Campfire Audio IO impressions - Hageatama

I received my IO yesterday (4/29/19). I made a brief (~8 min) video of the unboxing, but the camera angles and lighting were crap... I was excited, so I just kinda dove in. I do believe I had the first unboxing video up on YT.

*Edit:* I wanted to be clear here my video is linked above.

Despite that, Currawong made a much shorter and better unboxing video for the IO and the New (2019) Polaris.

*Disclaimer: All sound impressions below are subjective and therefore subject to my own personal biases and of course my ears. None of the below should be taken as statements of objective fact, nor is it intended to replace personal listening time as insurance against buyer's remorse.*

My IO First Impressions (4/30/19, Morning):
Beyond that however, Also am an MD+ owner and I agree with others who feel the Plus is similar sonically to the IO. I actually fell asleep listening to the IO last night, because that's one of my first tests for comfort and sound. *Edit:* My fiancee owns a pair of older-gen CA Polaris, and subjectively, the IO is a bit lighter, and slightly more comfortable in my ears.

I generally start with Halo 3 ODST's Overture, because the rain and the varied orchestral music is really relaxing. I found the timbre of the rain odd on first listen. My ears need to adjust, but the sound signature reminds me of the Plus. Midrange doesn't seem stepped back, bass is low but doesn't slam as hard as a DD, and the treble seems well controlled without being painful. I feel that subjectively, I'm hearing more detail on the IO than on the Plus given the same track and source.

To be honest though, I haven't listened to my Treble-murder test... Shoot Down the Stars by Gym Class Heroes. That's on my list for when I get home today. Also, haven't tried anything with a higher OI, except my phone for some ****ty mobile games, didn't notice anything odd there, though.

*Edit (4/30/19, Afternoon):* So far, I like the IO. It's my first CA IEM. Currently listening to the Mr. Robot OST at work. Staging seems a bit wider than the MD+ (from memory), but I don't think the Plus or the IO have exceedingly wide soundstage. Honestly, I went to Audio46 last Wednesday and tried the Solaris (because they were out of Andros), and THAT thing is the widest soundstage I've ever heard in an IEM. It might even be wider than Argons (at least to my ears).

Unrelated, but, first post on Head pie. Hi everyone!
Campfire IO vs Sennheiser IE80 Sound Impressions

*Edit:frowning2:4/30/19, Evening)* I'm going to add in my comparison of the IE80 vs the IO, because they occupied similar price points at one point, and the IE80 was my first "audiophile" IEM, and I've kept it around for reference and for it's interesting staging. Both tested out of Shanling M0, stock cables, and JVC Spiraldot Tips

I actually spent an amount of time last night going back and forth between these and the original Sennheiser IE80. I found the Senn to be less clear everywhere but the bass region. There was a ridiculous amount of slam from that old DD compared to the IO's woofer BA. The IE80 also definitely had slower bass, but it sounded more natural for things like a bass guitar (Blue Scholars's Ordinary Guy), but the IO sounded better with snappier things like drums? Maybe I'm just used to the BA timbre?

Treble - IO
Midrange - IO
Bass - IE80
Soundstage - IE80
Imaging - Tie, Slight edge to the IO?
Resolution - IO
Timbre - IO

On binaural tracks, the IE80 sounds noticeably wider, and one of the reason's I've kept it around for so long was that in the Virtual Barbershop, when Luigi taps the recording rig, it actually feels like, and sounds similar to if he tapped your skull. The IE80's are still a pleasure for binaural demos like that, IMO. The IO is much more intimate, again, similar to the MD+... My imaging tests are usually Doll's Polyphony from the Akira! OST and Yosi Horikawa's Letter. I threw A Walk in the Woods from the Original Halo OST in there as well. It's an older song, but the way sounds move through your head and mix in it, feels different with the IO than the IE80. I couldn't really track it in the IE80, tbh. However, the IE80 sounded better or on par during Doll's Polyphony, and Letter. The wider stage of the IE80 could be tricking me there, though.

The IO did start to approach sibilance with some of Blue Scholars's high hats. Like, it almost started to hurt? It was on the border though. The IO definitely takes the whole cake from the IE80 for detail retrieval and air. The IE80 sounds much more laid back, treble wise. Down in the midrange, the IE80 seems hazy compared to the IO. Like, everything just sounds less clear, almost grungy? Or like viewing an image through dirty water?

