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Campfire Audio Andromeda

Posted

Pros: out of this galaxy smooth revealing sound tuning, solid industrial design, premium quality removable cable, luxurious leather case.

Cons: the comfort of the fit is eartip dependent, the shell design could have softer corners, expect some hissing.


I would like to Thank Campfire Audio for providing Andromeda review sample in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

Manufacturer product website: https://www.campfireaudio.com/andromeda/

 

* click on images to expand


 

Just the other night I had a very clear and detailed dream about sitting next to the campfire in the wide open green pasture while sipping on a smooth rum cocktail from a solid aluminum jug, bejeweled in silver and copper, under the skies with five fairly balanced stars of a flagship constellation calling me with its divine sound of mysterious galaxy.  What a bizarre dream!  What a strange combination of random objects and events!  But was it really random or do they all connect together like stars of a bright constellation?  Yes, they do!  Welcome to the galaxy of Andromeda – a constellation of coherency and harmony!

 

Whenever I review a product from a manufacturer I haven’t covered in the past, I like to start with a little intro about the company.  Here, I found a few associated companies with one name in common – Ken Ball, who is 100% behind all the audio engineering, the sound tuning, and the design.  Since I don’t get a chance to attend Head-fi meets, CanJam events, and other audio shows where Ken is very well known, my communication with him was limited to PM exchanges where I quickly realized how much passion and pride he has for his products and how much energy he puts into his work, regardless if it’s headphones, amplifiers, cables, or just a professional audio gear modding which he has been doing for well over a decade.  But two things really stood out.  One is how much he enjoys listening to music and finds it very important to the quality of his life.  The other is how Ken takes his accumulated knowledge of a traditional headphones design and uses it in conjunction with his outside-of-the-box thinking to approach everything from a totally different angle.

 

Some might question why am I starting the review with all these praises?  In the last few years I tested and reviewed multiple dozens of headphones and many other pieces of audio gear with quite a few which I consider to be my favorites, but nothing have stopped me in my tracks like the first time I listened to Campfire Audio (CFA) Andromeda – Ken’s latest flagship creation.  Prior to this review, I didn’t know too much about ALO (another Ken's company) or CFA or how many veteran sound engineers or hearing aid professionals slaved behind the design and the sound tuning of this product.  So imagine my surprise when I learned it was a vision and a hard work of one person, along with a big contribution of Caleb Rosenau (the vice president of CFA), from a company that got into IEM design less than 3 years ago while hand building them in their lab (Portland, OR).  Shocking, indeed!  But I shouldn’t be surprised after realizing the driving force behind it.  Now, let’s proceed to the review.

 

Unboxing.

 

Arrived in a compact sturdy carton packaging, there was something about this box that felt rather crafty.  I’m not talking about rough edges or sloppy construction, but something different that stands out from a traditional glossy packaging with flashy images and spec bullets - just a modest picture of Andromeda with a green swirly background and a printed name with a basic description, and a hand drawn theme of stars in the sky.  I assume all CFA models will come in a similar box with the only difference being the picture and the color background which reflects the theme of that particular model.  It also worth mentioning that entire CFA lineup (Andromeda, Jupiter, Lyra, Nova, and Orion) is named around constellations, stars, and planets – something you would naturally enjoy by the campfire at night looking at the starry skies!

 

With the box cover lifted up, you’ll find a custom dark leather zippered case hosting earphones and a cable.  I initially assumed that all accessories will be inside of the case as well, but instead the bottom of the packaging box comes out with the rest of the accessories hidden underneath.  One peculiar thing was the writing under the cover flap with “Nicely Done” message which could have different interpretations.  Nicely done – toward consumer for making a purchase, or nicely done – toward manufacturer for delivering the goods.  Either way, it shows that CFA cares to make unboxing experience more personal.

 

 

 

 

 

Accessories.

 

Even so the leather case is the highlight of the accessories, more goodies were included.  You get 3 sets of eartips with genuine Comply TX400 tips (S/M/L), generic foam tips (S/M/L), and a set of soft cap shallow silicone tips (S/M/L).  Definitely plenty of tips, but I would have loved to see at least one more set of silicone tips with a longer core stem to enhance fit comfort, though it’s purely subjective.  Also included were a cleaning tool with a magnetic tip (pretty cool to attach it to your desktop components or somewhere where it’s easy to find it), and a custom pin with Campfire Audio emblem/initials (didn't expect this one, but cool nevertheless).

 

When it comes to the leather case, it’s definitely unique, premium quality, and lined with a soft fleece material on the inside.  The case has a hard shell to protect your investment during transportation, and once you unzip it – opens up like a coin wallet with protected sides so nothing falls out.  Some might find it an overkill, but considering the anodized finish of aluminum shells you don’t want to scratch them while these bang and slide inside of the case.  Thus, a fleece lining is not just for the looks but also to protect the alloy shell finish.

 

 

 

 

 

The cable.

 

For those familiar with ALO Audio, another Ken’s company which is a parent of Campfire Audio, you probably aware that in addition to amplifiers he also makes custom cables.  Though a few of his earlier CFA releases featured tinsel wire cables, Andromeda comes with all new 3.5mm Litz SPC (silver plated copper) cable.

 

I usually look into replacement cable for sonic improvement rather than the looks, but in this case both goals were met.  Starting with a translucent 90-deg gold plated jack, you can actually take a glimpse inside to see how wires are soldered, and the rubbery housing has a nice grip with a decent strain relief.  The 4 twisted wire conductors have silver finish with a medical grade pvc jacket, and the cable still feels soft and pliable.  Four separate wires also means that the ground of each earpiece side is isolated until the connector, which is just asking for a balanced cable jack.  Hopefully it will be available soon as a separate accessory from ALO.

 

The y-splitter is slim and aluminum, like a silver bullet, and it has a clear plastic chin slider which retracts from the splitter.  The wires going to each earpiece after the splitter are twisted, and closer to mmcx connector housing you will find a memory wire section.  Here you a have a traditional stiff piece of a memory wire wrapped around in a soft clear tube which you can shape for over-the-ear fit.  The mmcx connector itself uses a high quality beryllium copper material, and the housing of the connector has red/blue dots corresponding to Right/Left sides.

 

The same matching mmcx beryllium copper alloy connector is used in the shell of Andromeda, and you get a snappy and a secure joint.  Mmcx connectors have a bad rep due to intermittent contact issues or accumulated specks of dust or just premature wear off.  Here, an extra attention was paid to choose components with a premium quality material.  The only thing I’m not too crazy about is combination of memory wire hook spinning around the connector as you trying to put these monitors in your ears.  Could be a matter of personal preference, but I like to put earpieces in first and then put the cable over my ears without distraction of moving ear hook.  I would suggest an alternative cable version without memory wire piece, especially for those who wear glasses.  Also, those who are into DIY, be careful if you decide to remove wire by yourself because you can damage the connector housing since the memory wire is jammed tight inside.

 

 

 

 

In most of my IEM/CIEM reviews I typically suggest to replace the stock ofc cable with premium aftermarket alternatives.  I do hear a difference in sound when switching between cheap stock ofc cable and spc or pure silver or old plated silver wires.  But in case of Andromeda we are not dealing with a cheap generic cable, but rather a premium Litz silver plated copper which ALO sells alone for $149 (https://www.campfireaudio.com/product/litz-cable/).

 

But regardless of that I still went ahead with a swap, going through collection of my replacement cables, and made a full circle back to a stock Litz SPC.  Something like Linum BaX, which is also a Litz cable, affected the extension of lows where sub-bass got attenuated and I felt the sound lost a bit of sparkle.  Going with pure silver TWag v3 yielded a bit of sub-bass roll off as well and made the upper frequencies a bit too hot.  The only cable I found surprisingly close in performance was Fidue A83 replacement balanced cable, here.  It maintained a similar tonality of mids and treble, but sub-bass was still a bit rolled off in comparison.  Due to stiff memory wire in that Fidue cable, I actually did a little DIY mod by removing the shrink wrap cover and pulling the wire out.  While waiting for ALO Litz SPC balanced cable to become available and if you don’t mind modding (to remove memory wire), this could be a possible alternative.

 

 

 

Design.

