The Satsuma is Campfire Audio’s most budget offering; a single balanced armature design replacing the Orion and the Comet.
We’d like to thank Campfire Audio for sending us this unit for review. The Satsuma goes for 199USD. Click here for the official Satsuma details. This review is our honest and independent opinion.
While Campfire Audio has always used constellation or astronomically inspired naming conventions in the past, this time they’ve changed to fruit based naming for the Satsuma and the Honeydew. Which, actually seems to make more sense to me as to seeing the connection between the design of the sound and their namesakes.
|Driver Type||Single Full Range Ported Balanced Armature Driver|
Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber™ (T.A.E.C.)
|Frequency Response||5Hz–18 kHz Frequency Response|
|Sensitivity||94 dB SPL @ 1kHz: 67 mVrms|
|Impedance||46.4 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance|
|Cable||Campfire Audio Smoky Lite Litz Cable – Silver Plated Copper Conductors with Berylium Copper MMCX|
Packaging & Accessories
The now standard CA packaging box, but this time in a slightly smaller and thinner profile probably as the IEMs, and hence the carrying case is a little smaller than usual. I’m actually intrigued that CA goes to such lengths to make every IEM a very customized and unique affair each time – there’s never been an exact match of details between different generations of releases. Just goes to show how they’re iterating and trying to improve every time.
Packaged with the Satsuma is the now standard fare of Final Audio E-series tips which I am quite fond of myself, 3 pairs of normal silicon tips and 3 pairs of foam tips from Campfire Audio. There’s also the IEM brush and cleaner as well as the signature CA pin which is in a slightly glittery matte grey instead of the old glossy black now.
Design & Ergonomics
This has to be the most comfortable CA earphone – it lies completely flush inside the recess of the outer ears, and is also the lightest in terms of weight as it isn’t made of ceramic or metal. The sound nozzle seems a little shorter too, which prevents it from jutting out as much. The bright orange 3D printed shells look somewhat toy-like with it’s plasticky glossy sheen, but still takes on the classic Campfire audio form factor, albeit in a smaller size and with more rounded edges.
The cable provided is the Smoky Litz Cable from CA; a soft and supply wire with a 3.5mm L-Plug that works just fine. I personally prefer slightly stiffer cables as they are less prone to tangling but CA cables are solidly constructed and are always of high quality regardless.
Detailed Sound Analysis
The Satsuma was tested with the Fiio M9 Digital Audio Player. My experience with it is that it is quite a sensitive and output dependent IEM; running it out of my laptop was a horrible sounding experience with the bass completely ruined while it was very crisp and clear out of the Fiio M9, quite warm out of the Fiio BTR3, and slightly warm out of an IPad Pro.
It’s a clear spring day, and you’re just relaxing at home. You pick up the Japanese satsuma – more commonly known as a tangerine – in front of you and begin to peel it open. Without having to pry hard, the bright orange skin pleasantly peels off with ease, revealing the delicate flesh inside. The flavours are crisp and clean with a mild zing to it – easy to palate and enjoy, its light flavour lingering only for a second.
And that’s what exactly the latest single balanced armature design from Campfire Audio is like. Its single balanced armature design combined with CA’s TAEC may be simple, but it performs wonderfully with music that is clean and crisp. In my experience, the Satsuma excels particularly at vocal tracks with light accompaniment such as clean guitars with a mild smattering of backing percussion.
It’s able to provide a transparent level of detail retrieval and imaging most notably in the mids and highs, providing for a smooth and intimate vocal listening experience with artists like Norah Jones and some of John Mayer’s quieter pieces. Hotel California Live on MTV 1994 was a pleasure to listen to, with guitar plucking, shakers in the background and light percussion rendered with the utmost detail while the vocals soared through with clarity. High frequencies are precise and reach just high enough to draw out the details but absolutely never sound harsh or sibilant.
What surprised me about the Satsuma how pronounced the bass was, for a single armature design. There is a comfortable warmth to the sound with a soft to moderate impact which served to give a pleasant pluckiness to the bass on hotel California. I later found out that the Satsuma’s balanced armature driver is ported, which explains the strength of its bass compared to other single BA designs. There is a light amount of low end to pad out vocal ranges with comforting bassy warmth. Thus, the Satsuma actually works out quite well with a large number of tracks with its clean mids and highs and neutral quantity of bass.
But, just like the sweet citrusy fruit that it’s named after, the Satsuma is more about light refreshment rather than full bodied flavour. While deeper bass notes can be heard with decent volume even with more grand sounding tracks like Mind Heist: Evolution, there is a definitive subbass roll off at the deep end with the Satsuma. The result is a light and tight bass impact that is mostly mid bass focused, giving the feeling of bass merely in the ears – none of the deep, truly epic, back of head reverberating vibrations of IEMs with stronger bass.
While I would excuse the weak bass frequencies as it was designed to be a mid focused IEM, I would say that the Satsuma’s single driver design falters the most with the lack of clear separation in the low to mid frequency range. This is only really evident when playing heavier music like rock, metal, electronic music with strong bass beats, or anything with more layered sounds in the low end. Things begin to get condensed and muddied when distorted guitars and deep bass sounds join the fray, which tends to cover up any juicy midrange vocal detail the Satsuma is usually able to produce. In my opinion, the rendition of detail in thickly layered bass sounds is passable at best, a stark contrast to the precision and clarity of the mids.
Many readers may wonder how it compares to Campfire’s original single balanced armature offering, the Orion. The Satsuma is definitely much warmer and approachable in comparison. While the Orion was sort of a mini Andromeda in its overall brightness and wide sound, the Satsuma takes a more balanced approach with warmer and more present mids with an ample amount of bass to give the sound some body.
The Satsuma is the most affordable offering from Campfire Audio, comfortable to wear. The light plastic body with its small size make it an easygoing IEM for everyday use; suitable for users with smaller ear concha (which in my experience tend to be women).
It’s a blast to use with easy-going vocal tracks with its light and comfortable sound signature. No doubt the midrange is the star of the show here, supported by delicate highs and a lightly impactful low end. Stick with light, acoustic tracks and you might not even discover the Satsuma’s weakness in the low frequency range.
- Smooth and detailed mids make for natural and comfortable vocals
- Lightly detailed highs
- Light and tight bass impact
- Not great at heavier genres of music; bass gets muddied and is definitely not the best for heavy bass tracks
- Might be a tad expensive in this extremely competitive IEM market