A review of Campfire Audio’s single dynamic driver flagship – the Vega. With an extremely refined and hard hitting bass coupled with a top level resolution in all other frequencies, it’s no wonder that the Vega has been getting rave reviews.
I sincerely thought I had exited the audiophile trap with the dual flagships from Noble, with the K10 taking care of the thumpy bassy end of things, and the mellifluous blade that is the Katana complementing the more delicate end. After getting over the addiction of hoarding flagship IEMs that don’t get used like the Layla purely for ‘pride of ownership’ reasons, I entered a phase of calmness and serenity, where I did not feel the need to acquire any more IEMs, although to be completely honest the thought of adding the Andromeda to my collection (after being infatuated with its pristine openness, airy highs and expansive soundstage) did enter my mind several times, behind my pretend-frugal veneer. This short-lived zen mode, however, was thrown into complete disarray when the amazing folks at Campfire Audio dropped three polished bombs in the Fall of 2016. Curiosity got the best of us and we decided we needed to try them, and so when we contacted the Campfire Audio team, they graciously sent all three new offerings to us for review.
We would like to thank Campfire Audio for this opportunity to review the Vega. The Campfire Audio Vega goes for 1299USD. You can click here for more information.
The Vega is among three exciting new product launches all sporting dynamic drivers (the Dorado is a hybrid) and a distinctively new housing from the existing Campfire BA (Balanced Armature) lineup. It arrived in a truly sumptuous fashion, with each piece tucked neatly away inside a crimson velvet pouch, presumably to protect the IEMs from getting too friendly with their mirrored selves during the shipping process. To me this is mostly a nicety as the new Campfire offerings are donning liquid metal alloy housings with a PVD finish, giving the pieces a sleek metallic sheen and is darn nearly unscratchable and indestructible at the same time.
A quick summary
|Driver Configuration (per side)||8.5mm non-crystalline Diamond Dynamic Driver|
|Frequency Response||5Hz–22 kHz|
|Sensitivity||102 dB SPL/mW|
|Impedance||17.5 Ohms @ 1kHz|
|Cable||3.5mm plug Litz Wire Cable by Campfire Audio|
|Accessories||Faux leather earphone carrying case
2 small carrying pouches
3 pairs of Foam tips (S, M, L)
3 pairs of Silicon tips (S, M, L)
3 pairs of SpinFit tips (S, M, L)
1 Campfire Audio logo metal pin
Design & build quality
Campfire spared no effort in letting us know that the housing encasing the Vega, the Dorado and the Lyra II is different than the ones used for its BA offerings. Instead of CNC aluminum, liquid metal is the order of the day here, and needless to say it’s a million times more hardy and durable, making scratches and chips a thing of bygone times. The comfort with the stock tips are excellent, with good sound isolation whilst feeling cushiony and comfy.
So comfy in fact, that throughout the months of testing I did, I never cared to use any other tips, provided in the packaging or third party. I recalled that Ken Ball recommended at least 72 hours of burn-in before it gets to the good part, and although I am agnostic on the matter of burn-in, the sheer joy the Vega brought me meant that I used it as my only IEM for many months, and the accumulated gross listening time racked up should have hit or passed the 72 hour mark easily.
If you ask a basshead like me just how much low-end I would want, I would probably describe an impactful, hefty, weighty bass with the right amount of boom while still maintaining all of the texture and details. To this end, the Vega succeeded with flying colors well above my expectations. Firing up the Vega, I was thrown headfirst into a world of euphoric amazement.
Never have I heard such an abundance of bass combined with such perfect resolution of everything else. Shifting bass lines pulsate like mysterious shapes in the backdrops of Chet Faker’s I’m Into You, and all the intricacies are still preserved amongst the bassy heroism and slick gliding guitar licks on Nick Johnston’s Weakened by Winter.