 

With an exception of Lyra which uses a ceramic shell, all other CFA models have shell machined from a solid block of aluminum with a hand anodized finish in a distinct color.  In case of Andromeda, the color was selected to be green since the name refers not only to constellation and the galaxy within it but also to an evergreen shrub.  But aside from a color variation, Andromeda, Jupiter, Nova, and Orion CFA models have the same exterior design with an identical shell held together by 3 torx screws and a short aluminum nozzle.  It definitely has a really cool looking industrial design.

 

While it looks very original with its angled facet corners and sides, due to a short nozzle the fit might not be everyone's cup of tea using stock eartips.  We all have a different ear anatomy so this is subjective, but it's still very important to go through various eartips not only for seal/isolation purpose but also to find the one which going to provide enough spacing to prevent the shell from rubbing against your concha area.  Eartips vary not only in material but also in length of the inner stem where even a few mm can make a difference depending on the depth of your inner ear canal.

 

 

I just don't want the people to be discouraged if they are having a fit issue with Andromeda or any other CFA model because a wrong eartip selection will not only leave you with a poor seal and reduced isolation, which affects the low end performance, but can also cause a few sore spots if the shell rubs against your ear.  A few things I might suggest to CFA, in addition to another set of longer silicone eartips also maybe look into smoothing out the corners and using torx screws with a rounded head.

 

As far as the internal design, it’s unique to every model and depends on a driver config.  With Andromeda being a flagship featuring 5 Balanced Armature drivers, they are partitioned in groups of dual lows, single mid, and dual highs with each individual group going to one of the 3 bores machined into a nozzle tip.  But Ken/CFA decided to take it one step further besides a simple passive crossover which is still utilized in here.  Andromeda features a Patented design of an optimized acoustic resonator assembly which is machined into the aluminum enclosure.  It actually replaces the traditional tube and dampener system commonly used in other IEMs.  As confirmed, this acoustic resonator device is only applicable to the dual high frequency drivers, and happens to be a part of the CFA Patent.

 

As far as the actual spec goes, stated by manufacturer, the frequency response is extended from 10Hz to 28kHz, and we are also looking at higher sensitivity of 115 dB with a low impedance of 12.8 ohm.  I will talk more about the pair up in my sound analysis section of the review, but basically this means that you should expect a moderate level of hissing depending on your source selection.  You can choose to mitigate the hissing problem with an impedance adapter, and I actually confirmed it with 75 ohm adapter to quite it down, but in addition to cutting the noise the low end impact got reduced noticeably as well.  I’m sure fans of SE846 can relate to this (the same story of higher sensitivity and low impedance).

 

Overall, as far as the design concerned, there are no showstoppers but definitely a room for improvement, especially when it comes to a personal preference with the fit.  Other than that, I see a very solid build, a very unique industrial look, and a patented sound shaping technique inside of the shell.  All this is not just words on a paper, it actually reflects in a rather impressive sound quality which I’m going to talk about in the next section of the review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fit.

 

 

Sound analysis.

 

Everybody has their own personal sound preference, and after a while I almost gave up on being able to find one pair of in-ear monitors that going to come close to balancing out a warm natural sound and a more revealing reference sound.  I always separate headphones into these two groups and analyze which one comes closer to my target preference signature.  Here, Andromeda was able to close the gap with a nearly perfect yin-yang balance of revealing detailed sound wrapped in a blanket of smoothness and coherency.

 

After a few weeks of continuous listening and going between PAW Gold and Opus#1 as my two primary sources, I found Andromeda to have a balanced revealing signature, with a slight hint of being mid-forward, and a very smooth natural tonal characteristic.  The signature is actually a good example of W-shaped balanced sound where lows, mids, and highs stand out and equally grab your attention.  You can easily shift your focus and effortlessly zoom in to distinct parts of the spectrum.  But as I mentioned already, the most important characteristics of Andromeda sound quality is being able to successfully bridge the gap between warm smooth and revealing detailed tonalities, resulting in a perfection of a smooth organic transparent sound with an impressive clarity and retrieval of details.

 

Starting with a bass, you hear a bottomless low end extension with a visceral sub-bass rumble that has a warm textured quality.  Here, the tuning doesn't shy away from a slightly enhanced quantity, but surprisingly it doesn't overpower the mid-bass or turns Andromeda into L-shaped basshead monitor.  I hear a deep analog sub-bass layered underneath of a fast tight punchy mid-bass.  Bass is well controlled with an excellent separation from the mids.  In some cases, I found other multi-BA headphones with lows tuned like analog dynamic driver, while here it's a combination of what sounds like a warm lush dynamic driver sub-bass with a fast balanced armature driver mid-bass - coherent and in unison.

 

Mids are another star of the tuning where lower mids have a natural organic body, not too lean but with a little bit of thickness and absolute zero muddiness.  That was another pleasant surprise because in a number of other IEMs I tested in the past, bass enhancement with a little thicker lower mids can take away from sound clarity by introducing some muddiness.  Here, it was carefully tuned without affecting sound clarity.  And speaking of clarity, the details of upper mids are very impressive.  It wasn’t exactly on a crunchy micro-detail level, but very close minus the crunchy part - very smooth and organic retrieval of details without a hint of harshness.  I especially enjoyed the vocal performance, both male and female, which had such a natural and realistic tonality.

 

Treble is bright and clear, with an excellent definition, zero sibilance or graininess, not too crunchy or super airy, but it still extends nicely and has just a perfect amount of airiness to lighten up the upper frequencies.  If you are a fan, for example, of extended crash cymbals, you are not going to hear the full extension of the decay.  I guess something gotta give, and I'm perfectly fine with it, though Andromeda treble performance is still ahead of many other smooth signature IEMs I've tested.  Again, as I stated before, I'm very impressed with clarity and transparency of these IEMs considering now smooth they sound.

 

The soundstage expansion is definitely on a whole other level with a real holographic 3D imaging where the width/depth/height parameters are way above the average performance.  It results in a relatively accurate placement of instruments and vocals in space, but at the same time in a few of the tracks with extreme panning of sounds it felt even a bit overwhelming.  Andromeda is great not just for listening to music but also for watching movies or playing video games with surround effects.  It picks up every little nuance of the random noise, places it perfectly in space, and gives it a new dimension.  Even so separation of instruments and vocals was really good, the layering was just Ok.  But I still found the sound to be very dynamic and transparent.

 

 

Comparison.

 

Andromeda vs 64 Audio U12 - U12 soundstage width is a little narrower, while depth/height is the same.  U12 has a bit less sub-bass quantity with B1 filter which actually gets closer to with S1 filter, mid-bass punch is very similar though Andromeda has a little more speed.  Lower mids are very similar, while Andromeda upper mids are brighter and more detailed where U12 is warmer, and not as forward as Andromeda.  Andromeda treble is a little brighter, with a slightly better definition and more airiness.  One of the biggest differences here is Andromeda being more transparent, faster, and with a little better retrieval of details while U12 is smoother, more organic, more laid back, and warmer in comparison.

 

Andromeda vs Noble K10UA - soundstage is similar in depth/height, but Andromeda is noticeably wider.  Andromeda has more sub-bass, while K10 has a faster mid-bass, both have a well controlled low end.  K10 lower mids are leaner, while Andromeda upper mids are smoother and more organic in comparison to K10 which can get a bit harsher and brighter.  K10 treble is brighter and has more crunch, and with a bit more airiness.  Andromeda sounds more natural smoother, while K10 is more revealing.

 

Andromeda vs UM Maestro - Maestro width is a lot narrower, while depth/height are very close.  Maestro sub-bass is more rolled off, while mid-bass punch is as fast but less aggressive.  Lower mids are a little leaner, but not by a lot, upper mids in Maestro are brighter and little harsher in comparison.  Treble in Maestro has better extension and also brighter and with more crunch and airiness, which could even feel a bit grainy in comparison.  Both have a detailed clear sound, but Andromeda is a lot smoother (not warmer, but smoother) and has a more natural tonality without any graininess or harshness.

