In the box.
With my review special FedEx box being abnormally loaded, it contained all of the below which then spilled onto the kitchen counter...


... like so. Each IEM arrived in a beautifully printed thick-paper box. For all intents and purposes those packages looked and came sized like luxury soaps. Once opened, each revealed a zippered fleece-lined hard pouch in leather. Those round-cornered affairs would look swell next to a pewter flatman, a posh lighter, cigar clipper and other gentleman's accessories. Below that still in the same box came an instruction leaflet; three small Ziploc bags with the tips and brush; and one Campfire Audio logo button. A university student wearing one on a lapel could claim membership in a very secretive club. The Jupiter added a second tinsel wire loom terminated in a 2.5mm balanced plug. The CDM was accompanied by a custom ALO USB-to-micro cable from their Green Line; a mini hex key for tube rolling or battery replacements; and a wall charger with a number of replaceable plug heads (US, EU, UK, Asia). As promised, Ken had included a pair of sub-miniature replacement tubes with micro PCB. Those plug straight into equivalent receivers inside the amp.


Here we get at one of the hard pouches in close-up. With Campfire Audio, being on the go means high style. Even before taking one's first spin, one is impressed and feels taken care of with and by so much attention to detail. I plugged in my Astell&Kern AK100, Questyle QP1R and iPod Classic for 24/7 power. I had to put some parallel time on these before earducating myself about what I might have missed during all these years of listening exclusively to full-size headphones.



It's so obvious as to be cliché: just as you don't need this €160'000 Swiss Blancpain Ganesha watch to tell your time, you don't need anyone telling you that the elephant in the room is the room. Audiophiles with speaker systems don't fully know what's on their recordings. They only hear how their personal acoustics interact but can't quantify where and by how much. They only partake of those details which their room's ambient noise and overlay of reflections on direct sounds let pass. This impacts all loudspeaker reviews and speaker A/Bs. Headphones eliminate the room. With it, they remove sub 300Hz tonality changes and the masking of ambient noise that usually sits at ~40dB during the day.


Room effects can be minimized by nearfield speaker placement as happens naturally on a desk top. The transducers sit less than a metre from the listener. Direct sound dominates over reflected sound. Full-size headphones move the transducers over the ears. This gets them closer yet. Depending on pad thickness and how deeply the drivers sit inside theirs cups, some distance remains. This accounts for their wider soundstaging over IEM. Those minimize distance further still. In-ear monitors also eliminate the physiology of our outer ears. Its influence on our hearing is intrinsic to our biology, hence never questioned. Yet IEM bypass it. Finally, inserting a foam or silicon plug into our ear canal effectively isolates us from our environment. It's the closest we can come to hearing what's on our recordings and files unadulterated by room reflections, ambient noise and LF boundary effects.


From this follows that hearing every grain-of-sand subtlety with IEM no longer relies on high SPL. We're not forced to overcome ambient noise and distance losses. But we don't get something for nothing. Scale and pressure intensity of displaced air which big woofers release into a room to hit skin and organs are entirely bypassed. Even the air movement of 'orange slice' planarmagnetic headfi drivers is. With IEM, we're mostly down to drivers the diameter of a pea or smaller. Resolution gains are offset by soundstage and LF impact losses. Finally, there's no acoustic crossfeed. With loudspeakers, each ear hears both channels. With headphones, we're not listening to conventional stereo. We're listening to dual mono with extreme—you could say, entirely unnatural—channel separation. To conclude, calling the IEM experience different puts it mildly. It's different even from full-size headfi but less so. Versus conventional headphones, one subtracts weight, headband irritation and concomitant fatigue but replaces that with the physical intrusion of stuffed ears. Maximal comfort is down to picking the size tip that fits you best. Another giveaway for a wrong-sized tip is to open your jaw as though yawning. If the sound changes or cuts out, your fit/tip isn't right. Finally, proper low-frequency development depends entirely on a good seal. If you hit 'play', then bring the ear buds closer and slowly insert them, you'll observe how the frequency balance changes. Bass only really shows up when you've seated the IEM as deep as they'll go. If you have them before you on the table with music playing, you won't hear even the normal bleed of conventional 'phones. You'll hear absolutely nothing; perfect for noise-free break-in!


Lyra frequency response

An issue which headphone designers have is that there's no universal consensus yet on what the ideal target response curve is. Just so, everyone knows that inner-ear effects mean it can't look flat through the presence and treble bands to sound linear. Harman engineer Sean E. Olive's blog talks about their research findings in an overview presentation here. Their research funding far exceeds what small makers can throw at the issue. For many, the Harman curve and preferences act as quasi defaults. Ken uses Bruel & Kjaer's 4195 ear simulator for his work.

Orion frequency response

Jupiter frequency response