 balanced armatures drivers but feel like a multi drivers with at least 1 dynamic and 2 balanced, how can it deliver a so wide and well layered soundstage is just a mystery to me. Polaris do black magic for they ears, and i'm bewitched by the talented engineer that achieve this sound tour-de-force!



    SPECS :

    Specifications
    20Hz–20kHz Frequency Response

    97.5 dB SPL/mW Sensitivity

    16.8 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance

    Features
    Beryllium / Copper MMCX Connections

    Machined Aluminum Shell

    Cobalt Cerakote™ Lid

    Anodized Blue Body

    8.5mm Dynamic Driver with Polarity Tuned Chamber™

    Single Balanced Armature High Frequency Driver with Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber™ (T.A.E.C.)



    CONSTRUCTION & COMFORT:
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    Well, the Polaris sure feel solid in hands and ready for hardcore daily use, this isn’t a fragile gold plated jewellery that feel it should be touch with glove like some TOTL IEM that forget about how portable should be an IEM, here Campfire think the housing for durability. Body is made of 2 parts, one use Cerakote coating technology that is know for extreme resistance to shock and scratch, other part is blue anodized alluminium wich even if very beautifull feel more prompt to scratch than Cerakote, so perhaps it would have been better using this anti-scratch coating on all housing but anyway, it still very sturdy, but seing white scratch on blue alluminium of a 600$ IEM is never nice.

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    The included MMCX braided cable is a strange mix of Berylium copper and high purity conductor, don’t exactly know what it mean but the result is great and ultra clear and must of all : free of any microphonic. It look very sturdy and is not prompt to node or unwanted folding.

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    COMFORT :

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    This IEM are big but very light, it have some sharp corner that could be problematic for small ears, and even if very comfortable for me, the housing tend to move and make silicone tips slowly pop up of my ears, so I have a nervous habit to replace it frequently. Ear hook of included cable will solve this little issue , but if you want to use a balanced cable or any other cable that do not have ear hook, well, it could be problematic, but not like the IEM will fall from your ears after 5 minutes….more like after 5 hours if you never touch it and let it slide out. All in all, I find very comfortable the Polaris and did not encounter any fitting issue like it can happen with the Hifiman RE-2000 that is way more heavy and have a less long nozzle. I find silicone tips that can go deep in ears the best secure fit.



    SOUND :
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    When I first heard the Polaris it was instant love and my WOW face was sincere. I was utterly impress by immense dynamic and impactfull sound presentation that have a top notch resolution and could’nt believe how wide and spacious was soundstage, every instrument was placed at right place with a spot light on them and all details was show in a very energic way. As well, al instruments have great texture to them, just enough teeth to give extra excitment to whole sound experience, yes, these Polaris sure is an hyperactive athlete in term of PRaT performance and even if a little peaky in upper highs, its rarely a problem because of a masterfull clarity that never tend to create distortion or sibilance, highs are naturally push but have extra impact, so it will be naturally offensive in music that have lot of sharp highs sound, like experimental electronic, in other hands, instrument like harpsichord will have more brillance and decay and sound sublime because of the extra treble in highs region.


    SOUNDSTAGE :

    This is just so immensely wide and deep that you feel you can listen 10 times the same tracks and always crave for new sound discoveries. The 3D panoramic feel is incredible and have a sharp sens of imaging that feel ultra sparkly and must of all exciting. Wow effet is immediate with the Polaris, you enter this universe like in another 4th dimension, and the musicality is festive in a wide hall were you stay in the center, not far away, you live with the musicians.



    PRaT :

    Another highly resolve and fast presentation, where impact are always at right place and decay properly, it have a muscular authoritative pace with vivid timing. It can be heard pretty well with percussion and cymbals impact and decay, wich is tigh but realist and have excellent impact feel.


    BASS is where you get your first joyfull punch in the face from the Polaris, even if more bumped in mid bass region, the sub rumble too. Kick are very thick and lively, with heavy weigth and impact, overall bass is round and little bright because of exquisite texture. I feel they use a V shaped dynamic driver with a mid centric Balanced armature, because the mids aren’t drown at all with all this bass and the overall soundsignature don’t feel boomy, sure bassy, but in a resolved and fast way. Lows are superb, and extremely well separated from other instrument, we could think its a 3 or 4 hybrid drivers but it’s a Dual one, wich make it even more impressive. This is not a slow bass presentation, as it’s tigh and fast, the buttom low end feel transparent compared to mid bass, wich give a very dynamic presentation that permit to keep excellent separation as well as more air in soundstage.


    MIDS aren’t recessed, they feel less thick than bass and highs, but have a fowards and bright presentation with lot of texture and details, they are as well very wide but not super transparent, wich is n’t really a problem because of immense soundstage that have lot of space for instrument separation. I wasn’t thinking to enjoy this much the vocal with this IEM but even if sometime a little sharp, they rarely make any sibilance, it really need to be a particularly shrill signer, here, even Bjork do not create sibilance and listening to psychadelic Bjork music is an utterly rewarding audio experience that must be heard to be believe. Violin sound energic and fowards, wathever the number that will play togheter you will be able to enjoy all of them separately, they feel light, agile and lively even if not extremely weighty. This kind of mids is very versatile and can perform like a champion with classical as well as electronic or signers. I would not suggest this type of soundsignature for somebody that just listen to solo signers tough, cause were not in warm mid centric territory here and it will feel like just using 1 pourcent of Polaris potential.


    HIGHS
    are so detailed that even bats will be impress by this level of resolution. No, but seriously, these are very revealing IEM, they do not feel clinical cause of great musicality of whole sound presentation and they can extract lot of microdetails without intense harshness. Sure, they are fowards, but not to the point of feeling out of place, as the layering and transient response is very well articulate, extra treble give the right push to sharpness to highs so it feel very sparkly and rarely too trebly. If you are a very serious treble sensitive being, perhaps this will feel not enough laid back, but I know that to trebly IEM aren’t my cup of tea and the Campfire Polaris never feel one of them. What you win with this great clarity and extended highs is ultra resolving is being able to hear every nuance of percussion or details of classical guitar that are full of brilliance and never fail to fascinate the ears, as well, with electronic music, especially complex IDM or Ambient, level of details you will hear will simply blow your mind and change you sound perception about IEM potential for out of the head imaging.



    COMPARAISONS :

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    VS HIFIMAN RE-2000 :

    Polarised comparaison between this 2, where one sound smooth, warm and analog and the other, the Polaris, is sharper, clearer and more in an HD musical quest.


    BASS :

    One will think Polaris is more U shaped and bassy as a Dual hybrid, but RE2000 is far from lacking in the low region as well with its chunky weighty bass, so here its really in type of bass rendering where the Polaris give a tigher-brighter lower response with more spot on emphasis and perhaps better extension, RE2000 in other hand give plenty of body but in a warmer way that keep good texture but feel more a part of whole music. Polaris bass is extremely punchy and well separated that move air in a big panoramic soundstage and RE2000 feel more chunky especially in mid lows and mix with the vocal to give some warmth where the Polaris bass keep still in its well definate soundspectrum with more transparency than textured RE2000 low.

    VOCAL :
    Polaris have a very pleasant analytical sound that do not feel cold, but sure is peakier than the smoothly resolved RE2000, and if I was just talking about vocal performance, RE2000 will be the winner even if Polaris vocal are far from sounding displeasant with there wide airy presentation that give realism and decay to signers, anyway, they feel less intimate and fully present than the vocal of RE2000. But if instrument separation is better with the Polaris, it mean some instruments will sound more accurate with them and that’s were I feel RE2000 loose by some margin : 3D rendering is just head and shoulder above with the Polaris. As the mids of RE2000 are thicker too, they will tend to mix and loose attack, but never they will sound too sharp as it can happen with Polaris especially in upper mids, so I will prefer the RE2000 for folk or jazz signers but for classical and electronic the Polaris will sound more exciting and immersive.

