With much effort, innovation, and creativity, Campfire Audio launches their new midrange in-ear monitor (IEM) IO, redefining the category benchmark.
Campfire Audio announced the launch of two new models, Campfire Audio IO and Campfire Audio Polaris V2 during Fujiya Avic Headphone Festival 2019. After the launch in Japan, I had the opportunity to work with a distributor to launch these two models in Singapore. This has been an amazing experience for me because of the support from the Campfire Audio fans.
I have been impressed by Campfire Audio since the first launch of Orion, Jupiter, and Lyra. To me, the new Campfire Audio IO is a replacement for the previous dual balanced armature model, Nova. I have been using Nova for almost three years and it has served me well.
Is it an adequate replacement? Absolutely. Read on to find out why.
The packaging for Campfire Audio is like a child, growing with each new release. Look how big you’ve gotten!
I compared the new packaging with my original generation packaging from Campfire Audio Nova and the differences are significant. The new packaging is more grand and classy compared to the simpler old packaging.
Campfire Audio changed their design approach for the box and IEMs – mainly on the color theme. Now, the box, case, and IEMs have the same color. You can immediately identify the models from afar based on either the box, case, or the shell color. The palette of choice for IO is red.
The outer layer of the packaging is a sleeve with a sticker depicting the IEMs, model, and brand. The sleeve can be opened up by removing the small round sticker at the back of the sleeve.
After opening the sleeve, the presentation of the inner box is amazing. The inner box “shines” like a galaxy and is the central focus of your attention. Words cannot describe its beauty.
Opening the inner box, you will find a red leather case with the IO sitting inside. The case is a major change–it looks like a red curry puff (I like this description, it is from one of my co-workers). I like the new case. It is more spacious compared to the previous squarish case.
Besides the case, you will find an accessory box. These are the accessories in the box:
- Final Audio Tips (Five sizes from XS to XL)
- Campfire Audio Marshmallow Tips (Three sizes from S to L)
- Silicone Earphone Tips (Three sizes from S to L)
- Campfire Audio Lapel Pin
- Cleaning Tool
All these accessories are kept in a Campfire Audio mesh IEM bag. This could be useful for storing your IEMs and preventing them from being scratched.
- 5Hz–22kHz Frequency Response
- 109 dB SPL/mW Sensitivity @ 1kHz
- 26 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance
- Dual Balanced Armature Driver Design.
- Newly Insulated Custom Beryllium / Copper MMCX Connections
- ‘Garnet’ Red Anodized Aluminum Body
- 24k Gold Plated Screws
- Stainless Steel Spout
The IO features a ’Garnet’ Red anodized finish with 24k gold plated screws on a machined aluminum body. The color is very eye-catching. The color scheme looks like Iron Man and the IO launch date was coincidentally close to the Avengers: End Game onscreen date. I fell in love with it on first-sight – simply lovely.
The anodized body is claimed to have better scratch resistance. Campfire Audio fans have always faced this issue – IEMs with a lot of scratches. Within 2 months of usage, I noticed some scratches on the shell, but this is mild compared to older models like Andromeda.
Besides the improvements in the shell, Campfire Audio also improved the MMCX port. A custom beryllium-copper insulated round MMCX connector is featured on the IEMs. Tested and proven, the MMCX connector gives me a satisfactory “click” whenever I attach the cable.
The IO has a stainless steel spout or nozzle which improves its durability. As I mentioned in my previous review for Simgot EK3, the connector and the nozzle are the weakest points on IEMs. The IO’s implementation successfully improves the overall build quality.
The cable included in the case is the new Smoky Litz Cable. Built from ALO Audio Silver Plated Copper Litz wire conductors and tangle-resistant twisted cable weave from Silver Litz and Super Litz cable, Campfire Audio added a new stylish Smoky jacket to compliment the unique finish of their new line of earphones.
Smoky Litz cable has a new light-weight molded ear-hook design that replaces the memory wire in previous cables. The result is a lightweight cable that is a pleasure to use every day.
This could be great news for audiophiles who are wearing spectacles, like myself. Memory wire ear-hook designs are disastrous for us. For those cables with memory wire ear-hooks, the memory wire constantly hits our spectacles when we are moving. This creates a “microphonics-like” noise. Besides the noise, it is hard for us to shape the ear-hook due to the presence of spectacles. The new cable saves us from this microphonic hell.
IO has the typical shell shape we’ve seen with previous releases from Campfire Audio. There are some slight changes, namely weight and edges. Due to the change in material, the new shell is lighter in weight compared to the previous releases. There are fewer sharp edges in IO and this yields a more comfortable fitting. I can wear IO for hours without an issue.
The isolation for IO is above average. When commuting, I can immerse myself in the music by turning the volume only slightly higher when compared to normal listening.
IO is a fun sounding IEM. Utilizing a woofer and a tweeter, the high and low frequency regions are fully covered. This results in a slightly “U” shape sound signature. This was a wise tuning choice because it has the potential to be the most well-received sound signature within the price range of USD$300.
The soundstage of IO is slightly below average. I find the overall presentation to be relatively forward compared to other models from Campfire Audio. I have very high expectations for staging, however, and there is some slight disappointment here. Happily, this is not a deal-breaker. Compared to other brands, the soundstage is still good.
IO can be easily driven. I tested it with my iPhone and I get a good audible level without crossing 50% of the volume. This makes IO a good choice for those beginners with no powerful DAPs or amplifiers. A good approach by Campfire Audio.
As a Campfire Audio Nova user, the lows performance of IO actually reminds me of Nova. The presentation is pretty close. As a pure BA driver IEM, the lows dig considerably deep. The attack and decay speed of the lows is fast and precise. No redundancy in the response. I really appreciate this because bleeding of lows into mids, and the resulting slow response, is a big taboo for me.
Lows that are too fast may result in an overly analytical response. Campfire Audio knows this and they found a good balance between analytical and muddy, resulting in a warm and fun-sounding IEM. This could be a unique selling point on its own, but I think this is not the only one. We will explore more.
This is the critical part. No BA driver is dedicated solely to the mids in IO. So, are the mids weak? My answer to this question is no. Being a mids lover, I actually love the presentation of the IO. The mids are slightly recessed, staged below the lows and highs. Despite being slightly recessed, the vocals still sound airy and clear. The mids have a great space to expand due to the tuning. This results in very breathy and spacious mids.
Why do I say this part is critical? If you read the thread on Head-Fi, you will realise there are very controversial comments on this frequency spectrum. I believe Andromeda users might find the mids muddy but we should understand that the price difference between the two IEMs is huge and this comparison is unfair towards IO. I believe IO can serve certain groups of audiophiles well.
With the Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber (TAEC) implementation in the BA driver, highs are not an issue for IO. They are well extended with a sufficient amount of air. Highs have never been an issue for Campfire Audio except for Nova where the highs rolled-off too early.
The well-extended highs improve the overall fidelity of the presentation. Thanks to the highs, the overall sound signature is prevented from being too warm.
Are the highs sharp and peaky? This is a tricky question for me to answer because I have a very good tolerance for treble. I would answer no. The highs are gentle enough on my eardrums. No harshness and no piercing even after long listening.
The Campfire Audio IO is a great choice for audiophiles who are looking for a mid-tier IEM with fun and dynamic sound. IO can save your pocketbook from becoming too light for sure. This release proves that Campfire Audio is continuously improving and we should continue to pay close attention to their new releases.
Outstanding performance from IO makes it a good replacement for the now obsolete Nova.