Campfire Orion Official Impressions Thread

First off, can a mod move this to the Official Headphone Model Discussion? I didn’t find one for the Orion…

TL’DR - Very good single BA IEM’s with good sonic reproduction. Falter when faced with more complex music marked by recessed mids and clarity/ transparency issues. 7/10

Overview


The Orion used to be Campfire audios solitary entry level IEM, priced at $350. Since the introduction of the Comet at $199, the Orion has taken a seat as CA’s lower midrange contender. A single BA architecture is housed within the Orion’s staunch black casing, and overall sounds very good compared to many single BA applications that fail with developing soundstage and clarity. I’ve been using the Orion’s for about 1 week now with around 10 hours of listening and 30 hours of burn in for a total of 40 hours on time.

Build / Accessories


As I have hinted previously the Orion’s defining characteristic over the rest of Campfires lineup is the sleek black color. It looks great, and inconspicuous in public (looking at you Andromeda). Besides the fact that some people might think you have oversized hearing aids (an actual comment I received) in your ears, these IEM’s will actually be winning beauty contests and build quality on the earphones is excellent. The outer casing is machined aluminum and has a striking appearance. Bold lines and exposed fasteners add to the industrial façade of the in-ears. The MMCX connectors CA used are snappy and hold tight even with prolonged use. The silver litz cable the Orion’s come with is very sturdy, but malleable striking a good balance between stiff and limp. The construction of the cable is both attractive and strong, with a four way braid leading to a metallic splitter and a two way braid ending in the two MMCX connectors and a stiff memory wire housing.

The earphones come with 4 sets of SpinFits, 3 sets of generic silicone ear tips, 3 sets of memory foam eartips, the CA pin, Cleaning tool, 2 wire wraps, and a manual. The earphones also come with a hard shell canvas carrying case. The case comes in a soft grey finish branded with the Campfire Audio logo. On the inside is a lining of soft sheepskin like material and plenty of room for your in-ears and maybe a few tips. The zipper was a bit fussy on mine and kept getting stuck in odd places. Overall the accessories are very nice.

Fit / Comfort


The Orions have a very industrial look to them, and when I first saw them I admit I thought they would be a bit uncomfortable. I am glad to say that they are not. I have sat comfortably at my desk doing work for 4 hours or more with little discomfort. I have larger ears so your mileage may vary, but the Orions sat nicely out of my ear canal, and did not rub or cut my ear on the outer folds. The memory wire wrapped around the top of my ear kept them in position and comfortably so. I first tried the SpinFit ear tips, however found that the seal was not tight (I’ll talk about how this affected sound below) and the Orions would shift in my ear with movement. I then opted for the memory foam tips, which come pre-installed making me believe this is the way Campfire want you to experience the sound. The memory foam provided a much better fit and seal, though they take longer to actually apply.

Sound


As a picture of my listening habits, I am mainly a Jazz, Blues, Classical, Classic Rock, and Electronic listener. All of the music I have listened to during these tests falls into these categories. I listen louder than I probably should, and I prefer a warmer sound signature which borders on neutral.

Overall the sound of these IEM’s is very good, especially when you remember that his was at one point an entry level design. When first listening to the headphones after a 10 hour overnight burn-in I opted for the SpinFits as I had stated earlier. I did not like the fit of the SpinFits and the Orions sounded a bit nasally. I immediately switched to the memory foam, where the sound immediately opened up. Bass was extended and highs no longer sounded shrill and forced. After an extended listening session, I set them down for some more burn in.

My initial impressions were mediocre on these IEM’s. I was not impressed by the clarity nor soundstage that had developed during my listening. Bass muddied the mids, and the highs were rolled off with little detail. I decided to set them down and wait to see what happened.


After another overnight burn in I decided to fire them up again, connected to my Fiio X5 which lead to my computer in DAC mode. Using JRiver I played a few select tracks from Stevie Ray Vaughn and Albert King In Session and Jerry Garcia and David Grisman’s eponymous album. Immediately I was more pleased with the experience. The bass had more impact and was livelier, mids had more clarity and highs were less harsh. Simple tracks had good transparency and great imagery, while busier tracks tended to lose focus.

