Campfire Polaris Review – Creature of Coherence

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Comparisons –

Oriveti New Primacy ($300): The New Primacy is a really solid sub $500 hybrid earphone that is well rounded in all regards. Both the Oriveti and Campfire earphones employ a completely metal construction though the New Primacy is much smaller and boasts a lower profile fit, perfect for sleeping. The New Primacy is also vented though the vent is on the inner face to they don’t suffer from wind noise. Both have fantastic MMCX removable cables, though I did prefer the Polaris’ cable ergonomically since it felt a little sturdier and had a smoother texture.

Sonically, the two are quite different, the New Primacy pursuing a very balanced yet smooth sound and the Polaris aiming more for engagement and clarity. Both have very defined bass responses though the New Primacy sounds slightly more controlled and better balanced with the midrange. On the flipside, the Polaris has much better extension and better definition throughout, it also produces more solidity to its sub-bass and considerably more mid-bass fullness which will suit more listeners. Mids are more even on the New Primacy without the lower midrange dip of the Polaris. Lower mids are comparable, the New Primacy doesn’t quite have the clarity or resolution of the Polaris but it is more natural and linear. Upper mids go to the Polaris, clarity is increased and the detailing is considerably improved over the Oriveti without sounding noticeably less natural. Highs are probably the most comparable, both have a little extra lower treble energy with a smoother high end though the Polaris is much more detailed than the New Primacy and more aggressive. The Polaris also has slightly more extension and increased resolution to upper treble instruments in addition to a more spacious and airy presentation. Of course, the New Primacy is half the price and features many of the same strengths as the Polaris though the Campfire does provide plenty of improvements to justify that price jump.

Dunu DK-3001 ($500): Dunu have been working on some really interesting models lately and the DK-3001 is definitely one the most notable. At face value, the Dunu’s compact stainless steel shells would appear to be much more ergonomic than Campfire’s but during wear it’s quite the opposite, the Polaris conforms much better to the ear while the DK-3001 tends to produce hotspots. Both have removable MMCX cables, the Dunu also comes with a balanced cable from factory though the Campfire cable is easier to live with due to the strangely long memory wire on the Dunu. The same can be said when it comes to sound, the Dunu has the upper hand on paper with its 3 armatures mated to a mammoth 13mm dynamic driver though again, in real world testing, the Polaris’ finely tuned dual driver config comfortably keeps pace.

The first thing listeners will notice on the Dunu is its mid-bass richness and definition that the Polaris can’t match. On the flipside, the Campfire rewards listeners with a faster, cleaner and considerably tighter response that resolves more detail overall though its more balanced tones may not suite those craving outright power and lushness from their low end. The Polaris has more midrange clarity while also being more natural and consistent in its voicing where the Dunu is a touch more detailed and slightly more layered. Treble is interesting, the Dunu has more extension and appreciably more foreground detail though they are slightly peaky and tend to get crunchy when the track gets complex. The Polaris is still very well detailed but is otherwise on the smoother side. The Polaris doesn’t extend effortlessly like the DK-3001 but it does have some nice air and sounds generally cleaner like the 64Audio U3. I did find this to be a very interesting comparison though ultimately, the Polaris is a more coherent sounding earphone than the Dunu. It isn’t quite as detailed or technical but it is more balanced throughout, cleaner and more concise. Most importantly, the Polaris’ ergonomics are leaps and bounds ahead where the Dunu is only really suitable for shorter listening sessions in quieter environments. If you can manage the ergonomics of the Dunu, it is a very real competitor with more bass fullness and treble detail at the cost of integration.

64Audio U3 ($500): Along with Campfire, 64Audio are cherished within the audio community though I feel that their products have failed to capture the same audience as CA. Their earphones are also tonally excellent and their proprietary APEX modules grant them with sublime soundstage and separation that is truly unique. I think the reason for this comes down to the build and design of their earphones, the U3’s housings are all plastic, unorthodox in shape and very large in size. While I had no issue finding a comfortable, stable fit, I know many others that really struggle. The Polaris has no such issues, though sharp in looks, the Campfire shell fits ergonomically and isolation is superior to the semi-open 64Audio earphones.