    HIGHS :
    If your obsess with details rendering, the Polaris at 600$ sure is a better bet than the 2000$ hifiman, but it do not mean treble of RE2000 is bad, and this is where Topology drivers can do miracle : its like ‘’literary audio’’, I see this technology as being able to extract its own langage from an audio membrane by changing it’s basic sound curve to something more articulate in treble region, being able to push it in some specific region so details and textures of bass, mids and highs can be hear in a more musical and resolved way that will never feel too fowards and forced. Sure, Polaris dig more details, but to the cost of creating some hearing damage at high volume, because of this i tend to listen them at lower volume compared to the lush RE2000. It mean too that yes, layering is better with Polaris, as well as soundstage deepness and this make it a more revealing sound experience that create immediate wow effect where the RE2000 create an addiction with a more romantic, musical and analog sound presentation. Here it’s like a bassy version of AKG 701 vs a Sennheiser HD600, it really depend what type of soundsignature you prefer but for me the Campfire Polaris offer a more impressive and majestuously detailed soundrendering and entertain my ears more than the Hifiman RE2000.

    CONSTRUCTION:
    To be honnest, both IEM are in some way a little to big and heavy and tend to fall from my ears if earhook isn’t well in place, but i’m less afraid of breaking the cable of Polaris than fragile looking one of RE2000 and this aspect is kind of a non sens at the 2000$ price tag. RE2000 are about 2 times heavier as well and nozzle is less long than the Polaris wich make it more prompt to discomfort. Both housing feel sturdy and of high quality, but the Polaris paint can be scratch quite easily, cannot say with the RE2000, but i’m afraid the H letter paint on the housing can be scratch, will not make a scratching test to know tough. Another potential drawback to note will be for exposed MMCX connection of Campfire Polaris where perhaps a drop of water (or sweating) will have dramatic effect, RE2000 2pin connection do not have this issue and is seal perfecly (just sad that the cable connection is so THIN).



    VS HIFIMAN RE-800 :

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    SOUNDSTAGE :
    Polaris have a wider, taller and deeper soundstage with more air between instrument. In comparaison, the RE-800 feel restraint and too intimate, even a little congested and too fowards.

    BASS :
    Polaris have a rounder, thicker and more impactfull bass that go deeper and RE-800 feel warm and punchy with a low roll off that cancel sub presence. I really feel the RE-800 bass is weak and sometime it can’t deal with too complex music because of a slow bass presentation that lack impact and thickness.

    MIDS :
    Polaris mids are little brighter but way wider and have more presence and texture wich make them more enjoyable than the warm Re-800 mids, level of details and layering is way better with Polaris too, making them sound like another league even if they cost 100$ less than overpriced RE-800. Even if mid centric, the RE800 lack the good imaging to make


    HIGHS :
    Another time it’s just not comparable, with the RE-800 we do not get lot of microdetails and highs lack sparkle and brillance. The Polaris feel more realistic and the way greater instrument separations make the highs more lively and with better PRaT. The treble feel cleaner and more linear where the RE-800 feel colored and warmer. Level of details is way higher with Polaris and more energic, compared to it, the RE-800 feel fowards and boring, in the sens it lack clarity and air, its like the RE-800 was on-ear closed back headphones and Polaris full size over-ear open headphones.

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    VS KZ ZS6 :

    This is a little ironic to compare the 40$ chifi earphones that stole the Campfire design, but hey, the ZS6 have 1dynamic+3 balanced armature drivers, it should be able to compete with a 600$ hybrid IEM right? Well, yes and no. In term of construction ZS6 isn’t bad but in term of sound its just a mess compared to the Polaris.

    ZS6 have a more congested soundstage, is very prompt to shrilling, have way badder layering and just feel extremely clumsy compared to precise Polaris. It lack air between instrument, bass feel slobby and dry, mids are just an agression and overall foward and agressive sound is spit at you compared to the energic signing of Campfire Polaris.

    Once you heard the realism of sound rendering of Polaris, its just impossible to return to ackward ZS6.

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    CONCLUSION :

    This is how a TOTL IEM should sound and cost, wich mean the Polaris aren't neither overpriced or a bargain, they are just priced right so the serious audiophile can invest in a End-Game IEM that will follow them for long. As the construction look and feel sturdy, I think this is a good investment for audiophile that want a dynamic and very detailed sounding IEM that do not lack bass punch and deliver a muscular and always impressive sound. Yeah, perhaps they aren't reference or monitor IEM because of a little coloration in bass and highs, but its deliciously tweaked in a way it feel as natural as a full hifi analytical soundsystem that have a subwoofer connected to it. The soundstage you get is phenomenal as well, and impossible to find in sub-100$ IEM so, sometime it's wise to invest in something more expensive, so if you can find a shop where it's possible to test the Polaris before buying, give it a try, i'm pretty sure you will not be indifferent to its spectacular performance.

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      seanwee and B9Scrambler like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Nymphonomaniac
      Thanks. Well, IMO, you know my advice would be the POLARIS big time. And that, especially reading the type of soundsignature you search. Instrument separation is razor sharp with Polaris, not so much with RE800 that have a more ''analogish'' presentation. I'm kinda harsh with the RE800, but I think its in a objective way, even if well, my ears are different from B9!
      Nymphonomaniac, Mar 29, 2018
    3. Nymphonomaniac
      OH, but don't forget that Polaris have lot of (good) bass as well, I would suggest the RE800 over the Polaris for rock and indie perhaps....anyway, I feel that yes transient is way faster with Polaris....not sure about what mean ''crunch''?
      Nymphonomaniac, Mar 29, 2018
    4. seanwee
      Crunch as in the impact, its the opposite of smooth. A very articulate sound that hits fast and has a crispy leading edge
      seanwee, Mar 29, 2018
  3. B9Scrambler
    Campfire Audio Polaris: V for Victory
    Written by B9Scrambler
    Published Nov 20, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Rock solid build - Detailed, v-shaped signature - Coherence
    Cons - Amnesic memory wire - Dry, recessed lower mid
    Greetings!

    Today we're checking out Campfire Audio's newest hybrid earphone, the Polaris.

    Campfire Audio 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. While the Polaris is my introduction to the Campfire Audio brand, it's one I've been watching closely since they released their first earphones, the Jupiter, Orion, and Lyra in mid-2015.

    What caught my eye, literally, 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 valued design and build nearly as much as sound quality, and they certainly nailed the visual appeal.

    The Polaris is Campfire Audio's newest earphone and features a hybrid design with some interesting features. T.A.E.C. stands for 'Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber' and is a technology unique to Campfire Audio, also featured in their flagship Andromeda. The balanced armature driver is enclosed in a 3D printed chamber which tunes it's sound without the suppression inherent in a filtered design and permits improved extension. This is coupled with the dynamic driver's new 'Polarity Tuned Chamber' in which the driver is encased in a 3D printed casement. Tuned chambers are located in front and behind the driver giving it "an effortless power that must be heard to be believed." (Source)

    Other notable features are the application of Cerakote to the outer face plate (or lid). Cerakote is a very durable polymer-ceramic material with high resistance to physical abrasion, chemical corrosion, and impacts. This makes it an excellent material to apply to a portable product that will be subject to damage from sweat, dropping, and other events you might come across in daily life. Backing that up is a durable CNC machined aluminum housing with what I think is a brilliant blue finish. Also adding to this perceived durability is an upgraded MMCX connector that utilizes Beryllium Copper materials instead of brass as found on many other products. MMCX connectors in my experience are notoriously unreliable so this focus on increased durability of this common connector is appreciated.

    The Polaris is full of technology and is designed to be durable. Ringing in at 599.00 USD, it's not an inexpensive product and for many could potentially be thought of as end-game material. It's been my daily driver since arriving on September 11th, 2017 and has shown itself to be a fantastic product. Why? Let's find out.

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    Disclaimer:

    I would like to thank Caleb and Hannah at Campfire Audio for arranging a complimentary review sample. There was no financial incentive provided and the Polaris is still considered the property of Campfire Audio. All thoughts within are my own and do not represent Campfire Audio, ALO Audio, or any other entity. At this time it was retailing for 599.00 USD and could be found here on Campfire Audio's main site; https://campfireaudio.com/shop/polaris/

    Source:

    For at home use the Polaris was powered by a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp or straight out of my Asus FX53V laptop. For portable use it was paired with an LG G5, HiFi E.T. MA8, Walnut V2s or Shanling M1, all of which brought it up to listening volume without any effort. I also occasionally ran it through a Walnut F1 portable amp.

