Campfire Audio's 3D-Printed Mammoth Wired Earphones Are a $549 Bargain

Mammoth's terrific sound quality is sculpted by a 3D-printed, acoustically optimized interior chamber and a rear port design. Scott Tharler

Using "budget" as a way to characterize consumer electronics as inexpensive makes as little sense as using "diet" to categorize food products low in calorie count. After all, just as a diet consists of whatever one eats, a budget is based on whatever one is willing and able to spend.

It's also silly to draw a line defining how economical a product is within a specific tech category—especially as we've seen the past few years with laptops, truly wireless stereo earbuds and other gadgets—because the common tendency is for their median price to decrease over time, sometimes even as their capabilities increase.

And lastly, a particular device's relative affordability is partly based on the particular purveyor. For instance, Campfire Audio—based in Portland, Oregon, and well-respected by audiophile communities around the world—sells most of its IEMs (in-ear monitors, a fancy term for earphones) in the $900 to $1,500 range. So when it recently released its shiny blue Mammoth model for $549, it was noteworthy. And while I wouldn't designate them as bona fide bargain earphones, they certainly do present a significant value, considering the highly pedigreed, top notch audio they deliver.

Campfire Audio's packaging presentation and unboxing experience is simply exquisite. Scott Tharler

Packaging and Accessories

I don't normally spend much time fawning over product packaging. It's usually just a practical, functional means to an end. But sometimes, as is the case here with Campfire Audio, the presentation makes a lasting impression: It conveys the detail and thought put into how the product will be holistically experienced. Rather than just a routine unboxing, peeling open the Mammoth packaging felt like encouraging a prized flower to bloom and I was revealing something special. But rather than erring on the side of over-the-top, gaudy or wasteful, the packaging also remained exquisite in its simplicity. And ultimately, it helped me to feel good about everything I was about to discover in the box—which, as you'll see, is quite a lot.

To complement the cable and earphones themselves, Campfire Audio includes (count them) 11 pairs of tips: three sizes of silicone, three of its own Marshmallow foam tips, plus five foam tips from Final Audio. Perhaps in a bit of organization overkill, I stashed each of the tip types in one of the three little dual-chamber mesh pouches provided, and then further separated them into each of the pouch's two chambers based on whether they were the best fit or just extras. Now if I want to switch tip types for some reason, rather than repeat the whole process of extracting and aligning them all, I can just go right to the chamber of the pouch I want, and voilà. I'm also glad Campfire included a little brush-and-hook tool to help take care of the issue of cleaning any (naturally but nastily occurring) buildup of wax on the tips.

The included All-Seeing Eye Case envelopes all the accessories and is not only functional but gorgeous. Featuring an outer layer constructed from upcycled marine plastic and an inner compartment lined with soft wool, the pattern on each case is a one-of-a-kind blend of yellow, blue and green shapes (including, of course, the infamous all-seeing eye you might recognize from U.S. dollar bills) on an vibrant orange background. No two Mammoth owners will receive identical-looking cases. This uniqueness definitely adds to the earphones' mystique as a premium product.

The Mammoth's accessories include a cleaning tool, a colorful All-Seeing Eye Case, and three types of tips in a variety of sizes, each type with its own pouch. Scott Tharler

The Cable and Earphones

Just as with a car, the lines of an earphone's body either light you up or don't. When I gaze at Mammoth, I see a multifaceted machined aluminum shell anodized in azure (officially, Frozen Tundra) that looks airy, sleek and perfectly in tune with the Campfire Audio brand. And the black, thin-film coating on the stainless steel spouts (where the music comes out) smartly complement that distinctive look. In other words, I'm a big fan. They definitely don't look plasticky or cheap. And the final metallic touches come in the form of custom beryllium copper MMCX connectors, the shiny little inputs that allow you to confidently attach and detach the audio cable.

On one end of that cable, hooked moldings designed to be worn around the top of each ear helps these earphones to feel light and comfortable for long stretches. And on the opposite end, the earphones terminate in a standard one-eighth-inch jack. It wouldn't have surprised me if—like other mid- to high-end headphones—the company included a one-quarter-inch adapter (i.e., for use with a desktop headphone amplifier and/or high-end hi-fi system) among their various accoutrements. Still, these blue buds worked great with my laptop and two portable digital audio players—but not natively with my phone. (More on that below.)

Custom beryllium copper MMCX connectors help ensure years of reliably attaching, using and removing its audio cable. Scott Tharler

How They Sound

In a word, they're fantastic. Since they patently favor the low end—as much as if not more than Campfire's other models, as graphically depicted in this chart—I wouldn't consider them a "reference" earphone. Or to put it another way, they do color the sound more than a strictly flat or "neutral" in-ear monitor. But I happen to like that bump in the bass. Mostly because it's done so tastefully, thanks to a new custom bio-cellulose diaphragm dynamic driver. And the mids and highs are each gloriously detailed, courtesy of dedicated balanced armature (BA) drivers. In other words, these Mammoth earphones are triple-driver hybrids. They offer a ton of detail, thumpy yet clean bass, and treble that sizzles on the top end but stops just shy of sibilance.

Where the Mammoth really sang was when I played high-res audio tracks, either directly from a digital audio player or streamed on Qobuz. And they belted out the tunes even bigger and better when I attached Helm Audio's Bolt to my phone. Way beyond being just a USB-C output to audio jack input adapter, that dongle-size digital audio converter manages to squeeze an amp into its tiny frame, as well. Everything I played sounded richer and fuller, especially when the tracks were CD-quality and higher.

Although I don't have much ears-on experience with other Campfire Audio products, I know that they have a great reputation based on a legacy of handcrafted products. So when they say that Mammoth's 3D-printed interior chambers are acoustically optimized for optimum performance, I believe them. Because they sure sound precise.

The Smoky Glow version of the Mammoth's Litz cable features a tangle-resistant twisted weave of silver-plated copper wire conductors. Scott Tharler

The Fact That They Glow

I'll be honest, I'm not sure why I'd ever want parts of these earphones to glow. But here are that ones that do: the case's zipper pull and Campfire Audio plaque, the audio cable's MMCX connector and audio jack covers, and a teensy company logo on each earphone. Although I'd certainly wear these IEMs either on-the-go or when relaxing, I wouldn't tend to wear them to sleep. And if I ever did, I wouldn't want them to glow. Though it's just a minor detraction for me, since I only wore them in the dark to confirm that they do in fact glow. And although it's a bit puzzling, it's nothing that I'd allow (literally or figuratively) to keep me up at night.

The audio cable's connector covers, case's zipper, and Campfire Audio plaque each glow in the dark. Scott Tharler

Should You Buy Campfire Audio Mammoth Earphones?

These clearly aren't for everyone. For obvious starters, you have to be willing to spend over $500 on earphones. The main problem is that if you're a self-proclaimed audiophile who's fine with investing that much (seeing the value alluded to above), you might be turned off by Mammoth's bass-leaning sound signature. But if you clear both of those hurdles, tend to listen to your music on the go and would subscribe to a high-res streaming service because you appreciate superior audio quality, then these seem like a great match for you.

With apologies to any vegetarians in the audience, it's sort of like when you get a craving for meat. Sometimes you're fine with the instant gratification of a fast-food burger; but other times the presentation, product quality, service and overall experience of dining at a fine steak house is the only way to attain complete, blissful satiety. If you want a big, beefy, fulfilling audio experience, Mammoth is a great cut of earphone.

Buy at Amazon or Campfire Audio for $549.

Newsweek may earn a commission from links on this page, but we only recommend products we back. We participate in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites.