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Campfire Audio IO

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  1. antdroid
    I received a demo/preview loaner unit from headphones.com today and here's my initial impressions on half day of listening and using them along side some other IEMs.



    The new packaging is a real treat to open up and look at. CFA stepped up their already top-tier packaging and accessories bundle for this new line of IEMs. I was surprised to see that this came with 3 sets of mesh shell cases.

    The garnet-colored shell is more of a dark red/purple tint than what I thought of in the photos, but they look stunning to me. The new cable is much more easier to handle and I am happy that they went with the preform hooks as opposed to memory wire. The new leather case is very nice and usable.

    Fit-wise, the longer Solaris-style bore makes this shell much more comfortable for me than the Andromeda/Orion and previous generation Campfires. I barely feel these on my ears and the sharp edges don’t touch the back of my ears anymore.


    Listening Impressions:

    In terms of listening, I find these not the best things for vocals, and specifically female vocals have a weird haze to it. Cymbals also exhibit this behavior. It has a low fidelity sound to it – a veil. I think some of the more negative impressions on head-fi have some merit, in terms of how I am hearing it. The bass and low end sounds great for my preferences and that is an improvement over the Orion. Male vocals don’t exhibit the same issues as females, though there still is a weird tinny-haze to them occasionally.

    Treble is much more extended than Orion, from memory, and has a little bit of sparkle like Andromeda, though not as distinct and detailed. To me, it sounds like a really odd sounding mix of Orion and Andromeda with some weird mids that makes it not currently recommended for listening to vocals. It may perform better in instrumental music, which I havent dived too far into yet.

    I’ve been A-Bing back and forth with Andromeda, Solaris and IO. Listening to Fleetwood Mac, Norah Jones, Chvrches, Chris Stapleton, U137, Radiohead, Massive Attack, and Cocteau Twins. Of those, U137 and Massive Attack sound pretty good, and they are more instrument/beat driven than vocals.

    I think if I was blindly listening to these without a reference point, I’d still find it a little off, but could get used to it. But when put into perspective with another IEM, such as the Orion or Etymotics ER3SR, which have, subjectively, more coherent mids, these sound a little off.

    Just for full disclosure, I used SpinFit CP100 and CP145 tips along with the Astell & Kern SR15 A&Norma DAP as my primary source throughout the day. I did try it initially with my PC hooked up to the RME ADI-2 DAC as the source.


    Just to quickly wrap things up, I did perform a measurement on this unit to compare back to the one posted earlier in this thread by @malvinviriya . I used the same coupler he has and he did share with me the files to import and overlay. For the most part, the measurements are the same. There's some variance in the higher treble regions, but that is most likely due to tip differences and insertion depth, as those parameters can change that area's measured responses. I used foam and spiral dot tips for these measurements.

  2. morndewey
    “Cymbals have a weird haze....”
    My listening experience with Io diametrically opposes this impression. Cymbals sound more crisp and detailed than I’ve ever heard before.
    It occurs to me that an objective evaluation of iems can be prit near impossible to achieve. The better the iem, the more source dependent they become. The variations in sound with Io appears to be heavily influenced by the mastering of music files one is listening to.
    jaydunndiddit likes this.
  3. TooPoorForHiFi
    Are you afraid to Compare it to other IEM under its Price range that isn't Campfire?
    Last edited: May 16, 2019
  4. jaydunndiddit
    I agree and said this from the get-go, but find it true in general. Listening to MQA via Tidal is pretty great compared to Spotify, same with my DSD and ripped FLACs from CDs/Vinyl.

    The IO is far from hazy with everything I've thrown at it. They sound great with Frank Sinatra, George Benson, Santana, Etta James, Nina Simone, Michael Jackson, Dinah Washington, etc. But I am willing to assume these tracks/artists are better mastered/produced which also makes a difference.

    Like I said before in this thread, the IO is pretty unforgiving to overly compressed and poor quality recordings.
    Last edited: May 16, 2019
    Perfectofi and Mike-WI like this.
  5. PhoenixClaw
    I am fairly sure the review also mentioned the ER3SR
  6. Wheel Hoss
    I find it a bit irksome that people are posting "reviews" when their IEMs clearly aren't burned-in yet.