    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, MacaW GT600s, and thinksound On2 offer examples of signatures I enjoy.

    Specifications:

    Frequency Response - 20Hz–20kHz

    Sensitivity - 97.5 dB SPL/mW

    Impedance - 16.8 Ohms @ 1 kHz

    Packaging and Accessories:

    The artwork on the Polaris' packaging is stunning in it's simplicity, and entirely coherent with the brands celestial naming scheme. The front of the small, blue cardboard box is adorned with a sticked announcing the Polaris is contained within. The background is a swirling mass that looks like it was inspired by a viscous oil and water mixture. The rear has a beautiful hand drawn scene of a mountain with trees at it's base and constellations above with Campfire Audio placed dead centre in a somewhat faded text. It's all very simple in execution, but the artistry is engaging to say the least. Oh, and when you flip the lid and look on the inner flap you see "Nicely Done". Couldn't have said it better myself.

    The inside is dominated by Campfire Audio's spacious and durable leather carrying case which as expected already contains the Polaris. The zipper is thick and durable and the inside lined with what looks to be wool. Unlike most clamshell cases, there are two collapsible inner walls that hold the Polaris securely in place when zipped shut. This is one of, if not the nicest compact carrying case I've come across yet. Underneath the case beneath a false floor rests the accessories, a manual, and a card for the Polaris' limited one year warranty.

    The included accessories include some standard items, like various tips, and some not so standard items, like a Campfire Audio pin which I thought was pretty neat. It's not a cheap feeling pin either, with the CA logo properly raised and enameled. In all you are provided;

    • Polaris earphones
    • Litz copper cable
    • SPINFIT tips (xs/s/m/l)
    • Campfire's own foam tips (s/m/l)
    • Wide bore silicone tips (s/m/l)
    • Cleaning tool
    • CA branded Lapel pin
    The accessories included are plentiful and of high quality, and the unique artwork very pleasing to the eye. This unboxing experience strikes a nice balance between something very basic like thinksound's MS03+mic and something more extravagant such as the unboxing experience for the FLC 8S.

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    Build, Comfort, and Isolation:

    Campfire Audio's reputation for durable, well-built products is undeniably warranted if the Polaris is any indication. This thing is an absolute tank; the proverbial T29 of the earphone world. As noted earlier, the outer lid/face plate is coated in Cerakote for extra durability, while the rest of the housing is blue anodized aluminum. The MMCX connectors utilize Beryllium Copper instead of brass for increased longevity.

    The cable is very well built too. The winding of the four strands is tight and uniform leading up to the y-split, and breaking into a slightly looser wind beyond. The compact 90 degree angled jack feels durable and should be thin enough to fit most media player and cell phone cases. The y-split lacks strain relief, and while welcome the chin cinch is very tight and difficult to move. If there are any weak points on the Polaris's cable, the y-split and cinch will be them.

    While I can live with those minor niggles, the memory wire is another story. I'm pretty sure it has amnesia. You can bend it into place, get yourself settled in with the Polaris, and a few minutes later the bend is gone and the wire has returned to it's original shape; a loose U. This is the type of memory wire that ruins a cable, regardless of how good it is, and is the same problem I had with the original cable on the FLC 8S before they removed the wire entirely. I would love to see Campfire Audio revise this cable with proper memory wire, a pre-formed ear guide, or just remove it entirely and leave the cable bare. Any one of those options would be an improvement over the current setup.

    Despite the large and angular housings, I found the Polaris quite pleasant to wear and exceptionally stable. The 3D printed plastic nozzles are long with a prominent though very smooth and unexpectedly effective lip that permits compatibility with a wide variety of tip sizes and styles, something that's conveniently included in the package. The length of the nozzle kept the housings from nestling in too close to my outer ear so I didn't have to worry about hot spots caused by the inner edges of the housing. They're pretty light too which also helps.

    Isolation is below average with improvements found from use of the included foams tips. Even so, the Polaris is adequate for use in noisy areas you just need to up the volume somewhat to compensate. On the plus side, for those worried about safety when traveling with earphones in, the Polaris' isolation levels should be considered a positive as you can somewhat clearly hear your surroundings. While I do listen quietly, I did notice when upping the volume that the vent on the rear face plate bleeds some sound into your environment. It's also affected greatly by wind, funneling a noise that sounds like someone blowing into a microphone into your ear.

    Overall the Polaris is put together with great attention to detail, showing offer a very tight fit and finish. Disregarding the annoying memory wire, this earphone is ergonomically sound and works well over long listening sessions. Isolation is good enough, just be wary of wind noise and sound bleeding out into your environment.

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    Sound:

    Tips: Preferred tips for the Polaris came down less to sound changes than to fit and comfort. Moving from wide bore tips like the stock silicones or something from JVC, to a smaller bore options like the Spinfits or Sony hybrids, didn't seem to have a huge affect on the sound. Wide bore tips seemed to balance out the mids and bass somewhat, whereas the small bore tips dialed in more low end emphasis. These differences were minimal at best though. My listening was divided evenly between the stock wide bores, Sony hybrids, and Spinfits, all in medium.

    As you move up the rung from budget to high end products, neutrality or the next closest thing seems to be what everyone hunts for. Things get serious. Big bass is frowned upon and you're made to feel guilty if you enjoy it, and v-shaped signatures are indicative of a poorly tuned product not worthy of the price. Still, say that's what you want along with those other qualities that make a premium product worthy of the title. That's where something like the Polaris comes in. This isn't a neutral earphone. The Polaris takes your average "consumer friendly" tune and imbues it with the level of technical proficiency you want from a top tier earphone.

    Starting with treble, the Polaris is direct and precise without any hint of splashiness or lack of control. There is just a touch of sparkle and shimmer to cymbals which attack with authority as evident on Skindred's "State of Emergency". The Polaris' upper ranges are also quite airy and spacious giving it a very open feeling, especially effective with rock and metal. Extension is good too, though it seems to roll off

    The Polaris' mid-range starts of with a dip in the lower regions and raises as you head into the upper mids. This gives female vocals more presence and makes this earphone an absolute baller with most of the vocal drum and bass tracks I listen too. Female vocals sound simply magical through the Polaris. Despite coming across a touch dry, male vocals can still empower you with feeling, such as on Daft Punk's "Touch" where Paul William's emotional performance is not lost. This mid-range is still recessed though, so at times I found the hefty low end to overshadow quieter vocals, such as those on Dimension's "Dark Lights".

    Bass is an area where the Polaris really excels. It's 8.5mm dynamic drivers are exceptionally quick and impactful with awesome sub-bass presence making them a delight with electronic genres. Mid-bass has the kick needed to make rock tracks like Soil's "Loaded Gun" as aggressive as it's supposed to be, and there is no shortage of visceral rumble present for those long, drawn out liquid drum and bass basslines. It's a very dynamic low end that despite being boosted, is not ever present. If the track is lacking low end, the Polaris reflects it. It's very well textured too, able to pull out some grungy notes.

    In terms of soundstage I found the Polaris did better with width than depth and in general lacked a little in forward/backward movement. Still, the airy treble and excellent separation results in an earphone that feels large and open. Imaging is quite precise too making it easy to accurately track sounds crossing from channel to channel, and delineate between instruments in a congested track.

    Overall I found the Polaris to be a very coherent and proficient v-shaped earphone with outstanding detail retrieval and an open sound stage. Treble is prominent and well extended, bass deep and powerful, and mids recessed in the lower regions but still clear and engaging.

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    Select Comparisons:

    (Volumes matched as best I could using Dayton Audio’s iMM-6 calibrated mic with Audio Tool for Android.)

    FLC 8S: The 8S is a very versatile 2+1 hybrid with 36 tuning combinations. Given it can cover a wide variety of signatures vs. the Polaris' one, I compared it in Green/Red/Grey configuration for maximum v-ness. Even in this configuration, the FLC 8S is slightly brighter, has a more forward mid-range, and less bass presence.

