Disclaimer: I received Comet directly from Campfire Audio whilst Campfire Audio reps were in Tokyo. I paid nothing for it nor have I been prompted to return it. It goes for 199$. Hit up Campfire Audio for more about it.
UPDATE: Since original publish this article has been edited for grammar as well as clarification. Almost every paragraph has been touched, scrubbed, and combed. Errors still persist.
No earphone as Comet small shines as Comet much. No earphone as Comet small is as Comet tough. Comet nails build, nails branding, nails budget, and nearly nails fit. It’s a 199$ USD earphone, that, after doing the maths (Atari Jaguar style), feels and works like something much, much more expensive.
20Hz–20kHz Frequency Response
97 dB SPL/mW Sensitivity
48 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance
Single Full Range Balanced Armature Driver (Custom vented)
Beryllium / Copper MMCX Connections
Stainless Steel Body
haptics and build: ohmage
Among Comet’s many design coups are its use of Left/Rright-independent channels. Snap whichever side you like atop the appropriate mini MMCX plug and you’re gold. The cables bear colour-coded L/R labels in case you really want panning stereo to work properly (and if you’ve just spent 199$ on an earphone, I reckon you do). In case you’re in the dark, or can’t be bothered to look, the inline mic and remote unit hangs off the right cable.
Comet is universally swappable, blind-operable, and nearly slides right in. I say nearly because if your fingers are meaty, you may find precious little purchase when levering them into and out of your canals.
Comet also looks like a hairdryer. (I’m sure that was on purpose.)
Below the remote, the cable is thick Litz stuff. Pulled hard it stretches, but only barely, and is strong enough to support a good dining chair, though perhaps not overnight. Finally, it terminates in a 4-pole, phone-case friendly slimline L-shaped plug.
Comet is about as sturdy an earphone as you’ll put in your ear. Fire it from shotgun. Grind it under SUV tyres, and maybe even throw it under tank tracks. It’s forged steel. Breaking it requires a forge.
Fit: ohmage and porridge
I dare you to find a slimmer remote. I dare you to find one as well-primed by discrete iOS controls for play/pause and volume whilst staying as slim. I mean, check it: the remote is about as thick as an over-sturdy y-split. And while it bears stress relief neither front nor aft, it works well, and only barely weighs down the cable.
Its neck cinch hard stops to the right of your heart, right below the remote control. This position makes it somewhat difficult to use when wearing Comet over the ear. Despite this, I think it’s good that the cinch isn’t above the remote.
As I mentioned in the section above, Comet's compactness may make it hard for meaty fingered folk to remove or insert.
Comet will weather the coming war.
Branding marques mill into each earphone body, and are stamped onto the zipper pulls, case, and pin. As typical of Campfire, the case is overkill. Pack in a bunch of high-end earphones and sit on them. The fuzz-lining, tip-top fasting, and semi-hard sides will keep them safe and snug. And it will outlast any other pack-in case on the market. It’s perfectly engineered for everything except stuffing into the pockets of skinny jeans. Overkill, yes, but the best sort of overkill. From literature to box, stylistic flourishes match Campfire Audio's branding perfectly, and every one is wholesome. Comet and its accessory package fit next to grandma’s Mason jars as well they fit next to or on top of your tool bench. The lot is well made, beautifully tooled, and won't leave you guessing about the brand.
No kitsch here.
Despite its 97dB/48Ω spec, in practice Comet is nearly as sensitive as a Grado GR8e (itself one step removed from the Shure SE846). This means that it will pick up hiss from a large variety of players, DACs, and amps. This is particular trouble for louts like me who enjoy Minidisk portables, the bulk of which hisses like the Dickens. The good news is that most well-designed DAPs have low enough noise floors to be absolutely silent through Comet. The few that aren’t really don’t deserve to be called audiophile, let alone targeted toward portable earphones.
Comet reveals enough hiss from my personal favourite Minidisk portable, the Sony MZ-E55, to annoy at low volumes. The real problem is that the MZ-E55’s baked-in digital bass enhancement mates brilliantly with Comet, making me want to pair the two all the time. Ergo, enjoying the MZ-E55/Comet combo means weathering withering hiss.
