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Hands-on with the Campfire Audio Mammoth IEM
Hands-on with the Campfire Audio Mammoth IEM Jeff Li / IBTimes

Having reviewed the new entry level Campfire Audio IEMs, I had a taste of both the quality of the bass heavy Honeydew IEM, and the crisp details on the Satsuma IEM. Both are great, and present a color of their own. But what if you can have the best of both worlds?

With the new release of the Campfire Audio Mammoth IEM, this is exactly what it's aiming for by combining both the CA balanced armature (BA) and the dynamic driver (DD) technology into one. It's of course more complicated than just stuffing the two drivers into one shell, as various factors come into play when blending the two sounds together, and executing it well. How much can the best of both drivers be retained when merged together? Let's dive in to find out.


Striking Angular Design and Glow-in-the-Dark Highlights

The Mammoth IEM is encased in the signature CA angular shell, machined out of aluminum and dressed in its own anodized 'frozen tundra' blue. Together with the black tri-lobe screws, and the mirror finish black PVD finished stainless steel spout, it has a serious mechanized aesthetics.

However, don't mistake the angled look for discomfort - these in-ear monitors are surprisingly comfortable to wear. The counterintuitive ergonomics is why CA has kept this mold breaking IEM case design over the years, and probably for the foreseeable future.


The all-business color scheme of the Mammoth IEM reveals a hidden flair when the lights are turned off, as the Campfire Audio logo inlay, along with the MMCX plug, audio jack casing and elements on the carrying pouch all glow-in-the-dark. Since it's not a far stretch from a 'campfire' which also lights up the night, I see it as a bit of tasteful fun that's consistent with CA's branding.


The Mammoth IEM uses a flat MMCX port, and the lack of a proprietary 'lip' makes it easy to switch to third-party cables. I did many of the listening tests with the FiiO LC-RE cable which allows me to switch to a balanced jack to get the most out of these earphones.


Warning: Choosing the Right Tip

When it was finally time for me to get to the highly anticipated listening test, my first try was surprisingly disappointing. The clarity and dynamics I expected to carry over from Honeydew and Satsuma was sorely lacking, and I came close to giving up on the Mammoth.

However upon closer inspection, I found that the silicon tip I used was blocking a significant portion of the sound nozzle. By choosing another tip that had a larger opening, I was finally getting the full sound of the Campfire Audio Mammoth.


So anyone who is thinking of getting a pair of the Mammoth should beware: choose your tip carefully. I suggest using the included memory foam tip which doesn't obstruct the nozzle, and if you want to go for silicon tips, just ensure you choose ones that have a large enough opening. Thankfully CA does include 10 sets of tips, so you'll definitely find a set that would optimize your listening experience.


Sensitive Driver: Choosing the Right Source

Once I got the tips right, I thought it was time for some serious listening tests. But I hit another snag when I noticed how sensitive Mammoth is to any noise from the output, most probably due to its balanced armatures. To get the best sound from them, you'd want to pay attention to get yourself a very clean sound source.

My Audioquest Dragonfly black that is usually quite noise-free gave off an obvious hiss, as did larger desktop headphone DAC/AMPs. By using either the FiiO M11 Plus LTD digital audio player or the FiiO BTR-5 USB DAC, I was finally able to get a noise-free output.


Digital Precision Highs, Analogue Lows

Once the ear tip and sound source were optimized, I was finally ready to get the best of what the Campfire Audio Mammoth had to offer, and I'm glad to report that it was everything that I had hoped for. It's actually not easy for hybrid earphones to produce a cohesive sound by mixing the very different sound characteristics of the BA and DD. But the team at Campfire Audio obviously knows what they are doing, and the Mammoth output is an expertly mixed of precise highs and organic lows.

Thanks to the 10 mm dynamic driver, the low end on the Mammoth has that analogue quality that balanced armatures inherently struggle to produce. The custom tuned BA on the other hand is providing all the crisp and detailed high end sounds that DD miss out on. The end result is an aggressively dynamic sound that especially suits pop, rock, hip-hop and other more modern genres.

Just like the Honeydew, the Mammoth has really good sound staging for closed-back earphones, most probably attributed to the 3D printed interior cavity. Together with the excellent separation that comes from the hybrid driver design, songs with wide staging and multiple instruments sound great with these IEMs.

A listening session with Jamiroquai's track 'Use The Force' nicely demonstrated the Mammoth's ability to pump out deep analogue bass lines, the complicated assortment of percussive instruments with excellent staging, and beautiful sizzle in the high-hat and cymbals - as an well mixed concerto.


Loud Carrying Pouch

As loud and dynamic the Mammoth sounds, its carrying pouch is equally loud - if not louder - visually. The psychedelic oversized pouch is a size larger than the ones that came with the Honeydew, and can easily house the earphone and its coil of cables. The durable looking pouch is made of Upcycled Marine Plastic in the form of SEAQUAL(R) YARN, and features 'the eye' graphics - the icon of Campfire Audio.


Final Verdict

Can Campfire Audio combine its excellent balanced armature and dynamic driver sounds? From our testing of the Mammoth, the answer is a resounding 'yes'. The Mammoth is another proof that CA is an expert when it comes to seamlessly weaving together the two different sound characteristics, while retaining the strength of both driver technologies. The CA Mammoth is a comfortable to wear and stylish IEM that suits people after a massive and aggressive sound.


For its timeless, distinct, but all serious aesthetics, excellent closed-back design that would allow immersive music enjoyment with complete privacy, we're awarding the Campfire Audio Mammoth the IBTimes Best Products badge.

Sam is a production engineer turned tech writer who specializes in seeking out gadgets that enhances productivity while still looking sharp. This is a contribution to an ongoing IBTimes review series on gadgets for Business Travelers.