Campfire Audio Cascade Headphones

Build Quality
PRICE $799

Stunning design with consummate build quality
Pleasurable sound balance
Plush ear pads
Sound balance may be too rich for some tastes

Campfire Audio’s Cascade is a class act, with distinctive good looks and a sweet, easy sound.

Even before I start listening to headphones, their look and feel on my head can have an influence on my first impressions of the sound. On that score, Campfire Audio’s Cascade headphones really had my hopes up. The satin black machined aluminum earcups felt like they could survive a close encounter with a city bus and escape unscathed. The plush, real lambskin-covered earpads promised good times ahead. Yesiree, the Cascade makes a mighty fine first impression. What about the sound, you ask? No worries there since the Cascade’s sound encourages long listening sessions.

Thoughtful design touches abound. A user-replaceable 50-inch-long Litz cable deserves special mention for its über flexibility, which contributes to the Cascade’s wearing comfort. The folding headband’s metal hinges feel like they’ll last forever, and I like that the earpads are user-replaceable. Another noteworthy touch is the deluxe faux shearling fur lining the zippered carrying case.

The earcup connectors have a precision feel and make for a very secure fit. Basically, it’s the same type of connector that Sennheiser uses for its HD 800S headphones, which is why Campfire claims that aftermarket HD 800S cables will fit the Cascade.

As full-size ‘phones go, the Cascade isn’t very big, so its amply padded ear cushions rest on, but not over, my ears. Head clamping pressure is a tad high, but the upside there is that the Cascade does a good job keeping outside noise at bay.

I rarely comment on headphone “break-in,” also known as “burn-in,” but in this case it really does make a difference. I was initially concerned about the 42mm Beryllium PVD driver’s bass untidiness, so I left the Cascade playing for a good 10 days before listening again. Ah, the now fully settled in bass remained rich with palpable texture, but the Cascade’s grip on the low-end firmed up. While the Cascade isn’t what I would call an accurate or neutral-sounding set of headphones, its bass and upper-midrange richness are deeply satisfying.


Listening to the first few Led Zeppelin albums, I started focusing on the interplay between Jimmy Page’s guitar and John Bonham’s drums. The rhythm of these two musicians played a huge role in the band’s sound. On the Cascade, they were locked-in and grooving. Speaking of huge, the Cascade’s sound is remarkably open and spacious for smallish closed-back, over-ear headphones. Treble air and sparkle are also well-represented.

Audeze’s EL-8 closed-back planar magnetic headphones ($699) were on-hand and ripe for a comparison with the Cascade. The EL-8 is bigger and less portable, but it’s also a champ at hushing external noise. The Audeze’s larger earcups and pads also do a better job of fitting around my ears. AT 13.5 ounces vs. the EL-8’s 19 ounces, the Cascade is lighter, but I still find the EL-8 to be more comfortable. I didn’t have to listen long to note that the Cascade has a more voluptuous, meaty, big, and bold sound. The EL-8 in comparison sounds much leaner and cooler. They’re both good headphones, but they approach sound from very different directions. The EL-8 is clearly more accurate, so my appreciation for the Cascade’s sound almost feels like a guilty pleasure. A very guilty pleasure.

The real magic with the Cascade happened in the midrange when I played Diana Krall’s Live in Paris collection: her vocals sounded so full of life. There was something really special about Krall’s intimate connection with the microphone; it was as if there was no mic at all. The Cascade was making all the right moves, rendering her exquisite touch on the piano keys, her dynamics, and most importantly her sense of swing.

With a sound that seduces rather than dazzles with detail, the Campfire Audio Cascade isn’t equipped to compete in the high-resolution audio sweepstakes. While its treble isn’t soft or rolled-off, the rich midrange and voluptuous- sounding bass are the Cascade’s star attractions. That’s enough for me, and it might also be enough for you.

Campfire Audio

drny's picture

Yeah, I know my Audeze selection is 2.5 the price of the Cascade headphones reviewed. Unfortunately for closed back headphones, you might as well purchase those that are priced less than $400 or over $1,000.

By the way, it's great to realize that Steven G is still a contributor to S&V.