    In the 8S' favor is it's sound stage. The Polaris sounds large and open, but it lacks a little in terms of dynamic movement. The 8S has a much more rounded sound stage and outside of the B400 from Brainwavz, comes the closest to achieving "3D" movement. I also find the 8S more tonally accurate in that it lacks that low mid-range dryness that plagues the Polaris.

    In Campfire's....camp...is detail retrieval. The Polaris highlights minute details quite well and as a result is more revealing than the 8S. I also find it's bass extends much deeper and provides a more visceral feel, something I find mostly absent on FLC's hybrid.

    Fidue Virgo A85: The A85 is Fidue's newest hybrid and in my opinion makes for a smooth, lush listen.

    In the A85's favor is it's more forward mid-range which makes good on Fidue's promise of realistic vocals. They're forward, detailed, and naturally toned for both males and females, whereas the Polaris is at it's best with female vocals. I also found it to have a more well-rounded soundstage with a better balance of width and depth, though I don't find it to be quite as spacious as the Polaris'.

    The Polaris on the other hand sounds more accurate and direct. It's treble has more detail. It's low end is punchier and better textures with a more realistic mid-/sub-bass balance. To my ears the A85 has too much of a mid-bass hump that combined with a slower attack and less detail makes it a touch bloated vs. the Polaris.

    HiFiMan RE800: The RE800 is a single dynamic and like the Polaris uses some interesting tech; a topology diaphragm which applies material coatings in specific geometric shapes that tune the resultant sound. It was criticized for having an uncomfortable 7k treble spike, which I personally had no issues with. Against the RHA Cl1 Ceramic the RE800 was positively tame in the treble region. How does it fare vs. the Polaris?

    Things take a bit of a turn here with the RE800 taking the detail and clarity crown. The Polaris is great in these qualities, no doubt, but the RE800 is a focused step up. I also found the RE800 more natural, especially in the mid-range where the Polaris' dryness was already quite present. The RE800 also serves to match the Polaris' openness and width of soundstage, but brings in much better spacial movement in other directions.

    The Polaris' low end I found much more engaging, however. Not only did it dig deeper and hit harder, it in general provided a more engaging and entertaining experience. The Polaris' texturing was also more prominent and forward. Volume matched to 60dB the RE800's treble spike was very noticeable resulting in little else being heard. Whereas the Polaris at 60dB was much more well-rounded with only the mid-range coming across a little on the quiet side. I still consider the RE800 an unbeatable companion for low volume listening in the quiet and private or my home, but the Polaris and it's more even presentation makes it a much better daily driver.

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    Final Thoughts:

    The Polaris is a thoroughly enjoyable product and if you're a fan of bassy, vibrant earphones you should enjoy this one. Initial impressions are positive as a result of the artistic packaging and high quality accessories. In hand the high quality build is truly impressive and while entirely subjective, I love the blue on grey color scheme resulting from the Cerakote lid and anodized aluminum backing. The powerful v-shaped signature and overall presentation is engaging too, even if it wasn't necessarily to my taste with all genres.

    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)

    Skindred – Roots Rock Riot (Album)

    Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bonet) (Album)

    Michael Jackson – Thriller (Album)

    Soil – Whole (Album)

    Dimension – Dark Lights (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)
    1. Jerda
      Hi scrambler, can I ask a comparisation with the b400? :)
      Jerda, Apr 27, 2018
  4. maciux
    Guiding star
    Written by maciux
    Published Oct 8, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - rich set of accessories
    splendid workmanship and design
    high isolation when using foam tips
    perform well with a DAP or a smartphone (but the IEMs scale with the gear)
    fun signature in high quality, with deep bass, clear mids, extended highs, wide, airy soundstage with 3D instruments
    universal tuning (even though the midrange is not a priority)
    Cons - fall in upper bass/lower midrange, which results in reduction of male vocals and some instruments
    single-flange tips of average quality
    angular shells can be uncomfortable for auricles
    Polaris – that’s the name of Campfire Audio’s newest IEMs priced at 599 USD. How do these hybrids (dynamic+BA drivers with dedicated sound chambers) perform?

    Polaris are the second hybrid IEMs in Campfire Audio’s portfolio, but first featuring dedicated sound chamber for a dynamic driver. Angular shells made from anodized CNCed aluminum are already well-known, but these babies come with innovative faceplates with Cerakote coating too. Polaris is the second cheapest model (after Orion) in the company’s lineup, but it’s about to offer engaging tuning with clear highs.

    Accessories
    No surprises in this aspect – the accessory set is rich and includes:

    ● protective case
    ● MMCX to ⅛ jack cable
    ● two velcro bands
    ● set of single-flange tips (S, M, L sizes)
    ● set of thermoactive tips (S, M, L)
    ● set of SpinFit tips (XS, S, M, L)
    ● cleaning tool
    ● shirt clip
    ● manual
    ● warranty card

    This time the protective case is made of faux leather. Its inner part is filled with shearling sheepskin imitation. The included cable is a copper-one (Litz geometry), braided, with black isolation. MMCX sockets are beryllium-covered to improve their durability. Single-flange tips are just average – similar ones can be found in many cheap IEMs. Foam tips look similar to T-series from Comply, but are also different from the foams added to Campfire Audio Andromeda. There’s also a set of SpinFit tips (moving ones) included.

    Construction
    At first glance, Polaris look as if they are more expensive than Andromeda. Lower price can be guessed when looking at the cable, which lacks transparent isolation and is not silver-plated. It still looks and works fine, though.

    Polaris consist of three parts: black nozzles are glossy, blue anodized aluminum shells shine in an effective way and faceplates with Cerakote-coating attract one’s eyes with their grainy texture. Such a finish is known for its durability and, because of that, it’s used in space or armaments industries. For me, the overall looks is great – the combination of colors is extraordinary and no bad words can be said regarding build quality too.

    Shells are deeply angular. Nozzles are dual-bore (one per each driver). Inside the shell, there are two 3D-printed chambers – the well known TEAC (Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber) for the BA driver and PTC (Polarity Tuned Chamber) which supports the dynamic speaker.

    Gold-plated MMCX connectors are located at the top of the shell. They got letter (L and R) and dot (blue and red) indications. Braided cable features elastic ear hooks. Splitter is metal and equipped with a slider. The jack plug is gold-plated and angled.

    Ergonomics
    In practice angular Polaris work worse than oval, tear-shaped IEMs produced by e.g. Noble Audio, Heir Audio or Westone. An user needs to adapt, but it’s easy to get accustomed to it after a while.

    First contact might cause discomfort – the IEMs are quite heavy, metal and, therefore, cold. Nozzles are appropriately shaped and the silicone and foam eartips hold safely. Level of isolation highly depends on the eartips choice – it’s best with foams and worst with single-flange tips. Spin Fit tips are elastic, but their flanges are narrow and, because of that, the application depth is crucial. I needed to put them more shallow than foam or single-flange tips and the level of isolation was inferior.

    Cable works great! I enjoy such braided cords because they are light and elastic. Earhooks might be shaped to one’s needs and the given form is remembered. In case of Polaris, microphonics is not an issue. Angled jack plug is quite bulky, but special narrowing makes it compatible with devices put in additional cases.

    Specs
    ● Balanced Armature driver + Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber and 8.5 mm dynamic driver + Polarity Tuned Chamber
    ● made of anodized CNCed aluminum ; Cerakote-coating faceplates
    ● frequency range: 5 Hz - 27 kHz
    ● sensitivity: 107 dB/mW
    ● impedance: 15 Ω
    ● Litz Copper Cable, beryllium-plated MMCX sockets

    Sound
    IEMs/Cans: Campfire Audio Andromeda, Noble Audio Savant i Noble 4, Etymotic ER-4PT, RHA CL750, Brainwavz B200, FiiO F5
    DAC/AMP and AMPs: Burson Conductor Virtuoso (Sabre), RHA DACAMP L1, AIM SC808, ODAC i O2, Leckerton UHA-760, Zorloo ZuperDAC
    DAPs: iBasso DX200, FiiO X5 III, iBasso DX90, OnePlus 5
    Interconnects: Forza AudioWorks Copper Series, Klotz
    Music: various genres and realizations, including 24-bit and binaural tracks

    I mainly used thermoactive foams, which, in my opinion, work best with the IEMs, but silicone tips also offer proper signature.

