Campfire Lyra II Review – Dulcet Symphony
Campfire have very quickly achieved mass popularity on account of their exceptional flagship earphones and unique designs realised through flawless manufacturing; something that extends even to their most affordable Orion. And like so many others, I hold their Andromeda and Vega in high regard, both are incredibly well-executed flagship earphones with distinct tonalities. However, Campfire’s midrange models aren’t quite so discussed and it brings me greater joy as a reviewer to evaluate these less coveted offerings that get overshadowed by the all alluring flagships and widely accessible budget models. The Lyra II perhaps best suits this description, at the time of writing, there are just 4 photos of the Lyra on Instagram and a mere handful of full reviews on the net. However, though sitting at the base of Campfire’s 3 dynamic driver offerings, the Lyra II is still not to be underestimated and its $699 USD asking price justifies Campfire’s confidence in its performance relative to the greater market. Let’s see how the Lyra II performs.
I would like to thank JD from Campfire Audio very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the Lyra II for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
The Lyra II comes packaged within a bold red box that contrasts to the blue boxes of their balanced armature based models. Upon opening the box, users are greeted by Campfire’s terrific zippered leather case with faux shearling interior that is both protective and luxurious.
Just inside lies the earphones themselves individually draped to prevent scratches during transit. Campfire include 3 pairs of foam tips, 3 pairs of silicone tips and 3 pairs of authentic spinfits with every earphone. They also provide some warranty papers and a decorative pin.
It’s a nice package that offers buyers plenty of fit flexibility and Campfire’s signature case remains one of the best solutions on the market. I would like to see some Comply foam tips in future though the included tips are all of pleasing quality.
It doesn’t take long to appreciate the meticulous detail that went into the production of the Lyra II. The experience will be very familiar to Dorado or Vega users and smaller eared listeners will find a more agreeable experience here than with Campfire’s BA earphones.
The Lyra II is very compact and smoothly formed, promoting an ergonomic fit. Utilizing liquid alloy, the housings feel almost impervious to any kind of stress and the finish is excellent with perfectly joined halves and a tasteful satin purple colour scheme that doesn’t draw attention in public. The plastic nozzles form a continuation of the protruding housings lending them towards a deep fit depth and a small ridge reliably holds tips.
During wear, the earphones continue to impress, their small housings enabling minimal ear contact and excellent long-term comfort during my 2 months of testing. Due to their smaller size, they don’t lock into the ear quite like the BA Campfires but achieve excellent stability through fit depth and an over-ear fit. The Lyra II stay put perfectly during a recent 6km run and posed no issues during daily commute. Some driver flex was present but it is far less prevalent than on the Polaris and hasn’t caused any noticeable degradation.
The earphones do have a small top-mounted vent but isolation remains very impressive with minimal wind noise when outside. Combined with their fit depth and when equipped with a pair of Comply foams, the Lyra II isolates almost as much as Campfire’s sealed armature earphones, putting them among the most attenuating earphones on the market. This makes them perfect for travel and public transport.
The Lyra II utilizes a removable MMCX cable with custom beryllium copper connectors that promise to vastly increase longevity. In use, the connectors are solid with even tension and devoid of intermittency or wobble. Campfire’s silver plated Litz cable is also excellent, easily among the best manufacturer included units on the market. The cable has a typical round 4-conductor braid with smooth, supple sheathing that makes the wire both tangle resistant and super compliant. All terminations are well relieved, especially the beefy right angle jack, this is a fantastic cable.
The Lyra II implements a single dynamic driver with an 8.5mm Beryllium PVD Diaphragm. In a world where driver count is pushing into the double digits, that specification might seem scant on paper but provides tremendous ability in real-world listening. I’ve had the Lyra II for about 2 months as of this review, during which it has received over 200 hours of burn-in. I did not note huge changes, the Lyra II was very pleasing out of the box with perhaps a slightly smoother and more coherent tone over time. As always, Campfire’s excellent SPC Litz wire delivers pleasing clarity and separation through cleaner bass tones and greater high-frequency extension. Buyers should not feel the need to excessively burn-in and cable swap, the Litz offers great synergy with the Lyra II’s warmer voicing.
The Lyra II is a warm, smooth earphone with a hint of additional treble energy creating a u-shaped tone. That said, subtle deviations tastefully enhance presence and clarity so the earphones sound quite balanced. Bass is full and fleshed out with lifted sub and mid-bass leaving the midrange slightly recessed and warmed. A progressive rise in emphasis within the upper mids imbues the Lyra II’s sound with a little extra energy, forming a smooth transition into their slightly enhanced treble. This may sound similar to Campfire’s Polaris, both earphones carry a u/v-shaped tone, but both are also very different in their approach, the Lyra II being warmer and more balanced, the Polaris clearer and more engaging.
