As soon as I completed the review of Campfire Audio’s Comet, I immediately reached back out to my contact there, requesting to review their step-up from that product – the Atlas. This product occupies somewhat the same form factor, but a distinctly different market segment, with this product costing more than 6x the Comet.
True to form and cost, this is a premium UIEM and performs in leagues with some of the best that I’ve heard – but we’ll dive into that soon enough.
Fit and Form
The headphones arrive in a box with which I have become very familiar, over the last year or so. I’ve always been a fan of CA’s presentation style – it’s clean, refreshing, and discretely modern, in every sense of the word.
Upon opening the (pretty) box, one immediately sees the standard CA, leather, zippered, hard-shelled case. These are the ones with shag carpeting on the inside and I hold the same opinion of it that I have in the past – it’s small, convenient, and appropriately protects one’s investment made.
Inside the case are the headphones, with each of their shiny, stainless steel cases protected in its own, velvet drawstring bag. Also provided are a number of eartips, although I quickly gravitated towards the smallest silicon tips, as I found they worked best for my unfortunately-designed ear canals.
The included cable is, as always, of the highest quality. In this case, it is (again) by Litz and, just as with previous headphones, has the perfect amount of flex and resistance to kinking. It hangs well, in use, and the splitter seems to be intensely-built enough that longevity won’t be a concern, here. The cable terminates at the headphone end in MMCX and right angle 1/8” TRS at the signal end. The reinforcement provided at the signal end seems to be robust and competent to keep the cable together, long-term.
Overall, I’m a fan of the aesthetic of these headphones. Although they are a bit glitzier than some, I feel that the brightly-polished stainless steel doesn’t quite cross into gaudy, or anything of the sort. For my ears, they are a bit big, but that’s no one’s, save my parents’, fault.
These headphones offer up a very recognizably house sound, for CA. There is a distinct emphasis in the lower register, with the mids being slightly warm and accentuated as a result. The treble in these headphones was close to flawless, in my experience, as it provided the perfect sense of sparkle and air to the sound signature.
Isolation is very good, as these are essentially big, steel earplugs. I was able to wear the headphones both as over-ears and normally, although I preferred the former for the sake of security-of-wear. Cable noise is very minimal, as I only noticed it when I purposefully tried to elicit it. Since these are traditional, sealed IEMs, there is also very little sound leakage, making these a primo option for those looking for a portable-capable, high-end pair of headphones.
The soundstage of these headphones is relatively small, which could be known simply from their closed form factor. However, imaging and separation are absolutely stellar, with all instruments (virtual or otherwise) finding exactly they’re right place in the mix, location-wise. One highlight of my experience with these headphones in that regard is not just placement, but movement within the soundstage – these headphones knock that out of the park, yielding a very satisfying experience of moving music (although this is more so on the part of the producer/sound engineer of any given track, it is facilitated by the headphone).
Songs used: Campfire by Aminé feat. Injury Reserve, Throw in the Towel by Catbamboo, and Three Ralphs by DJ Shadow
The bass performance of these headphones is one of the highlights, in my experience and opinion. Starting from the bottom, sub-bass implementation is stellar. There’s a sense of clean rumble to many tracks that frequently make it into my queue. I note, “clean,” because my experience with these headphones has been exactly that – the whole bass range does very well with start/stop, not leaving any sense of blur or muddiness in the resultant music. Beyond sub-bass, there is a slight bloat in the mid-bass, perhaps around 1-2 kHz. However, there’s very little bleed between the bass and mids, generally speaking, which is the most important failure to avoid. Overall, very good quality and quantity here.
Key descriptors: ensconcing, precise, and powerful
Songs used: Jolene by Dolly Parton, Rockaria by Electric Light Orchestra, and Windup Glass (Prepared) by The Flashbulb
The mids, already slightly warm on their own, are beautifully supported by the lower register. Male and female vocalists come through as natural, accurate, and precise, although there is a small bit of smoothing that is noticeable. This isn’t a bad thing, in my opinion, as it yields a much more sonorous signature, in the end – I’d certainly prefer slightly warm to slightly lean. Benefiting from the precision and staging of these headphones, instruments of all varieties form a cohesive and correct picture of the aural staging.
Key descriptors: warm, lush, and detailed
Songs used: Ambassador Hotel by Gabriel Kahane, Mama’s Gun by Glass Animals, and Lost by Highly Suspect
The upper register of these headphones is absolutely sparkling. The treble extends without issue through the full range of human hearing and I noticed very little, but non-zero, sibilance during my time with them. There was the occasional song that I knew was liable to cause sibilance in almost every headphone I’ve reviewed and, although it didn’t pass every single one, the Atlas did pass more than most headphones I’ve reviewed (aside from the Noble Audio Kaiser Encore).
Instruments which benefit from treble, benefit from this headphone’s signature. Cymbals, xylophones, pianos, and brass instruments all shine through the sea of sound as precise, accurate, and faithful to the original recording. There’s little more that I could ask from a treble range.
Key descriptors: inoffensive, clean, and nimble
Overall, this is actually a bit of a hard conclusion. These are ~$1300 headphones; they occupy a market sector independent and unique from most any other IEM. Headphones that I’d consider at least in leagues with the Atlas, if not better, are Unique Melody’s Maestro V2 and Noble Audio’s Kaiser Encore. There’s really very little that occupies this market segment, which is the cause of my trouble in writing this conclusion.
Here’s how I feel: these are an incredibly competent pair of headphones. They have a deeply satisfying bass response, warm mids that yield (in my opinion) a very pleasant listening experience, and treble that causes as little trouble as could be reasonably expected, while emphasizing and highlighting exactly that which needs to be emphasized and highlighted. If you are someone who is a relative basshead and has ~$1300 burning a hole in their pocket, this could be a great buy. I would like to note that these certainly won’t satisfy everyone and that, whenever considering a purchase this large, I implore any prospective buyers reading this to take the chance and at least give them a listen. Thanks again to Campfire Audio for generously sending these to me for review, I’m very excited to see what’s coming in the future!
These headphones were provided to me by Campfire Audio. I am not being paid by anyone to write this review, to endorse the product reviewed, or for the content that I put in the review.
These headphones were powered by an Astell&Kern AK Junior, an iPhone Xs, a Neurochrome HP-1, and by whatever soundcards are in the motherboards of my laptop and PC.
I have had these headphones for about a month and a half and I have put about 60 hours of analytical listening through them during that period.