Campfire Audio makes some of the most memorable sound signatures on the market. From the classic Andromeda, to the new iteration of the Solaris, almost every on of their models stands out as different from the crowd. Selling for just a little less than the Andromeda, the newly designed Ponderosa promises to begin its own special reputation. What can you expect in terms of sound signature and performance?
What’s in the Box?
- Campfire Audio Ponderosa (Deluxe Edition)
- Green leather case
- Foam and silicone tips
- 3 Time Stream Cables in multiple terminations
- Cushioned Cable Bag
- Cleaning tool
- Campfire Audio pin
- Dual-pocket Breezy Bag Micro
Look and Feel
The look is a mix between the metallic design of some of their original classics, like the Atlas, and Campfire’s newly introduced bulbous resin shells that it has used on its recent models, such as the Supermoon. The lime green connectors are a tad too much for me, but for those who like the color, the brightness provides a nice pop to an otherwise dark and industrial looking IEM. The green packaging also reminds us of a certain someone.
In terms of fit, I found the Ponderosa perfectly comfortable, despite the little bit of extra weight the steel faceplates add to the shell. That said, I rarely run into issues with fit. But my rule of thumb is that if you can wear the IEMs for two hours without feeling any pressure, they are sufficiently suited to your ears. And that was certainly the case here.
Like the Andromeda, the Ponderosa employs 5 balanced armature drivers. And as with all Campfire IEMs, the Ponderosa is very efficient, perhaps even more so than the Andromeda. So turn down your volume dials before pressing play. In addition to the 3.5mm cable, you’ll also get 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced terminations on the deluxe version of this model. For the rest of us riff raff, we will have to choose one of three plugs when buying.
|Campfire Audio Ponderosa|
|Frequency Response||5kHz – 20kHz|
That famous Campfire bigness is there, with a commanding sense of width and obvious dimension and precise imaging. That said, the solidity of the delivery sometimes makes the instruments feel less spacious or cleanly layered than they would on a thinner sounding IEM. Still, while the presentation may not feel as immaculate or holographic as it would on a $2K model, the grandness in scale certainly makes up for it.
Thick kick drums and lively, grippy bass makes for plenty of punch in the low-end. It’s dry, detailed, powerful and so very campfire-ish in its firmness. The sub bass frequencies are there, though perhaps not as visceral as some of the other contending models in this price range. It seems that the higher bass frequencies have more presence here. Still, this low-end feels a bit darker than the Andromeda. But while the low-end makes modern tracks sound big, acoustic instruments fare well too, with strings revealing a highly textured and majestically colored performance.
Again, that undeniable Campfire solidity that characterizes their IEMs is ever present here. The low-mids are out in full force, like they are in the Andromeda, lending tons of body to busy tracks. Percussion has a firm, almost blunted impact that brings raw power to energetic tracks. And the upper-mids avoid protruding too forward, so you won’t get a particularly vocal-centric mix (though vocals still sound fantastic). Instead, the sound is all encompassing, natural and immersive, never giving artificial favor to the balance.
With a gorgeous balance between airiness and color, vocals have a light, yet vibrant flavor to them. At the same time, transparency is as good as expected in this range, revealing all the subtle modulations and timbral elements of strings and brass. Although I didn’t feel any notable roll-off, treble peaks remained smooth and easy on the ears. You may hear a little sparkle in this range, but most percussion elements have more of a crisp finish rather than a glowing brilliance.
If you’ve already experienced the Andromeda, the Ponderosa might not give you that wow factor. There’s not a huge difference in sound signature. Certainly, the Ponderosa has all the exhilarating elements that are unmistakably Campfire. In fact, if you’re a seasoned audiophile listening to the Ponderosa blindfolded, you would likely recognize the brand (and maybe even say it was the Andromeda). And this is a hard feat to achieve in a sea of talented, yet sometimes forgettable IEMs. So, if you’ve heard great things about the Andromeda but don’t want to spend above $1K, the more affordable Ponderosa is definitely a worthy alternative, especially if you get the bare bones version. It may not be the most original addition to the Campfire line-up, but if you’re looking for the brand’s most classic sound, the Ponderosa is it.