Cardas A8 30th Anniversay ($350): The Cardas’ metal build is as magnificent as the Lyra II’s liquid alloy construction, but its brass construction feels even sturdier. It also isolates brilliantly but unfortunately, the cable is fully fixed and its cable-down fit makes it prone to microphonic noise. In listening, the A8 and Lyra II also draw many parallels, both are warm, full-bodied yet linear earphones with enhanced upper midrange clarity. Bass is similar on both in tone, the Lyra II is a little more linear, faster and more defined while the A8 serves up notably more visceral sub-bass, both have absolutely awesome extension for in-ears. Due to its greater balance, mids are notably cleaner and clearer on the Lyra II, where the A8 can sound somewhat veiled and dry by comparison.
Both sound clearer within the upper midrange but the A8 is more vocal recessed while the Lyra II is notably more realistic and resolving. Treble is the largest differentiator, the Lyra II is notably more extended, open and detailed. The A8 sounds rolled off and thin, clearly lacking the extension and resolution of the Lyra II. However, this does somewhat benefit the A8 when it comes to soundstage size, the A8 has more width and almost as much depth as the Lyra II if at the cost of separation and imaging. I still think the Cardas is a terrific earphone for the money, offering a lot of the experience of the Lyra II for half the price, but the Lyra II easily justifies the price increase in performance and ergonomics.
Flares Pro ($550-600): The Flares Pro is characterized by distinct brushed titanium housings whose small size doesn’t compromise solidity in the hand. They have excellent comfort and isolation due to their minute dimensions but can be prone to some stability issues with the wrong tips. Their cable is is removable at the y-split enabling users to connect an included Bluetooth module, I should note that Flare’s particular wireless implementation is the best I’ve come across by far. The Pro pursues a V-shaped tone in the same vein as the Sennheiser ie800 with enhanced clarity and a large middle treble boost. Bass is similar in tone, the Flare is cleaner, tighter and quicker with faster decay but it is slightly more reserved in its presentation. Mids are a little brighter on the Pro, with more neutral body and enhanced clarity. It is the more revealing earphone but some harshness and sibilance is present due to their lifted treble.
The Lyra II is a bit warmer and more natural but both find a nice balance between musicality and neutrality, they just sit on the opposite sides of the dark/bright spectrum. Treble is the Flare’s downfall, it extends very well and is incredibly detailed but timbre is way off, it sounds even more artificial than the ie800 but is similarly resolving at a lower price. The Lyra II is almost as detailed but sounds a lot smoother and more natural. Those looking for the most absolutely resolving earphone around this price, will no doubt find a lot to like with the Flares Pro, it has a super clean, crisp sound with great agility. The Lyra II is more weighted and considerably more realistic but also a little less defined within the lower frequencies and not quite as technically apt within the higher frequencies.
Dunu DK-3001 ($550): The DK-3001 has an incredibly solid stainless steel build undermined by a strangely designed cable and internal ridge that wears on the ear during longer listening. The Lyra II is more compact and far smoother with a large comfort and isolation advantage. The Dunu offers a sound that draws more parallels with the Polaris than Lyra II and lies in between the two in terms of overall balance, the Lyra II being the most balanced, the Polaris least so. It too is a u-shaped earphone though one that focusses more on deep-bass with a considerably cleaner lower-midrange than the Lyra II. Bass is a little less defined and dynamic than the Lyra on account of its less linear tuning though texturing is still very good. The Dunu has a markedly clearer midrange though vocals have more presence and body than the Polaris. As a result, it sounds more natural though still very slightly thin and raspy in the grand scheme of things.
The Lyra II offers quite the opposite with a warmer lower midrange and a less coloured, smoother upper midrange, it is less revealing but richer and more natural. That said, the difference between the two isn’t great enough to make the Lyra sound explicitly veiled or over-warmed by comparison as it can from the even more vivid Polaris. Treble is similar in approach but far different in listening, the Dunu is slightly more detailed and extends further, it is markedly more open sounding and far airier but can sound a little crunchy on complex tracks. On the contrary, the Lyra II is smoother and more refined while retaining a lot of detail. Both have excellent stages, the Dunu separates better on account of its extension and clarity though the Lyra II images better in general, both extend beyond the periphery of the head in size. The Dunu really is an outstanding earphone that I appreciate more and more with time though its awkward ergonomics really detract from the experience, and it isn’t as well-rounded as the Lyra II as a result.
Sennheiser ie800 ($599-899): The ie800 has even smaller housings made from a very tough ceramic. Both are comfortable, the ie800 has a more traditional cable down albeit shallow fit that isn’t nearly as stable and isolating as the Lyra II. In listening, the ie800 is markedly more v-shaped with a vastly more prominent high-end. The Lyra II has fuller bass while the ie800’s focus lies mostly within the sub-bass frequencies with less relative mid and upper bass. The ie800 is quicker but its sculpted nature means it can miss some details while the Lyra II’s more linear response is more resolving within the lower frequencies. Mids are brighter than the Lyra II by a fair margin, the ie800 has far greater clarity, slightly higher resolution and better separation but lacks the natural body and timbre of the Lyra II.
Highs also sparkle far more on the Senn and extensions stretches further into the highest registers. The ie800 has noticeably more air and shimmer though treble also sounds a lot more artificial than the Lyra II and detail retrieval ends up being similar on both due to a somewhat narrow peak on the Senn. The ie800 has an advantage when it comes to soundstage space due to its shallow, vented design, it also images well due to its faster sound though the Lyra II is more linear and accurate overall. This is certainly an interesting comparison, the ie800 is technically superior in many aspects but its bright tone with somewhat artificial timbre won’t be to everyone’s liking nor its questionable fit stability. The Lyra II ends up being the more versatile in-ear despite being less resolving though lovers of absolute clarity will love the Sennheiser.
