Campfire Audio ARA Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

Campfire Audio ARA Review

 

Introduction:

Campfire Audio is a US based company located in Portland – Oregon, which is specialized in the development and production of portable audio equipment’s such like In-Ear Monitors, cables and headphones.

The ARA that I will now review for you is new member of the Campfire Audio In-Ear Monitor family that came out this year together with the Solaris 2020 and Andromeda 2020 IEM’s.

The Campfire Audio ARA features a unique “Crossover-less” driver design with its special developed “Solid-Body Acoustic Design” and comes with a seven Balanced Armature configuration; two are for the treble range (+T.A.E.C.), one is for the midrange, while four BA’s are dedicated for the lower frequency region.

 

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank Campfire Audio for providing the ARA IEM as review sample. I am not affiliated with Campfire Audio or any third person beyond this review and all these words reflect my true, unaltered opinions about the product.

 

 

Price:

The MSRP price for the Campfire Audio ARA $1.299,00 USD and can be purchased under the link below;

 

 

Package and Accessories:

The Campfire Audio ARA came in a small box with a unique design that was wrapped with a cardboard that is of USA made “French Paper Company” paper which has a label on the top that features the product illustration along with different type of flowers. The label is surrounded with stars in silver color.

The box itself is made from the same cardboard material with the Campfire Audio logo on the top in silver color, set in a scene between a sky full of stars and a mountain surrounded by trees that could represent the nature of Oregon where the company is located.

This box is including the following items;

  • 1 pair x Campfire Audio ARA Monitors
  • 1 piece x Campfire Audio Litz Cable with MMCX connectors
  • 3 pairs x Foam tips (small, medium, large)
  • 3 pairs x Silicon Ear Tips (small, medium, large)
  • 5 pairs x Final Audio Silicone Ear Tips (extra small, small, medium, large, extra large)
  • 3 pieces x Pouch
  • 1 piece x Cleaning Tool
  • 1 piece x Campfire Audio Pin
  • 1 piece x Sustainable Cork Blue Dyed Zipper Case
  • 1 piece x Warrant Card & instruction manual

The Campfire Audio ARA came with a pretty rich accessories package that includes a wide variety of ear tips that are 5 pairs of Final Audio Tips, 3 pairs of foam ear tips (Campfire Audio calls it Marshmallow) and 3 pairs of silicone ear tips with wide opening

The new cork protective zipper case in blue color is a special attraction and an environmentally friendly update to the past zipper cases. Sustainably harvested Cork surrounds a substantial and protective rubber barrier that ensures that your earphones will remain safe while in transit. The interior is thick faux wool lining that preserves the anodized finish of your earphones. Each case is made in Portugal by a small team of skilled craftspeople that share our commitment to quality.

The Cork used for the cases is the outer bark of the Cork Oak Tree (Cork Suberus L), and its extraction is harmless to the tree. The harvest occurs every nine years during the expectable lifetime of the tree (around 150 years). Harvesting the Cork of the tree is fundamental for the sustainability of the cork oak forests. A naturally durable material that feels good to hold in your hand.

There packaging of the ARA includes also 3 pairs of double pocket soft pouch’s where you can put the monitors and the ear tips.

The cleaning tool and a pin with Campfire Audio Logo are some nice addition.

 

 

Features, Design and Build Quality:

The monitor shell of the Campfire Audio ARA is machined from Grade 2 Titanium billet and shows the typical shape that we know from past monitors which is a trademark of the company that has been copied or has inspired many Chi-Fi brands.

Campfire Audio leaved the machined titanium material raw so that the natural beauty of the material shines over time.

The ARA features Campfire Audio’s T.A.E.C.™ (Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber) technology. The acoustic expansion chamber technology should allow the ARA to deliver extended high frequencies without sibilance or fatigue. Campfire Audio optimized their driver performance by adjusting the volume of space available in front of the driver. This design is according to the company superior to the typical “Tube+Dampener”.

Now, the faceplate of the monitor shells features 3 screws in black color sports the Campfire Audio brand logo which is engraved in to the faceplate.

The rear body is the place where the sound nozzle and the L (Left) & R (Right markings are located. The sound nozzle is in black color and made of PVD black stainless-steel material that comes with a new grill design.

On the top of each monitor shell is the Beryllium Copper MMCX (Micro Miniature Coaxial) connector that looks pretty robust with the mating mechanism.

The overall build quality of the monitors and the of the MMCX connectors is top notch!

 

 

Campfire Audio Litz Cable:

The ARA comes with the Campfire Audio’s SMOKEY Litz Cable, which is a 4 core braided silver plated cooper wire cable that features pretty soft, flexible and durable jacket (insulation) in grey color.

