April 24, 2016 5 min read
The Campfire Audio line of in-ear headphones is the offspring of ALO Audio headquartered in Portland Oregon. The ALO Audio / HeadRoom relationship dates back to the dawn of headphone time - or 2007 to be exact - when we first partnered up with Ken Ball and ALO to create a series of interconnects for our HeadRoom Audio products that could not only could meet our exacting standards for our own amp and DAC line, but also offered any audiophile truly superior cabling at a fair cost made right here in the rugged northwest USA.
But it wasn't merely our woodsy flannel-clad fashion connection that made ALO Audio a perfect partner for HeadRoom then and now. Like us, they have long carved out a unique niche for themselves manufacturing amazing-sounding, cutting-edge products that hovered near the top of the bell curve for price-to-performance ratio. It’s not an easy feat balancing high-end premium performance with the concept of affordability, but ALO cables and amps have long been coveted for their uniquely neutral, organic sound and superb made-in-the-USA build quality at prices that remain in league with that of competing products.
Beginning in 2009 with their portable RX headphone amp, ALO Audio asserted itself into the head-amp universe with an IEM-oriented amplifier that was well-priced and perfectly matched to the sensitivity and particular acoustic demands of in-ear monitors. Over the next few years, Ken and his team vastly expanded their ALO amp line and also took on performing headphone and earphone modifications, always searching for improved sound quality and a deeper emotional connection to the music at every turn. Through the process of deconstructing, rebuilding, and re-tuning hundreds of headphones, it became clear that given the built-in limitations of many stock transducers and audio drivers, one could only do so much to improve upon the core sound of the product, and often the final results still left something to be desired for demanding audiophiles questing for significantly improved performance.
The ultimate solution? Engineer and manufacture your own headphone from scratch using the most exacting methodologies and best materials available in the industry, and then precisely tune it to fit your exacting musical vision. So when we heard Ken and ALO were in the works with an earphone series expressly designed to blow minds and sound quality barriers alike, it all made perfect sense. Finally after several years of painstaking R&D, the Campfire earphones from ALO Audio have arrived. The extended conception process included obsessive design prototyping that counted hundreds of iterations before the desired signature sound was finally achieved.
The wholly proprietary Campfire construction begins with billet aluminum sourced and manufactured in Oregon to create the outer earpiece shells. The precise machining required to create the Campfire enclosures requires 100% perfect CNC tolerances, an extremely time-consuming and expensive but critical step in the process of developing the galvanizing sound and extreme durability of the earphones. In tandem with carefully selected components like high-grade copper-clad aluminum voice coil wire from Japan, beryllium diaphragms, neodymium rare earth magnets, and specially tuned high-mass ceramic enclosures, intense attention to detail is built into every Campfire earphone. Every single piece of each unit undergoes careful inspection and evaluation before final hand-assembly of each earphone can begin at ALO Audio’s downtown Portland facility.
Then starts an extensive tuning and driver matching process, all also done exclusively in-house. As Ken Ball explains, “I am very hands and ears on, and I have a process that is both analytical and subjectively emotional. I do a battery of acoustic analysis measurements and then very critical listening all the while taking notes on what the analytics say compared to what I am hearing. Then the process goes into a very small incremental adjustments phase and the whole procedure starts all over again. This is done over and over again until we get each earphone to exactly where I want it to be.”
The Campfire Audio line kicks off with the Orion model, a single balanced armature design housed in a machined aluminum enclosure. The aluminum housing works to dampen and isolate the drivers and also protects against intervening vibrations while tightly focusing the musical delivery of the earphone. The Orion has a top-to-bottom coherence reminiscent of the best dynamic drivers but with the detail and clarity only possible with balanced armature drivers. As Ken says, “It’s as if two offsetting images were suddenly pulled in close to find the perfect (sonic) alignment.“
The Campfire Audio Lyra ups the audio ante with a custom-built 8.5mm beryllium PVD transducer engineered into a tuned high-mass ceramic enclosure utilizing a single dynamic driver. The tone is wide-open and down-the-middle neutral with a tight, unbloated signature sound that is accurate and analytic while also being full-bodied, throaty, and beautifully musical.
Next is the Campfire Audio Jupiter which integrates four balanced armature drivers in tandem with a tubeless resonator into a stunning-looking machined aluminum enclosure. Free-soaring high-frequency extension, deep soundstage resolution, and completely seamless crossover transitions between frequencies are the clearest hallmarks of the Jupiter. Listeners seeking real musical versatility for varied genres and efficient performance from their player of choice will love what their ears hear using the beautifully detailed Jupiter earphones.
Soon to hit the market are the two newest Campfire earphone models, the Nova and Andromeda, which will undoubtedly continue the legacy of superior sound and unbeatable build quality that ALO Audio has always offered with every one of its products.
Not to be neglected is a glowing mention of what originally put ALO Audio on the map - superb cabling. The cables on the Campfire line of earphones are, of course, proprietary designs employing either Litz or tinsel wire hand-terminated by ALO technicians to either gold-plated or beryllium copper 3.5mm plugs. As a major plus, the Campfire earpieces are detachable on all models, allowing for easy cable replacement if ever needed. All the Campfire in-ears come with perhaps the industry’s best selection of accessories and eartips including a choice of Comply foam tips in various sizes. A lovely zippered travel case is also provided.
We’ll let Mr. Ken Ball have the last word, “Campfire Audio has one focus, making the best IEMs and headphones I can possibly make with a vision that is 100% mine and not influenced by someone else or uses standard off-the-shelf parts. We know there are many IEMs and headphones crowding the field nowadays, so the Campfire earphones are my own statement and draw from many years of personal audio work with ALO… I fancy a wide, natural sound with lots of dynamics, speed and accuracy and I make a very deliberate effort to not have any harsh, grainy or fatiguing artifacts present in the tone.” Congratulations to Ken, ALO Audio and Campfire earphones for making their audio dreams a reality. HeadRoom is proud to be an authorized dealer for Campfire earphones.
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