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Review: Campfire Audio Trifecta

Design and fit

Trifecta is a triple driver IEM, with three individually-vented 10mm ADLC (diamond-like carbon) dynamic drivers positioned in a triangular array facing each other, and firing into a shared acoustic cavity with no crossovers or sound tubes. 

Because frequency response isn’t split between the three drivers, the design creates a cumulative air mass equivalent to a much larger single driver which, in theory, should magnify the qualities of a single dynamic driver, both good and bad. 

The drivers themselves are sourced from “a veteran long time speaker manufacturer” from Taiwan. According to Ken, figuring out how to add three of them in a compact attractive shell was “a complete pain in the ass”. 

“It’s also super difficult to build and we have a high reject rate of finished product. This, coupled with the expense of the ADLC driver, is why it’s a higher price than our other IEMs. There is a lot of pressure calculations, reflection and phase shaping work that had to be done to get it right.”

Despite the muscle under the hood, Trifecta is remarkably easy to drive. With a nominal impedance of only 6.3 ohms at 1KHz, it’s easily the most sensitive IEM I’ve encountered to date, despite a rated sensitivity of 94dB. While this means it can be driven from any portable source, even a phone, I would caution anyone to lower the volume – and switch the player into low gain mode if that’s an option – before listening for the first time. 

If you want to know why, ask Ken: “I have the cluster wired in parallel so it’s more sensitive,” he says. “I prefer systems that are more sensitive.” 

It wasn’t enough for Ken to roll the dice on a curious triple driver array, he wanted to show it off too. Trifecta’s transparent, triangular moulded nylon housing is probably its most striking characteristic. While clear resin shells are commonplace nowadays, I don’t ever recall seeing a nylon IEM shell. The photos don’t do it full justice either; this is not just a clear plastic shell, it reminds me of a luxury polished watch face – which, Ken confirmed, is exactly what it is.

“We are working with a company that makes a lot of luxury watch parts. They were drawing from their knowledge of watch glass, or in this, case polycarbonate watch face tech.”

In the hand, Trifecta is a thing of beauty. It’s larger and more lopsided than I expected it to be, and yet, when placed in the ear, the design makes complete sense. If you take a photo of your outer ear, you’ll notice a distinct triangular cavity right in the middle. That’s exactly what Trifecta’s shell has been shaped to fit, and it fits my ear like a glove. 

The stainless steel nozzle foregoes the intricate nozzle pattern we’ve seen before in Andromeda and Solaris for a flat, simple array of concentric circular openings, where the full volume of air is released directly from the driver array. There’s a small lip on the nozzle to hold tips in place, and while it’s rather girthy, it’s not too long to make it uncomfortable inside the ear. 

You’ll probably want a wide bore tip to maximise airflow, and indeed Trifecta shirks the narrow-bore tips supplied with its other IEMs in favour of wider foam (default) and silicone tips. As you’ll soon read, tip selection is crucial to shaping Trifecta’s sound, and I did plenty of tip rolling to get it just right for my preferences. 

The design is capped off with Campfire’s customary beryllium-coated and reinforced MMCX connector, the best in the business as far as I’m concerned. Connecting a cable is easily done, with a resounding click and very little spin on the connector head, and removing it is just as easy. 

Overall I adore Trifecta’s design and ergonomics, and I think the blue accents of the Astral Plane version contrast beautifully with the gold PVD accents. There are some visible bubbles and glue seams in the shell, but that’s an unavoidable part of the manufacturing process, and on my unit at least, they look like air trapped in water, which again works well with the theme. 

Make no mistake, this is a finished, polished piece of the highest order, as you’d expect at the pointy end of the market. I’ve read some comments complaining about the ‘cheap’ housing, and in my opinion, based on what I’m holding it my hand right now, nothing could be further from the truth.   

Packaging, presentation and accessories

I’d be remiss if I skipped over the obvious care that’s been paid to packaging and presenting Trifecta. This has to be one of the most ‘out there’ presentations I’ve seen, and the attention to detail is very satisfying for a design-minded person like myself.

Unlike previous Campfire products that were packaged in a standard cardboard box, albeit with fancy print screening, Trifecta ships in a rectangular wooden Jenga-like box, housing a generous, and also curious, array of accessories. The box itself is sleeved with a cover design showcasing the Astral Plane Trifecta, beneath which a perforated cardboard sheet is wedged into the lid, with a simple illustration showing how the ‘display’ is put together.

No, this is not your typical presentation box by any means. The lid of the box is hinged into two vertical grooves carved into the sides of the box. Lifting the lid slides it down the grooves, until it sits upright to reveal a blue sky print with a small triangular cut-out near the top. The cut-out is shaped to hold a gold-painted plastic mould of a human hand with an outstretched finger, which serves as a hook to ‘display’ the IEM on its cable when not in use. 

I first saw this display when Trifecta was launched and demonstrated at trade shows, thinking that was a cool way to show off an IEM. I didn’t expect it to be the actual display box for the shipping product, and must say I’m pleasantly surprised that it is. While it might seem like a gimmick, the fit and finish of the box is excellent, and the display adds to the thematic approach Campfire has used to promote Trifecta alongside its other “Discovery Series” IEMs. 

“Caleb designed all the packaging, we made the boxes in-house…which is an insane amount of work that goes into the packaging, so yeah, we hope people enjoy the extra efforts here.” 

I certainly do. 

Lifting the back display panel reveals another wooden ‘lid’ that’s also hinged and that covers the accessory compartment below. Trifecta ships with one of the more generous packages I’ve seen for any IEM. This includes:

  • Three ‘Stream’ cables terminated with 3.5mm single-ended and 2.5mm/4.4mm balanced connectors, including a fabric folding pouch for the extra cables;
  • Campfire’s new ‘Atmosphere’ pleather folding case with magnetic latches;
  • Blue Campfire mesh bag to protect the earpieces;
  • A selection of Campfire ‘marshmallow’ foam tips and wide-bore silicone tips in three different sizes;
  • A cleaning tool and Campfire Audio lapel pin; and
  • The ‘golden hand’ display array, as described above.

You also get a variety of printouts, including spec sheets, a warranty card, and a signed and stamped certificate of authenticity. All of these are inserted into a passport-like folder, and a small voucher inside invites you to join the Campfire Audio ‘Explorer’s Club’ for special offers and future promotions. From what I can tell, this currently lets you order a quarterly re-supply of three tips of your choice, paying only $15 (or $25) for US or international shipping respectively. 

I have to admit to being a fan of Campfire’s cables. The silver-plated Litz cable that shipped with my custom Supermoon is still my pick for that IEM, and I must say the design and performance of Trifecta’s Stream cable has proven equally effective. 

It’s an unusual design for sure, but is super light, ergonomic and microphonics-free, and won’t twist or tangle like conventional braided cables.  I also appreciate getting different cables for different terminations, because a single cable with modular terminations compromises sound quality. 

Overall, this is one of the standout presentations and accessory packages I’ve seen to date, and makes the unboxing experience both memorable and unique. Say what you like about Campfire’s quirkiness, there’s no questioning the commitment to quality and appreciation for industrial and experiential design.

Continue to sound impressions… 

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Picture of Guy Lerner

Guy Lerner

An avid photographer and writer 'in real life', Guy's passion for music and technology created the perfect storm for his love of portable audio. When he's not playing with the latest and greatest head-fi gear, he prefers to spend time away from the hobby with his two (almost) grown kids and wife in the breathtaking city of Cape Town, and traveling around his native South Africa.

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