Introduction to the Campfire Audio Bonneville Review
Sometimes, when I’m writing a review of gear made by a well-known manufacturer, it’s hard not to be repetitive in the intro, so let me write this: “If you’re in this hobby, you should know that Campfire Audio is a legendary company”. I remember when I read for the first time about Andromeda a.k.a. In-Ear HD800 and I just wanted to be able to listen to them sometime.
Times changed, on High-End Munich 2023, I had an opportunity not only to listen to the whole lineup of Campfire audio, but even to talk with the team of Campfire, including Kenneth Ball the CEO, and meeting I was thrilled. But after a short conversation, I can say that their stuff is cool, but the people are even cooler. They are listening to the community, so their products are constantly improving. A great example is Andromeda Emerald Sea, which is the best Andromeda yet, but for details, I need to redirect you to Michał’s review – you can find it here, damn he’s a fanboy.
But back to the subject, Bonneville is a part of the Chromatic series whose stories begin with a Supermoon – a single planar-magnetic IEM already reviewed by Paweł (check it out here, especially if you’re interested in custom-fit headphones from Campfire Audio).
Subsequently, the series unfolds with the introduction of the Cascara, featuring a solitary dynamic driver, followed by the Ponderosa boasting five balanced armatures. The Bonneville, the protagonist of the review, takes the stage armed with a dynamic driver and three balanced armatures. Each member of this IEM ensemble offers the flexibility of being ordered in either custom or universal fit, and to add a touch of personal flair, they are available in a choice of two colors: the classic black or a more flamboyant alternative. While I had anticipated capturing the vibrancy of a strikingly pink IEM through my lens, serendipity had other plans, and a black Bonneville arrived at my doorstep, maybe next time…
Reviewed Campfire Audio Bonneville is available in two different bundles, the one I’ve received is pretty basic. Simple cardboard contains IEM, a balanced MMCX cable terminated with a 4.4mm Pentaconn jack, a two pocket mesh IEM bag, a Lightweight Protective ‘Breezy Bag’, a precision cleaning tool, and six sets of tips – three silicon and three ‘marshmallow’.
Venturing into the Deluxe bundle amplifies the experience. This premium package boasts three MMCX cables with terminations of your choice, an additional RipStop cable bag, and, replacing the ‘Breezy Bag,’ a meticulously handcrafted leather folding case. This bundle is similar to the one that Solaris ‘Stellar Horizon’ arrives in. This deluxe variant, while notably more extravagant, commands a higher price tag – precisely $200 more than its basic counterpart.
Uniformity defines the cable offerings bundled with the reviewed Campfire Audio Bonneville, with the sole distinction lying in the termination options available. The soft isolation of the cable contributes to its flexibility, ensuring a positive impact on the overall listening experience. What stands out is the flexibility for users to choose between a single-ended or balanced termination, a noteworthy feature accessible even in the standard bundle. This versatility allows users to tailor their listening setup based on personal preferences, enhancing the appeal and adaptability of the Bonneville IEM.
The only thing I am not a big fan of is the “protective” bag. Well, it protects from scratching while the earpieces are lying on the desk, but to be honest at this price point, and especially in the on-stage monitors category there should be included a hard case that can withstand tough conditions. With this one, I’m afraid to put the Bonneville into my backpack.
During our recent rendezvous with the Ear-Fidelity team, we delved into the intriguing dynamics of the audio technology landscape. We explored the juxtaposition of the over-ear headphones market, which seems to have exhausted its innovations, with the vibrant and ever-evolving in-ear monitor (IEM) market. A realm where manufacturers engage in a constant battle for attention, unveiling novel materials, innovative driver designs, and intricate acoustic chambers within the earphone shells.
In this competitive soundscape, Campfire Audio boldly stepped into the arena, introducing their latest IEM model, the Bonneville. Armed with state-of-the-art technologies, namely the Dual Magnet Dynamic Driver and Knowles’ dual-diaphragm armatures, Campfire Audio aimed to make a significant impact in the world of in-ear audio experiences.
