Campfire Audio Polaris Review - When You Wish Upon The North Star - FACE Audio Reviews

_MG_8130
Introduction: The amazing people responsible for Campfire Audios highly acclaimed 
in-ear monitors have continued to be busy at work since their initial entry into the market
 a couple of years back, along the way they’ve crafted some of the most well-regarded
 IEMs in their respective classes, from the airy, resolving Andromeda to the visceral and
 powerful Vega. In their journey of creating various innovations in how to extract the most
 out of whatever drivers they had to achieve the target sound they were looking to 
accomplish and not necessarily just jamming as many drivers as they could. What we 
have here is the Polaris, combining the familiar; the shell that embodied many of their 
balanced armature designs, the TEAC technology, the 8.5mm PVD beryllium dynamic 
driver; with the new, a hybrid dynamic driver and balanced armature design, a new 
aesthetic design with a two-tone color space, a non SPC cable, and what they’re 
calling a polarity tuned chamber, also in the vein of maximizing the performance 
of their dynamic driver. So, what can we make of Campfire Audios “middle child” in 
their line-up, slated at $599? Check it out after the break, and if you want a summary 
of my thoughts head on straight to the conclusion of the page.

Disclosure: The Polaris was provided to me by Campfire Audio in exchange for a  
comprehensive, and honest review.



_MG_8236

Specifications:
20Hz–20kHz Frequency Response
97.5 dB SPL/mW Sensitivity
16.8 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance
Beryllium / Copper MMCX Connections
Machined Aluminum Shell
Cobalt Cerakote™ Lid
Anodized Blue Body
8.5mm Dynamic Driver with Polarity Tuned Chamber™
Single Balanced Armature High Frequency Driver with 
Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber™ (T.A.E.C.)
_MG_8113
_MG_8125
Packaging and Accessories: The Polaris comes in the standard Campfire Audio 
packaging, a relatively small box, colored blue, decorated with the camping theme and 
branding with the details and a photo of the model on the outside. Opening the box reveals 
the Campfire Audio zipper case, and inside the IEMs and the cable are inside. 
The Polaris comes preinstalled with their marshmallow tips. Removing the case, you will 
a false bottom revealing the rest of the included accessories. The included accessories 
are a standard set of black wide bore silicone eartips, a set of Spinfit tips, the remaining 
marshmallow tips; And then we have a warranty card, a quick start guide, an attractive pin, 
and an IEM cleaning tool. The zipper case of the Polaris has a pebbled leather outer 
finish that sports their logo engraved, black zipper with a logo engraving as well, the interior
 is lined with an almost shearling like fabric to keep the housings free from scuffs or 
scratches from within; The case is high quality, and seems to be relatively durable, 
and while the leather outer lining seems on the thin side, the case itself seems to have 
a lining that that keeps it stiff and hardy. Overall the packaging is simple and not wasteful,
 and the accessories included are a quality and attractive case, a wide variety of tips
 to suit almost any need or use case.
_MG_8129
_MG_7725
Build Quality: The Polaris uses the familiar Campfire shells used in their balanced 
armature models. The aluminum machining is wonderful, with all the bevels, and edges 
being precise and smooth. The shell utilizes 3-piece construction, the main housing being
 the textured blue anodized aluminum, with the textured lines only appearing in the upper 
half portion of the shell, painted in a metallic blue finish that gives a nice reflection 
when hit by light in various angles. The faceplate section as again anodized aluminum 
but this being finished in a Cerakote coating that will increase its durability; also 
located on the faceplate is an intricately machined Campfire logo, a breathing port for 
the drivers, and 3 torque screws to secure the housing assembly. The last portion is 
the 3D printed nozzle, constructed out of some variation of a plastic polymer with 2 ports, 
1 for each driver and a nice lip to secure ear tips. The MMCX connectors are their 
usual beryllium MMCX connectors that add more durability. The construction of the 
Polaris is just wonderful, with expert machining and assembly, free of gaps, glue, 
or debris along the seams of the housing. If there’s anything to say the anodized finished
 combined with the angular housing lead it to be prone to chips in the paint, even when 
it’s in the case tucked away with care.


