Campfire Audio Atlas review - expatinjapan

 
Campfire Audio Atlas baawwlz deep

Campfire Audio Atlas review
-expatinjapan

https://campfireaudio.com/shop/atlas/

'Gigantic and Fantastic Sound.
A truly massive sound. We’ve expanded our ADLC driver to a mighty 10mm and enclosed it in Stainless Steel – Atlas is a full range powerhouse.
The result is a terrific sounding earphone with a dynamic signature that will convert even the most jaded listener to an Atlas fan.
Designed and Assembled in Portland, Oregon USA.'



Unboxing, descriptions and specs



Campfire Audio Black Leather Earphone Case



'Atlas
Gigantic and Fantastic Sound.
Stainless Steel Body.
Full Range 10mm A.D.L.C. Diaphragm Dynamic Driver.
Designed and Assembled in Portland, Oregon USA.'


Specifications
5Hz–20 kHz Frequency Response
105 dB SPL/mW Sensitivity
19 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance
Less than 1% Total Harmonic Distortion

Features
Single Full Range 10mm Dynamic Driver
Plasma enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (C.V.D.) Amorphous Diamond Like Carbon (A.D.L.C.) Diaphragm.
Beryllium / Copper MMCX Connections
Stainless Steel Body



'Our new stainless steel earphone bodies are drop forged and then CNC machined before being hand polished to a mirror finish.

The weight of our stainless steel earphones in your hand feels good. The durability of stainless steel gives you peace of mind in daily use, knowing these are going to last.'



'New A.D.L.C. Diaphragm Dynamic Driver
Expanding on the commercial and critical success of Vega, we returned to an A.D.L.C. diaphragm design for Atlas and super sized it to a new 10mm driver; up from 8.5mm utilized in Vega.

For a quick background, A.D.L.C. (Amorphous Diamond-Like Carbon) is the hybrid of diamond and graphite carbon. It is a non-crystalline diamond. It is a material that has low density and high rigidity, important factors when considering diaphragm materials.

In designing a dynamic driver, the diaphragm material used should be as rigid as possible to provide a wider range of frequency responses and lower distortion. Additionally, the density of the diaphragm material should also be as low as possible in order to increase fidelity.

The 10mm A.D.L.C. diaphragm driver at the heart of Atlas achieves these goals; superior fidelity, excellent frequency response, and low distortion.'




'New Pure Silver Cable
We’ve created an all new pure silver cable for Atlas that allows you to get the very best sound possible from your earphone, right out of the box. The pure silver conductors provide additional resolution and refinement to an already exceptional sound.
This cable is also wound with a twist that reduces tangling and micro phonics improving your daily experience with Atlas.'


'MMCX designed to last
Our custom Beryllium Copper MMCX eliminates the traditional shortcomings of the connection and harnesses all of its benefits. Beryllium Copper provides a robust mating mechanism; one that is typically made from soft brass. This selection of a harder material extends the life of component and the earphone.'


'3D Modeled Awesomeness
Tuning a high fidelity earphone is both an art and a science. To make something really special many critical factors need to intersect perfectly. This is why we choose to design and iterate with 3D modeled parts and take those parts into our final builds. It gives us an unprecedented level of control to capture the sound we’re trying to achieve. We think you’ll appreciate this refinement when you hear them yourself.'



Included accessories:
Campfire Audio Black Leather Earphone Case.
Campfire Audio Pure Silver Litz Cable – Pure Silver Conductors with Berylium Copper MMCX and 3.5mm Stereo Plug.
– Final Audio Tips (xs/s/m/l/xl) 
– Campfire Audio Marshmallow Tips (s/m/l) 
– Silicon Earphone Tips (s/m/l) 
– Campfire Audio Lapel Pin 
– Cleaning Tool.
Authentic Warranty Number Sticker – Matches Interior Warranty Card.


Atlas and Comet side by side size comparison.

Opus#2 and Campfire Audio Atlas and Comet




Opus#3 via Bluetooth to iFi xDXD and Campfire Audio Atlas.
Sound

As usual for aficionados of the burn in brigade I got over well over 100 hours on these humble beasts prior to review, for the other side of the heated debate....well you don`t believe in it anyway. So everyone is happy before we proceed. Head pie loves you all. (No, we don`t).

Atlas that figure that holds the world on his shoulders...Wrong!...he actually holds the celestial spheres of the starry heavens upon on his manly shoulders. A fitting name for an IEM set to take the place of the flagship to rule them all within the Campfire Audio family. It being fitting as in the past Campfire audio earphones being named after constellations. The Atlas, Comet and Cascade marking a new naming system and also a new direction in build and sound.

