Campfire Audio Cascade

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published: Aug-19-2018

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NO SMOOTHING is applied to the shown plots. Most measurement sites have some smoothing applied which ‘irons flat’ sharp peaks and ‘wiggles’. I do not use smoothing because some info about sound quality is lost when plots are smoothed.

Aside from a small correction of the microphone itself also some correction in the lowest frequencies is applied to the plots to compensate for the perceived loss of bass when using headphones. This is described HERE in more detail.
A ‘horizontal‘ frequency response curve on the shown frequency response plots on this website thus indicates a perceived ‘flat’ tonal signature.

ALL measurements are made with a good SEAL on a flatbed measurement rig.
The shape of your head, bone structure, pad size, pad ‘softness,  (compliance), hair or no hair and or wearing glasses may (drastically) change the frequency response of some headphones, so… your personal experience may differ substantially from these plots.

Frequency response (tonal balance) is the most sound-determining aspect of headphones. A horizontal line shows audible neutral response in the plots on this website. Deviations in different severities at different frequency bands have an effect on the sound character.
The bigger the deviation the stronger the effect.

Below an aid to help determining the sound character of headphones with relation to the frequency response.


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Campfire Audio Cascade



Type: Over ear, closed
Usage: Home, portable
Driver type: dynamic, Beryllium coated
Pads: replaceable, sheep leather. Cloth pads are available as well.
Collapsible: yes
Isolation from outside noises: Good
Headphone connector: colour coded 2-pin LEMO connector
Cable entry: dual sided
Cable: 1.2m, woven cloth covered, terminated in 3.5mm TRS jack plug
Driver size: 42mm
Colour options: Black
Inner Pad dimensions: depth front = 25mm, rear = 30mm, W = 40mm, H = 60mm
Max. power rating: unknown (assumed 200mW)
Max. voltage: 2.7Vrms (7.8Vpp)
Max. current: 70mA
Max. S.P.L.: 122dB
Impedance: 38Ω
Efficiency: 100dB/1mW (114dB/1V)
Weight: 340g. (excl. cable)
Clamping force: medium
Accessories: hardcase, 4 tuning inserts,  1.2m cable

Subjective sound description:

This is one bassy headphone. Those looking for a clear/neutral sound with light bass this headphone may not be finding what they want.
The bass sounds punchy and  full bodied yet not ‘fat’ or bloated’. The bass does ‘bleed’ into the mids with some recordings.
With (older), pop and/or rock recordings the Cascade works quite well, adding some ‘body’ to the sound in a tastefull way. One could say this headphone is quite ‘forgiving’ of recording quality differences and works well for most genres and recordings.
Well made recordings that have a full bodied sound by them selves will sound ‘overpowered’ and ‘thick’ in the bass.
This does work well when listening at very low volume levels though. In that case it still sounds ‘full bodied’.
Well suited for portable duties as that usually asks for some bass boost.

The mids are clear and ‘open’ sounding and are dynamic. They sound surprisingly realistic and have a good tonality on most recordings but are a bit on the ‘warm’ side with better quality recordings.

The treble sounds present but is slightly elevated in a pleasant amount. This is not a bad thing as the bass is also elevated. The treble does not sound sibilant though and is rather smooth.


Below the frequency response of the Cascade (Left, Right)FR CascadeChannel matching is not that great which is disappointing in this price class.
Bass extension is good.  From 40Hz to 200Hz the response is elevated by 10dB. This means the bass is heard about 2x louder than the rest of the instruments.
These may even satisfy bass-heads when tuning inserts are used !
From 200Hz (mids) to 5kHz (upper mids) the tonal balance is neutral and realistic.
The treble is elevated a few dB and a +5dB peak is present at 10kHz. Above that point the output level drops but still extends to beyond 30kHz.
This peak in the treble gives cymbals some emphasis. There is enough ‘air’ in the sound as well as detail.


Getting a good seal is important for closed headphones. The soft leather earpads (cushions) help with getting a good seal.
However, wearing glasses may affect bass response.
Below the Right channel is shown. Perfect seal, wearing glasses with ‘thin’ arms, wearing glasses with ‘thick’ arms, bottom part of the pad slightly lifted so loss of seal.sealAs can be seen a good seal is important for the amount of bass. Wearing thin armed (reading) glasses does not affect the tonal balance  that much but subbass might be a bit lower. When using thicker armed glasses the bass becomes audibly less. This isn’t particularly problematic for those that find the bass overpowering though.
When a substantial seal loss is reached, which is possible when the pads not fully sealing because the cups are not positioned correctly. Positioning the cups requires some ‘force’ so is something to reckon with when it was folded in its case.

As mentioned the tonal balance is on the bassy/warm/thick side. The more realistic headphones have a more horizontal frequency response. Of course some people really like this type of ‘tuning’ and find it more realistic/speaker-alike than ‘flat’ headphones which they usually find boring and lifeless.
Below a comparison with a similarly ‘tuned’ and often well liked headphones.
The plots are ‘smoothed’ to get a better ‘feel’ of the tonal balance differences.

