Campfire audio, enough for an introduction to the article. This brand needs no introduction. They have been one of the most dominant IEM brands and their Solaris and Andromeda are regarded as some of the best IEMs one can buy in their respective price brackets. After holding back for some time Campfire Audio is unleashing their newer generation of IEMs. These IEMs are supposed to replace the older gen. They came up with Honeydew and Satsuma sometime ago and now they have two middle weight IEMs. I have already reviewed the Mammoth, which is a musical IEM with a V shaped sound signature. The one we are looking at here is the Holocene.
Being a triple BA IEM and (I am guessing that it might be a successor to the Jupiter) it is designed to be a more precision based IEM. It faces good competition from DUNU SA6, Shozy Elsa and similarly equipped IEMs. Holocene retails for $649 or INR 50k and comes in only color scheme, brown.
Get your own Holocene from these links:
All the IEMs I received (Holocene, Mammoth, Honeydew, Satsuma, Dorado 2020) have exactly same set of accessories. The only differences are their packaging color and carry case color. I like the way these IEMs maintain eco friendly packaging with only paper and cardboard usage. No unnecessary use of material. Up cycled Marine Plastic in the form of SEAQUAL® YARN makes up the rugged outer layer of if this case. Holocene has funky looking Epoch Case. In their words:
“Each case pattern design is unique, and each is one of a kind. Our “Epoch” color palette ranges from playful soft oranges to vibrant pinks. Mysterious geometric shapes float freely and collide in unexpected ways. These are fun cases that protect your earphones and give you something fun to enjoy.”
The first thing greeting us is the carry pouches and the IEMs with the cables are placed inside them, while the earpieces are placed in tips organizers. Sets of Final Audio tips, generic wide bore tips and bullets foam tips are placed in a paper box placed over the pouch. One can find a Campfire Audio badge and all the placed inside the same paper box. These tips organizers are really helpful if you like to carry your tips on the move.
HOW IS THE CABLE:
I always prefer good quality cables with any IEM priced over $100. These Campfire IEMs have the same litz build as the more premium IEMs. There are some cosmetic changes to the appearance of it but the cores are exactly same. I like this 4 core SPC “Smoky Glow” cable with beryllium copper MMCX connectors, but this time around the connectors have radium in it which glows in the dark for some time after it is exposed to light. Higher the intensity of light it is exposed to, the brighter it glows. The cores have a layer of clear coat on them to protect it from minor scratches. It is not flashy or as premium looking as the DUNU Zen cable but it compliments these IEMs both aesthetically and sonically.
Build quality of this cable is very good. It is one of the more supple cables with a low profile. It barely has any microphonics. Cable guides too are supple and comfortable. 3.5mm jack has some stress reliever but it is missing at the Y-splitter. There is a cable slider to keep things tidy.
All in all it is a very good cable at this price point.
BUILD QUALITY AND ERGONOMICS:
These IEMs have a very similar design to the more premium IEMs like Andromeda. Holocene has the exact type of housing made out of aluminum with Umber finish. But this time around Holocene has a black PVD finished stainless steel nozzle providing equally impressive strength and stability. This nozzle is aptly long giving the earpieces reasonably secure fit. It can fit anything in between T200 and T400 sized tips. The set of final tips it ships with are exceptionally comfortable and stable inside the ear. There is a single pressure releasing vent on the back plate of the IEM.
Ergonomically this shape is average. It is somewhere in between of being semicustom, bland and uncomfortable depending upon individual’s ear’s shape and sizes. If you have big ears like me this doesn’t possess much problem but if you have smaller ears I assume these sharper edges can get a bit uncomfortable and if you have huge ears this can feel like a straight barrel IEM. The saving grace here is the slightly angled nozzle. This angle is highly responsible for providing some traction and grip inside the ear. It kind of feels like this design is immortalized now and I don’t see Campfire bringing radical changes to this but hey!! Guys.. Can we have a bit of rounded edges with the successors of these IEMs? With that being said, I don’t expect Campfire to make a semi-custom type shell any time soon.
What can be definitely avoided is the unwarranted layer of paint which comes off from the edges without much effort.. This is a thing Campfire should pay attention to.
Holocene has 3BA drivers in a 3 way crossover. This might sound a bit less but Campfire knows how to tune BA drivers, their Andromeda was a huge hit while the Ara has been a successful IEM too.
But In this populated market, dominated by Chi-fi brands with Tri-brids around this price range, does this 3BA driver holds up? The short answer is a clear yes, you can stop reading now too and get the Holocene without any hesitation, this IEM is a detail monster without any obvious flaws and has a balanced sound signature without any coloration to worry about.
I have used stock cable, Final Audio tips, Shanling UA5 and Micro Signature as sources for this review.
PAIRING WITH SOURCES:
One thing I have learnt with these BA based Campfire Audio IEMs. They do not sound very good with all the devices. They like to pair well source with good power output. Getting loud is not a problem but they need the extra bit of power to perform at their best. Let me tell you how I arrived at this conclusion.
I have some dongles, I usually use some cheaper dongle at it has good power and details but the pairing wasn’t great with the Holocene. When I switched to Micro Signature at its lowest power the sound was good, well balanced, plenty loud but wasn’t really involving or submersive. Then I decided to one up, and then the Holocene oppened up like a fully bloomed flower. It performs admirably with Qudelix 5k and the new Shanling UA5 too.
But when driven out of weaker, not as well tuned sources it doesn’t sound bad, but the dynamics and details at both the ends get compromised.
