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If the Campfire Audio Atlas has one purpose, it is to show you how engaging the experience of listening to music can be. Not meant for those looking for balance, the Atlas instead picks a grand, vivid sound signature that brings epicness to your ears. With a build that compromises on nothing, the Atlas is nothing short of a masterpiece.
The love for high-end audio is something that often knows no limits. Be it the price, the materials to be used, the design constraints to adhere to, everything is often shunned to bring the best in audio performance to the audiophile world. A fine example of this practice is the Campfire Audio Atlas that we had in our offices for review purposes recently. Packing some really impressive build quality, and a significant price tag, this stainless steel powerhouse managed to bag the top honour in our Zero1 Awards 2018 - Wired IEMs category – and for all the good reasons.
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While design and build are not taken into account for the evaluation in Zero1 Awards, even if they were, the Atlas would probably still hold on to the top position regardless. If you’re familiar with other headphones from Campfire Audio, you’ll notice the similarities and deviations from its previous designs. One of their closest products would be the Comet, with the Atlas seeming like a larger version of the same. They have deviated from the usual curved PVD finish of the 2nd gen liquid metal alloy designs as well as the original edged bulkier machined aluminium of the Andromeda and Jupiter.
The Atlas boasts of a stainless steel construction that is drop forged and then CNC machined and polished until it is shiny enough to reflect your face had it been small enough. There are the CA motifs on the side right above the MMCX connectors. The overall housing is a bit larger as compared to the Comet but that is to house the large 10mm ADLC drivers that the Atlas comes with. As with larger drivers everywhere, the housing needs to be bigger to provide more space for a greater amount of air to be pushed through.
The housings are bullet shaped and symmetric, so you can wear them in both cable-down and over-ear methods. We found the over ear method to be useful due to the weight of the stainless steel housings. The dome and the nozzle on the housings are designed so that the rest of the body can get out of the way and you’re not left adjusting the earbuds for comfort.
Interestingly, the driver housings on the Atlas are channel agnostic - it is the included MMCX connectors that are marked as the respective channels. The connectors are beryllium plated and quite durable. The Atlas comes with a 4-core pure Silver Litz cable that is covered in braided thin PVC coating, with the beryllium connectors on one side and a rubber right angle 3.5mm TRS gold-plated jack on the other. The wire itself is very tangle free and doesn’t come with a mic. The Atlas comes with a carry case and a good selection of buds which lets you experiment with the fit until you get it right.
Describing the Atlas as anything less than a behemoth would be an injustice. Campfire Audio has brought the Atlas to as close as it can get to the musical definition of excitement. In terms of sound quality, the Atlas offers what can be described as ‘Grand Sound’ with its evident V-shaped signature. The sound staging is quite deep and spacious enough, and it allows the layering and the instrument separation in the sound to shine through.
The bass response on the Atlas is phenomenal. Tight and punchy, it holds its ground in all but the most bass heavy tracks and boosts the sub-bass by just the right amount, without being prone to generating any unnecessary booming. Overall, the bass performance on the Atlas is a joy to experience.
Keeping the energy and vividness at par with the lows, the mids also maintain a familiarity with the more neutral side of things. There’s a lot of detail and accurate timbre to be discerned in your listening experience, especially if you’re driving them from the right source. This, combined with the spacious nature of the sound from the Atlas, makes the listening experience very lifelike and natural. Along with the detail, the overall sound signature of the Atlas is full, pulling you into an immersive experience like no other.
The highs on the Atlas retain the detail that you will find in the mids, without sounding stressed or rolled off. Never too bright or sharp, the highs meld nicely with the other parts of the sound signature to contribute to the fullness of the Atlas’ sound. Vocals in the mids sound very engaging in tracks where they’re the main focus and take the back seat to the right extent where instruments are the primary focus.
The Atlas is all about driving power - epic, spacious and vividly detailed power. Throughout our listening experience, the 10mm ADLC dynamic driver made its presence felt across the sound spectrum with equal authority. To us, this is the perfect flagship IEM to demonstrate how engaging music can be. The Atlas shuns what is correct for what is epic, and does so with consistency, creating a listening experience that brings out the ‘wow’ factor in its performance. Those looking for a perfect balance might need to look elsewhere, and the same can be said for those looking for a pair of IEMs that offer a universal fit. The Atlas brings to you a grandeur that needs a particular audience, one that is more used to the liveliness of headphones and speakers. Pick this one up if you’re looking for a pair of IEMs with energy, price no bar.