I am a Campfire Audio fan. Admittedly and unabashedly so.  Of their earphones and also the way they conduct themselves and do business. I have heard every CA earphone except for the original Lyra. 
I have also reviewed most of them, whilst technically from great to excellent I can only count a few that matched my personal sonic tastes. Each to his own ears.


Which brings us to the Atlas, and the Comet, and the Vega, and the Andromeda....
Multiple PM's asking me this and that about all four. As usual I was hesitant to answer, not just because I have a general first come, first served queue system with the odd leap frog, but early impressions can be sometimes in error for various reasons.

With such variables as three different cables, stock tips versus after market tips, performance as an individual IEM, plus comparisons with other TOTL Campfire Audio IEMs. Also an Atlas vs Comet was in order...'bbuuuuttt the price point difference!, the different cable etc etc'. Yes, yes I know, I know and sympathize but the shell, the shell! Sure one is a DD and the other a single BA with a gaping valley of $1000 between them, but curiosity, for science and for Rohan I wanted to check it out.

I would use a variety of daps in my testing:
iBasso DX200 with Amp 1(and 4.4mm amp 4), Opus#2, 
Fiio X7ii with stock amp and 4.4mm AM3B. 
Opus#3, Echobox Explorer and Opus#1.
Shozy Alien+, Opus#1S and Shanling M3s.
ipod touch 6G with Flacplayer and Shanling M0.
I also played around slightly with some Dac/Amps such as the Cozoy REI, iFi iDSD nano black , iFI xDSD and CEntrance DACportable.
I also did a few impedance tests using the CEntrance Hifi-M8 with its impedance switch of 11,2 & 1 ohms.

.....Overkill.

Not everything is written up as some results were so similar as to render them null and just extra noise.

In initial listening I stuck to using the stock tips, of which I preferred the Final Audio tips.
I did a bit of tip rolling but mainly stayed with the JVC Spiral Tips as they fit me well and I have enough for comparisons. Ortofon came in a close second for aftermarket tips.

Generally I stuck to FLAC files of 16/44.


iBasso DX200 and Amp 1

Test tickle the ear drums time!

Next up I hooked up the Atlas, Andromeda and Vega to a headphone switcher box so I could swap between them with ease.
Then worked out the volume with a SPL Meter of each so I could quickly adjust to the same volume as I was cycling through them. Phew.

I used the iBasso DX200 with amp 1 as it is a fairly neutral/reference dap/amp set up.
JVC Spiral tips on all three earphones for consistency.

Stock cables were used in this first foray.
Litz for Andromeda and Vega.
Silver for Atlas.

Shuffle mode for randomness!
It didn't help that the first track was Discharge ;)

Cowboy Junkies - Powderfinger
Andromeda - Mids, smooth vocals, good for female vocals, large sound stage.
Atlas - Smooth, more even overall
Vega - More laid back, L or V shaped.

Joy Division - Transmission
Andromeda - less bass than the other two, big sound, but not enough low end.
Atlas - Nice solid, quick bass, vocals and music even, nice detailing.
Vega - Nice low end, quite concentrated sound.

Radiohead - Airbag
Andromeda - Nice clarity, mids and treble, male vocals not as lush as females, expansive.
Atlas - Nice even approach to bass, mids and treble. A bit of everything. intimate and large sound stage co existing.
Vega - Seems less as 'big' as the Atlas.  Smaller driver, perhaps. The Atlas seems more consistent.

Richard Ashcroft - Crazy world.
Andromeda - Very similar to Atlas but missing that nice low end of bass.
Atlas - Just full, fun, pumping. everything in sync.
Vega - Laid back in a sense, maybe needs foams to really shine.Constricted.

PJ Harvey - Joe
Andromeda - large sound stage detailed, but lacking the lows PJ needs to shine.
Atlas - Deep and dirty. focussed and expansive where needed.
Vega - Fun, but low end is not as present as the Atlas. loses something. Can be quite linear at times with silicone tips.

Death in Vegas - help yourself
Andromeda - Excellent, soaring highs, expansive, detailed, airy, beautiful.
Atlas - More subdued than the Andros, but concentrated.
Vega - Peaceful, even, airy.

Pixies - Wave of mutilation
Andromeda - delicious, thumping  mids and drums, large and spacious.
Atlas - Fairly even.  a bit of everything, wall of sound but with excellent layering.
Vega - Needs a bit of volume to really get kicking.