    First, burn-in is real. Not brain burn-in. Burn-in. I bought a pair of Sundaras. Sounded tight and thin. Listened to them a lot. They totally opened up. Then a driver failed. Exchanged for new pair. Same thing. Started out thin. Opened up after burning in. If it was just brain burn-in, I wouldn't have found the second pair thin sounding.

    Ok, so on to the Io. When I first fired them up, I did notice some thinness and artificiality to female vocals. That phenomenon is completely gone, and I doubt I'm much passed 20 hours of burn-in. Brands like ZMF and Hifiman recommend 150 hours before the drivers become liquid.

    Yesterday, I walked back from Jackson Heights (where I signed a new lease for Sunnyside!) to my home in LIC. 7 miles. Listened to the Io the whole time. If you want proof that they handle female vocals with aplomb, listen to the album "Blue" by Joni Mitchell. The song "California" is nothing but her voice, her acoustic guitar, and James Taylor on second acoustic guitar. It sounds marvelous through the Io. Airy, light, round, and delicious. But as Jay said, sources matter. I was using Tidal Hifi with the Mojo.

    And one other thing: I believe there is a bit of hate-mongering going on towards CA atm. Sure, Ken made a few awkward posts, but at this point it is getting absurd. For example, most threads on this forum have 1 or 2 people watching them at a time. Right now, this one has 32. There is a really nasty post about CA on r/headphones, to the point that being nasty about CA has basically become a meme. So, understand that there are people who are liking every negative post about the Io on sight, irregardless if it makes sense or they have any reason to support it other than piling on. Honestly, it feels a bit like rubbernecking, and it's rather pathetic. But I'm sure after a few it will calm down, because in the end there is a reason why CA has 10,000 Chi-FI brands biting off of everything they do. Ken and co., just think about it like Zach from ZMF does (possibly the coolest dude in this business): there was a post on r/headphones where ZMF was called controversial in some way, and Zach's response was that he thought it was pretty cool that his little shop had gotten big enough to be controversial.
    Perfectofi, headfry and cardeli22 like this.
  7. WhatToChoose

    Excellent overview, I see a consistent meh feeling towards the Io sound sig, I guess they weren't designed to be giant killers.
  8. toranku
    A few people here can really learn to be open minded and accept each other's viewpoints instead of rebutting things immediately. I get it, some really dont like the io and some really like it. If you like it then good for you. Audio is personal. People hear differently. Quit being dismissive of each other's viewpoints because that is plain rude.
  9. womwomwom
    Why is burn-in always universally beneficial to audio hardware and why are all the impressions of burn-in always variable in result? Honest question.

    We know that the majority of the industry are using off-the-shelf Sonion or Knowles balanced armatures. It would be safe to assume that they all react to burn-in in the same way because they're off-the-shelf Sonion or Knowles balanced armatures. If that assumption is true, then wouldn't the whole "150 hours before the drivers become liquid" benefit equipment that already sounds good more than equipment that sounds bad before burn-in?
    Last edited: May 16, 2019
    PhoenixClaw likes this.
  10. Zachik
    I agree. I have met Ken couple times at CanJams, and he looks like a good guy! Obviously, I do not know him well, but some of the hating posts portray him in an extreme negativity.
    Sucks that an awkward post with bad choice of words could gather so much negative attention... but that is the internet...
    Wheel Hoss likes this.
  11. antdroid

    I mentioned in the very first sentence that this is just my initial impressions. I do not get how I can get called out for having an opinion on something that isn’t positive yet others who post more positive first hour impressions don’t get called out for it... cmon be fair here.

    I have no sides in this at all. I don’t hate CFA— in fact I just bought their flagship Solaris and custom tips and cable for it because I love it so much. That’s not a small chunk of change to spend on a brand.

    I will post a longer review in a couple weeks but I like to post my first impressions if I get a chance to. Most all of the time, those opinions don’t change a lot over time.

    I compared it very briefly to the $150 Etymotics ER3SR. I didn’t carry other IEMs with me to work besides those so comparisons were limited for direct AB. In terms of general observations, I like the bass of the IO and the upper treble but I don’t like how it sounds in the middle. I don’t really think that’ll change so if I was to compare it to other IEMs, I’d pick quite a few other $300 and less IEMs over it at this point including the Audio Technical LS200iS, Campfire Orion, and probably comet too, the Moondrop Kanas Pro, BGVP DM7, etymotics er3sr, massdrop Plus.

