Despite a sensational soundstage, a distinct lack of features makes the Campfire Orbit a hard sell at their asking price
- Detailed audio
- Exceptionally wide soundstage (for earbuds)
- Effective equaliser control
- No ANC, wear detection or multipoint
- Poor microphone quality
- General app irritations
Campfire Audio has a reputation for producing stellar in-ear monitors, but is boldly going where it’s never been before with the Campfire Orbit. The Orbit are its first foray into the true wireless earbuds space and, as is typical for the Portland-based manufacturer, their focus is on pairing eye-catching design with excellent sound quality.
In those areas, the Orbit earbuds are flying high – but unfortunately, you can’t fight gravity. A stark lack of features brings the Orbit crashing back to Earth, with an absence of active noise cancellation, in particular, reducing their daily utility. With a more comprehensive suite of features found on competitors such as the Apple AirPods Pro 2, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II and Sony WF-1000XM4, the Campfire Orbit will only really appeal to audiophiles who do most of their listening in quiet environments.
Campfire Orbit review: What do you get for the money?
Available from retailers including Amazon for £249, the Campfire Orbit are positioned at the more premium end of the wireless earbuds market.
Their design bears a resemblance to the company’s various in-ear monitors, though there’s of course no need for a cable to connect them to your audio source. The buds are a two-tone beige colour; certainly not a conservative choice for Campfire’s first earbuds and one that won’t be to everyone’s tastes – one of my colleagues compared them to a flesh-coloured hearing aid.
Build quality is impressive, however, and an IPX5 rating certifies them protected against water jets. Three sizes of memory foam eartips and three sets of silicone tips are found in the box – a more generous selection than is included with most true wireless earbuds. I found the medium-sized foam pair worked best but did experience some comfort issues.
Housing 10mm dynamic drivers, the Orbit deliver a stated frequency response of 5Hz to 20kHz via Bluetooth 5.2 and support the SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive codecs. This puts them ahead of the Bose QuietComfort II and Apple AirPods Pro 2 – both of which are available for similar money – in terms of codec support.
Those earbuds offer a key feature that the Orbit lack, however – active noise cancellation. The upside of no ANC is that battery life is very solid, with in-ear stamina clocking in at eight and a half hours at 80% volume and total battery life including the charging case of up to 30hrs.
It takes roughly two and a half hours to fully charge the case via the included USB-C cable and Qi wireless charging is supported two, which is very welcome. Ten minutes on charge should net you an hour of playtime in a pinch. If you want to quickly check how much battery you’ve got left, there’s a handy LED indicator located between where the buds rest in the case, with each of the four LEDs representing 25% charge.
When it comes to controlling the Orbit, you can use customisable touch controls covering nine different actions, which I’ll discuss in more detail below.
Campfire Orbit review: What do we like about them?
Reproduction of sound is where the Campfire Orbit shine. Sonic detail is exceptional, and the buds are a rich and vibrant listen across the full gamut of musical genres.
The breadth of their soundstage is probably the most stirring aspect of their performance. Jacob Collier’s ‘Hideaway’ sounded as though the multiple guitar lines and panning drum pattern were coming at me from all kinds of angles, while I was left with the impression that the accordion on Astor Piazzolla’s infamous tango track ‘Libertango’ was being played behind my head during the final third of the song. In terms of in-ear headphones I’ve tested, the Orbit are certainly up there competing for the title of best soundstage.
It’s worth noting that the volume they’re capable of outputting is monstrous too, with just 40% volume being similar to what many earbuds top out at. This means battery life will likely last even longer than stated as you shouldn’t need to crank them up to 80% too often.
Campfire says the Orbit have a “north of neutral” sound signature; which translates as them being a little warm. There’s ample mid-bass, with the buds reproducing a pleasant thump on Evian Christ’s progressive trance track ‘Ultra’, but I found sub-bass frequencies a little subdued. Besides that dominant mid-bass, the profile is fairly neutral – staying away from overly bright high frequencies – and is a solid starting point to alter via an equaliser.
It’s significant then, that there is an effective, seven-band graphic equaliser to use in the accompanying Campfire app. You can boost each band by up to 3dB or attenuate it by 12dB and this flexibility allows you to create precisely personalised presets. You can create as many custom EQ presets as you like, which is handy – although you’ll need to remember what each one is since they are labelled in alphabetical order starting from ‘A’ and cannot be renamed. There are also seven default EQ presets, numbered from one to seven, that all provide a different slant to the sound, but the graphic equaliser is the fastest way to get the sound you desire.
Touch controls are another plus point and covered all the commands I required. Tapping once plays or pauses audio, twice controls track skipping, three taps hail your voice assistant and long presses are used to adjust volume. In terms of responsiveness, the Orbit’s controls are some of the most responsive I’ve used and their large touch surfaces make executing commands very simple. You can’t customise what action produces what effect, which is a little disappointing, but the way commands are assigned by default works well enough.
You can, however, choose to turn off each touch control command individually. There are toggles for all nine of the touch commands along with the option to switch them all off at once. This isn’t something a lot of true wireless earbuds offer and is a commendable way of handling touch control personalisation.
Campfire Orbit review: What don’t we like?
That fuss-free experience approach is admirable as far as touch controls are concerned, but when it comes to features, the Orbit are found wanting. Sticking out like a sore thumb is the Campfire Orbit’s absence of active noise cancellation. It’s not something you notice at home but go somewhere with even a bit of external noise, and the lack of protection becomes painfully apparent. Their audio might be rich but that is worthless if you can’t hear the detail above cars, conversations and general kerfuffle.
Walking around outside in windy conditions creates a large amount of noise too and emphasises the difference ANC earbuds can make under certain conditions. Since even budget-priced earbuds like the Earfun Air Pro 3 or Oppo Enco Free 2 offer some degree of noise cancelling, not having it at all is a major disadvantage at the Orbit’s price point.
The same issues with wind are apparent when using the microphone, as those on the other end of calls couldn’t make out what I was saying over the blustering gales. In quieter spots, the two microphones are serviceable but still well below the clarity of similarly priced alternatives like the Apple AirPods Pro 2.
Other features you come to expect from earbuds retailing for £250 are missing, too. There are no wear sensors to play or pause audio when you put in or remove your earbuds, nor is there Bluetooth multipoint to connect to multiple devices at once. You won’t find any other headline features such as Spatial audio or head tracking to distinguish the Orbit from other buds either.
Even the fit of these earbuds didn’t fill me with confidence, feeling awkward, not particularly comfortable and as though they could slip out at any moment. On one occasion while running, the left earbud did fall out of my ear entirely. Switching to memory foam tips improved things somewhat, but I still wasn’t completely convinced. Given the Orbit’s on-stem touch controls are extremely responsive, the issue of fit is made more annoying as any attempts to reposition the buds are liable to pause or skip the song you’re listening to.
The way Campfire has decided to name the equaliser presets in its app is peculiar, too. Labelling presets with numbers instead of memorable names like ‘bass boost’ makes it easy to forget which is which. Perhaps this was intentional to allow for greater play with the default sound, free from preconceived ideas, but it feels unnecessary and slows you down.
The companion app experience isn’t helped by the fact it’s sluggish and buggy. It frequently took five seconds to change EQ presets and sometimes longer to register that the buds were connected to my device at all. Editing the custom equaliser would irregularly state “operation failed” when moving some of the bands too.
More connectivity quirks were present during the Bluetooth pairing process. A number of times during testing, only one of the buds would connect. This tended to be when I struggled to take the buds out of their case and one would connect before the other. Placing them back in the case and pressing the pairing button resolved the issue but the process was frustrating to say the least.
That brings me on to how unnecessarily difficult it is to remove the buds from their case. The flat-sided shape of the buds, small amount of exposed surface to grab onto, and the fairly strong magnetism of the case all contribute to making it very tricky to prise them from their home. This adds a challenge to what should be a mindless task and while it might seem like a small agitation, it becomes a regular annoyance over time.
Campfire Orbit review: Should you buy them?
The Campfire Orbit are earbuds suited to those after top-dollar audio and an impressively wide soundstage in a quirky, aesthetically arresting package. For anything more than that, you should look elsewhere.
A lack of active noise cancellation, multipoint pairing and wear detection paired with poor microphone quality and a buggy app experience don’t invite compliments. And at £249, the Orbit are up against the best earbuds on the market. Without a headline feature or distinctive use case, they simply cannot compete with the more comprehensive, topline offerings from Apple, Bose or Sony.