This cable features beryllium copper MMCX (Micro Miniature Coaxial) connectors. Beryllium Copper provides a robust mating mechanism; one that is typically made from soft brass. The connector housings are made of semitransparent plastic material in grey color and do sport left and right indicators. The cable features also transparent heat shrink ear guides for extra comfort on the go.

The cable sports a metal Y splitter and chin slider in black color.

The 3.5mm single ended headphone jack has a plastic housing in black color with an L angled profile.

What I like about the cable is the very low microphonic effect and that it is not prone to mixings.

The SMOKEY Litz cable can also be purchased separately under the link below;

 

 

 

Fit, Comfort and Isolation:

The very premium looking titanium housing of the Campfire Audio ARA shares the same epic design/shape like the Andromeda, Polaris and older models like the Jupiter and Orion. The ARA fits perfectly to my average sized ears thanks to the shape of the monitor and offers a comfortable fit even after longer listening periods without to hurt my ear concha’s.

The performance of the Campfire Audio ARA in terms of isolation is on an above average level which makes it to an ideal In-Ear Monitor on the go in relative noisy environments like the bus, train or metro.

 

 

Some Remarkable Features:

 

a) Solid Body Design:

Campfire Audio’s new solid body design provides optimized acoustic performance by incorporating the tuning chambers of the earphone directly into the final earphone print.

 

b) 3D Optimized Acoustic Construction:

The Campfire Audio ARA features an acoustically optimized interior model that should allow each driver to deliver the best performance.

 

Technical Specifications:
  • Driver Units     : 7 Balanced Armature Drivers (4 x Lows, 1 x Midrange, 2 x Highs + T.A.E.C.)
  • Freq. Resp.       : 10 Hz – 28 kHz
  • Sensitivity        : 94 dB SPL @ 1 kHz: 7.094 mVrms
  • Impedance      : 8.5 Ohms
  • Connector       : Beryllium Copper MMMC (Micro Miniature Coaxial Connector)

 

Drivability:

The Campfire Audio ARA is an easy to drive In-Ear Monitor thanks to its low impedance of 8.5 Ohms and relative low sensitivity of 94 dB which makes it to an ideal IEM for the use with portable sources like smartphones, tablets, etc. It can be driven to very loud volumes without the need of an external amplifier.

  

 

Equipment’s used for this review:
  • In Ear Monitors         : Campfire Audio ARA, HiFiMAN RE2000, Meze Audio Rai Penta
  • Sources (DAP/DAC)  : iBasso DX220 MAX, iBasso DX220, FiiO M11 Pro, QLS QA361

 

 

Albums & Tracks used for this review:
  • Barry White – Just The Way You Are (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Isaac Hayes – Walk On By (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Sting – Englishman in New York – (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Elton John – Rocket Man (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • B.B. King – Riding With The King (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Chopin – Nocturn No. 20 In C-Sharp Minor (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Edith Piaf – Non Je Ne Regrette Rien (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Aretha Franklin – I Say a Little Prayer (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Diana Krall – So Wonderful (DSF)
  • First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Sertap Erener – Aşk (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • London Grammar – Interlud (Live) (Flac 24bit/44kHz)
  • Laura Pergolizzi – Lost On You “Live at Harvard and Stone” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • Fazıl Say – Nazım Oratoryosu (Live) (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (Spotify)
  • Armin Van Buuren – Vini Vici (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • No Doubt – Hella Gut (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Lorde – Royal (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Massive Attack – Angel (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Twerl – Lishu (Spotify)
  • U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Portishead – The Hidden Camera (MP3 320kpbs)
  • Metallica – Sad but True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Opeth – Windowpane (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • Rush’s – Leave That Thing Alone (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Slayer – Angel of Death (Spotify)
  • Tom Player – Resonace Theory “Album” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Spotify)

 

 

 

The Sound:

The Campfire Audio ARA is a Top of the Line In-Ear Monitor with a slightly warmer than neutral tonality which offers a pretty fast and controlled bass response, detailed and natural midrange character, along with a treble tuning which shows a high level of clarity, airiness and extension.

 

Bass:

The Campfire Audio ARA is a very interesting In-Ear Monitor when it comes to the lower frequency region which is produced by 4 Balanced Armature Drivers which could lead you to decision that those IEM could be an bass monster; but surprisingly the reproduced bass shows a pretty linear tuning with slightly boost in the midbass region that gives the ARA good level of fullness.