I found Comply foam tips to offer great synergy, toning down the earphone’s lower treble and evening out their tone. The Lyra II, though not an aggressive earphone in the grand scheme of things, can sound a little forward in the highs with wide bore silicone tips on certain tracks. That said, JVC Spiral dots do improve midrange resolution and bass is perceptibly tighter. As with anything, it will come down to preference. Since I prefer a brighter sound, I paired them with MS Spiral dots.
The Lyra II’s low end is defined by boosted but linear bass that serves up thick, visceral notes with authority. Extension is instantly gratifying, decimating armature in-ears and competing very well with higher priced dynamics such as the venerable ie800. Sub-bass rumble is clear and controlled, well-avoiding muddiness, and a slight focus on mid-bass grants notes with a full-bodied tone that represents a step up in balance from similar earphones like the Cardas A8. They still don’t offer the most articulate, agile bass response I’ve heard, the ie800 outpaces them on complex tracks and the higher-end Dorado and Vega both deliver appreciably more control and definition, but the Lyra II provides a nice progression over the majority of in-ears sitting around the $500 price point.
This style of tuning does create some bloat however, the Lyra II retains plenty of detail due to surprisingly great bass control. Moreover, similarly lifted sub and mid-bass creates a clearly more linear tone than earphones like the Polaris and ie800, benefitting bass definition, and the low-end of the Lyra II sounds very detailed with retrieval equivalent to most armature sets. Their linearity also grants each note with accurate texture and instrument timbre is well represented if warm when compared to leaner and more sculpted in-ears. So despite their emphasis, bass is tight and controlled, infusing the Lyra II’s sound with body and scale without leaning towards bloat or muddiness; this is a hyper-engaging low-frequency response that thoroughly impresses with its quality and doesn’t overstep any boundaries in its tuning.
Though bass is the focus of the Lyra II in quantity, its midrange isn’t overshadowed in quantity or quality. This starts with a slightly darker tonal tilt that delivers a lusciously smooth, rich and natural presentation without the veil or muddiness usually associated with this style of tuning. Due to their overall balance, no bass spill is present, lower mids are only mildly warmed and male vocals are well-placed just slightly behind the Lyra’s boosted mid-bass. Upper mids are less present but have a steady rise towards lower treble that enhances clarity over neutral. Through this presentation, midrange elements never become overwhelmed by their grandiose bass response and the progressive nature of this emphasis retains very natural midrange voicing. Transparency does suffer due to their warmer, full-bodied tone, but male and female vocals are realistic and well-present, their added body counteracting the usual thin, raspy presentation that comes with the vast majority of clarity boosted in-ears.
Instruments such as acoustic are also enriched by the Lyra II’s clarity and heightened lower treble enables crisp detail presentation. This is reinforced by impressive resolution, vocals sound immediate and layering is clearly defined. The Lyra II sounds lush yet clear, their smoothness set to delightful resolving power. Once again, linearity is key and the Lyra II’s smoothly sculpted tone reveals impressive background detail and intimacy within an inherently mid-recessed tonality. As such, these subtle deviations form a midrange response that is balanced enough to serve almost any genre and dynamic enough to invigorate poorly mastered albums. The Lyra II’s midrange impresses not only through its technical aspects but through a very fine balance of tonal forces.
Campfire have approached the high-frequency tuning of the Lyra II with clear focus and maturity. The Lyra II doesn’t offer the most explicitly revealing tonality but it employs a small lower-treble lift to balance out its warm low-end and does so with exceptional refinement. Lower treble doesn’t have a narrow band spike nor does treble get uneven, instead feeding smoothly from the upper midrange. Their smoothly sculpted nature enables realistic instrument timbre and the Lyra II’s smooth nature doesn’t come at the cost of either clarity or detail. I also have to reinforce that smooth descriptors should not detract from the fact that this is a resolving earphone up top even if middle and upper treble clarity doesn’t excel. Elements don’t sound overemphasized rather, the Lyra II sounds a little crisper with cymbals and guitars at the cost of a little body, cymbals can sound slightly thin but never to the extent that they present as splashy.
