Campfire Audio Mammoth EIM Review: Epic Sound Rages from Pliocene into the Anthropocene

Campfire Audio Mammoth EIM Review: Epic Sound Rages from Pliocene into the Anthropocene

Campfire Audio Mammoth

Design
Features
Value

Summary

Campfire Audio’s Mammoth EIMs offer outstanding range with a few quirks that only deep audiophiles may notice. They sound best on bass-heavy R&B, EDM, and Rock, with occassional moments of annoyance when horns, clarinets, or saxophones sit forward. For those upgrading from wireless they will likely prove a step function ahead, especially when paired with lossless, Dolby Atmos remixes.

4.8

The Campfire Audio Mammoth wired earphones produce outstanding audio that reset expectations set by even the best Bluetooth earbuds. Lossless audio is only truly lossless over a wire, and what comes over the wire on the Mammoth is deep, rich, and resonating. These earphones arrived in my arsenal just as Apple released its Dolby Atomos powered Spatial Audio remixes. Sure the Apple remixes work with Bluetooth earbuds and other headphones, but Mammoth offers a step above anything you may have heard before.

Cover image by Daniel W. Rasmus

What we like

That opening description says everything you need to know if you want great sound. What it doesn’t say is the Campfire Audio Mammoth headphones cost $549, which means they won’t be the earphones of choice for every music lover. And Mammoth is not the only wired headset worthy of connecting people to lossless audio as it becomes more ubiquitous. Campfire sells a variety of in-ear monitors (IEM)s that offer different profiles to the sound. These range from the $199 Satsuma to the $1499 Solstice and Equinox products (both with custom ear-fits). Mammoth sits in the middle of the pack. Mammoth is an outstanding EIM example that very much transformed the way I listen to music. Even good wired headphones in my collection don’t offer the punch and verve of the Mammoth IEMs.

The angular, well-chiseled aluminum exterior alights with its anodized ‘frozen tundra’ blue. Black screws hold the case together over the 3-D printed polarity tuned chamber and drivers. That rather analytical description would beter read: iridescent and professional looking.

A Litz MMCX cable connects the earbuds to the device. Pulses of sound stream over its silver-plated copper conductors, twisted into a tangle-resistant weave. Glow-in-the-Dark overmolds snuggle up to the beryllium copper MMCX and protect the 3.5mm plug junction from fraying.

So how about sound? Incredible. But again, incredible in their range. I’m sure I would be blown away even more by the $1,499 Solistice earbuds, but a reviewer can only review what’s in the queue, not the spec sheet for another product.

So with that caveat, let me share my experience. The opening piano notes ache of loneliness in their isolation as Hamilton’s It’s Quiet Uptown opens. Mick Fleet’s drum beats a strong heart against Buckinham’s agonizing plucks as Nicks and McVee’s ethereal admonition floats above it all in The Chain—and then the bass riff and the soft pat of skins propel the bridge’s angst. Dido’s White Flag pulls its very stereo opening chords through my skull like notes on a string. Welcome to the Jungle screams its primal invitation to debauchery, the hawking of the offer clear and distinct from the underlying driving baseline. The subtle rumbles underlying Avril Lavigne’s Sk8ter Boi arrive independently, not in a mush of sound that usually accompanies Bluetooth earbuds. Guetta and Sia’s Titanium placed me back on the rotating floor of Mannequins Dance Palace at Walt Disney World’s now-defunct Pleasure Island (even though it was released after the club closed).

My headphone tests yielded mostly positive results, with high frequency a bit clipped, but it is most likely my ears don’t register above 11Khz. anymore. While listening, as noted above, I heard the notes I expected at the high-end of the register. The Mammoth gave up pachyderm level bass. The mids were well-shaped, not lost.

Plenty of volume spilled through the small openings, even with a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter on my 2021 iPad Pro 12.9. These EIMs do not require an amplifier.

