CFA Holocene is the second IEM released in July this year. The first one is called Mammoth, and you can read its review here.
Campfire Audio is a well-known company in the IEM world. Many people fell in love with their Andromeda, and I think I can call Holocene a baby Andromeda. It’s cheaper, but with a very similar style of presentation. The first model of Andromeda was released in 2016, so that’s a long time ago for the IEM world. Since then, there was a bunch of versions that had some differences between them. Most of the Andromeda fans I know are still crazy about the first version. Besides that, as always when we’re receiving CFA earphones, we can expect top-level build quality, awesome accessories, and wonderful sound quality.
Packaging & Build Quality
Campfire ideas will never stop jolting me. This time, on the top of the box we can see something called “EPOCH”. It’s fulfilled with shapes, especially planets that are looking like Jupiter and pyramids. The outer part is in a similar color to the IEMs, which is brown. I prefer this design way more compared to the Mammoth’s one. I’m still delicately scared that this Illuminati eye is looking at me at night.
So, inside we will find a standard setup for Campfire. At first, we’re going to see the case made in Portugal, which design matches with the graphic on top of the box. CFA’s logo and zipper glow in the dark. That makes an awesome impression on people who see that for the first time, even if that’s not much. I’m always showing this feature to my friends, and they’re fascinated by that. Other glowy things are placed on the cable, the casings of connectors. They don’t look like “wow” in sunlight because bright elements don’t really get along with dark cable and dark IEMs, but when it’s dark.. damn. The rest of the cable is the same as always. It’s made of silver-plated copper, and it’s very soft and thin.
The setup of the eartips also didn’t change, we’re getting there a set consisting of Final E Tips, Campfire Audio Tips, and three pairs of foam tips. Final E Tips are still my favorites, but unfortunately, I can’t get a proper fit with CFA Eartips.
Other things you can find in the box, are soft pouches with slots for each earphone, so they won’t bruise. That’s very important to keep them separated because you don’t want to see any paint chips on your IEMs. At the end of the list, there’s a cleaning tool and a lapel pin.
Well, what can I say about the build quality? It’s the same as always, fantastic. IEMs are solid and pretty heavy, as they’re made of aluminum. MMCX connectors are great too, they’re not spinning for no reason, and the shape of the IEM makes them comfortable to unplug when we want to. Each earphone is built of three parts, faceplate, inner shell, and nozzle, which is colored black.
The only thing that always bothers me is the paint chipping. It can occur if the earphones hit each other, but that’s normal with metal earphones. Oh, and the little CFA logo on the faceplate glows in the dark too!
Comfort and Sound Isolation
The comfort is typical for Campfire IEMs. Holocene sits pretty deep in the ear, and there’s no problem with the fit. I don’t have to fix them in the ear the whole time, and even if one will delicately slip out, the sound remains the same. That issue might be really irritating, and I was struggling with that when I was using Satsuma.
Sound isolation is above standard, as that’s fully closed construction. It doesn’t cut me off everything, but when music is playing on mid-volume I don’t hear any surroundings.
Well, well, baby Andromeda at its finest. Holocene is absolutely different from its brother released at the same time, Mammoth. This time, we get a neutral sound signature, but that’s not this type of neutrality that is fatiguing and boring. It’s engaging and delicate, which made many people fall in love with Andromeda. That’s this type of IEM that doesn’t have many haters or just people that won’t like it. It’s too universal for that. A few of my friends that tried Holocene (with Earmen Eagle/Cayin N3Pro) were really satisfied with its sound and they’re absolutely different people. One listens mostly to the jazz, the second one is like “ONLY EDM MY EARS GOT TO BE KICKED”, and the rest likes the same things as I do.
One extra thing about the sound, it’s by far one of the best IEMs for movies or podcasts (which are well-recorded of course). I watched 3 seasons of Peaky Blinders using Holocene, and all voices, fighting sounds, shots were pleasing. I wasn’t feeling like I was using IEMs, but some nice neutral stereo.
So, let’s start with the bass. It’s like there’s no bass when I’m comparing Holocene to Mammoth one by one. But after a long break, when I put Holocene into my ear, I really appreciate that type of bass. It’s speedy and very direct. There’s no chance of covering the midrange with it. Subbass stays where it should. It starts immediately, but it’s not overwhelming, makes a very good background for the rest of the song. In “Oxytocin” by Billie Eilish, it’s playing further than with e.g. Craft Ears Four. It’s also crazy when it comes to the texture, same as with the midrange. It’s also bloody exact, but I miss air in there. It doesn’t please me fully when I’m listening to “Cantina Band” by John Williams. This double bass could be a little more stretched in the space.
On the other hand, the kickbass is just perfect for me. That’s a nice, fast slam that perfectly fulfills the lows. In “DNA” by Kendrick Lamar, it performs lovely. There’s a slam that should make a hole in your head, and even if that’s not the most powerful strike, it makes what it should.
Anyway, be aware that’s a rather thin bassline, which isn’t warmed. Holocene shows that part exactly how it was produced. In a few words, it’s universal, even for me, when I prefer rather bold and juicy bass.
The midrange is very well-detailed. Holocene won’t hide anything from you, but any mistakes in production are shown in a pretty delicate way. There’s nothing that will cut your ears if you’re using a little warmed source. It doesn’t matter if that’s some vocal or guitar riff, details are everywhere. I can’t say they’re rounded, but they also aren’t finished with a razor blade. Campfire found a great balance here. Unfortunately, with more technical or brighter sources, the lower midrange sounds a little metallic and cold. The problem disappears when I’m using anything warmer or just natural. That’s irritating mainly with fresh recordings (2010+), I don’t really know why.