The manufacturer’s claim regarding the Dual Magnet Dynamic Driver technology is particularly noteworthy. This cutting-edge feature is designed to deliver robust bass without compromising on clarity. Positioned as a dedicated woofer within the Bonneville, it promises sub-bass frequencies that are not only powerful but also seamlessly integrated without overshadowing the rest of the tonal range. In essence, the lows are expected to be exceptionally fast and precise, marking a potential breakthrough in the pursuit of unparalleled audio quality. However, the veracity of these promises remains a point of anticipation until tested.
As we navigate tested Bonneville’s sonic terrain, we encounter a strategic choice by Campfire Audio in employing balanced armatures to handle the remaining frequencies. Recognizing the expense and complexity of developing proprietary balanced armatures, the manufacturer opted for a collaboration with Knowles, a specialist in producing such components. Significantly, Campfire Audio asserts that this decision contributes to Bonneville’s lower sensitivity and remarkably low harmonic distortion, presenting a compelling case for the advantages of this shortcut in the pursuit of audio excellence.
Design, Build Quality and Comfort
As I’ve already mentioned earlier, the Campfire Audio Bonneville offers a choice between two distinct colors: black and pink. Its design, while simple, bears a unique charm. Crafted through 3D printing with a resin material, the shell exhibits a delightful warmth upon contact with the ear. The glossy metal backplate, though not my personal preference due to its susceptibility to scratches, can be embraced as a sort of battle scar, reminiscent of the worn aesthetics of ripped jeans or relic guitars. Despite this minor quibble with the backplate, the overall build exudes sturdiness, and the well-placed nozzles boast an optimal shape.
Expressing my reservations about a particular design element, I must admit that I’m not particularly enamored with the semi-open construction of the reviewed Campfire Audio Bonneville. Typically, IEMs are my go-to choice for on-the-go use, often in bustling environments where effective sound isolation is paramount. Unfortunately, the presence of a hole in the backplate compromises the Bonneville’s ability to completely block external sounds. While there is still some level of isolation – I had no issues in an open-space office setting – I must concede that this Campfire Audio IEM wouldn’t be my top pick for a tram or plane companion, where heightened noise cancellation is usually sought after. Despite this, it holds its own in controlled environments.
Shifting the focus to the shape of the Bonneville, it’s essential to highlight the commendable comfort it delivers. Upon insertion into the ear, it becomes apparent that this IEM embodies a universal version of a custom-fit earphone. Despite the necessity for a slightly larger shell to accommodate advanced technology, the comfort level remains exceptional. The shape is reminiscent of my Craft Ears 4 in custom fit, and every edge that could potentially touch the ear is meticulously formed. Following a proper application, I found myself able to wear it for extended periods without experiencing any physical fatigue. It stands out as one of the most comfortable non-custom fit IEMs in my experience.
While delving into the design aspect, it’s worth noting that Bonneville’s aesthetic is characterized by extreme simplicity and generality. On one hand, this simplicity may come across as mundane, but on the other hand, it exudes an elegant aura. For those seeking bling, this may not be the ideal choice, but for individuals who appreciate the simplicity and unobtrusive class, the Bonneville emerges as the perfect listening tool, blending functionality with an understated charm.
Sound of the reviewed Campfire Audio Bonneville
Now, let’s embark on a thorough exploration of the crux, the essence of this review – the sound. As I’ve already written, Campfire Audio boldly asserts that the sound quality of the Bonneville is nothing short of exceptional – is both vibrant and remarkably precise, adorned with impactful and tightly controlled bass. Such claims inherently set the bar high, promising to satiate the discerning palate of even the most demanding listener. Let’s be honest, that’s what we should expect from the high-end IEM, but did they manage to deliver their promises?
The first thing I would like to write about is driving capacities. I still remember Holocene with its ridiculously low impedance or Io with extremely high sensitivity. It could be driven loud enough with any device, but due to this, they were prone to noise from the source. Bonneville is still not very power-demanding. I can drive it with Earmen Colibri at less than 1% of its balanced output power, or I can hear the music playing even if the potentiometer of my Topping A90 is set to 0.