 

Andromeda vs Noble Savant - Savant soundstage width is a little narrower, while depth/height is the same.  Savant sub-bass feels more attenuated and mid-bass punch is a lot less aggressive.  Lower mids in Savant are just a touch leaner while upper mids are very similar, being detailed a little more forward, but also a little brighter in comparison. Treble has a similar definition and airiness, but Savant has a little more crunch.  Overall Andromeda has definitive upper hand in bass, and sounds smoother and a little more organic in comparison.

 

Andromeda vs Westone ES60 - ES width is very close, but not 100% as wide, the height is the same but with a little less depth.  Sub-bass and mid-bass in ES are more neutral in quantity and don't extend as deep or punch as fast or have the same impact.  ES lower mids are a bit leaner, but not by a lot, upper mids are very similar, maybe with Andromeda being a touch smoother and a bit more organic.  Treble is also very similar, clear and well defined without too much airiness.  Both have great transparency, but ES is more reference quality with a slight advantage in retrieval of details.  Andromeda is more balanced and a little smoother, with a more lifted low end.

 

Andromeda vs Westone W60 - soundstage is similar in comparison but W60 is a bit narrower, while depth/height is the same. W60 bass is slower and looser with a bit of spillage into lower mids, and thicker lower mids and smoother/warmer upper mids, also less sparkle in treble.  Andromeda is smooth, but faster, tighter, and with a more articulate bass and better control/separation from mids, leaner lower mids, more revealing detailed upper mids, and more sparkle/airiness in treble.

 

Andromeda vs Inear SD-4 - SD4 soundstage is narrower, while depth/height is the same.  Due to a more mid-forward sig, it feels like SD4 sub-/mid-bass are lower in quantity, but it could be just the case of sound signature difference.  With that in consideration, SD4 sub-bass is a little rolled off and mid-bass is not as fast.  Lower mids are very similar, while upper mids are brighter, a little more revealing, though a bit harsher in comparison.  SD4 treble is brighter, crispier, with a better extension and more airiness, but at the same time a little harsher, in some tracks even pushing closer to sibilance threshold.  In general, Andromeda is more balanced, smoother, with a deeper low end impact, while SD4 is brighter and more analytical and with a more enhanced top end.

 

Pair up.

 

As I was going through a pair-up with different sources, the main focus of this test was to compare hissing level, overall soundstage expansion, general sound quality, and the quality of low end impact.  I didn’t focus on more detailed aspects of the sound analysis, and instead chose what I found to vary the most between different sources.

 

LPG (Lotoo PAW Gold) – low hissing; the sound is very spacious, detailed, transparent, fast/punchy, with a natural tonality. I hear a strong mid-bass and textured sub-bass.

Micro iDSD (dac/amp) – no hissing due to a highly configurable gain setting (Micro rocks in this regard!); the sound is very spacious and detailed, has natural organic tonality, and excellent low end extension.  Reminded me a lot of LPG performance, maybe even better.

 

Samsung Note 4 – some hissing; good soundstage, detailed, smooth, fast sound with surprisingly great natural tonality though a bit warmer in comparison to other sources, and the bass is not as articulate.  Still, a good pair up on the go with a smartphone.

 

L&P L5Pro - some hissing; good soundstage, detailed punchy smooth sound, a bit bright and with rolled off sub-bass.  Actually, I wasn't too crazy about this pair up, kind of caught me by surprise.

 

theBit Opus#1 - low hissing; very spacious, detailed, highly resolving organic sound quality, beautifully textured bass with a nice mid-bass punch.  Definitely among my favorite pair ups in this group.

 

iBasso DX80 - some hissing; good soundstage expansion, sound is warm, smooth, detailed, but not super resolving, more on a warmer analog side.  I’m on a fence with this pair up, it was a bit too smooth for my taste.

 

A&K AK120ii - no hissing; very nice soundstage expansion, detailed, fast/punchy sound, slightly rolled off sub-bass, a bit more mid-forward signature.  Zero-hiss sound in comparison to all of my other DAP sources, and I expect the same with other AK models.

 

FiiO X7 w/AM2 - faint hissing; not bad soundstage, very detailed balanced sound, smooth tonality, nice punchy mid-bass and good sub-bass extension.

 

Cayin N5 – hissing is high; good soundstage expansion, very balanced detailed sound, excellent low end performance, actually I found both sub-bass and mid-bass quantity/quality to be on a level of LPG, very punchy detailed sound.  With an exception of hissing, this pair up was actually good.

 

FiiO X5ii - faint hissing; good soundstage, excellent low end performance (sub-bass and mid-bass quality is really good), excellent punchy sound.  Definitely a pleasant surprise, X5ii pulled through with a really good pair up.

 

ThinkPad T430s laptop – pretty bad hissing; sound was too thin and bright with poor low end performance.  I didn’t expect a miracle and only tested it because my laptop was paired up with Micro iDSD already.  Straight from HO of my laptop, which has a generic sound chip, I found the pair up to be rather underwhelming.

Also, for the test purpose, I tried driving E12A and Q1 portable amps from LO and HO of LPG, and found E12A to be dead silent while Q1 yielded some hissing.

 

Conclusion.

 

I learned my lesson not to label any IEM/CIEM as the endgame headphones, because every time I think I found one - another review pair gets into my hands/ears and I have to eat my own words.  One thing for sure, CFA Andromeda was the biggest surprise for me so far in 2016, and it will be a tough act to follow.  With its warm, smooth, revealing tonality and a perfectly balanced sound signature, including the holographic soundstage expansion, Andromeda didn't just get a checkmark next to all of my personal sound preferences, it quickly got to the top of my favorite in-ear monitors list.  As a mentioned before, nothing is 100% perfect and there is some room for improvement, but it's related to a combination of the fit and my personal ear anatomy.  Once I found a pair of eartips that slightly extended the nozzle insertion, it resolved all the previous issues I had with a comfort of the fit.  Now, I'm really curious what Ken is going to come up with next.  If it took him less than 3 years to build flagship Andromeda and other CFA models, how can you top that?  Hopefully will find out in a near future.

Posted

Pros: Allround, engaging signature, price

Cons: Colored signature, if I have to nitpick

I would like to thank Ken from Campfire Audio for providing me with a review sample in exchange for my honest opinion.

Introduction

ALO Audio has been an established name in the industry for quite a while, popular for their cables and especially amps. So it’s hard to imagine they only consist of a small team of 5 people fabricating all the items. With enough work on their hands, I bet those 5 people were really happy to hear Ken decided to launch a new iem line, which consequentially became one of the biggest hits of 2016. Pack your sleeping bags to work guys, nobody’s going home for a while - we can discuss weekends later.

Anyone who has spoken to Ken knows he’s an incredibly busy man. But when you’re driven by passion and can see the result of what you’re building, the work only inspires to go harder. Ken is constantly backordered, trying to keep up with the success he brought upon himself and his team. And if that wasn’t enough, Campfire just released two new co-flagships: the Vega and Dorado. But despite the work pressure, Ken is calm and collected, and remains responsive and just a generally pleasant person to communicate with. A lot has already been written about the Andromeda, so I’m trailing a bit – but here’s a retrospective look at one of the most popular iems of 2016.

Campfire Audio Andromeda
-Drivers:                      5 BA drivers; 2 low, 1 mid, 2 high
-Design:                      passive crossover with acoustic expansion chamber
-Frequency range:     10 Hz – 28 KHz
-Impedance:              12.8 Ohm
-Sensitivity:                115 dB
-MRSP:                      $1099

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Accessories

As I’m used to customs, I don’t care too much about accessories. That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a quality package when I see one. A recent exemption was the Fidue Sirius that came with a very nice cable and balanced adapters. Campfire provides a nice selection, focusing on quality rather than unnecessary filling. The tip selection is generous, including the popular Spinfits, Complies and some basic black tips. A carrying case is always a very relevant and useful addition. I’m not a huge fan of the Peli cases that come with customs. I really don’t see the point of taking a big box with me that can fit 6 pairs of iems when I really just want to bring one or two. Campfire includes a classy dark brown leather-look case that is just the right size for carrying an iem with upgrade cable. It’s lined with soft wool, and looks very cozy. Now if I were an iem, that’s exactly where I’d want to kick back. Last but not least, Campfire includes a high quality 4-braid SPC Litz cable. The cable is built well, relatively tangle free and looks slick. I’m glad to see more manufacturers taking the effort to include a proper cable for added sonic benefits as well as ergonomics and looks; an investment that in my humble opinion is worth it’s cost.

