My sincere thanks to Ken Ball and Chris Halasz for making this review possible. Your commitment to excellence and continued support is truly appreciated.
In all my time in audio, I can’t remember a single product – IEM or otherwise – as divisive as Campfire Audio’s triple-driver flagship, Trifecta. Throughout the various portable audio communities I frequent, this fascinating, elusive and confounding IEM has been openly adored and derided in equal measure, so much so that any ‘debate’ on Trifecta doesn’t usually end well for all concerned.
The reason I’ve started this review with that context is because I think it’s important to temper any suggestions that I’m aiming to do anything other than give Trifecta the same courtesy I give any other product I take the time and careful effort to review. I’m going to use emotive language – that’s just how I roll – but it’s not going to be in service of any ‘camps’ either for or against.
I’ll go further and say that everything I’d read beforehand about Trifecta pretty much went out the window the minute I heard it for the first time…and the hundredth time. It’s the type of IEM that’s difficult to properly describe, even over the course of hours and days, and virtually impossible with a quick listen. Not only did it take me much longer to find Trifecta’s ‘sweet spot’, it’s still a work in progress.
As an added bonus, and in preparation for this review, I spoke to Ken Ball, Campfire’s founder, owner and IEM designer extraordinaire, about his vision for Trifecta, including all the technical stuff, and will insert quotes from our chat throughout. Hopefully this gives you a deeper insight to Trifecta, coming from the man who made it, rather than just relying on my impressions.
And so, I offer you this. Join me as I uncover what I think might be one of the most unique IEMs I’ve had both the pleasure – and angst – of experiencing. With any luck, the review will at least make clear what I consider Trifecta’s unmistakable strengths, but also its obvious and, as you’ll read, intentional weaknesses, with a view on how to avoid them and make the most of what it has to offer.
It’s been about a year since Campfire Audio’s Trifecta made its debut. Back then, it was touted as the company’s new all-conquering flagship IEM, and limited to 333 units worldwide units.
The initial frenzy, aided no doubt by the ‘limited’ moniker and it’s ‘summit-fi’ price tag, meant that all 333 units were quickly accounted for, but even as they were selling out, rumours began to swirl about new ‘versions’ of Trifecta. Whether or not this soured the feeling of exclusivity for first-time buyers I can’t say, but regardless, that the marketing was being debated as much as the IEM itself was not ideal.
Fast forward to 2023, and indeed we’ve seen new versions of Trifecta arrive as expected. The latest of these, Trifecta Astral Plane, is the one we have here for review, with its sea blue colourway joining the black and gold versions that came before. For all intents and purposes, Trifecta is Trifecta; there are no differences between the different versions other than the colour and moniker. Even the premium and rather Avant-garde packaging, as you’ll soon see, is exactly the same.
No longer limited, or at least, with the possibility of newer colourways appearing in future, Trifecta is now the de-facto Campfire flagship. With a unique (for Campfire) triple dynamic driver configuration and unique (for anyone) industrial design, the $3,375 Trifecta is a bold, brave, and arguably risky way to go against the grain, so to speak, especially with the flag bearer of the line.
According to Ken, Trifecta is “totally different” to everything else he’s done before. “I am trying to offer something different from everyone else in the business,” he says.
“When you have 10mm times three, or a whopping 30mm of air being moved in your ear canal, there is nothing else that can make the same experience. 30mm of pushed air is approaching headphone territory, the sheer physicality of this action will be nothing like a normal IEM.”
That Trifecta is different is not surprising to those who have followed Campfire’s ambitious and sometimes peculiar releases since Andromeda. It’s certainly not a company that’s ‘played it safe’ with its designs and tunings, and yet every release has found its passionate audience. That one of Ken’s most ambitious ideas made it all the way up the chain should at least tell you he’s not afraid to fail if it means creating something he considers truly special.
In his own words, “I literally wrote up the design in a napkin and gave it to our engineers here who miraculously made it work.”
Continue to design and fit…