Spacious and open, Terrific build quality, Great technical ability, Tuneable, Scales incredibly well
Big sub-bass may overstep boundaries, Headband shape won’t suit everyone
The Cascade isn’t balanced, neutral or realistic, but executes its tuning through marvellous control and clear yet natural voicing.
Campfire Audio requires no introduction in the modern day, but just a few years ago, many were scratching their heads at cable manufacturer ALO Audio’s foray into in-ear monitors. It’s evident that their efforts were a huge success with the Andromeda and Vega quickly becoming benchmarks for their respective sound signatures and driver types. The Cascade represents the next step in the company’s evolution, as their first closed-back over-ear headphone.
Utilising 3 years of development and growing experience, Campfire offer a headphone featuring 42mm berrylium drivers and the same gorgeous build quality that we have come to expect from the company. With an isolating closed-back design combined with deep, plush lambskin ear pads, the Cascade strives to find versatility between home and portable use, catering towards audio enthusiasts of every kind. You can read more about the Cascade and treat yourself to one here.
I would like to thank Caleb from Campfire Audio very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the Cascade for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the headphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
It’s almost amusing to see the same packaging from Campfire’s in-ears expanded for the Cascade. Campfire’s signature box design makes a return as does their terrific zippered carrying case, this time scaled up in size. The included hard case is gorgeous with a full grain leather exterior and soft faux shearling interior that prevents the headphones from becoming scratched while providing some drop protection on top. Inside the case are the headphones themselves in addition to the included accessories within two paper pouches. One contains the cable and warranty/instructional papers with the other containing 4 pairs of filters that enable the user to fine-tune the sound of the headphones.
Sloping lines, smoothly formed edges and a smooth finish all define the Campfire’s first foray into a market of flashy and abstract portable designs. The Cascade rather comes across as subdued with a design language translated from their previous in-ears. Accordingly, we’re gifted the same unyielding metal construction and a sense of styling that is distinct and industrial if not as low-profile as competing models. In line with other premium portable headphones from Bowers and Wilkins and Bang and Olufsen to name examples, the Cascade makes use of lambskin leather that beautifully compliments its cool stainless steel/aluminium complexion. The result is a headphone that’s both solid and luxurious. Though the metalwork is immaculate, I do have qualm with the finishing on the headband as there’s no sealing strip where the leather meets the inner frame to prevent fraying.
Ergonomics are a strong point of the Cascade though it does come at the cost of portability relative to competitors. The headphones are in-between a home and conventional portable headphone in dimension, with very deep angled ear pads and a reasonably wide headband. In return, the headphones are very comfortable; their wide headband spreading weight evenly and their spacious, ultra-plush pads flattering with great long-term comfort. The pads magnetically attach, enabling easy replacement while permitting users to swap out sound tuning filters. I did find the headband to lack curvature, forming a mild hotspot on the top of my head after several hours of listening. That said, as its frame is made from stainless steel, I was able to form the headband into a more ergonomic shape (I take no responsibility for damage should you choose to do the same!).
The Cascade uses a traditional stepped headband slider. They were quite loose on my unit, lacking defined click, but with barely adequate tension to maintain their position. This could be unit specific, however, as other reviewers have not expressed similar concerns in private correspondence. Like Master & Dynamic’s headphones, I had to maximise the setting of the slider due to the shape of the headband. That said, Ken has expressed interest in an extended slider that would permit a larger range of adjustment on retail models. As a result of their strong seal, the Cascade can get a little hot though in return, they provide above average noise isolation. They don’t attenuate nearly as much as class-leading active noise cancellers from Bose and Sony or certain portable headphones such as the Oppo PM3, but suffice for public transport and commute when combined with their full sound.
Using their experience with cables, Campfire elected to use dual entry HD800 connectors on the Cascade; reasoning that, though not widely adopted, they have the lowest fail rate on the market. I didn’t personally experience any intermittency and both connectors engage with satisfying action. The cable itself is very pleasing too, with silver plated litz internals and a durable yet supple fabric sheath. The Cascade’s cable is smooth and compliant with zero memory and minimal microphonic noise. The terminations are well-relieved and Campfire’s pre-moulded connectors all look professional and coherent. Campfire offers a range of terminations, my 3.5mm variant has a pocket-friendly 45-degree plug, a wise choice for its intended uses.
Next Page: Sound, Comparisons & Verdict