If I didn't have the IO, and it wasn't in direct comparison, I'd have said the IE80 holds up. As of right now though, with my ears, JVC SpiralDots, and a Shanling M0, for basically everything except Bass impact and Staging, I'd take the IO.
Campfire IO vs Massdrop Plus Impressions

*Edit/Update (5/2/19, Morning):* I am still in the process of A/Bing the Plus and IO because the Plus has been my reference for a bit now. I want to be absolutely sure of my own ears to tell the differences from repeatable results. As I haven't been able to do so as of yet, take the below with a massive helping of salt... Accordingly, I have amended some of the information below.

Round 1 Impressions (5/1/19, Morning): A/B Testing of the IO and MD+ was quite revealing. I hadn't listened to my MD+ in roughly a week, since my Tin T3's came in, which was about 3 days before my IO's came in.

NOTE: Both earphones tested out of a Shanling M0, as well as an Apple USB-C Dongle DAC from my Google Pixel. The IO was tested with its stock cable, while the Plus was tested with a Null Audio Brevity Cable. Both IEMs tested with JVC Spiraldot tips.

The most jarring for me was the Overture from Halo 3 ODST's Soundtrack. The thunderstorm at the beginning is much more visceral and natural sounding on the MD+. The IO adds that plasticky timbre to the rain that SilverLodestar describes later in this thread as "listening through a cup." That's the best way I can phrase it. From a direct comparison, the sound of the IO is funneled? Or rather, it sounds funneled. The Plus sounds less like the earphones are there...

Which leads into staging and imaging. I expected it to be similar from memory, but I was wrong. The Plus sounded deeper, wider, and thiccer in Overture, as well as Amber Rubarth's Don't You. Imaging capabilities are similar but the IO is more revealing, and I felt it was a little easier to track sound's motion during A Walk in the Woods (Halo OST) on the IO, but Doll's Polyphony (Akira OST) sounded similar on both, though I think the Plus had a slight edge there on the whoosing part during the opening. Yosi Horikawa's Letter favored the IO to my ears.

However during Round 1, the Plus was better sounding to my ears. The treble with the Spiraldots on the Plus is enough for me without ever getting overwhelming. Resolution? The IO's eke out a victory in this department. The IO's revealing micro detail I've never heard before, but the Plus has the fuller bass, thicker mids, wider soundstage, and less incisive treble.
*Edit/Update - Round 2 Impressions (5/1/19, Evening): Tried both on the THX AAA 789 fed by an SDAC. A/B Testing seemed to indicate the a leveling effect on the soundstage, to where I could no longer tell which was bigger. The bass seemed to come up on the IO while reducing slightly on the Plus. Midrange sounds more natural and weighty on the Plus to my ears. Treble with the wide bore silicone tips is more pleasant on the Plus for casual listening IMO. The IO still gets a bit hot though, and also still sounds a bit muffled, or funneled? I tried the Type E tips, but aside from increasing bass, I didn't really notice a change.

I took a break at this point because either my ears were overloaded, or something was up with my sources, because a lot changed between my two listening sessions, i.e. staging was an even heat, mids sounded fuller on the Plus but sharper on the IO, bass was a wash with the Plus having more quantity and impact, but the IO seeming tighter? IO is definitely brighter than the Plus. Perhaps some foam tips are in order for the IO? A 3rd round of A/B testing is in the works. Forgive me, I'll probably edit all of this once I have a more sure-footed stance.
Final Decisions/Impressions/Comparisons (Edited, 5/7/2019, Afternoon)

I went back and listened to all my test tracks again, M0, Apple Model A2049 Dongle, and SDAC/789.

The IO is the clearer, more crisp IEM. If I had to make a guess at the FR, I'd say rolled subbass, slight boost in the lower mids, and a slight boost in the lower treble region. The IO has more sizzle, as Jay put it, than the IO. I admit, electric guitars do sound good on it. Side by side, the Massdrop Plus does sound slightly grainy, or hazy...

But, the Plus does have one major advantage. Its tuning. The Plus was tuned to the diffuse field, with a bass bump. The bass is looser, but deeper and more impactful, the mids are stepped back, and the high end is reeled in a bit. Honestly, I liken the IO's sound signature to the HD 600, and the Plus to the HD 650. The differences in their sound signature are very similar. However, the HD 600 does timbre better than a wide wide range of other headphones. The IO does not. Foam tips do correct a lot of the IO's weird tonal problems, but not all of them. Midrange still sounds a bit hollow, despite its boost.

