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Review: Campfire Audio Trifecta

Bonus section: listening notes

This section is basically my homework, random thoughts I jotted down while taking in some of my favourite albums. Feel free to skip if you’re not interested in my musical musings, and also it’s a very long read! But skimming through the notes should at least give you an idea of what I feel works well with Trifecta, and what doesn’t. 

I’ve attributed arbitrary and very unscientific scoring to each track and album, and a YouTube link to a track off each album in case you want to listen along.    

Olivia Rodrigo – SOUR

Modern pop, female vocal

Overall Score: 9

Brutal – I’m hearing buttery smooth bass notes, with grunge guitars and cymbals that don’t get too intense at any point compared to the bass guitar and drums. Vocals are clear and natural. Stage is more than generous. 9/10

Traitor – A slower song that showcases Olivia’s sweet vocals. Drum kicks hit like sledgehammers in parts. There’s a texture to the bass guitars that ripples through the stage. Excellent separation of elements. 9/10

Driver’s License – Silky smooth vocal performance, with natural timbre and no sibilance at all. The bass kicks really add a solid foundation weight to the sugary vocals and clap effects in the left and right channels, with everything separated but working together perfectly. The chorus, with multiple higher pitched gets a touch brighter, but still stays on the right side of sibilant. 8/9

Lana Del Rey – Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd

Indie pop, female vocal 

Overall Score: 10

Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd – Lana masters her vocals with echoes that fade into the stage, which Trifecta presents perfectly. Vocals are rich, deep, sweet and sultry, without any hint of grain and excellent detail. The bass undertones add real gravitas, pulsating through the stage with a deep rumble in contrast to the sweet vocals, with every element – from drums to vocals, cymbals and strings – all in their own space but working together and sounding very cohesive. 9/10

A&W – Pitch black background makes sounds appear from a deep, wide stage. Tiny guitar plucks perfectly imaged on stage, at different depths, very impressive. Lower register guitar strings add weight and dimension and they resonate inside the stage, while the subtle drumbeats make themselves felt, the ‘kick’ sensation adding realism to the performance. Superb, deep, resonant texture in the bass guitar. Vocals float in and out, as they should. Sparse arrangement really works well here. Song in two parts; if part one is slick and subdued, part two is part funk, part gangsta, with one of – if not the most – impressive bass deliveries I’ve heard of this track. Both skull shaking and detailed in equal measure, while never subverting the vocals or electronic effects at any point. 10/10

Peppers – Interesting sensation of the bass effects in the intro tickling the inside of my ears. Vocals are recorded with a deeper echo, and seems as if they’re floating in the stage, and remain clear while the bass effects continue. As different electronic elements are added, they don’t overwhelm each other, instead fusing and interplaying off each other. Echoes can be heard decaying into the stage, with the hard-panned bass effects adding a wide periphery for the performance. At one point, multiple characters start talking over the music, each easily audible. Brilliant demonstration of Trifecta’s full range, from the deepest bass to the lightest treble and rich, natural midrange, without a real instrument in sight. 10/10

Alphaville – Forever Young

Synth pop, male vocal

Overall Score: 9

A Victory of Love – Different layers evident from the start. Differing depths on the stage of the various effects. Drum synths have a solid, satisfying kick that decays into the stage. Brighter effects are clear, and well imaged. Vocals are natural, with perfect timbre. Trifecta easily keeps up as the pace quickens and elements are added. The violin synths add a crispness and sharpness that works so well with the deeper bass kicks, and never gets grating at any point. Resolution is excellent throughout. 10/10

Forever Young – Probably my #1 track of all time, the anthem of my childhood, which I’ve been enjoying for close on four decades. Vocal delivery is every bit as pure as I know it to be, with the effects floating in and around the vocals but never detracting from the focal point. You could argue the decay on some of the sharper clap effects are a little rough, but listen to this track with any other IEM and you’ll hear it’s in the track itself. The string section is perhaps a touch subdued behind the effects, so adds a subtle subtext rather than snapping into focus. Some of the trumpet synths get very close to hot, but don’t cross the line. 9/10

Sounds Like a Melody – some of the sharper effects here are indeed sharp, piercing almost, but in a good way. I can almost see Trifecta’s peaks highlighting the snap of some of the effects, but it’s done in a lively and engaging way, and quite different to how I’ve heard it before. This does take the focus off the vocals somewhat, so you’re hearing the sharp claps first, vocals second. Bass is deep and rich, and gives the necessary balance to the brighter highlights. The final ‘clap’ highlights how sharp Trifecta can sound – you wouldn’t want a whole lot of these going off at you at volume at the same time with this IEM. 8/10

Def Leppard – Hysteria

80s rock, male vocal 

Overall Score: 5

Rocket – The song that got me and half my generation hooked on Def Leppard. Some of the hardest hitting drums I’ve heard in the intro to this track with Trifecta. Kick drums definitely sit in front of the cymbal hits, so if that’s an issue for you, take note. For me, it works well, because the cymbals and snares on this album are far from the best recorded, and can sound downright painful with the wrong IEMs. Stage is wide, the hard panned vocal effects jumping left to right. 

