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Cascade Headphone by Campfire Audio

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by KB, Feb 1, 2018.
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  1. Spandy87
    I just finished an extended listen with them at my local shop on a bunch of different equipment. I should mention that while I don't know how long these were burned in, the dealer who had them on demo really knows his stuff and always does a great job representing his products fairly and appropriately, ensuring to have them paired with the right sources and using high quality tracks to test.

    I was hoping for this to be like a high end M50x I could use for my professional uses while on work trips or out in the field recording. But while the Cascade is technically very capable, they are unfortunately not for me. Here's my analysis, but keep in mind I'm a bit of a comfort freak, so take this with a grain of salt.

    Build Quality and Design: A

    What can I say, it looks gorgeous, and it feels solid. The only thing I'm on the fence about is the front facing cable connectors.

    Comfort: B

    The pads are pretty nice and do fit fully around your ear as well as being very plush and soft. The Cascade also isolates very well because of how nice and deep the pads are. But since this is designed to be a portable option, the pads are a touch on the small side. If you have earlobes, they may rub against the sides/bottom after a while. Again, with portability in mind I wouldn't expect anything bigger, so that's totally fine in my opinion. But the pads are also the best part of the ergonomics. I have a slightly larger than average sized head (not to boast), and I had to extend the yokes to the max just so I could get a decent fit. So if you have a larger head, make sure you try them first, they may not fit at all. At the max yoke extension, the pad fit also gets a bit finicky due to the angle change. There is ample movement and motion though so that's good. Now to the bad part.

    Since this is a single headpiece design, and there is no suspension or separate headband, the top part of Cascade takes most of the pressure and digs into your head. There is some extra padding up there, and the materials used are all excellent, however because this headphone is a bit heavier than other portables, the pressure becomes a real problem. Think MSR7, just heavier, and with more pressure on the top of your head, even though the pad cushioning is much better on these. Suffice it to say, I don't think it makes any sense to have a single headpiece design for a headphone of this weight or heavier (I'm looking at you Focal!). Now that's not to say that it's heavy, it's certainly a reasonable weight overall, and the weight distribution is decent due to it having a very wide arc to the headband and yokes. If you can stand the headpiece pressure on the top of your head, you'd probably be able to wear them for quite a while without getting weary. But that's an absolute dealbreaker for me unfortunately.

    Sound: A-

    This will be a bit of a controversial sound I think. I'll start with what I like about it. The soundstage is excellent for a portable, as are both microdynamics and detail/resolution, especially in the treble. I actually found myself really enjoying classical music because of how nice the treble frequencies were for strings, as well as the micro detail I could hear in softer sections. The midrange is present but maybe not quite as forward as I'd like. Still it's also got great detail and doesn't sound dry or boring at all. What I don't like is the bass response. Someone mentioned that this sounds a bit like the Vega and I think that's an accurate description. There is simply too much bass with these headphones for me to be able to enjoy all the other excellent aspects of it. And this is the interesting thing. I'm sure that the bass quality is quite good, there's no audible distortion and it reaches quite low. It's just too big and boomy. This actually reminds me a lot of the Meze 99 Classics a bit in terms of tonality, just with better resolution and detail, especially in the upper frequencies. Now there are various different modifications, tuning pads and other tweaks you can do to change the sound and so there may be quite a bit of potential here.

