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
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.
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.