    Polaris sound like a hybrid IEMs, but the soft low-end perfectly combines with the stronger mid- and high tones. Unlike Andromeda, Jupiter or Orion, the IEMs in focus don’t concentrate as much on the midrange. Both edges are accented, but it wouldn’t be fair to call Polaris V-shaped. If someone insists on such an expression, though, then Polaris is mild V-shaped earphone, which doesn’t lack resolution, clarity and details. The bass isn’t overwhelming and music genres choice isn’t limited. Overall, the tonality of the IEMs is very clear and direct. It’s fun, but served in a pretty analytical way.

    Bass needs a short warm-up. At first, its response is evidently emphasized, but then it weakens. Low tones amounts are not extreme – they are a bit accented, but without exaggeration. Subbass and midbass are more powerful, but aren’t dominating and don’t bleed into other ranges. Low tones are typical for a dynamic driver: massive and soft. Bass isn’t hard or raw, which is characteristic for Balanced Armature speakers. The signature is more fun, very dynamic and well-controlled. It works well with both digital samples or live instruments – a double bass won’t become a subwoofer. The amount of details is also high and the texture of instruments is clearly differentiated.

    Although midrange is not a priority, it’s still impressive: clear, transparent, studio-like. This frequency range isn’t too warm or too cold and it isn’t too dark or too sharp either. Polaris indeed offers crystal-clear tuning. The sound is fresh and direct, without any distance – everything stays forward. At the same time, the tuning isn’t very natural – Andromeda or Jupiter offer stronger midrange, more vivid sound. In case of Polaris one can hear some declines in upper bass and lower midrange, especially when it comes to male voices. The latter remain close, but become more flat. The same can be said about the tones of low guitar strings or a piano. Modern electro music benefits from such a tuning, but, luckily, jazz, blues or various rock sound good as well. Sound source is, however, also of high importance.

    Transition between mid and high tones is smooth (more than in case of bass and lower midrange). The highs are strong and bright, of no lower priority than the lows. Top range is extended and enhanced, but the sibilance is not present. High tones make the sound very clear – Polaris won’t suit a basshead or a treblehead, but someone who values both great lows and extended highs. Trebles are also well-controlled, clear and precise – separate hits of the percussion can be distinguished. Highs don’t merge and blur, don’t hiss or rustle. Bows, clarinets, wind or keyboard instruments are not subdued and female voices also climb high, while samples level of ‘digitiality’ is appropriate.

    Holographics also need to be appreciated. The soundstage is wide, with clearly distinguishable stereophony – the sound is clearly splitted between the two channels. Depth is also fine – individual sounds are put in front or around listener’s shoulders. There’s also a lot of air, so instruments are clearly separated, with a lot of distance between them.

    Campfire Audio Polaris vs Andromeda vs other IEMs
    A clash between hybrid, dual-driver Polaris vs 5xBA Andromeda is not as self-evident as it might seem. In technical terms, Andromeda performs better with fuller and closer midrange, more complete, natural and balanced signature. They provide great bass as well as close and vivid midrange plus extended highs. Their sound is more technical and more audiophile-like. On the contrary, Polaris offers quite special, original tuning – a combination of dynamic lows with armature-like highs works perfect! The bass is juicy, with rumbling subbass. I love Andromeda and I can say the same about Polaris – the choice depends on certain conditions. Andromeda is much more expensive, but at the same time more universal – it will perform well in new or old, soft and hard music. If, however, someone is looking for a more energetic tuning with powerful lows, then Polaris is a better choice.

    At this moment, other comparisons should be more or less obvious. Etymotic ER-4PT/ER-4S offer much more forward and more even midrange, thinner bass, more analytical and less airy signature. The same might be said about Noble Audio 4 and Noble Audio Savant, which provide closer midrange, but lack some bass and the provided sound is not as ‘fun’. Campfire Audio Jupiter prioritize the midrange and the edges, when compared to Polaris, are not so extended. RHA CL750, on the other hand, offer similar clarity, space and soft bass, but Polaris feature softer mids and more accented lows.

    Campfire Audio Polaris vs sources
    Polaris pairs well with both smartphones and expensive DAPs. It scales with the gear and is sensitive to its signature. Neutral and more bass-heavy sources will work fine – low tones of Polaris aren’t extremely strong, so pushing them up isn’t harmful. I would, however, pay attention to sharp and bright sources as further accented highs could be fatiguing or cause lower midrange recession.

    Leckerton UHA760 worked great with Campfire Audio IEMs using Balanced Armature drivers, but it’s performing a bit worse with hybrids -– the sound is at times too thin. Lighter, more mid-forward music turns out better and the bass in new electro music is not as strong. RHA DACAMP L1 is a better choice for goa trance, psychodelic trance or drum’n’bass - the bass rumble was stronger plus more massive and the highs weren’t harsh at all.

    There were no surprises regarding cooperation with various DAPs. Massive lows in iBasso DX200 led to improvement of dynamics and speed while mid- and high tones remained non-fatiguing. Resolution and soundstage were impressive too. FiiO X5 III’s lows weren’t disappointing either, but mids and highs have become smoother and softer. Overall tuning has become more pleasant, but with smaller soundstage. In case of FiiO DAP the hiss between tracks was more audible, but not very intense. On the contrary, iBasso DX90 offered clearer signal with stronger midrange, accented lows and non-exaggerated highs. Polaris+OnePlus 5 tandem also worked fine, but the sound was thinner than in case of DAPs offering reduced subbas and a bit brighter tuning.

    Campfire Audio Polaris + silver-plated Litz cable
    Stock cable doesn’t limit Polaris’s capabilities, but the IEMs also work well with the silver-plated cable that’s added to Campfire Audio Andromeda. The sound doesn’t alter much – subbass seems yet deeper and more massive. Bass and midrange are not as soft, which can make the sound less pleasant. High tones response is improved, as if the Balanced Armature driver received a bigger share.

    Verdict
    Campfire Audio Polaris successfully combine two types of drivers. If someone enjoys fun tuning, the effect is sensational. Polaris is also a great choice for music lovers who lack bass in pure-BA IEMs. Campfire Audio’s IEMs seem to link the opposites – the sound simultaneously delights with its edges (deep bass and strong highs) as well as with clear mids. I find mid tones to be of lower priority and there are some shortcomings in the lower midrange, which show in male vocals. Paradoxically, this issue doesn’t limit the choice of genres – vocals remain direct and clear, but their character gets a bit different.

    Polaris are not cheap, but are almost twice cheaper than Andromeda. In technical terms, their sound is impressive and the same can be said about their looks. I would choose Polaris instead of Jupiter and I would also consider spending more money on Polaris rather than choosing Etymotic ER4XR. In the last case, the decision will depend on one’s demand on midrange (ER4XR) and bass (Polaris).

    maciux - Maciej Sas

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      smaragd, all999 and Ziadax like this.
  5. ryanjsoo
    Campfire Polaris Review – Creature of Coherence
    Written by ryanjsoo
    Published Sep 22, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Fabulous build quality, Great cable, Excellent clarity, Full bass with outstanding quality, Very well detailed
    Cons - Slightly dry lower midrange, Smoothed off upper treble, Wind noise, Driver flex
    Introduction –

    I’ve been following Campfire Audio since the beginning and like so many others, I’ve grown very fond of their designs and tuning. However, there is a stigma in this hobby where people tend to gravitate towards the extremities of a product line, focussing on either the affordable Orion or the exquisite but cost prohibitive Andromeda. And while these models have received no shortage of acclaim, Campfire’s midrange offerings are far less popular, there is barely a mention of the Nova and even the Jupiter only receives the occasional nod every now and then. The dual hybrid driver Polaris thus serves as a pertinent statement, replacing the Nova as Campfire’s midrange in-ear. With an RRP of $599 USD, Ken designed the Polaris to be the most accessible earphone with the highest price/performance ratio in his entire line-up. Furthermore, the earphones feature Campfire’s signature build quality and excellent Litz cable, their fun sound signature a progression of everything Campfire has learnt over past years. Featuring the tried and tested T.A.E.C combined with a cutting edge dynamic driver chamber, let’s see how Campfire’s latest earphone performs!