Design

Andromeda’s BA drivers are packed in Campfire’s recognisable machine-crafted aluminium design. The design looks sturdy, built to last; a modern, industrial design that goes in a somewhat different direction than the industry standard, that usually aims for a classy, distinguished look to represent a luxury item befitting the price tag. The Andromeda looks like it could be packed alongside gear to go camping or mountain climbing. It looks like something the U.S. army would issue for their marines, especially due to the combination of the metal housing with its green color. You know, if they’d ever need to bring along high-end iems for modern warfare.

There were some complaints after the first release about the edges being uncomfortable for some listeners, as was the case when Fidue released their flagship, the Sirius. In the end, there will always be some people that don’t fall into the average range with their unique anatomy; one size can’t always fit all. But if I understood correctly, they incorporated feedback to modify the curvature of the shell to make it more comfortable. Personally, I haven’t encountered any fit issues with the Andromeda. They protrude a good bit out of my ears when I check in the mirror, but nothing out of the ordinary.

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Sound impressions

Presentation
Due to Andromeda’s popularity, there are already an abundance of reviews and impressions available. As is often the case, there seems to be a lot of variation in the opinions on several aspects of Andromeda’s signature. Some find its bass too light or more than enough, or find its treble either too sparkly or even laidback. Naturally, a great part of this is due to differences in preferences and sensitivity. But I can’t help think that it’s also partially due to the fact that Andromeda’s signature doesn’t completely fit in a category. Its tonality and signature are fairly neutral, with a clear and open sound and nice treble prominence and sparkle. Yet the midrange is thick and slightly warm. This gives Andromeda the full-bodied vocal and instrument presentation of a midcentric tuning, with the general tonality and treble presentation of a neutral signature: ‘neutral+’, if you will. A unique combination, that makes the sound very coherent, versatile, but most of all highly engaging.

Andromeda’s slightly forward midrange is presented in a grand stage, especially in width, with an average height and depth. Andromeda has a full-bodied presentation, which fills up the stage for an overall full sound. Due to the excellent stage dimensions, separation is still very good, although the layering can be a bit tight as the stage isn’t overly deep in relation to the thicker note presentation (Campfire's Vega has an advantage here). However, the wide stage prevents it from tending towards congestion. In addition, the imaging is precise, without verging into analytical territory. The focus of Andromeda is a fun, musical and foremost engaging experience, rather than having a completely neutral or reference presentation. Which isn’t to say the Andromeda is technically lacking, it just isn’t the primary goal. Instead, Andromeda offers an excellent balance between an engaging and coherent musical experience, with a solid technical foundation.

Bass
Much has been said about Andromeda’s bass, with some finding it either light or more than sufficient. Ultimately, perception will always differ based on preference. I personally like my bass north from neutral; a solid bass impact and lively mid-bass that adds rhythm and a bit of warmth to the music. With universals, tip selection also plays an important role. I played around a bit with the provided Spinfits and silicone tips and then went with Spiral Dots, as they added some mid-bass for a slightly warmer sound. Later I came back to the Spinfits, as the stage becomes a bit cleaner due to the attenuated mid-bass warmth. Since Andromeda already creates thick notes, the extra mid-bass isn’t really necessary. With a solid seal, the Andromeda gives me a proper bass impact, with a nice bit of power when driven properly by a good source. It keeps a safe margin from basshead territory, but it doesn’t have a shy role in the presentation.

The sub-bass has good lower end extension. It might not be the most powerful; the sub-bass hits are tight and impactful, creating a dynamic sound. The mid-bass comes close to neutral, and certainly isn’t laidback. Bass lines have good size as well as definition, and contribute to the overall liveliness of the sound. The decay is nice and quick, which aids in creating an airy sound.

Midrange
Andromeda’s midrange is full, and inherently warm. If it had less treble presence, this would have been an excellent midcentric iem. But Andromeda combines a clear, open tonality with a beautiful midrange. Vocals have great size and density, and especially male vocals can put on a powerful display due to a full lower midrange. This gives notes an excellent subsection of the body, an extra thickness that makes them sound slightly colored but very engaging. While one could argue the coloration means the sound isn’t presented in its most purest form, the more important argument would be that it only makes it sound better – as testified by Andromeda’s immense popularity. Similarly, the upper midrange is slightly brighter than neutral, adding a nice bit of sparkle and excitement without sounding artificially bright. While the stroke of a violin might sound slightly thicker, there’s a nice shimmer to the sound, without sounding harsh. I’ve mentioned vocals, but electric guitars equally sound captivating and energetic, as well as synthetic melodies in pop or dance music. This is a midrange with many strengths, that easily lends itself towards different music.

Treble
Andromeda’s treble consists of a great mixture of presence and sparkle, while retaining a smooth presentation. The treble is deliciously thick; this gives it an engaging quality, a certain prominence in the signature without relying on being overly bright. The treble has enough sparkle and air, but keeps in line with the rest of the signature, being neither relatively forward or laidback. This is a treble that simply refuses to take backseat to a midrange that’s already hitting you full frontal - quite an accomplishment considering the rest of the full-bodied presentation. Andromeda gets a nice bit of sparkle from a 9 KHz treble peak that gives it a slightly brighter tone, but remains smooth due to a more relaxed lower treble region that prevents it from sounding analytical. Rather than aiming to being the most articulate or refined, this is a treble that simply sounds musical due to its thickness and sparkle.

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Comparisons

Custom Art 8.2 (1100)
Custom Art’s revamped flagship is retuned to a smooth midcentric signature. Both iems share a similar rectangle-shaped stage, but the Andromeda’s is wider and slightly taller. Despite the Andromeda’s advantage in width, both perform equally in separation due to Andromeda’s thicker notes. The 8.2 has a more powerful sub-bass, as well as a warmer mid-bass presentation. In addition, the 8.2 has a slightly more natural bass decay.

Both share an inherently warm midrange, capable of conveying emotion in vocals. Vocals sound similar in density and overall size. The 8.2’s upper midrange is slightly thicker, while Andromeda’s is slightly brighter. This gives Andromeda a slightly clearer and more open sound, while the 8.2 is smoother with a relatively more uncolored upper midrange. Similarly, Andromeda’s treble is more prominent and thicker, while the 8.2’s is relatively laidback, warmer in tonality and generally more non-fatuiging for sensitive listeners. Overall, Andromeda sounds clearer with more prominent treble, while the 8.2 has a warmer and smoother mid-centric signature.

Lime Ears Aether  (€1150)
Lime Ears tuned the Aether with a focus on naturalness, and as a result the Aether offers a pleasing variation of neutral. Both share a very nice stage, although Andromeda’s is wider, while Aether’s is deeper. A variable bass switch is a nice bonus that allows you to adjust the bass from light to full-bodied, and has slightly more or less mid-bass than Andromeda depending on the setting. Andromeda’s bass is however better defined, with Aether having similar bass resolution but less impact in the low setting.

Andromeda’s midrange has more body, while the Aether’s is slightly more distant in comparison. While Andromeda’s midrange has thicker notes, Aether has more presence in the upper midrange. This also gives the Aether’s midrange more air, with a slightly more accurate tonality for string instruments and pianos. The Aether sounds very natural, which is further exemplified by its smooth treble. It isn’t completely laidback, but less prominent than Andromeda’s. Andromeda in turn offers more sparkle, as well as thicker treble notes.

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EarSonics S-EM9 ($1490)
Andromeda has a slightly wider stage, but the S-EM9’s is deeper. Due to Andromeda’s thicker note presentation, the stage placement is relatively full. The S-EM9 stage feels slightly more intimate, but the combination of leaner notes with greater treble extension and an airier stage gives it a cleaner sound. Simply said, Andromeda comes at you strong with a full-bodied sound, while the S-EM9 has a more delicate but refined presentation. Andromeda’s full sound makes it engaging, while the S-EM9’s better definition and separation gives it a different type of musicality, sounding very detailed without resorting to a brighter signature.

Both share a similar sub-bass, while the S-EM9's has more mid-bass impact, and its mid-bass is more resolving. However, Andromeda’s tighter bass is overall slightly quicker. While the S-EM9 scores points for its bass, Andromeda gets a win for its midrange: it has more body, power and warmth compared to the S-EM9. Vocals have greater size and density, especially male vocals. Both share an engaging treble, but Andromeda contrasts a thicker treble with a bit more sparkle against the S-EM9’s greater extension, which gives it an airier sound with better treble definition and articulation.

Jomo Samba ($1725)
Samba’s recently released 8 BA flagship is designed with a reference tuning in mind. The sound is relatively uncolored, with a focus on accuracy. Both have a large stage, but Samba’s is deeper while Andromeda's is taller. Due to the combination of Samba’s clean stage with leaner notes, it has the advantage in separation, with overall more air between the instruments. Andromeda’s notes are thicker and warmer, a contrast with Samba’s dryer but more highly resolved notes; the Andromeda has a more ‘fun’ tuning, compared to the Samba’s more technical presentation.

The Samba has more sub-bass impact, with less mid- and upper bass emphasis. This aids in its cleaner stage, while giving Andromeda the fuller and warmer sound. This continues in the lower midrange, where the Andromeda has a nice fill giving good body to the sound. Samba’s lower midrange is more distant in comparison, creating leaner notes. Overall, Andromeda’s midrange is warmer and fuller, with greater vocal density. The Samba’s midrange has more clarity and definition, and its upper midrange is more uncolored compared to the slightly brighter Andromeda. Similar to the S-EM9, the Samba’s treble is more articulate, while Andromeda’s is thicker. However due to a 7 KHz peak, Samba has a greater tendency towards sibilance.

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Conclusion

If you’re planning on selling a lot of units, it’s probably best to tune a signature that will appeal to a wide audience. When I first started browsing through the forums, I used to think that ‘neutral’ was associated with boring, as it neither specializes in mids or treble. The more iems I started to listen to, the more I’m starting to realize that achieving a neutral signature is coming closer to perfection. Done right, a neutral signature isn’t a compromise between the bass, midrange and treble – it’s a perfect harmony. While the Andromeda isn’t truly neutral, it is a poster boy of this philosophy – the ability to perform well in every aspect of the spectrum. Not as a compromise, but a stellar display of coherency.

When different people discuss the Andromeda, some might want a little bit more sparkle, or a little bit less. But more often than not, both of them will agree the Andromeda sounds good. If the signature had been brighter or less bright, you’d have lost one of the groups. The balance between excitement and non-fatuiging is just very well done. But this is all after the fact - Andromeda’s popularity has already proven that.

A great deal of Andromeda’s success naturally comes down to its tuning – in the end we all do it for the sound.  A winning formula of an engaging signature, combined with excellent technical capabilities. Andromeda’s signature is a full package, and its ability to do well in all departments makes it incredibly versatile. But the other part of the success lies in its pricing. While prices in audio unfortunately continue to rise, Campfire is sending a powerful message that top of the line performance is also attainable around the $1000 mark. Andromeda isn’t good for its price – it’s good regardless of its price.

Curious to see where the Andromeda ranks against other flagships? Shootout of 16 flagship iems starting next year here on Head-fI, on this thread. 

Posted

Pros: Build quality, cable quality, sound quality (superb), balance, clarity, imaging ability, fit, accessories, and KB/Campfire service.

Cons: Edges on the internal facing (comfort) – can be mitigated by tip choice

For larger views of any of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images

INTRODUCTION

Firstly I'd like to acknowledge Head-fier d marc0 (Mark) and also Ken Ball from ALO/Campfire for making this review possible. The opportunity to hear and review an IEM which may not have been available otherwise to me is very much appreciated.

 

So far I've heard Campfire's Lyra, Orion, Jupiter (I chose not to review the Jupiter as I had issues with it's sonic signature and my own particular physiology / bias / sensitivity – which would have made any review overly skewed), and Nova. The one which intrigued me the most in the Campfire line-up thought was the Andromeda (their flagship). I'd heard prototypes of the Andromeda, and hoped to hear and review a final version at some stage. That time has now come, and I'm very grateful for the opportunity.

 

Unfortunately for this review – I've only been able to use these for a little over a week – so please take this into account. These are shorter term impressions.

 

ABOUT CAMPFIRE AUDIO

Campfire Audio is a partner company or off-shoot to ALO Audio, and is run by ALO's CEO and founder Ken Ball, and a small team of like-minded enthusiasts and engineers. Ken of course is the CEO and founder of ALO Audio (2006) and ALO is very well known for creating high quality audio components – including cables, amplifiers and all manner of other audio equipment. Ken founded Campfire Audio in 2015 – with a vision of creating extremely high quality earphones with excellence in design, materials and of course sound quality.

 

DISCLAIMER

The Campfire Audio Andromeda was provided to me for review as part of a tour. I get to use it for about 7-10 days then it goes to the next tour recipient. I am not affiliated to Campfire or ALO Audio in any way, and this is my honest opinion of the Andromeda.

 

The Campfire Audio Andromeda can be sourced directly from Campfire Audio for USD 1099

 

PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'.

Click here for a summary of my known bias (Click to show)

I'm a 49 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portables (including the FiiO X5ii, X3ii, X7, LP5, L3, and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD). I also use a portable set-up at work – usually either X3ii/X7/L3 > HP, or PC > E17K > HP. My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Sennheiser HD800S, Beyerdynamic T1, Sennheiser HD600 & HD630VB, and AKG K553. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has mainly been with the Jays q-Jays, Alclair Curve2 and Adel U6. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).

 

I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880. I have a specific sensitivity to the 2-3 kHz frequency area (most humans do) but my sensitivity is particularly strong, and I tend to like a relatively flat mid-range with slight elevation in the upper-mids around this area.

 

I have extensively tested myself (ABX) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent. I do use exclusively red-book 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 49, my hearing is less than perfect (it only extends to around 14 kHz nowadays). My usual listening level is around 65-75 dB.

Over the last week I’ve used the Andromeda paired with most of the sources I have at my disposal – from my iPhone to the L3 and X7. But for the review I’ve used mainly my X3ii + E17K, and also the X7 and L3. In the time I’ve been using the Andromeda, I haven’t noticed any sonic change. And although I used the Andromeda coupled with several different amplifiers, they are easily driven, and will pair nicely with most sources straight from the headphone out (some may want to use an amp though for sensitivity/impedance corrections).

 

This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.

THE REVIEW

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

Distinctive Andromeda outer box Inside the flap - the CA Andromeda leather case Hidden lower compartment

 

The Andromeda's arrived to me in their distinctive 122 x 83 x55 mm hinged lid retail printed cardboard box. The background is a silver on dark blue “night sky” illustration, with a distinctive green sticker on the top and front face. The sticker has the characteristic CA swirl, the model (Andromeda), picture of the monitors and some information on Campfire Audio,a nd the primary features of the Andromeda (“high fidelity in ear monitors / five drivers + machined alumnium housing).

 

Opening the lid reveals the Campfire Audio carry case – which this time is real leather, is very sturdy, but more “jacket or bag pocketable” than trousers. It measures approx. 75 x 115 x 45 mm. The case is zipped on 3 sides, and when opened reveals a soft wool interior which will definitely protect and preserve your IEMs. With the outside being genuine leather, it is quite strong, and also pretty rigid.

 

Lower compartment opened All accessories The manual

 

Under the case will be a hidden compartment which reveals the accessories. These include:

  • S/M/L silicone tips
  • S/M/L generic foam tips (Crystal foam type)
  • S/M/L genuine Comply T400 tips
  • A cleaning brush / wax remover
  • A Campfire Audio logo clothing button / pin
  • Campfire’s foldout user manual (incl care instructions and warranty info)

 

Tips, cleaning tool and pin/badge 3 sided zipped leather case Protective wool inner environment

 

You really won’t need any more than what is included, as the cinch on the cable negates the need for a shirt clip. And while I note the omission of an airline adapter or 3.5-6.3 mm adapter, really speaking – how many of us actually use these (plus they are easy to pick up for a very small outlay).

 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

I’ve listed below the main specifications for the Campfire Andromeda.