    All of these have more coherent mids, similar bass response and some have similar or worse treble extension. The IO probably beats out all of them in that category to be honest, but that’s the one thing I feel it does better than others that’s ive listened to in this price range.

    Just to be clear, I didn’t use Spotify for this listening. My music is ripped flacs from CDs I own, or CDs played through a TEAC CD player transport with digital coax into the RME ADI-2 DAC. No DSDs sorry.
    Last edited: May 16, 2019
  12. Rockwell75
    In fairness here at Head-Fi, where the comments originated, the issue was worked through in a very healthy and constructive way. It's only on other, more toxic and less mature corners of the internet (cough cough Reddit cough cough) that people can't seem to let it go and are more motivated by spite and a thirst for drama than a desire to come to any sort of reasonable understanding.
  13. MrDelicious
    This thread seems to have completely devolved into a few posters pretty aggressively jumping on any critique the Io are getting. Just know you're not doing anyone any favors by acting like that, it's embarrassing.
  14. JustJoseph
    I would like to talk about the claims of hatemongering towards Campfire that is going on right now. The fact is, the IOs have been polarising. There are some that like it a lot, but some that dislike it too (like me for example). It can be agreed that the IOs have a unique/unconventional tuning. Many are in agreement that there are major flaws in the midrange, but many do not think that way or feel that it bothers them (which is perfectly fine because if you enjoy it, then good for you). My point is, the IOs are far from a perfect iem as there are mixed opinions on these, and they have arguably major, or at least considerable flaws. (Then again, I am not telling people to flat out not consider these iems. They should always hear them in person before deciding. Who knows, you might enjoy them like some of the users here.)

    Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable for there to be negative impressions/reviews on them. An iem with few flaws (eg Andromedas) will receive mostly positive reviews, while one with a polarising, unconventional sound signature like the IOs will receive a larger proportion of negative reviews. It is reasonable. I do not think this amounts to hatemongering, as the commenter below has claimed it to be:

    My impressions were badly worded and I have apologized for it. However, the other reviews/impressions done are quite objective/neutral in nature, detailed and well explained with sources listed down. They even have measurements to boot (note that measurements aren't 100% everything though). They have a right to their opinions. I wouldn't label them as hatemongering.

    The latest negative review was criticised for being made when the iems were not burned in yet. Yet we do not see the positive impressions being criticised when the iems were too not burned in yet. It would appear as if there is a different set of standards applied to positive reviews and negative reviews.

    If anything, they are proving my opinion that head-fi does not take kindly to negative Campfire reviews. However, not all are like them. There are some who are accepting of negative reviews. I hope this does not discourage people from posting negative reviews/impressions for fear of being criticised, because negative reviews/impressions are very important in helping one's judgment of iems.

    Regarding the latest Reddit posts, here are them in question: (I do not know if I am allowed to link them here. If it is not allowed, I will take them down)

    1. https://www.reddit.com/r/headphones/comments/blm8aa/y_i_k_e_s/
    2. https://www.reddit.com/r/headphones...fire_io_measurements_finally_out_in_the_wild/
    3. https://www.reddit.com/r/headphones/comments/bp1sv7/campfire_does_it_again/

    From these, we can see that the Reddit opinion of Campfire is negative. You can even argue that there is hatemongering going on Reddit, that I can agree with. I would like to explain why they felt that way in the most objective and neutral manner I can:

    When the Solaris was released, there were early claims of product variation as shown in the graphs. Some in the head-fi community did not take kindly to that. The thread devolved into a bad display of human behaviour with even sexual threats made. Eventually, the thread was cleared up and KB gave a response. I read through the Reddit comments and to sum it up, many on Reddit felt that KB did not address the issue on product variance and could have released official graphs (like they did for earlier Campfire iems) to address the issue. These are their opinions (i have not stated my opinion on the issue).

    Next, the IOs were released. Many had negative impressions on the IOs, particularly in the midrange. As seen in the screenshot in the #1 Reddit link, KB posted a reply to a user from Singapore who posted a negative impression on the IOs. He felt that the user's low comment count was suspicious and the guy could be someone creating accounts just to bash Campfire. There are 2 criticisms on KB's reply: #1 People felt that KB was singling out Singaporeans, #2 KB, as an owner of a company, went after a random guy who posted a negative impression.

