Campfire Audio Jupiter Review – No Less

Introduction –

Once cable manufacturer ALO Audio, Ken moved into in-ear earphones under Campfire Audio in 2015. That was just 1 and a half years ago, but as we know, new does not mean inexperienced and Campfire has already become one of the most revered and prestigious brands on the market. One could say you pay a premium for that, $799 USD to be exact, but Campfire’s fine tuning and absolutely meticulous design justify the steep entry price and B-stock models offer fantastic discounts that provide some real value to more budget-constrained buyers.

But as a consumer, not a reviewer, it can be hard to really open up to new manufacturers. It’s too easy to dismiss such comments as hype, after all, some reviews are almost too positive. A few years ago, when I was less “enlightened”, I held my Sennheiser ie800’s in high-esteem, my buyer’s ego refusing to admit that portable audio could get any better. The Jupiter was the earphone that dispelled that notion, it was also the model that introduced me to CA and I was instantly captivated in Ken’s hand-made and liquid formed designs. However, since then, the Jupiter seems to have been buried behind the immense reputation of its younger brothers, the Andromeda and Vega. And it’s a trend we’ve seen before, so many people automatically flock to the flagship forgetting that lower models may carry a more pleasing tonality for their personal preference. As Campfire’s first flagship and the earphone that brought attention to the brand as a truly high-end audio manufacturer, let’s see if the Jupiter still carries the spark that ignited Campfire’s big bang.

 

Disclaimer – 

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

 

About Me, Background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases – 

I generally prefer a u-shaped sound that is close to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound. I’m not particularly treble sensitive so I may be more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I will note if I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review and describe the sound changes.

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Accessories – 

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The Jupiter comes in an intriguing box with colourful artwork and renders that provide a really unique look. The box is small and practical rather than extravagant, but I’m glad that Campfire has spent a little extra on the included carrying case that you use every day rather than opulent packaging that really amounts to little in the long run.

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And opening up the box reveals the absolutely beautiful carrying case. It’s a medium-small zippered hard case with a very plush, protective shearling interior that snugly holds the earphones and prevents them from chipping each other during transport. The raw leather exterior is visually striking, textured and distinctive with a fantastic texture. I was initially worried about marking up the leather, but in my experience, it has proved to be pretty hard wearing.

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Underneath is a small compartment containing 3 pairs of Spinfits and 3 pairs of foam ear tips. Unfortunately, they’re not authentic Comply’s, they are a bit harder and return a little quicker but they provide some nice isolation and comfort. Campfire also includes a cleaning tool, basic warranty and usage instructions in addition to a nice metal badge.

 

Design –

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Industrial but unique, strikingly angular but forgiving on the ear, Campfire’s locally sourced and machined housings are a work of art. There are few earphones that really stand out from the usual negative profile pod shaped earphones and fewer yet that I could observe for hours on end, but Campfire’s armature-based earphones are definitely among them. With 3-piece machined aluminium housings hand assembled in the United States, the Jupiter achieves a level of aesthetic intrigue and in hand solidity matched by very few earphones. Of note, the Jupiter’s design has changed slightly from earlier revisions; newer models have more chamfers and smoothing of their internal faces to create a more comfortable fit and a revised finish promises to be more durable over prolonged use.

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The Jupiter immediately impresses with its build quality, the machining on the housings is some of the best I’ve seen with perfect mating between each component and the tolerances are higher than even the 1More Quad Drivers. This is all topped off with a new Cerakote finish, a ceramic based compound commonly used on firearms, that is designed to be hard wearing and tactile. The finish is fabulous, perhaps not as eye catching as the lustrous raw metal finishes of earlier revisions, but Campfire’s earphones no longer chip themselves during transport.

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This very industrial look is topped up with three rose gold screws and a milled Campfire logo on the outer face that add some visual interest to their geometric design. The nozzle is not integrated but is completely constructed from aluminium. It is angled perfectly like the 64Audio earphones and has 2 sound tubes which similarly improves phase and separation. The nozzle is quite wide, accepting T400 sized Comply foams, and relatively short though it is fluted and holds tips very well. I wouldn’t be concerned in the slightest of the Jupiter’s durability, they are just as trusty and hardy as a well-oiled rifle.