 

Current Retail

$1099 (Campfire Website)

Type

Five Balanced Armature drivers

Driver Configuration

Dual low, single mid, dual high frequency

Other Acoustic Feature

Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber

Freq Range

10 Hz – 28 kHz

Impedance

12.8 ohm (@ 1kHz)

Sensitivity

115 dB SPL /mW @ 1 kHz

Jack

3.5mm gold plated, 90 deg

Cable

1.2m, removable (MMCX) – silver plated copper (ALO Litz Cable)

Weight

26g including cable and tips

IEM Shell

CNC aluminium, then zirconium blasted and anodised

Body shape / fit

Ergonomic, cable over ear

 

 

FREQUENCY GRAPH

The graphs below are generated using the Vibro Veritas coupler and ARTA software. Ken had graciously provided me with measurement data for the same set of CA Novas in a previous review, and I used this to recalibrate my Veritas so that it mimics an IEC 711 measurement standard (Ken uses two separate BK ear simulators in a configuration I can only dream about and envy him for). I do not claim that this data is 100% accurate, but it is very consistent, and is as close as I can get to the 711 standard on my budget. Ken's own reference measurements on far better equipment will be a lot more accurate than mine – but because I use my own kit in later comparisons, I will use my own.

 

MY GRAPH

 

KENS GRAPH

 

What I’m hearing (subjective).

  • Linear bass response with a very natural sounding slight rise, excellent bass extension, and more importantly no bleed into mid-range

  • Very clean and coherent mid-range with a relatively small dip in the fundamental range (around the 1 kHz), and then subsequent rise in the presence area (from 1-2 kHz with a very small peak in the 2 kHz range) – which gives female vocals a lift in the presence or overtone area, yet sounds very natural.

  • Well extended and detailed lower treble which does not exhibit excessive sibilance (for me) and remains extremely detailed with great extension and more than sufficient air for clarity.

  • Overall I’d say that the Andromeda is one of the most well well balanced monitors I've tried. Vocals are in perfect harmony with bass and treble, and Campfire have achieved an exceptional mix of natural tonality and clarity.

     

The channel matching on this pair of Andromedas is exceptional (and some of the differences shown in my measurements are likely to be minor differences in seating each ear piece). They are practically identical. When Ken says his team hand-pick and match the drivers, it isn’t just “marketing speak”.

 

BUILD & DESIGN

External

 

External face - beautifully machined Rear side view - perfect upward angle on the nozzles Front face and nozzle bores

 

I really enjoy a simple, clean design. The Andromedas share a very similar design to similar earphones in the Campfire range – especially the likes of the Orion and Nova. Campfire uses a fully machined aluminium enclosure. Each shell is taken from a solid block of aircraft grade aluminium and then each small batch is CNC machined and finished – with the process talking around 9 hours. After that they are zirconium blasted to achieve a very smooth finish, which also helps to more effectively hold the colour during anodisation.

 

From the top and looking at the sockets Internal face - edges have been rounded slightly Beryllium MMCX connectors

 

Physically each shell measures approximately 21mm in length, 16 mm in height and has a depth of approx. 19mm (including the nozzle). The nozzle itself is angled slightly forward and slightly up, extends approx. 6-7mm from the main body, and has an external diameter of 6mm. The nozzle has three distinctive bores. The main body shape is very ergonomic, and the Andromeda is designed to be used with the cable over ear. The IEM shell is 3 pieces in total – nozzle, shell and back plate – with the plate secured by 3 small torx screws. There are L/R marking on the inside of both ear pieces and the Campfire logo is also discretely engraved on the outer face. The finish is what I would call a forest or emerald green, the entire shell is precision cut – and these look quite simply very beautiful and very fresh (they appeal to my subjective tastes anyway).

 

The gorgeous and very flexible litz cable Formable cable ear loops Very supply and largely noise free litz cable

 

At the top of the shell is a beryllium coated MMCX connector, and when used with the supplied silver plated copper ALO Litz cable, the connection is made with a reassuring click. The cables do rotate in their sockets, but the connection itself seems to be very robust. Unfortunately this is one of those things that only time can be the judge of – but the craftsmanship and material used seem to indicate longevity (to me anyway).

 

3.5mm gold plated right angled jack Y split and cinch Formable loops are very good

 

As I mentioned, the cable is ALO’s new “Litz”. It utilises individually enameled strands of high purity sliver-plated copper wire, which are then combined into 4 separate conductors, which are in turn encased in a durable medical grade PVC outer jacket. The cable is extremely flexible and light-weight, has stunningly low microphonics (practically non-existent), and virtually no annoying memory issues. The male MMCX connector is again beryllium coated, fits very snugly, and has either a blue or red dot on the connector to indicate L/R. There is a 80mm length of memory wire for over-ear wear, and I’ve found this very malleable, but also holds its shape very well. The cable is approximately 1.2m long, and consists of two twisted pairs above the Y split which continue as a twisted quad right through to the jack. The Y split is small and light and houses an in-built cinch which works really well (easy to move yet holds its position well when cinched). The jack is 3.5mm, right angled, and has clear rubber housing. Strain relief is excellent. The jack will also fit my iPhone 5S with case in place, although YMMV as the diameter of the rubber base is around 6mm. I like this cable so much, I am genuinely tempted to purchase it separately for some of my other MMCX based IEMs.

 

Internal

Internally the Andromeda uses a new and unique approach to its tuning, and which Ken regards as being the secret behind the lower and upper treble extension. For a starter the Andromeda uses a combination of 5 BAs to achieve its overall signature, and these are arranged with a dual BA for the lows, single BA for the mids and dual BA for the highs. Rather than using a traditional acoustic tube and damper solution for the high frequency drives, Campfire have implemented a Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber (or TAEC system). The 3-D printed chamber allows internal acoustic tuning without the compression associated with dampers – which Ken says results in high frequencies which are very open sounding and extended. My own hearing tops out at around 14 kHz nowadays so I'm probably a poor judge of the upper frequencies, but I can confirm that the Andromedas do sound quite open open and have great upper end clarity.

 

FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION

Fit

Fit for me is fantastic – the shells are very ergonomic in shape, and this includes the angle of the nozzles and also the placement of the cable exits. The shells (when fitted) do not extend outside my outer ear (they are more flat or in-line with it), and I have no issues lying down with the Andromeda. The memory wire is also really well implemented here so that snugging the wires properly is easy. The fit is relatively shallow, so for me I need to resort to my larger tips. If it was possible to extend the nozzle length by a couple of mm, it would really help the overall fit I think.

 

Comfort

This leads me to comfort and just as with the Nova I'm in two minds about this. I was mildly critical of the internally angled design utilised in Campfire's Orion, Jupiter, and Nova. My ears are soft, smooth, and have a lot of curved surfaces. I’d bet yours do to. The interior of the Andromeda shell has a series of angular edges. I first noted this with the Jupiter, and it continued with the Orion and now the Nova. The Lyra lacked these edges and was extremely comfortable for me. I'm not sure with the Andromeda whether it's me getting used to the fit, or maybe its the Zirconium blasting procedure, but the Andromeda is definitely more comfortable for me this time, and although it doesn't quite “disappear" during wearing like some of my other monitors – it seems to be an improvement over earlier models to the point it has become more of a non-issue.

 

Isolation

As far as isolation goes, it will be tip dependent. For me, using large Shure Olives tips, the isolation is excellent – at least as good as using my q-Jays (deep insertion and wonderful isolaters), and I would use the Andromeda without question on long haul air travel.

 

Tip Choices

Those who’ve read my reviews will know that I have one ear canal slightly different to the other one (my right is very slightly smaller) - so I tend to find that usually single silicon flanges don't fit overly well. This is often even more of an issue with shallow fitting IEMs. I tried my usual selection of silicones and found varying degrees of success. Tip matching will always be personal preference – but here are some of the tips which fit pretty well.

Included Comply Tx400 and Crystal foam SpinFits and Ostry tuning tips  Spiral Dots and Trinity Kombi tips

 

  • Sony Isolation / Trinity Kombi tips – great isolation and seal and probably my second choice behind the Shures
  • Crystal foams / Comply foams – great isolation and seal.
  • Spin-fits – extra length allowed me to use a looser fit while maintaining seal, but isolation was not as good as other options.
  • Ostry tuning tips – good seal and isolation.
  • Spiral Dots -very good seal, and did help to provide a little more upper end emphasis.
  • Large Shure Olives. You need to stretch the core to get them on, but they are perfect for me for shallow fitting IEMs. Perfect isolation, longevity with continual use, comfort and allowance of a looser fit in ear all adds up to a perfect tip choice. YMMV.