The earphones more reserved middle and upper treble form a well-integrated continuation of their elevated lower treble leaving higher elements such as strings smooth and refined with splendid texturing. Through this, the Lyra II doesn’t fatigue nor do they exacerbate sibilance but air and shimmer can sound slightly sedate. That said, actual extension is impressive, aiding instrument separation and placement, and the Lyra II delivers notes with excellent cohesion when things get complex. The TAEC sporting Dorado, Jupiter and Andromeda still hold a notable advantage in resolving power and extension, but the Lyra II’s smooth tuning and well-integrated presence zones culminate to produce a high-frequency response that is both resolving and musical. The Lyra II executes the typical energetic lower-treble response that many have come to love in an atypically refined fashion.
Soundstage, Imaging and Separation –
A wide stage can bring great satisfaction and is often employed as a marketing term for many earphones. However, depth adds an extra dimension to the music and it’s with this that the Lyra II excels. Width is still impressive, stretching just beyond the periphery of the head though again, the more extended Campfire’s sound more multi-dimensional yet. Still, the Lyra II has one of the larger presentations I’ve heard, especially for a compact, warm and well-isolating dynamic driver in-ear, all traits that would insinuate a more intimate presentation. This is the greatest testament to the Lyra II’s technical ability which enables greater vocal projection and resolution of layers and background details than competing earphones of similar tonality. Moreover, centre image is strong and imaging is very impressive on account of their great end to end extension and technical prowess. They don’t touch the armature based Jupiter, favouring natural decay and timbre over agility and raw immediacy, but among similarly priced dynamic drivers and even hybrids, the Lyra II is a very strong performer. Separation is also good but not outstanding, highs are nicely separated and their midrange is surprisingly layered considering their warmth, but bass can get a little busy due to their thicker tuning. The Lyra II ultimately errs on the side of smoothness and integration over vividness.
With a modest 103dB sensitivity and 17ohm impedance, the Lyra II is easily driven to volume by portable sources. It is notably hiss resistant, far more so than most armature sets and doesn’t differ much from sources of varying output impedance. That said, the Lyra II scales nicely with plenty of resolution to take advantage of higher end sources. I preferred to run them from a more neutrally tuned source like the X7 II though the Lyra II is balanced enough to pair with a musical source like the Shozy Alien+ too, I wouldn’t consider them to be overly source dependent. From my X7 II, the Lyra II sounded notably tighter and more defined with greater balance throughout. My HTC U11 served the earphones just find but deficiencies were present with notably looser bass and thinner, slightly more unnatural mids. A good smartphone will drive the Lyra II well, they don’t thrive on amplification but benefit from a resolving source.
Cardas A8 30th Anniversay ($350): The Cardas’ metal build is as magnificent as the Lyra II’s liquid alloy construction, but its brass construction feels even sturdier. It also isolates brilliantly but unfortunately, the cable is fully fixed and its cable-down fit makes it prone to microphonic noise. In listening, the A8 and Lyra II also draw many parallels, both are warm, full-bodied yet linear earphones with enhanced upper midrange clarity. Bass is similar on both in tone, the Lyra II is a little more linear, faster and more defined while the A8 serves up notably more visceral sub-bass, both have absolutely awesome extension for in-ears. Due to its greater balance, mids are notably cleaner and clearer on the Lyra II, where the A8 can sound somewhat veiled and dry by comparison.
Both sound clearer within the upper midrange but the A8 is more vocal recessed while the Lyra II is notably more realistic and resolving. Treble is the largest differentiator, the Lyra II is notably more extended, open and detailed. The A8 sounds rolled off and thin, clearly lacking the extension and resolution of the Lyra II. However, this does somewhat benefit the A8 when it comes to soundstage size, the A8 has more width and almost as much depth as the Lyra II if at the cost of separation and imaging. I still think the Cardas is a terrific earphone for the money, offering a lot of the experience of the Lyra II for half the price, but the Lyra II easily justifies the price increase in performance and ergonomics.
Flares Pro ($550-600): The Flares Pro is characterized by distinct brushed titanium housings whose small size doesn’t compromise solidity in the hand. They have excellent comfort and isolation due to their minute dimensions but can be prone to some stability issues with the wrong tips. Their cable is is removable at the y-split enabling users to connect an included Bluetooth module, I should note that Flare’s particular wireless implementation is the best I’ve come across by far. The Pro pursues a V-shaped tone in the same vein as the Sennheiser ie800 with enhanced clarity and a large middle treble boost. Bass is similar in tone, the Flare is cleaner, tighter and quicker with faster decay but it is slightly more reserved in its presentation. Mids are a little brighter on the Pro, with more neutral body and enhanced clarity. It is the more revealing earphone but some harshness and sibilance is present due to their lifted treble.