_MG_7762
The cable is a 4-core Litz copper affair, with a 3.5mm single ended termination. The plug 
portion is reinforced plastic with nice strain relief, the Y splitter is made out of black 
aluminum, and the cinch is constructed out of plastic. The cable itself is “braided” in a twist 
configuration, and the black plastic sheathing seems soft and pliable. The MMCX connector
 portion is made out of hard plastic with shrink wrapped ear guides complete with the 
moldable metal wire. All told the cable is a simple but premium affair, with minimized 
microphonics and while I personally am not a fan of metal guides, it does do its job, though
 if it could hold memory better I think that would provide for a better wearing experience.
_MG_7802
_MG_8182
 Fit: The fit experience with this will be mostly similar to the other Campfire IEMs with 
similar housings, where those with a smaller or shallower concha may have some 
difficulty wearing them, due to the somewhat unconventional shape, larger housing,
 and somewhat harder edges. However, the introduction of the new nozzle alleviates some
 of the older issues and may introduce some new ones. Firstly, because the nozzle is 
longer this means that the large shape and sharp edges are less likely to cause discomfort
 for those wearing them as they sit farther away from your ear, however that might also 
introduce the fact that it will sit more outside the ear vs the Orion, or Andromeda for 
example. For the most part they fit me seamlessly and should fit most people 
comfortably if they were able to comfortably fit the other Campfire IEMs. 
A unique fit to be sure, but one that works well for the most part.
_MG_8242
Sound: The Polaris was tested across various devices, from the stock output of an 
Alienware 17 R3, an LG G6 with and without the Hi-Fi Quad DAC, an ifi xDSD,
 a FiiO Q1 Mk II, and the Hiby R6 with and without an IEMatch as well to be able to
 test it across various output impedance levels. Listening comparisons were done volume 
matched to ensure accurate impressions relative to volume. The tuning of the Polaris 
seems to have taken some influence from the “Japanese” style, meaning there’s a boost 
in the mids around the point where higher pitched vocals start to enter. 
This is complemented by good sub bass, an attenuated mid bass, and smooth 
but well extended treble, the full breakdown of the sound will be found below.
_MG_8142
Bass: The bass reproduction on the Polaris is a tale of two parts, the first part is the sub 
bass and lower half of the bass, up until I’d say 200Hz or so. The sub bass extension is 
quite good; bass drums from “Love” by Lana Del Rey, “Way Down Deep” by Jennifer
 Warnes, “Down”, and “Deep” by Marian Hill, have a fullness, that while stopping short 
of authoritative, definitely is a focal point. The texture on the bass drum is nice with the 
natural timbre you expect from a dynamic driver, every hit can be felt and not just heard.
 The sub bass decay is moderate, with a little linger that makes it sound “organic”. 
The rest of the lower bass is also a little elevated, but not to the same degree as the sub
 bass, the presentation is a little less detailed texture, but still pleasant and it does not linger
 like the sub bass. 
_MG_7963
The other side of the coin, the mid bass is a little more attenuated as it approaches the 
mids. This approach gives nice spacing between the bass and the mids avoiding any 
bloat or overlap, on the other hand this slightly reduces the thickness and forwardness of 
instruments on the lower pitches as well as really deep vocals. While I wouldn’t consider
 them thin, they are a little bit drier, especially juxtaposed with the mids (that we will discuss
 further later). The dynamic between the upper and lower halves of the bass is 
interesting because the lower half is definitely more prominent and are intentionally not on 
even footing, this can be exemplified in “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz where the bass 
guitar overtones looms over the guitar and some of the vocal work that usually is the focus
 of the songs, especially in the intro. Overall the bass reproduction is boosted but well 
controlled in relation of the other frequencies, something especially for those looking
 for the “natural” bass that is more “felt”. I can definitely appreciate the Polarity chamber here.
_MG_7968
Mids:  The mids on the Polaris is another two headed beast, and again with a lower half, 
and an upper half. The lower half something we slightly touched on earlier, usually reserved
 for lower spectrum vocals, usually male, and full range instruments is affected the by the
 recess that bottoms out somewhere between 500Hz and 1kHz. In this lower half range the
 reproduction have a little less body, and just take a step behind when presented,
 probably a consequence of taming the bass. This is exemplified in the chorus of “Castle 
on the Hill” by Ed Sheeran especially with the rolling bass drum line that runs throughout 
the song, the vocals and guitar just lose a bit of resolution and definition and blends in 
together a bit more. 


