Campfire Audio Cascade Closed-Back Headphones - Official Thread

campfire-audio

#1

The Campfire Audio Cascade headphones are Campfire’s first over-ear headphones. At this time Ken Ball from Campfire hasn’t confirmed whether they have plans for more over-ear headphones but I am hoping that they at least consider it as Campfire brings a breath of fresh air to a pretty stale industry.

FEATURES

  • 42 mm Beryllium PVD diaphragm dynamic driver. Yes, the same rare material in Focal Utopia drivers
  • Magnetically removable soft sheep-leather pads
  • Detachable Litz cable
  • Folds up for portability
  • Ships with custom-fit acoustic dampeners so you can tune them the way you want. Here’s a link to the official Campfire Cascade tuning guide

SPECS

Driver Type: Beryllium PVD diaphragm dynamic
Driver Diameter: 42mm
Frequency Response: 5Hz–33 kHz
Sensitivity: 100 dB SPL/mW
Impedance: 38 Ohms @ 1kHz
Weight: 13.5 oz (without cable) or approximately 383 g
Earpad Material: Sheep leather
Cable: Litz Cable – Silver Plated Copper with Cloth Jacket (4′)


Sub- Bass Headphone
Campfire Audio Cascade - Closed-Back Headphone - Review & Impressions Index
#2

Disclaimer: I’m the dumbest guy in the room about headphones… still learning how to listen.

These have been the most interesting/challenging of the handful that I’ve listened carefully to. Muddled bass… so much warmer down there in the lows than other headphones i’m listening to (Utopia, AudioQuest, Sennheiser 59somethings)…

… but there’s something I’m actually really enjoying about them… I think the word I’m looking for is “musical.”

Those bright highs push through, lots of clarity up there, but it’s overwhelmed by the bass… sometimes… and sometimes it sounds better.

I always thought I was a clarity/reference guy. After some critical time with these I’m, like, “I still am, but also, i can’t explain what I love about these… and also I hate them on some tracks.”

Dear doctor, am I broken? Does this sometimes happen with hifi gear??


#3

I know exactly what you mean. Not with the Cascades in particular (I’ve only heard them at shows) but being a clarity/reference guy who inexplicably likes headphones with the sound you described.

That describes my experience with the AudioQuest NightHawks perfectly. Like “my analytical brain doesn’t like this sound, but damn I’m enjoying it”


#4

Yea, and the audioquests… there’s a lot of clarity, and the bass is nice and spread out and clean, but they do feel kind of scooped through the mids… they feel to me like it takes a good driver to reproduce those frequencies without distortion, etc., but it also feels like it’s kinda doctored.

Anyways, I feel kinda hungry to talk about this shit and hear how you guys talk about it… I’m so new to this kind of listening.


#5

I think it’s cool that you’re approaching it from a fresh perspective. It allows you to develop your own vocabulary from scratch (that will hopefully connect with a wider audience).

There aren’t many objective facts when describing headphones. A frequency response graph and some hard statistics (like impedance, weight etc.) are about it. After that it’s about trying to find the words to help someone else connect with the sound you’re experiencing.


#6

Wooooooord. Yea, feels like that’s the thing… I’m surprised to see how much I can sense the difference when I’m listening critically on good tracks… (However, I will say, those seconds spent in switching from one headphone to the next does feel like it loses some of the reference, which is a bummer… but ALL of these sound damn good)… so it seems like well more than half of the difference between these headphones is often form factor, weight, price, comfort, and (this is the most hilarious to me, but clearly a deciding factor) the cable they ship with :slight_smile:


#7

Even the same headphones with the same track sound different during different listening sessions.

For example, If I’ve just had a good cup of coffee I usually experience more clarity. (Maybe because I can focus on individual sounds more easily). I’m sure there are a lot of other factors that affect my subjective experience but they’re harder to isolate.


#8

The Cascades are one of the new headphone releases that I’ve been dying to get my hands on. We keep selling them so fast that I haven’t had a chance to send a pair over my way. I like a warmer sound signature and I feel like they would be right up my alley, especially with the portability factor.

