Build and Design
Everything about Trifecta is built around the driver design, which features three 10mm dynamic drivers all focused on a single point. The core of each earpiece is shaped like a triangle, and the shell is a transparent nylon to let you see the three drivers at work. The transparent shell also gives you a look at the high end components and top-notch wiring inside of the shell.
The package includes three silver plated copper cables – 2.5mm, 3.5mm, and 4.4mm – which use the same design as the ones recently bundled with the Astell&Kern x Campfire Audio Pathfinder: a flat-wrapped, 4-core cable with each strand running parallel. While, as of the time of publishing the final packaging has yet to be revealed, it will include all the accessories Campfire fans have come to expect – like a case, pouch, and eartips – along with some surprises.
There are two key characteristics that define Trifecta’s sound, the first, and most notable is how the three dynamic drivers come together to deliver a soundstage and overall character that feels more like over-ear headphones than earphones. The other, in case the three dynamic drivers weren’t enough of a giveaway, is Trifecta’s incredible bass performance.
While the bass performance is as expected, what might come as a surprise is the very strong detail retrieval and resolution that comes coupled with its lush, organic sound. While Trifecta’s unique design and marketing might make it appear to be somewhat of a gimmick, when you put all of its sonic characteristics together, Trifecta delivers exceptional, endgame performance.
The bass gives you everything a bass lover could ask for: deep extension, solid punch and impact, and a low mid and midbass tuning that provides excellent texture and clarity in the bass. The mids are thick and well layered while being pulled back a bit. Vocals are generally well balanced, but in some circumstances I encountered a touch of sibilance. Trifecta’s tuning falls into the v-shaped category, so while there are some recessions in the mids, the treble again has a bit of extra energy and emphasis. While the tonality remains warm, Trifecta has great definition, and a bit of sparkle in the top end.
The soundstage is huge, with a wide and deep three-dimensional feeling. This is one of the key places where Trifecta feels very close to an over-ear headphone. The imaging and separation are excellent as well, combining a lifelike feeling and strong cohesion accompanied by good clarity in the stereo image.
I’ve listened to the song “Cemeteries of London” by Coldplay no less than 100 times, and listened to it on some pretty impressive HiFi gear. And while you’re probably not looking at Trifecta as a revealing, highly detailed sound, as a testament to the sort of detail retrieval it can provide, listening to that song with Trifecta I realized that a texture which I had always thought was a synth was actually a vocalization. The song as a whole is a marvel of layering, with thick, lush layers providing countermelody and polyrhythm with Trifecta delivering the impact of the low end, separation of the various instruments, intense detail, and amazing cohesion throughout.
Pete Townsend’s chaotic sequencer experimentation created the iconic opening of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and as the band files in, the cacophony finds shape. Trifecta puts you in an arena, with the synthesizer moving from one end of the stage to other, defining the width as you go. Trifecta’s delivery is realistic and lifelike, with impact, energy, and an almost tactile sense to the vocals and each instrument. The positioning of each player becomes clear as they enter the song, with the final result being front row seats to The Who.
Esperanza Spalding’s “Formwela 1” demonstrates Trifecta’s more delicate side, with a soft presentation of voices spread across an open space, brought together by the more centered piano. When the main vocal enters, it’s up close and personal, and the upright bass has a thickness and a good feeling of pluck. Esperanza’s vocals have strong clarity and texture with a bit of airiness at the top and warmth in the low notes.
Glen Gould’s performance of Bach’s “Aria: Sarabrande” is an emotional work of solo piano performance. The piano has more the sense of being in a studio than a concert hall, and the image puts the keys at your fingertips. While only the piano is mic'd for the recording, Trifecta gives you the small detail of Gould softly humming bits of the melody as he plays. Trifecta can certainly deliver huge soundscapes on a grand scale, and here it almost gives the feeling of a simple piano lesson in a small studio.
Comparison: Noble Sultan
For another flagship IEM that balances reference detail with a bit of warm fun, I grabbed the Noble Sultan. Of course, the two IEMs took a much different path to get to their sound. Sultan is a 7 driver tribrid with dynamic, balanced armature, and electrostatic drivers, compared to the 3 driver, all dynamic Trifecta. But the end result isn’t as different as you might expect.
With the standard faceplate (and not one of the limited edition versions) Sultan always struck me as among the more reserved designs for a flagship IEM. Trifecta is on the other end of the spectrum, with its transparent housing showing off the gold lined drivers and bespoke copper wiring. While both represent top quality items, Sultan’s look is more Bentley with Trifecta looking more Bugatti.
In comparing the tuning of the two, the first thing that stands out is the treble. Sultan extends further into the treble and provides a bit of a cleaner edge on instruments as well a heightened sense of separation. Sultan’s bass is also a bit more contained, while Trifecta has more elevation through the midbass. The overall perception of the bass is that Trifecta is a little more “warm” while Sultan’s elevations into the subbass feel more “dark” by comparison.
Sultan and Trifecta are also an interesting study in how to balance cohesion, clarity and separation. Trifecta is design to provide the maximum cohesion through three drivers functioning, more or less, as one, with separation and clarity being a secondary concern – though it certainly has moments that demonstrate excellence in both. Sultan, while its sound remains cohesive, provides a higher degree of clarity and separation through its multi-driver setup. While cohesion isn’t a sonic characteristic I’m particularly sensitive to, Trifecta’s seamless cohesion, over-ear-headphone-like delivery is startlingly apparent when compared with even the top-tier of hybrid and tribrid IEMs.
The Bottom Line
Its design looks like it was handed down from on high to fulfill a prophecy, and its tuning is an excellent implementation of a classic sound, but the real divine piece isn’t the look or the excellent tuning, it’s the way it delivers an almost open-back, over-ear headphone-like sound in a 3 driver IEM. But with its ultra limited production run, Trifecta might unfortunately be the best IEM you can’t actually get your hands on.