 

SOUND QUALITY

The following is what I hear from the Campfire Audio Andromeda. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my FiiO X3ii and E17K and large Shure Olive tips. For the record – on most tracks, the volume level on the E17K was around 11-13/60 on low gain which was giving me an average SPL of around 70 dB (mostly 65-75 dB) and peaks at around 75-80dB (A weighted measurements from my SPL meter).

Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.

 

First Impressions

Unlike many of my reviews (where I try to avoid preconceptions by not reading anyone else's work), I'd already seen many other opinions on the Andromeda before I tried them, and I have to admit I was reasonably sceptical with some of the superlatives being written about them. I know how products tend to be hyped beyond reality, and to be honest, I was expecting a slightly different signature to what I first heard. For me, from the very first listen it wasn't a wow!, but rather an appreciation of how well tuned they were. The balance is really good. That appreciation has slowly grown over the last week and for me personally, that usually signifies that long-term (for my tastes) these would become exceptional monitors. Usually if I get a wow from the start, this fades eventually and I am left with a sound sig which I quickly tire of. The Andromeda is one of those IEMs which (for me anyway) I could happily ditch most of the other IEMs I have, and become more of an audio monogamist. It just does practically everything right. The more I listen, the more my appreciation grows.

 

Relativities

  • Sub-bass – very well extended and there is a decent amount of rumble there (which shows the impressive extension), but bass is not the overall star of the show. Bass is beautifully balanced with the mid-range (bass might be slightly elevated in comparison), and sub-bass is essentially flat compared to mid-bass

  • Mid-bass – very slightly elevated compared to mid-range, but generally reasonably flat (frequency wise). No noticeable bleed into the mid-range, and definitely enough impact to sound natural. A beautifully balanced mix of warmth and speed which is rare in a BA set-up. Very good sense of texture too.

  • Lower mid-range – very slightly recessed compared to mid-bass, but sounds completely natural with this tuning. The last thing you would call the Andromeda is U or V shaped. There is wonderful texture with deeper male vocals (Pearl Jam is wonderful – Eddie's vocals stunning), and the clarity on the mid-range overall is exceptional.

  • Upper mid-range – elevated compared to lower mid-range, but it is a slow rise from lower mid-range to the first small peak at about 2 kHz. The result is an incredibly clean and clear vocal range, with enough presence to lend a sense of euphony to female vocals – but without over-doing it and making the entire signature too lean or dry. The upper mid-range on the Andromeda is (for me) one of the best qualities of this IEM and strikes a wonderful balance between sweetness and air and remaining natural (uncoloured).

  • Lower treble – there is a definite peak at around 7 kHz, so if you're sensitive to this area, it might pay to be cautious with the Andromeda. I'm not – so this tuning is very good for me. Ken's more accurate graphs show a similar peak at 9 kHz. There is some roll-off immediately after this peak, so you have a lot of clarity and definition without any real harshness or brittleness. One of my tests for lower treble is to listen to the natural decay of cymbal hits and see if it is overly truncated. highlighted or sounds natural. For me the treble decay with the Andromeda just sounds unbelievably natural – it extends and tapers off exactly the way a cymbal does in real life. Magical! There is some sibilance in tracks like “Let It Rain” (Amanda Marshall), but the sibilance is in the recording and the Andromeda is merely revealing what is in the recording, neither enhancing or masking it. The treble tuning for me is one of the best parts of the Andromeda – and especially when you combine it with the mid-range

 

Resolution / Detail / Clarity

  • Excellent with micro detail, and able to resolve finer details well without spotlighting or over-emphasising.

  • Cymbal hits and decay on cymbals have excellent presence, and decay is very naturally portrayed

  • An extremely clean and clear monitor with good resolution portrayed very naturally.

 

Sound-stage, Imaging

  • Extremely good directional queues, and just outside the periphery of my head space with binaural tracks – so above average width and depth

  • Spherically presented stage – without uneven emphasis on width or depth. One of the better portrayals of sound-stage I've heard with an IEM

  • Compelling sense of immersion both with applause section of “Dante's Prayer”, and also “Let it Rain”. A genuine sense of space was apparent with both.

  • I had read about the Andromeda's stage being “massive”, and “cavernous”. I want to make it clear that in my testing neither statement is true. The Andromeda portrays a stage to me that is better than most IEM's I've heard (64Audio's Adel series is an obvious exception). The sense of space is impressive in that it is expansive for an IEM, but I would suggest any claims of rivalling full sized headphones in this regards may be a little overstated (at least for the open headphones I have).

 

Strengths

  • Balance, balance, balance – this is how a reference monitor should sound. KB nailed it.

  • Clarity without being overly bright

  • Excellent with both male and female vocals

  • Fantastic with dynamic music – and able to show very good contrast between bass and upper mid-range (eg Cello and Violin)

  • Fantastic with acoustic music and gives strings good sense of realism and tone when plucked, and nice edge to electric guitar when strummed.

  • Very good with female vocals, lending enough euphony and sweetness to be a real joy to listen to – but without over doing it. Sarah Jarosz (my latest “obsession”) sounded incredible. A sonic signature I could listen to for hours.

  • Genre master for lovers of a balanced signature – I enjoyed it with all genres tested – from classical, jazz and blues to electronic, grunge and pop.

 

Weaknesses

  • I have to confess that sonically I can't find a weakness so far. The Andromeda is one of the best tuned monitors I've ever heard

 

Summary

It was while I was listening to the Andromeda this afternoon and putting the finishing touches to the review that I twigged what it reminded me of sonically. It has the same type of balance as the HD800S – just without the very expansive sound stage, and without the extreme clarity the HD800S somehow provides. But the sense of overall balance and tonality is very similar. And that small statement there should be an indicator of how I feel about the signature of the Andromeda.

 

AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

As I alluded to earlier, the Andromeda is easily driven out of a smartphone or DAP, and on my iPhone 5S I’m sitting around 20% for my normal listening level (65-75 dB).

 

I also volume matched and compared X3ii vs X3ii + E17K, and there was no discernible audible difference in dynamic presentation – so I think it is pretty safe to say that extra amping won’t be necessary. Based on the specs alone (12.8 ohm and 115dB SPL), straight out of the headphone-out of most sources should be more than enough. My favourite source was probably L&P's L3 – there is a somehow effortless presentation with it which I find absolutely captivating. And this may have something to do with overall sensitivity and hiss.

 

Because of the high sensitivity of the Andromeda I thought it best to also test for hiss or noise. With my tinnitus, I can't hear any hiss (it is essentially masked by my tinnitus) so I employed the super sensitive hearing of my 13 year old daughter. Emma was able to hear hiss on practically every device I tested – depending on volume. It was louder on the X3ii and even on the E17K (which surprised me), but much quieter (still present) on the X5ii, X7 (AM3) and L3. On all of these DAPs when music was playing (at Emma's normal very quiet listening level – which is about 55-60 dB), the hissing disappeared (masked by the music). She agreed with me that she thought the L3 (and for her also the X7) was her pick for pairings.

 

X3ii + E17K, X5ii, X7 and L3 Balanced tests with L3 and HFM SuperMini (ALO Tinsel cable) Trinity's Bluetooth adaptor and an iPhone 5S

 

And one thing while we're talking about pairings - I very much enjoyed the Andromedas paired wire-lessly with my iPhone 5S using Trinity's new Bluetooth adaptor.  Simple to use, sounded fantastic, very portable.  It really was a breath of fresh air.

 

RESPONSE TO EQ?

Sorry – I didn't go there. There is simply no need. The Andromeda does not need tinkering with, and anything I did with EQ would be spoiling the default signature.

 

COMPARISONS

Andromeda is a top tier monitor, and fortunately for this exercise I had what I consider to be other top tier BA based (or hybrid) monitors available which are in similar price range. So for this exercise I chose to compare the 5 driver Campfire Andromeda ($1099) with the Fidue Sirius 5 driver hybrid ($899), 64Audio U6 6 driver BA ($899), and the 64Audio U10 10 driver BA ($1399).

