For the average headphone consumer, a good set of TWS earphones are the pinnacle of their HiFi listening experience, and Apple AirPods remain one of the most popular products in the consumer electronics market. While bigger brands like Sennheiser have developed highly regarded TWS products, smaller, boutique HiFi brands have struggled to get in on the action. The new Campfire Audio Orbit takes aim at this space with a new high resolution TWS design. Can Orbit deliver performance that will solidify it as a part of the HiFi revolution in wireless audio?
Build and Design
At first glance, Orbit shares some visual DNA with the Campfire Audio Honeydew and Satsuma, but where those were wired IEMs with a brightly colored shell and an almost candy coated appearance, Orbit goes with a simple matte beige, and dispenses with any need for cable connections. It’s lightweight with a secure yet comfortable fit. It’s also worth noting that while virtually every other Campfire Audio earphone is made at the company’s headquarters in Portland, Oregon, Orbit was made in China.
In the package itself you get the IEMs themselves and the requisite charging case along with a selection of silicone and foam ear tips, a pin, and short manual. The eartips have a general style that’s similar to the SpinFit CP1025 and have a slightly elongated design. The provided cable for the charging case is USB-C to USB-C and a tad short for most uses, but you can use an alternate USB-C cable if you don’t have a good spot to charge it.
Orbit uses Bluetooth 5.2 and works with SBC, AAC, and AptX Adaptive codecs meaning that you’ll have compatibility with most devices, but you’ll have notably better sound quality with devices that support AptX Adaptive. Campfire Audio also provides an app that enables you to create EQ presets, update the firmware, and manage the touch controls on the device. For battery life, you get over 8 hours per charge, and the case provides another 30 hours, but in terms of other typical TWS features, like ANC, Transparency, or detecting when they’re removed from your ear, Orbit is more barebones.
While the Orbit App’s EQ presets and custom EQ function provides excellent control over the specifics of its specific tuning, we’ll mostly focus on how it sounds out of the box. The first order of business with most Bluetooth headphones is the source, and Orbit benefits from using the AptX codec over AAC or SBC. With AAC they sounded notably “Bluetooth-y” with a solid tuning, but with a feeling of constriction and compression that’s typical for TWS. Using AptX relieved that feeling and delivered a more open, dynamic presentation.
Orbit’s overall tuning leans towards a warm v-shaped sound. It’s not unlike Campfire’s wired Honeydew or Mammoth IEMs, but with less bass accentuation and more balanced mids and treble. The bass has some slight bleed into the lower mids, and the timbre is overall warm. Mids are pulled back, but not heavily recessed or “scooped.” As such, the vocals feel well-placed: not intimate, but not distant either. There’s some perception of veiling in the upper treble, with hi-hats and cymbal crash feeling somewhat dry, though other aspects of the treble provide a solid feeling of resolution.
You probably know better than to expect incredible things out of the soundstage with a TWS IEM, but Orbit surprised with a soundstage that would feels wide – even among wired IEMs – for the price. The imaging also surprises with strong positioning and separation along with an almost holographic feeling on some tracks.
Orbit delivers “Join Together” by the Who with a wide soundstage that places the various instruments on a stage with good spatial characteristics. There’s a slight bass emphasis with a punch that provides a sense of physical impact from the drums, and texture that facilitates good blending between John Entwistle’s foundational bass and Keith Moon’s energetic drumming. The separation between the array of instruments – from flutes and violins, to harmonicas and didgeridoos – is strong, and provides the intended sound of cacophonous revelry in the recording without losing the coherence of the music.
On “Look Inside,” Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson’s new band, Envy of None, delivers a psychedelic soundscape, and Orbit expertly captures each element. There’s the airy, ethereal lead female vocals, and backing vocals swirling around, and an out of phase bass shifting from side to side. You can also hear a strong sense of blending between instruments that shifts from cohesive to separated in the waves of music. Spacey guitars pass across the shifting vocals, connecting for a moment and then moving away from each other, only to make their way back from the edge of the stage to intersect again.
Well produced electronic music has a way of pushing the limits of headphones beyond the natural sounds of acoustic instruments, and “Kintsugi” by BT succeeds in doing that with Orbit. The bass hits hard with excellent extension into the subbass, and various bits of percussion hit all over the stereo image, with some hits giving a sensation of drums bouncing around inside my skull. The overall feeling was highly immersive and while it felt like it was pushing Orbit’s limits, it still felt holographic and delivered excellent three-dimensionality.
Comparison: Noble FoKus Pro - $349, Sennheiser Momentum 3 TWS - $249
As the popularity of TWS earphones has grown, more and more brands – even smaller ones – have gotten in on the action. Currently the Noble FoKus Pro is considered to be quite possibly the best sounding TWS earphone on the market at $349. Sennheiser has a larger presence in mainstream consumer audio than most HiFi brands, and their long running Momentum TWS series has become a benchmark for both features and sound quality. So how does Orbit stack up with the sound quality king and the industry benchmark?
In terms of the devices themselves, FoKus Pro uses a resin shell that provides a look that’s more similar to high-end wired IEMs than your typical TWS product. Momentum 3 has a simple, boxier design that’s not as visually appealing as Orbit or FoKus Pro. Orbit has a simple, stylish look that blends a bit of style, with a simple design that won’t stand out as “check out these expensive things in my ear” if you’re on the bus or train.
While all three have apps, Momentum 3 has by far the most features of the three, with ANC, in-ear detection, and the most robust overall Bluetooth performance. Orbit seemed to be in second place just on a matter of general Bluetooth performance across devices. FoKus Pro has proven to be a little bit quirky in Bluetooth connection and performance, whereas in the testing we were able to do in our office, Orbit was more stable.
In terms of sound, Noble Fokus Pro has a more neutral tuning than Orbit, with a stronger midrange, and good bass impact, but not as much emphasis in the lows. FoKus Pro has stronger detail and clarity, and doesn’t have that same feeling of veil in the highs. Sennheiser Momentum 3 has a similar tuning to the Fokus Pro, with less bass emphasis, and more of a natural timbre than the warmer Orbit. Momentum doesn’t have the same thickness or note weight of the Orbit. It has a little more sizzle in the treble, but still a slight feeling of veiling in the upper ranges.
That extra $100 for Fokus Pro gets you an upgrade in sound quality, and it’s the only one of the three that never feels like the tuning is at all impacted by the Bluetooth nature of the device. And while Momentum provides the widest array of features, Orbit stands out with a good combination of features and performance coupled with a fun, engaging tuning.
Orbit provides solid all-around performance, along with great design and style in a TWS earphone. Campfire Audio also got the basics of Bluetooth functionality down on their first try – saving you from janky syncing and unexpected drop-outs. With its warm but balanced presentation, fans of classic Campfire IEMs like the Atlas or even the Solaris, will find Orbit to be a great distillation of Campfire Audio’s spirit into a TWS IEM.