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Ergonomics are also very good which is surprising given how angular the housings are. In the ear, those sharp edges can’t be felt and the Jupiter provided pretty faultless comfort for me over extended listening periods. Due to some clever housing design, the Jupiters also didn’t produce a hotspot over my concha like the 64Audio U3 and while they aren’t quite as low-profile and ear hugging as the AF1120, in use, the Jupiter really has no issue with comfort or stability. I did notice some discomfort initially, but once the memory wire ear guides had been appropriately formed, the earphones were reliably held in a comfortable position. They are a large earphone and they do somewhat protrude from the ear, but being fully sealed and somewhat deeper fitting, the Jupiters aren’t prone to wind noise and provide great fit stability during activity; they didn’t require any adjustment during a recent 6km run. Isolation is also stunning, among the best I’ve experienced from a non-custom in-ear due to their deep fit and metal ear-filling housings that attenuate noise exceptionally well. I actually found them to isolate slightly more than even the Plussound Prism and Etymotic ER4, all with foams, making them ideal for travel. That being said, such levels of isolation can be quite dangerous during commute, I would suggest switching to silicone tips and even then, spatial awareness is not ideal.

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The Jupiter also sports a removable cable using the tried and tested MMCX interface. Campfire are using custom connectors made from beryllium copper to provide vastly increased solidity over traditional cables. I found the connectors to be tight and very snappy with retained tension after multiple plugs and unplugs when cable swapping. But users probably won’t be in a hurry to swap because, being a former cable manufacturer, it goes without saying that the Jupiter comes with an exceptional unit. While older generations came with ALO’s tinsel cable, all newer models come equipped with the much improved Litz cable which is thicker and considerably more pliable; subjectively, it sounds a little cleaner and more open too.

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The cable has a handsome braid coated in a lustrous satin silver. It is exceptionally supple and compliant while avoiding tangles. The cable is one of the softest I have handled with absolutely no memory, easily beating out the 64Audio, Westone EPIC and even Plussound EXO cables in ergonomics. They have memory wire ear guides that are quite soft and easy to manipulate, they provide some extra stability to those larger housings though I still prefer heat shrink style guides.

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They have a reliable chin slider that slips into the low-profile y-split and a beefy yet case friendly right angle 3.5mm plug that looks to be well relieved and durable. The cable is really the icing on the cake, wonderfully rounding off an already impressive package.

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Some may find the Jupiter’s to be a bit large and sharp, but only one of my immediate friends and family had any issue finding a comfortable fit. They don’t disappear, but for my ears, the Jupiter provided a reliable, isolating and deceptively comfortable fit.

 

Sound –

At face value, the Jupiter is a quad balanced armature earphone, Campfire don’t state how the drivers are tuned or the method of crossover, simply that two are dedicated to high-frequency reproduction. The drivers have been designed and tuned in-house rather than using off the shelf components. As impressive as some earphones using generic drivers can be, especially those utilising Knowles armatures like the DK-3001, I think this demonstrates the care and meticulous thought that fuelled the Jupiter’s inception. They also implement a few interesting technologies such as TAEC and the earphones sound exceptionally raw and immediate due to their lack of any acoustic filters. I’m a huge fan of this sound and it’s impressive that they manage such intricacy without any fatigue or sibilance.

Campfire’s brilliant Litz cable also imbues the Jupiter with a few interesting characteristics that custom cables generally bring; they achieve that same sense of separation and refinement that the Plussound Prism benefits from, making for a really interesting sound. Swapping in a more generic MMCX cable does sap the Jupiter of that last element of effortlessness but it remains a very nice, balanced and detailed earphone. The Litz cable also provides a healthy boost to general resolution and high-frequency extension to most other MMCX earphones I tested it with, even lower priced iems like the Shure SE215. I would conclude that the cable provides a nice augmentation to an already brilliant sounding earphone, making for an invigorating overall package.