The higher midrange is free from these problems. It’s always fantastic if you like a bit recessed sound at this point. Even Snail Mail’s voice, which is rather colder and more demanding sounds awesome. Her voice and other female vocalists are pushed back compared to male voices. If you’re a fan of the graphs, you’ll easily notice that. The timbre of the higher midrange is lovely. It’s very natural with a slight drop of warmness. Even if that’s pushed back, I really enjoy listening to Billie Eilish, thanks to the fantastic detailing and this fun, but calming timbre at the same time.
The treble is again, shocking with the amount of the details. Listening to the rather sad soundtrack of “The pianist” makes me feel more. Even if I’m feeling something different than the compositors wanted. I feel pretty happy during that listening session. When I’m closing my eyes I might not hit yhe keobrad propelry now, but I’m feeling like if that’s me who hit the piano keys. And that’s splendid because I didn’t feel like that for a very long time. I mean, with this music. I’m rarely in the mood for that music, but I know that it’s the perfect IEM for me in this case.
Okay, it’s time to put my feet on the ground again. Cymbals are wonderful, they sound rich, natural, and really enjoyable. They’re not mixed into one, even in the tracks that are hard to shine at this point, like “Freaking Out the Neighborhood” by Mac DeMarco. There’s so much happening in this song, and some IEMs at this price range can easily fail this task.
The soundstage is not as big as with the Mammoths, yet it’s adorable. It’s pretty wide and high, and makes awesome pinpoints, as I’m used to calling them. Apparent sources are marked and they’re not letting anything block them. Layering is another asset of the Holocene. The “Oooooo” in “Breezeblocks” by Alt-J is gently moving to the front being delicately further than the rest, but it goes around in a graceful wave. To let you understand me, imagine when you’re 7yo again, a little sick, with a cup of hot chocolate in your hand, and your mom is covering you with a blanket. That’s this type of feeling.
Sorry, my head is back in the clouds now.
Moving forward, gaming. It’s always a good test for all audio stuff when it comes to directions, precise heights, and air in the soundstage. So, Holocene does not disappoint. I can easily determine the directions of any shots, steps, explosions, and everything that’s happening around me. It’s very important to know the position of your enemy, isn’t it?
Holocene isn’t easy to satisfy. And I’m not talking about the power, as there’s no problem – you can feel satisfied with sources that don’t have much power. I’m talking about the background noise. Well, that’s another part where it’s so similar to Andromeda. To be honest, I’ve heard the hum with every source I used, except for the Earmen Eagle powered from the phone. When I plugged it into the laptop, which wasn’t on battery at the time, the problem showed up once again. That’s a hard nut to crack, but it’s worth it. I think that most Bluetooth DACs, like Qudelix 5K, FiiO BTR5 should be a good option for this brown beauty.
In terms of sound signature, the Holocene changes with different sources. It’s not like day and night of course, yet the change is visible. Personally, I like it the most with Cayin N6ii R01, but it sounds admirable with xDuoo XD-05Plus, Earmen Eagle, and Luxury&Precision W2 too. If I’d have to get some DAC/Amp for Holocene, I’d look for something a little bassy with the elevated higher midrange, and sweetened lower mids, but that’s just me.
VS Campfire Audio Mammoth
Those IEMs were released at the same time, with the same set of accessories, and the only thing that’s different (beyond the sound) is the color. The Mammoth is bassy, bold, chilling. Holocene is neutral, can be engaging, and it’s thinner. Holocene takes the lead with details, but the soundstage is slightly bigger with Mammoth. Anyhow, it’s built totally differently. I said in the review of dark navy IEMs, that’s the most natural soundstage I’ve ever heard in earphones. Holocene is more clinical at this point. In fact, it is more clinical overall.
VS Dunu EST112
Okay, now it gets more interesting. At first, Holocene is a little colder, and it has less bass. Dunu is free from metallic male vocals, and female vocals are upfront. Overall, it’s warmer, comfier to listen to for me. I can’t tell which wins in terms of details, because they’re very similar at this point. In one case, Dunu will be a little better, and in another Holocene leads. In terms of build quality, they’re very similar, but if Dunu EST112 is too big for you, then you should check Holocene. On the other hand, you have swappable plugs with Dunu, and if you’re using many sources, that might tip the scales.
Soundstage is shown differently. Holocene is more technical when Dunu has more magic style and has better separation. On the other hand, Holocene destroys EST112 in gaming. That’s a very fair fight, and again, you should listen to both and choose your favorite.
What an IEM! Here stands the cheaper Andromeda. Personally, I put Holocene as my third favorite from Campfire offer, after Dorado 2020 and Solaris LE. We’re getting almost everything we could at this price. Awesome build quality, universal timbre, outstanding detailing, and rich set of accessories. Besides that, we got some nice features like glowy elements and a beautiful case.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Campfire Audio Mammoth, Vega 2020, Craft Ears Four, Dunu EST112, Final A8000, Fir Audio VxV, Craft Ears Six, Dunu Falcon Pro
- Sources– Cayin N3Pro, Cayin N6ii R01, xDuoo XD-05 Plus, Earmen TR-Amp, Earmen Eagle, Luxury&Precision W2