Campfire Audio Ponderosa on a rock

Campfire Audio Ponderosa Review

In this feature, Thomas reviews the Campfire Audio Ponderosa, which is a new 5 custom balanced armature driver universal IEM tuned for discerning listeners. It is priced at $799.

Disclaimer: This sample unit was sent to me in exchange for our honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links or services. I thank the team at Campfire Audio for their support.

Click here to read more about Campfire Audio products we previously covered on Headfonics.

Note that this article follows our current scoring guidelines which you can read in more detail here.

Campfire Audio Ponderosa on a rock
Campfire Audio Ponderosa Review
The custom 5 BA driver Campfire Audio Ponderosa is technically capable and versatile IEM with a widespread appeal thanks to its warm, robust low-end, and energetic, but non-fatiguing mid and upper range performance. It’s easy to drive and isolates well from background noise.
Sound Quality
Comfort & Isolation
Slide here to add your score on the gear!34 Votes
Versatile sound signature
Customization options
Excellent ergonomics
Moderate soundstage size
Some harshness in the lower treble
Sensitive BA drivers
Award Score

In late 2023 Campfire Audio released a line of four earphones under the all-new Chromatic Series: Cascara, Ponderosa, Supermoon, and Bonneville. The Ponderosa is the second most affordable of the bunch and one of the more affordable models across Campfire Audio’s current lineup.

The Chromatic Series is unique within Campfire Audio’s showcase in the level of customization available. For each model, you can select between custom and universal fit styles, three cable terminations, two accessory packages, and two different color options.

Each model also delivers sound via differing driver architectures. The Ponderosa uses only balanced armatures, in this case, five per side; two for highs, one for mids, and two for lows.

If this seems familiar, it’s the same configuration found in the universally acclaimed Andromeda models Campfire Audio is best known for. While there are similarities in the way the Ponderosa is tuned, there are some significant differences as well, and one does not replace the other.

Campfire Audio Ponderosa beside Cascara and Andromeda

Tech Highlights

Campfire Audio is no stranger to innovation, having patented several unique technologies and design philosophies that go into their products. Unsurprisingly, the Ponderosa utilizes numerous technologies found within Campfire Audio’s portfolio.

First on board is their Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber; or T.A.E.C., a driver housing that aids in tuning. In the Ponderosa, it is applied to the dual high-range armatures and serves to improve detail while allowing their output to integrate smoothly with the other drivers.

The Ponderosa incorporates the concept of Phase Harmony Engineering. This is a tuning philosophy where frequency ranges are sectioned off and applied to select drivers in the setup.

This tuning is achieved through the physical design of the earphone and improves how the incorporated drivers interact with each other. It can eliminate problems with phase while enhancing technical capabilities like imaging, separation, resolution, and soundstage.

The shell of the Ponderosa features Campfire Audio’s Solid Body Design. This is a 3D-printed housing in which the drivers are directly installed and act as structurally critical components.

The internals are also designed to complement the drivers and aid in tuning the signature. The final product is solid and reliable, the result of being purpose-built around the drivers and routing ports themselves.

Campfire Audio Ponderosa on leaves on the ground


The Ponderosa’s universal shell design, along with the whole of the Chromatic Series, is based on the average of the thousands of ear impressions Campfire Audio has cataloged from custom-fit earphone orders. It should then be no surprise that even the universal fit Ponderosa looks custom in nature. 

Delicate contours make up most of the 3D-printed acrylic shell. Breaking up the otherwise smooth, monotone design are hand-polished, chrome stainless steel nozzles and a vented backing that houses Campfire Audio’s beryllium/copper MMCX ports.

The nozzles are of the same design found on their latest products with one central hole surrounded by seven smaller holes. The walls of the MMCX ports look to use less material when compared to those on past products, but I have no doubt they will remain long-lasting if my past experiences are any indication.

The Chromatic series fits in with the visual direction of Campfire Audio’s custom earphones, without completely abandoning the various designs they popularized in the past.

While the shift away from an all-metal housing may seem like a misstep, in practice, the Ponderosa feels no less premium than other models in the lineup, plus it comes with additional benefits.

