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Campfire Audio Comet Review – Luminous

Pros – 

Flawless build quality, Great clarity while maintaining natural voicing, Warm, textured low-end

Cons – 

Mediocre layering, Not for those prioritising timbre, average soundstage expansion

Verdict – 

The Comet best suits those searching for an engaging yet versatile earphone with superb build quality and excellent passive noise isolation.


Introduction – 

It only takes a couple of minutes online to see the prominence of Campfire Audio and their presence in seemingly every conversation. From their newly released over-ear headphone, the Cascade, to the almost universally adored Andromeda, you would be hard-pressed to find an instance where Campfire Audio’s high-end products aren’t recommended. However, though respected, their lower-end models haven’t achieved the same unconditional love and Campfire have been quick to react.

Following in the footsteps of the Polaris, the Comet is their response; a single BA earphone that promises great range through its implementation of a vented armature and Campfire’s proprietary T.A.E.C 3D printed sound chamber. It similarly carries a more engaging tuning, especially compared to the Orion and Nova before it, in addition to a complete redesign to permit cable-down wear in addition to over-ear. Perhaps most impressively, Campfire Audio are offering the Comet at an attainable $200 USD, all aspects that make this their most accessible earphone yet. You can read more about the Comet and treat yourself to one here.

 

Disclaimer – 

I would like to thank Campfire Audio very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the Comet 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.

 

Accessories – 

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The Comet comes packaged similarly to Campfire’s past in-ears with the same compact box. Opening the box reveals the earphones within Campfire’s legendary leather carry cases similar to that included with their dynamic earphones and the Orion. The case has faux shearling that prevents scratches during transportation and Campfire house each earpiece in a separate fabric pouch so they’re kept pristine during shipping, very thoughtful.

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Campfire has also switched to a more compact zipper design with their logo. Underneath are the accessories, a CA pin, 3 pairs of silicone tips, 3 pairs of foams and 5 pairs of Final Audio E-tips. The Final tips are a great addition and I much prefer them to both the stock and Spinfit tips that were previously included. Chiefly, they sound more transparent while providing similar ergonomic benefits. It’s great to see Campfire including these tips from factory.

 

Design –

Campfire’s redesigned earphones have been met with a polarising response but, to my eye, the Comet looks a lot better in person and its design has grown on me during my months of testing. This is reaffirmed by their dense, unrelenting construction, employing a solid 3-piece stainless steel design with striking chrome finish. There’s no give, rattle or creak to be found here and the level of finish is immaculate with even seams, perfect joins and smoothly formed edges; you would be hard-pressed to find a better-built earphone at any price point. I’ve also found the Comet to age well, picking up no dents or scratches over my past months of testing; just be sure to wind them up from the earpieces and store in the included case after use.

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The Comet fits similarly to earphones like the Etymotic ER4 and Klipsch X10, and its slender design offers flawless comfort with no sharp edges and minimal ear contact. It should also be noted that though the driver in the Comet is vented, the external housing is fully-sealed. Combined with a slightly deeper fit than Campfire’s previous BA housing, isolation is terrific, a dream for portable use, especially with foam tips. In addition, its bullet-shaped housings enable comfortable wear both cable-down and over the ear, and it remains very stable in both configurations. As the MMCX connectors angle away from the face, microphonic noise during cable-down wear is minimized and absent entirely when worn over-ear.

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Campfire is using the same cable as the Polaris, with an additional 3-button remote/mic and no cable guides to permit cable-down wear. It employs Litz copper internals and a twisted braid that’s supple and smooth, effectively avoiding tangles. It has a well-reinforced, case-friendly right angle plug and custom beryllium MMCX connectors that promise greater longevity. In short, the included cable is as liveable as we’ve come to expect from Campfire, a former cable manufacturer. It feels well-constructed and suitable for portable use. The added functionality provided by the inline remote/mic will surely be welcome to many smartphone users.

