Satsuma Sound Breakdown
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.
Campfire Audio have always had a way with single-BA monitors and the die-hard audiophiles out there consider them some of the company’s most balanced tunings. The Comet is a personal favourite, and while it isn’t neutral, I did find it to be a tonally impressive earphone. The Satsuma is strongly derived from the same platform, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was using the exact same driver. In turn, the sound profile showcases mainly similarities, though I did note a slightly brighter, more midrange focused signature with a cleaner tonality than before.
This means it retains a warm, punchy mid-bass followed by a clear, forward midrange and smooth transition into a lower-treble dip before a small middle-treble peak for headroom and detail presence. It’s not a perfectly linear tuning, but with clarity that is nicely balanced by smoothness for a sound that is well-considered in totality. The newfound tonal cleanliness is also welcome and doesn’t introduce any additional fatigue. Despite the many tonal similarities, however, Campfire Audio have managed to tease out a slightly more detailed top-end and a tighter, sharper image overall, representing a small technical bump in all regards.
When it comes to bass, the Satsuma isn’t an outlier but does impress for a single BA driver implementation. Sub-bass remains laid-back and never steals focus though extension is slightly improved over the Comet, delivering a more solid slam. It now achieves greater parity with its modestly enhanced mid and upper-bass as opposed to the Comet and its more overt mid-bass focus. The Satsuma remains a warm earphone with a slightly fuller note structure. The Comet, with its bigger mid-bass, is a punchier monitor though also a less dynamic one. Meanwhile, the Satsuma is cleaner with noticeably better separation. As there isn’t overwhelming emphasis, bloat and muddiness are not apparent. The note presentation, much like the Comet is just a little more natural than your typical BA monitor. It has a slightly longer decay that brings out additional texture and fullness.
As expected from a BA earphone, it remains very well-controlled and agile, with excellent definition through the mid-bass despite the slightly fuller tuning. The enhanced sub-bass extension aids dynamics though this still cannot be considered a highlight of this earphone, especially in comparison to the abundance of hybrid competitors. Separation, as aforementioned, is clearly enhanced over the Comet. This is clearly noticeable on complex tracks that sound less muddy and more organised on the Satsuma. The Comet does appear to have slightly better control in the mid-bass, being a touch tighter and more defined, perhaps due to its construction material. However, this isn’t always apparent due to its fuller tuning. The Satsuma is a more dynamic, articulate and cleaner monitor here, though it also no longer caries the same mid-bass power as the Comet for those preferring a bit more gusto.
Many similarities can be observed between the Comet and Satsuma, both being defined by a 3kHz peak instigating clear, forward vocals that sit slightly in front of the other elements in its presentation. The uptick of mid and upper bass add warmth and body to counterbalance. Similarly, the 4-7kHz trough increases density and promotes a smooth articulation, further balancing out the boost to clarity and intimacy. While peaks have garnered a bad name, I feel the implementation matters most; the net effect here in listening is an inviting, euphonic voicing that works well across most genres and never polarises with its intensity or sharpness. The Satsuma measures almost identically and, unsurprisingly, also sounds similar in listening.
As above, the Satsuma has a slightly less prominent bass and slightly more prominent peak – note, in the realm of 1-2dB here. Accordingly, where the Comet was warm and full-bodied, the Satsuma has a lighter warmth and a cleaner tonality. I did find the Comet to be nicely balanced, however, the spotlight has now been placed on vocals in tune with the Satuma’s direction as a vocal monitor. This is reinforced by an uptick of note definition and clarity that push the Satsuma one notch towards the revealing side over being smooth and coherent like the Comet. While it makes no concession in voicing or timbre, successfully avoiding strain, peakiness or dryness, some coherence has been lost. The Satsuma introduces a more diffuse and slightly less balanced presentation in return for greater definition, clarity and resolving power.
Likely the biggest difference between the two, the Satsuma has noticeably more bite in its treble, resulting in an immediately more detailed presentation. It is just a touch brighter here, but not to the extent that it would cause issue if the Comet was at the periphery of your tolerance; I wouldn’t consider this a brighter or treble-forward earphone. The peak has now shifted slightly downwards from 8.5 to 7.5kHz, this can also be attributed to the slightly different fit depth as well. Accordingly, the Satsuma is a crisper earphone. It has sharper attack and more fine detail-retrieval in the foreground. It isn’t a sharp earphone that said, as its lower-treble remains on the smoother side. Similarly, instrumentation is a little thin, providing a more musical over accurate rendition due to the reliance on higher emphasis for detail retrieval in context of its lower-treble dip.
However, relative to the Comet, this is a step forward. That earphone was smoother yet and, while this did aid its midrange coherence, it does skim over some treble detail that the Satsuma clearly resolves. Similarly, on complex passages, the Satsuma offers better separation. Its treble presentation overall is more focused with a more succinct note presentation. Neither will win awards above with nigh identical extension. As with the Comet, I feel the treble is where the single-BA setup most shows its limitations as there is basically no sparkle and a dark, only modestly detailed background with noticeable roll-off. However, with its slight re-voicing and improved housing design, the Satsuma does manage to sound quite a bit more detailed in its foreground without introducing sibilance or sharpness either. It also retains similar, if not greater headroom than the Comet despite having less emphasis on air, favouring a cleaner, more contrasted presentation.
The Satsuma isn’t a spacious earphone but does have a slightly more spacious stage than the Comet. This is further enhanced by its superior separation which magnifies the difference in back to back listening. In isolation, the Satsuma offers a nice oval stage with width that stretches just beyond the head and a more intimate depth on behalf of its big, intimate vocals. The Satsuma has sharper imaging than the Comet. It isn’t holographic nor is its coronal positioning anything to write home about, but elements in its stage are easy to localise and directional cues are sharp and clear in their direction. Vocals are also very strongly centred with the rest of the sound being pushed to the side.