    Disclaimer –

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



    Accessories –

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    The Polaris is packaged similarly to the rest of Campfire’s earphones in a small and simple but very distinctive box. Inside is one of Campfire’s signature zippered carry cases which are easily the nicest I’ve come across, the Polaris comes with the same style of case as the Vega and Dorado.

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    It’s an authentic black leather case with faux shearling interior that prevents the metal housings from scratching or chipping each other during transit. Just below are the other accessories, 3 sizes of authentic Spinfits, three pairs of memory foam tips and 3 pairs of regular silicone tips.

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    Since the Polaris has a revised nozzle from the other Campfire earphones, I preferred to use Comply T400’s, green stemmed Penonaudio tips and Dunu silicone tips since I wasn’t able to achieve a solid seal with the included tips. Spinfits also provided an agreeable experience though the earphones sat a bit laterally in my ear, producing some instability during daily use. Campfire also provide a pin with the company logo which is a nice little addition.



    Design –

    The Polaris pursues a design that is more in line with Campfire’s armature based earphones than their dynamics featuring their larger, more angular housing shape. However, the Polaris assumes an intriguing two tone, two texture colour scheme that provides a very unique look and one that reflects the hybrid nature of its inner workings. While their aesthetic isn’t as subdued as Campfire’s previous designs, their choice of a rich blue is tasteful and the gunmetal Cerakote lid provides stunning contrast that looks a lot better in person than in photos and renders.

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    In terms of build, buyers get to relish in a delicious all aluminium housing machined in Portland, Oregon USA. As always, Campfire’s level of finish is class leading and no corners were cut when compared to their higher end models. After using the Jupiters almost daily for the past few months, I can personally vouch for the hard wearing qualities of Cerakote; those earphones, while mostly pampered, have been hastily pocketed and struck together with no visual repercussions.

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    The Polaris is no different, their gunmetal Cerakote lids remained flawless after my month of testing though their blue anodized housings did receive some trace chips here and there. I definitely advise winding the earphones up from the housings and storing with the Cerakote lids facing each other to keep them looking pristine. Perhaps my only gripe with their design are those silver screws which look quite incoherent, I feel that black screws would have fit the design of the earphones better.

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    Ergonomics are very similar to Campfire’s BA earphones given that the Polaris’ housings are mostly identical. However, the Polaris features a new nozzle design that does give them a slightly different fit than before. The nozzle is now plastic though it is incredibly solid, it’s longer than previous designs and smaller at its extremity permitting a deeper fit. I actually struggled a bit to find an appropriate ear tip though I eventually settled on the softer silicone tips included with the Dunu earphones. The Polaris also has a small vent on its outer face that does affect isolation, they still attenuate noise very well, better than the 64Audio earphones and as well as most sealed earphones, but they aren’t vacuum quiet like Campfire’s fully sealed models.

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    Furthermore, the vents make the Polaris very susceptible to wind noise, they aren’t unbearable like the Sennheiser ie800, but it is clearly noticeable when out and about. In addition, the Polaris suffers from some of the worst driver flex I’ve experienced though Ken has assured that it is within tolerances and I didn’t notice any sound degradation during my testing. Otherwise, the earphones are just as comfortable and stable as past models, staying put during a long distance run and forming no hotspots during extended wear despite their angular housings. These are ultimately minor quibbles that don’t impede normal use and are quite insignificant when compared to the comfort issues of the DK-3001 for instance.

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    At the top, the Polaris utilizes a removable MMCX cable with beryllium copper connectors. Campfire claim they’re magnitudes stronger than the usual brass variety, they’re very snappy with even tension on both sides and I experienced no intermittency during my testing. The Polaris is the first to use Campfire’s black Litz copper cable rather than the silver plated unit on their other earphones. Ergonomically, the cable is as excellent as before with the same memory wire system, low profile metal y-split and beefy yet case friendly right angle plug.

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    I would have preferred pre-moulded guides as the memory wire is a bit fidgety and stubborn during shaping but I had no major comfort issues with the Polaris. The cable itself has a tighter braid than the silver Litz cable but resists tangles just as well. It’s also just as supple as the silver cable which is among the best I’ve come across. Due to the nature of the cable’s braid beneath the y-split, the cable is quite prone to becoming twisted though it does soak up a lot of microphonic noise in return. Campfire’s build and cable is as exceptional as always on the Polaris, their two-tone look may not suite every person and environment but it’s a sporty aesthetic that catches the eye.



    Sound –

    Utilizing a single 8.5mm dynamic driver and balanced armature combination, the Polaris is the second hybrid driver earphone that Campfire have produced. However, the Polaris makes use of some new innovations by the company that seek to produce a compelling experience despite its status as a midrange model. Of note, the Polaris features Campfire’s new polarity tuned chamber that is similar to that used by the Flares Pro, balancing air pressure on either side of the dynamic driver to enhance transience. The single armature driver also uses T.A.E.C (tuned acoustic expansion chamber) to improve treble extension and soundstage similar to the Jupiter, Andromeda and Campfire’s higher end hybrid, the Dorado. So while the Polaris has one of the lowest driver counts around this price, they promise comparable if not superior performance. I’m personally all for Campfire’s approach valuing an optimal housing design and individual driver performance over sheer driver count, it’s a much more realistic approach that I feel more manufacturers will embrace moving forward.

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    Exploded Render courtesy of Campfire Audio

    In terms of tuning, the Polaris will likely be the most universally pleasing of the entire line-up. Between the visceral but occasionally overzealous Vega, the balanced Jupiter and the ethereal but lean Orion, the Polaris is easily the most “fun” of the Campfire line-up. And where the more neutral Nova required a lot of adjustment when coming from other earphones, the Polaris is an earphone that is easy to just pick up and listen to and I think this is the main reason why it will be much more popular than its progenitor. Furthermore, their hybrid driver setup comes with some real advantages over the dual BA Nova with bass reach and power that these earphones simply can’t achieve. They aren’t perfect of course, but the Polaris is nonetheless a very mature progression of the popular v-shaped tonality with plenty of technical ability enhancing every detail.



    Burn-in –

    The Polaris really needed some burn-in, it sounded a quite dry and a bit unfocused out of the box. This was quite unexpected for me since I know that Campfire can produce both excellent dynamic and armature drivers but the Polaris simply didn’t wow me like their other models. After extended burn-in (~200 hrs), the Polaris really evened out and their bass qualities came to the fore. It is a very coherent sounding earphone with excellent integration for a hybrid. I would surmise that I’ve also adjusted to the Polaris’ sound much like the Noble Django, the changes can likely be attributed to a combination of both.



    Cable –

    A note on cables since the Polaris is the first Campfire earphone to assume a Litz copper cable as opposed to the silver plated unit included with every other model. In terms of sonics, I can definitely see the logic behind Ken’s choice of pure Litz copper since it does provide meatier bass, especially sub-bass, with excellent definition and texture though I found that the copper cable does lack the clarity, layering and outright resolution of Campfire’s silver cable. The silver cable really smoothed out lower mids and brought the midrange forward slightly on a whole. Treble detail and extension also improved as did soundstage space though this did come at the cost of some bass power. Subjectively, I feel that the Silver cable actually finds better synergy with the Polaris though I do personally tend to favour slightly brighter earphones. The silver Litz cable is definitely worth a look for Polaris owners looking for some extra high-end presence though users shouldn’t feel that the Copper cable is holding the Polaris back.



    Tonality –

    The Polaris is a mildly V-shaped earphone, they have relatively even bass with slight sub and mid-bass focus and a lower treble bump that grants them with a little more treble energy. Mids are perfectly present and very clear though lower mids, in particular, are recessed and a little dry in tone. That said, the Polaris never sounds overly sculpted and both vocals and instruments are realistically voiced and clean. And while the Nova before it was technically brilliant, it was missing some character and engagement. The Polaris is a very effective resolution, providing plenty of engagement without sacrificing too much on quality either.



