Campfire Audio Lyra II

When I reviewed the original Lyra earphones from Campfire Audio I was underwhelmed and felt that they were too 2-dimensional for a flagship earphone and the associated price tag. In fact, I felt like the insanely cheaper Shozy Zero earphones offered a good enough sound to be preferable to the original Lyra. The Zeros prove that a low price earphone can be outstanding, but they shouldn’t be better than a flagship like the Lyra and they kind of are.

Fast forward a bit and now I’ve been offered a chance by fellow reviewer, Mark from The Sound Freq, to compare the original Lyra with the second generation Lyra II, I was keen to see what magic Campfire Audio had cooked up. Their Andromeda IEMs are nothing short of stellar so I hoped they’d captured some lightning in a bottle for the upgraded Lyra II.

Specifications

  • Driver:  8.5mm dynamic (beryllium PVD diaphragm)
  • Frequency response:  5 – 22,000 Hz (8 – 28)
  • Sensitivity:  103 dB @ 1,000 Hz (110 dB)
  • Cable:  silver-plated copper litz

There are some notable specification differences between the original Lyra and the second generation version. While both use the same driver type (dynamic 8.5mm with beryllium diaphragm), the variations in frequency response and reduction in sensitivity suggest some significant tuning adjustments and may even reflect a completely new driver design despite using the same materials.

Design & Aesthetics

The Lyra II is only subtly different from the original Lyra in terms of design and appearance. Most notably, the glossy charcoal finish of the original has been replaced with a more silk-like finish that’s neither glossy or completely matte. The colour has also shifted slightly to a deep mauve colour that’s very elegant and classy.

Other than the colour change, the shape of the housing is the same, the nozzle angle and size is the same and the Lyra II still uses the excellent MMCX connector. In fact, the only other things that have changed are the case (from tan to black colour) and the cable. The cable change is quite interesting with Campfire Audio listing the new cable as a litz cable versus the old cable being described as a tinsel cable. I was never clear what a tinsel cable actually meant so I can’t comment on the difference between the two, but I can confirm that a litz cable is a great option and probably the best cable type available. Personally I’d prefer a non-plated cable (e.g. pure copper, pure silver, etc.), but that’s somewhat a matter of personal preference and having a silver-plated copper litz cable is still fantastic.

Sound

Ken Ball and the team at Campfire Audio seem to be onto a good thing. Like KFC’s secret herbs and spices, Coca Cola’s secret recipe or Ryan Tedder’s ability to write hit music in his sleep, Ken Ball and his team are crafting magical and amazing sounding IEMs in the Campfire Audio factory. The sound from the second generation Lyra is nothing short of amazing. Let’s see if I can deconstruct it a little for you.

Bass

The bass presentation from the Lyra’s is pretty close to perfect for my ears. If you’re familiar with my tastes you’ll know that I like my bass realistic and that means it should rumble and reverberate like a bass guitar / upright bass played in a live setting. It should be quick and punchy, but with a sense of presence and weight. The Lyra II delivers this like they was made for me. They are probably a touch heavier on the bass than the Noble Kaiser 10 and this results in a slight sense of boom / excess bass reverb, but its subtle enough to be a non-issue and helps provide rhythm and soul to the sound. These are earphones that will have you grooving.

If you like your sub-bass, the Lyra II will also create a nice rumble when you need it. They’re not the best sub-bass earphones I’ve heard, but with the combination of everything else that they do so well, the sub-bass certainly keeps up even if it doesn’t star.

Mid-range

Wow! The mid-range pouring out of the Lyra II is sublime. Focused, detailed, liquid and effortless. I can’t think of other positive mid-range descriptors right now, but if I could I would be adding them to the list. The Lyra II is one of the very best mid-range earphones I have ever heard. Every track becomes an adventure of texture and realism thanks to the beautiful quality and presentation of the Lyra II’s midrange – I’m in love!

If I had to pick a tiny flaw in the mids it would be a slight emphasis in the upper mids that can lend a slight edginess to some female vocals, but I am absolutely splitting hairs at this point because recording and mastering can influence that and it might be just that the tracks I happened to choose during this review have been produced with their own emphasis in these frequencies. That’s not to mention that the issue is so small as to be nearly insignificant and doesn’t for a second prevent me from wanting to rave about these earphones.

Treble

As you’ve probably gathered by now, basically everything about the sound of the Lyra II is perfect and the treble is no exception. The thing I like most about the treble from the Lyra II is that you don’t notice it, not because it’s rolled off and distant, but because it merges seamlessly with the rest of the sonic tapestry. Percussion and similar sounds have plenty of sparkle and texture so there’s no shortage of treble energy and extension, but it’s controlled masterfully and never strays into stridency or sibilance.