    Admittedly, #1 was misunderstood and blown out of proportion by many, including me, for which I have apologized. KB was going after that particular user and not Singaporeans in general, which he has clarified too. However, do understand that the internet is full of idiots like me who can easily misinterpret things. Singling out someone's country can result in people taking it the wrong way. Perhaps it is better to take extra precaution to make it clear that you are singling out the person, not his nationality or perhaps avoid it altogether. After all, this is how the internet is, there will always be idiots like me. As of now, I am seeing mixed opinions on reddit. Some think that Campfire is unwelcoming to Singaporeans, but some think that it is a misunderstanding and blown out of proportion.

    On #2, many have a negative impression on KB because they felt that he should have just ignored the comment (if he felt it was a troll/campfire hater) and not responded to it directly. To quote, here are what some think:

    "Being a long time traditional forums admin, I can see the other side to this. If they've been having a problem with people creating alts in order to trash a certain company (and KB basically says exactly this in the post), any brand new user whose first post is trashing said company can be viewed with suspicion. That said, this is kind of sitting on the fence. If he's sure he should deal with it as spam, if he isn't he should leave it alone. Putting up a "um, I don't trust you" is a bit shady."

    "He's basically saying,"Hey,you're in our turf. You're not allowed to say bad things about our products here. Everyone,just ignore this dude." I love Campfire headphones, got a pair of Comets that I'm very pleased with but what KB said is inappropriate. He should've left that highly subjective impression alone.

    Edit: According to one commenter, the user who posted his impressions is a shady,new account. Sigh, KB you should've left it alone,buddy."

    This resulted in negative impressions on KB and Campfire Audio, with many thinking that KB has repeated the mistakes of the Solaris drama and done it again for the IO.

    Sadly, this is how the internet works. No matter how good you are, all you need is to make just one mistake that puts you in a bad light and people will jump on the hate train. Once the hate train is started, it is very hard to stop. I myself am guilty of being part of this by mistaking KB's comment.

    I very much like the idea of the owner of a company actively engaging and responding directly to users. However, this presents an additional challenge too. Being both a fellow forum user and also owner/spokesperson of a company is in itself a contradiction. By being a fellow forum user, you are creating an authentic and human persona. You will interact with other forum users and express your genuine thoughts and emotions. You will read comments from other users on your products, and it will affect you on a personal level. On the other hand, as an owner/spokesperson of a company, everything you say will be inextricably linked to their company. Your words are literally the words of the company. Because of this, you cannot just say whatever comes to mind or react too emotionally to what people have to say about your company. You have to bear in mind the consequences and implications of what you are saying. Hence there is a tension in being both fellow forum user and owner simultaneously. If managed well, it could be a very good PR strategy. But if managed badly, it could lead to disastrous consequences. To use an extreme example, Dr Fang Bian of Hifiman made very bad comments here on Head-Fi which has severely hurt his reputation and that of his company.

    The latest controversies regarding the Solaris and the IO could be caused by hateful people who want to stir drama, or it could be caused by the way KB responded, or somewhere in between. Personally, I feel that maybe KB can in future, respond in a way to leave lesser room for misinterpretation or disagreement. Obviously, you are never going to please everyone, but I think that if he had worded his controversial statement more clearly, it can reduce the number of people who have a bad opinion of it or misinterpret it. I myself am guilty of it and it is a learning point for me too. I am still very grateful for KB taking the time and effort to engage with users and also clarifying things for me, it made me see the mistake that I have made. I hope he can continue to do so and not be deterred by the negative feedback that Campfire has been receiving now.

    I don't know if it is a good idea, but maybe KB going on Reddit to clear things up may be good because Reddit represents a considerable portion of the online audiophile community. Many users have a bad impression on Campfire products which can be seen in the comment sections of posts on other Campfire products like the Andromedas. Maybe this can help with damage control. Just throwing a suggestion out there.

    Once again I do apologise for my misinterpretation of KB's post, and hope that this post can be taken in good faith. If you feel that my post does not add anything new to the discussion, let me know and I will remove it.
    Last edited: May 16, 2019
  15. papa_mia
    Shouldn't assume that anyone would use Youtube to test their new toys.
    malvinviriya likes this.
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