Wireless Earbuds – Group Test – Review

Campfire Audio Orbit, Status Audio Between Pro, Status Audio Between 3 ANC

Review

This is a review written by Steve Crowe May 2023.

It is appropriate to declare from the outset that, over the past few years, I’ve been a bit of a Status Audio fan-boy and have purchased about eight of their products. With some exceptions they have always been quality products with good build and sound at a sensible price. I hasten to add that I’m not blinded by their faults, and I have engaged in several communications with Status Audio pointing out various deficiencies.

I am new to Campfire Audio and have been intrigued by their jewel-like design and high-end looks. I know that their wired earbuds have a good reputation and was keen to try out their first venture into wireless.

Both Status and Campfire products are designed, if not made, in the U.S.

After extensive listening, I decided that the best way to compare them in this review was to describe them individually and then directly compare features and sound quality. For ease of reference, I’ve put together a table, below, comparing features and specifications.

Campfire Audio Orbit

Campfire Audio are based in Portland Oregon and released their first IEMs in 2015 and so are a fairly young company. The Orbit’s arrived in a small, shrink-wrapped manilla cardboard package covered with gold flecks. Typical Campfire ‘bling’. The overlapping wings on the package opening were fastened with a circular paper seal which was a bugger (technical term) to peel off neatly. In fact, the overlapping wings on the outer box still show evidence of my failed attempts to remove the whole seal. Once removed there is an elaborate blue inner box covered in gold stars. To be honest, it looked like something my daughters may have picked up from Claire’s Accessories in their younger ‘love it if it’s shiny’ days. The whole thing is fairly flimsy, and I was concerned about ripping the cardboard. Folding out and lifting a tab to open the inner box there is a gold-lettered phrase which says ‘Nicely Done.®’ At this point I was beginning to question the voracity of this phrase. In fact, I was starting to question what the target demographic is for this product, and I hadn’t even seen the earphones themselves.

Under the flap there is a small plastic charging box in two shades of tan. The USB-C charging port is on the base and there is a Campfire Audio Logo on the front. In addition, there is a small accessory pack, containing ear-tips of various sizes and a larger pack with additional ear tips, a very short USB-C charging lead and a novel Campfire Audio collar pin. Below that is a tiny instruction leaflet. Opening the charging box, there are two neat dual-driver earbuds in the same dark-tan colours as the base of the box, set in a ‘spearmint green’ housing. In the photos I’ve tried to retain the accuracy of the colours as best I can. On the top of the housing is a reset button and four power indicators to show the level of charge. With the lid opened the two middle indicators go out leaving the outer ones lit to show, I think, that the earbuds themselves are functional, or charging, or both.

For anyone over the age of twelve grasping the individual earbuds to remove them from the case can be somewhat of a challenge. However, I soon acquired the knack and learned that it is easier to pick them out with finger and thumb placed on the ends rather than on the sides. Each bud is appropriately marked ‘L’ or ‘R’ and there are two electrical contacts and what looks to be a microphone, one of two on each earpiece. The earbuds have colour-matching tips with a small metal grille inside. There are no ‘wings’ which I will come to later. After trying every tip-size in the accessory pack and buying some others from Amazon for a different fit, I ended up using the ones I started with.

The outside panels of the earbuds are touch sensitive and perform the usual functions. The Orbits have a phone app which enables DSP but are not noise cancelling. Again, I’ll go into this later.

I don’t know if others find this problem with touch controls on earbuds, but it is almost impossible to pick them up without pressing ‘play’, which is annoying. I have the same issue with the Between 3 ANCs.

Status Between Pro and Status Between 3 ANC

Status Audio are also a young company starting in New York in 2014. They make wireless earbuds plus wired and wireless headphones.

I decided to describe the two Status products together as there are a lot of similarities. The earbuds look nearly identical, although the Between Pro are only available in black whilst the Between 3 ANCs have ‘onyx’ and ‘ivory’ options.

In total I’ve had four pairs of the Between Pro. For the first pair the left channel failed after three weeks, and Status Audio efficiently provided a replacement. Two other pairs are in frequent use and the fourth pair I gave to a friend as I was concerned about the batteries not being ‘exercised’. I’m a sucker for the ‘get 50% off for New Year type special offers and that’s how I ended up with a fourth pair I didn’t actually need. The Between Pro are basic wireless earbuds with no noise cancelling, DSP or app.