 

Tonality –

It’s can be difficult to define an earphone’s tonality, especially as you head higher in price where the differences in tuning between earphones is nowhere near that of lower price tiers due to a similar drive to find balance. And coming from some lower priced earphones around $300, I was inclined to call the Jupiter mid-forward. On the flipside, comparing the Jupiter to more similarly priced earphones like the AF1120, ie800 and 64Audio U3 and the Jupiter comes across as more u-shaped. After spending some time exclusively with the Jupiter, I would characterise it as a very balanced earphone somewhere in-between. Objectively, no frequency range stands out more than the other but, like the U3, certain parts of the Jupiter’s sound do draw more attention due their terrific clarity and resolution rather than any particular emphasis in quantity. I’m sure some listeners may find the Jupiter to be lacking low-end, though their exquisite definition and detailing ensure that no listener will find them to be lacking engagement.

 

Drivability –

The Jupiter is one of the most sensitive earphones I’ve ever tested with a sensitivity of 114dB combined and a very low 35ohm impedance. Despite this, they produce more volume at the same level than the 64Audio U3 and Dunu DK-3001, both very sensitive earphones with lower impedance ratings. And with a very resolving 4-driver setup, the Jupiter is also very source sensitive. They will find a level of hiss on essentially anything, even sources I had previously considered silent. My HA-2 was very noticeable, even when music was playing as was the X5 III. The Jupiter also produced hiss from my iPod Touch 6G, X7 (AM2) and Chord Mojo, and though it was barely audible, these sources are usually silent with other iems. The Jupiter also benefits from a low output impedance, some bass roll-off does present with higher output impedance sources, drawing more attention to the high frequencies. For my preferences, the Jupiter found the best synergy with the X7 with AM2 which provided a nice sense of clarity while retaining body and sound staging was fantastic. The X7 also produced less hiss than my other sources and provided great resolution to the Jupiters. Amping isn’t necessary, the Jupiter doesn’t draw a lot of current or voltage, but an amplifier can help to alleviate hiss and provide finer volume control since the earphones are so sensitive. The Jupiter scales exceptionally well with higher grade sources, they still sound stunning from my iPod Touch and HTC 10 and those devices don’t bottleneck the Jupiter’s performance per say, but both clearly lacked the nuance of my Fiio X7, HA-2 and Mojo. Frankly, if you’re spending $800 on an earphone, it would be a good idea to drive them with a proper source, even something like the Dragonfly Black just to reduce output impedance issues and hiss.

 

Soundstage, Imaging and Separation –

Sound staging is one of the most standout features of Ken’s brilliant Andromeda and I would definitely say it played a large role in its popularisation. And the Jupiter is no different, it manages to be almost as captivating due to its adoption of the same TAEC (Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber) used by the Andromeda. In a little more detail, Campfire are implementing a 3D printed sound chamber that is touted to improve high-frequency extension, I’m assuming it reduces resonances or something along that path. The result in subjective listening is an incredibly spacious and separated response that is among the best fully sealed in-ear monitor’s I’ve heard. They don’t quite match the vented 64Audio earphones nor the Sennheiser ie800 in sheer space, but the Jupiter is pretty close while maintaining notably higher levels of isolation and lower wind noise outdoors. They are very well rounded between width and depth, both are thoroughly engaging and immersive, the Jupiter’s also produce a nice amount of height to songs that call for it. Imaging is also some of the best I’ve heard, instrument placement is razor sharp and centre image is very strong though vocals are never artificially compressed into the centre of the stage like the Magaosi K3 Pro. Separation is also fabulous due to their impressive space and superb resolution.

Among the tracks I listened to during my review, Massive Attack’s “Paradise Circus” best displayed the strengths of the Jupiter’s presentation. Imaging was sharp and directional cues were tactile. Vocals and drums were perfectly centred with great forward projection and space. Strings and piano were spacious but not distant and bass was visceral and expansive while remaining perfectly separated from the rest of the sound. By contrast, the Sennheiser ie800 provided some extra width at the cost of some coherence and vocal depth. Centre image was equally strong though directional cues weren’t as sharp. Separation remained just as impressive due to their similarly standout resolution and space though the ie800’s more sculpted tonality meant that strings sounded a bit over-forward in the mix whereas the Jupiter sounded substantially more natural. This track provides a really nice test of imaging, separation and resolution, the Jupiter flew through without a sweat, providing one of the best revisions I’ve heard from any iem, even those in higher price classes.