In terms of sound, the U3 is one of 64Audio’s u-shaped earphones and a direct competitor to the Polaris. Though sub-bass is tight and impactful for an armature earphone, the BA based U3 lacks the bass depth and rumble of the hybrid Polaris. Both have exceptional bass definition and texture though the U3 is slightly clearer within the lower registers since bass is leaner. Mids are more balanced and linear on the U3, especially lower mids, though both have similarly high levels of clarity without thinning out or sounding unnatural. Due to those APEX modules, the U3 is more separated than the Polaris with improved layering and similar if not slightly better resolution. The Polaris still sounds more realistic to my ear with more midrange body and a cleaner response, they are an exceptionally well-integrated hybrid. Treble is again similar to a point, they both have a little more energy and aggression heightening engagement. That being said, the U3, like the Dunu, extends more than the Polaris which smooths off after lower treble. The Polaris does actually resolve more detail in its upper midrange/lower treble but after that, higher details are more defined on the U3. Finally, both have excellent soundstage presentations with the U3 providing slightly more space and separation and the Polaris excelling with imaging precision. The U3 is an excellent and rather underappreciated earphone around this price that falls into the same trap as the Dk-3001. It is more sonically comparable to the Polaris, only lacking the bass depth and upper midrange detail of the Campfire, but it is ergonomically hit or miss depending on individual ear anatomy; again, I found them to be perfectly fine if not quite as comfy as the Campfire’s over longer sessions.

Campfire Jupiter ($800): The Jupiter was Campfire’s first armature flagship and one that played an integral role in the company’s popularization. And while it may no longer be as cutting edge as it was at its inception, the Jupiter remains a very strong performer. Both share the same aesthetic and basic design with the Jupiter assuming a more coherent colour scheme, full Cerakote finish and a shorter metal nozzle. Unsurprisingly, both have similar levels of comfort and stability though the vented Polaris is noticeably more susceptible to wind noise and isolation suffers slightly.

Sonically, the Jupiter still holds a notable lead on technical ability, the Polaris simply doesn’t have the balance, resolution and detail that the Jupiter possesses. In return, the Polaris has appreciably more bass extension and rumble in addition to a generally more accessible tonality. Chiefly, the Polaris has more bass heft and increased clarity throughout its entire midrange, treble is also a little more aggressive to imbue the sound with some extra engagement. This highlights the importance of tonality and personal preference in this subjective hobby because I can see some listeners preferring the Polaris due to tuning alone. However, when compared to the very balanced Jupiter, lower mids are recessed on the Polaris and vocals don’t quite sound as natural. Treble also takes a hit, extension and body don’t match the Jupiter nor resolution or detail. The Jupiter is a lot more nuanced and images considerably better. Mids have a large bump in resolution with layering and space that the Polaris fails to match. This outcome isn’t unsurprising given that the Jupiter is considerably more expensive, but the same general style of sound and exquisite build quality underpins both models. Buyers will also have to consider personal preference since the Polaris’s V-shaped tuning is a lot more accessible and I think a lot will appreciate the longer nozzles too. That said, those looking for a more balanced, technical listen will definitely find it with the higher-end Jupiter, it very much remains pertinent despite its age.

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About Author

Avid writer, passionate photographer and full-time student, Ryan's audio origins and enduring interests lie within all aspects of portable audio. An ongoing desire to bring quality audio to the regular reader underpins his reviewer ethos as he seeks to bring a new perspective on the cutting edge and budget dredge alike.

14 Comments

  1. Magnus on

    Would be nice with a comparison between Polaris and Dorado. Especially regarding SQ, sound stage and how they handle poor recordings.

    • Ryan Soo on

      Hi Magnus,

      I did briefly have the Dorado in the past but can only compare from memory, I have the Lyra II at the moment and will be sure to provide plenty of comparison in my full review. The Dorado is older but pursues a similar style of tuning at a higher level of performance. Its bass is just as full but more depth focused and very controlled. Mids don’t have the same issue as the Polaris, they are more linear and natural overall but also lack the clarity of the Polaris. Treble extends considerably further on the Dorado, the soundstage is larger and imaging is more accurate. I don’t think either are super forgiving of low-quality file types given their more resolving nature however, the Polaris may sound better for poorly mastered albums due to its clearer sound, the Dorado is more resolving yet but also quite thick.

