Friday 12th August 2022

Campfire Audio Satsuma, Honeydew headphone review

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Campfire Audio has been designing and building high-end in-ear headphones (IEHs) in Portland, Oregon, since 2015. The current lineup on its website includes no less than 15 models, most with a price tag higher than $1,000 and many others very near that lofty figure. The company employs high-quality materials and eschews wireless connections and other convenience features in its pursuit of the best possible audio quality.

Recently, Campfire added two new IEH models with the same commitment to audio excellence, but at much more down-to-earth prices. Dubbed Satsuma and Honeydew (left and right in the image above), they offer distinctly different sonic signatures for different musical tastes. They’re both excellent performers, but I unexpectedly found myself preferring the Honeydew, and that’s the model that earns the editors’ choice award.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the non-ANC headphones, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product. Looking for the best noise-cancelling headphones? Just click the preceding link too see our top picks.

Honeydew and Satsuma headphone features

Whereas most of Campfire’s IEHs have metal housings, the Satsuma and Honeydew utilize customized, 3D-printed Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chambers (TAEC) within ABS plastic earpieces that reflect the company’s distinctive design aesthetic. The spouts are stainless steel, and a wide variety of bundled eartips include five sizes of Final Audio Type 3 silicone tips, three sizes of Campfire Audio silicone tips, and three sizes of memory-foam tips.

campfire honeydew cabled Campfire Audio

The Honeydew (seen here) and Satsuma come with a Smoky Litz Lite unbalanced cable.

Both models also come with Campfire’s detachable Smoky Lite Litz cable that uses four silver-plated copper conductors and custom beryllium-copper MMCX connectors. In addition, the company offers balanced cables as an option, and both new models take full advantage of such a connection. There’s a tiny red dot on one of the earpiece connectors and a tiny blue dot on the other connector, indicating the right and left channels, respectively. The ends of the right and left cables have a stiffened curve that goes over the ears, and you connect the earpieces so the bulk of each earpiece is behind the spout so it fits in the concha (bowl) of the ear behind the ear canal.

The Satsuma sports an “orange-fizz” color, and it employs a single, full-range balanced-armature driver within a TAEC that’s ported into the body of the earpiece. The frequency response is specified to extend from 5Hz to 18kHz (no tolerance given) with an impedance of 46.4 ohms at 1kHz and a maximum SPL of 94dB at 67 mVrms. This model is tuned to present a balanced, natural tonal signature, which Campfire describes as “characterized by highly focused mid-band frequencies, a tightly controlled bass response, and slightly enhanced highs—without harshness.” The company says it’s well suited for almost any musical genre, particularly rock, pop, classical, and jazz.

campfire satsuma styled Campfire Audio

The Satsuma sports a color called “orange fizz” as well as beryllium-copper MMCX connectors for the detachable cable and stainless steel nozzles, just like the Honeydew.

By contrast, the “mellow-yellow” colored Honeydew is tuned with a more bass-forward tonal profile that’s designed for R&B, hip hop, and EDM. As the company explains, “Built expressly for music lovers who crave a punchy and highly detailed bass response that is both fast and dynamic, Honeydew has the lower frequencies covered thanks to a custom-designed 10mm dynamic driver.” That single dynamic driver delivers a frequency response from 5Hz to 18kHz (no tolerance given) in a sealed TAEC, though the outer casing is ported. The impedance is specified to be 17.4 ohms at 1kHz, and the maximum SPL is 94dB at 17.7 mVrms—in other words, it will play louder than the Satsuma at a given power level.

Also included is a sturdy, padded carrying case and dual-pouch net bag for the earpieces as well as separate net bags for the eartips. I don’t normally comment on product packaging, but Campfire does an excellent job of that with these IEHs.

Honeydew and Satsuma performance

With all IEHs, it’s crucial to find eartips that completely seal the ear canals to assure the best possible sound quality. The Satsuma and Honeydew come with the medium foam eartips preinstalled, but they were too small for me. I tried the largest size of all three types of included eartips, and found that the Final silicone tips provided the best seal for my ear canals.

campfire honeydew exploded Campfire Audio

The Honeydew utilizes a 10mm, full-range dynamic driver.

Interestingly, the largest memory-foam tips were the best-fitting foam tips I’ve tried, but the Final tips were the best. I also tried my favorite eartips, the 14.5mm silicone tips from 1More, but the Campfire spout is thinner than 1More spouts, so they kept slipping off and staying in my ear when I removed the earpieces.

For this review, I listened to high-res audio tracks from Qobuz playing on my iPhone XS connected to an iFi hip-dac. I listened to each track on the Satsuma and Honeydew as well as my reference IEH, the Sennheiser IE 300, which I’ll discuss in the next section.

First up was “In Too Deep” (24/96) from Djesse Vol. 3 by Jacob Collier. This track features vocals by Collier and Kiana Ledé enveloped by expansive electronics and deep bass. The Satsuma sounded exceptionally clean and clear with entirely natural vocals and great imaging as well as excellent rendition of some delicate sound effects. The only drawback was slightly weak bass.

As expected, the Honeydew was much louder at the same volume setting, and the bass was much more pronounced, though not overbearing. The sound was generally richer and thicker but not at all congested, and the vocals and imaging were still wonderful. The delicate, subtle sound effects might have been a bit less present.

For some more vocals with electronics, I cued up “Chemical” (24/44.1) from Hyperspace by Beck. Here, the vocal is highly processed, so it’s difficult to assess its naturalness. The Satsuma sounded clean, lean, and expansive with great detail, especially in the lone acoustic guitar within a wash of synths. As before, the bass was a bit weak. The Honeydew was louder with a richer sound and more bass with no congestion and no loss of detail or imaging.

campfire satsuma exploded Campfire Audio

The Satsuma relies on a full-range balanced-armature driver in a ported acoustic chamber.

“Itchy Boo” (24/44.1) is a super-funky instrumental track from Where Do We Go From Here by Dumpstaphunk. Again, the Satsuma was clean, clear, and crisp with great imaging that allowed me to hear deep into the mix. The bass, however, was a tad anemic. Not so on the Honeydew, which was quite a bit louder with more bass in a richer tonal presentation. It had the same great imaging with no congestion.

Turning to some country, I listened to “Lonely Alone” (24/96) from Threads by Sheryl Crow with guest Willie Nelson. The vocals sounded fantastic on the Satsuma—forward and entirely natural. As I had come to expect, the overall sound was clean and lean with great imaging and slightly understated bass. The Honeydew presented a louder, richer sound with more bass, but the vocal sound was still superb, as was the imaging and detail.

I love “Eretseretse” (24/96) from An East African Journey by Omar Sosa. The title translates as “Inspiration” from the Ntandroy language, and it features an instrument called the marovany, a box zither with 24 steel strings. Other instruments on the track include piano, drum kit, percussion, and bass. The marovany’s notes bounce all around the soundfield, which was rendered beautifully by the Satsuma’s superb imaging. The piano was a bit bright, and the drums were slightly thin, but the overall sound was clean and clear. As expected by now, the Honeydew had a bigger, richer sound with more presence and bass, though it was still clean and clear with great imaging.

campfire honeydew styled Campfire Audio

The Honeydew’s “mellow yellow” color belies its more aggressive, bass-forward tonality. Like the Satsuma, it features beryllium-copper MMCX connectors and stainless steel nozzles.

Another favorite is “Spread Love” (24/96) from the eponymous first album by a…

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