    Overall: A-

    Something I keep having to think about with these is that it is designed as a portable headphone and not a stay at home and listen at your desktop headphone. If you're on public transit or have other people around you making lots of noise (crowded spaces, malls etc.), you may find the emphasized bass to be to your liking. But then at the same time I have to wonder who these people are who are going to spend $800 on a portable over-ear, when they could spend just a bit more for what is in my opinion a much better sounding IEM in the Andromeda. I don't think I could justify the price tag on first listen. With that said, I can see getting this over the SINE if the on-ear style doesn't suit you (it really doesn't suit me). Moreover, when played with the right kind of music, the Cascade does hit all the technical proficiency I would expect at this price. I'd be curious how it would do with a good EQ to tone down that bass a bit, or maybe Sonarworks can put together a compensation profile to make them a bit more transparent. I'd still like to get a longer listen at some point, and there might be some cushioning mods I could try out to alleviate my comfort issues so I may still pick it up. Ultimately I think there's potential with these - more so than with many of the other 'portables' I've tried, but its default tuning and ergonomics simply aren't for me at the moment.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2018
  2. easily_amused
    Anyone done a direct comparison to the Aeon Flow Closed yet? That would seem to be the direct competition at this stage, same price and both angling for the portable closed back market.
  3. Spandy87
    They sound nothing alike. AFC is a clinical/technical monster, with a much faster presentation. AFC has a tight punchy bass that can go really deep, however it is a bit lacking in body on the low end body. My favourite part of the Cascade was the treble, and it may outperform the AFC there with smoothness and refinement, but detail is probably about the same. Personally I'd take the AFC over the Cascade though since it fits better with my sound signature preferences and the comfort is WAY better. But it's not really fair since the AFC isn't designed to be portable.
    easily_amused likes this.
  4. orderingrabbits
    Have you heard the Fostex TH-X00 or any of the other Denon variants? How do they compare with the Cascade?
  5. Spandy87
    Yes. I think it's actually a similar tuning, but the Cascade has superior highs, soundstage, and texture/layering. I think if you like the TH-X00 you may like the cascade. Although I found the TH-X00 to be more comfortable.
  6. Valens7
    If that's the case, I'd be rather impressed. Nice impressions. Looking forward to getting mine on Monday, so I'll find out soon enough.

    Although the TH-X00 is drivable from portable devices, it's a) comical/fragile to wear out and about and b) I've never been particularly satisfied with the resulting sound. It responds very positively to desktop amplification. If the Cascade delivers comparable or superior performance (which it should at its price point) in a more durable, compact, easily drivable package, then that has the potential to be quite an excellent headphone.

    @KB Would you elaborate on the tuning inserts that several members have mentioned? Is there documentation included with the Cascade's retail package?
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2018
    trellus likes this.
  7. orderingrabbits
    You've sold me. The weak point of the TH-X00 has always been the harsh treble in my opinion. Cascade has less treble and less harshness, right?
  8. Spandy87
    I couldn't hear anything other than excellent refinement, detail, and clarity from the highs of the Cascade. Keep in mind that while I was evaluating, I was also listening mostly for sibilance, which I can happily report isn't a problem either. Higher than that 9Khz region it sounded open and well-detailed. I often find that highs sound compressed in lower end cans and it really bothers me but with the Cascade it felt like it did everything right.
  9. franz12
    ahh....deboosting bass is harder than boosting bass. I assume it is made for outdoor. Then I would like to see they develop some high-end bluetooth closed headphones like B&W.
  10. easily_amused
    I guess that’s great from a consumer point of view - two different takes on closed baxk headphone for the same price. Curious you say the AFC isn’t portable though, because of what it takes to drive? I thought the isolation was supposed to be not bad?
  11. Spandy87

    No isolation is great. You could take them portable if you had a good DAP with lots of power. They're just a bit big for that I think.
    cardeli22 and easily_amused like this.
  12. czy6412
    Since you listened to the Sundara I wonder how would you compare the cascade with Sundata. Thanks.
  13. Spandy87
    Sundara is better for my preference.. period. But they're for different purposes/people.
  14. Jalo
    @Spandy87 I agree with you on the headpiece, I have the Ultrasonic Edition 8 Palladium edition and it is the inspiration from which Ken gets the rectangular form factor from. I totally understand and agree with you that the rectangular form factor is a little tricky for people with larger than average head size as the ear tends to touch the bottom of the inside ear cup. I do not know what Ken was thinking when he designs the yoke and head piece, it reminds me of the Abyss immediately. Ken has got to know the existing shape does not distribute the weight evenly on ones head. But knowing Ken, he may fix this problem in the next batch just like he did with the Andromeda case with more facets.

    To be transparent, I like Campfire and Ken as a company and have bought his products for over twelve years. I own the Vega and the Andromeda and love them both. If it is anything like the Vega, I can tell you that the bass will decrease after a few hundred hours. In fact, I miss the initial Vega bass and Vega users all know that the bass tapers off after burn in. So if the audition piece has not been fully burn in you should go back and audition a second time after it has been burned in. If it is anything like Vega, I think this is going to be a very good portable phone and I don't think the price is high at all.
  15. Raketen
    *edit* nvm, someone already mentioned
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2018
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