Although some of my over-the-ear wired headphones offer a similar experience, nothing on the earbud level comes close. As with all technology, the earbud and EIM markets are evolving rapidly. Good earbuds from a couple of years ago don’t age well. They may continue to sound better than cheaper headphones, but inexpensive headphones are getting better all of the time, including cost reductions in high-end features like active noise cancelation (ANC).

The beautiful little case neatly holds the earbuds and any accessories, like port adapters. Like the cable, the case sports a glow-in-the-dark treatment for its label and the zipper. A number of ear tips offer fit and material options. That shaped cable fits over the ear. I have never found them uncomfortable.

Campfire Audio Mammoth EIMs

What could be improved

For most, the Campfire Audio Mammoth will likely prove a step function in improved sound above their currently listening apparatus. For true audiophiles, subtle preferences inform discernment. Campfire offers other, similar devices, with different sound profiles aimed at scratching particular acoustic itches. Interior component shifts account for the difference in price between the Mammoth and the $100 more Holocene, which seems to review better in my research than the Mammoth, with the Holocene more mainstream, and the Mammoth, more EDM-oriented. I enjoyed classic rock on the Mammoths much more than I did my jazz selections. Music may be an absolute science at the auditory theory level, but it remains subjective to actual listeners. There may be some for which the Mammoth tuning fully fits their jazz expectations.

The image below illustrates exploded views of the Mammoth and the Holocene EIMs for comparison.

Compare components between the Campfire Mammoth with its biocellulose dynamic driver paired with two BAs (left) and the Holocene with its 3 BAs (right)

Occasionally, I did find when horns and saxophones sat forward, as they do in Pharoah Sander’s You’ve Got to Have Freedom, they tended toward annoying, seemingly missing some smoothing to shave off their edges. If the Mammoth audience leans bass-forward, then this is more observation than recommendation, but it would make for a more enjoyable experience when listening to traditional pop.

On the packaging front, I would love to see the velcro strips used to help store the cable neatly attached to the cables to they don’t fall to the flow and get lost (the second-best solution would be to make them glow in the dark so they can be more easily found!) I would also like a long cable as a standard, but unlike regular headphones, EIMs support a market for accessories, mostly in the cable arena (such as the 30-foot Tripowin cable at Amazon).

Campfire Audio Mammoth: The Bottom Line

Bluetooth, codecs like aptX, and other technologies continue to improve the wireless listening experience. For many, perhaps even most music listeners, lossy music is good enough. Even with active noise cancelation the street or the plane introduces so much potential noise that familiarity wins out over fidelity. Wires remain to eliminate lag in playback for artists in live performances, and for astute connoisseurs of sound.

For those who can afford EIMs, the Campfire Audio Mammoth sits at the solid center of the market, with plenty of offerings above and below. If much of your listening history comes from inexpensive earbuds or headphones, then the Mammoths will offer an ear-opening experience. Those with more discerning tastes will likely need to read a lot of reviews before investing so they can find an EIM that best fits their listening profile before buying headphones that cost as much or more than the tablet they stream from.

I look forward to continuing to explore Apple’s Atmos mixes, and the Campfire Audio Mammoths are the only buds on my desk that will offer an experience equal to Apple’s sound engineering.

Overview:

  • 5Hz–20 kHz Frequency Response
  • 94 dB SPL @ 1kHz: 18.16 mVrms
  • 8.1 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance

In the box:

  • Final Audio tips (xs/s/m/l/xl), Campfire Audio Marshmallow tips (s/m/l), standard silicon tips (s/m/l)
  • Campfire Audio Smoky Glow Litz Cable
  • Campfire Audio ‘Epoch’ or ‘All Seeing Eye’  SEAQUAL® YARN Earphone Case made in Portugal
  • Campfire Audio pin
  • Cleaning tool 

Campfire Audio provided the Mammoth EIMs for review. Images courtesy of Campfire Audio unless otherwise noted.

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Daniel W. Rasmus

Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.

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