Below the Cascade compared to the Denon AH-D600. While these are quite similar (but certainly not the same) the sound quality of the Cascade is considerably higher.cascade vs AH=D600

Another not entirely fair comparison, because of the 3x higher price, is the Sennheiser HD820 next to the Cascade. There certainly is some resemblance there. Both in sound signature as well as quality. The HD820 is a bit higher in sound quality and ‘bleeds’ a bit less into the mids (overly warm) because of the -5dB dip it has around 300Hz.Cascade vs HD820

When looking for a cheaper replacement with somewhat similar traits and comfort the Takstar PRO82 (shown below) may be an option. It does not have the sound quality of the Cascade though. The mids are too ‘laid back’ and lacking clarity and treble quality isn’t as high but it is a close alternative for those with a < $100.- budget. The plot below is in the ‘max bass setting’ by the way which does not sound great. It can be set to lower bass levels and sounds better in that case.cascade vs P82 max bass

A headphone that is comparable in price and quality is the Beyerdynamic DT1770. It has a similar tonal balance but is slightly ‘warmer’ in the mids and the treble quantity is a bit more extreme. The DT1770 can have some sibilance and sharpness.
I would give the nod to the Cascade which is a bit ‘smoother’ overall.cascade vs DT1770

There are also some other headphones around that have a similar ‘bass heavy’ tuning.
Cacade vs Meze 99Classic and V-Moda M100.
cascade vs 99=bl vs M100=teal
The Meze 99 bleeds a bit more into the mids (sounds warmer/thicker) and also is less ‘neutral’ in the mids and misses the clarity and ‘openness’ the Cascade shows. Treble level on the Meze is slightly lower making it sound a bit more ‘subdued’ and ‘soft’.
The M100 has a bit more ‘punch’ but also is more ‘fat’ sounding bleeding much more into the mids. The tonal accuracy of the M100‘s mids is not as good and has a mildly unnatural ‘forward’ sound to it that lacks a bit in ‘clarity/presence’. The treble peak of the M100 is a bit unnatural and not nearing the quality of the Cascade.

Below 2 other bassy headphones. The Master & Dynamic MH40 and the Sony MDR-1A.
The MH40 bleeds a bit more into the mids (has more ‘warmth’) and does not have elevated treble so sounds a bit darker. Treble quality of the MH40 isn’t as good as the Cascade. The MDR-1A has a very similar bass response but lacks the clarity and ‘open’ sound of the Cascade. The treble peak of the Sony is lower in level but also in frequency.cascade vs MDR1A=bl vs MH40=gry

Then there is the king of ‘warmth’. The controversial Audioquest NightHawk. This does not sound like the Cascade at all. Those liking the NightHawk will find the Cascade to lack ‘warmth’. Of course it is all a matter of taste in the end. My preference is the Cascade here.. by quite a few miles but am sure some will prefer the NightHawk.cascade vs Nighthawk

output resistance / damping-factor

As this is a dynamic headphone the frequency response might be amplifier output resistance dependent when certain higher output resistance amplifiers are used.
To test this the headphone is measured via a low impedance amplifier (0.2Ω) and a high impedance amplifier (120Ω). On a higher output resistance amplifier the output level will be considerably lower. To compensate for this the amplifier is cranked up to the same level (11.5 at 1kHz) as the low impedance amplifier. This way the plots are overlay-ed and it is easy to see how the tonal balance changes.R120
The Cascade isn’t really sensitive to a higher output resistance amplifier. Even at 120Ω there is only a 1dB boost in the lows. This means that sources with output resistances up to 30 Ohm are not changing the tonal balance.

Note that this headphone was measured at ears-unlimited-logo where unavoidable background noises were present in the demo room. Distortion levels and spectrum plot performance may thus be better in reality than shown on the plots.

Below the distortion measurements of the Cascade (Right channel).Dist R cascadeThe plot above shows the level differences (in dB) between the signal and the harmonics. Most people prefer to see percentages instead of level differences so below the exact same plot except ‘normalised’ to the actual signal and level differences given in percentages.Dist R cascade percentDistortion levels are quite high. Around 2% 2nd harmonic distortion around 40Hz. This is to be expected from smaller (40mm) drivers at this level (95dB SPL). The 3rd harmonic (which indicates clipping alike sound) fortunately is below 0.2%.

  • The actual 2nd harmonic distortion above 300Hz may well be lower than 0.2%. A shortcoming of my measurement rig.

Above 200Hz the distortion is quite good. Below 200Hz higher distortion numbers are not really as detrimental to sound quality as above it so the Cascade sounds quite good with resect to distortion as well.

Time domain

Below the CSD (waterfall) plot of the Cascade. Left and Right are overlaid.CSD CascadeAbove 1.5kHz the river is well damped. The resonance at 10kHz is there but is very short lived so not a big problem.

Below the spectrum plot of the Cascade (Right channel). This basically is a CSD (Waterfall) plot but viewed from above where the level differences are colour coded instead of being in the vertical axis and go a lot ‘deeper’ than the CSD.
Also the frequency range of the spectrum plot is wider (from 100Hz instead of 500Hz). The time span is also bigger in the spectrum plots and expired time is shown from below to top where in the CSD the time is shown from rear to front.spectrum cascadeThe bass does not linger on too much despite being high in amplitude. There is something strange around 2.5kHz where the driver seems to have a (low level) resonance that is not seen as clearly as in the CSD. That ringing is about 35dB to 50dB below the initial signal but lingers on for quite some time. I don’t think it degrades the sound though as it is low in amplitude and narrow in bandwidth.

Below the step response of the Cascade (Right channel)step R Cascade
This plot shows some ringing and the elevated bass response (the wide hump around 2ms). There is little to no overshoot and up to 0.8ms the response is quite linear. This means the mids are ‘neutral’ and don’t have any (unnatural) emphasis.


The Campfire Audio Cascade is a well made but fairly expensive headphone. It is quite comfortable, can easily be driven from portable sources, and has good isolation.
The elevated bass and slightly elevated treble make this headphone well suited for portable usage and also for low level listening to music.
Whether one finds the elevated bass a bit too much of a good thing is a personal matter and may also depend on the choice of music.
Audition if possible. Trying the cloth pads is a good idea in that case as well.
This is a headphone with a very good sound quality but, to me, somewhat overdone bass levels. This can be fixed with tone control/EQ though.
Recommended for portable usage and those that prefer bass boost.

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