The Lyra II is a bit warmer and more natural but both find a nice balance between musicality and neutrality, they just sit on the opposite sides of the dark/bright spectrum. Treble is the Flare’s downfall, it extends very well and is incredibly detailed but timbre is way off, it sounds even more artificial than the ie800 but is similarly resolving at a lower price. The Lyra II is almost as detailed but sounds a lot smoother and more natural. Those looking for the most absolutely resolving earphone around this price, will no doubt find a lot to like with the Flares Pro, it has a super clean, crisp sound with great agility. The Lyra II is more weighted and considerably more realistic but also a little less defined within the lower frequencies and not quite as technically apt within the higher frequencies.
Dunu DK-3001 ($550): The DK-3001 has an incredibly solid stainless steel build undermined by a strangely designed cable and internal ridge that wears on the ear during longer listening. The Lyra II is more compact and far smoother with a large comfort and isolation advantage. The Dunu offers a sound that draws more parallels with the Polaris than Lyra II and lies in between the two in terms of overall balance, the Lyra II being the most balanced, the Polaris least so. It too is a u-shaped earphone though one that focusses more on deep-bass with a considerably cleaner lower-midrange than the Lyra II. Bass is a little less defined and dynamic than the Lyra on account of its less linear tuning though texturing is still very good. The Dunu has a markedly clearer midrange though vocals have more presence and body than the Polaris. As a result, it sounds more natural though still very slightly thin and raspy in the grand scheme of things.
The Lyra II offers quite the opposite with a warmer lower midrange and a less coloured, smoother upper midrange, it is less revealing but richer and more natural. That said, the difference between the two isn’t great enough to make the Lyra sound explicitly veiled or over-warmed by comparison as it can from the even more vivid Polaris. Treble is similar in approach but far different in listening, the Dunu is slightly more detailed and extends further, it is markedly more open sounding and far airier but can sound a little crunchy on complex tracks. On the contrary, the Lyra II is smoother and more refined while retaining a lot of detail. Both have excellent stages, the Dunu separates better on account of its extension and clarity though the Lyra II images better in general, both extend beyond the periphery of the head in size. The Dunu really is an outstanding earphone that I appreciate more and more with time though its awkward ergonomics really detract from the experience, and it isn’t as well-rounded as the Lyra II as a result.
Sennheiser ie800 ($599-899): The ie800 has even smaller housings made from a very tough ceramic. Both are comfortable, the ie800 has a more traditional cable down albeit shallow fit that isn’t nearly as stable and isolating as the Lyra II. In listening, the ie800 is markedly more v-shaped with a vastly more prominent high-end. The Lyra II has fuller bass while the ie800’s focus lies mostly within the sub-bass frequencies with less relative mid and upper bass. The ie800 is quicker but its sculpted nature means it can miss some details while the Lyra II’s more linear response is more resolving within the lower frequencies. Mids are brighter than the Lyra II by a fair margin, the ie800 has far greater clarity, slightly higher resolution and better separation but lacks the natural body and timbre of the Lyra II.
Highs also sparkle far more on the Senn and extensions stretches further into the highest registers. The ie800 has noticeably more air and shimmer though treble also sounds a lot more artificial than the Lyra II and detail retrieval ends up being similar on both due to a somewhat narrow peak on the Senn. The ie800 has an advantage when it comes to soundstage space due to its shallow, vented design, it also images well due to its faster sound though the Lyra II is more linear and accurate overall. This is certainly an interesting comparison, the ie800 is technically superior in many aspects but its bright tone with somewhat artificial timbre won’t be to everyone’s liking nor its questionable fit stability. The Lyra II ends up being the more versatile in-ear despite being less resolving though lovers of absolute clarity will love the Sennheiser.
Campfire Polaris ($599): The Polaris utilises the larger BA Campfire shell with sharper edges. That said, both were perfectly comfortable for me though the Lyra II isolates a bit more if you’re a frequent traveller. Both sit on the more musical, engaging side of neutral, the Lyra II is warmer and smoother while the Polaris is more v-shaped with greater clarity. The Polaris is bassier with a larger mid-bass hump while the Lyra II is thicker and more linear. Both have great definition, the Lyra is more textured, the Polaris is a little more agile. The Lyra II’s fuller bass produces a warmer midrange while the Polaris has a small dip into the midrange, making it sound more sculpted but also a lot clearer.