    Bass –

    I’ve become quite a fan of hybrid earphones, there are still some little niggles to figure out and some are clearly better implemented than others, but when done correctly, the results can be truly stunning. And luckily, the Polaris is a well-done example indeed with a combination of that polarity tuned chamber and an ultra-thin membrane dynamic driver doing good work. Sub bass extension is up there with the best, even the Andromeda doesn’t match the power and visceral impact of the Polaris’ sub-bass response though they still aren’t quite as thick and muscular as the Cardas A8, favouring more balance and quicker decay. Rumble is well-defined and sub-bass is tight, bass is very clean with minimal bloat. Lows do sound slightly rounder than more linear earphones like the Dorado but this is simply a by-product of their tuning and not something that irks during listening. Bass has nice fullness without sounding muddy, the Polaris’ are pretty fast for a dynamic earphone and have great bass resolution that prevents lows from getting flabby. Definition is standout and texturing even matches the better armature earphones like the 64Audio U3 which is no small feat.

    My only issue is that bass doesn’t have the greatest separation and delineation between notes despite being fast and having great definition though the Polaris remains my favourite bass performer around this price. Of course, earphones like the Vega and Dorado do hold a notable advantage in terms of control and power though they are also much more expensive. The Dunu DK-3001 is probably the Polaris’ most notable competitor with its 4-driver setup featuring a 13mm bass driver. The Dunu does indeed have more bass power and richness though it sounds tubby and its sub-bass a little flabby when compared to the Polaris. Of course, in isolation, there is certainly nothing wrong with the Dunu’s presentation, but when listening to songs such as Illy’s “Catch 22”, the Polaris had a tighter reproduction with greater definition to rumble and faster transience. Bass is the Polaris’ trump card, they are very articulate, dynamic and defined within their low-end without sacrificing any fullness or solidity.



    Mids –

    Despite its V-shaped tuning, the Polaris doesn’t forget to service midrange elements, approaching these frequencies with clarity and finesse. The Polaris does have more of an upper midrange focus reminiscent of Japanese in-ears such as Audio Technica’s CK100, leaving lower mids a little scooped, however, they are still a modestly balanced earphone overall. That said, male vocals sit a little too behind for my tastes though they sound well integrated into the sound and the Polaris’ general midrange presentation is very clean and surprisingly natural given their level of clarity. And while plenty of people tend to confuse quality and tonality, in this instance, the recessed lower midrange of the Polaris is indeed the weakest aspect of its entire sound. While some may love the tuning of these earphones, to my ear, the Polaris’ lower midrange did tend to sound slightly dry and a bit uneven, missing out on certain details when compared to other in-ears around this price regardless of tip choice and source. Some tracks were more affected than others, for instance, Coldplay’s “Hymn For The Weekend” came across as quite artificial while “The Scientist” sounded perfectly natural if slightly thin and distant. I must restate that these are a $600 set of earphones and that all comments are relative, this isn’t a deal breaker simply blemish on an otherwise immaculate canvas.

    And upper mids do much to redeem the Polaris’ midrange, the earphones have a bump in clarity throughout, granting vocals with a smooth, glossy character that enhances modern pop, acoustic and rock while slicing through the muddiness of poorly mastered tracks. Female vocals are delightful in quality and tuning, sitting well balanced with the fuller low end and crisper treble response. Vocals are clear, immediate and extended with defined layering. The Polaris is imbued with Campfire’s signature high-resolution tuning with great retrieval of background details and smaller nuances. Furthermore, the Polaris is a very detailed earphone and quite naturally so too, they do err on the side of aggression but they sounded consistently more refined than the Dunu DK-3001. When listening to PSY’s “Last Scene”, the Polaris produced delightfully smooth vocals with excellent detailing to guitars. Strings were well textured during the chorus and both male and female vocals had great layering and definition. The Polaris is ultimately an engaging yet refined sounding earphone with well-integrated components creating a coherent experience. Their lower midrange isn’t flawless but works within the realm of the Polaris’ tuning and upper mids are just as compelling as the class leaders around this price.



    Highs –

    Treble is interesting with a similar style of tuning to the Rose BR5 MKII; energetic in some regions and smoother/more laid-back in others. Upper mids feed smoothly into the lower treble, both are hyper detailed and a little more aggressive granting acoustic guitars and cymbals with great crispness. Further yet, the Polaris has quite a lot of treble body which grants these instruments with plenty of texture and a realistic timbre. However, above that, the Polaris smooths off placing higher details further in the background. As such, treble doesn’t sound flawlessly extended and higher details can sound distant. They don’t roll-off necessarily, listening to Elton John’s “Rocketman” and Radiohead’s “No Surprises” and the Polaris provided surprising detail to high hats and atmospheric effects, they just sat further behind in the mix than the Jupiter’s, U3’s and DK-3001. The Polaris has much more air and treble separation than their style of tuning would suggest which ensures that complex passages never become overwhelming, and I would consider them to be a refined performer with an almost effortless quality despite not being the most nuanced overall. Those sensitive to treble will love this response because the Polaris provides gobs of detail where the majority of the information in most songs lies but takes the edge off of higher elements which can wear on the ear during longer listening.

    As a result, the Polaris is both very detailed and completely unfatiguing, treble isn’t peaky at all and sibilance is a non-issue. When listening to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” which can quickly tire on more treble boosted earphones, the Polaris provided a very pleasing response; each guitar strum was crisp and accurate with perceptibly more micro detail than the U3 and treble was smoother and more refined than the DK-3001. However, high hats were definitely distant and some smaller details that were clearly resolved by these earphones were pushed too far into the background for my liking. It is a trade-off because the clarity and detail is there but the extension is not. I’m unsure whether this was an intentional tuning choice or a limitation of the driver setup (that I find unlikely), either way, the Polaris sits more on the natural than analytical side. They are still an instantly resolving earphone but they don’t illuminate the smallest nuances like some others, rather they just reproduce them. Again, this is perfectly fine and no details are actually missing, it will come down to listener preference.



    Soundstage, Imaging and Separation –

    Being a vented hybrid earphone with T.A.E.C, I was expecting the Polaris to be quite outstanding in terms of space, but the earphone is instead more on the coherent side. Space is still impressive, they are pretty well rounded with great width that can reach beyond the periphery of the head and depth that extends well beyond most earphones. That being said, they are not as immediately spacious as the APEX touting 64Audio U3’s nor the more open Dunu DK-3001 though the Polaris is easily the best fitting/sealing of the bunch. Imaging is very good, they were noticeably sharper and quicker than competing earphones but still failed to encapsulate the almost holographic response of the higher end Jupiter and Andromeda. Booting up a game of Overwatch and directional cues and effects were spot on in their placement and even fine details such as footsteps were clearly audible thanks to the Polaris’ great clarity and resolution. Furthermore, centre image was strong and thanks to their vented design, soundstage elements at the boundary of their stage extended naturally. Separation isn’t the Polaris’ strongest asset, they never sound congested but lack the layering and breadth of other earphones around this price. On the contrary, I did find them significantly more vibrant and immersive than the Nova.



    Drivability –

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    The Polaris has an average sensitivity of 97.5dB combined with a low impedance of 16.8ohms. Despite this, the earphones are easy to drive and reach high volumes from portable sources, they are just slightly harder to drive than the U3 and DK-3001, both sensitive earphones. Ken states that the Polaris was designed to be driven off a smartphone and while they do sound perfectly fine, the Polaris really sings from a dedicated source. They scale terrifically with higher end sources, gaining considerably more bass definition from my X7 II in addition to a bump in resolution and separation across the board. The Polaris’ tasteful V-shaped tonality does ensure that they never sound uninspiring or wonky from a portable source, potentially with a higher output impedance, and the earphone’s lower sensitivity does make them more hiss resistant than competitors, but this earphone definitely deserves a resolving source. Of the sources I had on hand, I found the X7 II to be the most pleasing with its neutral tone really complimenting the Polaris’ finely sculpted sound where the more full-bodied Mojo and iFi BL tend to be better suited towards drier, more neutral earphones.