After one more overnight burn-in I decided to do my most intense listening connected to my Modi 2U DAC and Asgard 2 amp (A little … ok a LOT overkill) as well as my Fiio X5, which is where we will dive into the sound even more. The Orions suffer from what most single BA armatures do. Clarity, separation, focus, and transparency. The Orions have great sonic qualities and I do believe they are among the best IEM’s I have heard, but they do have their faults. Fritz Reiners “Scheherazade” with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has many dynamic changes from large booming orchestral segments to solo violin arias. It is a great test of separation, clarity and transparency. The Orions were a joy to listen to. Separation was good and the instruments came through clearly during the simpler parts of the first movement, however when the orchestra came in full swing the Orions lost the ability to clearly separate between registers. Transparency faltered as it seemed like a sheet was placed in between me and the orchestra, blurring focus. However switch back to the solo violin aria, and you can hear each bow pull. The clarity and soundstage is great. Moving on to something a bit more folky I turned on Jerry Garcia and David Grisman as well as Muddy Waters “A Folk Singer.” Both of these albums feature 2-4 instrument bands with great soundstage and imaging. The Orions handled these mid simplicity albums with ease. Clarity was pronounced and the positions of each player were obvious. Reverberations could be heard off the studio walls. Focus was a bit blurred on louder tracks, and treble reproduction still did not feel full bodied. Muddy Waters voice was clear and throaty and the bass had good presence but not a lot of impact.

After a session in Folk, we turn to Rock n’ Roll. Stevie Ray Vaughn and Albert King In Session is a great mix of electric instruments and the acoustics of a great studio session. The guitar of Stevie comes in clean and clear on the first track “Call it Stormy Monday.” They cymbals hit clear and precise while not being too harsh. However Albert King’s voice gets lost in the background. The soundstage was on the verge of greatness, but just felt like it needed to explode out of the metal casing it was confined to.


After this I turned to Electronic as a final test of just how musical these in-ears were. I flipped on “Showdown” by F.O.O.L. and was immediately surprised by a smile on my lips. The bass was punchy, the highs were clear, and the mids though a bit recessed had me moving. The sound had me wanting more and more with every second gone by. It was a really enjoyable experience. I noticed after a few more tracks that the Orions were making it easy to spot bad mastering and mixing. All of the tracks I had listened to before had excellent mixing and recording, so I decided to go through and review some things that weren’t on my original set list. The Orions do not do these tracks justice and in some cases they are hard to listen to. The Orions are very neutral and resolving. Bad mixes are evident.

Overall I think the Orions are a great buy for $350. As an entry level IEM they are a lot of fun to listen to, and will stand up to mobile listening. The Orions did very well with developing soundstage and clarity on simpler tracks, but failed to impress on busier numbers where clarity and focus were downgraded. On these busier tracks the mids become recessed, and pinpoint accuracy with each note turns to blurred focus. For a single BA IEM in this price range the Orion receives a 7.5/10.

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I’ve had a pair for nearly a year now and agree on all points!

Great write up Ryan!

I was debating whether I should do a stopover with the Orions or Noble’s Trident and I think I will probably get my hands on a Trident for a while.

They definitely don’t stand out aesthetically as much as the Andromeda or the Polaris, but I would say they look better than the Vega for sure.

For mobile listening did you only listen with the X5 or did you test straight from your phone as well?

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Tested on the X5 and Modi 2 Uber / Asgard 2. Little better sounsd stage on the Asgard.

EDIT: I reread your question and you were asking about mobile listening. I mainly used my X5 when mobile. I actually used my phone at my desk once, but I wasn’t impressed compared to the X5.

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Glad to hear I’m not crazy :grin:

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I have a pair and at first I didn’t particularly love them. To me, the treble felt way too rolled off. I picked up an ifi iematch, and that really brought them to life! I’m much more of a fan with that in the chain.

Currently have been listening to a pair of Orions for a couple hours. Initial impressions is that they sound very full and musical. I’m quite enjoying them. I’ll be posting some fleshed out impressions later on today.

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I always love your pictures Taron!

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Thanks man! I’m a firm believer in nice, lifestyle photos of headphones. Too many ugly pictures out there of gorgeous cans, especially on retail websites! Haha

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Just got these in from the Community Preview Program. Really liking what I hear so far!

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Those of you interested in these should definitely check out @antdroid’s excellent full review of them on the main headphone.com page, here!

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With my past experience with its cheaper sibling, the Comet, and the controversial opinions surrounding it, the Campfire Audio Orion has always been on my list of things to try, and with the community preview program I was finally able to do just that. So before I start this review, I want to thank the forum for giving me an opportunity to try things that I would never have a chance to where I’m located.