With Trifecta, I’m hearing some metallic timbre in the cymbals, so it’s probably best they’re kept fairly muted here. There’s tons of energy here, peaky as this recording is, Trifecta doesn’t try hide it. One of the biggest issues for me with this album, at volume, is vocal sharpness, and while it’s still there, it’s not too bad on this track. The track is all about the drum/cymbal sequences, and in that regard, is the almost perfect track for Trifecta to show off its kick drum mastery. 6/10

Love Bites – A slower track, but one with its own issues, usually in the vocals. Cymbal crashes are louder here, more prominent, and therefore less pleasant. There’s a distinct ‘metallicness’ to the hits, which I’ve heard before with many other excellent IEMs, but Trifecta does nothing to hide it – if anything it highlights it. Sadly this means the only way to enjoy the song without triggering my tinnitus is to lower the volume to safer levels, which is probably the best way to hear it anyway. The bass guitar does go some way to balancing out the sharpness of the cymbals and vocal recording, so there’s that. 5/10

Hysteria – Trifecta really shows off its extremes here. The sharp cymbal/snare hits, and the bold, deep and powerful kicks. Vocals are better controlled here than Love Bites, but still fairly compressed, hitting up against the cymbals and grating at times. Definitely not suitable for higher volume listening. I can imagine harder rock and especially metal – both of which I don’t listen to at all – might be a step too far for Tri’s particular tuning profile. 5/10

Ilan Bluestone – Scars

EDM, female/male vocal

Overall Score: 7

Scars – One of the deepest intro bass hits I’ve heard. Synth effects reveal a wide, deep, cavernous stage. Lead vocal is clear and clean. Treble at the drop around 1:22 can be a touch peaky if played loud, but at moderate volume I find it well-controlled, if a bit edgy. Bass is deep, powerful and full throughout. When the high-energy treble subsides, the sparse instrumentation brings a relieving calm to the track. Absolutely love the bass energy, weight and texture here, treble hissing less so, but I’m generally not a fan of this type of treble-heavy synth in a track. 7/10

Will We Remain – Really good timbre on the female vocal here. Intro treble synth effects also very well done, not grating at all. Super emotion in the vocal, and the string section is well articulated too in the background. Definitely still spiky in the treble, but not offensively so. If you like a softer, wispier, airier treble, this probably won’t impress too much, but it’s definitely quite different in how it articulates this track. 7/10

Eclipse – interesting track this, almost cinematic. The choral intro and textured effects interplay with each other, and the simple, sparse bass drops hit with a solid weight and delicious rumble, reverberating around the stage. A gentler, more layered, less treble-aggressive track that really shows off how exceptionally well Trifecta can deliver electronica when treble contrast isn’t turned up to the max. Outstanding. 9/10

Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms

Classic Rock, male vocal

Overall Score: 8

Money For Nothing – What a difference recording quality makes. Compared to Def Leppard’s tizzy cymbals, this track is an example of how cleanly Trifecta can hit when fed the right material. Sure, it’s an energetic presentation, but such is Trifecta’s personality. There’s no casual chill here, it’s lively from the get-go. The drums once again show up as life size, guitar is gorgeously crunchy, and vocals are dead centre, chesty and clear. 8/10

Walk of Life – Here some of the synths are a touch peaky, and even the vocals have a bit of an edge to them. They definitely steal some focus from the test of the track, making me lower the volume a touch to balance them out. 7/10

Brothers In Arms – Slower and more rhythmic is definitely Trifecta’s speed, and this track is the perfect example. From the opening thunderstorm rumble, to emotively cutting guitar and the softly spoken vocals, everything is measured, rich and textured. From the lowest bass note to the brightest sparkle, there’s so much life, nuance and layering to this track.    This is my favourite Dire Straits track by some distance, and Trifecta presents it as well – if not better – than I’ve heard it before with any IEM. 9/10

Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon

Psychedelic/Prog Rock, male/female vocal

Overall Score: 9

On The Run – This is a track I often use to test resolution, listening to see if I can pick out the PA announcer in the early part of the track over the synth effects. I can, to a point, but it also confirms Trifecta isn’t the most intricately resolving IEM I’ve used either when the track is complex. That’s expected – macro details are more Trifecta’s strength, although I still consider it more than adequate for micro detail retrieval with less complex music. 8/10

Time – Just that last point is made on the very next track, Time, where the winding of a clock mechanism in the left channel is clearly rendered, and better than with many ‘more resolving’ IEMs too. I was half-expecting to wince at the clock sequence here, but instead was greeted with a clear, lively and perfectly separated sequence devoid of any harshness. Moreover, the toms in the latter part of the track, along with the underlying heartbeat effect, are both rendered perfectly, not only positionally but also physically. 9/10

The Great Gig in the Sky – This is the third in the ‘trifecta’ of tracks I use to test new gear with this album, and it follows the previous two in cementing Trifecta as one of the best IEMs I’ve ever heard this album with. There’s an analogue ‘grittiness’ to the presentation, but in a good way. Clare Torry’s vocals are as powerful as they are controlled, and while I’ve heard smoother cymbals, there’s a refreshing, almost rustic roughness to how this track – and album – are presented, that makes it an interesting listen again after all these years. 9/10

Rebecca Pidgeon – The Raven

Vocal Jazz, female vocal

Overall Score: 9

Kalerka – the opening track on this brilliant album is a light and lively composition, with Rebecca’s sweet vocal front and centre, the instruments rendered realistically and organically on the generous stage. Vocal purity is the goal here, and Trifecta delivers amicably. No sibilance, grain or haze of any sort. It also helps that instrument timbre is so good, something you’ll want with any type of jazz, not just vocal. 9/10

The Raven – One of the things I’m hearing with this album is how neatly the instruments and vocals are separated, and then spread across a dimensional stage, yet still sound completely cohesive and integrated. Every instrument and vocal are also rendered so realistically, I can almost touch them. Organic realism. 9/10

Spanish Harlem – Beautiful weighty tone of the upright bass contrasts nicely with the sweet vocals. Every instrument that’s added to the mix has the correct tone and size, first the piano, then the shakers – which incidentally show the depth Trifecta creates with lifelike echoes, then the strings, which are as sweet as the vocals and intricately nuanced. Trifecta impressively resolves even the smallest detail in this track, which it tends to do with simpler arrangements like these. 10/10

Myrkur – Folkensange

World/Folk, female vocal

Overall Score: 8

Ella – From the first note you get to hear Trifecta’s deep and cavernous stage, the drumbeats echoeing off the stage walls. As the track progresses and the drums become bigger, they give a real sense of power to the presentation. Vocals are clean and crisp, with a certain sweetness to them and no sibilance at all. 8/10

Tor I Helheim – Perfect test track for upper midrange shout, which Trifecta passes with flying colours. There’s some slight artefacting in the high-frequency voice trails, but nothing that can’t be tweaked. Sub-bass rumble on this track is sublime, adding weight and power whenever the drums hit. 8/10

House Carpenter – One of the few English-language tracks on the album, more akin to a traditional English folk song too. Lovely interplay between the strings in the left and right channels and the drums, with deeper-lying bows adding some lower frequency effects. Quite a complex and layered presentation that stays spritely throughout. 8/10

Tool – Fear Inoculum 

Rock, male vocal

Overall Score: 9

Fear Inoculum – This album, and the title track in particular, turn on its head my assumption that Trifecta wouldn’t suit heavier genres like hard rock, and yet here we are, with one of the most enjoyable ‘heavier’ albums in my library sounding absolutely sublime. Both drums and guitars are rendered so physically and with such high quality, that I’m reveling every time the music gets more intense, highly unusual if you know my normally sedate preferences. Yes, the vocals are excellent, stage is huge, but it’s all about those guitars and drums. Absolutely epic stuff. 9/10

Pneuma – Equally epic and more of the same, sparse arrangements interspersed with much heavier segments in-between. Trifecta takes them all in her stride, easily keeping up with the pace of the drums, while soaking up all that guitar energy. Even at its heaviest, the music remains clean, without any smearing that I can hear. 9/10

Aes Dana, (a) period

Ambient/chill, electronic

Overall Score: 10

Foreword – Playing to Trifecta’s strengths, the opening track starts off with a deep rumble, setting the scene with a massively-rendered stage. Sharp, electric like effects ‘spark’ onto the stage from time to time, contrasting with the ominous rumble, while other effects, both low and high frequency, intermix from time to time. Trifecta’s rendering is almost cinematic in its scale, and very holographic too.  10/10