Campfire Audio Ponderosa nozzles

Comfort & Isolation

Those benefits are general fitment and the way this earphone passively blocks outside noise. These aspects are a step above other models I’ve tried from the brand.

Starting with fit, incorporating a custom style to the design of the shell means it slots into the ear like it was made to be there. Weight distribution is excellent given the shells fill the entirety of the outer ear.

The parts of the shell that touch the ear are perfectly smooth, so you don’t have to worry about hot spots causing discomfort or constantly having to adjust the fit to regain a proper seal. Once in place, the Ponderosa can remain untouched.

Given the Ponderosa’s ear-filling size, there isn’t much opportunity for outside noise to squeeze by. Sure, there is a slender vent on each housing, but that does little to hinder passive isolation and helps prevent discomfort from air pressure upon insertion.

Taking the Ponderosa to my local coffee shop and wearing them without any music playing, you can hear the chatter and clatter of the local wildlife going about their day. It’s quite muted though, meaning I can’t carry on a conversation without removing at least one earpiece.

With music playing, environmental noise is greatly reduced. I never felt the need to raise the volume to compensate for my environment and could continue to listen at my typically low volumes to protect my hearing.

The design works wonders for comfort and isolation, but one potential downside is present. The universal Ponderosa is larger than average and on the brink of what my ear will accept comfortably.

If the Ponderosa were any larger, the wearing experience would have been compromised. If you have smaller ears, stick with a custom shell, or opt for a more compact model like the Andromeda.


The included silicone tips are nothing to write home about as they’re the same generic set included with countless other earphones. Thankfully, they pair exceptionally well with the Ponderosa and provide a reliable fit and good isolation.

I tried Final Audio Type E, Sony Hybrid, and several other small-bore tips, but they all boosted mid-bass more than I liked. Alternative wide bore tips like those from JVC and the SpinFit CP145 maintained the same basic signature while using higher-quality materials.

Since the stock tips were comfortable and sealed reliably, I saw no reason to move away from them during my time with the Ponderosa.

If you simply want a higher-quality tip that affords the same isolation and comfort levels, JVC’s basic replacement silicone tips are a good performer and quite affordable.

If feel you need a deeper inserting tip that affords a bit more isolation while maintaining a wide bore, SpinFit’s CP145 tips do the trick.

Campfire Audio Ponderosa cable

Stock Cable

The Ponderosa comes with the Time Stream cable, standard for all products in the Chromatic Series.

The Time Stream cable features a flat, wide, quad-strand, ribbon-style design. Within the non-migratory PVC jacket are enameled silver-plated copper wires with 8 conductors per strand.

My sample was terminated with a standard 3.5mm jack. Also available are balanced options in 2.5mm and 4.4mm sizes.

Except for the chin cinch, cable hardware is color-coded to the earphone it comes with, vibrant green for the Ponderosa. If you prefer, you can opt for a standard black colorway at the time of ordering.

The straight plug, splitter, chin cinch, and MMCX plugs are all rubber and quite chunky in design. Pre-formed ear guides round out the features.

Cable noise is minimal in terms of rubs or bumps; however, I found the ear guides to create some noise when jostled. The chin cinch goes a long way toward mitigating this and is a welcome inclusion.

The ribbon design is perfect for someone who wears the cable underneath their clothing. The sheath slides smoothly and doesn’t stick to shirts, and the flat design hides that it is even there.

It is heavier than most of Campfire Audio’s previous stock cables at 24.2g, but the improvements in durability and usability are worth it. Not to mention, this cable does not tangle unless you deliberately do so, and bend memory is minimal.

It is also inexpensive should you want to pick up another in a different termination, and/or with all-metal hardware. The all-metal version cannot be optioned with the Ponderosa and is only available separately.

Campfire Audio Ponderosa accessories

Packaging & Accessories

Campfire Audio does a good job with environmentally friendly packaging for their products. The Ponderosa is no exception, showing up in a wide, squat, very green cardboard box, completely free of inserts or documentation.

The sample of the Ponderosa we were sent included the Essential accessory kit. This is a simplified accessory package that includes only the essentials necessary to use the Ponderosa.

