Review: Campfire Audio Lyra – Bassy and Melodic

Disclaimer: Campfire Audio supplied Lyra for the purposes of this review. I paid nothing this time, not even import details. You can find out more about Lyra at Campfire’s WIP website. Campfire Audio Lyra should debut at 749$ USD.

Editor’s note (Lieven): the Lyra used for the review were not production level units and the production units are going to be better as improvements have been made, tuning, higher spec magnets, and better mechanicals.

Digitalism’s I Love You Dude is alternately bassy and melodic. At times it even gushes. It’s not as moving as aM’s KNEwwaVE, or as hard-hitting as Justice’s self-titled album, but if you’re speed-testing headphones, it’s about as fully functional an album as exists.

Not that I’m speed-testing Campfire Audio’s Lyra. I’ve had them in and out of my ears for about three weeks. And I’m pretty familiar with them now. It’s just that I Love You Dude really is doing its job of fine-combing my thoughts on the first product from ALO Audio’s new brand.

The feel

Campfire Audio’s lineup: Jupiter, Orion, and Lyra, are beasts. Lyra’s drivetrain is an 8,5mm beryllium driver clad in a robust and acoustically sound ceramic housing. Unlike Orion and Jupiter, it pressure-fits tightly glued parts in a simple, tight package. The sound tube is made of hard plastic, the end of which is a metal grill. A breathing port between the MMCX connector and the sound tube feeds the driver the air it needs. If you’re out and about in the wind, that port will mildly whistle.

If not as punctiliously designed as Sennheiser’s IE800, Lyra is easily as well thought-out. Its edges direct light to planes, engravings, and logos. Every flat is a branding opportunity. Lyra’s bold angles are thoroughly Campfire Audio. To a T, this earphone fits the robust, earthy tones set by its brand name. This side of Ocharaku, I can’t find equal in iterative, brand-anchored design.

Unfortunately, it fits about as well as a FitEar Parterre, or 111: its rump never resting against your ear. It’s strange because both Orion and Jupiter get right up in there. If you’re a jogger or bicycler, Lyra probably won’t stay put throughout your workouts. It is perfect for the mass transit commuter, the desk jockey, the professional audiophile photographer, or maybe even the hiker.

Lyra’s cable is extremely durable. It is beautiful, and jacked into a reinforced L-shaped plug. Its business end is encased in ~2,5mm of rubber: getting it to play nice with your thick phone case will be tricky. But knowing you, I should probably move on to how well it gets on with with amps. Don’t worry. Unless your amp is so crowded that you rely on your four-year-old to plug its ins and outs in and out, you’re fine. And both modern DAPs and good amps have no problem supplying Lyra with the right amount of current for superb-quality audio.

But then there’s its memory wire. It is _the most_ energetic memory wire I’ve used, bar none. If Campfire Audio broke down and admitted they installed an unfurled paper clip in there, I’d not even blink. It’s obvious. Even my neighbour’s bit judo fingers have trouble keeping it depressed between his sausage fingers. This makes it a pain for both glasses wearers and for the two-eyes out there.

Me? I’ve opted to keep something PlusSound attached. Or, go higher in the ALO food chain to something like the ALO SXC 24.

As you know, I’m quite a fan of Ultrasone’s IQ and IQ Pro. What I’m not a fan of is the amount of wasted packaging used to keep them on retail shelves. Lyra comes in an awesome leather case. It’s got feltish woolish stuff on the inside. It is tough, battened down with a sturdy metal zipper, and ready for anything but being tossed overboard. While it isn’t water proof, Lyra’s unassuming cardboard packaging wastes no space, wastes few resources, wastes little ink, and screams we do things different.

I can’t applaud Campfire Audio enough for their dedication to reducing waste.

Under a hidden flap at the bottom of the cardboard box are three pair of silicon ear tips, three pair of foamies, and a wax loop.

I was told the foamies sound best. They certainly fit best.

More after the jump:

Review: Campfire Audio Lyra – Bassy and Melodic
4 (79.05%) 42 votes

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

34 Comments

  • Reply May 29, 2015

    Dave Ulrich

    Sounds like a good one. Nice review!