The bass of the ARA has not the typical timbre & tonality that we can hear from a TOTL IEM that do produce its bass with a dynamic driver like the SOLARIS or the ATLAS. But what I can say is that the ARA shows one of the most natural BA produced bass tonalities among all IEM’s I have listen before, which includes TOTL IEM’s like the Noble Audio K10U and Rhapsodio Solar (Universal). The Campfire Audio ARA is also a very successful IEM in terms of bass layering.

The Campfire Audio ARA shows an impressive performance in terms of subbass extension, speed and clarity with good level of decay that is befitting the expectations of a product of this level. As I have mentioned above the bass of the ARA shows a pretty linear tuning while the main goal is not the quantity, it is the quality, where the ARA excels. The subbass rumble and general intensity should satisfy most listeners with a wide variety of music genres, except true bass heads, for that I highly recommend the ATLAS or the SOLARIS 2020. For example the subbass depth and rumble of the ARA in songs like Massive Attack’s “Angel” and Portishead’s “It Could Be Sweet” was very satisfying.

The midbass region of the Campfire Audio ARA is slightly more pronounced compared to the subbass range and still maintain the linear and very accurate character. The hallmark of the midbass area is the speed, clarity and very audible detail retrieval that I really enjoyed during this review. You can clearly hear and understand why the ARA is a product that classified to the TOTL level of IEM’s. For example, string instruments like acoustic guitars and cellos do have a good amount of fullness and weight, while drums like snare and kick drums are impactful without to sound veiled or muddy, even in very complex bass passages.

The bass adds the overall presentation a nice mount of warmth and fullness without to lose the control, clarity and detail retrieval which is one of the attractions that the ARA offers.


 

Midrange:

The Campfire Audio ARA shows some characteristic of a W shaped sound signature and offers a fairly forward midrange tuning. The midrange has a warmish and quite musical tonality, with great level of transparent and airiness, while the vocal presentation is intimate and emotional. The midrange of the ARA shows top level of clarity and detail retrieval that is represented in a very natural way.

 

Vocals & Instruments:

The Campfire Audio ARA exhibits a very intimate and detailed vocal presentation. Both male and female vocals are shown with a good level of transparency, airiness and naturalness.

The lower midrange has enough presence and depth so that male vocals do show good weight and fullness without to sound in any way dull or the lifeless. Male vocals from Barry White and Isaac Hayes, up to Sting and Elton John are represented in a lively, intimate and musical way.

Female vocals on the other hand do have a slightly warmish and pretty emotional tonality. A precise boost in the upper midrange and lower treble region makes female vocals like Edith Piaf, Aretha Franklin and Diana Krall lively and detailed without to be overly sharp and or sound sibilant.

The Campfire Audio ARA is the perfect choice if you are searching for a Top of the Line In-Ear Monitor with a high level of realism with both male and female vocals.

The instrument presentation of the Campfire Audio ARA form pianos up to electric guitars have great presence due to the nicely tuned midrange & upper midrange area that makes them accented, detailed.

Other instruments like clarinets, violins or flutes do have a nice natural timbre and are shown by the ARA with a good level of transparency and extension.

 

Upper Midrange & Treble:

I really like tonality and general tuning of the Campfire Audio ARA in the upper midrange area that shows an outstanding level extension and detail retrieval from female vocals up to instruments like violins, mandolins or flutes. The transitions from the upper midrange towards the treble region are pretty controlled while the attack on percussive instruments such like snare drums or cymbals is very successful.

The Campfire Audio ARA has a well-tuned bright tonality and show an impressive treble performance that should be expected from a High-End In-Ear monitor at this price range.

The lower treble region is slightly less highlighted compared to the upper treble area while it offers good definition with instruments like clarinets and trumpets up to the viola. Other instruments such like flutes and pianos are nicely pronounced and do show a good level of lower treble extension.

The upper treble region on the other hand is nicely emphasized and offers a very good level of extension when I do listen to instruments like cymbals and snare drums in genres like metal and jazz music. The upper treble region is crisp and detailed and offers also a nice amount of airiness and sparkle that I really enjoyed.

The ARA is able to produce great clarity and a high level of detail retrieval from woodwind to string instruments from brass up to percussion instruments. What I also really like about the treble range of the ARA is the general timbre and the controlled that is not prone to sibilance and harshness especially with well recorded & mastered/remastered songs.

 

The Soundstage & Imaging:

The Campfire Audio ARA is a successful In-Ear Monitor in terms of separation between the right & the left channels and the positioning of vocals and instruments. The soundstage of the ARA is airy and pretty expansive and shows a great level of width and depth that fits the expectations of a high-end In-Ear Monitor.