But at the same time, the background hum does not affect the listening experience. I think the perfect sensitivity would be a bit lower, but fortunately, it’s not a big deal and I can live with that. That’s a good option for loud listeners, or while using it as a personal on-stage monitor with a receiver featured with a not-too-powerful headphone amp.
After talking about the driving capacities we can smoothly move to the frequency that is usually affected the most by the source that can’t deliver enough power – the bass. And what can I say, or to be more precise, write? Damn, it’s so energetic. When a track has an impactful bass line, reviewed Campfire Audio Bonneville can easily deliver it. In Get Lucky by Daft Punk the sub-bass hits incredibly low registers, while the upper ranges surround you with warm yet well-controlled rumble. Everything sounds like a well-amplified Berlin club full of partying people.
The punch and slam of the bass is fast, but thanks to the warmth it’s not clinical or dry. Just in point, perfectly balanced as you could expect from flagship IEM. To be honest I fell in love with the bass and I can hardly move to the next parts of the review. I just could sit and listen to songs I’m usually listening to when benchmarking the headphone low register reproduction possibilities. Again, in He’s a Pirate from the soundtrack of the Pirates of the Caribbean the rumble of the bass made me feel my body shaking with the sound.
This is ridiculous how a small device with a tiny driver can produce such a tremendous sound. If I had to describe the lows of the Campfire Audio Bonneville with one sentence, it would be: Imagine a party with great music, where the bass shakes all of your guts, then plug it directly into your ears, that’s the Bonneville.
But it’s the time to move forward to the midrange, thick as honey but textured like sandpaper. The first part is pretty obvious, Campfire’s IEM has the warmth that envelops you like a cozy blanket. But the part with sandpaper is also positive, I mean when everything is buttery smooth the sound can quickly get boring and that’s the opposite of Bonneville’s signature. When I sat just to listen to some music in the evening, I knew I could do it only for a moment because the following day I needed to go to work. Unfortunately, yet again I got caught, the midrange was so charming that I just wanted to listen to more and more music.
I have a huge amount of headphones in my collection, but only a few of them can engage me in emotions transferred by the music as good as reviewed CFA Bonneville. The way how classical instrumental music is reproduced stimulates my senses is incredible. I can’t remember when I felt goosebumps while listening to music with headphones for the last time, but Campfire IEM and some Dobrawa Czocher’s cello made me feel this again, well that was intense… Unfortunately, there is nothing I could complain about in terms of the midrange, that’s really impressive how Campfire Audio managed to tune the Bonneville.
The journey through the sound description brought us to the treble and here the warmth of the Bonneville is the most perceptible. The top end is very smooth and easy-going. In terms of resolution, it doesn’t lack anything, just it’s not as engaging as the other frequencies. It’s being overwhelmed by them. Usually when I’m using the word “overwhelming” I mean that the given part is the worst, and in terms of the treble of Campfire Audio Bonneville that’s true.
But that’s because the other parts are so good that even though normally I would write that the treble is very good, with great details and smoothness, this time I need to mention that I’m missing something that would catch my attention. Usually, when listening to Dronnig Fjelrose by Helene Bøksle & Hoff Ensemble I’m highly focused on cymbals, but this time I just didn’t spot when the track ended. On the other hand, it’s nice that the earphones don’t hurt my ears when the song is poorly produced. I’m looking at you, Rick Rubin and I’m looking at Californication.
Although the terrible mix and mastering songs by Red Hot Chilli Peppers sound good enough, I could focus on listening, not the pain. So If you are looking for extremely detailed and sparkly-clear treble you should keep searching, but in case if you’re a person who likes to sit in a comfy armchair, pour some good whisky, and listen to some music just to relax, then Campfire Audio Bonneville can be a great pick.