What I can’t get enough of is that despite of the bass being fat and luscious, it is devoid of any artificial sharpening or dry aggressiveness that would cross it into grating territory. Vega’s bass can only be described as thick and voluminous, but sacrificing none of the texture and finesse. Vocals are gorgeously humane and multi-layered, bass lines are clean with a lingering sense of warmth and tinge. Double bass, bass guitars and electronic low frequencies reverberates and echoes with a full-bodied lushness. The result is a more organic and natural rendition than most BA offerings – more intensively musical, yet simultaneously resolving at a very high level without becoming analytical.
Spatial relationships and layered placements of instruments are communicated superbly in a soundstage that feels naturally wide and not artificially pulled in any axis. Treble lacks the level of airiness and sparkle that defines the Andromeda, but is smooth and never offensive. Cymbals crash around you and the decays feel just right. Although there is only a single driver in each piece, the distinction between frequencies and the details rendered are frankly mind-boggling. Everything is lively, vivid, and just pops. It begs the question of whether the current driver count arms race is entirely a superficial numbers game that carries little meaning, as the Vega moves sound along with exemplary unison and solidarity that surrenders nothing to the double-digit-drivers BA offerings currently on the market.
I am not a technical reviewer in the slightest, both because I know a lot less than the true sage (nerd) of this blog (Alfred) about the scientific aspect of sound, and because I really could care less about measurements and graphical curves when the sound output is this engaging and musical. I refuse to break this down to technicalities because the raw emotions being conveyed here is so heartfelt and genuine. Nearly every track thrown at the Vega is presented in an enclosure of lavish warmth, vocals are incredibly realistic and inviting, the bass always packs a dramatic punch, and everything just feels multidimensional.
It has been difficult for me not to be biased throughout this review because the Vega turns out to be exactly the ideal sound signature I had been looking for in my mind but which was never found until now, and I love it to death for that. Although I do observe that my BA IEMs do seem sharper and crisper overall, the way Vega’s warmth masks most harshness from hot treble and sibilance just fits my bill perfectly, and thus I do not mind the slightly darker disposition one bit.
Measurements (Alfred’s comments)
The measurements were taken with the Vibro Veritas, and is only supposed to serve as a rough idea of what the frequency response is like – we don’t claim that these are 100% accurate to a professional level. Measurements past 10khz are not accurate, as according to the Veritas disclaimer.
It’s very interesting to see that all 3 of the dynamic driver offerings from CA have an extremely similar frequency response – so unfortunately simply having an FR response is somewhat lacking in terms of providing a more technical analysis and begs for additional measurements such as cumulative spectral decay.
However, it is still able to reveal to us the typical Campfire Audio dynamic driver design “house sound” – that is a gentle W-shaped frequency response curve, characterized by boosted bass, a gentle dip towards the midrange that ensures they don’t get overshadowed by the lows and highs, followed by a good amount of high frequencies, ensuring they get a chance to shine as well.
Having tried all 3 of them, they do indeed have a very similar sound. Where the Vega stands out compared to the Lyra II is the Vega’s more resounding, deeper bass, and slightly more refined mid-highs and highs. When compared to the Dorado, the Vega’s bass quality is about just as impactful, but provides a tighter sound where as the Dorado’s is ‘fatter’ and has more bloat, but the Dorado is slightly more analytical in terms of the high frequencies, although it does have a balanced armature sound to it, whereas the Vega just gives a very natural dynamic driver sound throughout all frequencies.
So, being a staunch believer of BA-only technology, am I now a diehard DD (dynamic driver) convert? It is more complicated than that. Before the Vega, I have never heard such delicious low-end coupled with texture and resolution in a single DD that could rival multi-driver BA-only IEMs. A more accurate saying would be that I’m a Vega convert, not a DD convert. The Vega stands head and shoulders above any other DD I have ever heard before, on its own untouchable pedestal. Ken Ball and his team have really outdone themselves with this one, and the fact that I have been using the Vega exclusively for the better part of eight months before this review is a solid testament to its achievement. If you have been searching for the ultimate musical bass cannon in an IEM with all of the subtle details intact, this is it. You don’t need a good IEM, you need this IEM – you need the Vega.