The Jupiters are the top of the line IEM from Campfire Audio, ALO Audio’s earphone brand. Based on ALO Audio’s stellar reputation and some early glowing reviews of the Jupiters, I was keen to get them in my ears… and I did!
The Jupiters are a stunning looking set of universal, multi-balanced armature IEMs fashioned out of aluminium and packaged with some of the best accessories I’ve ever seen. Let’s take a look at the specs:
- Frequency Response: 10 – 28,000 Hz
- Impedance: 35 ohm (at 1kHz)
- Sensitivity: 114dB SPL/mW (at 1kHz)
- Drivers: 4 x balanced armatures per ear piece
- Cables: 2 x detachable (MMCX) silver-plated copper (1 x 3.5mm TRS for single-ended, 1 x 2.5mm TRRS for balanced)
Design & Comfort
The Jupiters arrived in a compact cardboard box with colourful, but classy branding. Upon opening the box I was greeted by a gorgeous leather carry case which contains the earphones themselves in the plush, lamb’s wool (or similar) interior. Also included was the second, TRRS cable for balanced use and a range of tips – foam, Comply Tx 400 (with wax guard), and silicone – in small, medium and large sizes. There’s also a cleaning tool and an instruction manual.
I normally don’t discuss packaging in detail, but in this case the packaging eluded so strongly towards what comes next that I thought it important to share. You see, that tastefully simple box and the gorgeous carry case was just a glimpse of the quality and attention to detail ALO / Campfire Audio have put into the Jupiters.
The earphones themselves are works of art – each an angular block of aluminium that is equal parts angular and smooth. They’re surprising in that they’re angular and chunky and yet feel light and comfortable once inserted.
Campfire chose to use the MMCX connector on the Jupiters and I think it was a great choice. The MMCX has much better structural integrity than the old 2-pin connectors and looks and feels better too.
I saw initially worried about the size of the nozzles on the Jupiters because they’re very wide, but they’re also quite short and that combo appears to work very well. As someone with ears that can be challenging to fit IEMs and tips to, the Jupiters are surprisingly comfortable.
I’ll comment later on the sound technologies used by Campfire Audio, but their nozzle design is apparently different from the other multi-BA universals on the market. It certainly shows to look at them, but I was more interested in how they sounded. Hold tight, we’ll get to that in a moment.
Wow! I’m loving the trend of manufacturers providing excellent quality cables with IEMs. The FIDUE A83 and AudioFly AF1x0 range were my first experiences of top notch stock cables, but the Jupiters are taking it to another level in some ways.
The Jupiter cables have a very thin polyethylene insulation over a twisted metallic wire which looks wonderful with its slight hint of gold / champagne colouring. It also seems to minimise tangling and feels robust and hard wearing. The only drawback might be that it doesn’t feel quite as nice as some of the high quality fabric / kevlar wrapped cables, but that’s a matter of personal preference.
Perhaps what is most impressive about the supplied cables is that Campfire Audio chose to supply a balanced cable as standard. The TRRS version of the cable isn’t a cable with microphone as I originally assumed. It’s actually a cable wired for 2.5mm balance outputs like those found on Astell & Kern players.
In addition to the great cables, the Jupiters come package with a nice range of silicon and foam tips, a cleaning tool (nice touch!) and one of the very best carry cases I’ve ever seen. The leather case is simultaneously understated and decadent with its gorgeous leather and woolly interior. What keeps it understated is the natural colouring of the natural fibres and materials (or well replicated synthetic copies of natural materials). There’s no sense of bling, just a sense of quality and care.
I’ve read a couple of reviews saying wonderful things about the Jupiters since my first listen to them and I have to say that I agree with much of what I’ve read, but not all of it.
There’s no doubt that Campfire Audio absolutely nailed their tuning of the Jupiters based on their marketing. They are a very balanced sounding earphone with an amazing sense of focus for a balanced armature design, however, I think it’s important to note that the sound is balanced and neutral, not necessarily natural. I’ll explain…
Since reviewing the paradigm-altering Audioquest Nighthawks, my perspective on headphone and earphone audio had been permanently shifted. I now tend to evaluate earphones based on their ability to conjure the experiences, both auditory and emotional, of live music. To me, the more natural an earphone sounds, the better it recreates what I am used to hearing when I’m in the same room as the musicians. I use the word “natural” because “accurate” and “musical” are both tainted with ambiguity.
I don’t believe a ‘phone has to be natural to be enjoyable, but naturalness is my holy grail sound so it’s become one of my measures of earphones so I thought it was worth explaining.
Campfire Audio tout the Jupiter as having supremely extended highs (my words, not theirs) thanks to their proprietary technology. In Campfire Audio’s own words:
An optimized resonator assembly replaces the traditional tube and dampener system of may earphones
And there’s no doubt that this approach has created stunningly smooth, articulate and extended treble. In fact, the Jupiters have some of the best treble I’ve ever heard from an earphone, but to my ears there is too much of a very good thing, particularly when using silicone tips.