The last part I would like to describe is the soundstage and here yet again, you won’t find anything that will knock you off your feet. It’s decent, it doesn’t intrude while listening, but you can’t expect a tremendous soundstage as the already mentioned Sennheiser HD800, but it’s pretty good even when considering the competition. It’s similar in all directions, and while listening I didn’t feel like the sound came from inside of my head. Some would say, at this price point it should be obvious, in the high-end audio market nothing is obvious, and there are companies like Grado, who break all rules. So kudos to Campfire Audio, they made a headphone with amazing bass and midrange, which is still very universal. Despite the not-too-huge dimensions of the soundstage, I would probably pick the Bonneville as the best home theater on the go. The separation and positioning of the sound sources is good. Maybe it’s not the best IEM for gaming, but if I didn’t have any better alternative, I could play some competitive fps games with it and I still would have to blame my skill, not the gear limitations.
Overall the soundstage wouldn’t be the reason why I would pick Campfire Audio Bonneville, but it’s also not that bad that it ruins the whole picture. It’s just average, without deviation in either direction. Let’s be honest if the imaging would be the main selling point, then I wouldn’t look at them, but when you take under consideration the bass and the midrange and compare them with other headphones that have similar strengths like e.g. Denon AH-D7200, then the soundstage of Bonneville can be considered as impressive. Overall, it’s not the best soundstage I’ve ever used to listen to, but if we take the whole context, and this how is the Bonneville tuned into consideration, the soundstage and positioning are very good.
Aurum is an ex-flagship IEM of the Polish company Craft Ears, we have already reviewed it last year. It costs 1295 EUR in the universal fit version, so it’s a similar price tag to the American Campfire Audio Bonneville. The Polish IEM is a tri-brid construction with a single DD, four BA, and two electrostatic drivers. The Aurum arrives in a simple package, with three different sets of Spinfit eartips, a cleaning tool, a basic but very comfortable cable, and a pelican-like case.
I mean the case that can survive almost anything. That’s the thing I miss in the Bonneville package. But to be fair the Campfire cable feels way more premium when compared to the one that arrives with Craft Ears IEM. In terms of the build quality, both headphones are 3D printed with similar resin-like material. Craft Ears are slightly smaller, but due to the shape, Bonneville fits my ears better. What’s important is that both headphones are so comfortable for me, that I could easily listen to the music for hours without any fatigue.
In terms of driving capacities despite lower impedance, the Aurum is much more power-hungry, which can be a disadvantage, but due to low sensitivity Craft Ears IEM is not as susceptible to noise and source interference as the Bonneville. I think the sound comparison will be hard since both earphones are no better, or worse, they’re just differently tuned.
The bass of the Campfire is HUGE and powerful, while the one reproduced by Craft Ears is fast and tight. The bass accuracy of Bonneville is great, but it’s like comparing a cleaver with a scalpel. Both tools are useful, but you wouldn’t use a cleaver during heart surgery, or the scalpel to cut down a tree. When I would like to have a party in my ears, then I would pick Bonneville, but for analyzing the bass line note by note I would definitely go for Aurum.
The midrange of both headphones is vivid and interesting, but due to the differences in tuning in other frequencies, the reception is completely different. Bonneville has much warmer tuning, while the Aurum is more analytical. Both have incredible texture and the sound is highly engaging, so don’t worry, both can make you listen to music much longer than you have assumed. Here it’s hard to write something more, since there is a clinch here, with pretty similar performance and character.
The treble is where Craft Ears Aurum shines (literally). It’s much brighter and sparklier than the heights of the Campfire Audio Bonneville. While the American headphone is smoother and warmer, the Polish one is much more direct. Yet again I can use an amazing metaphor. That’s like comparing a Harley Davidson Fat Boy with a Yamaha Ninja. Both are motorcycles, but one is precise and fast, so you won’t spot when you reach 250 kph while the second one is much more relaxed, and driving 1000 kilometers is like a stroll in the park.
Lastly, let’s focus on the soundstage. Bonneville has slightly more air, and it’s bigger in every dimension, while the positioning is in favor of the Aurum. Yet again I can’t pick an objectively better competitor, I just can tell you that both are great, and you need to decide what is more important for you.