A Bluetiful Day – Waterlike effects interplay against a deeper, guttural, yet gentle rumble. Trifecta’s control of the rumble distance and dynamics is impressive. I can almost see the energy it’s creating, contrasted eerily against electricity-like effects that whiz in and out of the scene. I hear occasional deep synth drum hit in the depths of the stage, starting at distance then approaching but dissipating before it reaches the front of the stage. This is a masterful display of layering and imaging, and just goes to show how string a technical performer Trifecta can actually be with the right material. 10/10

John Barry – Dances With Wolves

Soundtrack/modern classical, instrumental

Overall Score: 9

Two Socks – The Wolf Theme – Two sets of subtle drum hits reverberate the stage, before the gentle strings play out one of the most beautiful pieces of modern orchestral music I’ve heard in a film. Reminiscent of the classic ‘Peter and the Wolf’, this theme is as gentle as it is poignant, and Trifecta handles it deftly. 9/10

Pawnee Attack – The following track is almost diametrically opposite, as fast and violent as The Wolf Themeis gentle. Fast claps are followed by slow, deliberate drum hits, and soaring horns speak to the gravity of the violence on screen. Once again Trifecta easily renders the scale of the music, while keeping all the different elements distinct. Stage size is, as always, impressive. 9/10

The Buffalo Hunt – I can’t get enough of the drum work on this soundtrack, which provides the perfect contrast to the string sections. This is probably the most famous track from the album, and my personal favourite, taking me right back to the grandeur, thrill and sheer optimism of the scene in the film. 9/10

Fragma, Toca

Trace/vocal trance, female vocal

Overall Score: 6

Tocas Miracle – Fast paced, energetic, but with less treble energy than more aggressive EDM, this track exemplifies the type of electronic trance/dance music that Trifecta excels with. Some of the higher-pitched synths still threated to dominate, but the vocal is really well recorded, and the basslines balance the sharper treble effects nicely here. 7/10

You are Alive – One of my all-time favourite vocal trance anthems, I just love how melodic and contemporary this track sounds even today, more than two decades after its release. There is a lot of sparkle in this track, so the treble sensitive might want to temper the volume, but it’s so much fun I don’t mind a bit of ear ringing in exchange for the sheer energy and absolutely gorgeous vocals that define this track. 6/10    

Toca Me – This is funkier take than the preceding tracks, with more subdued mid-treble energy and a chance for Trifecta to show that it can be airy-sounding when called for. 6/10

Enya, Watermark

New Age, female vocal

Overall Score: 8

Storms In Africa – Talk about the perfect storm for Trifecta – tribal drums and sweet female vocals interplaying off each other. Need I say more? 9/10

Exile – Here Trifecta shows how it can render a more subtle, sombre melody with strings and synths rather than pounding drums. Enya’s vocal performance is angelic, and the pan pipes never fail to bring on the goosebumps every time. Recording quality is less than perfect. (Bonus points for naming the Steve Martin film this iconic track was used in). 8/10

Orinoco Flow – The song that made Enya a superstar. A spritely, poppy take on the New Age genre, it’s actually quite a sparse composition with plenty of echo effects. Definitely showing its age now, and the high frequency artefacts of the samples used are quite ruthlessly exposed too. Still, an enjoyable trip down memory lane, even though it makes me realise how much ‘detail’ we were missing listening to these tracks with the basic sound systems of the day (probably a good thing). 7/10

Brandi Carlile, The Story

Americana, female vocal 

Overall Score: 9

Turpentine – While The Story is one of my all-time favourite tracks, I actually consider this to be the highlight of the album. Brandi’s vocals are so deeply emotive here, and the interplay between vocals and instruments is less frantic and more melodic too. Brandi has a knack of recoding her kick drums with real kick, and Trifecta makes the most of it. Absolutely world class. 9/10

Cannonball – Another simple, spartan track, I love how clear and involving Brandi’s vocals are on this track. Accompanied by a simple mandolin and male backing vocals, this song is all about the human voice, and a real testament to how well Trifecta renders it. 9/10

Again Today – This track starts off with some distant sound effects in both left and right channel, then a simple vocal, almost spoken. Stage width is massive, way out of head, with dead centre vocals. As the drums slowly come in, their natural, powerful hits and decay is absolute perfection. This is the consummate example of why dynamic drivers are essential for reproducing the natural physicality of drums, and Trifecta is probably the very best I’ve heard in this regard.  PS. Don’t switch off when the song is done…at the 7-minute mark there’s a hidden bonus track to enjoy. 9/10

Thank you for listening

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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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