It’s important to clarify here that there is in no way any harshness to this treble – it is absolutely glorious – but it’s like adding too much sugar to a great dessert – it’ll still taste good, but you might miss out on some of the more subtle flavours going on underneath. To me, the treble, as good as it is, diverts my attention from the overall musical experience. It encourages me to listen to details in the texture of guitar strings, the shimmer of cymbals and the breath in the singer’s throat. That’s all wonderful, but it’s shadowing the magic occurring underneath. If you listen really hard, there’s some equally amazing action in the mid-range and bass, but it all gets overshadowed by the treble.
At this point it’s worth noting that what I’m describing is a dream scenario for some people and the Jupiters will be the absolute perfect option for people seeking detail and clarity without harshness or sibilance, but for me, the balance is just a bit off when it comes to the ultimate, natural musical experience that is my benchmark these days.
Using foam tips does tend to balance the highs quite a bit. There’s still a slight emphasis, but the overall balance is better with foam tips in my opinion and if I owned a pair of Jupiters they would be permanently fitted with foam tips despite my preference for silicone tips because I don’t like the way foam tips get manky and require regular replacement.
You might think that the treble emphasis I’ve just discussed could leave the Jupiters sounding hollow and lifeless in the mids, but not so. The mids from the Jupiter are still excellent. Yes, they are slightly behind the treble in terms of their presence, but the quality is excellent and they sound natural and not at all hollow. My only complaint about the mids would be a slight lack of weight in male vocals. There’s a tilt towards the upper mids that creates a great sense of texture, but at the expense of weight and body.
The Jupiters are a great option for those seeking details without losing mid-range quality, but they won’t suit people who love their mid-range full and creamy. Once again, foam tips will further enhance the mids by balancing out some of the extra treble and result in a really magical, slightly treble-forward sound.
Another of Campfire Audio’s claims about the Jupiters is that they produce “subterranean bass” (their words) and the published frequency range suggests performance down below audible frequencies.
Listening to the Jupiters suggests that the extension really is exceptional and the quality of the bass seems excellent, but the quantity is a bit lacking in my opinion. While I don’t consider myself a bass-head by any stretch, the live music experience I discussed earlier includes some natural acoustic properties in rooms which result in a natural boost in the perception of bass compared to treble and mids. To effectively replicate that natural sound when there is no room between the speaker (earphone) and your eardrum, an earphone needs to provide the extra bass (or more accurately needs to pull back the mids and treble) in the same way that a room will. The Jupiters fail to do that and so, while the quality and extension of the bass is outstanding, the quantity isn’t in the right proportions to the rest of the frequency range and the result is a slightly lean sound compared to my “natural” reference point.
Once again, I can’t stress enough that the quality of everything the Jupiters do is absolutely exceptional – these are an amazing piece of engineering and design, but they fall short of perfection in the tuning department for my tastes. Foam tips shift the sound slightly closer towards a natural / live sound, but there is still a slight treble emphasis.
Image & Staging
The imaging and staging from the Jupiters is equally excellent with a nice wide stage, good sense of 3-dimensionality and a tightly focussed image. Campfire Audio weren’t kidding when they said that they’d created a multi-BA earphone with coherency similar to a dynamic driver. Normally, a multi-BA earphone will struggle to achieve the same level of focus as a single-driver dynamic, but the Jupiters pull off the same degrees of focus and it’s very impressive.
I’d say that the treble-emphasis works for and against the Jupiters here. The extra treble (and its amazing quality) creates some cues that stretch beyond the listener’s ears which can be really fun, but at the same time it keeps drawing my attention to the soundstage is unevenly shaped. It’s like most things fit in a nicely defined, oval-shaped 3-dimensional space, but then 2-3 sounds in each track seem to be outliers, just beyond that soundstage and it’s not entirely natural. I’m being picky at this point so take this as a way of saying that the Jupiters are almost perfect rather than absolutely perfect when it comes to staging. Overall, they are highly enjoyable from a staging perspective.
Campfire Audio Jupiter vs Noble Kaiser 10 (custom)
The Jupiters and K10s are surprisingly similar in sound. Both offer truly wonderful sound quality and staging. Where they differ is the K10’s tuning. The K10s pull back slightly on the treble quantity and push forward slightly with the mids and bass to create a slightly warmer and therefore more natural sound.
I was actually surprised by just how similar the qualities of these two earphones are and would go so far as to say that the Jupiters sound like they could be the K10’s slightly brighter siblings. For me though, the K10s are clearly superior thanks to their ability to produce a more accurate representation of the bass and lower mids I’m used to hearing from real, live instruments. Thanks to the more natural approach, they also sound more coherent overall because nothing stands out conspicuously in the mix the way treble cues tend to with the Jupiters.
To summarise all this I would say that Campfire Audio have 100% nailed the product they claim to be providing – none of it is marketing hype, it’s all true. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a perfect earphone for everyone. If you love clarity, detail and a relatively flat frequency response then you will absolutely love the Jupiters and should absolutely give them a listen. I’d go so far as saying they are one of, if not the best “flat-signature” earphones I’ve tried so far.
If, however, you are looking for an earphone that accurately recreates the sound of live music and real-life instruments then you should probably look to something with a bit less treble and a bit more bass – something like the Noble K10, Audiofly AF180 or Shure SE846.