Campfire Audio Supermoon-Custom
Vocals sound realistic
Cons: Slight push in upper mids may bother some
Some complain about the cable-I don’t
5Hz–20 kHz Frequency Response
94dB @ 54.0 mVrms SPL
15.5 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance
14mm Full-Range Planar Magnetic Driver w/ 2 micron thick diaphragm.
Custom Beryllium / Copper MMCX Connections
Hand Polished 3D printed Solid-Body
Stainless Steel Cap
Astell & Kern ACRO CA1000
Between Senior Headphone Editor Will, myself and a couple of other reviewers we are close to, we have tried every single iteration from Campfire Audio (CFA). As a result, and because of constant conversation between the four of us, we have heard all of the good, bad and “indifferent” regarding CFA. In our opinion, there have been many more good iterations than not from CFA. I still personally own two models, including the vastly underrated CFA Cascade closed-back headphone. If you want a jolt of pure unadulterated bass, find a Cascade. New or used, it does not matter. If the Cascade cannot get you up and moving like Emilio Estevez in “Breakfast Club,” then nothing can. Other models from CFA have set curves of their own right, including the highly acclaimed Andromeda. Widely regarded as redefining what clarity is in a high-end in-ear monitor (IEM), the Andro still sets the curve, with rumors swirling of a new version coming down as well. It is a huge sales success and many manufacturers rethought what it actually meant for their top of the line IEM. It was that much of a changer. Others fill much needed niches, such as the Solaris and Ara (I personally prefer the 2020 versions, but the esteemed HeadPie, known as @ExpatinJapan on Head-Fi; prefers the OG version as does @B9Scrambler, also on Head-Fi), with higher end sound at near-mid-fi prices. A bass IEM of the Cascade would be the Vega, which unfortunately did not meet the accolades of the Cascade. To me this is a shame, as it is quite good for bassheads.
Coming out with a custom IEM is a chancy proposition for a manufacturer, but CFA did with the Supermoon. Sending “regular” Supermoon units around to garner opinion, the consensus was that it was good, and many lamented that it would only be available as a custom. Sending units out for those who might like to purchase one is a great way for a company to show off its wares, and it gives the potential customer 80-95% of the experience before plunking down $1500 for the custom Supermoon. Luckily, (sorry Will) it was my turn in the rotation and we (me) heartily said YES!
Since it is a custom, you will need to either send an electronic file of your inner ear shape for them to model the shell, or have an Audiologist make a 3D model and send it off. My local Audiologist (works with a family friend who is our ear, nose & throat doctor, and who coincidentally crossed the finish line literally 5 seconds before the bombing of the Boston Marathon…) took me with an appointment, making the molds in a total of 20 minutes for both sides. Remarkable. The cost was $35 as well. Sending those off, I emailed our contact to let her know that I wanted the Audiophile depth as opposed to Artist depth. The only difference is that the Artist depth goes further into the ear canal for those who use the unit on stage. A choice of cable can also be had, with four choices of again Audiophile in 3.5mm or 2.5mm or Artist in 3.5mm in two colors. I thought about going with the Artist cable in blue & red 3.5mm, but “settled” on the tried and true CFA Smoky Litz in 2.5mm. All cables use MMCX connections for longevity as well.
Since it is a custom, fit is excellent. Of the three custom’s I now have (UE Live & UE Drop), the Supermoon provides me the best fit. The two UE models were done using an infrared UV laser system to record the inner shape of my ear, which may have played a bit into it. Mind you, the others fit very well, and this could come down to the need for a little wiggle room. The overall fit of the Supermoon is large, but once inserted, I did not feel any pain or pressing like on some regular IEM’s that have one of those annoying “nibs” to help with fit. The Supermoon fits perfectly, and almost flush with my ears, which for the size is an accomplishment.
The now typical CFA unboxing experience is still present, and I am glad. Sometimes simplicity is welcomed, but much like when I received my Empire Ears Legend X, the Supermoon opening is a true event. Grab a drink and enjoy it. Carefully peeling the silver sticker away, the four “flaps” open to present a petal-like black and silver paperboard flower. Once inside, the still traditional camping-like experience imbues the covering of the box. Opening the unit, you find the Supermoon on top, with the individual soft fishnet fabric protection cradling each earbud. Below that is a newly designed case, with the wool-lined case on the inside. Another larger pouch houses the cable of choice, and a CFA pin lies under that along with the instruction manual. No tips are included of course, and the larger fishnet pouch can be used easily instead of the zippered pouch. I used the pouch, as I also threw in the latest cable from DDHiFi, a copper Air Nyx with a 4.4bal jack. I will review both and look for a dedicated review of the cable along with some other DDHiFi accessories in the future. A cleaning cloth and cleaning tool are also included.
