Campfire Audio Polaris II Review: Tsunami thrill
We previously covered the red, and now it’s time for the blue. Campfire Audio Polaris II is an upgraded model from the original Polaris, and I remember back in the days when the first Polaris came out. I remember myself being mildly surprised as Polaris was one of their very earliest hybrid IEMs. Despite the good start, Polaris I have been discontinued shortly as Campfire moved on with their phase of products. But now it’s back as Version 2, revamped from inside out. Along with us taking a look at how the Polaris II sounds and performs, I have also got myself ready with the original Polaris for the comparison. Let us now jump into the review.
Campfire Audio finally went through some revamp with their packaging and I am happy about it. There are lots that do not pay much attention (or not at all), which is very reasonable. But I believe better packaging and boxing do matter when talking about premium IEMs. The size of the new packaging still goes for a reasonably small box but roughly twice the bigger than the old ones. Once you remove the CA sticker on the rear of the box, the outer packaging would unfold and reveal the inner box which includes all the belongings. I very much enjoy this new packaging as they are beautifully designed inside out and gives a feeling as if you are unboxing a present.
Other than the earpieces, it includes 1 set of 3.5mm stock cable, 1 leather case, 3 pairs of earpiece pouch, 5 pairs of Final Audio eartips, 3 pairs of CA eartips, 3 pairs of CA foam tips, 1 CA Lapel pin, and a cleaning tool. CA used to provide only 1 pair of earpiece pouch before, but it seems like they have realized the demand for it and started to throw in an extra 2 pairs – which I appreciate a lot. The lather case is also newly designed to have the same color as the earpiece. The size also got slightly larger for better convenience when storing with custom cables.
As shown, this “mechanical-looking” appearance has been Campfire Audio’s signature design from the get-go. The earpiece is made of machined aluminum and sports an edgy look, though the edges are slightly rounded as well as the inner side forming a fairly ergonomic shape. Not the best in terms of comfort or compatibility, but the fit is not bothering at least. Though users with smaller outer ears will have problems fitting these to their ears as the earpieces are still a bit chunky and edgy. The color has been adjusted as well. The old Polaris used to have a dark blue shell with a black faceplate but now redesigned with a full Cerulean blue body with black screws to spice up the looks.
For the drivers, Polaris II uses a 1BA + 9.2mm 1DD hybrid setup which is each incorporated with T.A.E.C. (Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber) and P.T.C. (Polarity Tuned Chamber). These are specifically designed inner structures that sit in front of the driver, taking a major role in creating their signature sound. The nozzles are made of stainless steel and separated into 2 bores. Another thing to note is that the shape of the nozzle has changed. The nozzles are visibly longer than the old ones which give deeper fit and better isolation. The earpieces are detachable and use custom-made MMCX sockets that are compatible with typical ones yet inforced in durability.
The stock cable went through some changes too. The one from Polaris I had a glossy black jacket which was quite light and soft, but slightly stiff and tangly. The new version has a smoky grey jacket that solves such problems as well as being even softer. Metal memory wires are gone too and replaced with a simple ear hook design.
Sound impression – Ultra lows / Upper lows
The first thing I feel from the bass is its weight. This is not a kind of bass that aggressively smashes hard nor mushy, instead gently drops down the heavy bass. The dark, thick bass dives deep with calmness and under control. It provides a warm, meaty punch without getting out of control or making the texture mushy. While the bass is dense, the texture feels organic and doesn’t show any metallic nature. These punches are bold and strong but only to the moderate level, hitting the sweet spot. Typically, basshead IEMs deliver a strong and muscular punch with large bass quantity. That sure is enjoyable, but not for too long as the strong bass slams would eventually shorten the listening session where you could use the IEM without getting your ears fatigued.
In the case of Polaris II, its deep, large, and bold bass serves my ears well to the point worth calling them a basshead IEM but also allows me to listen without getting my ears tired as the slams are not too hard or have high stiffness. It naturally and gradually stretches down towards the ultra lows with clear and manly rumble. The sub-bass continues its deep and dark characteristics and keeps the bass flow very coherent and stable – or “flat” in terms of the bass flow (not bass quantity) throughout the low range. Reverbs spread out full and naturally but keeps the atmosphere, having a delicate taste to it. Its consistently low-centered, well-condensed bass is one of the strongest charms Polaris II presents.
Sound impression – Mids / Overall presentation
One of the common characteristics from common hybrid setups is the vivid positional difference between lows and mids – lows stepping back and mids popping out to the front. That makes the sound fun along with achieving clearer mids, but it also means the imaging and presentation are getting less natural. Polaris II seeks to sit between this dilemma by having the organic dynamic driver as the base (or body) of the sound along with having a bit of glimpse of BA texture melted on the top. Not drastic, but the crunchy BA texture makes a little more exposure as it approaches the upper mids.