I have heard from some people that the clamping force is rather tight though. How are you finding it? Comfort is super important for me since me and Andrew spend upwards of 12 hours a day working in the office together and they need to be comfortable enough for me to keep on my head that whole time.

How’s the noise isolation on them as well? We do a ton of travelling to shows and while my NightOwls are pretty good at blocking some noise, I still feel they let in a little too much. I can’t be bothered with ANC right now since I don’t like the low, humming sensation it creates.


#9

Apparently I’m such good company that my brother must wear headphones at all times while we’re working together :wink:


#10

Clamping force: tight but not uncomfortable to me. Nice cushion on the pads and some decent isolation. Definitely better sound isolation than the NighOwls.


#11

I caught that too, andrew… you mad, bro?


#12

Haha. I honestly can’t blame him.


#13

Great point – the sensorineural/cognitive part of hearing is complicated. Personally I find that things get “duller” over long listening lessons. That initial “eargasm” when I pop on a great track with the right gear doesn’t last that long.


#14

Some of the reviews I’ve seen have also mentioned the deep, cushioned earpads doing a good job of mitigating the clamp force.

However, they have also mentioned that the weight distribution along the headband is not great causing “hotspots”/soreness on the top of their heads.

Have you found this to be true in your use of the Cascades?


#15

I currently have the Cascades on my head, they just arrived this morning and I have been using them for about an hour.

Some quick initial impressions with the stock tuning. Haven’t started using the tuning pads yet. Currently running them from Macbook Pro --> Dragonfly Black —> Cascade.

  1. They aren’t as bassy as I remember them being at RMAF last year. I remember them being pretty heavy on the low-end and being kind of loosey-goosey but these sound a lot more tight and punchy. I equated them to Campfire’s Vegas in the past but they don’t feel like they go as deep as the Vegas. Don’t know if they had a bit of a re-tune since RMAF before launch.
    EDIT I am actually doing an edit before posting this. Testarossa - Original Mix by Matt Lange just came on and these headphones are bumping. It is still tight and punchy but it is reaching very deep.
  2. I find them to be pretty comfy. I’m not experiencing any of the clamping issues that I read about and the swivel that the gimble has makes it super easy to get the right fit on my oddly shaped head. The pads are deep enough that my ears aren’t touching the earcup but just barely. They are heavier than I would have thought but its not super noticeable.
  3. They feel a little closed-off soundstage-wise. I’ve read from other people that they thought the same but they opened up after a while so I’ll check back in on it later on. Mid-range and clarity are excellent although the highs are a little recessed, a bit grainy.
  4. Their cable is nice. Nothing too special although the connectors feel very durable but a little loose. Haven’t had any issues yet though.
  5. The passive noise isolation is some of the best I’ve had from a headphone. @andrew can attest to that as he was yelling at me from about 5 feet away and I couldn’t hear him at all.
  6. I’ve got a pair of AEON Closed here as well and I will be doing a comparison between the AudioQuest NightOwls, Campfire Cascade, and MrSpeakers AEON Closed.

Initial impressions test tracks:
Testarossa - Original Mix by Matt Lange. A very fun song to listen to that can really showcase low-end on headphones. It has a lot going on in it though so it can sound messy with some headphones.

Oh by Dave Matthews. I use it for testing male vocals / clarity. Guitar strings with the right headphones absolutely sing with this song.

Santa Monica by Jay Malinowski. Same as Oh but Jay’s voice is very raspy. Its a nice contrast.

The Unforgiven by Metallica. If a pair of headphones makes this song sound bad they go straight to the garbage bin. All there is to it.

Hurt by Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor is one of my favourite vocalists and this is easily up there in my top 10 favourite songs. It is a tougher listen with higher-end headphones though. The background noise really comes through. Probably wouldn’t recommend it for most people, I’m just a fan.

Hello Portland by The Northern Lights. A fun, trippy synthwave track. Lots going on in this song and makes for some fun testing.

San Jacinto by Peter Gabriel. The way this song evolves as it goes on can be truly awe-inspiring with good headphones. I use it for imaging and soundstage.