 

Sound –

Tonality –

The Comet has a signature that will be sure to please many; a modest V combining a pleasantly warm mid-bass focussed low-end with a clear midrange and airy high-end. This is another case where Campfire flaunt tonal brilliance if not absolute technical proficiency, as the Comet simply sounds pleasing to the ear. And, where buyers searching for that intoxicating Jupiter/Andromeda experience in the past had no lower-priced alternatives in Campfire’s line-up (the Orion sporting a thinner, brighter sound and the Nova a mellower sound), the Comet now fills that place, providing a signature that is vibrant and engaging but not overdone.

 

Bass –

Though those with a trained ear will fairly easily spot its shortcomings when compared to many multi-driver and dynamic driver competitors, for a single BA earphone, especially considering its reasonable pricing and superb build, the Comet has impressive end to end extension. Sub-bass extension is a definite upgrade over the Orion, delivering a tight if not especially solid impact and mid-bass holds most attention with its enhanced presence. It’s not overly lifted but delivers great punch and a light warmth without introducing too much bloat or congestion. Upper-bass has small emphasis, contributing to a sound that is full but not thick or bloomy. Another aspect of the Comet’s low-end that stands out is its natural, textured notes.

The Comet decays more like a dynamic than conventional BA earphone and it has nice dynamics that many will enjoy. It doesn’t excel with bass speed but does find a happy medium between the agility and control of a BA and the natural texture of a dynamic driver, greatly aiding its genre versatility. In addition to being quite tight, Campfire’s reasonable emphasis permits a nicely separated low-end presentation with pleasing definition. They are missing some detail in the mid-bass region due to some slight bloat, but fare very well around this price point. To my ear, the Comet is very pleasantly tuned, delivering tight, punchy mid-bass and surprising sub-bass kick without sacrificing as much fine detail as most.

 

Mids –

The Comet’s midrange is very interesting. It’s not at all linear, but its tuning demonstrates a lot more thought than earphones costing many times more, achieving a clear yet natural expression. Overall, mids are laid-back and some bass colouration is present, but mids aren’t drowned out or muffled as a result. Instead, its lifted upper-bass imbues male vocals and instruments such as piano and guitar with a pleasant warmth. Meanwhile, transparency is redeemed through attenuation of the lower-midrange that can make instruments and vocals a little inconsistent at times but effectively prevents over warming and muddiness. Centre mids also receive slight emphasis, bringing vocals forward and avoiding bass dominance. This leads into a spiked upper-midrange that greatly aids midrange clarity and further counteracts its low-end warmth.

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However, the Comet deviates from a lot of V-Shaped earphones (and similarly, the pitfalls they suffer from) through a rather sharp reduction of the upper-midrange/lower-treble. As a result, though vocals are clear and present and instruments warm yet crisp, the Comet lacks any thinness and its vocal reconstruction is impressively smooth. In fact, the Comet sounds slightly denser than neutral and is impressively refined in its voicing. Female vocals are a strength, slightly more forward with a more transparent tone and sibilance is a non-issue. The Comet doesn’t excel with timbre or background detail retrieval, but it executes a very engaging tuning and mitigates the undesirable effects of its increased clarity with great finesse.

 

Highs –

Those worried the Comet’s single driver might reach its limits within the higher-frequencies will be pleasantly surprised by the air and detail they deliver up top. Highs have been an area of contention for some listeners due to their attenuated lower-treble, but the Comet is smooth in its detail presentation, not absent of detail. This tuning decision also plays a significant role in the preservation of a natural midrange. Due to its emphasized upper-midrange, details are well-present, and instruments are organically bodied; flattering acoustic and pop with clear, natural notes. However, they may lack crispness and attack, especially for those accustomed to more aggressive earphones such as the Pinnacle P1, Dunu Falcon-C and iBasso IT01. This precedes a lightly emphasized middle treble that enhances air and shimmer before a roll-off into the upper-treble.