If all I cared about was detail and cymbals, and I had a $300 USD budget, I'd take the IO. But, if I wanted to sit and really enjoy my music? Well, for the same price, I'd take the Massdrop Plus, or if I preferred the Harman target, the iSine LX w/ Cipher Cable.

These are my final thoughts on the issue. I still haven't decided whether I'll keep the IO, as for me, the Plus is the more enjoyable IEM, but the IO does do some things better, I just don't know if it's enough to justify the expense... As per usual, the above are my sound impressions and opinions. Nothing should be taken as a statement of objective fact. I am human, I do make mistakes and I have not heard everything, much less anything above this price range. If you're curious about the IO, you should listen to them with your own ears before committing to them monetarily, if possible.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to Tag or PM me and I'll answer to the best of my abilities.

Have a wonderful day.
Song List: Edited 5/7/19 (Evening)
This Little Light of Mine - NY Spiritual Choir (Chesky's Binaural Sound Show)
Don't You - Amber Rubarth (The Ultimate Headphone Demonstration Disk)
Sleipnir - Manowar (Gods of War)
Indian Summer - Kenny Baron & Mike Sherman (Interplay)
Overture - Martin O'Donnell & Michael Salvatori (Halo 3: ODST Original Soundtrack)
A Walk in the Woods - Martin O'Donnell & Michael Salvatori (Halo Original Soundtrack)
Letter - Yosi Horikawa (Wandering)
Acknowledge - Masta Ace (Disposable Arts)
Call Ticketron - Run the Jewels (Run the Jewels 3)
Lose Yourself to Dance - Daft Punk (Random Access Memories)
Born And Raised (Reprise) - John Mayer (Born And Raised)
Sweet Child o' Mine - Guns n Roses (Appetite for Destruction)
Pork Soda - Glass Animals (How to be a Human Being)
Doll's Polyphony - Geinoh Yamashirogumi (Akira! Original Soundtrack)
Virtual Barber Shop - Princeton University (?)
Shoot Down the Stars - Gym Class Heroes (As Cruel as School Children)
Spanish Harlem - Rebecca Pidgeon (The Ultimate Demonstration Disk)
Listening Notes: I generally listen at several volumes. Low-Med to Med-High Volumes. On my M0, anywhere from 30-60 on the volume gauge, low-gain. With UAPP on my Pixel + A2049 Dongle, it's -6.5 dB, with Bitperfect Mode enabled. The THX 789 is used in Low Gain (Position 1) at roughly 10:30 on the volume knob while fed by an SDAC. Windows Master Volume set at 85%.

Generally, I use Letter & Doll's Polyphony for my imaging tests, Virtual Barber Shop, and Indian Summer to determine soundstage dimensions, Run the Jewels and Masta Ace to test bass, the ODST OST, and Glass Animals to test resolution, and coherence. I use Gym Class Heroes and Blue Scholars to test whether there's any treble spikes. Binaural tracks, and Spanish Harlem are mostly for testing soundstage and resolution. My general preferences are towards orchestrated soundtracks, but I also enjoy a bit of jazz, R&B, classic rock, college rock, and some dalliances with hard rock.

It's taken me a long time to get to where I trust my test tracks, but at this point, I've heard them on everything I've ever owned. I really enjoy my music.

Current Signal Chain(s) tested:
Flac -> Plex Windows 10 App -> Micca Origen G2 (Gaming PC)
Flac -> foobar2k WASAPI Shared -> SDAC -> AAA 789 (Media PC)
Flac -> Shanling M0 (Portable)
Flac -> Google Pixel -> Apple A2049 USB-C to 3.5mm Dongle (Phone)
Edit 1: Formatting, added some information.
Edit 2: Added IO vs IE80 section.
Edit 3: Added IO vs Plus section.
Edit 4: Added update to IO vs Plus section
Edit 5: Formatting, added Disclaimer, date stamps to clean up some of my thoughts and make them more sensible to someone who isn't me, while also providing a relative timeline for my process. Besides which, I modified some info in the IO vs Plus section because my round 1 impressions may have been kneejerk and/or incorrect, based on my round 2 impressions.
Edit 6: Added closing/final thoughts. Thanks for reading.
Edit 7: Added music list, as well as volume and song notes.


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