For a while now, the Campfire Polaris has been absent from store shelves. Meanwhile, rumors abounded that the affordable icon would be getting a minor facelift. Now, with the new Campfire Polaris II sitting on my review desk, I’m ready to dig into the differences betwixt this new earphone and its predecessor. At $499, the new Polaris runs a little cheaper than its progenitor, but how does it sound?
Campfire Polaris II Review
The Polaris II comes in a new box with a bit more bulk (but better construction) than the former design. Inside, you’ll find the same old accompaniments: eleven pairs of eartips, a leather carrying pouch (of new design), a Campfire pin, and a cleaning tool. There’s also three mesh earphone pouches in the box, as opposed to the single pouch Campfire used to supply.
Holding the earphones in my hand, they exhibit a solid feel. Sporting a semi-reflective housing, the look seems a bit sleeker than the original Polaris, though the dimensions are the same.
Fit appears perfect, and the Polaris II sits just fine inside my big radar-dish ears.
While Campfire claims the cabling is all-new, this amounts to a darker jacket over a silver-plated copper litz cable.
In terms of drivers, the Polaris II features the same hybrid design – with one dynamic driver and one BA driver. But the sound seems slightly re-tuned, resulting in a slightly less dark (but still pleasingly warm) sound that just drips with detail.
Frequency Response: 5-20,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance: 17 ohms
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 105 dB
These specs reveal a fairly standard frequency range, but perhaps with a little extra emphasis on the low end. Nominal impedance sits at a low 17 ohms, making this efficient IEM a good candidate for smartphones or personal players. Where volume is concerned, a solid 105 dB should keep you sitting pretty in most listening situations.
With punch and zazz, the Polaris II offers an energetic low end that remains emotive yet articulate. Hip hop and rock tracks practically demand multiple listening sessions, but any track with something going on in the low end still benefits from this sound. Bass lands emphatically, putting a special shine on this earphone – and one you just can’t let go.
Mids register strong and clear, giving me that kind of detail and fidelity I’ve come to expect from Campfire. Clean and clear, there’s no distortion or compression here. Instead, vocals and instrumentation here register incredibly distinct and contrasting. Slightly overshadowed but never quite overwhelmed by the lows, the mids sound just slightly forward – resulting in a rich, mesmerizing midrange.
In the highs, the Polaris II offers the same highly-detailed performance found in the lows and mids. To be honest, I was expecting a dash of roll-off in this high end, but everything registers sharp and clear. And with that in mind, the sound never becomes too sharp or harsh, opting instead for a tempered high end that nails every nuance while keeping things comfortable. Instrumentation sounds accurate and clean, but there’s something extra special about female vocals here that pushes the sound to new heights of good.
Deep and spatial, you won’t need a map and compass to navigate this impressive sense of soundstage. Every instrument seems to pop out and assume a finite realm of space, while vocals drift like a gossamer over that landscape of vying and rippling notes. I can’t remember the Original Recipe Polaris ever sounding this good, or this spatial. And if you’re looking for the best soundstage you can get under $500, look no further.
As mentioned earlier in this review, the Polaris II really shines with rock and hip-hop, where the energetic low end can really stretch its legs. But pretty much every genre sounds great piping through this earphone – electronica and pop benefit from the immaculate highs and lows, while classical and jazz take advantage of that lush midrange. Even the dulcet tone of a banjo on bluegrass tracks seem a bit more musical when pushed through the Polaris II.
Fit remains crucial and Campfire goes a long way to make this a relatively-painless task. While a ton of tips (including Final E-Type and even some memory foam) are included with the Polaris II, the nozzle is wide enough to accommodate many third-party tips, like SpinFit (a personal favorite).
If you want something less fun and much more boring, skip the Campfire Polaris II and settle down with the Shure SE535 ($499). While slightly more accurate, it lacks the vivre and straight-up sass you’ll love in the Polaris II.
For a truly neutral sound, skip the Polaris II’s slightly decadent warmth and opt for the Westone (also at $499). Sure, you won’t be listening to them for hours (or days…) on end, like you would with the Polaris II, but you will have a more accurate sound.
But what if neither of these scenarios describe the sound you’re after? What if you find yourself tossing and turning at night, craving a rich, detailed sound with one helluva low end? And a bass response that makes your eyes roll up to the back of your head and causes you to speak in strange tongues? Well, look no further. The Polaris II is just the shot in the arm (ear?) you need. And, at $499, it’s an absolute steal.
Lending a bit of sonic magic to everything it touches, the Campfire Polaris II (aka “The Second Coming”) delivers a rousing performance that will leave you swooning. While not as accurate or flat as other IEMs at this price, the delicious warmth and transcendental soundstage offer a far more engaging listening experience. At $499, this earphone won’t necessarily break your bank, though it isn’t Campfire’s cheapest model, either. However, for what it offers, the Polaris II should be priced much, much higher. My take? If you’re looking for a fun and engaging sound under $1000, this earphone needs to be on your list.
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