Campfire Audio Holocene

Campfire Audio Holocene Review

The Campfire Audio Holocene is the company’s latest universal IEM featuring a custom triple BA driver internal configuration. It is priced at $649. 

Disclaimer: The Campfire Audio Holocene sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion in this review. We thank the team at Campfire Audio for giving us this opportunity.

To read more about Campfire Audio products we reviewed on Headfonics click here.

Note, this 2-page review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2021 which you can read up on here.

Campfire Audio Holocene
Campfire Audio Holocene
The Campfire Audio Holocene excels in terms of technical capability with a tuning that will appeal to those who are looking for a distinctly 'audiophile' experience. This is a monitor high on detail and articulation but without spending huge amounts of money to get there. 
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8.6
8.6
Reader's Score

The Holocene is the final review from us from the batch of 4 IEMs released in 2021 from Campfire Audio. It is perhaps the most impressive of the four also in our opinion, (more on that on page 2).

The other three, Honeydew, Satsuma, and Mammoth all had what I might describe as a targeted audience such as the entry-level basshead, midrange vocalist fan, or in the case of the Mammoth, the ultra-basshead. 

Going by our review process here and measurements, the Holocene has a much broader appeal and seems to be aimed at the general audiophile enthusiast without blowing the budget with a reasonable $649 price tag. 

Campfire Audio Holocene
Copyright Campfire Audio 2021

Tech Highlights

The Holocene is a triple driver universal monitor with a single custom-tuned BA driver for the highs, and two independent custom-tuned BA drivers covering the mids and the lows.

There is no mention of T.E.A.C. technology being used for the Holocene drivers either which is consistent with the Mammoth highs driver configuration which did not make use of it either.

However, as with their recent releases, the Holocene drivers are implemented and optimized in combination with the company’s latest 3D printed internal acoustic chamber design. 

This monitor is rated at just 5.4Ω so it’s a very low load and a stark contrast to the much more demanding single BA driver entry-level Satsuma. It is more consistent with the very easy-to-drive mantra of their high-end BA models such as the Andromeda 2020.

At just 6.99 mVrms to hit 94dB SPL, the Holocene is one of Campfire Audio’s most sensitive IEMs. Only the Solaris SE to my knowledge is more sensitive at 6.54 mVrms. The Andromeda 2020 and the Ara sit a little higher at just over 7 mVrms.

Campfire Audio Holocene

Design

The Holocene design is classic Campfire Audio with that 2nd gen aluminum and anodized edged shell but also some of those new funky glow-in-the-dark accents that we first encountered on the Mammoth. 

We have a new color scheme for the body shell and faceplate finishing called ‘umber’ which looks like a darker evil twin of older Jupiter CK light brown aesthetic from a few years back. There is no venting pot on the Holocene either given that it is an all-BA design and does not require one.

As with all of these classic designs the build is finished with 3 black tri-lobe screws on the plates and topped off with a gold shine from the new rounded beryllium/copper MMCX connectors. 

The Holocene also comes with Campfire Audio’s new stainless-steel spout which has been used consistently on all the latest IEM launches. This version is similar to the Mammoth with a black PVD finish rather than the silver looks from the Andromeda spout.

The final little nuanced change becomes very noticeable when you turn the lights out and that’s a glow in the dark CA logo on the front faceplate. This is a similar design approach from the Mammoth with the etched CA logo on the faceplates using a luminant white strip to give it a bit of a ‘party vibe’. 

Campfire Audio Holocene

Comfort & Isolation

Because of the familiar edged design, the overall comfort levels of the Holocene should not be a surprise to most recent Campfire Audio IEM owners.

In fact, the dimensions of the driver shells are almost identical to the Mammoth. The nozzle lengths are roughly the same also so the insertion depth is good and should keep the edged corning reasonably far from your concha bumps to prevent them from being uncomfortable.