I wish I could easily pick the winner of this comparison. Both headphones are great, and until now the Aurum was my daily driver, but now, I will have to find a case for Campfire Audio Bonneville, that is safer than the original ‘Breezy Bag’ and both IEMs will be stationed in my backpack. So sorry, no sorry, the only advice I can give you is that you should buy two pairs, since both are great and both have some strengths that the other doesn’t have.
Now it’s time for some fratricidal duel, but is it really a duel? Maybe let’s begin with the introduction of the Andromeda. Emerald Sea is the latest iteration of the iconic Campfire Audio Andromeda lineup. With a price tag of $1450, it’s also the most expensive Andromeda ever. It arrives in a bundle very similar to the Bonneville Deluxe one, just with different colors and an additional, fancy wooden box with integrated display sand. It’s hard to describe, just look at the photos in Michał’s review of the Andromeda.
Both IEMs are made in the USA, so you can expect very robust yet well-fitted parts. Andromeda has a whole metal body, so while Bonneville feels like it can stand almost everything, Andromeda is one step further, so when you imagine a world after the atomic apocalypse, like in Fallout, then ghouls would probably listen to music with Abyss 1266 Phi TC, or Campfire Audio Andromeda, since they were the only headphones that could stand the nukes. But on the other hand, due to the metal body, the experience of applying the cold earphones is slightly odd. Additionally, the process of 3D printing allows to introduction of a fancier and more comfortable shape of the IEM. So while the build quality in terms of robustness is slightly on par with the Andromeda, then the Bonneville has a bit more comfortable design.
When comparing Bonneville with Craft Ears Aurum I went frequency by frequency because both IEMs are pretty similarly tuned, but there are some differences in the timbre, while Bonneville and Andromeda Emerald Sea are completely different pairs of shoes. As I’ve already mentioned Andromeda is known for its soundstage capacities, it has a ridiculous staging, especially in the IEM world, while CFA Bonneville has just a good soundstage. On the other hand, the bass of the Andromeda is… thin. I mean it’s not a headphone you would pick to listen to genres that focus on the bass. It just exists, while the bass of the Bonneville can crush your skull and shake your whole apartment.
Campfire Audio Andromeda Emerald Sea is a super sensitive, slightly midrange-focused, resolution monster with crazy sound staging. Whilst Campfire Audio Bonneville is thick, engaging, and slightly less sensitive with ridiculous bass impact. In the previous comparison, there was no obvious winner, but both IEMs had some slight advantages. Here I would say that both IEMs have tremendous differences, and both complement each other perfectly, so there is no other option than buying both in the bundle, so you won’t have to pay an extra delivery fee.
Campfire Audio Bonneville review – summary
Reviewed Campfire Audio Bonneville is a part of the Chromatic series and distinguishes itself with a unique sonic character that captivates audiophiles. With its innovative Dual Magnet Dynamic Driver and brand new Knowels’ dual-diaphragm armatures, this high-end IEM excels in delivering exceptional sound, particularly emphasizing powerful bass and vibrant, yet well-textured midrange.
The Bonneville’s auditory narrative unfolds dynamically, offering vibrant and energetic bass that injects vitality into various genres. The midrange is a harmonious blend of richness and texture, enveloping listeners in a dynamic and emotionally engaging experience. While the treble maintains commendable resolution, it operates in the shadow of the dominant bass and midrange, lacking the same engaging quality. The overall soundstage is decent, ensuring a non-intrusive experience with competent separation and positioning. In essence, the Campfire Audio Bonneville delivers a captivating and balanced listening journey, making it a compelling choice for those seeking a flagship IEM with a distinctive sonic character.
Shortly speaking it’s a great device for audiophiles seeking warm-tuned, high-end IEM.
Big thanks to Campfire Audio for providing us with the Bonneville for this review. I wasn’t paid or asked to say anything good or bad about this product, all of the above is just my personal, unbiased opinion.
I’m a 24 years old software engineer, but also coffee, wine, and audio gear freak based in Cracow, Poland. I like to get lost in the city, but I hate getting lost while reading pompous audio reviews. My goal is to provide simple and informative reviews that I hope will help you to find your way around the rabbit hole.