    Comparisons –

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    Oriveti New Primacy ($300): The New Primacy is a really solid sub $500 hybrid earphone that is well rounded in all regards. Both the Oriveti and Campfire earphones employ a completely metal construction though the New Primacy is much smaller and boasts a lower profile fit, perfect for sleeping. The New Primacy is also vented though the vent is on the inner face to they don’t suffer from wind noise. Both have fantastic MMCX removable cables, though I did prefer the Polaris’ cable ergonomically since it felt a little sturdier and had a smoother texture.

    Sonically, the two are quite different, the New Primacy pursuing a very balanced yet smooth sound and the Polaris aiming more for engagement and clarity. Both have very defined bass responses though the New Primacy sounds slightly more controlled and better balanced with the midrange. On the flipside, the Polaris has much better extension and better definition throughout, it also produces more solidity to its sub-bass and considerably more mid-bass fullness which will suit more listeners. Mids are more even on the New Primacy without the lower midrange dip of the Polaris. Lower mids are comparable, the New Primacy doesn’t quite have the clarity or resolution of the Polaris but it is more natural and linear. Upper mids go to the Polaris, clarity is increased and the detailing is considerably improved over the Oriveti without sounding noticeably less natural. Highs are probably the most comparable, both have a little extra lower treble energy with a smoother high end though the Polaris is much more detailed than the New Primacy and more aggressive. The Polaris also has slightly more extension and increased resolution to upper treble instruments in addition to a more spacious and airy presentation. Of course, the New Primacy is half the price and features many of the same strengths as the Polaris though the Campfire does provide plenty of improvements to justify that price jump.

    Dunu DK-3001 ($500): Dunu have been working on some really interesting models lately and the DK-3001 is definitely one the most notable. At face value, the Dunu’s compact stainless steel shells would appear to be much more ergonomic than Campfire’s but during wear it’s quite the opposite, the Polaris conforms much better to the ear while the DK-3001 tends to produce hotspots. Both have removable MMCX cables, the Dunu also comes with a balanced cable from factory though the Campfire cable is easier to live with due to the strangely long memory wire on the Dunu. The same can be said when it comes to sound, the Dunu has the upper hand on paper with its 3 armatures mated to a mammoth 13mm dynamic driver though again, in real world testing, the Polaris’ finely tuned dual driver config comfortably keeps pace.

    The first thing listeners will notice on the Dunu is its mid-bass richness and definition that the Polaris can’t match. On the flipside, the Campfire rewards listeners with a faster, cleaner and considerably tighter response that resolves more detail overall though its more balanced tones may not suite those craving outright power and lushness from their low end. The Polaris has more midrange clarity while also being more natural and consistent in its voicing where the Dunu is a touch more detailed and slightly more layered. Treble is interesting, the Dunu has more extension and appreciably more foreground detail though they are slightly peaky and tend to get crunchy when the track gets complex. The Polaris is still very well detailed but is otherwise on the smoother side. The Polaris doesn’t extend effortlessly like the DK-3001 but it does have some nice air and sounds generally cleaner like the 64Audio U3. I did find this to be a very interesting comparison though ultimately, the Polaris is a more coherent sounding earphone than the Dunu. It isn’t quite as detailed or technical but it is more balanced throughout, cleaner and more concise. Most importantly, the Polaris’ ergonomics are leaps and bounds ahead where the Dunu is only really suitable for shorter listening sessions in quieter environments. If you can manage the ergonomics of the Dunu, it is a very real competitor with more bass fullness and treble detail at the cost of integration.

    64Audio U3 ($500): Along with Campfire, 64Audio are cherished within the audio community though I feel that their products have failed to capture the same audience as CA. Their earphones are also tonally excellent and their proprietary APEX modules grant them with sublime soundstage and separation that is truly unique. I think the reason for this comes down to the build and design of their earphones, the U3’s housings are all plastic, unorthodox in shape and very large in size. While I had no issue finding a comfortable, stable fit, I know many others that really struggle. The Polaris has no such issues, though sharp in looks, the Campfire shell fits ergonomically and isolation is superior to the semi-open 64Audio earphones.

    In terms of sound, the U3 is one of 64Audio’s u-shaped earphones and a direct competitor to the Polaris. Though sub-bass is tight and impactful for an armature earphone, the BA based U3 lacks the bass depth and rumble of the hybrid Polaris. Both have exceptional bass definition and texture though the U3 is slightly clearer within the lower registers since bass is leaner. Mids are more balanced and linear on the U3, especially lower mids, though both have similarly high levels of clarity without thinning out or sounding unnatural. Due to those APEX modules, the U3 is more separated than the Polaris with improved layering and similar if not slightly better resolution. The Polaris still sounds more realistic to my ear with more midrange body and a cleaner response, they are an exceptionally well-integrated hybrid. Treble is again similar to a point, they both have a little more energy and aggression heightening engagement. That being said, the U3, like the Dunu, extends more than the Polaris which smooths off after lower treble. The Polaris does actually resolve more detail in its upper midrange/lower treble but after that, higher details are more defined on the U3. Finally, both have excellent soundstage presentations with the U3 providing slightly more space and separation and the Polaris excelling with imaging precision. The U3 is an excellent and rather underappreciated earphone around this price that falls into the same trap as the Dk-3001. It is more sonically comparable to the Polaris, only lacking the bass depth and upper midrange detail of the Campfire, but it is ergonomically hit or miss depending on individual ear anatomy; again, I found them to be perfectly fine if not quite as comfy as the Campfire’s over longer sessions.

    Campfire Jupiter ($800): The Jupiter was Campfire’s first armature flagship and one that played an integral role in the company’s popularization. And while it may no longer be as cutting edge as it was at its inception, the Jupiter remains a very strong performer. Both share the same aesthetic and basic design with the Jupiter assuming a more coherent colour scheme, full Cerakote finish and a shorter metal nozzle. Unsurprisingly, both have similar levels of comfort and stability though the vented Polaris is noticeably more susceptible to wind noise and isolation suffers slightly.

    Sonically, the Jupiter still holds a notable lead on technical ability, the Polaris simply doesn’t have the balance, resolution and detail that the Jupiter possesses. In return, the Polaris has appreciably more bass extension and rumble in addition to a generally more accessible tonality. Chiefly, the Polaris has more bass heft and increased clarity throughout its entire midrange, treble is also a little more aggressive to imbue the sound with some extra engagement. This highlights the importance of tonality and personal preference in this subjective hobby because I can see some listeners preferring the Polaris due to tuning alone. However, when compared to the very balanced Jupiter, lower mids are recessed on the Polaris and vocals don’t quite sound as natural. Treble also takes a hit, extension and body don’t match the Jupiter nor resolution or detail. The Jupiter is a lot more nuanced and images considerably better. Mids have a large bump in resolution with layering and space that the Polaris fails to match. This outcome isn’t unsurprising given that the Jupiter is considerably more expensive, but the same general style of sound and exquisite build quality underpins both models. Buyers will also have to consider personal preference since the Polaris’s V-shaped tuning is a lot more accessible and I think a lot will appreciate the longer nozzles too. That said, those looking for a more balanced, technical listen will definitely find it with the higher-end Jupiter, it very much remains pertinent despite its age.



    Verdict –

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    The Polaris might be a polarising model for some critics but will find a comfortable home with many listeners. It isn’t the most technically profound earphone around this price nor is it particularly neutral or balanced however, that was not Ken’s intention when designing the Polaris. Instead, what Campfire provide is an incredibly enjoyable, engaging and simply fun listen with their latest hybrid. The Polaris is a big statement towards other manufacturers, it is an incredibly well-considered take on the immensely popular V-shaped tonality that retains plenty of versatility. In addition, their focus on tonal excellence over pure technicality does indeed make them a great choice for those that prefer to drive their in-ears from a smartphone or other portable source. And as always, Campfire’s build quality doesn’t fail to impress and though their two tone look won’t be as universally pleasing as prior models, few will have issue with their finely sculpted sound.

    Verdict – 8.5/10, The Polaris is a beast of coherence and tonal fineness. They are exceptionally well integrated for a hybrid and will be sure to put a smile on your face whether driven from a $1000 DAP or streaming Spotify from a smartphone.

    Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed my review, please see my website for more just like it:
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