    • Reply May 29, 2015

      ohm image

      It is a very nice one. And it is as solid as a diamond.

      • Reply May 30, 2015

        soundblast

        You really prefer them to Ditas?:)

        • Reply May 31, 2015

          ohm image

          In general, yes. Better fit, better isolation, wider sound stage. The Dita’s higher contrast is better for trance, so the sound preference opinion is where I have give and take for both.

          I much prefer the method Campfire Audio have taken. I imagine that people that really love the HD600 to death probably will love Lyra more than Dita. Those that are DT880 people may prefer the sound of the Dita. That said, the Lyra is a better-built earphone.

          Being a pre-production model, I can’t say if its sound will again change, but even if it does, I’m confident it won’t massively change. As of now, I’m very impressed.

          • Reply May 31, 2015

            soundblast

            Thanks for your reply, i loved Dita and i want a new dynamic,this might be the one:)
            As long as i can buy it here in uk/europe,not easy at the mo.

  • Reply May 29, 2015

    Jeff

    Very nice! I wish the pricing was below $500 though especially with the release Dunu’s D2000J with a dynamic driver plus two BA drivers which is getting great reviews on Head-fi.
    But that design and the case are a killer. 🙂

    • Reply May 29, 2015

      ohm image

      Indeed. Honestly, I can’t imagine how or why Campfire would price it below what they did. It is sturdy, pretty, robust and perfectly branded.

  • Reply June 1, 2015

    cyph3r

    Hi folks,

    Beryllium driver? sounds cool, but as far as I know beryllium is a highly toxic metal (with great properties though. I hope this is an alloy of some sort with beryllium, otherwise I would not stick those into my ears.

    • Reply June 1, 2015

      dalethorn

      Just don’t swallow. Keep away from children. Most of our electronics are hazardous inside. If you ever shorted a lithium battery and didn’t get hurt, you’re lucky.

      • Reply June 2, 2015

        cyph3r

        Its true that many electronics equipment or parts still contain (potentially) hazardous elements or compounds. But for that reason initiatives like RoHS http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restriction_of_Hazardous_Substances_Directive were kicked off to reduce or remove them e.g. lead or cadmium.
        And besides oral bioavailability, subtances are also absorbed through skin or small enough particles can be inhaled.

        I dont want to spoil an innovative product (I am sure they use a beryllium alloy because of its very good material properties), just to raise a bit of consumer awareness. The supplier is responsible to inform consumers if there is any risk and at what level. And the consumer is responsible to think a bit more critical from time to time. That’s all.

        • Reply June 2, 2015

          dalethorn

          Early efforts to remove lead resulted in Tin Whiskers, which for some agencies were an absolute disaster. Perhaps that’s no longer an issue, but it would be good to know the truth, not just a hand-waving denial.

          • Reply July 11, 2015

            digitldlnkwnt

            and that happened when MFTRs cheaped out and went to tin instead of copper for there motherboard traces. theres a lot of good articles on the Tin Whiskers issue.

    • Reply June 2, 2015

      ohm image

      I’ve chosen not to nibble on my earphones.

  • Reply October 6, 2015

    digitldlnkwnt

    I just got the Lyra and I have been using it with my DX90 amp set to mid – thick, powerful bass that feels like it could kick a hole in a Corolla. I like the way these work together. If you dig house, hiphop, drum and bass anything with a bass line you should check these out. They are really forgiving with older recordings, especially recordings that were done before compression became common place. and the imaging feels so much more natural then compare to the sets of BA based IEM’s I have even if the contrast between sounds/instruments isn’t as stark as my BA based units. Very happy with these – thank you Campfire and ALO.

    • Reply October 6, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      And thank you Headfonia? 😉

      • Reply October 6, 2015

        digitldlnkwnt

        And of course Headfonia! For the excellent reviews. It be interesting to see what kind of headphone the editors/contribute of this forum would come up with. Lots of different tastes – but lots of similar ones too.

