Campfire Audio Vega 2020 – Big, Bold & Beautiful
Testing Methodology: Measured using Arta via IEC 711 coupler to Startech external sound card. 7-9KHz peaks may be artefacts/emphasized due to coupler resonance. Measurements besides channel balance are volume matched at 1KHz. Fit depth normalized to my best abilities between earphones. Due to these factors, my measurements may not accurately reflect the earphone or measurements taken by others. I gave the Vega 2020 100hrs of burn-in prior to final evaluation to ensure maximum performance.
The Vega 2020 is somewhat of a hybrid between the original Vega and the Atlas. At its most fundamental, it is a V-shaped monitor with a bass bias, specifically the mid-bass, it also has the most laid-back vocals of the trio and the smoothest highs. In turn, it has a powerful and full-bodied vocal delivery yet also with a natural voicing and focus on strong coherence, notes sounding very “whole”. The top-end has also been attenuated relative to the Atlas for an altogether, smoother and more integrated presentation, a departure from the high-energy, high-contrast one offered by the original Vega. It remains an earphone tuned clearly for engagement with its big, bold bass. However, it is no long so sharp and energetic as the models that came before. I can see the laid-back midrange being most contentious here rather than the bass, as sans the same energy of prior models, it also sacrifices some clarity and openness.
Similar to many DD IEMs, it is possible to cover the faceplate vent in order to attenuate the bass. The level of reduction is quite significant so this generally works best on boosted IEMs such as the Vega 2020 here. With the port covered I did noticed a drop in extension and dynamics, bass sounded more compressed in general. However, the drop in quantity creates an altogether more balanced experience. You can also observe a more linear transition into the midrange. And, without the sharp top-end of the former DD flagships, the experience is very natural, retaining plenty of body and coherence. Similarly, it doesn’t err into the realm of brightness and fatigue. I think this is a reasonable avenue to tailor the listening experience based on use case; users are able to enjoy the fuller, bassier tuning when commuting and cover the port for a more balanced experience at home. Perhaps CFA can experiment with an adjustable port in future as it is a shame to ruin the ceramic shells with strips or tape and blobs of Blutac.
The Vega 2020 is a relatively tip sensitive in-ear and the long nozzles mean fit depth can be altered to a wider degree than most. In turn, tip choice is imperative here in finding a more balanced sound. Though I usually prefer the Final E-tips, I found them too dense here in the upper-midrange and a generally poor choice for the style of sound on the Vega. I instead preferred to pair them with the Azla Xelastec tips that provided a more open sound. The Azla tips are a little brighter leaning and worked very well with the full and bassy Vega, providing greater upper-midrange extension especially. In turn, these tips don’t sound so laid-back and full, they also provided a slightly more even bass and a more textured treble too. All comments below will be using the Azla ear tips.
Lows are big and bold with large emphasis throughout. Sub-bass extension is excellent with palpable pressure albeit it is not quite as robust and hard-hitting as the Atlas or OG Vega when it comes to slam, trading off some attack for a little more balance. The mid-bass holds most emphasis and, accordingly, the low-end is very full and warm. It has a little less of a hump here than the Atlas and similarly tapers off through the upper-bass into a recessed lower-midrange to provide some separation from the midrange. Still, bloat is quite evident, notes sound plump, bold and somewhat tubby. The timbre is not especially accurate but evidently this was never the Vega’s intention.
The note delivery works well in tandem with its style of tuning that said, this is clearly a quality driver and enclosure despite the rambunctious tuning. There is excellent driver quality that creates a more aggressive note presentation with a quick, solid attack and agile decay aiding separation and definition. It still isn’t BA fast, similarly, the sheer volume of bass cannot be mitigated by the driver properties, so this isn’t the most defined and detailed performer albeit remains surprisingly, so all considered. What it delivers is rather a focus on huge dynamics and rhythm. This is a visceral low-end performer for those valuing huge engagement with a preference for a full and rich sound even when listening in noisy environments.
I personally was a fan of the approach taken by the original Vega. Again, the timbre wasn’t especially accurate, but it worked well considering the bass and treble boost. It provided a high clarity, articulate and high-definition midrange that gave it almost a pseudo W presentation. The Atlas then introduced a meatier bass and upped the upper-midrange to compensate. The Vega 2020 treads a line through the middle. Its bass sits directly in-between the Vega and Atlas in quantity and the midrange resembles the Atlas albeit with a smoother upper-midrange and lower-treble for a generally more even and tame sound. In turn, the Vega 2020 sounds the smoothest and fullest but also most coherent of the bunch. Of note, it is no warmer than the Atlas, employing a sizeable lower-mid dip for separation, so vocals retain impressive definition and avoid veil or chestiness. Similarly, the robust bass tuning ensures zero thinness, this is a rich sound with a moderate warmth permeating throughout.
