Campfire Audio entered the high-end earphone market in 2015 with three models (the Jupiter, Orion, and Lyra), which were followed in 2016 by four more models (the flagship Andromeda, Lyra II, Dorado, and Vega). Then, in 2017 there came the mid-priced Polaris, and 2018 brought us two more new models: the Comet and flagship Atlas that is the subject of this review. We've almost caught up!
As it has evolved, Campfire Audio has focused on building earphones with high performance drivers and driver arrays. Some use balanced armature-type drivers, some use hybrid balanced armature/dynamic driver combinations, and a few feature single, very high performance dynamic drivers. The Atlas takes the latter approach as it is based on a single 10mm dynamic driver with a light yet very rigid A.D.L.C. (Amorphous Diamond-Like Carbon) diaphragm. To provide some context, let me mention that Campfire’s top balanced armature-driven model is the Andromeda (reviewed in the Summer 2018 edition of Ultimate Headphone Guide), where the Atlas is the firm’s new maximum supremo dynamic driver earphone.
The Atlas, along with its little brother the Comet, introduces a new for Campfire earpiece design, where the enclosures are much more compact than previous Campfire designs and are fabricated from drop forged stainless steel, CNC machined to its final shape, and then polished to a gleaming, mirror-like finish.
Why the switch to stainless steel? Even though early generation Campfire earpieces looked durable and were typically made from made from machined aluminium and given anodised or ceramic coatings, company founder Ken Ball was never completely happy with their long-term sturdiness (apparently, the anodized or ceramic coatings could get scratched through long term in-pocket carrying). To address this issue Ball and his team came up with the new stainless steel design, which is said to take beauty and ruggedness to a whole new level.
Like Campfire’s co-flagship Andromeda, the Atlas feature high quality pure silver Litz-wire signal cables, which makes perfect sense when you realise Ken Ball’s other company is ALO Audio—a firm renowned for its ultra high-quality personal audio cables. Like all of Campfire’s best models, the Atlas features Beryllium/Copper MMCX-type connection sockets and signal cable plugs, both in the interest of sound quality and robustness.
How does the Atlas compare to the Andromeda in sonic terms? Basically, the Andromeda offers nearly neutral tonal balance and is all about sonic transparency, detail, and nuance (three qualities I prize highly); in short, the Andromeda is effectively a ‘monitoring’ earphone. In contrast, the Atlas offers somewhat warmer overall voicing with softer-sounding highs, delivers vigorous ‘big boy’ dynamics, and produces huge and expansive soundstages. Where the Andromeda sounds somewhat like a monitoring-type loudspeaker (accurate and highly detailed, but not always warm and inviting), the Atlas is a very different animal (more like a premium-quality omnidirectional loudspeaker). The Atlas, although still quite rich in detail and subtlety, seems primarily focussed on delivering large-scale, outside-the-head soundscapes that engage the listener on deep musical and emotional levels.
A track that shows many of the Atlas’ strengths is ‘Chan Chan’ from Buena Vista Social Club’s eponymous album [World Circuit, 24/96]. The Latin-inflected track has a warm, dark, and seductive tonality that perfectly captures the vibe of the old Havana studio where the recording was made—qualities underscored by the Atlas’ warm, rich, and naturally spacious sound. The Atlas pulls you out of your own head and places you in the studio in the presence of a world class Latin ensemble. If there is any drawback, it is that the Atlas does not provide the desirable upper midrange and top-end air and detail that Campfire’s Andromeda does.
The Atlas is ideal for earphone enthusiasts who favour a big, warm, expansive sound with an emphasis on soundstage depth, width, and breadth. As is typical of the best single-driver earphones, that Atlas sounds wonderfully coherent from to bottom. Finally, it is just as comfortable to wear, as it is beautiful to behold.
Campfire Audio Atlas
Type: Single A.D.L.C. dynamic driver universal-fit earphone.
Driver complement: Single A.D.L.C. 10mm dynamic driver.
Frequency response: 5Hz – 20kHz
Sensitivity: 105dB SPL/mW (less than 1% THD)
Impedance: 19 Ohms
Accessories: Leather hard-shell case with faux shearling liner, MMCX signal cables with pure silver Litz wire conductors, Campfire Marshmallow compressible foam ear tips (S, M, L), Silicone ear tips (S, M, L), Final Edge-type ear tips (XS, S, M, L, XL), cleaning tool, Campfire lapel pin.
Portland, Oregon 97214 USA
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