Canadian Musician - November/December 2021 - Page 25

By Andrew Leyenhorst


Campfire Audio Honeydew & Satsuma IEMs

When I was presented with the opportunity to try out new IEMs from a brand unfamiliar to me called Campfire Audio , I jumped at it , eager to satiate my perpetual curiosities about what all is out there in terms of gear . Naturally , I ’ m glad I did , as the Portland , OR-based earphone manufacturer demonstrates not only a really interesting and unique approach to branding , but I also learned firsthand that they make great stuff . Evidently I ’ d been missing out , as the company ’ s Andromeda model IEMs , for example , are a bonafide hit in the in-ear world .

What I tried out are Campfire ’ s Honeydew and Satsuma professional IEMs . What ’ s immediately interesting is they are designed to offer drastically different tonal characteristics , allowing users to choose an IEM that is specifically tailored to their desired experience .
The Honeydew is described as being “ designed for electronic musicians , drummers , and bassists ,” as the pair ’ s sonic signature is rooted in deep , powerful reproduction of low-end frequency content . By contrast , the Satsuma is for those who prefer a more natural , “ unmanipulated ” response in their ears , so to speak . The Satsuma ’ s focus is more on the mid-range , with the EQ curves being much less exaggerated across the spectrum , but especially in the low and low-mid frequency bands .
In terms of breaking these IEMs down , let ’ s start with the builds , which are very similar . Just by looking , there ’ s not a whole lot to tell them apart aside from the colours ; Honeydew coming in what Campfire describes as a “ mellow yellow ,” and Satsuma dressed in a bright “ orange fizz .” Apropos . One of Campfire Audio ’ s claims to fame is its use of a 3D-printed acoustic chamber-based design , which is employed by both these models .
Mutual to both pairs , as well , is perhaps one of the most dignified headphone cables I ’ ve come across . It ’ s referred to by Campfire as the “ Smoky Lite ” and is based on the “ Smoky Litz ” cable found on its flagship models . It features four silver-plated copper conductors and the company ’ s custom beryllium copper MMCX connectors , all tied together with an elegant and tug-resistant braided wire . Also in the box with both comes a hefty variety of earphone tips of different shapes , sizes , and materials , allowing the user plenty of options to find the most comfortable fit . These tips are interchangeable on the end of the stainless-steel ear spouts present with each pair .
That ’ s just about where the similarities end . So , let ’ s take a closer look at each model .
Honeydew Designed for deep and powerful low-end reproduction , the Honeydew IEMs make use of their 3D-printed acoustic chamber and rear port in tandem with a single 10mm LCP ( liquid crystalline polymer ) diaphragm full-range dynamic driver to achieve their sound ; a shocking 5Hz-18kHz frequency response , which is just ridiculous for an IEM of this size .
Of course , “ 5Hz-18kHz ” is just an on-paper figure . They couldn ’ t possibly be reproducing stuff that low , could they ? Well , they definitely sound like they are . The low end in these earphones is gargantuan . As somebody with an ear more geared more towards the Satsumas and their more balanced soundprint , the bass reproduction in the Honeydews initially felt like something akin to standing next to a moving train . I was heartily impressed . I ’ ll warn you that if you ’ re using these live , make sure to turn down any existing low-end-augmenting EQ in your monitor chain .
I also found that even though these buds take the lows and low-mids and slam them to the front of the mix , the overall output is still relatively balanced and very smooth , even as the volume is turned up . It definitely makes sense why these are marketed towards players that live down in those regions of the frequency spectrum , but they ’ re also great for those who just enjoy listening to bass-heavy music . They do what they set out to do very well in that regard . I would argue that there ’ s a slight absence of cut and airiness in the highs where , say , a bass pick attack or the business-end of a bright pop vocal might sit , but that ’ s more my own taste compared to what I usually listen with .
All-in-all , the Honeydews definitely do well at offering a tailored sonic experience . They sound powerful , over-the-top , and exaggerated , without being overbearing or crowding the rest of the frequency spectrum . With the ear tips I chose , along with the form factor itself and the ergonomics of the cable , I found these IEMs to be very comfortable and offer plenty of isolation .
Satsuma Differing from the Honeydews , the Satsumas employ a full-range ported and balanced armature driver instead of the LCP dynamic driver . However , the Satsumas do boast the same 5Hz- 18kHz frequency response ; albeit distributed very differently .
As mentioned , the Satsuma IEMs set out to offer much more balanced and natural sound reproduction , and are described as being aimed at guitarists , vocalists , and keyboard players . Again , they accomplish what they set out to . Compared to the Honeydews , these were much less of a visceral experience , and that ’ s a g ood thing .
There ’ s a little bit less to describe with the Satsumas , as they definitely deliver a similar vibe to the Honeydews , but with more emphasis on the mids and high-mids rather than the lows and low-mids , but even so , in a much less exaggerated way . While I find them a little bit throaty and once again lacking in high-end cut that I personally look for , they still sound fantastic and smooth and are perfectly serviceable on stage or as a daily driver for personal listening . However , the fantastic stereo imaging on the Satsumas in particular is worth noting .
Andrew Leyenhorst is a Niagara-based producer , recording engineer , mixer , and a Consulting Editor at Canadian Musician .