One of the complaints of the CFA cable is that it tangles and seems fragile. While I understand both concerns, I have yet to cause harm to any CFA cable I have in ownership, or on a review unit. I’m not worried about it.
The Supermoon is also CFA’s first planar magnetic driver unit (14mm size, 2-micron thick diaphragm), and as such it is a big leap for them. Often thought of as taking chances, this is another time where they got it right. Planar technology is not new, and many of the best headphones use huge planar drivers. Audeze is known for theirs and the LCD-3 is my go-to top of the line open back headphone. This is one of the first offerings for an in-ear monitor, with only Timeless and Shuoer offering planar IEM’s at a much lower price as of this production. Those two units are not custom, nor offered that way, either.
The Supermoon consists of three parts: The Beryllium MMCX connection point; the stainless steel “capture,” which also houses some of the electronics; and the custom shell itself. Inside of the shell, much like the UE Drop and Live, the Supermoon has an enclosed unit, which houses the electronics. While technically, not completely custom; the ability to keep a uniform sound signature overrides the complete custom unit (and astronomical price associated). Build quality is typical of CFA, which is excellent.
I have a long habit of burning in everything I review, whether the manufacturer asks that I do or not. There is belief and disbelief in the practice, but when a company asks, I oblige. CFA did not ask me to do so. I also do this so that the potential consumer will hear what the unit sounds like six months or a year down the road. With some, I have indeed heard a difference. With others not so much to not at all. To me, that is not the point; it is to let you know what the unit sounds like well after the “new car smell” has worn off. Also, to me this is no different than burning in your two channel speakers per the manufacturer’s request. As of this writing, the Supermoon was let run continuously (with music) for over 100 hours. I checked occasionally to ensure all was good and the music was still playing. In the course of this review, I incurred another 100+ hours of dedicated listening.
Much has been said in the literature that the Supermoon had a slight push at the 7kHz frequency range, making the cymbal range sound a bit brittle or artificial. I can hear that but would counter that what I hear is clarity of that range. The upper mids are definitely highlighted in the signature, but it is not pervasive across all genres and music. Much was also made of the deep reaching bass, which is typical of many CFA models. Some call it a cross of the Andromeda and Vega, with the best of both parts involved. To me, the Supermoon has carved out its own niche in the CFA lineup.
My favorite CFA model is the Solaris 2020. To me, it melds the perfect amount of bass, with a richness of tone that pervades my senses. While certainly not as technically proficient as the Andromeda, there is a musicalness to the Solaris, which I very much like. The Supermoon has that musicalness the Solaris lacks. It also has a good punch down low, but not as much as the Vega (or Cascade for headphone users). Very controlled in the amount, the depth seems to go below what it should, which is due to that control. Almost a tricky sense of depth that comes across as taut, with very good speed of decay. But not so quick as to dismiss that bass line. Too fast and you would lose that depth of which I speak. “Daylight” from Coldplay displays this aspect of the signature very well. Controlled, deep, but not with a good thump. There is plenty of bass, but not overwhelming.
Chris Anderson’s voice is punctuating and crisp. There is a penetration to it, which is almost piercing, but comes across as melodic on songs such as “Green Eyes.” This shows the Supermoon’s ability to handle the mids and especially male vocals with a distinctness and character you might find in a very comparable open back headphone of the same price. When the rest join in, the timing is impeccable, and the melding together makes for a thoroughly melodic song.
The completeness of which I speak comes across in Ziggy Marley’s “Dragonfly,” which is such a good song. The message alone makes it worth listening to, but when you put all of the different instruments and structure together, you get a thoroughly enjoyable rambling melody, which cuts across many aspects of your listening. The bass drum hits hard and with an excellent thump. Speed again comes across as non-intrusive as we move up the range. Ziggy’s voice is like Anderson’s of Coldplay, but with a more piercing effect. Such sweetness comes across as well, and without too much emphasis up top. Rich in sound, and with multiple layers, the song gives a good indication of how an IEM can handle a complicated song such as this. Treble reach hits at the right spot, and that cymbal push of which I spoke normally bothers me in this song with some pretty good IEM’s. Not here, in fact I can turn the volume up a couple of notches on my Shanling M6 Pro to suit the mood.