Hole - She walks on me
Andromeda - The Andros quite shine surprisingly, but too much mids for this track
Atlas - Quite even, could do with a bit more low end for this track. smoother than Vega.
Vega - Hard rock, this is what the Vegas were for. fast, hard hitting, baseball bat in the face.

The Verve - Bittersweet symphony
Andromeda - A perfect track for the Andros, soaring and large sound stage. Excellent timbre and layering.
Atlas - Enough of full sound to make the track enjoyable.
Vega - Nice, not accurate, too much low end.

The Fugees - The score
Andromeda - Enjoyable, but a bit tame.
Atlas - Nice. great, a perfect storm. head nodding.
Vega - Nice low end, but missing those mids.

DJ Champion - No Heaven
Andromeda - Surprising to me this track shines with the Andromeda. large, detailed, fast.
Atlas - Even, balanced, deep bass, needs a bit more space and detailing.
Vega - Nice thump to the bass, missing detailing and sound stage.

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Fortunate son
Andromeda - Pleasant, decent, but lacks some body and energy.
Atlas - Balanced, decent sound stage and instrument separation.
Vega - Great for rock, a bit of lows and highs.

Beethoven - Mass in D major, Op 123, "Missa Solemnis" :  Benedictus.
Andromeda - Large sound stage as usual, vocals too far forward, focus on highs
Atlas - Perfect. Just simply beautiful. Full. Symphonic.
Vega - A little too linear for the many notes and vocals.

Norah Jones - Seven years
Andromeda - Friendly enough and a joy, but lacks that bass and mids that the Atlas brings. Too airy.
Atlas - Full, even, just enough of everything, accurate.
Vega - Has that warmth NJ needs, but lacks dynamics, needs more highs and mids.

Black Flag - My war
Andromeda - Very good.
Atlas - A bit too much low end for this track.
Vega - A bit disjointed , not enough clarity.

Belly - Red
Andromeda Nice and dynamic, just lacks the body depth the Atlas has.
Atlas - large sound, exquisite layering.
Vega - Nice and deep,  once again shines with rock.

Coldplay - Don't panic
Andromeda - nice and smooth, creamy and nice highs.
Atlas - Just more dynamic, everything nicely in tune. Enough lows, mids and highs to please.
Vega - Subdued, a bit dark. Not enough highs for CP.

Slayer - reborn
Andromeda - Very good, but needs a bit more low end to really enter into it.
Atlas - Even sound overall. head bangin'
Vega - Fast and furious, a bit light in the lows and mids.

The Cardigans - Erase and rewind
Andromeda - Nice and lush, erotic. Mids for miles. excellent separation and sound stage.
Atlas - Everything the andromeda does and with more body, just a bigger sound.
Vega - Lows focussed.

The Chemical Brothers A taste of honey.
Andromeda - Great low end , expansive and full. treble extension.
Atlas - Full bodied, low end depth. holographic and expansive.
Vega - Nice low end, boom boom

Enough!? I think so. More jazz, EDM, country music, pop etc please.....Sorry.

iBasso DX200 and Campfire Audio Atlas.


There is a good amount of cues above to point us in a general direction of what the Atlas is.

Did the Andromeda and Vega have a baby? I think so...in some sense.

The Atlas certainly eclipses and replaces the Vega for sure, but the Andromeda still holds it own and reserves its particular sonic niche that is loved by many.

So where are we? Where am I? why am I?

At this stage I should use the recently formulated system for categorizing audio components in a testing condition formulated by Nor. UA. S. (North University for the study of Audio (State).
DKBT or Dynamics, Kinetics, Balance, Transparency.

The Atlas certainly scores high in each of the groups, whilst there are subsets within this new evaluation system that is steadily gain traction amongst European and South East asian reviewers it seems to have not yet caught on the English speaking world. I myself am still learning and look forward to more reviews that use the system.

So the Atlas with stock cable.
'Gigantic and fantastic sound' says the Campfire Audio website and I can't argue with that, it is a great summary.

Pixies - 'Gigantic'

So what do the notes for the Atlas say? Is it congruent overall and consistent?

