Campfire Audio Vega
A comparison waiting to happen: another battle of the dynamic drivers. And the two share some similarities where you’d expect them: their bass. Even though Vega’s overall quantity is larger, the two share a full-bodied sub-bass that can deliver a significant punch when required. But Vega’s greater mid- and upper-bass shapes its presentation more significantly. It’s sound is thicker, fuller, and heavier. Where the Dream makes a play for neutral, or reference at least, Vega goes well beyond.
According to its larger bass quantity, Vega’s notes are larger in size. But in addition, its stage isn’t as spacious. It’s a bit taller, but the Dream’s stage is wider and deeper. As the Dream’s stage is also airier due to less upper bass presence, its separation is altogether more effortless, and the Dream more readily conveys a higher level of detail. The Dream’s presentation is cleaner, in line with its reference-tuning. Vega’s presentation however is thicker, and more forward.
As mentioned, the two share some essential dynamic-driven qualities. Excellent low-end extension, and a larger than neutral sub-bass quantity. But nevertheless, there are still some defining differences. Vega’s bass hits are rounder, and more present in the signature. The Dream’s bass is readily felt, but it isn’t as obtrusive in overall quantity. Similarly, the Vega’s mid-bass is larger in size, and its bass-lines are more forward. In addition, Vega has a richer upper bass, contributing to its thicker and weightier notes. The Dream’s upper bass remains closer to neutral, resulting in a airier stage.
But after the bass, the differences grow larger. Both share a slightly laidback vocal positioning, that is neither overly warm nor bright. And even though in both cases the vocals aren’t overly dense, Vega’s have slightly greater size and focus. Vega also creates thicker instruments, and an overall fuller sound. But the Dream parries with a cleaner, more separated image, and an overall higher detail. Both their midrange resolution and transparency is similar.
Both converge again when it comes to treble. In both cases, the overall tone is slightly brighter than neutral. But equally, it’s a well-defined treble that contributes to the overall coherency and detail of the presentation, as different as they are. Similarly, they share a similar extension although I’d give Vega a slight advantage.
The Dream versus the S-EM9, a single dynamic driver versus a classic multi-BA setup. At first sight, the two have little in common. For instance, the S-EM9 is tuned with an upper mid dip, exactly where the Dream peaks. The S-EM9 was tuned for fun, where the Dream goes for reference. But they share one similar goal: resolution. Even so, they arrive from different directions. The S-EM9 as a result of its top-end extension, the Dream according to its tuning.
Similarly, both the S-EM9 and Dream excel in their separation, based on their precise imaging and layering ability. But nevertheless, the Dream’s stage is significantly larger, and not a fair match for the S-EM9. As a result of the extra space, the Dream’s stage feels more three-dimensional, while its layering ability and accordingly separation is more effortless.
The S-EM9’s bass diverges from traditional BA bass, by sharing some dynamic qualities. It’s low-end extension is quite good, and it adds a little bit of body in favor of speed. But it’s nevertheless quite different from the Dream’s actual dynamic bass. The Dream’s low-end extension is only slightly better, but its greater sub-bass emphasis provides a lower, more ominous rumble. It’s a more readily felt bass, although both are engaging.
Their midranges in turn are more different. The S-EM9’s midrange is slightly warmer and smoother due to its upper midrange dip, where the Dream places more emphasis on the upper midrange. Accordingly, the Dream’s instruments sound more articulate and brighter in tone. In addition, the Dream’s instruments also have slightly greater body. But in both cases, their vocal presentation is somewhat laidback. However, while the S-EM9’s vocals have slightly greater density, their pronunciation is attenuated – the top-end of the vocal range. The Dream however focuses on pronunciation rather than depth.
Finally, both their treble are around neutral in overall quantity, and their treble notes are well-defined. In both cases, it’s a detailed treble presentation. However, as the Dream’s treble is slightly brighter it is a bit more upfront. The S-EM9’s treble in turn is a bit smoother, while also being quicker. And as mentioned, its top-end extension is greater.
I might have used the term ‘reference’ once or twice during this review. Naturally, a powerful advantage of its tuning lies in its detailed presentation: its separation is outstanding, its resolution is high, and its imaging is precise. Only an average score for its midrange transparency forms a dissonant for an otherwise outstanding technical performance.
Such a signature also has a non-discriminative quality. It’s a tuning that can easily be applied to different genres, as it’s neither warm nor bright. But as always, this comes with its own downsides. Stripping notes from their warmth might result in a purer sound, it’s also a prerequisite for the general naturalness of the presentation; this is where neutral-reference diverges from neutral-natural.
But while the term ‘reference’ might be an important denominator to provide insight on the intention of the tuning, it’s equally as important to step away from labels to appreciate the Dream for what it really is. The Dream’s tone and high level of precision might warrant the label, but it’s not necessarily what makes you reach for the Dream: it’s that deep rumbling low end for starters, fantastic three-dimensional stage, and highly detailed image.
Dita Audio Dream
+Stage dimensions and separation