The Polaris is notably more vibrant and brighter within its midrange and treble, while the Lyra II sounds more realistic and natural. The Polaris’ treble is more aggressively detailed with a considerable bump in treble energy though the Lyra II is more linear, detailed and natural. Its greater midrange and treble body make it the more nuanced earphone though it doesn’t brings details to the fore like the Polaris. The Lyra II has better treble extension and resolution of background details, the Polaris has better separation while the Lyra impresses with greater stage depth and imaging. This comparison represents how two theoretically v-shaped earphones can sound completely different, the Lyra II has a little more technical ability though the Polaris is more orthodox in its tuning. Through this setup, Campfire provide buyers with two distinct flavours of V, smart move.
Campfire Jupiter ($799): The Jupiter shares the same shell as the Polaris but with a full Cerakote finish that makes it incredibly scratch resistant. As such, the Lyra II holds the same size and comfort advantage over the Jupiter though, being fully sealed, the Jupiter isolates the most of the bunch. Sonically, the Jupiter and Lyra II actually share quite a few similarities, both are warmer, fuller sounding earphones though the Jupiter represents a few step up in resolving power and balance at the cost of dynamics and bass extension. The Lyra II is bassier and a little more sculpted while the Jupiter, though warm and full, is even more linear throughout. The Lyra II has far more sub-bass slam and notably more visceral bass in general while the Jupiter is a lot faster and tighter with greater definition.
The Jupiter has a more resolving high-end, mids have higher resolution and greater balance though the Lyra II has a touch more clarity that better flatters older recordings. Treble is better extended on the Jupiter and more even in tuning, the Lyra II’s added lower-treble aggression enhances detail presentation but saps body and texture. The Jupiter on the other hand, is incredibly linear with a sizeable resolution increase on top. It has greater treble body, detail and texture and is more even into the very highest frequencies. The Jupiter’s extension grants it with a rather grand presentation for a fully sealed in-ear and its lightning fast transience and resolution grant it with razor sharp imaging. The Lyra II actually has a little more depth and separation but doesn’t image quite like the Campfire’s higher-end BA earphone.
Campfire Dorado ($999): The Dorado has the exact same housing as the Lyra II but employs a longer stem due to its hybrid design that places the two armature drivers in the nozzle. Both otherwise offer a very similar experience with concrete build and ergonomics. Sonically, the two differ quite a bit but still retain a similar style of tuning and voicing. The Dorado is immediately bassier and more V-shaped. It has bigger mid-bass but simultaneously offers greater bass control and speed. Mids are more recessed but have more neutral body and greater transparency as a result. It’s still full-bodied and slightly warm within the lower midrange but the Dorado is generally more resolving with clearer layering and background detail. This is because the Dorado is more even throughout its midrange and treble, lacking the upper midrange rise of the Lyra II.
This can make them sound a little more laid-back within the midrange but what they give up in clarity, they gain in resolution and detail. Treble is also more detailed and quite linear with better extension, benefiting separation and space. The Dorado still lies more on the side of musicality and smoothness, it sounds cleaner and more neutral compared to the warmer Lyra II and is more revealing as a result. Their more extended treble and cleaner midrange really aid resolving power without the sculpting of the Lyra II and the Dorado sounds more consistent between tracks and genres. It represents a step up from the Lyra II in linearity and dynamics and a step down in balance.
The Lyra II very much suffers from sub-flagship syndrome, constantly being compared to the Andromeda and Vega when it was never intended to compete with them. Its $700 asking price also puts it in a strange spot, there aren’t too many competitors at this price but the Lyra does risk becoming undercut by competitors lying closer to $500-600. That said, longer-term testing reveals that Campfire have created an incredibly well-rounded earphone that justifies its high cost. From the gorgeous liquid formed housings to ALO’s supple Litz wire, the Lyra II is the embodiment of premium design. This extends to their fit that is both isolating and stable, something that many competing dynamic driver models don’t achieve.
Sonically, the Lyra II is also an oddity, serving music through warm lows and smooth highs. They’re an enchanting extension of the smooth, warm tonality augmented by layer upon layer of nuance and detail, very few earphones in this price range carry such a rich, natural sound. And compared to brighter competitors, the Lyra II can sound a little lacklustre but make no mistake, there is copious resolving power sparkling beneath their almost analogue warmth. Of course, the Lyra II is not without its faults, their long nozzles make tip choice very specific, their sound isn’t particularly agile and treble extension isn’t absolute, but their many strengths culminate to provide a complete experience, something that isn’t common and something that doesn’t come cheap.
Verdict – 8.5/10, In a world of triple-digit earphones, the Lyra II offers a slightly scaled down experience at a vastly scaled down price. Because no particular element stands out rather, they all come together with great coherence and refinement with minimal compromise. The Lyra II isn’t analytical or neutral, but its cosy yet deceptively nuanced tones will be sure to delight.
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