Introduction, Accessories, and my Source Pairing

Once the most affordable of their lineup at $350, the Orion was Campfire Audio’s only product under $500 new before the Comet came along. It sports a single balanced armature driver inside their signature machined aluminum shell. Like every other IEM of Campfire’s, the Orion doesn’t skimp on what you get in the box, with a wide assortment of tips (Final E, foam, and Campfire silicone tips).

As for what I used with the Orion, I could really only get a seal with the Final tips, so I ended up using those. with the Finals, I was able to wear the Orion for hours without any pain, but I know some people do have fit issues, so your mileage may vary. The Orion itself is without a doubt a sensitive IEM. The only source I got much use out of was my Hiby R3, which was more than loud enough at 10 steps out of 100.

Sound

I’ve always heard bad things about the Orion, particularly on the topic of the limitations of its single BA driver, with some even going as far as to say it was worse than the Comet (which I’m not a fan of). So needless to say, going in I wasn’t expecting too much, but in the end I was both pleasantly surprised with it’s close-to-neutral tuning, but unfortunately also disappointed in the end.

Bass

Die hard dynamic driver fans will turn their nose up at the Orion’s bass, with the bass extension often being subject to much criticism, but I don’t really have that much negative to say about it. Sure, the Orion doesn’t extend that low, but the bass extends linearly, reminding me of my Etymotic ER2SE, one of my favorite IEMs. Songs like Direct’s For Me don’t really as satisfying rumble that I would like but I won’t discredit the Orion too much for it since overall I don’t have that many songs that extend very deep. Really the main issue I have with the bass for me is that it comes off as a little artificial, something that I would just write off as characteristic of most budget balanced armature implementations. Overall, the bass is just average to me. It lacks a bit of extension as doesn’t yield the satisfying feeling of a dynamic driver (at least out of the BAs I’ve tried and the DD IEMs I own), but overall it’s forgivable.

Mids

I’m in agreement with most of the reviews out there that the midrange is the best part of the Orion. If I had to pick one thing about it to show as an example of it excelling, I’d without a doubt point to male vocals. Rick Maguire’s voice in Pile’s Prom Song has a presence that I didn’t realize I was missing. As for female vocals, I have heard anecdotally that Campfire can’t seem to get them right (if you can confirm or deny this, feel free to reply), and unfortunately, it seems that at the very least, they missed their mark with the Orion. For me, this was the most disappointing part of this IEM. If they were able to have the female vocals consistent in quality with the male vocals, I would easily recommend this to someone who wanted a midrange focus with their IEM. For instance, on Great Grandpa’s Teen Challenge , the lead singer’s vocals sound recessed and a bit unnatural to my ears. I still think that the mids steal the show with the excellent male vocal performance, but unfortunately the female vocals didn’t really do it for me.

Treble

Arguably the most disliked aspect of the Orion is the treble. Similar to what @antdroid said in his review, the Orion severely rolls off after 8k. To me, this is the Orion’s biggest weakness. I personally need that upper extension to stay interested in an IEM, and if it’s congested like the Orion unfortunately is, I find myself getting bored of it fast. I had similar problems with the Final Audio E4000 and the Comet myself and it ended with me selling them later on down the line (although the Orion’s male vocals make it more engaging than those two in my opinion). The Orion’s treble isn’t all bad though. It seems to have a semblance of sparkle, and if they fixed the extension, I could see it doing well as a decent warm IEM with a half-nice midrange, similar to how Final Audio generally tunes their IEMs. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the Orion suffers from a complete lack of upper treble leaving it sounding congested in a way that becomes even more apparent when going back to other IEMs.

Conclusion

While the male vocals are great, and the build is second to none, the Orion struggles to make a case for itself at $350. I know I said I wasn’t expecting to much from it after reading up on other reviews, but with how nice the build is along with those male vocals, it just leaves me wishing I had more to like about it. I personally don’t see much reason to buy the Orion over the much cheaper ER2SE/XR or the VSonic GR07 myself. At the very least, I would try the Orion in person to see if you liked the tuning, because on the off chance the treble extension doesn’t bother you, I can see the Orion being competent, but only at used prices.

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Nice first Community Preview Program review @boneburglar! As a standard thing, you should probably note that in the writeup (with a link)

Otherwise, nice impressions. It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to listen to the Orion but sounds about how I remembered. I hope CFA’s next entry level IEM is a love child of the IO and the Orion.

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