 

Bass –

The Jupiter has a deep bass response that isn’t forward or emphasised in quantity but does carry a full, well-weighted tone. And even for my preferences, bass quantity doesn’t leave me wanting and balance is superb. One thing I’ve always admired about Campfire’s armature earphones is the way they handle sub-bass, especially their higher-end models like the Jupiter. Extension is excellent, better than the 64Audio U3 and even the U6; I still wouldn’t mistake the Jupiter for a dynamic-driver earphones, but they are one of the most extended armature earphones I’ve tested. And in terms of tuning, sub-bass isn’t particularly lifted but has a sense of solidity and rumble rarely achieved by armature earphones. Deep bass has a small bump granting bass notes a little more depth and weight but both mid and upper bass remain neutral, tight and agile. Bloat, muddiness and bass spill are non-existent nor do lower mids ever overshadow the low-end.

And onto quality, you’ll have to excuse my excessive use of adjectives; bass notes on the Jupiter are super-fast, hyper-textured and extremely defined. The Jupiter’s don’t actually hold a huge advantage in bass detail retrieval and texturing over the exemplary earphones occupying the next price class down, particularly the 64Audio U3 and AF1120, but they do hold a notable advantage in speed and transience over these models which really enhances the listening experience on faster genres such as rock. When listening to tracks such as Monoral’s “Kiri” which has a somewhat deceptive bassline, the Jupiter really impressed me with their composure and dynamics. They managed to invigorate the track’s slow bass line while keeping pace with the complex double bass drum without compromising definition as a lot of cheaper earphones and plenty around this price tend to do. The Jupiter also had perceptibly superior transients to the dynamic ie800 which sounded a little looser and less textured due to its increased bass quantity and sub-bass skewed tuning. In return, the ie800 was more authoritarian in its bass reproduction and I can see some buyers preferring their added quantity even if they aren’t as technical as the Jupiter. Ultimately, the Jupiter manages much more sub-bass extension and bass body than the vast majority of multi-armature earphones, even those with more outright bass quantity and many more drivers at their disposal. But more impressively, it does so while remaining agile and tight as a drum. So while I can see some users wanting more bass quantity, the Jupiter’s low-frequency tuning and quality are exquisite and their weighty tone prevents any sense of anaemia that can affect similarly balanced earphones.

 

Mids –

Despite their superlative bass and treble responses, the Jupiter’s midrange easily draws attention through exceptional resolution and body. The Jupiter once again tricks the senses with their tuning; the Jupiter comes across as a clear earphone but clarity isn’t boosted, rather, their excellent resolution grants them with a sense of immediacy and realism that many earphones fail to capture. Through this, the Jupiter manages to be both clear and natural and this character is enhanced by the Jupiter’s profound sense of body somewhat similar to that of the Oriveti New Primacy. This prevents them from ever sounding lean or dry and vocals on the Jupiter sound considerably meatier than earphones like the Hifiman RE-600. Despite this, the Jupiter is a very transparent earphone and they never come across as thick or over warmed. Instruments such as piano sound realistic and the Jupiter really excels with any kind of strings and guitar due to their linear, balanced tuning and resolution. Listening to Guns & Roses “Paradise City” and the Jupiter’s provided really terrific layering to vocals in addition to a spacious presentation of the resounding drums and guitars. Guitars, in particular, really stood out to me as outstanding, each strum was crisp and well-delineated from the rest of the sound. The Jupiter also excels with more contemporary pop and R&B, providing great space and clarity to Frank Ocean’s vocals in “Pink + White”.

