One driver… While many custom-fit in-ear monitors use two, three, four, or more balanced armature drivers, Campfire Audio has forged a different path, choosing to refine and perfect a single full-range dynamic driver design. The Equinox is the firm’s first CIEM. Instead of the more common molded acrylic two-piece shells, Campfire’s earpieces employ a direct solid printing manufacturing process. With internal acoustic chambers that are incorporated into its 3-D printed design, the Equinox possesses a unique set of ergonomic features and sonic characteristics.
Although the enclosures are 3-D printed, the Equinox driver housing is made of stainless steel. Campfire uses steel because it delivers “a certain robustness to the earphone’s sonic signature and provides an additional level of protection for the earphone.” The Equinox come standard with a removable pure silver Litz-wire cable with Beryllium copper MMCX terminations. The Equinox’s dynamic driver uses a 10mm ADLC (Amorphous Diamond-Like Carbon) diaphragm; ADLC is a hybrid of diamond and graphite carbon. This non-crystalline diamond-like material has low density but high rigidity, which makes it an ideal diaphragm material.
CIEMs are all about the fit—an area where the Equinoxes have an advantage over many custom in-ear designs because their earpieces do not intrude very far into your ear canal. This makes for a less obtrusive and more comfortable fit than any universal-fit earphones and many CIEMs I’ve used. Unlike a universal design, there is one additional step required with custom in-ears—you will need to have impressions of your ears made by an audiologist. Since the Equinox CIEMs do not extend deeply into your ear canals, good impressions could be taken without requiring a bite-spacer (which makes one drool). When the Equinox in-ears arrived, I tried them on immediately and found the fit was perfect with no readjustment needed. Custom-fit in-ear monitors should be more comfortable than universal-fits, and the Equinoxes rank as the most comfortable CIEMs I’ve experienced. I could wear them for hours with no irritation.
The sound of the Equinox was impressive. Due to their single drivers, which need no crossovers, the Equinoxes image with precision. On some tracks the sound appeared to span not only the front 180 degrees of the soundstage, but also extended so some instruments and voices could be detected almost beyond the 180-degree arc of the front stage. The opening of 'Anything' by RØRY Alex Mattson [Anything, Ultra Records] demonstrates this 'VistaVision' soundstage nicely. This spacious soundstage allowed each instrument to have a specific and well-defined location in three-dimensional space.
Bass through the Equinox was elevated above what I consider neutral. While the bass never intrudes into the lower midrange, it is big and well defined with lots of visceral impact. On some cuts that feature a 'big' bass such as on 'Michelle' from the Beatles WAX Apple complete FLAC set, it can be overbearing. But on the Rolling Stones’ 'Street Fighting Man' [Beggars Banquet, ABKCO] the bass balance sounds right on. Virgil Fox fans (if any are any left) will love the way the Equinox delivers the 64 Hz Low C pipe organ note in Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor [Organ Works: Bach by Virgil Fox, Sony Classical].
Single driver designs all share one liability—their ability to remain linear throughout their entire frequency range without any dips or spikes. Except for the additional low frequency energy noted earlier I found the Equinox were smooth and lacking any noticeable hot-spots in the midrange and lower treble, but since my hearing goes up to only 13kHz I can’t vouch for the upper treble. The Equinox midrange was delicious; I dare anyone to listen to the high-resolution version of the original recording of Joni Mitchell’s Blue [Rhino] without melting into a puddle from her gorgeous vocal timbre.
Although for $1,499 (and under) you have quite a few CIEM options, few offer the combination of features and fit offered by the Equinox. For those audiophiles who want to hear all the low bass, treasure a large soundstage presentation with excellent specificity, and plan to wear their custom CIEMs for long, uninterrupted periods of time, the Equinox ticks all their boxes.
Campfire Audio Equinox custom-fit in-ear monitors
Type: Custom-fit in-ear monitor
Driver complement: Single full-range 10mm dynamic driver
Frequency Response: 5 Hz–20 kHz
Impedance: 19 ohms @ 1kHz
Sensitivity: 105 dB @ 1kHz/1 mW
Connector: 1/8” headphone plug; compatible with all systems
Weight: Not specified
Price: $1499 US, UK price not yet announced
2400 SE Ankeny, Portland, OR, USA