The Campfire Audio Jupiter IEM is here and its time to give this supposedly endgame earphone a full review. A while back we reviewed the mid tier offering from the folks behind ALO's new venture, the Campfire Audio Lyra, and were mightily impressed. The Jupiter earphones are a quad driver beast with detachable cable and unique styling. Said to be a more reference grade and balanced sound that its dynamic driver based brother the new multi driver offering can be considered a completely separate product as opposed to an upgrade. Over the past few years I have been lucky enough to try some of the worlds best earphones and the Lyra are certainly one of them which made me all the more excited to try out Campfire Audio's top of the line offering. There is no getting around it thought, the Jupiter earphones do carry an extremely hefty price tag of around $899 to buyers in the US, so they better be able to back that up. In this review of the Campfire Audio Jupiter we will go through the usual Audiophile On review format. Additionally I will take some time to make some side by side comparisons with other high end in ear headphones I have had at my disposal in the past few weeks and will also give you my opinions on the subject of fair pricing and performance. Now lets get to it, I have put a tonne of hours into this one in both testing, writing and photographing so I hope you enjoy and please feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions.
*Note* - I reviewed the Campfire Audio Jupiter IEM's at the initial price of $1299 so my impressions are based off that price. I have just been informed that costs have been cut through refining the CNC milling process and the new price will be $899.
I can't say anything more than its some of the simplest packaging I have ever seen. Especially on a $1000+ earphone (now $899). I love it. In the hundereds of earphones I have gone through in the past few years I have not once decided I would keep the box. Even the extravagant fur lined Final Audio box for my Pandora got the heave ho because it was taking up too much space. I wouldn't consider myself particularly "green" but there is something refreshing about just having small, clean & waste free recyclable packaging. It looks good though and keeping with the Camp Fire theme folds out to be a starry scene on a night sky. The box is sealed with a Juptier branding sticker on which the relevant information about the company and IEM is contained. On the Inside the Jupiter monitors are safely tucked away inside the stunning leather carry case and just bellow that you will find the full set of accessories.
Its hard to talk about the accessories without focussing on that carry case. With the exception of maybe Final Audio no one does a headphone carry case quite on this level. Its a rectangular clamshell case with outstanding build quality and material choices throughout. It is semi rigid which will protect the Jupiter IEM's from those that are more than a little harsh on their gear, you wont have a problem throwing this case into the bottom of a rucksack or taking them with you when commuting. The outer is wrapped in a beautiful distressed leather that will only get better looking with age and is embossed with the Campfire Audio logo. The inner is lined with a sheepskin-esque material to provide an added layer of protection to your new earphones. I'll stick a bunch of pictures of the case below but you really have to see it in person to understand how high quality it is. There is a number of spare ear tips included in the package including genuine Comply foam tips and various silicone models so you should something to give your a perfect fit. A cleaning tool is also provided as well as a spare cable but what I really liked was the inclusion of the little Campfire Audio pin badge. A nice little touch and as a whole the accessories far exceed what you will find even on most high end sets of earphones.
The Build Quality & The Design
If like me you prefer your IEM design with an over the ear cable then this is going to be right up your street. Following on with this TOTL (top of the line) theme is the design of the Jupiter earphones. Its simply stunning to hold them in hand but for very different reasons than why I liked the Campfire Audio Lyra so much. The Lyra had fealty like an crafted piece of jewelry, it was more delicate with the ceramic housing, the jupiter are a different beast. This is incredibly solid, rugged and very cool looking IEM nothing looks or feels quite like it. Its not often I get asked by non hobbyists what my earphones are, unless of I am wearing a set of customs most earphones don't stand out enough to warrant attention. However, in using the Jupiter of various flights & lounges over the past few weeks I have had numerous people ask what my earphones were, where can you get them and, of course, how much they cost. Watching people reactions to my answer of that final question was an interesting experience.
The Jupiter driver housings look almost military grade and give you the impression you could run them over with a car and they would come out looking exactly the same. They are extremely rugged and industrial in style but look a little closer and the high end finishing plus an attention to detail screams of a quality product. The earpieces themselves are constructed out of machined aluminium and what stands out most is the way the faceplate is attached to the main body of the housing via 3 gold coloured screws. This gives the Lyra a unique look and it nice that Campfire have made a feature out of them by painting them gold as opposed to trying to disguise them. On top there are detachable earphone jacks that are gold plated and fit assuringly into place with a solid click. One thing to watch out for is the lack of filter at the tips of the earphones so regular cleaning will be a must to keep the Jupiter performing at their best. The cable itself is very nice but not without its flaws. It is super light has a nice right angle jack and excellent memory wire to guide the cable over the ears but it has a fair bit of memory causing it to tangle and hold onto some shapes. Its a minor inconvenience but when nitpicking is the single and solitary flaw I found on the Campfire Audio Jupiter in any of the review categories. Of course this is all relevant because its still an excellent cable its just not one of the best.... hmm maybe a reason to order another Labkable for these beauties.