Despite being relatively sensitive, Comet requires an volume extra step or two above both the Grado GR8e and the JVC HA-FD 01. Honestly, this is god-send for numerous analogue attenuators whose low volume outputs cant wildly to one channel or the other.
Bass vs. Mids: ohmage
Comet doesn’t power-yawn the intro seconds of Markus Schulz’s Mainstage, but it gets as close as I’ve heard from a neutral-leaning single armature earphone. In fact, I often wonder that Comet is powered by a single BA driver. Bass monster single BA earphones exist. Most decant mad lows to the detriment of everything else. Comet keeps mid to mid-high pressure in the lowest of lows whilst dekeing bloom. In short, Comet outputs good power that can pack a wallop, especially in bass-driven music like trance. It also responds well - though not excellently - to heavy EQs, Digital MegaBass, and the like. Paired with the MZ-E55, it handles Digital MegaBass at a setting of 2/3 without bloom, but at 3/3 it blooms, though mildly. In contrast, the Audio Technica CK10 is bloom-free all the way up to 3/3.
Comet’s low range is speedy. It shows good stereo spread. The spread hits the shoulders with minor z-axis gradients and medium-high y-axis lift. While z-axis detail is limited, x-axis detail and spread defines smooth gradients that soften the wall-of-sound image typical to many single-BA earphones. Consequently, low-frequency instrument separation is good, but generally centrally anchors in a wide band that ping-pongs from one ear to the other, escaping outward when necessary, but largely staying put. Next to a good dynamic driver earphone like the Sony MDR-EX1000, Comet reveals less low-frequency texture, but better delineates channels.
It’s lows and lower, pre-vocal mids are nice and bitey.
Bass vs. Highs: ohmage & porridge
In my opinion, its weak spot is vocals, male in particular. It’s not that they are recessed, it’s that their top edges dull somewhat in comparison to their lead-in bottoms. In short, Comet can put Nick Cave, Christopher Martin, and sometimes, even The Boss, behind one too many filters. That quibble aside, Comet nails my personal preferences. They are: medium to high energy mids and upper mids, and non-spiky treble. Comet extends far with good sound pressure, and none of it peaky. Female vocals are clear, and free of ring. Cymbals, high hats, and other shimmery, shouty, instruments attack and decay quick with next to no wet reverb.
For a single-driver BA, Comet sounds full. From bass to mids it errs slightly warm, and reaches well into the upper mids and highs with good, but not annoying sparkle. Personally, I'd like more vocal bite. For the lad or ladess who doesn't faff around with The Boss, Nick Cave, and other fading stars of ballad and blue collar pathos, Comet should be right on.
Vs. Audio Technica CK10
Next to to the CK10, upper vocal edges are soft. This is particularly the case with male vocals, against which percussion derives more energy and edge. But in the upper mids and highs, where the CK10's sibilance and ring really annoy, Comet is spot on, clean, and clear. The CK10 is also more layered, giving more space to vocals. An amalgamation of Comet and CK10 would probably be perfect.
Vs. JVC HA-FD 01
The HA-FD 01 is hard to nail down, but in sum, it is a flatter, less layered, less ringy version of the CK10. It’s also super customisable. It casts a wide sound stage, is more energetic up top than Comet, and its bass, while more textured, and stereo wide, is less impactful and controlled. I love its highs and vocals, but wish it had Comet’s bass sound pressure and control.
Vs. Sony MDR-EX1000
The MDR-EX1000 and Comet share something in the upper mids, but the Sony’s crazy wide stereo spread thins it out in comparison. I’ll be honest: the Sony has, in short order, become a favourite. It has no real weaknesses but it's also not the tightest sounding of earphones.
Soft-edged male vocals side, I have no complaints with Comet. Its solid, impactful bass really moves things, and its controlled upper mids and highs round out one of the most tightly engineered sounds I’ve heard in a long time. It’s also really well made and generally easy to use. And, because it’s from Campfire, its branding isn’t just unique, it is practically collectible. Brands and products that speak for themselves are a treat, and way too few. Way to go Campfire Audio.