It’s not nearly as severe as the truncated sounding Klipsch X10 for example, but the Comet does lack the sparkle and resolution of higher-end models, understandable but something to consider. Accordingly, the Comets sound energetic and lively while retaining immersive atmosphere. They may lack that last iota of attack for rock, but cymbals and strings are enriched with organic body and pleasing texture. Resolution is on the higher side and highs avoid stridence or obnoxious peaks that so frequently plague earphones around this price attempting to achieve a resolving sound without the technical proficiency to realise it. Though I wouldn’t consider high frequencies to be the Comet’s strength, they do wonderfully compliment the rest of its sound with enough resolving power to keep listeners engaged over long-term ownership.

 

Soundstage –

The Comet’s modest treble extension and uneven midrange do affect its soundstage which is neither especially spacious nor layered. That said, it’s not claustrophobic, with a well-rounded presentation that expands just to the periphery of the head. Imaging is above average, but not outstanding, and layers aren’t always defined. That said, overall separation is great; bass notes are clearly distinguished and vocals are well separated from instruments. The Comet’s smoothed-off lower-treble can result in some detail becoming overshadowed, though treble is significantly more composed than more emphasized competitors, most of which employ spikes of some sort.

 

Drivability –

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With a 48ohm impedance and 97dB sensitivity, the Comet isn’t as efficient as the Jupiter and Andromeda, but it’s also considerably less source sensitive. Chiefly, the Comet doesn’t pick up much hiss from portable sources and its signature barely changes with varying output impedance; sounding consistent between the Hiby R6 and X7 II for example. It does scale with a dedicated DAP like the iBasso DX200, achieving a tighter low-end, greater separation and high resolution, but users shouldn’t feel that their source is holding the earphone back unless it’s especially poor. Still, the Comet isn’t overly source sensitive making it a great choice for portable use.

 

Comparisons –

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TFZ King Pro ($170): The TFZ King Pro is more V-shaped and brighter throughout. It has more sub-bass extension combined with greater emphasis, producing a more visceral low-end. Mid-bass is similarly emphasized, granting slightly fuller notes while upper-bass and lower-mids are recessed. As such, the King Pro has a cooler midrange tone and thinner instrument body that contrasts to the lightly warm Comet. The King Pro has a very forward upper-midrange that brings female vocals and details to the fore. It’s also very, very clear as a result, but it doesn’t sound nearly as natural as the Comet due to its cool tone and increased emphasis.

Similar to the Comet, the King Pro has a smoother lower-treble, though it retains crispness due to its upper-midrange emphasis. The King Pro has a larger middle-treble bump creating a brighter background and generally airier sound. It extends further at the very top, delivering more sparkle and slightly more resolution. That said, due to its less balanced tuning, the King Pro isn’t as organised and its upper-midrange can overshadow some surrounding details. The King Pro has a significantly larger soundstage, aided by its airy treble and greater extension. That said, it doesn’t separate quite as well and female vocals may be too forward for some.

1More Quad-Driver ($200): The Quad-Driver is more V-shaped with a warmer tone throughout. It has slightly better sub-bass extension delivering more kick at the very bottom. Its mid-bass is more emphasized as is its upper-bass, producing a fuller sound, but also a less defined one. The Comet is faster and more detailed, it’s considerably less bloated and tubby sounding while maintaining engagement. The Quad-Driver has a warm, full-bodied midrange, but it’s vocals are recessed. The Comet has more vocal presence and greater clarity overall, it sounds more tonally transparent where the Quad Driver is a little chesty.

The Quad-Driver has more lower-treble presence, but it’s also peaky, delivering thin and occasionally harsh instrumentation. That said, it’s immediately crisper than the Comet which some may prefer. What most irks on the Quad Driver is its spiked middle treble which can make strings sound strident. The Comet is more reasonable and gradual in its emphasis, it’s also generally smoother, lacking that same fatigue. The Quad-Driver has a larger stage, but it’s considerably less separated than the Comet.