Tonight, Tonight by The Smashing Pumpkins. I like it. That’s pretty much all I can say here.

Fear of the Dark by Iron Maiden. Bruce Dickinson’s vocals in this song are bone-chillingly good.

I’ve got more but that’s just a few. As you can tell from the list, I don’t tend to listen to the traditional audiophile critical listening tracks and always take my impressions with a grain of salt since they are what my ears are hearing!


#16

Nice! I found Cascade to be super bassy stock and almost overwhelming at times if listening to bass emphasized music.

I recently wrote up my impressions of Cascade and I would be down to post it here, but I wasn’t sure if we wanted really long review posts in these threads or not?


#17

Long reviews are fine here for now. Eventually they will be bumped into their own thread (and we’ll move this over)


#18

TL; DR: Thanks to SBAF I was able to join the loaner tour and spend a week with these headphones. I must say these were overall a great portable closed back and really impressed me. I had some comfort issues (noted below) that would prohibit me from owning a pair, but otherwise if my head size/shape were different I could definitely enjoy owning one and I would recommend it to most people looking for an alternative to IEMs for portable use.

Build: The build is excellent and exactly what I would want in a portable closed back. Everything is metal and just feels very robust and you can tell it is built like a tank. It even folds up nicely and has a compact footprint. Ear pads are made of sheepskin and are quite plush and really soft against the ears. The connectors are a little bulky as they use the HD800 connectors so they protrude out of the cups longer than I would prefer, but I I know the connectors themselves were used because they are quite robust and secure. One of the coolest features is that the earpads are magnetically attached. I love this system. Since these headphones come with various tuning filters, it makes pulling the pads on and off a breeze and very satisfying as they just snap into place. I wish more companies would start using more magnetic earpad systems.

Comfort: This is actually one of the disappointments for me. And I think it mostly has to do with my head size and shape, so YMMV. The headband is very wide set and can’t be adjusted in width (only height). The ear pads do swivel up and down as well as rotate on its axis in order to compensate, but the problem is the angle that the pads sit at. When off the head, the bottom of the earpads smash tightly against each other (see photo below). Since I have a smaller head, when I wear this headphone the headband is too wide and the angle of the ear pads are too sharp that they start to apply too much pressure on the bottom of the pads compared to the top. And then because my head is just a bit pointy on top, all the pressure of the headband sits directly on top of my head and causes a hot spot as the headband is too wide to sit flush across the width of my head. The earpads are also more on-ear and than over-ear. But they are actually quite comfortable so even though they smash against my ears, I don’t mind the feel at all. It is really only a problem of the angle pressure un-eveness. So that combined with the headband hotspot make it so I can only wear Cascade for a little while before I need to take a break and adjust it. This is enough of a dealbreaker for me if I were actually considering buying it. But if you have a bigger/wider head I suspect this wouldn’t be a problem. Those with narrrow heads will most likely suffer the most.

Sound

Source Chain: Eitr -> Mimby -> Magni 3

Bass: Cascade is ALL about the bass. It is quite well extended and elevated in both sub and mid-bass above the rest of the frequency range. This is the first thing you will notice upon first listen. While the bass is quite big and thunderous it is still tight and controlled, without feeling one-note or wooly. This is a bassheads dream portable can. FR graphs show that the sub-bass to mid-bass elevation is a quite rounded bump that levels off right around 200 Hz so it actually manages to not bleed into the mids or overly warm male vocals. It sounds very full, but it doesn’t have that thick, warm body that is more common when headphones have a wide mid-bass hump (e.g. HD650). However, when trying to do any critical listening the bass is so forward and ever present that I find it to sometimes get distracting when trying to listen to the rest of the frequency range. I would even say at louder volumes, the bass can be almost overwhelming and fatiguing for me. On the flip side, due to the equal-loudness curves knowing that we perceive bass frequencies at lower levels than mids when using lower volumes, this actually makes Cascade sound like a tastefully bassy headphone at low volumes, instead of anemic like many more neutral headphones will sound at low volumes. Also being closed back and having decent isolation, this headphone is quite easy to enjoy at lower volume levels.