Image & Soundstage

Thanks to the exceptionally well-balanced sound signature and the outstanding quality of the sound produced by the Lyra II at each frequency, the soundstage and imaging is an adventure of the best possible kind.

Vocals and key instruments hover holographically in the space between your eyes and everything else orbits around them, popping out of the space around the soundstage in a completely coherent, but engaging and exciting way. The soundstage isn’t particularly huge, but its impeccably focussed and coherent – much more important in my opinion. The focus and separation of instruments means that the soundstage never feels cramped or crowded so the fact that it’s not sprawling or expansive is not at all an issue – just bask in the magic of the detail and realism and you’ll never feel like your missing anything because you really aren’t.

Campfire Audio Lyra II vs Shozy Zero

When I reviewed the original Lyra, I was underwhelmed and found myself comparing them to the much cheaper Shozy Zero IEMs – what should be an unfair and unreasonable comparison. In reality, the Shozy Zeros revealed the Lyra’s limitations in the way they engaged the listener (or at least engaged me) so I was keen to see if the updated Lyra II could separate itself from the Shozy Zero.

What I love about the Zeros is their ability to be totally engaging and enjoyable without smoothing anything over or being excessively coloured. I’m pleased to report that the Lyra II captures all of that same magic as the Shozy Zero, but achieves it with greater delicacy, elegance and class. The Lyra II is the ultimate version of everything the Zero does well – it performs slightly better at each end of the frequency range and the mid-range is superbly smooth and well-controlled. These two earphones are actually very similar in their overall style, but the Lyra II takes the Zero’s incredible performance to the level of a flagship performer. This time, the Lyra II delivers on all of the intangibles that the original Lyra lacked.

Conclusion

I’m so glad that I had the chance to review the Lyra II – thanks Mark!! The Campfire Audio team have another absolute winner on their hands here. I’d probably err slightly towards the ridiculously good Andromeda IEM if I had to choose my favourite from their lineup, but the Lyra II comes in an extremely close second. These are, without doubt, one of the best universal IEMs I have tried and I’d happily recommend them to anyone seeking a great dynamic-driver IEM.

Lachlan Fennen Written by:

Facilitator, training design consultant, blogger / writer and amateur photographer

6 Comments

  1. Jordan
    March 2, 2017
    Reply

    Great review! I’ve been looking for a new iem/ciem as my current ones just quit on me. How do these compare to the CustomArt EI.3’s?

    • March 12, 2017
      Reply

      Hi Jordan,
      I’d say the Lyra’s are a class above the Ei.3s in terms of overall sound quality, but the Ei.3s are better in terms of fit and comfort because they’re customs. The mid-range of the Ei.3 is still really engaging to me too so it depends on what you’re after. Personally, if I were going to spend the cash on one of these two earphones, I might choose the Ei.3 just because it’s extremely good for the price and custom fitted. The spare cash could then go towards a player, DAC, amp or music to enjoy through your new earphones – just a thought…

  2. Hélder
    April 23, 2017
    Reply

    Hello Lachlan.
    Great review as usual!
    Thank you for that!
    I’ve a question and maybe you can help me.
    I have the AQ Niighthawks wich i really like and your review about them helped me a lot to go for it.
    Now i’m looking for a pair of IEM’s with similar characteristics for portable use.
    The Campfire Audio iems’ are under the radar.
    In your opinion, between the Andromeda, Lyra II and Vega wich is the best option only in therms of sound characteristics?
    And eventually from others brands?
    I’m from Portugal and here is hard to have the chance of try before buy.
    Thank you in advance and keep with the good job!

    Regards,
    Hélder

    • April 24, 2017
      Reply

      Hi Helder, thanks for reading and commenting!
      I would absolutely recommend the Andromedas over any other IEM I have tried, particularly in the Campfire range. The Lyra II is excellent, but the Andromeda is still better.
      Interestingly, the Shozy Zero might be the closest sounding earphone to the NightHawks and it’s a steal at $50-60, but the Andromeda is a better earphone overall and one of the best non-customs I have ever heard.
      Good luck with the purchase!
      Lachlan

      • Hélder Silva
        April 27, 2017
        Reply

        Thank you for the feedback Lachlan.
        I’ll start saving some money and probably go for the Andromeda.
        Let’s see if meanwhile another thing comes out (read somewhere about an AQ IEM’s…).
        Keep with the good job. It’s really very important to people like me that don’t have the chance of try before buy some stuff.
        Regards,
        Hélder

        • April 30, 2017
          Reply

          Good luck with the Andromedas, Helder – I’m hoping to pick up a pair too. As for the AQ IEMs, these were talked about some time ago, but I haven’t heard anything lately. They should be excellent knowing Skylar’s approach to designing earphones / headphones so fingers crossed they’re still on the plans for AQ in the future.

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