Campfire Audio is one of those brands which is hard to mistake with their industrial looking yet sleek designs and materials. I have been a big fan of the Andromeda for what now feels like forever, which made the release of the Ara quite an interesting one since it swayed away from more of fun sound towards something more analytical and neutral. Equipped with 7 balanced armatures in a crossover-less configuration and enclosed in a titanium shell the Ara definitely grabs attention.
This unit was graciously provided by K&S Technology for review and has since been sent to another reviewer.
In the box
Build quality and accessories
Build quality is stellar. The IEMs have a decent weight to them without feeling as crazy heavy as the Andromeda S but just enough to give confidence they are very high quality and will not break from a random drop or sitting on them. My only gripe is the front grill if any debris enters the IEMs due to the shape of that grill it will be extremely difficult to remove it.
The cable is nice and soft, I wouldn’t say it’s an “end game” cable, but for everyday usage it’s great, it’s fairly tangle free and disappears while using the IEMs.
The case is very nice too, with a soft inside and just enough space to fit the IEMs with the cable and pouch to keep both sides separated.
Fit and comfort
The Ara fit me really well, the shell, even though it has an angular appearance is finished in such a way that the IEMs never dig into my ear or create any hotspots. The steam is also just the right length to make them sit well in my ear.
One thing to note with the Ara, at the start I was using quite a shallow fit, there was a peak around 8k which was getting fatiguing. However, when using a deep insertion this was no longer an issue.
Neutral, with full-bodied lower midrange and with very good coherence.
The bass is really dynamic, fast and detailed. It still presents most of the characteristics of a BA bass but it somehow still manages to have a fairly natural presentation. The extension is very good, with a good amount of punch while being quite restrained in its presentation. On my test track “Bonefield – Window” the Ara clearly shows how superior its bass extension is to that of the Andromeda while keeping the bass tamer in general.
The best way to describe the midrange of the Ara is smooth, natural and gentle. It does still present excellent detail and good texture but all of that is not emphasised, it’s there for the taking if you wish to do so. Due to the dip in the upper midrange, some female vocals are a tad pulled back but I got used to that pretty quickly and it didn’t bother me.
Treble on the Ara is fantastic, listening to cymbal splashes on “Fleetwood Mac – The Chain” really gives you a sense of minute details and vibrations of the cymbals and (I assume) due to crossover-less design there are no abrupt dips which could cause the cymbals to sound pulled back. The detail is presented smoothly but the sounds needing a bite still have it. It’s one of the better treble presentations I’ve heard in an IEM. There’s plenty of air and separation is excellent.
Imaging and Soundstage
Another strength of the Ara is its very natural stage presentation, everything just sounds in the right place, with the right amount of space around it. It makes you feel like gazing into a recording and almost being able to touch the instruments in the air. Every instrument is precisely positioned within the space and the images never get blurry.
This is not something I talk about often, but the Ara definitely needs a very clean source. It digs into noise floors of equipment and exposes even the lowest noise floor. On the Cayin N6ii with both the E02 and A01 boards the noise floor was very noticeable without using an iEMatch.
I very much recommend the Ara, this comes with a few caveats. Their sound signature is while being very natural and delicate isn’t best suited for an environment with a lot of outside noise as it makes sound a bit lifeless, however, if used in a quiet environment they are a very relaxing listen with impressive technicalities. It’s very nice to see campfire try something entirely new and come out with an IEM as well rounded as the Ara.