The place to discuss the Holocene by Campfire Audio
Campfire Audio’s latest batch of in-ear monitor releases includes the $549 Mammoth and the $649 Holocene, both of which fall within the middle of their pricing line-up. These two IEMs were provided on loan from Headphones.com who are one of Campfire’s official online retailers.
Both of these units come with very familiar Campfire metal alloy shells that are very much the same design as many within their arsenal, including their most famous Andromeda. The Mammoth looks similar to the Polaris, but with a darker blue finish and black nozzle, while the Holocene has a metallic brown color tone with the same black nozzle.
Both of these are triple-driver products, however they differ in the configuration. The lower-priced Mammoth is a hybrid, with a single dynamic driver and two balanced armatures, while the Holocene sports a triple-BA configuration.
Like other Campfire products, these two packages come with a carrying pouch, a variety of tips from Comply and normal silicone tips, Campfire pin, and mesh pouches. For the cable, Campfire took the likable Smokey Litz cable and decided to add Glow-in-the-Dark connectors on both the mmcx and 3.5mm ends. This matches the small and subtle glow-in-the-dark CA logo on each shell.
While I don’t mind the look on the shell, it does look a bit tacky on the cables. It reminds me of growing up as a kid and seeing toys made for 6 year olds with glow-in-the-dark features. Or those stars you put on the ceiling of a nursery for your baby. Are we supposed to be children now?
The Mammoth has a typical V-Shaped sound signature, which heavily emphasizes bass, has dipped midrange, and elevated treble, although, I don’t think the upper-mids and treble area is overdone, and actually are nicely placed.
It’s been quite a while since I last heard the Polaris, but from memory, I believe these two share the commonality of a bass-friendly sound signature, while the Mammoth may be overall better balanced than either of the Polaris iterations. That said though, I still think the Mammoth’s tonal balance is very heavily skewed towards the bass and lower mid-range, to the point where it can be a little distracting and the lack of the vocal portion of the mids makes this sound like its lacking clarity and a bit low-res.
In most tracks I listened to, whether that be instrumental trio-jazz, soul, or pop music, I found the suck-out in the midrange to stand out, and the emphasis in the mid-bass to be slightly overwhelming. It’s not totally distasteful though, and with constant listening and mental burn-in, I was able to comfortably listen to the Mammoth for a period of time.
The Mammoth has a very consumer-friendly sound signature, and people who are used to listening to brick & mortar headphones and in-ears should find this signature safe and familiar, but with better quality resolution, transient response, and sound stage. I found the technical capabilities of the Mammoth to be decent to good, but the tonal balance to be rather boring.
The Holocene is a different sound signature. If one were to look at its frequency response measurement, it could be considered a pretty decent speaker, as it’s fairly flat with a gentle bass bump, and a down-sloping treble, granted with some extra upper treble energy for clarity. But, a speaker response and a headphone response which has to compensate for other factors within your ear are not one in the same.
The Holocene comes across a tad hazy and forward sounding, perhaps a tad boxy. This is mostly due to the lack of ear pinna compensation in the upper-mid range and low treble that is typical in many IEMs and headphones. Instead, it follows a flatter trajectory here, and those who may favor something like the Audeze headphones tuning may like this a little more. It’s slightly darker, and slightly thicker, but has just enough treble gain to make it not overly compressed and midnight dark.
The tonal balance takes a little getting used to, and in fact, my initial impressions were quite blasphemous. I had them playing at or maybe a little louder than my normal listening volume and the music I was listening to at the time, Chvrches’ latest record “Screen Violence”, was just utterly shouting at me. Everything came in at full volume, no matter where it was coming from or what instrument or who’s voice (well, its mostly just Lauren Mayberry’s sweet voice). This thing WAS SHOUTING AT ME!
I hated it. But, then I turned the volume back a little bit, and everything was alright with the world again. The Holocene, while having a kind of strange fuzzy haze to its upper mids, sounded alright. Imaging was improved, and soundstage opened up at the same time. There was no more a congestion of full blast audio, and instead, there was actually decent to good depth, width and height.
The Holocene is a pretty good technical IEM. It lacks tonal-correctness, in the way that I would consider correct (see my Target Curve), but this IEM has a lot of good qualities to it, like many of the multi-BA Campfire IEMs can demonstrate – even the wretched IO. It has nice transient speed and a decent amount of punch, and resolution is quite solid for this price range.
As with all Campfire products, my main concern with this Holocene is how it presents the mid-range, and unfortunately that is one of my most important areas of concern. This doesn’t do it totally wrong, but coming from an IEM with adequate pinna compensation, this one sounds just a little strange. Now that said, mental/brain-burn in is real. This one takes a little getting used to and then it does not sound too bad. It has decent technical chops and so it’s not a bad package overall.
Fans of the original Andromeda may enjoy this one, though it doesn’t have nearly the same level of bass quantity, but it is a little more polite and dapper.
If I had to choose one, I’d take the Holocene. Why?
This is because it demonstrates better technical performance than the Mammoth in pretty much every way. The Holocene may not have the best tonal balance for my personal preference, but neither does the Mammoth. The Holocene, though, doesn’t come off as trying too hard to pound bass into you, but also falling flat on its face in that aspect as well.