 

 

Comparisons:

 

Campfire Audio ARA versus MEZE Audio Rai Penta:

Both the Meze Audio Rai Penta and the Campfire Audio ARA are multi driver IEM’s with different driver technologies under the hood. The Rai Penta offers a so called Penta Hybrid driver configuration with 4 Balanced Armature and 1 Dynamic driver, while the ARA comes with 7 Balanced Armature Drivers with a Crossover-less driver design. Both IEM’s have a solid build quality and do shows a good fit and isolation.

The Campfire Audio ARA has a more linear bass response compared to the Meze Audio Rai Penta which shows slightly more subbass quantity, depth and rumble, while the ARA has the upper hand in terms of speed and control.

The midbass region of the Rai Penta is more highlighted and shows a higher level of impact and intensity. The ARA on the other hand offers a faster midbass response and sounds tighter in this area. Both IEM’s a very detailed and do show a Top of the Line layering, while the ARA is slightly more successful in terms of low end decay.

The midrange of the both In-Ear Monitors is pretty upfront and offers a great amount of clarity and detail retrieval. The midrange of the Campfire Audio ARA is slightly more upfront and sound a bit more intimate while listen to vocals. The lower midrange of the Rai Penta has a bit more depth and body while the upper midrange is more pronounced compared to those of the ARA. The upper midrange transition of the Campfire Audio ARA are more controlled, while the detail retrieval is pretty close.

The both the lower and upper treble range of the Campfire Audio ARA is more highlighted and shows a higher level of sparkle and airiness. The ARA has also the upper hand in terms of treble extension and detail retrieval.

Both the Meze Audio Rai Penta and the Campfire Audio ARA very successful IEM’s in terms of separation and placement of instruments and vocals while the ARA has the upper hand in terms of wideness, while the Rai Penta shows slightly more depth.

 

 

Campfire Audio ARA versus HiFiMAN RE2000 Silver

Both the HiFiMAN RE2000 Silver and Campfire Audio ARA do have a monitor shell made of metal material while the main difference is the sort of metal that was used. The ARA offers a premium shell Machined from Grade 2 Titanium billet, while the monitor shell of the RE2000 Silver is made of silver coated aluminum alloy material. The RE2000 Silver comes with HiFiMAN’s own developed Topology Driver which is a single dynamic driver with a diameter of 9.2mm, while the Campfire Audio features 7 Balanced Armature drivers with a special Crossover-less design.

The HiFiMAN RE200 Silver has a more V shaped sound signature compared to those of the Campfire Audio ARA.

The low end of the ARA sounds more linear compared to those of the RE2000 Silver which is more pronounced in this area. The HiFiMAN RE200 Silver shows more subbass of the depth, intensity and rumble, while the Campfire Audio ARA is slightly more controlled in this area and offers a quicker decay. The midbass area of the RE2000 Silver is more accented and shows also more impact, while the ARA is has the upper hand in terms of speed, control and tightness.

The midrange of the RE2000 Silver is more recessed compared to those of the ARA which offers a more upfront and intimate midrange presentation. Both Male and female vocals do sound more natural, detailed and emotional with the Campfire Audio ARA. The midrange of the RE2000 sound a bit dry compared to the ARA which is more musical and natural in this area. The upper midrange of the RE2000 is more accented while the transitions in moments while higher distortion are more controlled with the ARA. The treble range of both IEM’s is crisp and detailed, while the Hifiman RE2000 Silver shows slightly more extension. Instruments like Pianos, violins and cymbals do sound more natural with the Campfire Audio ARA.

The soundstage of the HiFiMAN RE2000 Silver shows slightly better depth, while the Campfire Audio ARA has the upper hand in terms of wideness.

 

 

Conclusion:

The sound signature and overall sound performance of the Campfire Audio ARA immediately shows that this is a very carefully tuned and well-engineered TOTL in-ear monitor. It will fascinate those who are looking for a balanced, detailed and coherent sound tuning, and who don’t want any compromises in terms of comfort, aesthetics and build quality.

 

 

Pros and Cons:
  • + Very Balanced, Detailed and Coherent Sound Tuning
  • + Vocal Performance (Intimate, Detailed and Musical)
  • + Bass Speed/Layering, Midrange Clarity, Treble Sparkle/Extension
  • + Easy to Driver for any Source (Smartphones, Tablet, etc.)
  • + Solid Build Quality (Titanium Shell) & Modern & Esthetical Monitor Shell
  • + Rich Accessories Package (Lots of Ear Tips, Nice Protective Case)

 

  • – Sensitivity to Background Noise
  • – The Cable is good but not perfect for a TOTL IEM
  • – Maybe not that comfortable for those with smaller ear concha

 

 

Thank you for the Read!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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