Vocals remain slightly forward relative to midrange instruments and are lifted in clarity due to the upper-midrange tuning. However, they are clearly laid-back relative to bass and, to a lesser extent treble – female a little less so. The voicing is impressively natural, they aren’t dry or intense nor wonky, simply full-bodied and rich with lifted definition and upper-mid clarity compensating for this, especially with the Azla tips. The Vega 2020 is a clear step up from both of its predecessors in terms of timbre; lacking the hard-edged articulation of the Atlas, similarly, the raspiness of the Vega. Conversely, I did find them a little too smooth and laid-back with the stock tips, especially with the increase in body, though this improves with aftermarket tips. While I did personally enjoy the higher energy sounds provided by the Atlas and Vega, the Vega 2020 is the most technically competent of the bunch. It employs a similarly engaging low-end while introducing a noticeably more coherent and natural midrange voicing, just at the cost of being the most laid-back.
The top-end is still energetic and crisp albeit not nearly as in your face forward as on the Vega and Atlas. This makes the Vega 2020 a lot more listenable at high volumes or over longer-listening sessions while retaining a good amount of clarity and abundant detail. With a small 6k peak, treble sits just in front of the midrange. Treble instrumentation is presented with aggressive attack and great clarity. There’s excellent fine detail retrieval afforded by the aggressive tuning combined with a very clean transient response from the A.D.L.C driver. The foreground is especially detail dense; percussion is hyper-defined and small details are brought to the fore. There’s plenty of energy that works well in tandem with the emphasized bass to lift overall clarity to some degree. It will come as little surprise that instrument timbre isn’t ideal, instrumentation is thin and a little tizzy.
You do also lose some texture and realism relative to more linear earphones. That said, this isn’t an especially sharp treble as emphasis falls of quickly into the middle-treble. Accordingly, the background is clean and dark; an immaculate canvas for its high-energy foreground. There remains strong extension, though not at the level of CFA’s BA models, and there’s plenty of resolution of background details too. Accordingly, rather than being truncated or rolled-off, background elements are pushed laterally for a wide and layered stereo image. There’s a small upper-treble bump as well, imbuing additional sparkle, and clarity is further lifted in turn. Though not as atmospheric and expanded as the BA models or the Solaris in CFA’s line-up, the 2020 Vega has great detail retrieval presented in a fun and energetic manner, and it now does so without any sharpness or glare.
The Vega 2020 presents a spacious presentation that stretches frequently outside the head if not quite as open and involving as something like the Andromeda or Solaris. The big bass and laid-back vocals also contribute to especially strong depth projection, on track with a deep rumble, the atmosphere is very immersive. Imaging is quite good despite the uneven tuning due to the technical nature of the driver. Directional cues are very sharp and vocals occupy a strong centre image. I most appreciate the layering here, with a nice gradient between close and far in addition to strong focus in the foreground for a keen sense of direction and location. Separation, however, takes a hit due to the nature of its tuning. It’s not a congested earphone but does have a generally full-bodied note structure that consumes its space. Notes remain well defined and organised so transients don’t smear into each other on complex tracks, albeit don’t expect to have every small detail isolated as a result. I think separation is quite underrated, and you will find the original Vega though much thinner and sharper, offers mostly higher separation which makes it sound a lot more open.
With a 94dB sensitivity and 32-ohm impedance, the Vega 2020 is a less efficient in-ear and a far cry from the hyper-efficient BA monitors from the company. Conversely, this actually makes it far less picky with sources, being less sensitive to source noise and impedance given the less sensitive single driver design.
Output Impedance Sensitivity
As expected, there was essentially no change in sound signature when switching between the Hiby R6 (10-ohm) and Shanling M2X (1-ohm), indicating a flat impedance curve, or close to it. The Vega 2020, therefore, will be mostly source agnostic so long as it has a flat frequency response and normal distortion characteristics.
The Vega 2020 scales nicely with more powerful and resolving sources due to the technical nature of the driver. My THX 789 provided a noticeably more extended and quicker low-end performance that aided separation and dynamics. It also provided a larger soundstage, depth especially. The Vega 2020 is quite efficient and didn’t require too much power to reach high volumes. Though due to the full-bodied tuning, loss of driver control is more apparent so I would recommend a more powerful source personally.