Mids: The mids are quite clean and pretty even across the board. I would say the upper mids are just a little soft, but that actually fits well with the overall tonal balance and it keeps Cascade from every getting shouty or harsh. But again, while the mids don’t feel pushed back or recessed, they just feel a bit overshadowed by the bass presence. Details are very apparent still and it never feels veiled.

Treble: There doesn’t appear to be any sharp peaks or harshness to my ears. Cascade is very good about controlling sibilance and even brighter recordings feel very relaxed in treble. I think it gently rolls off the upper treble though and loses a little bit of air. This is quite different than most bassy headphones that tend to have a V-shaped response by adding extra energy in treble to feel more lively and detailed. This also makes Cascade a very pleasing and easy listen as treble never gets sibilance, harshness, or ringing.

Staging: Being a closed back, the soundstage isn’t that wide and feels pretty similar to most closed backs I have heard. It does a great job though in never feeling congested, but it still sounds a like a closed back. Imaging is only okay, and there isn’t much depth as everything mostly feels slightly to the left or right. But again, for being a closed back I think it is at least as good or better than most in this department.

Tuning Mods: So I didn’t try any of the additional included tuning filters because all of them INCREASE the bass response beyond the normal, no filter, configuration. I definitely don’t want any more bass, but the true bassheads might actually like the filters. On the opposite side, cskippy (the guy that first discovered the vegan pad mod for M1060) figured out a simple, great mod for Cascade that helps reduce bass. If you place a thin ring of felt around the earside driver it helps break the pad seal slightly (see first photo below). This actually works really well because of the magnetic bond that holds the pads to the drivers. Since magnets lock so tightly into place, having this little bit of felt does a great job in pulling the magnets far enough apart that they won’t snap down tightly (but they aren’t falling off either). The second photo below shows that seal being broken slightly on the left pad compared to the right, unmodded pad. You can see a bit of airspace between the driver and pad on the left. Cskippy’s FR measurements (below) actually show that breaking the seal only affects the bass frequencies and doesn’t mess with the mids and treble (red stock, green modded). The bass is still elevated above neutral, but it is actually a really pleasing sound with just a slight bass boost, like you get when using a bass boost function in an amp. I found this to be my preferred sound signature. In stock form the bass was just overwhelming enough that it was a deal breaker even if my comfort issue was solved. But with this mod I would actually seriously consider buying Cascade if I didn’t have the comfort issues and I needed a portable closed back headphone.


(courtesy: cskippy)

Comparisons

ZMF Atticus: The most obvious comparison in my collection is Atticus (Cocobolo). Both are closed back and both compete in a similar price range. Both headphones can be classified as “bassy” and neither are trying to be neutral. The most apparent distinction between the two is function. Cascade is clearly meant for portable use. It is more on-ear than over-ear, and it is much more sensitive and can be driven easily from a phone or low gain from Magni 3. It doesn’t really scale much with source gear. It also folds nicely, has a very solid metal feel and feels like it could take a beating and survive okay. Even though Atticus is closed back, it is very much NOT meant to be portable. Even though it is a big and beefy headphone, due to the delicate nature of wood I would not want to drop it. It is transportable and can work well taking it back and forth to the office when needing isolation, but it really pairs better in a desktop setup and can change its sound quite a bit using different sources like tube amps. Sound-wise, their tonal balance isn’t all that different. Cascade is more sub-bass focused and really carries that weight and heft. But Atticus is more mid-bass focused and slams with a punch but it also bleeds more into the mids and has more bloom overall. Cascade bass is a little more focused and separated from the mids. Atticus is much more forward in the mids, particularly the upper mids compared to Cascade. This makes Atticus less forgiving of badly mastered tracks as it isn’t really laid back. Atticus is also more detailed and clear through the mids and treble. While both Cascade and Atticus gently roll the treble, Atticus has just a bit more energy and a little more of a 10 kHz peak that gives it more air, but that peak could be just a bit harsh depending on source gear, tracks, and even wood type. Atticus also has the unique quality of having a quite big soundstage in both width and depth, bigger than most open backs. But both Atticus and Cascade still have that closed back sound. Unfortunately, I don’t have the suede pads for Atticus as those are known to push the mid-bass bump back down toward sub-bass and shift its bass emphasis. I think that would actually put it even more in line with Cascade’s tonal balance. I could easily live with either headphone honestly if I was going for a bassy, fun secondary headphone to pair with a more reference set. The deciding factor would really come down to whether I needed a closed back for portable use or for desktop use. I tend to use IEMs when listening portably so Cascade doesn’t really fit into my use case.