_MG_8158
The upper half on the other hand is just a polar(is) opposite, there seems to be a crescendo 
towards 2k Hz. “Valerie” by the late, wonderful Amy Winehouse has her voice forward, 
almost enveloping you, and when she does mini runs during the outro the feeling gets even
 more enhanced. There’s a sense of “emotion” in the way it reproduces vocals, where getting
 the grit and texture of the voice is imperative, the Polaris nails this. A great song that really 
showcases the midrange response is “Hello” or “Turnin’ Tables” by Adele, in the verse she 
sings slightly lower notes, and when she gets to the chorus the run she makes gradual 
increases in the note, and the top of those runs there’s some extra “oomph” that brings
 it a little higher, a little more forward, it helps encapsulate the emotive sense I mentioned 
before. The instruments in this range follow the same formula, as the pitch increases they
 get better definition, and fuller rendering, think of it like the Polaris is more an Adele IEM
 vs a John Mayer IEM, though it still does both well.
_MG_8137
Treble: The top end of the spectrum for the Polaris is the most straightforward. It is well
 extended, linear, and free of harsh peaks or sibilance in my testing with cymbal crashes
 not even close to wince inducing. The TEAC module allows the balanced armature to
 introduce a moderate amount of air, just enough to “space out” the sound and add a good
 dose of sparkle that really gets to shine when violins, saxophones, or pianos get some
 focus. Treble response is clear and open, not sounding or muffled at all, and the detail
 retrieval in this spectrum is quite good, not exceptional but good. In “Feels So Good” by
 Chuck Mangione the saxophone delivers notes pleasantly even when it works up the 
scales, and the solo has good definition even once it gets busy. Daniel Jung’s rendition
 of “Titanium” sounds nice and resolving and is not shrill, however it reveals that the top 
end is a little soft and could use some more bite or crispness, evident in drum solos cymbals
 sounding good, but feel like it needs a little bit extra. Overall the treble reproduction is
 pleasant, giving a good amount of air and sparkle without being too hot that it could turn
 some people away or be too fatiguing. While I could personally do with some more
 sharpness, the overall tone is well defined and lends nicely to the overall 
signature of the Polaris.
_MG_8132
Presentation: The emphasis on the sub bass and upper mids, work together in creating a 
more intimate presentation, somewhere along a Lounge feel, where most of the vocals
 lightly surround you, lending in a more intimate feel. The staging width wise is not
 particularly expansive with cymbals and other complementary sounds appearing just
 outside the ear, however there is nice depth to it, helping to give a sense of good layering,
 and everything not just being shoved at the same time. Separation for the most part is good,
 detail retrieval is good as well and except for the lower mid, mid bass section where they can
 be slightly lost in the mix when busy, there’s good technical proficiency here that you
 definitely don’t feel you’re sacrificing detail for the fun sound.
_MG_8220
Conclusion: The Polaris is an intriguing entry, and a specimen that encapsulates things
 being greater than the sum of its parts. It has elements in the bass and midrange that when
 viewed in a vacuum would seem to indicate a lack of cohesion, but when you put it all
 together it paints a beautiful sonic image, that in fact does work hand in hand. Campfire
 Audio has combined their signature design and build quality, integrated their staple
 technology, and added upon it some touches we haven’t seen before in their product 
range, and have a take on their tuning that is emotionally captivating and engaging, while
 still more than enough resolution to remind you that this a premium IEM. Powerful sub
 bass that then tapers off in the transition, then full emotive vocals with a slant towards
 the upper register, and smooth but well extended highs with nice sparkle all of which
 with a slightly intimate delivery. Something to consider if you’re looking for more “fun” and
 engaging tuning at this tier, Campfire Audio has another winner with the Polaris and one
 at $599 is, in my opinion one of the better value propositions to be had. Simply a well
 rounded IEM that is both immensely enjoyable in sound and exceptional in quality.
_MG_7759


0 comments :

Post a Comment