The Fit & The Isolation
Big or normal lugs need only apply here. The Jupiter are big earphones and should you be cursed with pinholes for ears you aren't going to find much love with the jupiter. I however am blessed with wonderfully normal sized ears and as a result find the Jupiter a joy to use even over long listening sessions. Insertion depth is around a medium and I found them incredibly easy to fit into the slot around my anti-tragus on my outer ear where they stayed locked in place. The memory cable at the top of the earphone works well in keeping the Jupiter in place and its just the right length so as not to prove cumbersome. Wearing the earphones over the ear of course eliminates any micro-phonics so this is a non existent issue on the Jupiter. Cable length is also spot on and being that I am 6'3 I had no issues using the Jupiter from a source in my back pocket. Either the included rubber tips or comply foam eartips worked well for me but in a worlds first I actually preferred using the Comply tips with the Jupiter Earphones.
Isolation is good and very much above average, around and 8/10 if I was putting a number on it. I suspect this is a result of the driver housing itself blocking our so much noise by covering the outer ear in combination with the medium insertion depth and comply foam tips. I found myself using them comfortably on flights and everything was drowned out to allow me to enjoy the music. Other than the Satan's spawn that was placed directly behind me on the Edinburgh - Paphos flight last week I heard nothing but sweet sweet tunes.
The Sound Quality
There is now doubt at all in my mind that the Campfire Audio Jupiter are one of the worlds best sounding in ear headphones right now. I will go into some select comparisons a little later with some other high end IEM’s that I managed to get a hold of for comparative purposes (which is one of the reasons it has taken me so long to put this review together, it ain’t easy getting fellow audiophiles to part with there favorite earphones for more than a few minutes let alone days). First though we need to describe what the listening experience on the Jupiter earphones are like in their own right.
The overall signature of the Jupiter is neutral in the sense that there is no domination of one frequency over another yet it still has the slightest hint of warmth not thick and lush like the Lyra were but enough to take away an overly cold and clinical presentation. Clarity is phenomenal with the earphones displaying incredible speed so as to spit out sound, however complicated the track, without any congestion or frequency bleed. The Jupiter are incredibly detailed, if a sound is there you can rest assured that you are going to hear it.
Highs – The treble has great extension, never ever becoming too edgy for comfort. Crisp with lots of clarity its not a smooth sound on the highs its more what I would describe as reference grade. Theres no colour added to this frequency range its simply as case of what you get is what was there. Nothing extra.
Midrange – The Jupiters mids are smooth and actually quite prominent. This is definetley not a v shaped sound and more power to campfire audio for taking this stance. I love me some mids and I love me some bass but what I don’t like as much is when they appear as 2 distinct entities. I prefer a smooth progression from the upper lows to lower mids it makes for a far richer and less abrasive presentation. The Campfire Jupiters nail that to perfection. Vocals are rich and detailed with the Jupiter not being suited to male or female vocals, it doesn’t care what you throw at it, it just spits out beautiful sound regardless of whether you are tripping on Sia or Mellowing out with Cohen. Strings are natural, detailed and have beautiful resonance and reverberation so be prepared to pick your jaw up from the floor on acoustic tracks from the likes of Sungha Jung or Rodrigo y Gabriela. Slides and picks are all combined with the strums, foot taps. It’s a great, fun and engaging experience to listen to mids on the Jupiter.
Lows – The low end is perfectly matched with the mids so that there is a super smooth transition without the lower end bleeding into or dominating the upper frequency. It’s a fast bass that has deep textures, layer and detail. Sub bass is present but not at bone shaking and brain rattling levels which is probably a good thing. Yet again the Jupiter shows great versatility as it performs well with jazz with the double bass of Kyle Eastwood displaying smooth and textured depth but when you want to throw on some hard industrial EBM like Angelspit or Chaos Royale the speed kicks in, it becomes fast fun and energetic. Bass will slams after building in progressive waves and rips right into a crashing and thumping finish. This is everything I want from a low end response.