TH-X00: This is another good comparison to Cascade since TH-X00 is semi-open but is a more reasonable portable option that I know some people do actually use portably. I still think Cascade is a much better portable option due to its design and build, and also isolates much better than TH-X00. But TH-X00 is half the price of Cascade and also has the wood appeal factor. In tonal balance, these headphones are quite similar. Both have plenty of sub-bass and weight, but I find TH-X00 to hit faster but with less weight than Cascade. Even though I find TH-X00’s bass to be powerful and punchy, it never gets to the point of overwhelming me. I suspect part of this might be due to the earpad design. Cascade being on ear sort of smashes and seals against my ears well (and still manages to be comfortable doing so). TH-X00 is mostly over-ear, but doesn’t quite seal in a tight lock like other bigger over-ear pads like those in Atticus or LCD2C. It is sort of a weird shape and doesn’t feel comfortable after a while either. So Cascade’s bass just feels a bit heavier and decay feels slower and resonates longer. Cascade also tilts darker as the bass is much more elevated over both mids and treble. TH-X00 is similar in mids as Cascade in that it doesn’t feel dulled or recessed, but rather a bit overshadowed in the mix. But TH-X00 picks up a lot more energy in the mid to upper treble. This pushes it much closer on the boundary of sibilance and any tracks that are sibiant prone will come out in TH-X00. However, this gives TH-X00 more liveliness and sparkle up top. Cymbals splash and sizzle a bit hot, but really sounds fast and crisp. Treble will definitely be more fatiguing with TH-X00 than Cascade and any treble sensitive people might not do well with TH-X00.

LCD2C: This is quite an unfair comparison in that LCD2C is fully open back and planar, but these two headphones fall in the same price category as well as both lean toward a darker signature. With LCD2C, the sub-bass to mid-bass response definitely feels more linear than Cascade. It isn’t as thunderous as Cascade, but instead it both attacks and decays faster which provides a more textured feel. While bass quality on LCD2C is superb, it isn’t elevated so it isn’t for bassheads in the way that Cascade is. Microdynamics on LCD2C bass is excellent and while Cascade doesn’t ever feel lacking, it can’t keep up with LCD2C’s speed and technicalities. LCD2C does a much better job in the cohesive transition from bass to mids as it manages to be a bass focused headphone, but the bass doesn’t overwhelm the mix like it does with Cascade. It is a much cleaner sound overall. Both Cascade and LCD2C feel similar in the mids to treble, though I think Cascade might be even darker than LCD2C as LCD2C has just a bit more shimmer in treble with cymbals ringing clearer and more pronounced, yet it is never harsh. LCD2C is overall a smoother and more refined sound that feels much more open even if it doesn’t have a particularly wide soundstage. But both headphones have a similar darker, laid-back presentation that is easy on the ears and not super detailed oriented.


Best implementation of Product Reviews?
#19

I could never get a good fit with this headphone. Pads were too narrow at the opening and it was very easy to break the seal when moving about. The headband would slide back when laying down. Putting the Atticus on afterwards was a pillowy relief.


#20

I got to try these today at Headphone bar… I really enjoyed them, comfort was great for the short time I listened to them. The bass to me wasn’t too overwhelming. I listened to them out of the Fireflies amp (such a good looking amp I need it in my life). The Cascade is really well built and has a solid quality feel to them. I was rather impressed by them… Will put them on my list of wants to have!