Initially, when paired with budget source Holocene lacks oomph and rumble but once you give it some love, it opens up delivering a well rounded lower end for an accuracy and precision based IEM. The only BA driver assigned for the lower end enjoys some power it seems.
What took me by surprise is it’s ability to deliver better sub-bass rumble and depth than DUNU SA6. SA6 has more volume at the mid bass but the reach isn’t as good as the Holocene and the Holocene doesn’t have the mid bass body of the SA6. Holocene a meaty or full bodied lower end but has enough weight and punch to keep me satisfied. Needless to say but, no details are compromised, the layered and textured feeling which was missing from the Audiosense T800 is found here. It doesn’t have as much rumble as the Mammoth or Serial but it’s plenty for a BA based IEM. Decay speed is faster than SA6 in both modes. It lets the notes precipitate but doesn’t let them gain much weight. The upper bass region is well energized with excellent details and clarity, doing better than SA6 when it comes to clarity.
This lower end slots inbetween DM7 and SA6 in “on” mode when it comes to volume and weight but has better quality than both.
For me, the amount of substance in an IEM can be judged from its mid range. And the Holocene has a lot of substance, high level high quality substance to be precise. The single BA here performs like a champ irrespective of the source used. It either becomes a mid forward IEM when not driven properly or becomes an superbly balanced IEM when powered nicely. The transition from upper bass to lower mids is exceptionally good as it doesn’t loose any details while the transparency is superb, better than Andromeda V3.
If the SA6 is a bit edgy and raw this IEM is a step forward. It has stepped up the maturity without sacrificing a single bit of details or transparency. SA6 is a bit W shaped but the Holocene is superbly balanced. Holocene has better note’s formation and doesn’t have the edgy or rawish feel of it’s competitor. Notes have the right amount of shape, weight and finishing. There is no drop in energy with instruments around the vocals while delivering some of the most accurate and precise vocals. Yes, male vocals might not have the throatiest feeling but doesn’t sound unnaturally sharp or off timber either. Female vocals simply excel. There is no spike or unnecessary energy in the upper mids. Holocene doesn’t believe in violence but it has the required amount of aggression and doesn’t shy away from delivering appropriately energized notes. It doesn’t hide the sharp notes but doesn’t let them cause discomfort either.
What’s admirable is Holocene’s ability to keep things clean. It’s layering and separation are top-notch. It maintains fantastic air between instruments while delivering some of the best contrast of back and foreground instruments. It’s technical abilities are simply exceptional.
Take all the good words I have used for this IEM in the bass and mids section and put them in their respective areas for the treble region and you have the short answer. There isn’t a single negative point here. It’s one of the cleanest and accurate treble in an IEM irrespective of the price. For the longer one.. read on.
The only driver handling the lower end handles everything with ease. It has the exact level of transparency I like, sparkly, uniform and transparent, not a single note lacks energy or clarity. And guess what, Holocene doesn’t lose energy till the end and even at the ultra highs frequencies things have excellent clarity. Needless to say this endless type extension is one of the best at this price. And that might be the only downside of this IEM. But as I mentioned earlier this is an accuracy and precision based IEM. What were you expecting really? Forgiveness? Nope, it does justice to the note while restraining from both extremes.
On a related note:
I was having a discussing with a fellow reviewer, he said the graph shows that it doesn’t have any pinna gain. The thing is, it doesn’t need any, it already has superb transparency and enough energy in this region. Yes the projection is slightly to the lower level but it doesn’t lack with dynamics, details, air between instruments or anything that can be held against it.
Layering and separation is class leading too. It they had introduced some gain, it would have been seriously troublesome. No need to worry about it’s technical abilities either, it has more accurate note’s body with accurate timber. It might be tamed, but still has the wild feel to it.
STAGE AND IMAGING:
Coming from an established brand one doesn’t need to worry about the stage size, in fact Holocene has one of the biggest stage in this price range. It has no congestion with excellent amount of air between instruments. The cleanliness is simply outstanding. Layering and separation are top class too. No part of the spectrum takes the majority share. This stage has very good expansion in every direction. It has a well developed surrounding feel, similar to the more expansive flagships like Nocturnal Eden or VE7 and is around 20% more expanded compared to DUNU SA6.
Imaging too is excellent. Most of the notes originate from the same plane, majority of upper mid and treble notes find them projected out of the head while bass and some mid range notes are placed inside the head. Cue placement is very precise, which is helped by one of the best sonics. Holocene’s stage has the flexibility to expand a bit if the track demands, it doesn’t feel unreasonably restricted.
VS DUNU SA6:
Holocene has only 3BA drivers but its ability to deliver details without getting stressed is something everyone will admire. It’s a sweet yet precise sounding IEM. If you have had the DM8 or a DM7, the Holocene is a pure upgrade. It can be considered as an upgrade to the DUNU SA6 too thanks to its more mature and refined tuning. Loving this IEM for its technical abilities is as simple as breathing.
Guess what, I can write on and on about this IEM. When you enjoy and admire an IEM it just comes to you. Instead of wasting your time, let me finish this quickly.
If you want details, accuracy and precision without sacrificing much of the subtle and musical characteristics, Holocene should be the top pick. If you want a bit more musical feeling get the Shozy Elsa, that’s an equally excellent IEM with a bit more fuller and musical notes. If you want a more flatter and even more detail oriented IEM you can get the Aural Definition Pro 5 or call Dunu to oust the SA8 soon!! Spoiler.. hah, enjoy!!