Suggested Pair Ups
A clean source with a higher power output and concise note delivery is imperative to uphold organisation and pace given the Vega 2020’s full and smooth tuning. You can also pair with a brighter source without fear or it becoming too sharp. In this sense, the THX 789 and Khadas Tone Board did great, so too did the JDS Atom and Topping L30 at a lower price. Portable sources such around Fiio BTR5 level are recommended with a source like the iBasso DX200 (AMP5) driving the Vega very successfully with a very agreeable note presentation too.
Campfire Audio Vega (1299) [Discontinued]: The Vega (OG) and Vega 2020 incarnation are quite different earphones in listening. Where the 2020 is a clearly V-shaped monitor, the OG is more U to W-shaped. Bass is bigger on the 2020, the OG has more sub-bass focus and is cleaner in tone and delivers more separation in turn. The 2020 is slightly better technically, it sounds slightly more controlled and notes are more defined, but the original has a noticeable leg up on separation, especially in the mid-bass so this isn’t immediately apparent. The midrange is slightly more laid-back on the Vega 2020.
It is much fuller and smoother, providing a slightly more natural voicing but also less definition. The original has a cleaner tone and much higher separation, it sounds more revealing and slightly more balanced. The treble is more detailed on the new Vega and much more balanced, the original being much brighter and thinner. The new Vega has more texture and body in addition to better layering and contrast. The soundstage is similarly sized on both, the Vega 2020 has more depth. However, the original has better separation throughout, so its spaciousness is more apparent to the listener.
Campfire Audio Atlas ($899): CFA’s former DD flagship sees a discount in light of the new offerings, putting it at the same price as the new Vega. The Atlas is a slightly more powerful and vivid sounding earphone. It has a similar bass tuning but slightly more quantity throughout. It sounds a bit more dynamic and controlled with slightly higher definition and a more aggressive, harder-hitting sub-bass. The Vega 2020 is a little cleaner but also smoother in its note delivery. The midrange tells a similar story, the Atlas is higher clarity and slightly more vocal-forward, possessing greater upper-midrange presence. The Atlas has a slightly less vocal body and a little more clarity alongside a sharper articulation, it is more defined.
The Vega 2020’s tone is a smidge cleaner, it sounds denser and smoother up top so this is hard to appreciate, it doesn’t sound as clear. In return, the new Vega has a more natural voicing, it has no rasp or sharpness, sounding more coherent and layered. The Atlas has a much more aggressive lower-treble. The new Vega has better balance and a more faithful representation of instrumentation. It also offers a slightly cleaner transient response, with better fine detail retrieval and a slightly wider soundstage. The Vega 2020 images better but it still has slightly worse separation than the Atlas due to its fuller sound.
Campfiire Audio Doarado 2020 ($1099): Both earphones are cut from similar cloths, the Dorado is the more balanced of the two but still a rich and engaging earphone. The Dorado immediately has a slightly more balanced bass. It also has a bit more power in the sub-bass similar to the Atlas, being more aggressive in its presentation than the new Vega. The Dorado 2020 has slightly better driver control which, combined with its cleaner tuning, provides an appreciable step up in separation and definition, it sounds quite a bit less bloated than the Vega 2020 too. The midrange is also more balanced with the bass on the Dorado, it has that u to pseudo-W signature like the original Vega. Actually, the key difference here is rather the Dorado having less bass as the midrange and treble tuning is not too dissimilar.
The Dorado 2020 has a cleaner tone and more accurate vocal body, being just modestly full-bodied. It has higher definition and separation. The articulation is quite well-done on both, the Dorado actually is a little smoother but this works well in tandem with its higher definition and greater vocal presence. The Vega 2020 sounds richer and denser but I find it a bit too full and laid-back by comparison. The Vega 2020 has a smaller 5k peak and the BA gives a slightly sharper transient response. In turn, it comes across as more detailed and similar in quantity. Actually, both have a similar timbre, the Vega has a little more body, the Dorado has better dine detail retrieval and extension. The Dorado has similar soundstage dimensions but much better separation.