While mids are well distinguished, lows and mids are nicely connected with natural harmony, having more of a single driver nature. Mids are mildly forwarded or positioned similarly to the lows. The temperature is close to neutral and the brightness tips over to the darker side, just around to consider them to be dim. Vocal thickness sits around neutral or bold depending on the tone; lower mids keep the vocal meaty while the upper mids are neutral. It’s a type of richness where the vocals fill the sound
CA also handled the sibilance area quite well. The sibilance area isn’t “silenced” but creates a minimal amount of “s-” sound with a soft tone, just as the amount of an actual human voice would generate in real life. Not only this is fatigue-free, but it also spices up the fun and adds coolness to the atmosphere. Before and after this small peak, the vocals show a steady flow throughout the mid-range and approach to the treble.
Sound impression – Highs / etc.
If lows and mids were mostly about filling up with smoothness and depth, highs are where the crisp layerings start to kick in. Not sharp but sleek treble acts a refreshment from the deep and bassy low range. Compared to the lower range, the thickness is thinner but only slightly, keep a good balance consistency throughout the range. The crisps and sparkles are very boldly presented with snappy reaction speed. It is not a type of treble slams that pierces into the ears but enjoyable almost without any fatigues. Highs are similar or a little lesser in quantity than the mids, but the power and the brightness are always kept under control, thoroughly preventing the trebles from getting harsh or rough.
Trebles on Polaris II do a really nice job standing on a narrow apex, delivering highly vibrant and powerful textures without getting superficial or fatiguing. Despite the boosted sound, the sound is accurately presented in terms of timbre and imaging. And thanks to such nature from the trebles as well as the large bass, the staging is considerably large and very dynamic. It uplifts the sound with liveliness and intensity, making the music a lot more engaging. Polaris II sports one of the most engaging IEM among the Campfire family while keeping Campfire’s house signature and maintaining a comfortable sound.
Comparing with Polaris I (Original Polaris)
My first impression of comparing these two IEMs is that Polaris II follows the exact direction the original Polaris has yet improved in all aspects in a surprisingly seamless manner. The bass is visibly darker, clearer and better condensed to the bottom, delivering a weightier punch as well as a deeper extension towards the ultra lows. Depending on tracks, the original Polaris sometimes portrayed a tonality that was somewhat “heterogeneous”, DD and BA drivers being less harmonic. On the other hand, Polaris II has not only been revised to have an organic, neutral tone but also improved in texture details too. The staging is also a major difference. The sound from Polaris II is more evenly spread out and a lot more organized, while the presentation on the original Polaris occasionally got messy or even fly over here and there without a particular focus.
Eartip / Cable suggestions
Recommended eartips for Polaris II would be either Final E-Type (the ones included as accessories) or Acoustune AET08. In this case, it would be solely up to personal preference. AET08 provides a lot more transparent, airy, and unaltered sound signature while widening the stage. E-Type, on the other hand, would deepen the bass even further and makes the thundering bass even stronger while smoothening yet not killing the mids and highs. I enjoy using these with AET08 instead, but for those who are looking to make the bass even heavier or found the trebles a little tiring, the E-types would be a more appropriate choice.
For the cable, the matching mostly works out well with pure copper or silver-plated copper ones. I would recommend Han Sound Muse II as it naturally powers up the clarity and crispiness while keeping the weighty punch from the lower ends. Pure silver or treble-oriented cables will not match for most cases. Matching such cables would easily tip over this IEM’s timbre as well as overpowering the sibilance and treble.
Polaris II presents a very vibrant, engaging, and colorful signature that respects accuracy and neutrality. Rather than by your own will, Polaris II immerses you into its tsunami. It is very pleasing to see this IEM heading for the very same tuning the original Polaris did, which this time, CA nailed it hard. Thundering lows, shiny highs, and last but not least, its thick yet engaging mids deliver plenty of liveliness to the music. If you are seeking for a robust and fun-sounding IEM, look no more. Your answers are here!
Thanks to CA for providing Polaris II for an honest feedback/review.
I am not affiliated with CA and none of my words were modded or asked to be changed.
Campfire Audio Polaris II$499
Value for the price9.2/10
- Thick, bold sound with crystal clear highs
- Immersive, vibrant signature
- Great set of accessories
- Not meant for those who seek calm/flat sound
- Some may find the sound a bit exaggerated