Dunu Falcon-C ($200): The Falcon-C is another outstanding earphone around this price that offers a slightly more V-shaped sound with greater technicality. It has better sub-bass extension combined with a similarly full mid-bass. Its upper-bass is less present as is its lower-midrange, producing a slightly cool midrange. The Falcon-C is more dynamic, while the Comet is faster and more defined with greater bass detail. The Falcon-C has a more linear midrange with gradual incline into the upper-midrange. As such, it also has enhanced clarity, but it lacks the vocal push of the Comet, sounding more recessed.

The Falcon-C has a moderate lower-treble emphasis that also thins out its midrange but does significantly enhance detail presentation. The Comet is smoother and more natural through its midrange, it has more appropriate body and lacks extra emphasis on articulation. The Falcon-C is more detailed up top, aided by greater extension. It has a darker background due to its fairly neutral middle treble though its foreground instrumentation still sounds a little thin due to its narrow-band lower-treble emphasis. The Falcon-C has more resolution and a much larger soundstage. It’s also more layered and just as separated.

Symphonium Aurora ($200): The Aurora is a lesser known model and quite new to the market, but it impresses through its relatively balanced sound and pleasant tone. The Comet’s sub-bass extends a hair further, delivering more slam while the Aurora has more mid-bass punch. The Aurora is fuller but also slower and less controlled with the Comet holding a considerable advantage when it comes to bass definition. The Aurora has less upper-bass presence and similar lower-midrange presence, creating a midrange that’s nicely transparent and neutrally toned. It has slightly more centre midrange combined with similar upper-midrange presence, sounding less mid-recessed while maintaining similar clarity.

The Aurora has a small lower-treble spike that brings details to the fore as opposed to the smoother Comet. As such, its midrange isn’t quite as smooth or dense, but it is crisper and more aggressive, better for rock for example. The Aurora is slightly more detailed while the comet has better treble body and texture. The Aurora has a darker background due to its less emphasized middle-treble. It extends a little further up top, delivering higher resolution. The Aurora has a slightly larger stage that is similarly well-rounded. It layers and separates better.

Campfire Audio Orion ($349): The Orion is more balanced and more neutral in tone with a greater focus on the higher frequencies. Some find the Orion too bright and thin, if that’s the case, the Comet provides an excellent alternative. Sub-bass extends appreciably further on the Comet and its mid and upper-bass are both more emphasized, delivering a fuller, more impactful low-end. The Orion has slight mid-bass emphasis, but it’s easily more neutral in tone and more linear than the Comet, reinforced by greater speed and definition. The Orion also has a more linear, transparent midrange. The Comet has sligthly more body and its a touch smoother due to its treble tuning, both are similarly clear, the Comet has a little more female vocal presence due to its upper-midrange spike.

The Orion is more realistic sounding and slightly more natural, it’s also more consistent between tracks. The Orion is similarly more linear in its treble and slightly brighter than neutral. It has well-considered detail presence, crisper in its delivery with more attack. The Orion is more detailed than the Comet, especially with regards to micro and background detail. The Orion has a slightly brighter background and more air. It extends a little further, delivering more resolution. The Orion has a slightly larger soundstage, it’s also more layered. Imaging is better on the Orion yet both separate equally well.

Klipsch X10 ($70-400?): The X10 is more L-shaped, but with greater lower-treble quantity and one of the first bass orientated single BA earphones with a vented driver. The X10 has a hair less sub-bass extension but greater mid-bass emphasis. It also has a lightly elevated upper-bass that contributes to a full, warm and organic low-end. The X10 isn’t especially tubby or bloomy, but it does sound more bloated than the Comet. Accordingly, the more tonally neutral Comet has greater definition and detail, it’s also a bit tighter and more controlled.