Beyerdynamic Xelento ($999): The Xelento is one of my personal favourite single-DD IEMs. It’s also a roughly V-shaped IEM, it has similar bass emphasis and tuning with a little more bass bias but also a lot more midrange and treble to compensate. The Vega 2020 comes across as bassier, it has a slightly more pressurized sub-bass and a more aggressive presentation. The Xelento has slightly higher driver control and separation, its notes are a little more defined while the Vega has better dynamics and texture. The midrange is more forward on the Xelento with more upper-midrange presence. The Vega 2020 has a fuller, denser and more laid-back midrange. The Xelento is more defined and articulate but also slightly raspy and thin on certain tracks. The treble is more forward on the Xelento. The Vega 2020 has more body and texture, it has better detail retrieval. The Xelento has a wider soundstage that said, and better separation overall, while the Vega has slightly better layering and imaging.
Final Audio A8000 ($1999): The A8000 traces the Harman IE-target within 5dB and offers superb technical ability from its “true Be” dynamic driver in addition to some trick acoustic design that I’ll touch on more in its dedicated review. The A8000 is much more balanced, in fact, slightly bright-leaning to my ears so it is a very different sound. The Vega comes across as more bass-focused in turn, it has more of it and also more pressure in the sub-bass. It is more engaging and physical with higher dynamics. The A8k is unsurprisingly more balanced with a more natural timbre. Extension is the same, there just isn’t as much emphasis, and its low-end is tighter with better driver control and much higher definition and detail retrieval.
The midrange is more balanced as well, it also has high coherence and a natural voicing. That said, the A8k has a more prominent lower-treble peak. In turn, where the Vega 2020 sounds full and coherent with a rich note delivery, the A8k comes across as slightly thinner and a little over-articulated. It will come down to listener preference, if you want a rich and full sound or a balanced and revealing one. The treble is more forward on the A8k, it is slightly thinner but has better detail retrieval and much better extension with a lot more going on in the higher octaves. In turn, the A8000 crafts a larger soundstage and it has better imaging and separation with its more balanced tuning too.
The Vega 2020 is a very intriguing offering from Campfire Audio, admittedly I was a little disappointed out of the box, but I found it to be an enjoyable performer with some tip rolling. The company clearly has a strong grasp on acoustic design, and this is showcased by the strong technical performance and well-curated sound signature they were able to extract from a single-DD setup. The build quality is a step up from the Vega and ergonomics are clearly superior to the Atlas, a great update in these regards. Sonically, I do find it a bit bass heavy, in turn, the midrange is a bit full and laid-back for my preferences. However, I cannot discount the appeal here; those wanting a dynamic and energetic sound while retaining high coherence will find great pleasure here, and these qualities are not so easy to unite. The sound also works very well in the presence of ambient noise such as during commute, where listeners will perceive a more balanced sound while retaining engaging bass pressure and power you can’t replicate otherwise. The port mod is also feasible if inelegant for those wanting a more balanced sound, though I would point buyer prioritising this to the Dorado 2020 instead. The Vega 2020 ultimately offers splendid ergonomics and build combined with a rich and engaging yet coherent tuning built atop a strong technical foundation.
The Vega 2020 is available from Campfire Audio (International) for $899 USD at the time of writing. I am not affiliated with Campfire Audio and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.
Track List –
Beck – Mellow Gold
Bob Segar – Night Moves
Brb. – Sorry That I Love You
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit
Crush – NAPPA
Dire Straits – Communique
Dirty Loops – Next To You
Eagles – Hell Freezes Over
Elton John – Honky Chateau
Eric Clapton – Unplugged
Joji – Sanctuary
Nirvana – Nevermind
Pixies – Doolittle
Post Malone – beerbongs & bentleys
Radiohead – OK Computer
Rich Brain – The Sailor
Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride
Thanks for yet another comprehensive review! I realise you have yet to do a full review of the a8000, i hope that is in the cards, as it seems to be quite a divisive design, with some calling it harsh and almost unlistenable. Would really appreciate a comparison between the a8k and the sony ex1000, i am sure i am not alone in hoping for a more ergonomic, better isolating ex1k one day… for myself, even after owning 64 audio’s trio, u12t, EE’s Zeus XIV and Acoustune’s 1650, i still use and enjoy the ex1k most, despite its lower treble peak.
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Thank you for the kind words, this one definitely took a while!
Yep, the A8000 review will be coming up. From preliminary impressions, I find it to be very technically impressive, for sure a bit intense in the upper-midrange and sharp in the lower-treble. It has a good tonality when damped with some micropore tape or alcohol swab. It is quite different to the EX1000 in terms of tuning and presentation IMO, but I did own it quite a while ago so I’ll have to look into a unit for comparison to make more detailed comparison.
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Thx and looking forward to it!
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