Campfire Audio Holocene Review

The Campfire Audio Holocene is a 3 balanced-armature driver IEM which was originally released alongside the Campfire Audio Mammoth to target the mid-fi price arena. A single custom BA driver is used for the highs whereas two independent custom BA drivers are responsible for the midrange and low-end frequencies.

At a price of $649, the Holocene features an ‘umber’ finish and utilizes 3D printing acoustic chamber design for optimal driver configuration. Aesthetically, the Holocene is reminiscent of the original Andromeda design with its angular and industrial design.

Campfire Audio Holocene

The Packaging

As with their prior releases, the Holocene arrives in Campfire Audio’s trademark compact square box with a graphic cut-out of the IEMs overlayed onto a geometric background. The shapes resemble pyramids and planets made from various hues of green, cyan and orange.

Included within the packaging are: a selection of Final Audio tips, Campfire Audio Earphone tips, Silicone Ear Tips, a lapel pin, cleaning tool, Campfire Audio ‘Smoky Glow’ Litz cable and an ‘Epoch’ SEAQUEL YARN carrying case. The carrying case stays true to Campfire Audio’s strive for sustainability and is made from an upcycled form of marine plastic. The case utilizes the same ‘mysterious geometric shapes’ as the packaging and provides a lume zippler and plaque allowing for a glow-in-the-dark performance.

The overall color combinations are unique and are quite unlike anything Campfire Audio have produced.

Build & Design

Some consumers may not like Campfire Audio’s return to an industrial design with its angular finish and screw fixtures. However, build quality still stands as the shell material is machined from aluminum and anodized in an ‘umber’ finish. The black screws join the two faceplates together and the monitors come complete with a black PVD finished stainless steel spout. A beryllium copper MMCX connector remains as the choice for cable connection and ensures years of stable performance.

Interestingly, Campfire Audio have been keen with glow-in-the-dark elements in this edition and the in-lay logo and cable overmolds exhibit night-time luminance.

Driver configuration

The Campfire Audio Holocene adopts a tri-driver design with a custom BA driver for the treble and two-independent BA drivers for the midrange and low frequencies. A 3D Printer has been used to acoustically optimize the interior chamber for the highest sound quality.

At an impedance of 5.4 Ohms, the Holocene is remarkably easy to drive even compared with the Andromeda. While this makes it easier to drive from all types of devices, more powerful DAPs or media devices may induce hiss in these in-ear monitors.

Cable

Campfire Audio have utilized its signature Silver-Plated Copper Litz in a smoky jacket finish for the stock cable. The cable employs a tangle-resistant dual braid design with beryllium/copper MMCX connections and an L-shaped 3.5 mm termination jack. In this edition, Campfire Audio have added glow-in-the-dark overmolds on both the MMCX connectors and 3.5 mm plug. While the addition of this feature may serve useful in locating the cable in darkness, some may consider this to be a gimmick detracting from the overall look.

Fit & Isolation

The Campfire Audio Holocene has a shallow ear insertion and an over-the-ear design which supports a comforting overall fit. Despite the angular design, there is no irritation to the conchae in long listening sessions and the IEMs are relatively comfortable.

The Holocene, however, are not the most isolating pair of monitors and thus it is easy to hear ambient noises and sounds when listening at lower listening volumes or when the music is off.

Sound impressions

Tonality

There is no doubt that the Holocene is inspired by the Andromeda philosophy with its open sound, reference tuning and passion for sparkly and ‘zingy’ transients. For a 3-balanced armature model, there is a good modicum of detail retrieval which competes with more pricy models. Particularly noticeable is the Holocene’s ability to convey holographic imaging akin to both the original Andromeda and the revamped Andromeda 2020 version.

Bass

The Campfire Audio Holocene was not designed to be a model to provide a ‘Grand Canyon’ of bass like the Atlas or Dorado 2020. Rather, it approaches reference tuning with a low-end that is versatile and refined. Everything certainly feels controlled and balanced without succumbing to fool-hardy levels of bloat or ‘moving mass’. Texture is great here and is an often-overlooked aspect of analyzing bass performance. Neither is there a sharp natural decay which often results from BA drivers nor is there prolonged rear-note linger that would make the low-end sound otherwise muddy. Instead, the Holocene respectfully delineates a punchy and natural low-end performance.