Along with the Ponderosa earpieces, you get Campfire’s new Time Stream Cable which we covered earlier, the Breezy Bag, a Breezy Bag Micro, a cleaning tool, Campfire Audio pin, as well as silicone and Marshmallow foams tips in small, medium, and large sizes.

Our sample also came with a cleaning cloth which isn’t noted anywhere as an included accessory.

If you opt for the Deluxe accessories, you get a leather case instead of the Breezy Bag, a cushioned cable bag, three Time Stream cables in different terminations, along with the Breezy Bag micro, silicone, and foam tips, pin, and cleaning tool from the Essential kit.

It would be nice to see Campfire Audio take inspiration from the competition and instead of offering multiple cables, include just one but with swappable terminations like DUNU’s Quick-Switch Plug. This would also better fit with their environmentally conscious attitude.

Sound Impressions


The Ponderosa provides listeners with a jack-of-all-trades sound that works with pretty much everything you toss at it. The emphasized upper mids and lower treble guide the Ponderosa’s tune, giving it an energetic presence that helps balance out a warm, and visceral low-end presentation.

Except for some occasional harshness in the lower treble, the Ponderosa’s sound is smooth and organic throughout the entire range.


The low end of the Ponderosa finds a smart balance between lower and upper bass emphasis with neither taking precedence. Extension is good resulting in deep notes providing a satisfying amount of visceral feedback without becoming overwhelming or distracting.

Notes are well-controlled without coming across as loose or sloppy, with a pleasing amount of texture available for gritty passages.

The drivers in use are also quick with controlled impacts and can effectively discern individual notes among congested passages that would trip up less competent products.

There is a fair amount of warmth present in the mid-bass which helps sweeten and naturalize the presentation. However, those who are used to, or prefer, a more neutral display of bass might find it colors the sound more than they’d like.

This can make the Ponderosa boomy at times, smoothing out what are otherwise entirely competitive levels of resolution.

Campfire Audio Ponderosa paired with ddHiFi TC44C


The Ponderosa’s midrange is lush and full, with an upper-mid lift that gives vocals a strong presence. This is thankfully accomplished without so much emphasis that the tune becomes overly aggressive or fatiguing.

The warmth that has been dialed into the Ponderosa’s tune does a great job of keeping things natural and realistic, though mid-pitch male vocals can come across as a touch wooden.

In general, it thickens up the presentation, giving vocals and instruments plenty of weight and body but not at the expense of clarity.

Vocal and instrumental details are captured and reproduced with a respectable level of information. Breathy vocals are particularly well-rendered, with a natural texturing that can be distracting and over-sharpened through a more analytic-sounding tune.


The treble presentation of the Ponderosa is focused on the presence region, resulting in a clear, articulate sound. Extension beyond this is limited though, and as a result, the amount of shimmer and vibrancy on offer is limited.

It is still enough to ensure a certain level of energy is present, in line with the rest of the tune, but not to the extent of causing listening fatigue. The result is that sibilance is managed better than other products in the line I’ve heard, like the 2019 and 2020 variants of the Andromeda.

Notes are crisp and tight without any splash or slop that can be distracting and cheapen the experience. The presentation here has a good amount of weight and thickness to it as well, avoiding coming across as thin or sharp.

While the presentation is exceptionally smooth, there are instances of harshness with hi-hats in the lower treble. This is a rare case of the Ponderosa losing composure and only cropped up a few times during testing, and generally on rock and metal tracks.

Staging & Dynamics

The sound stage of the Ponderosa is moderate in size, especially for a Campfire Audio product, but well balanced between width, depth, and height.

While certainly not small, sounds don’t extend much beyond the outer ear, falling somewhere between the intimacy of the IO and slightly above-average Holocene.

What it lacks in sheer size it makes up for in technical competence. Channel-to-channel imaging is precise and accurate, making it easy to follow sounds as they move.

It works particularly well with competitive gaming as you can track footsteps or other key sounds accurately. Trailing effects are also particularly satisfying to follow as they sweep from ear to ear.

The Ponderosa also does a good job of layering and separating individual track elements which gives the presentation a strong sensation of depth. Only on some extremely mid-bass heavy tracks do these qualities falter, as the layers begin to smear and blend.

Click on page 2 for my recommended pairings and selected comparisons.

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