The Comet has less lower-midrange and more centre and upper-midrange, creating a clearer presentation with greater vocal presence. The X10 is rather slightly dark, smooth and generally laid-back with a small upper-midrange lift to redeem some clarity, though not to the same extent as the Comet. It also has more lower-treble crispness than the Comet but rolls off quickly and sharply after delivering little air and no sparkle. The Comet has higher resolution and retrieves a lot more background detail as a result, it’s also more separated with greater soundstage expansion in all axis.

Jomo Audio Haka ($400): The Haka is another single BA earphone with some interesting technologies. It’s more balanced than the Comet but with noticeably less upper-midrange. The Haka has greater sub-bass extension in addition to slightly more emphasis. It’s more dynamic and its mid and upper-bass are both more emphasized, producing a full, warm low-end. The Comet is more tonally neutral, but as the Haka decays faster, it retrieves a hair more detail. The Haka has an immediately darker, fuller midrange. It has less upper-midrange, sounding dense and warm.

The Comet is quite the opposite, sounding very clear and open, but also less linear and layered. The Haka has greater lower-treble quantity, but only small emphasis compared to other earphones. As such, it has more detail presence and is crisper in its delivery, the Haka is also more detailed as it’s more linear. The Haka has a much darker background, sounding very clean and composed. It extends slightly further up top, delivering more background detail and resolution. The Haka has a larger soundstage, especially width. Both separate similarly, but the Haka has a noticeably more layered midrange.

Campfire Audio Atlas ($1300): Evidently not fair to compare Campfire’s new entry-level BA earphone to their new flagship dynamic, but perhaps something readers will appreciate. The Comet is surprisingly more balanced, but the Atlas provides an immediate upgrade in end to end extension. Sub-bass digs down into physical territory, reaffirmed by large emphasis that makes the Comet sound insubstantial by comparison. The Atlas has a more moderate mid-bass emphasis but also has greater quantity here. Upper-bass begins a gradual decline into an attenuated lower-midrange while the Comet sustains its bass emphasis a little further.

As such, the Atlas’ midrange is more transparent with less bass spill despite its greater emphasis. The Atlas is more vocal recessed, but also clear due to a similar upper-midrange emphasis. As it sustains emphasis into its treble, it has significantly more detail presence in addition to retrieving a lot more detail. The Atlas also has significantly better treble extension combined with a modest upper-treble emphasis that enhances air and sparkle. The Atlas has much higher resolution and a significantly larger soundstage, one of its specialities. Moreover, the Atlas layers better and its background detail retrieval is considerably higher.

 

Verdict –

The Comet has been assaulted on both fronts with unrelenting hype and the backlash of the more cynical to compensate. To understand both mentalities, it’s important to consider that the Comet is a significant product for Campfire; providing the same engaging tuning as the higher priced Andromeda and Jupiter at an attainable price point. In fact, I’m surprised that Campfire isn’t more concerned about cannibalising Orion sales, though I can see its more neutral tone and geometrical form factor appealing to many. But even outside of Campfire’s own line-up, it’s easy to see the appeal of the Comet and the hype behind its release; with its ear-pleasing, toe-tapping signature that pulls the listener in and doesn’t let go. It’s an achievement that Campfire has achieved such a tuning without skewing its midrange voicing and introducing fatigue into its high-end.

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On the contrary, one can argue that, though nicely resolving, the Comet isn’t the most technical earphone out there nor is it especially linear. Accordingly, it won’t appeal to lovers of timbre or those wanting to pick out every small nuance in the background of a song. Furthermore, its soundstage isn’t huge nor is imaging pinpoint accurate; all valid concerns that potential buyers need to consider. What the Comet does offer is a pleasant sound with nice energy, competitive resolution and one of the best tonalities I’ve experienced around its price point. The Comet, therefore, suits those searching for an engaging yet versatile earphone with punchy yet pacey bass, a clear yet natural midrange and superb build quality to top it all off.

The Comet can be purchased from Campfire Audio for $199 USD. I am not affiliated with Campfire Audio and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.

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