And higher up, female vocals are equally flattered with an organic tone and great clarity while avoiding an overbearing sense of brightness or intimacy. The Jupiter’s provided an enlightening rendition of “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men, a notoriously crowded track. The Jupiter sliced through the cacophony of guitars and vocal layering with exceptional separation and soundstage projection. Each instrument was crisp and all frequencies were well balanced so as to prevent overshadowing of intricacies. The Jupiter also excels with micro-detail retrieval which is similarly strong as the ie800 but more consistent due to the Jupiter’s more natural, bodied sound. The Sennheiser does sound a little glossier and consistently clearer in their midrange, however, the ie800’s thinner vocal body errs more on the side of raspiness rather than smoothness like the Jupiter. The Jupiter also holds a notable advantage in resolution over the Audiofly AF1120. Both are similarly linear and balanced yet the Audiofly lacks the resolving power and sound staging of the Campfire and its performance more easily comes across as dry whereas the Jupiter is more tonally pleasing with poorer mastered tracks. That being said, due to their resolution and aggressive detailing, the Jupiter picks up significantly more artefacts in low bitrate tracks; you don’t require a lossless library to enjoy the Jupiter, but it isn’t too forgiving of anything under a 320kbps MP3. But when fed from a clean source supplied with a high-quality file, the Jupiter absolutely sings with technicality and musicality that present an immediate upgrade over cheaper in-ears and plenty of similarly priced ones too.

 

Treble –

But it’s high-frequencies that really steal the show on the Jupiter with fantastic extension, space and separation. Treble isn’t perfectly linear, I do hear a small bump to the middle treble, granting a little extra crispness, but treble is otherwise well bodied and refined much like the rest of the sound. And while treble is mostly the focus of these earphones, they aren’t a treble heavy earphone. Due to their outstanding extension and a lack of any audible roll-off to my ears, the Jupiter has great resolving power that is among the best I’ve heard including the 64Audio U6 and even some of the higher end Noble Audio earphones like the Sage and Django. Resolution is really fantastic though the Jupiter sounds simultaneously incredibly clean and smooth. Micro-details are very present and quite forward, I would consider the Jupiter to be a more aggressively detailed earphone though they remain very refined in their presentation. And even considering my brighter sound preferences, I would posit that very few listeners would find the Jupiter a fatiguing or over-bright sounding earphone. Listening to Owl City’s “Vanilla Twilight” which easily becomes metallic and fatiguing on a lot of earphones and the Jupiter provided an impressively restrained performance. The 64Audio U3 did have a bit more air and soundstage breadth as did the Sennheiser ie800, but both were also more fatiguing, especially the Sennheiser which had quite a thin note presentation.

Similarly, sibilance is impressively absent on the Jupiter, especially evident when listening to Frank Sinatra’s older recordings which tended to overemphasise these frequencies. The Jupiter sounded clear and organic without any harshness or honkiness, something the 64Audio U3 didn’t quite achieve despite its similarly strong resolution and attack. The Jupiter also does exceptionally well with rock with a very realistic reproduction of cymbals. Listening to Nirvana’s “Lithium” and we see a similar trend as before with the Sennheiser sounding very nicely detailed and crisp but with a thin presentation that saps some texture and realism from treble notes. The 64Audio U3, one of my favourite treble performers, actually provided a slightly more spacious and airy response than the Jupiter but outright resolution and very high-frequency details weren’t resolved quite as well the Campfire and Sennheiser.  The Jupiter is an immensely impressive performer, I have to stress that they are far from the most expensive earphone I have heard, but price does not correlate with performance and I have found them extremely satisfying to listen to nonetheless. They still aren’t perfect overall, lacking that last touch of air and soundstage space, but their excellent resolution and detailing easily compensate.

 

Verdict –

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I think a lot of writers approach the Jupiter with the wrong mindset. The Andromeda isn’t the Jupiter+ and the Jupiter isn’t the Andromeda Minus. Rather, they pursue different sounds but share common strengths, the Jupiter is its own creation with its own unique identity. In fact, those who are looking for a bit more balance may actually favour the Jupiter over the slightly bassier Andromeda. Because the Jupiter is a creature of resolution, coherence and separation. They excel with anything fast or complex while remaining engaging enough to flatter slower tracks. They are also balanced and very natural but have a more full-bodied, organic tone that grants them with a bit more depth and realism. While they aren’t exceptionally vibrant of sculpted nor are they as universally pleasing as the Andromeda, the Jupiter is a delicately tuned in-ear monitor with the same stunning technicality and passion running through its veins.

Verdict – 9.5/10, The Jupiter interests listeners with its striking looks then captures them with its heavenly sound. Their build is outstanding and Campfire’s Litz cable is among the best on the market. Despite looking sharp, the Campfire’s feel soft and stable in the ear with class leading isolation. But their sound still manages to steal the show with profound resolving power presented through a natural and organic tone.

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