“True To Myself,” also from Ziggy, indicates a good definition of soundstage. With excellent height, the center point of the music is slightly lifted inside my head. Depth is very good as well as width, but not so expansive as to lose the notes in too much air. There is a good punctuation in the music, which allows the user to clearly define placement of all instruments involved as a result. If you had to think about it this way, you would be slightly back from center stage (on the stage) with Ziggy singing in front of you, but all else behind or next to you. A really fine placement of everything.
Timbre comes across as pleasant with no issues as evidenced on Magic Slim & The Teardrops “Cold Women With Warm Hearts.” The song is a fantastic play on an uptempo blues song, but in a more laid back manner. His solos are divine and punctuate the air much like Ziggy’s voice as mentioned above but with deeper tone. His concerts are fabulous (three times…) and the timbre through the Supermoon gives a clear indication of what the concert would be like. I can clearly see his bassist off to the side, nodding his head Shaggy-style in perfect rhythm to the song like it should be. Follow that with the fast paced “Gravel Road” and the Supermoon again shows merits across speed and genre.
Female vocals come across as smooth and in the case of Bonnie Raitt, sultry. “Nick Of Time” is a fabulous album and the title track does not disappoint. The smooth character of her voice quickly changes to a vibrancy she is known for in “Thing Called Love.” With a gravel tonality to it and her trademark raspy voice, that still comes across as sultry; a pure treat on the Supermoon as well. The volume goes higher as I kick back and listen. This is also a good song for highlighting the resolution in the Supermoon. Succinct tone comes across as distinct, but still connected to each part of the song, making you tap your feet as well.
Comparing the Supermoon to the excellent UE Live may not seem fair, since it costs half again the price; but it also shows how well the Supermoon intends to compete. The UE Live is just about the purest sounding IEM either Will or I have heard. Yes, there are some, which cost as much as a small planet; but the UE Live simply sounds like it should. I found it funny then, that I immediately found the Live to sound somewhat flat compared to the Supermoon. I know they are two completely different beasts, but there is an immediacy to the Live, which is not there with the Supermoon. Realizing I had the GUCraftsman 4.4bal cable installed on the Live, I switched to the stock cable (which much like CFA has complaints of being plain and fragile) and the Live came back into its own. The GUCraftsman is pure copper, exudes a warmer signature, which can come across as dark or veiled. This could be part of it, but I often prefer the bass treatment of copper over silver (too bright for me most of the time). Technically speaking, the UE Live is better; and it should be. It is a stage monitor of the highest order, which also happens to be a damn fine IEM. The Supermoon, using the stock cable, is a very fine custom IEM, which provides a different enough signature from the Live to provide a viable alternative. The stock cable does sound livelier (even though it is copper as well, the Air Nyx is meant to provide a richer signature) and makes for a thoroughly engaging signature. I can go back and forth on different songs and like each. While I like tinkering with cables, the stock Smoky Litz is a fine cable. For 2/3 the price, the Supermoon does well against the much more expensive UE Live, providing a different enough signature as well.
We like many of the CFA models. The Andromeda is still the detail king of the lineup. The Solaris has soul, providing us with the signature I personally prefer; which is rich and warmer with excellent bass. The Supermoon combines much of the Andromeda, the Solaris 2020 and yes; the Vega 2020. It is different enough from each of those to be a clear offering, much the way I compared it to the UE Live. If you still want the technical leader (to me), then choose the Andromeda. Want a rich, inclusive signature? Choose the Solaris. But if you want excellent detail, resolution and clarity in its own right, and bass that, while not completely typical of many CFA bass-offerings, provides you with that feeling of just right bass, then the custom Supermoon should be a serious consideration for purchase. And since CFA to send you a non-custom Supermoon to ensure that you really do like it before plunking down your hard-earned Ben’s is a wonderful offer. Sending a model for you to try beforehand is also a nice gesture. They are quite confident you will like it but know that the outlay is worth the extra time to make sure you actually do. At the end of the day, I can highly recommend the Campfire Audio Supermoon.
The Campfire Audio Supermoon may be purchased here.