  2. Clarence on

    Hey Ryan, I know that this question is not related to the review, but what IEM would you recommend for at most $50 with preferably a warm sound signature with the LEAST sound isolation? I want to walk in the streets with these IEMs and low sound isolation is important for safety for incoming vehicles. I know that I could go the earphone route, but I would prefer in-ears if possible. Thanks!

    • Ryan Soo on

      Hi Clarence,

      No worries, I’ve been really enjoying the Final E3000, it’s semi-open so isolation is mediocre at best but they have a very nice warm sound with a lot of detail and range for their price, I’ll have my full review up in a few days. The EX1 2nd Gen is also a solid semi-open option but it has a thinner sound that may not work so well for your tastes. If you have any other questions, feel free to send me a PM on Head-fi, my user is ryanjsoo.

      Cheers,
      Ryan.

  3. Rich on

    Nice review Ryan. Have you ever tried CA’s other mid-priced offering the Lyra II? If so how does the Polaris compare? I own the Lyra IIs and love them. Great all day comfort and relaxed sound with strong dynamic driver bass. Can listen to them all day with no fatigue. Like the Polaris, the Lyra IIs aren’t turned for analytical listeners but tuned for folks like me who just want to pop in the earphones and enjoy their music. Also similar to the Polaris they scale well and sound good from portable sources but really sing when used with my Erzetich desktop headphone amp or my Aurender Flow. The Lyra IIs may also be one of the best values out there as well as I have seen them on Massdrop for $499. Would be interested to see a review of the Lyra IIs on the headphone list.

    • Ryan Soo on

      Hi Rich,

      Thanks for your comments, I have tried the Lyra II but I can’t provide direct comparison, only some comments from memory. They have a similar low-end, perhaps the Lyra II has a bit more depth but decay is slower. The Polaris has more midrange clarity and is more detailed with a little more lower treble aggression where the Lyra II is smoother. The Lyra II will fit a lot better for those with smaller ears and has no wind noise issues. I think they’re in the same ballpark tonality wise with the Polaris being the more engaging counterpart.

      • Rich on

        Thanks for your comments Ryan. Based on what you said i would consider the Polaris more of a sidegrade to the Lyra IIs vs an upgrade whereas the Vegas would be an upgrade. Have you tried the Beyerdynamic Xelento Remote? Would be interested to see a review of them.

        • Ryan Soo on

          No problem Rich, I would very much like a review of the Xelento’s too but haven’t been able to contact Beyer! I have tried them and along with the Vega, I do think they perform at a higher level than the Polaris and Lyra II overall but whether they will be tonally suitable for you is another question entirely. You are right in that the Polaris isn’t really an upgrade to the Lyra II, it’s rather another similarly priced option with different tuning. I will be sure to pester Beyer more in the future, hopefully, I’ll be to make more concrete comparison then.

          • Rich on

            At some point would be interesting to see a universal single dynamic driver IEM shootout. Even though the trend is to how many BA drivers you can cram in one earpiece, it seems as though single dynamic driver IEMs are making a comeback proving it is the implementation and tuning of the driver rather than number of drivers that determines audio quality. Would like to know how the Vega, Lyra II, IE800, Dita Answer Truth & Dream and other higher end models etc compare to one another.

  4. Juan luis on

    How compared with Noble Sage??

  5. CL on

    Thanks for the thorough review, i wanted to like the Polaris but what it does to certain male vocals, how it adds a thin, shouts telephonic to them is imho unacceptable for any iems over, say, 100$. But that’s just me.

    • Ryan Soo on

      I can see what people are saying about the lower midrange on these earphones, they are definitely more temperamental than a lot of other earphones but I found they were more natural than not. I suppose it depends on your music preferences and source synergy, the stock ear tips also suck a lot.

  6. John Lee on

    Have you ever heard the Sony Z5? Able to compare the hybrid sound between that and this?
    Thanks!

    • Ryan Soo on

      Sorry John,
      Haven’t had a chance to hear Sony’s in-ears since the XBA earphones since they aren’t available in my region. They do certainly look interesting, I’ll see if I can organize a review in the future,
      Ryan.

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