The all new Vega 2020, launched alongside the Dorado 2020, is the latest version of Campfire Audio’s acclaimed single dynamic driver earphone. Their tradition of high-end dynamic driver earphones goes back to the Lyra as part of their original product launch in 2015 and more recently included the bass-cannon Atlas. The 2020 update of Vega uses cutting edge dynamic driver technology to deliver upgraded performance at a lower price than its predecessors.
The Build and Design
While the angular shape of the Andromeda and Polaris might be what many consider to be the defining Campfire style, astute fans will recognize the Vega’s design from the aforementioned Lyra and the launch of the original Vega in 2016. While the 2016 version had a “liquid metal” finish, the latest version has a glossy white ceramic that has the air of an even more upscale version of an Apple product. Internally, Vega uses a 10mm ADLC (amorphous diamond-like carbon) coated driver – an upgrade from the 8.5mm ADLC driver of the original Vega.
The packaging is the same Campfire Audio style that we know and love, with the Smokey Litz cable, a case, and a selection of silicone and foam “marshmallow” eartips in the box. It seems like lately each new Campfire series brings a new case material, and this release brings us an upcycled marine plastic case in seafoam green. The upcycled marine plastic is woven into a material that feels like the sort of nylon weave you might find on hiking gear, but with more of a retro California surf aesthetic.
When you put them in your ears, Vega hits you with its big fat bass right out of the gate, but it’s also quite clear and balanced. Vega has great impact and physical energy, which lends well to many forms of pop, rock, jazz, and soul music from Pink Floyd and Pearl Jam to Aretha Franklin and Arianna Grande, but it also cleans up nicely for classical music. The bass strikes me as fairly linear which provides both plenty of rumble and plenty of thump. The highs are smooth and rolled off near the top.
Acoustic instruments and vocals sound natural, while the vocals feel slightly recessed at points. The soundstage is on the smaller side, but the use of that space and imaging are quite good. The dynamics and transient response are also solid, with very little smearing or muddiness.
On Snarky Puppy’s “Flight,” the opening synth bass is deep and smooth, generating a nice rumble. The drums enter with a solid physical punch in the bass drum, and a nice sizzle in the cymbals. When the keyboards and horns come in with the melody, even the fastest runs are tight and articulate. The electric guitar has a percussive quality providing a polyrhythm with the drums. Each piece of the ensemble is well layered in the Vega, and it provides the clarity to pick out each different player and part.
The opening vocals on “Natural” by Imagine Dragons are up close and personal. The relatively simple layers of the song provide a good demonstration of Vega’s soundstage and imaging capabilities. Each player in the band has a clear position on a wide stage, with the synthesizers washing over them from all angles. The quieter moments zoom you into singer Dan Reynolds' personal space, and when the band kicks in, you’re pulled right back to get a position that feels like you’re standing in the middle of a semi-circle stage with the band all around you.
Vega is well tuned for classic rock as demonstrated by AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.” The guitars are bright and clear, Brian Johnson’s vocals are almost too realistic, with all the rasp and growl on full display. Vega provides a great sense of space in its delivery of the stereo panned guitars. The driving beat provides the backbone of the song as the drums hit with energy and solid impact with Vega.
The Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed is a tour de force of symphonic rock, and the Vega performs well from the fully orchestral “The Day Begins” to more band driven tracks like “The Afternoon.” The updated mix provides a bit more impact on the low end of the orchestra than you typically expect, and while the vocals can get lost at points in the massive sound, Vega demonstrates versatility and excellent dynamics throughout the album.
For testing I primarily used the Chord Hugo 2 and Astell&Kern SE200. I also did some light testing with my laptop, phone, and the Cayin N3Pro. The Vega performs well with a number of sources, and is fairly sensitive without having any hiss with any source I tested with. The Campfire Smoky Litz cable performs just as well as always, with no noise issues or microphonics.
Comparison: Campfire Andromeda, Campfire Atlas
Two of Vega’s biggest pieces of competition come from within Campfire Audio’s own lineup: Atlas and Andromeda. The Atlas is the previous generation of Campfire’s single dynamic driver lineup, and the Andromeda, while a completely different animal from a technical perspective, is probably on your mind if you’re shopping for IEMs in the $1000 range.
Atlas and Vega are incredibly similar from a technical standpoint, both being single dynamic IEMs with a 10mm ADLC driver. From a sonic perspective, the Vega seems to have been tuned with a little more clarity and detail in mind. While it shares a similar “bass cannon” feeling with the Atlas, the Vega provides a more versatile tuning, and improvements in technical areas like the imaging. The comfort and ergonomics are also a factor. The cables on the Atlas hang straight down from the earphone, while the Vega uses the design where the cables wrap around your ears. While it’s definitely going to be a matter of personal preference, I find wrapping the cable around my ears to be more comfortable and easier to keep in place – particularly with heavier earphones – than the straight-in design.
The Andromeda and Vega are two different animals. Andromeda features five balanced armature drivers to Vega’s single dynamic driver. Andromeda is the more detailed and articulate of the two, and it has a better sense of space and positioning within the soundstage. On the other end, Vega has a more energetic feeling with a stronger low end response, and more physical impact. While the difference between the Atlas and Vega comes down to incremental improvements in the sound signature and technical capabilities, the difference between Andromeda and Vega is more about the fundamentals of what sound signature you prefer. The Andromeda remains the overall superior IEM, but if bass and low end impact are the most important factor in your sound signature, the Vega is probably your pick, otherwise, the Andromeda is the winner – that is, of course, unless you bring the Dorado into the conversation.
The Bottom Line
If you love the energy of dynamic driver IEMs, but also want more than just bass slammed into your brain all day, the Vega 2020 is happy to offer slamming bass while also providing you a clear, balanced presentation across the frequency spectrum. Vega is a great pick for bassheads, and an excellent all around IEM in the under $1000 range.