Smooth, more even overall,
Nice solid, quick bass, vocals and music even, nice detailing,
Nice even approach to bass, mids and treble.
A bit of everything. intimate and large sound stage co existing,
Just full, fun, pumping. everything in sync, Deep and dirty. focussed and expansive where needed, More subdued than the Andros, but concentrated,
Fairly even.  A bit of everything, wall of sound but with excellent layering,
Quite even, could do with a bit more low end for this track. smoother than Vega
Enough of full sound to make the track enjoyable
Nice. great, a perfect storm. head nodding
Even, balanced, deep bass, needs a bit more space and detailing
Balanced, decent sound stage and instrument separation
Perfect. Just simply beautiful. Full. Symphonic
Full, even, just enough of everything, accurate
A bit too much low end for this track
large sound, exquisite layering
Just more dynamic, everything nicely in tune. Enough lows, mids and highs to please.
Even sound overall. head bangin'
Everything the Andromeda does and with more body, just a bigger sound
Full bodied, low end depth. holographic and expansive

So what we have is a fairly balanced and well tuned single dynamic driver earphone,  that produces a full sound, smooth, large sound stage, great layering and timbre, detailed, accurate, holographic.

'Gigantic and fantastic' sound indeed. Whilst it does make me want to put the Vega on the shelf, the Andromeda still holds a place in the Campfire Audio line up.



Where next?

Well Ken was kind enough to send an extra silver cable so I could test all three against each other with the Litz and also the new Atlas silver cable.

Hell, I might even throw in some Reference 8 and SXC-8 impressions If I get over excited.

"Cables don't make a difference Head pie u idieet!' - Ok, you run along, you can skip this section then.

So lets see what we get when throw the Litz into the fray, Litz for everyone!

Litz - Andromeda - Smooth, expansive, nice mids and treble. Silky vocals.
Litz - Atlas - They lose some smoothness, and mids, and bass is ok, but some fullness is lost overall. Better with the silver imho.
Litz - Vega - Vega is Vega, a L to V shape depending. With silicone tips the Vega could benefit from some cable rolling.


ALO Audio silver Atlas cables 3.5mm and 4.4mm

Onwards and upwards. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Silver - Andromeda - Nice full, adds to that holographic sense the Andros have. A bit more low end. Better with the Litz. imho.
Silver - Atlas - Similar in a sense, but just that lovely low end and overall balance between the bass, mids. treble and vocals is addictive.

Silver - Vega - Smooth. a bit more on the softer linear side. Refined. A bit fuller. Dunno, maybe Litz for Vega.
Silver - Atlas - deep and full. Gigantic.

NOTE: Atlas is more designed so non memory wire, though you can do over the ear with memory wire, but it sits better over the ear with no memory wire.

Ok, ok...I know you are probably wondering about this

Reference 8 - Atlas. Quite pleasant. And enjoyable. A bit treble rich at times. A bit of a triangle sig at others.  fast and busy. Silver wins.

Random earlier testing.

Ok onwards and sideways..

4.4mm ALO Audio silver cable 

iBasso DX200 Amp 4 : Just MOAR gigantic. This my preferred choice for the Atlas at the moment.

iBasso DX200 Amp 4S (first listen actually) : Smoother than Amp 4, a bit more fuller overall(?). Amp may need more burn in, Amp4 seems more controlled. Amp 4S has hard hitting bass. A bit slower than Amp 4.



FiiO X7ii and Amp AM3B 4.4mm: : Nice and light, not as full and hard hitting as the DX200 with less layering and timbre. Perhaps reduced mids ever so slightly.

FiiO X7ii and amp AM3B to Campfire Audio Atlas.


ALO Audio SXC-8

A heavy cable, not for everyone. one can get the memory wire to work with the Atlas with a bit of fiddling. Perhaps better for more stationary listening. I would like to see one for IEMs without the memory cable, I think it would sit better.



iBasso DX200 Amp 4 : Increase of sound stage and separation. Bass controlled. Excellent and exquisite layering. Truly expansive. Pure Heaven, the real one.


FiiO X7ii and AM3B 4.4mm. Now this is great. Lovely everything. Brings the X7ii to life. Retains the Atlas signature but with more smoothness and purity of sound.

A definite step up in all areas from the stock cable, but ergonomically not for everyone. 
Buuuut thhe soouuunndd!


SXC-8 and the Atlas - Its doable. Without its memory wire might sit easier.

EDIT: Additional cable comparison links:

ALO Audio SXC-8 vs Litz from the CA cascade review
https://www.headpie.net/2018/05/alo-audio-sxc-8-vs-alo-audio-litz-cables.html

ALO Audio Tinsel vs Litz vs Reference 8
https://www.headpie.net/2017/03/alo-audio-tinsel-litz-and-reference-8.html


An interlude:

Pointless? mebbe...but lets have some fun.