The Holocene has no venting port so the level of isolation will be superior to the likes of the Mammoth and the entry-level Honeydew who both need those ports for the dynamic driver to breathe.

Tips

The rest of the comfort and isolation levels will be determined by the choice of tips with the stock foams probably creating the most secure fit but the supplied Final E tips are still the most comfortable set of tips for me personally.

The foam and Final E tips offer fairly similar levels of isolation with the in-house wide bore silicone tips noticeably inferior for my ears in terms of blocking out the noise. You might be luckier than me but this is normal for my wide ear canals.

Of the supplied tips that fit well for me, the Final E will sound the cleanest with the best dynamic range in the lows. However, I also enjoyed the foam’s natural and slightly relaxed performance this time around. Vocals also sound a bit more euphonic with the foam tips with less treble contrast creeping in compared to the Final E alternatives. 

Campfire Audio Holocene

Stock Cable

Campfire Audio has stuck with a similar Smoky Litz cable that came with the Mammoth instead of the Smoky Lite Edition used with the Satsuma and Honeydew entry-level models.

Like the Mammoth cable, there has been a few playful modifications to this version with the addition of ‘Glow-In-The-Dark’ overmolds on both the MMCX connectors and the 3.5mm plug. Hence the name, ‘Smoky Glow’ because they do indeed light up with a pale green glow when the lights go down. 

The same technique has been applied to the zipper for the new carry case so you get this sort of quaint ‘acid rave’ early 90’s glow stick kind of vibe to the whole ensemble. I also can’t get the concept of a homage to the Portland Holocene Club out of my mind either. This is a famous nightclub on Morrison St that’s been on the go since 2003.

The actual internal wire is the same silver-plated copper (SFC) Litz 4-wire they have been using as stock on their IEMs outside of the Solaris for the last 2 years. It is finished with a twisted ‘smoky’ toned jacket and black aluminum splitter barrel with a matching chin cinch that articulates quite easily and stays in place.

The cable is 1.15m long, terminated with a right-angle 3.5mm TRS jack and those beryllium MMCX connectors on the other side. This is a quiet cable, no physical noise on the wire, and comfortable on the ear with those lightweight and soft spring memory hooks next to the connectors. 

Campfire Audio Holocene

Packaging & Accessories

Campfire Audio continues to use their USA Made “French Paper Company” Paper square packaging with the bright and breezy patterns of the previous few releases.

This time we have an umber or brown base box with a mix of blues and greens on the front with a passing resemblance to their new fresh looking ‘Epoch’ carrying case. Inside you get the following accessories all neatly packaged in their twin cushioned mesh draw-string pouches:

  • Final e-tips (xs/s/m/l/xl)
  • Foam Marshmallow tips S/M/L
  • Silicone single-bore tips S/M/L
  • 3 x cushioned pockets (for the monitors and foam tips)
  • Cleaning brush/pick
  • New “Epoch” SEAQUAL® YARN carry case
  • Campfire Audio pin badge

‘Epoch’ Carry Case

It’s a similar pastel color collage styling to the ‘All-Seeing Eye’ zipper case of the Mammoth, except without that eye. And yes, the Holocene carrying case also uses the new upcycled Marine Plastic SEAQUAL® YARN which creates a nice dense but flexible and soft feel to the handling.

It is still the classic half oval zipper pouch with the faux fur lining and made in Portugal but it has this pop from the rainforest greens and aquatic blues interlaced with irregular shapes and stellar planetary clusters which is a familiar company astrological nod.

It also has that lume-glow zipper and front logo sticker matching the cable’s finish and first seen on the Mammoth. It creates a fun glow-in-the-dark outline when the lights are turned off or in dim lighting conditions.

In terms of form and function, the new case operates as before with some expandability for your cable, tips, and drivers to fit in. The very cool faux fur lining and its semi-stiffened outer should give the case enough protection against knocks as well as being flexible enough to fit inside an oversized pocket.

