New to the world of HiFi audio or in-ear monitors? It can seem a bit overwhelming with all of the jargon and various models to choose from. Let’s go through some of the basics of HiFi, as well as some of Campfire’s innovative IEM manufacturing techniques.
What is an In-Ear Monitor?
In-ear monitor, or IEM, is the name used by professionals and audiophiles to refer to earphones that sit in the ear canal, versus on-ear or over-ear headphones. Another key feature is that, unlike many “earbuds,” IEMs create an earplug-like seal in the canal to prevent any of the frequency range from escaping. The improved seal provides superior isolation and a perception of space known as “soundstage.”
IEMs are used for a wide range of applications that include both audio professionals and bona fide audiophiles. From pro-audio needs – like live monitoring and studio production – to simply bringing out the most in your everyday music listening, there’s an IEM made just for you!
Balanced Armatures vs. Dynamic Drivers
Our IEMs feature drivers that fall into two different categories. One of which is Balanced Armatures, a small enclosure that features a reed suspended between two magnets. As a signal manipulates the field between these magnets, it vibrates the reed, which, in turn, stimulates a small diaphragm. The motion of this diaphragm creates the changes in air pressure that create sound waves.
Dynamic drivers on the other hand, use what is known as a voice coil rather than a suspended armature. The voice coil oscillates as the electrical current flows in, which in turn puts motion into the diaphragm, creating sound waves.
Balanced armatures offer a compact, space-saving design that is invaluable in creating a low-profile, comfortable earphone. They also offer astounding detail and accuracy. Dynamic drivers excel at producing bass, and impactful, punchy sound, and are also able to effectively cover the full range of sonic frequencies.
The best of both worlds of these two types of drivers can be brought together in what are called “Hybrid Design” IEMs, such as the Campfire Audio Mammoth, Dorado 2020, and Solaris 2020.
Why are There So Many Different Models?
Campfire Audio takes a unique outlook on how we create variety within our product line. Each Campfire IEM seeks to provide a specialized experience so that everyone can find something that suits their taste. Like music itself, IEM performance can be very subjective. By creating a wide range of products, with various driver configurations, shapes, materials, and sonic emphases, we seek to have an IEM that suits your preferences exactly.
Powering your In-Ear Monitors? Is a Cellphone Enough?
Many wonder what sort of products they may need as intermediaries between our in-ear monitors and their devices. While some of these can help improve your listening, like the incorporation of a DAC (digital-analog converter), they are not usually required to get great performance out of your Campfire IEMs. Many run their IEMs directly through their cellphone or DAP (digital audio player).
One important note is that Campfire in-ear monitors tend to be very sensitive. It is best to be diligent in keeping your volume levels low and working your way up. Similarly, if using your IEMs through a charging laptop or desktop, the power cable can increase the voltage output and can cause damage to the drivers inside your IEMs.
Cables, Cables, Cables…
One important aspect of your IEM experience will be the cable that you use to connect your IEMs to your devices. There are a few factors to be aware of…
Different audio players can accept different-sized terminations of cables: 2.5mm, 3.5mm, 4.4mm. Our standard cables are your typical “aux” size and shape, which is the 3.5mm termination.
At the other end are the connectors that will attach to your IEMs themselves. All of our IEMs use a standard MMCX connector.
The metals that make up the wiring of your cable can affect the sound in subtle ways. A copper cable is going to be warmer and emphasize low to mid frequencies a bit more than the highs. A pure silver cable is going to be brighter and emphasize the highs. A silver-coated, copper cable is going to bring some of the best of both worlds of these materials. Silver-plated copper is featured in our Smoky Litz cable, which comes standard on many (but not all) of our models. Finally, a cable with pure gold wiring is going to offer superior performance across the entire frequency spectrum.
What is T.A.E.C.?
Many of our products, especially our newer models, feature a technology known as TAEC, or Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber. We use 3D printing to create precisely tuned housings in which to install our driver configurations. Each model has this technology specifically designed to alter its tuning and give it the specific character that we carefully target.
Our tuned acoustic expansion chamber technology allows us to deliver extended high frequencies without sibilance or fatigue. We optimize our driver performance by adjusting the volume of space available in front of the driver. This is superior to the typical “Tube+Dampener” system because it provides a direct passage from the driver to your ear, which results in unsurpassed clarity and extension.
What is a “Solid Body Design?”
Many of Campfire Audio’s in-ear monitors use what we call a solid-body design, which refers to the method used to house the driver configuration of a given IEM. Solid-body design uses a single housing with specially designed ports for each driver, allowing for each driver to be coupled together and routed to the nozzle of the earphone. This assembly is then dropped into the outer housing much like an engine being lowered into a car. This allows for a series of advantages in the production process, as well as helping to limit the variance between units of the same model and improving overall performance and accuracy.