The Between 3 ANCs are Status Audio’s all singing, all dancing, earbuds with DSP and noise cancelling. I bought them in late 2022 when they were first launched at a ‘special release price’ which turned out to be about thirty percent higher than I’d have to pay now. Special indeed.

Both models are packaged in sturdy sleeved boxes with foam inserts. The ANC 3 has the buds already in the charging case which allows the box to be much smaller. The Between Pro have the earbuds separate. Both have accessory packs which include a user guide, different sized tips and ‘wings’ to ensure a comfortable fit, plus the ubiquitous USB-C charging cable, which is a more useful length than that which is packaged with the Orbits.

I was grateful that Status have clearly listened to their users and changed the box design so that you can actually get the buds out of the case without fumbling. The ANC 3s have touch controls and I have rarely been able to take them out of the case and place them in my ears without triggering play – normally that free U2 album on iTunes which, despite several attempts to delete it, has taken up permanent residence on my iPad and iPhone.

A big negative with the Between Pros is that, when charging in the case, they frequently ‘leak’ Bluetooth and cut in at inappropriate times. Actually, no time is appropriate, and it is very annoying. I’ve managed to keep the issue at bay by regularly cleaning the contacts both on the buds and in the case with a cotton bud soaked in DeoxIT. This has been the subject of many an email I’ve sent across the pond. The ANC 3s don’t suffer this issue and so I guess they listened.

The Status Audio buds each have triple drivers and whilst the Between Pro have four microphones, the ANC3s have six. The charging port on the ANC 3 is on the side as opposed to the base, which means that they can sit upright on their base whilst charging, which is something I like.

Features

Fit and Comfort

Both the Status products have ‘wings’ which you can size to fit neatly into the bowl of your ear. Together with selecting the right tip, the passive noise cancelling capability is already quite high. They really are comfortable to wear. They would probably survive modest activity without falling out, but I would be reluctant to try any vigorous activity because of the danger of losing them. Needless to say, I haven’t troubled them in this regard. The Orbits are quite light and, having only a single point of contact with the ear, they tend to waggle a lot and do feel in danger of falling out. That said they are comfortable to use and wear for long periods.

Build Quality

The Orbits are quite light and small but, although plasticky in looks, they feel quite robust, as does the case. The Status Audio buds look and feel more solid. Both models are identical but for the finish, with the ‘onyx’ ANC 3 looking quite classy. The Campfire Audio and Status Audio cases are both quite solid and pocketable.

Apps, Touch Controls, DSP and Connectivity

The Between Pros are excluded from this section as they do not have an app, touch controls or DSP.

The ANC 3 are the only product reviewed here with active noise cancelling. The passive noise cancelling is already quite good, and the active version works but I’d describe it a subtle, rather than dramatic. Status claim -38db but I’m not so sure. I often find that noise cancelling adversely affects the sound quality and, most of the time I leave it off. Subtle is a word which can also be used to describe the effect of DSP on both the Orbits and the ANC 3. It is there but you have to apply massive changes on the apps to effect audible differences. I do wonder if noise cancelling, and DSP are really worth the extra cost and the feature may simply be fashionable and included because the competition does.

Turning to the apps, and I’ve included screen shots below, both the Campfire and Status Audio apps are straightforward to instal and use. In addition to noise cancelling and/or DSP they also provide useful information on battery life and if there is a firmware update available. Both apps can occasionally be confused by being run on my iPhone whilst listening to my iPad. Not a significant issue though. The Campfire app also usefully lists the touch controls available, which I always forget and may differ between brands. On the Campfire app, whilst trying different DSP positions, there is a reset button which resets all the frequency bands – apart from one. The highest band stubbornly remains where it is and has to be reset manually.

