Campfire Audio Honeydew: Smoooooooooth

Greetings!

Today we’re checking out the Honeydew, one of two brand new products from Campfire Audio.

Hailing from Portland, Oregon where their products are designed and hand-assembled, Campfire Audio has been bringing high end in-ear-monitors to the public since 2015. It all started with the Jupiter, Orion, and Lyra. Since then their lineup has been expanded and refined with popular releases like the Andromeda and Atlas. The Andromeda in particular has become a staple recommendation for audiophiles looking to step up into the realm of TOTL (top-of-the-line) gear thanks to a balanced and technically proficient yet entertaining sound. It looks pretty cool too.

With the Honeydew and its sibling, Satsuma, we are seeing a shift in nomenclature from the brand. Whereas past products followed a celestial naming scheme, these two new models are titled after colourful, sweet fruits that make for a delicious snack during the warm summer months. Honeydew features a full-range 10mm dynamic driver with a liquid crystal polymer diaphragm set within a 3D printed acoustic chamber, all tucked inside the same brand new housing as it’s single armature twin. Where the Satsuma goes for a more balanced, mid and treble focused sound, the Honeydew pulls tuning queues from the Polaris II with an extremely entertaining, v-shaped signature.

How does it perform? Let’s find out, shall we?

What I Hear The Honeydew fits well into the Campfire lineup alongside models like the Vega 2020 and Dorado 2020 thanks to a monstrous low end that is the driving force in the characterization of the listening experience. Like those other models, the Honeydew’s bass digs impossibly deep to provide a very thumpy, visceral experience. Betraying it’s status lower down on the totem pole is some looseness and occasional mid-bass bloom that leaves some notes sounded a bit bloated and boomy. Thankfully it keeps up in terms of speed so rapid bass notes like those heard in Havok’s “Time Is Up” remain distinct. Texturing is extremely smooth which I would usually consider a negative, but given detail is still good and the rest of the frequencies are just as silky, I’ll chalk this up as a positive. It ensures the presentation is consistent and coherent top to bottom. I do want to note that the Honeydew scales fairly well with a balanced connection, clearing up some of the bloom and adding texture back. If you have the ability to run it balanced, do it.

The midrange of the Honeydew is unexpectedly linear with a warm and natural timbre that makes it oddly satisfying with live recordings like King Crimson’s “Cat Food”. I just love the way strings and woodwinds are reproduced. Everything is lively and energetic yet smooth and non-fatiguing. The same can be said for the Honeydew’s vocal performance. While recessed in comparison to the bass and to a less extent treble, I never had an issue understanding what was being sung or said, even amidst the clashing of cymbals, deep thrumming of a bass guitar, or massive digital bass. Voltage’s “Life Of A DJ” is a perfect pairing with the Honeydew with articulate, reggae-inspired vocals, warbling basslines, and clattering snares. Notes are thick and weighty which does result in less detail, but given the genres the Honeydew excels with (i.e. basically anything with heavy electronics use) and how refined the presentation is, I can forgive it. This isn’t an analytic earphone after all.

The Honeydew’s treble is also reasonably well balanced with small peaks in both presence and brilliance regions, with the larger of two in the upper treble. The presence peak is needed to ensure the Honeydew isn’t so smooth to the point of all micro detail being masked. While I personally would like a bit more of a lift here, I think most listeners will appreciate Campfire’s modesty as it results in a presentation that retains good detail while being far from harsh or grating. The brilliance region lift is more to my taste, however. There is just the right amount of sparkle on chimes and cymbals with plenty of space between notes. Attack and decay qualities are on the moderate side, further contributing to the Honeydew’s smooth presentation. Lastly, notes are extremely well controlled and tight with zero splash or sloppiness to creep in a ruin the experience. Nicely done.

The Honeydew’s sound stage is an area I think a lot of people will be quite pleased. This earphone sounds big. That big bass provides an expansive platform on which everything else is layered. Despite vocals setting things off with a fairly intimate way, effects get tossed way off into the distance. This dichotomy makes the Honeydew feel very dynamic when used for gaming and movies since it immerses you in the content in a way that few earphones do. The nuanced imaging with clean channel-to-channel transitions doesn’t hurt, nor does the depth of the layering. Instrument separation is generally quite good, though that mid-bass bloom can sneak up and smear things at times.