Midrange

Like the Andromeda, the Holocene presents a holographic sound with its impressive separation and layering. However, the Holocene’s mids sit further back compared to the other frequency ranges. As a result, it does not sound as mid-forward or intimately engaging compared to both the original and Andromeda 2020. While the tuning adds a sense of sale to the Holocene’s presentation, some users may prefer more elevated dB in the midrange frequencies for a more ‘involved’ sound. Nevertheless, the Holocene revels in micro-details and clarity which is impressive for its 3 balanced-armature configuration. Notes possess a slight diffuse quality contributing to the overall airiness of the Holocene’s sound.

Treble

The Holocene’s predilection for scale and separation extends to the higher frequency ranges with plenty of sparkle, definition and air. Interestingly, Campfire Audio have subdued the lower treble in favor of upper treble with a noticeable elevation in the 6K frequencies and beyond. As a result, there is good amount of headroom with defining snare drums and cymbal crashes. The Holocene’s tonal character is a few notches brighter than the Andromeda 2020 which hosts a relatively smoother and more refined transient response.

Soundstage & Imaging

The Campfire Audio Holocene boasts an open soundstage with great projection of sonic cues in the elements of width and height. The slightly diffuse tonal density alongside the excellent layering and separation make for a compelling and ‘grand’ listening experience. For these reasons, the Holocene excels in orchestral tracks and those which demand a larger listening experience. The Holocene is not too far off from the original Andromeda in imaging capabilities which is impressive considering its price and 3 driver build.

Comparisons

Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020 ($1099)

The Holocene inherits the superior imaging capabilities of the Andromeda lineage with its open and holographic sound. However, there are still differences where the Holocene and the Andromeda 2020 are concerned. For example, the Andromeda 2020 hosts a more enhanced low-end with a bigger and more cohesive soundstage. Where the Holocene adopts a more recessed midrange profile, the Andromeda 2020 is more mid-forward and sounds more engaging as a result. In the higher frequencies, the Holocene sounds crisper whereas the Andromeda 2020 is the relatively darker in-ear monitor.  

Beyerdynamic Xelento Wired ($899)

This Xelento which hails from German-brand Beyerdynamic makes use of Tesla magnets and a single dynamic driver for sound reproduction. Comparing the two, the Holocene boasts the larger soundstage with a more holographic soundscape. However, the Beyerdynamic Xelento certainly packs a punch with its overall warmer sound and heightened sub-bass focus. As a result, the Xelento strives towards a musical tonality whereas the Holocene is more reference. Build quality is better in the Xelento with its precise machining – however this is expected considering its price.

Matching

The Holocene has an impedance of 5.4 Ohms @ 1kHz and Sensitivity of 94 dB. This allows it to be easily driven from a range of devices including smartphones, laptops and DAPs. It is not as picky as the original Andromeda when it comes to impedance matching and there was no noticeable hiss when paired with slightly more powerful devices. However, caution must be advised when switching from higher impedance IEMs to the Holocene as it runs off significantly lower listening volume levels for the same loudness.

Conclusion

The Campfire Audio Holocene is an impressive mid-tier IEM which shares some of the hallmarks of the popular Andromeda lineage in-ear monitors. It is particularly adept at rendering an open and airy soundstage with good levels of detail and micro-cues to boot. While some may consider this as a ‘baby Andromeda’, it still retains its own character with its laidback mids and crisp high-end. Still, the Holocene brings value to the forefront with its high-fidelity sound for only $649. There are some gripes however and these extend to the overall industrial aesthetics and novelty ‘glow-in-the-dark’ features. The carrying case with its striking color combination may also not appeal to those with a more subdued taste. Putting this aside, the Holocene is an IEM which can compete with higher priced offerings with its strong technicalities and sound performance.

Campfire Audio Holocene Specifications:

  • 5Hz–20 kHz Frequency Response
  • 94 dB SPL @ 1kHz: 6.99 mVrms
  • 5.4 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance

Available from:

Campfire Audio

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