Campfire Polaris ($599): The Polaris utilises the larger BA Campfire shell with sharper edges. That said, both were perfectly comfortable for me though the Lyra II isolates a bit more if you’re a frequent traveller. Both sit on the more musical, engaging side of neutral, the Lyra II is warmer and smoother while the Polaris is more v-shaped with greater clarity. The Polaris is bassier with a larger mid-bass hump while the Lyra II is thicker and more linear. Both have great definition, the Lyra is more textured, the Polaris is a little more agile. The Lyra II’s fuller bass produces a warmer midrange while the Polaris has a small dip into the midrange, making it sound more sculpted but also a lot clearer.
The Polaris is notably more vibrant and brighter within its midrange and treble, while the Lyra II sounds more realistic and natural. The Polaris’ treble is more aggressively detailed with a considerable bump in treble energy though the Lyra II is more linear, detailed and natural. Its greater midrange and treble body make it the more nuanced earphone though it doesn’t brings details to the fore like the Polaris. The Lyra II has better treble extension and resolution of background details, the Polaris has better separation while the Lyra impresses with greater stage depth and imaging. This comparison represents how two theoretically v-shaped earphones can sound completely different, the Lyra II has a little more technical ability though the Polaris is more orthodox in its tuning. Through this setup, Campfire provide buyers with two distinct flavours of V, smart move.
Campfire Jupiter ($799): The Jupiter shares the same shell as the Polaris but with a full Cerakote finish that makes it incredibly scratch resistant. As such, the Lyra II holds the same size and comfort advantage over the Jupiter though, being fully sealed, the Jupiter isolates the most of the bunch. Sonically, the Jupiter and Lyra II actually share quite a few similarities, both are warmer, fuller sounding earphones though the Jupiter represents a few step up in resolving power and balance at the cost of dynamics and bass extension. The Lyra II is bassier and a little more sculpted while the Jupiter, though warm and full, is even more linear throughout. The Lyra II has far more sub-bass slam and notably more visceral bass in general while the Jupiter is a lot faster and tighter with greater definition.
The Jupiter has a more resolving high-end, mids have higher resolution and greater balance though the Lyra II has a touch more clarity that better flatters older recordings. Treble is better extended on the Jupiter and more even in tuning, the Lyra II’s added lower-treble aggression enhances detail presentation but saps body and texture. The Jupiter on the other hand, is incredibly linear with a sizeable resolution increase on top. It has greater treble body, detail and texture and is more even into the very highest frequencies. The Jupiter’s extension grants it with a rather grand presentation for a fully sealed in-ear and its lightning fast transience and resolution grant it with razor sharp imaging. The Lyra II actually has a little more depth and separation but doesn’t image quite like the Campfire’s higher-end BA earphone.
Campfire Dorado ($999): The Dorado has the exact same housing as the Lyra II but employs a longer stem due to its hybrid design that places the two armature drivers in the nozzle. Both otherwise offer a very similar experience with concrete build and ergonomics. Sonically, the two differ quite a bit but still retain a similar style of tuning and voicing. The Dorado is immediately bassier and more V-shaped. It has bigger mid-bass but simultaneously offers greater bass control and speed. Mids are more recessed but have more neutral body and greater transparency as a result. It’s still full-bodied and slightly warm within the lower midrange but the Dorado is generally more resolving with clearer layering and background detail. This is because the Dorado is more even throughout its midrange and treble, lacking the upper midrange rise of the Lyra II.
This can make them sound a little more laid-back within the midrange but what they give up in clarity, they gain in resolution and detail. Treble is also more detailed and quite linear with better extension, benefiting separation and space. The Dorado still lies more on the side of musicality and smoothness, it sounds cleaner and more neutral compared to the warmer Lyra II and is more revealing as a result. Their more extended treble and cleaner midrange really aid resolving power without the sculpting of the Lyra II and the Dorado sounds more consistent between tracks and genres. It represents a step up from the Lyra II in linearity and dynamics and a step down in balance.
The Lyra II very much suffers from sub-flagship syndrome, constantly being compared to the Andromeda and Vega when it was never intended to compete with them. Its $700 asking price also puts it in a strange spot, there aren’t too many competitors at this price but the Lyra does risk becoming undercut by competitors lying closer to $500-600. That said, longer-term testing reveals that Campfire have created an incredibly well-rounded earphone that justifies its high cost. From the gorgeous liquid formed housings to ALO’s supple Litz wire, the Lyra II is the embodiment of premium design. This extends to their fit that is both isolating and stable, something that many competing dynamic driver models don’t achieve.
Sonically, the Lyra II is also an oddity, serving music through warm lows and smooth highs. They’re an enchanting extension of the smooth, warm tonality augmented by layer upon layer of nuance and detail, very few earphones in this price range carry such a rich, natural sound. And compared to brighter competitors, the Lyra II can sound a little lacklustre but make no mistake, there is copious resolving power sparkling beneath their almost analogue warmth. Of course, the Lyra II is not without its faults, their long nozzles make tip choice very specific, their sound isn’t particularly agile and treble extension isn’t absolute, but their many strengths culminate to provide a complete experience, something that isn’t common and something that doesn’t come cheap.
Verdict – 8.5/10, In a world of triple-digit earphones, the Lyra II offers a slightly scaled down experience at a vastly scaled down price. Because no particular element stands out rather, they all come together with great coherence and refinement with minimal compromise. The Lyra II isn’t analytical or neutral, but its cosy yet deceptively nuanced tones will be sure to delight.