  • Reply October 9, 2015

    Ave Deus

    Really really having a hard time between Lyra and IE800, so many things that’s not rightly done on the IE800 design, but done perfectly in Lyra, but is the sound quality really better on the Lyra?

    • Reply October 9, 2015

      dalethorn

      What are the main things not right on the IE800?

      • Reply October 9, 2015

        Ave Deus

        Some things that many people find as cons on IE800’s design, like non-removable cable, unnecessary 2.5 jacks on the split that weigh down the buds, especially with not “over the ear” design, seems fixed or perfected in Lyra. As Ken from ALO hinted, they design the Lyra based on the IE800, takes what’s good and remove what’s not good. The tonal on the IE800 itself is one of the superb for IEM, and not so many review yet for the new Lyra as it’s just released, that’s what makes me think hard before getting one, but if the tonal quality is on par with IE800, I think choosing Lyra over IE800 is a no brainer.

        • Reply October 9, 2015

          dalethorn

          I remember that the IE800 cable from earpiece to ear is pretty short and some users just could not accomodate it. It barely fit me OK. I hope you get a chance to try the Lyra.

          • Reply October 9, 2015

            Ave Deus

            Dale, in your opinion, if you can only have one, which one of the two that you will pick? Have you got the chance to compare both of them? Thank you

            • Reply October 9, 2015

              dalethorn

              No – I rarely do IEMs, I just recall that the IE800 fit OK, I loved the single-driver sound, which is a very rich sound, a little bit ‘V’-shaped. The oval eartips with the extra screens in them fit my ear canals better than any other eartips I’ve used. So I can only recommend the IE800 if it fits you – changing to different eartips would defeat the design I think. The IE800 cable, between the earpieces and the ‘Y’, was very microphonic, so you would probably need 2 (not just one) clothing clips for outdoor use. I don’t like the Lyra’s looks at all, but if it fits good and sounds good, it might be a better deal.

              • Reply October 9, 2015

                Ave Deus

                Thanks Dale, really appreciated.

  • Reply December 8, 2015

    TheIEM coll.

    can you compare the to flare r2 pro ?

    • Reply March 31, 2016

      ohm image

      I’m sorry, I don’t own that earphone.

  • Reply January 23, 2016

    SoundGood

    It is almost 5 times the price of Panasonic HJE-900 which has a same design trait but was out 5 years ago.

    • Reply March 31, 2016

      ohm image

      What design trait is the same?

      • Reply March 31, 2016

        SoundGood

        Same Zirconia housing dynamic iems with interchangeable wires.

        • Reply March 31, 2016

          ohm image

          I’ve heard them. They are nice. But they were not the first ceramic body earphone. The same could be said of any earphone with a ceramic body and interchangeable cables.

          Lyra is most definitely not the same earphone, the same shape, or even a similar earphone to the Panasonic HJE-900.

          • Reply March 31, 2016

            SoundGood

            I have heard Lyra too but not as impressed. Regarding ceramic housings, my Sony 484G was one of the first but the Panny should be the first Zirconia.

            • Reply March 31, 2016

              SoundGood

              And the HJE900 is interesting and atleast, imho, not worse than the Aurisonics ASG 1 plus gold of mine.

      • Reply March 31, 2016

        SoundGood

        go lay your hands on the Panas and you won’t regret!

  • Reply May 25, 2016

    skeemr

    Had a pair of Westone 3’s that just died. I liked the sound signature of those… was thinking of replacing them with SM64s or the Lyra’s. Would you say those are in same ballpark? Any preference between them?

  • Reply January 1, 2017

    Rich

    I own the Lyra IIs and they sound as advertised which is what I was looking for. They also fit better than my Shure SE846s. One point nobody discussed is the scalability of the Lyra IIs. They sound very good plugged directly into my Sony ZX2 but are taken to another level when plugged into my desktop Erzetich Bacillus Tilia headphone. The midrange opens up, bass tightens up and is better defined and the soundstage is bigger more like a full size headphone. Of all my headphones including my XCs the Lyra IIs seem to scale the best.

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