Campfire Audio Cascade (no filter) versus Campfire Audio Atlas with the ALO Audio SXC-8.



Well, we know how delightful the Atlas sounds when paired with the SXC-8 over ear with memory wired SXC-8 (I may try to remove it).

First impression is that the Cascade is slightly laid back compared to the in your face Atlas.
The Cascade slapped me in the sweet cheeks on first listen, now the Atlas is doing the same same, but different.

Color me a bit shocked and surprised, not the result I was expecting to be honest.

Now I could do a bit more fiddling with the filters to see if I can replicate the Atlas more fullness and gigantic sound scape...but to be honest i have done enough cable rolling and am a bit tired. inspiration may return later in the game...but for now thats enough.

iFi xDSD fueled by the Shanling M0 was a pleasure to use and also performed well with the Atlas.

Surprisingly even the diminutive Shanling m0 is quite the beast itself and using the Atlas with it as a traveling kit was quite satisfying.

In closing we come full circle back to the statement from Campfire Audios website:
'Gigantic and Fantastic Sound.
A truly massive sound. We’ve expanded our ADLC driver to a mighty 10mm and enclosed it in Stainless Steel – Atlas is a full range powerhouse.`

The above all is true, gigantic sound, certainly a powerhouse and contains a full range with a massive sound. It is a solid performer and deserves its rank at the top of the Campfire Audio pyramid.

Price

US $1,299.00

Available from Campfire Audio

And recognized dealers (and their distribution networks)



Traveling kit 


Not much is needed to satisfy on a travel light day.

A Shozy hard cover case, Atlas, Andromeda, some adapters and tips 
and the simple but powerful Shanling m0.
The budget minded might consider the Campfire Audio Comet and the Shanling M0

1, 2, 3...all one needs for everyday audio listening?

Tips and fit

 I tried the stock tips (mainly skipped the foamies as I prefer silicone)

I was not sure what size to use.
Maybe a smaller than usual I was suspecting for the deep insertion.
Smaller sized JVC spiral tips did the trick (a size or two smaller than my usual).

Stage one
Ortofon was nice
Echobox x1 tips seemed ok
Some cone shaped foam (not into foam)
Some smallish double flange tips
So small, cone-ish or thin and not short and wide
Sized down one size.
Symbio Mandarins are out
The flanges from I dont know where  will give another try.
Ortofon I will try again also. But might loose some body.

Stage two
I wasnt having much luck with my usual size of JVC Spiral tips and went a size or so smaller. 
That was good.
No driver flex or suffocation of the music to zero. Also inserted easily for both Comet and Atlas.
Ortofon was also good, slight cone shape. A bit thin in the lows but other wise great and comfortable.
I dug out some Echobox Finder tips - the cone shaped ones. They seemed ok for fit and sound.
Some small double flanges also worked well. Good seal. Great music accuracy.
I tried some foams that were cone shaped and they were good.
I’m not a foam tip user though. Just for science.
Short and fat EB and Foams didnt work.
I also tried the Symbio Mandarine tips but didnt have success. I find they are great with the Dorado and ok with the Vega.
Also I have to give the supplied silicone tips a try now I have a general size decided on.

Spiral tips are my general go to tips.

Used final audio tips today
They seemed to muffle either end a bit for me. A good fit though.

Pretty much decided on three tips
Final Audio, stock
Jvc spiral tips (smaller than my usual size)
Ortofon tips

Each with pluses and minuses.



Overall

The Campfire Atlas like the fore runners in the Campfire Audio line up has surpassed its predecessors.
Once again the Campfire Audio team has taken what they learned from an earlier set of products and refined to produce an earphone that goes that step further.

Blurbs are usually mostly hyperbole and propaganda but the Atlas one rings true:

'Gigantic and Fantastic Sound.
A truly massive sound. We’ve expanded our ADLC driver to a mighty 10mm and enclosed it in Stainless Steel – Atlas is a full range powerhouse.
The result is a terrific sounding earphone with a dynamic signature that will convert even the most jaded listener to an Atlas fan.'

I can`t really expand on that, it contains the essence of what the Atlas is all about.

A solid stainless steel shell, with a beefy driver nestled inside along with the CA technology.

The Atlas. Hardened steel, massive sound, detailed and immersive with an expansive sound stage.

Truly a Titan!

'To see a World in a Grain of Sand 
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour' - William Blake.


 Opus#2 and Campfire Audio Atlas.



Thank you to Campfire Audio for sending Head pie the Campfire Atlas for review.


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