Campfire Audio Holocene

Sound Impressions

Summary

The Holocene is probably the most mature sounding sub-1k IEM Campfire Audio has done to date and certainly one of the most flexible sound signatures for pairing. This is more of a classic audiophile tuning and it will appeal to those looking for something with a focus on articulation and detail.

Having said that, this is not a Harman Target tuned sound signature with a fairly relaxed midrange but it is not as overt and colored as say the Mammoth or the Honeydew. Instead, the Holocene delivers more of a high-fidelity tuning with some excellent technical chops in terms of micro-detail, instrumental separation, and overall clarity. 

I have heard some call this the Andromeda Junior and I don’t really agree with that statement. This is more like an Ananda Jnr with its gently elevated bass response, neutral to slightly dipped mids, and cleaner-upper treble shimmer.

This is not an in-your-face presentation dripping in aggression, but it does very well with that triple BA arrangement in terms of space. In doing so, it presents a fairly holographic imaging experience.

The Holocene may lack the power and depth of say the Mammoth or even the Andromeda 2020 but the imaging for spatial cues is very pleasing and easy to pick out. Nothing really feels condensed or congested with the Holocene.

Frequency Response

As mentioned, CA has not gone for an in-vogue Harman Target curve tuning with the Holocene. Instead, it is very slightly elevated on the low-end but still fairly linear from 20Hz up to 400Hz and just into the lower-mids where the dip is very gradual to about 1k.

From there you will get a fairly distinctive 2-5k drop which is where a lot of that relaxed presentation draws from and some of that perceived space also. Vocals will sit back a bit in terms of imaging though they do retain a nice clean and clear tone so whilst it does not sound congested it is not an overly vocal-centric experience either.

I have seen this relaxed tuning a lot in some HIFIMAN headphones and it is something that often takes the sting out of any potential sibilant overtones and splashy lower pitching percussion. 

In turn, the lack of lower treble aggression allows CA to tune that final BA to push a little harder on the upper treble with a stronger 8-10k elevation. This delivers plenty of headroom and a delicate shimmer in terms of timbral coloration through the upper mids. 

Timbre

The Holocene timbre is a nuanced mix of low-end warmth contrasted against some upper treble sparkle and shimmer. Given it is an all-BA configuration the general tone is very coherent though slightly to the drier side with a short note decay and a generally quick and clean attack. 

The instrumental note body is generally neutral to light though I do find the low-end to deliver a little more body sub-50Hz compared to the likes of the ultra-flat bass response of the competing triple BA Gaudio Nair, for example. Not quite as warm and bloomed as the Lime Ears psi though which tends to veer to the generally warm and analog coloration throughout. 

The fine timbral balance shies away from a strong bass fundamental so not a heavy-handed bass response but in return, you get some really impressive control and articulation that does not overpower that dipped midrange. 

Vocals are more to the pure and clean side also than anything thick-sounding or shrill with female vocals doing very well to avoid any unnecessary sibilant characterization from the additional upper treble coloration.

High pitching percussion timbre is definitely more to the clean and sparkling side with an odd-harmonic bias and light on the body. I can see why CA has dipped most of the lower treble to keep a lid on percussion timbre from becoming too distracting. As a result, it shimmers with some impressive energy, extension, and presence without sounding annoyingly splashy.

Staging

The Holocene has some excellent staging qualities with an impressive airy treble reach, good headroom, and a midrange high on perceived spaciousness.

Depth is so-so as you would expect from a single BA for the lows so it lacks outright power with a weaker fundamental for low pitching instruments but its control and layering are above average.

Vocals do sit back also with that dipped midrange curve but they do not suffer from being any bloated bass bloom pushing down on them so they remain relatively clear if somewhat distant. 

Imaging, in general, is very good with that upper treble extension throwing a nice little sheen on nuanced spatial cues making them very easy to pick out. Throw in the triple BA above average articulation and you get a staging performance heavy in micro-detail and surprisingly holographic. 

Click on page 2 for pairings and select comparisons

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