Layering is slightly improved over the Comet as, though it still doesn’t have the definition in the background, separation between foreground and background is increased. The strong separation of the monitor aids organisation on complex tracks; the Satsuma is noticeably more composed here than the Comet which could become overwhelmed when the track gets busy. However, these changes do come at the cost of coherence. Where the Comet had fuller notes filling in its more intimate presentation, the Satsuma is more diffuse with more space between each element. This does aid fine detail retrieval though I do find it sounds a bit unfocused at times.
Like the Comet, the Satsuma isn’t an especially efficient monitor despite its BA setup. CFA quote an impedance of 46.4 ohms and a 94 dB sensitivity, and I found it to require a touch more volume than the Comet during testing. I find this in good taste as it isn’t explicitly difficult to drive to the extent that source pairings are limited. However, it does mean it is less sensitive to background hiss and noise.
Output Impedance Sensitivity
With its single-driver design, the Satsuma is barely affected by higher output impedance sources. Switching between the Shanling M2X (1-ohm) and Hiby R6 (10-ohms) revealed minimal changes beyond the colouration of the sources themselves as expected. This makes the Satsuma suitable for listening from a wide range of source devices.
The Satsuma requires a little more power than some monitors but isn’t hard to drive by a long stretch. In addition, it isn’t picky about current output, sounding agile and controlled even from my Xperia 5 II’s headphone jack. Switching to my desktop stack and I did notice a slightly more spacious stage and a bit more kick in the sub-bass, but it was not a night and day difference as on some earphones. In addition, the Satsuma is quite hiss resistant so noisier sources are not too much of a problem, especially with music playing.
Suggested Pair ups
Due to its voicing, the Satsuma isn’t too picky with source tonality either. It already has a nice amount of low-end warmth so it pairs nicely with revealing sources, but it can handle a little more warmth without becoming congested too. As its lower-treble is smooth, brighter sources also don’t overly skew the timbre. I did personally find slightly warmer sources to provide the best match for my preferences, I found it to provide slightly more coherence and balance with the forward midrange. However, again, this is a preference. The Satsuma is surely one of the easier earphones to drive and achieves wide synergy.
Moondrop Aria ($79): Unfortunately, I do not have the See Audio Yume on hand which is more similarly priced, so this will do for a Harman-esque comparison. The Aria offers a slightly more balanced sound with a lick more bass and a more linear voicing overall. It has better sub-bass extension and slightly more deep-bass focus. The Satsuma is much faster and more controlled here, offering greater definition and detail retrieval, the Aria being smoother textured but also slower.
The Aria has a more accurate midrange timbre with more body and a more neutral tone. It has better extension without being too thin. The Satsuma has more clarity and places a greater spotlight on vocals. It has smoother articulation to balance. The Aria has a bit more lower-treble bite, it is more linear here, resolving more body and delivering a more natural timbre. The Satsuma has slightly better fine detail retrieval overall that said. Both have similar extension and soundstage expansion, the Satsuma has better separation.
Fiio FH3 ($149): One of my favourite hybrids around this price range, and a well-tuned one at that. The FH3 offers a more U-shaped sound with greater sub-bass focus and extension. It has a lot more slam and a cleaner tone through the mid-bass. The Satsuma is faster and more defined despite being fuller, but the FH3 retains strong separation still. The FH3 has a slightly more natural midrange voicing, its tonality is more neutral but it’s also a little thinner in return for higher definition.
The Satsuma is more vocal-forward but also has more warmth and smoothness to balance it out. As it has a smoother articulation, both have similar coherence overall. The FH3 has more bite in its lower-treble and also greater detail retrieval. It also has a bit more extension and detail above, the Satsuma rolling off sooner. The FH3 is more aggressive though if you’re treble sensitive. Neither have large soundstages, the Satsuma has a slight edge on width and both have good separation.
Final A4000 ($160): A similarly upper-mid focused monitor but more aggressive in its execution. The A4000 has a bigger sub-bass balancing out its brighter top-end. It has a cleaner mid-bass and noticeably better extension. Though it is fast for a dynamic driver, the Satsuma still offers a bit more definition here and a fuller, warmer voicing. The A4000 has a slightly more forward midrange, the upper-midrange especially. It is thinner, clearer and more revealing with a slightly cool tone that contrasts to the warmer Satsuma.
The Satsuma is more even-metered, for though it too is vocal forward, it has a smoother top-end and warmer bass that grant it a more inviting and natural tonality overall. The A4000 is more defined in turn with better extension. The A4000 has a crisper treble with more air on top. It is brighter but also slightly more resolving and extended too. However, as the background is brighter, this isn’t always apparent, the A4000 can suffer from glare at times. The A4000 does have a much wider soundstage, that said and sharp imaging too. It is more technical but tonally, less versatile.
Campfire Audio Comet ($199): The Comet has a warmer, more coherent and slightly more balanced sound. The Satsuma offers a better extending and slightly more linear bass, but also a few dB less of it. The Comet has a punchier, fuller mid-bass. The Comet has a warmer and more coherent midrange. It is slightly more balanced and slightly fuller. The Satsuma is a touch more vocal-focused.
It has a cleaner tone and much higher definition but a similar voicing overall. The Satsuma has a crisper and more detailed treble. It has a bit more headroom but less air. The Comet has a smoother detail presentation but also glosses over fine details. The Satsuma has a larger, but also more diffuse soundstage while the Comet is tighter but more coherent.