The touch controls on both the Orbit and the ANC 3 generally do what they are supposed to do but I am yet to determine the exact point when a ‘touch’ becomes a ‘press’ or a hold. Occasionally my ham-fisted efforts result in something happening I didn’t even know was do-able. Helpfully, the Campfire app allows you to switch various touch functions in and out – there are nine, plus an everything on or off selection. Both apps allow you to create custom EQ settings. The Status app also has a ‘transparency’ mode which allows outside noise in.

Bluetooth connectivity with all the earbuds is super-fast – faster than transferring from charging unit to ear, which is probably why I have so much problem avoiding the touch controls!

Battery Life

Do you know how difficult it is to measure the battery life on these devices? There are so many variables. Volume is clearly a key factor as is the use of noise cancelling and DSP. Also, every time you put the buds back in the box they charge. If you leave them out, they will still use some but little power and so the Between Pros assertion that there is twelve hours in the buds and thirty-six hours in the case is relatively meaningless.  If I can listen extensively each day and only have to charge up twice a week, as with all these buds, that is more than adequate for me.

For the ANC 3s Status suggest 8-12 hours depending on whether noise cancelling is switched on or off. The Orbits claim to have 8.5 hrs plus 30 in the case.

A few weeks ago, before I knew I was doing this review I watched an American guy on a YouTube video extol the virtues of the ANC 3. He waxed lyrical about the build and sound quality, clearly five-star stuff. He then turned to battery life and absolutely castigated Status for their buds only having seven hours rather than eight with noise cancelling on. He was so aggrieved that he marked them down to three stars. I was in ‘get a life’ mode and it reminded me of a holiday in Crete several years ago and we went on a coach trip to see some dusty antiquities. It was a cool day at the end of the season and so air conditioning was not required. Unfortunately, on the coach were two groups of Americans one group from California and the other from New York. The west coast group complained incessantly that the trip was advertised with air conditioning and why wasn’t it on. The driver obediently turned it on, and we froze. The group from New York then chimed in that it was freezing and Californians complain about everything. So off it went. Not cowed, the contingent from the Sunshine State threatened to complain as the coach company was breaking their promise. Although a second civil war was just averted, we shivered for the rest of the day. I do wonder if any of those Californians write earbud reviews.

Sound Quality

This is the important bit. I’ve purchased so many Status Audio products because their mainstream headphones and earbuds have always had exceptional sound quality. Other than some cheaper items, now discontinued, their products have a smooth treble, exceptional vocals and a deep, punchy bass. Both the Status earbuds are excellent in this respect. They can also go quite loud before signs of any break-up. The soundstage is quite wide but not quite escaping your head. Also, I can wear them all day without any fatigue.

Unfortunately, I ended up disappointed with the Orbits. Campfire Audio are famous for their sound quality, and this has not carried through to the Orbits. Treble and mids are exceptional, on a par with and occasionally better than the Status Audio offerings, and so I persevered with them for weeks expecting the bass to catch up, but it never happened. The bass is there but no depth or punch. There is nothing more I can say.

Price

On Amazon the Between Pros are £129 and the Orbits £249. At present the ANC 3s are only available direct from the U.S. and the price changes daily with the dollar. On the Status website they are quoted at £203 today, £204 yesterday. Add VAT and postage and you could be looking at £250 to £260 (still less than I paid for my pair and so no sour grapes there).

Conclusion

To be honest, as I said before, I’m not sure what demographic Campfire Audio are aiming at. The packaging appears to be aimed at a younger generation or those that go for bling over other attributes. Audiophiles won’t be interested because of the lack of bass. They did prove to be pretty good for watching YouTube videos but I’m sure you can buy something for that much more cheaply.

Both the Status Audio earbuds are excellent. The true sweet spot, if you can put up with the foibles of getting the buds out of the box and the occasional Bluetooth leakage, are the Between Pros. They have almost ninety-five percent of the sound quality of the ANC 3s at about half the cost. If you want active noise cancelling and DSP and can live with the slightly shorter battery, life then the ANC 3s are the ones to go for. I doubt you would be disappointed with either of the Status Audio products.

The Campfire Audio Orbit are available to buy from Amazon here

The Status Audio Between Pro are available to buy from Amazon here

Features and Specifications

For the full specification of the Campfire Audio Orbit see their website here 

For the full specification of the two Status Audio IEM see their website here