Compared to a Peer (volumes matched with Dayton iMM-6)

Periodic Audio Ti (199.00 USD): I’m sure you can imagine it came as a surprise when I popped in the Ti for a comparison, only to find that despite the Honeydew being a bit of a bass monster, the Ti was even more so. Both extend into sub-bass regions beautifully with the Ti having extra emphasis. As a result, it sounds slightly more skewed towards a thinner, more textured, and more visceral presentation vs. the Honeydew whose mid-bass has more impact and adds additional warmth. When it comes to speed the Ti is quicker. That said, I prefer the way the Honeydew lets things linger. Leading into the mids the Ti has an upper region lift that I really like. This gives vocals more presence than you hear from the Honeydew, although it comes at the expense of timbre quality and note density. The Honeydew just sounds more natural. Treble from the Ti is very much skewed toward the presence region with the brilliance region struggling to provide much shimmer or sparkle at all. While it provides more detail than the Honeydew, it is less refined with a graininess to it that takes away from the experience. The Ti is also less well controlled with notes lacking the same level of definition. When it comes to sound stage these two perform quite similarly. Wide, deep stages with accurate imaging, good layering and separation. I don’t really find one to be superior to the other.

Both of these products seem tailored towards fans of big bass, and in that regard they do not disappoint. That said, while I prefer the Ti’s midrange presentation, the lack of treble refinement and brilliance region emphasis holds it back. The Honeydew is simply more entertaining and refined. Add to that more comfortable and better built and you’ve got my pick of the two.

Sennheiser IE 300 (299.00 USD): The IE 300 doesn’t lack in the low end, but compared to the Honeydew the difference in elevation is quite evident. Campfire’s entry extends better and has a much heavier, thicker presentation that makes it considerably more visceral and punchy. The IE 300 in contrast has a sound that is quite a bit quicker, lighter, and more nimble. It is much less full-bodied. This lean, light feel continues into the midrange. While the IE 300 nearly matches the Honeydew’s warmth and excellent timbre, it provides more detail and vocal clarity. Unfortunately this comes with some vocal aggression on Tees and Esses that is nowhere to be found in the Honeydew. When I listened to these two back-to-back then looked at the measurements it didn’t seem right that treble emphasis was pretty close. The IE 300 sounds quite a bit brighter to me. I suppose it’s possible this effect is exacerbated by the lean note presentation and thinner brilliance peak that is concentrated at 7k vs. a smoother spread across 7k to 9k. Despite the IE 300 sounding quite a bit brighter, I don’t find either particularly fatiguing, though I do appreciate that the Campfire nearly matches the impressive clarity of the IE 300.

I like both, but I think the Honeydew is the one I’d like to use more often. The more full-bodied sound provided better compliments the tuning style and bass presence. The thicker, less fatiguing midrange also doesn’t hurt.

*Since the Satsuma and Honeydew provide the same external build and accessories, these sections will be the same for both reviews with slight alterations made where necessary.*

In The Ear The Honeydew features an all-new shell design for Campfire Audio, though one that still draws inspiration from the iconic angular design first introduced in 2015 with the Jupiter and Orion. While still rife with straight angles, the new shell is quite compact and petite. Along with a new shell design, this is the first product from the brand that I’m aware of to move to molded ABS plastic. While it certainly lacks the heft and quality feel of their other steel, aluminum, and ceramic models, fit and finish is definitely up to snuff. Seams are extremely tight and properly aligned without excess glue or whatever bonding material was chosen peeking out. The steel nozzles are similar in design to those of the 2020 Dorado and Lyra and protrude from the housings at a natural angle. Outside of the CA logo molded into each face plate, there isn’t much else of speak of. The design language fits in well with the brand as a whole, with the exciting colour (“Mellow Yellow”) really making everything pop.

The Honeydew comes with a new ‘Smoky Lite’ Litz cable. Outside of one small change, nothing else about the cable seems different from the regular Smoky Litz included with the Andromeda 2020, IO, and various other models. I might be just a tad thinner and the sheath more flexible, but even with the two cables side-by-side I’m not confident about this. Either way, the 90 degree angled jack is still smartly designed with an extension to permit compatibility with a wide variety of device cases, though the strain relief remains stiffer than I find ideal. That said, I still have yet to experience any issues with it on the numerous cables in my possession. My experiences with Campfire’s cables have shown them to be plenty durable. Within the small, reliefless aluminum y-split, the cable divides sending two strands on each side to the ear pieces. Slotting into the top of the split is a small plastic chin cinch. It moves much more smoothly here than on older Campfire cables and as a result is much more useful. The one change mentioned earlier is the preformed ear guides. They are now opaque black instead of translucent white as found on all previous versions of this cable. Functionally it is unchanged and does just as good a job of holding the cable securely behind the ear. I like this cable, even if above the y-split it can get a bit tangly.

All points where the shell meets the ear are smooth and rounded leaving this, in my experience, as Campfire Audio’s most ergonomic and comfortable design to date. The lightness provided by the use of ABS absolutely helps with this since the earphone doesn’t droop in the ear, or slip out of place while walking, running, etc. If you decide to take the Honeydew out into noisy environments, you’ll find that isolation is slightly above average for a vented earphone. When out in noisy areas, outside sounds are muffled effectively, though I still found myself upping the volume just a tad to counter. I recommend rolling with Campfire’s included Mushroom foamies if you require the most isolation possible.

In the Box The Honeydew arrives in the same packaging we have become familiar with from the last few releases from Campfire Audio. But is it really the same? When I first held the box, it felt a little different. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was until I removed the lovely Campfire Audio logo embossed sticker sealing the exterior sheath shut, then opened the lid of the interior box to reveal the inner contents. Ah ha! This packaging is smaller. Not by a lot, just a few millimetres, but they’ve definitely condensed it down slightly into a more compact experience. This is a change I can fully get behind since it uses less material and creates less waste, a philosophy more in line with the earlier, extremely compact packaging that came with models like the original Polaris, Comet, and Atlas.

Anyway, the theme this time around has changed. The large sticker that adorns the front of the sheath carries with it strong 80’s summer vibes thanks to the use of bright colour gradients set within various well-defined circles. Images of the Honeydew’s creamy orange shells are present and there is also a gemstone tucked into the bottom left corner. Don’t really see how that one fits into the theme, but it looks cool so I’ll let it slide. A smaller sticker can be found along one of the side panels and provides some basic information about the Honeydew, such as that it features a single balanced armature with Campfire’s T.A.E.C teach, a stainless steel spout, among other details. Removing the sheath to reveal the main box within sees Campfire’s traditional nighttime mountain scene has not been abandoned. ‘Nicely Done’ remains printed on the front flap as well, which always puts a smile on my face. Once inside the box, you find a compact half moon carrying case and yet another, smaller box containing the rest of the accessories. In all you get:

  • Honeydew earphones
  • ‘Smoky Lite’ silver-plated, copper litz cable
  • Canvas zipper case (handmade in Portugal!)
  • Mashmellow foam tips (s/m/l)
  • Wide bore silicone tips (s/m/l)
  • Final Audio Type E tips (xs, s, m, l, xl)
  • Cleaning tool
  • Campfire Audio lapel pin
  • Mesh accessory bag (x3)

In all a very comprehensive accessory kit, as is always the case with Campfire Audio products. The only thing I would love to see added in the future is a set of bi- or tri-flange tips to satisfy the crowd that prefers that style. Going back to the new case, this is my favourite iteration of Campfire’s half-moon style case so far. Not only is it smaller and more pocketable than previous versions, without sacrificing the ability to comfortably hold the earphones and some extras, but the canvas material looks and feels fantastic in the hand and will certainly be able to take some abuse. Hopefully they carry it forward to future releases.

Final Thoughts The Honeydew is a very welcome entry to Campfire Audio’s lineup. It is their second most affordable model and does an excellent job of giving buyers an idea of what to expect if they want to move up to something more capable with a similar tune. It finds a nice balance between the mega bassy Vega 2020, and still bassy but more mid-heavy Dorado 2020. It does what the Polaris II did, but more affordably and that is nothing but good.

I also love the new shell design. While I wish it was made of something a bit more premium, giving that up for the outstanding ergonomics and lightness seems like a worthwhile trade. Plus, they still feel plenty durable, you won’t have to worry about paint chips, and they have those sweet chromed steel nozzles to give you something nice to admire.

Overall a quality product with a fun sound, and a worthy opponent in what has become a very congested and competitive market segment. If you want something in this price range with wicked bass in a comfortable, well appointed package, look no further.

Thanks for reading!

– B9

Disclaimer A huge thanks to Caleb at Campfire Audio for reaching out to see if I would be interested in covering the Honeydew, and for arranging a sample for review. The thoughts within this review are my subjective opinions and do not represent Campfire Audio or any other entity. At the time of writing the Honeydew retailed for 249.00 USD: https://campfireaudio.com/shop/honeydew/

Specifications

  • Frequency Response: 5Hz – 18kHz
  • Sensitivity: 94dB SPL @ 1kHz 18.52 mVrms
  • Impedance: 46.40ohms @ 1kHz

Gear Used For Testing LG Q70, Earstudio HUD100, Earmen TR-Amp, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501

Some Test Tunes

Supertramp – Crime of the Century

Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid

King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic

King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black

Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma

The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy

Steely Dan – The Royal Scam

Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s