Soundstage & Imaging - Soundstage is on the large side but not overly massive. There is equal depth and width displayed throughout the various listening tests but what really got me excited was the imaging. You have a real ability to pick where the sound is coming from as well as singling out individual instruments and focus in. I ran various sound sweep tracks and binaural recordings and only the Shure SE846 could match the Jupiter in out and out performance on the imaging front.
Yet again Campfire have shown what I think is the best thing about the company, something evident right across their lineup is that the sound is crafted like its an art form. I know from speaking to the guys at campfire that they spent countless hours tuning the earphones both by ear and through their own hardware and it really shows. Having spent some time with all three models I can really see the direction with the tuning across the lineup and the development of a house sound that really suits my own personal taste, Campfire make some beautiful sounding products.
Select Comparisons - Campfire Audio Jupiter Vs.
I managed to secure a few high end universals for direct comparison with the Jupiter IEM's as well as pulling out my own SE846 for a battle. I have chosen to not do a comparison with my high end custom models and keep it strictly universal. The earphones used in comparison were the Shure SE846, the DITA Answer and the Sennheiser IE800. I instantly ruled out the DITA as I found the sound to be the harshest and the tuning not to my personal taste. Its a shame though as the DITA IEM's come the closest to that wow factor in design terms. Choosing between the IE800, Shure SE846 and the Jupiter however is a far more difficult choice as all are excellent sounding earphones that I could easily live with but I am going to have to give the edge to the Jupiter as I favoured the way it presented the low end. The SE846 have a tonne of power behind the low end just like the IE800 but in the end if I am spending this much I am looking for something closer to reference grade but still with a slightest hint of warmth. At this level though its all very good sounding with very limited flaw so a final decision can come down to more physical factors and when it comes to design (other than the cable), build and overall styling I can say that the Jupiter slay the competition.
Source Selection - What worked for me?
Generally the Jupiter work well with most sources. With some sources there was a slight hiss detected, very inoffensive and you will forget about it in a few seconds but if I were you choose your sources wisely to get the most out of them. I found theJupiter worked well when paired with a number of my sources but I preferred using it (as you should) with those that offer very little coloration to the sound. Let the earphones do the talking. The Aurender Flow, my choice over the Chord Hugo DAC and AMP, was the pick of the bunch but also the 02 DAC/AMP and Audioquest Dragonfly worked very nicely. When driven out my phones (Nexus 6 and Blackberry Passport) the nexus had a slight hiss but the BB was clean as a whistle. Both were able to drive the earphones past safe listening volumes with ease.
Musings | Is a Price of over $1000 warranted?
Those that have read here before are not surprised to see me lambast something when it comes to pricing. Especially when I believe a company is using price as a gimmick to insert a perception of performance and the 2 I have been very vocally critical of in the past are of course Flare Audio with the R2Pro earphones and Astel & Kern with there DAP's. Campfire Audio however are something very different and the pricing comes down to a number of factors. The company is a very small outfit and without demand for massive production run numbers you are essentially operating a small batch operation. Think of all the research, design, testing etc that has gone into a project like this and the costs soon add up. On top of that you have to account for a profit margin. Look at a company like Shure and the excellent SE846 earphones. They are said to have a very slim profit margin (if any), the Jupiter sound as good if not better (depending on how you like your bass). Shure have the ability to move volume and have years of research and data available to them. Campfire Audio do not. So in my eyes the Jupiter IEM's don't equal value for money but instead represent a fair price for the amount of effort that has been put in by the team. It truly is one of the best earphones I have heard to date and it certainly isn't a gimmick so yes a price of $1000 is certainly warranted but you will have to asses your own situation to determine there worth.
*As above the Jupiter earphones have received a price drop through a refinment of the production process. Now priced at $899 I would have a very hard time recommending the 846, Dita or IE800 over these now.
Campfire Audio Jupiter Review | A Conclusion
Its kind of a fitting end to the year that in my mind the best has been saved to last. In the world of universal earphones there are three TOTL IEM’s that have really stood out. Two of them come for Campfire Audio, the Lyra & Jupiter. In my own opinion when your get to the top end of the road, were talking of side steps in terms of tuning between the big players in the market. For the most part earphones priced this high are generally excellent sound quality wise and the Jupiter are no exception. Its quite amazing to look back to the start of the year and think I hadn't even head of Campfire Audio and yet at the end of 2015 they are now the product I most look forward to sticking in my ears and having a long, engaging listening session with. Even though the price will put the Jupiter IEM's out of the reach of many people those that are lucky enough to pick up a set of the Jupiter will be rewarded with one of the best designed and best sounding universal earphones on the planet right now.