 

As always, the IEMs were compared after volume matching (SPL meter and test tones), but the comparisons are completely subjective. For these tests I again used the X3ii and E17K – simply because it is easier to volume match with this combo (and because for me, any possible hiss issue inaudible/inconsequential anyway).

 

For anyone who may look at past reviews of the IEMs I'm comparing here, and notice the graphs are different – this is simply because of the use of the new IEC 711 compensation.

 

Andromeda $1099 vs Fidue Sirius $899

Andromeda and Sirius Frequency comparison

 

Both IEMs are 5 driver – with the Andromeda being all BA and the Sirius a 5 driver hybrid. Both have extremely good build quality – metal parts, quality cables, and good accessories. For me personally, the Andromeda wins slightly on fit and comfort. The Sirius has sharp edges on top, and I have big ears so the shells sit inside my outer airs. I can get both Andromeda and Sirius fitting with reasonable comfort, but both require adjustment to get right

 

Sonically they are very different with the Andromeda being very balanced across the frequency spectrum, and the Sirius having more of a V shape. You'll note on the graph that Sirius has two lines, but I think the truth lies somewhere in between – this is because the Sirius has an internal bass port, so bass response could differ depending one ear anatomy and fit. The Sirius is also very upper mid-centric, and has quite recessed lower mid-range, so whilst female vocals in particular sound quite ethereal, male vocals can tend to be a little unnaturally thin and distant. Andromeda has better lower treble extension and this hows particularly in cymbal decay. My preference would be Andromeda for the more natural sonic signature and better overall tonality – but both are very good earphones.

 

Andromeda $1099 vs 64Audio U6 $899

Andromeda and 64Audio Adel U6 Frequency comparison

 

This time it is an all BA match-up. The 5 driver Andromeda vs the 6 driver U6 with Adel modules. For this comparison I've used the U6 with the B1 Adel module, and shown graphs with and without an impedance adaptor. You will note the overall similarity of the graphs. But lets start first with build etc. The Andromeda slips ahead with build and also quality of the cable. Both are similar on the accessory front – the U6's custom case is brilliant, especially for protection and storage of accessories (including modules). With the U6 you also get the Adel system (read my review) which has had a profoundly positive effect on my listening experience + it is also tunable. Comfort goes to the U6 – with its rounded internal edges.

 

Sonically the two are extremely similar. Both have brilliant balance throughout the spectrum, both have very similar overall bass response and the biggest difference isn't actually in the frequency response or tonality – but in the sound stage. With the Adel modules, the projection of space is simply larger (at the cost of some isolation). I'm afraid this is one where (for me) the U6 pulls ahead. And it is simply the Adel modules vs the TAEC system. If I didn't already have the U6, and someone offered me the Andromeda instead (as my only IEM) I certainly wouldn't be disappointed. Both are simply exceptional IEMs.

 

Andromeda $1099 vs 64Audio U10.

Andromeda and 64Audio U10 Frequency comparison (U10 with Adel modules) Frequency comparison (U10 with Apex M20 module)

 

Finally the Andromeda is up against the much more expensive U10 (10 driver BA), and as with the U6, the Andromeda wins on overall build quality, whilst the U10 nudges ahead on fit and comfort.

 

Again the U10 has the Adel modules, and again it has advantage in staging and tuning options – but the one thing the U10 can't quite get with the Adel modules (although it is closer with the M20 and the inclusion of an impedance adaptor), is the overall balance that the Andromeda has. And it's the cohesion in the mid-range coupled with the extension and tonality in the treble. The Andromeda is just better tuned to my ears – and I know this is personal preference – but it simply sounds better. The U10 might win with slightly better instrument separation – but overall I'd take the the Andromeda and spend the difference on music :)

 

CAMPFIRE AUDIO ANDROMEDA – SUMMARY

I went into this review somewhat sceptical about the high praises – perhaps knowing it was a well tuned IEM, but expecting that there may have been some hype as well. I leave a week later, grateful for the experience with the Andromeda, and now fully appreciating what a wonderful IEM this is.

 

The Andromeda is an incredibly well built 5 x BA IEM, with a very good ergonomic fit, and also one of the best quality cables I've come across. The cable retails on ALO’s site for $149 if sold separately – so you're getting some very good value there too.

 

The comfort with the Andromeda is better than with previous Campfire IEMs – perhaps due to the zirconium blasting/smoothing process, and maybe because I now use tips which also help my own anatomy better. Anyway – the comfort isn't perfect (nnd I know you can improve this further Ken), but it is much better for me now, and I thank you for the changes made.

 

Sonically the Andromeda is simply incredibly balanced and strikes a wonderful mix of naturalness and linearity, clarity and smoothness, detail and musicality. The bass is nicely extended, and beautifully balanced with the mid-range. The mid-range has enough lower-mid recession to maintain distance and sense of space but without losing the richness and fullness of vocal fundamentals, and the upper mid-range is brilliantly cohesive without being over done. The extension on the treble is the crowning jewel of the Andromeda though. And how Ken has managed to deliver the detail while maintaining realism is simply an example of masterful tuning.

 

At a current RRP of USD 1099, the Andromeda is not cheap, but the overall package is worth it simply because it is true flagship quality.

 

Again I should make mention of the dedication and service of the Campfire Audio team. In my dealing to date, I have been very impressed by their willingness to take critique on board, and above all to constructively engage with their market audience, and ultimately improve the final product.

 

So would I buy these, and would I recommend them to others? I absolutely recommend them – but I ultimately won't be getting a pair. I already have most of what the Andromeda delivers in my U6, and the one thing it has made me appreciate more is the sonic ability of both IEMs. The Andromeda (for my tastes) is almost perfect.

 

Once again I’d like to thank Ken and Mark for making this opportunity available. I owe you gentlemen a debt of gratitude – and especially Ken for his generous help with my measurement set-up.

 

Posted

Pros: Engaging and addictive sound; sonic resolution; excellent build; included accessories

Cons: High sensitivity requires careful volume control; highly reactive impedance curve

Campfire Audio Andromeda:

Crown jewel of the Campfire fleet

 

Introduction

 

First, a disclaimer: I purchased the Andromeda ($1099USD) with my own money after doing my own research and thus this is my independent (and highly subjective) opinion. A special thank you to @HiFlight, @Loquah & @shotgunshane for sharing their experiences with me and answering my questions, as well as to ALO Audio for excellent customer service.

 

This is my second review of a Campfire product, and as such I went into this entire experience biased and with a pre-conceived notion of quality from the Campfire brand. Despite this obvious favoritism I'll try to keep things simple, practical, and relate what I'm hearing to music I hope others can recognize to put my impressions in context. My goal is to give you an idea of what you can expect from the Andromeda and whether or not is appropriate for your tastes.

 

A little bit about me and my music tastes: I purchased the Campfire Audio Orion ($349USD) only a few short months ago after much deliberation (there wasn't much information available on them at the time). They quickly became my favorite earphones and it wouldn't be too long before I started searching for a worthy upgrade. Needless to say, I eventually came to realize only another offering from Campfire would be worthwhile to me. Throughout this review I plan on drawing many comparisons back to the Orion, as that is the type of review I would have liked to have read before taking the Andromeda plunge myself.

 

While I'm going to spoil the remainder of the review now by saying I think my search for an upgrade to the Orion is over, I believe the Orion is still an excellent value proposition and I will reiterate on why later in the review. My music tastes vary widely, but I would describe myself first and foremost as a mid-head and female vocal lover. Thus any headphones that are known to showcase the mid-range in music and offer it up front and center pique my interest. Without further ado, on to the review!

 

 

Accessories 

 

I'm not going to spend too much time commenting on the accessories package since there are already so many other great reviews that go over it, but I think it's worthwhile to note the impressive accessory selection included with the Andromeda's, as there is certainly something here for everyone and it gives you the feeling of owning a product you will want to last forever. A plethora of tips including three sets of silicone, Comply foam and Campfires own generic foam tips. You also get a stylish pin sporting the sleek Campfire Audio logo and a cleaning tool. These accessories are not unique to the Andromeda and are all included with the lower end models in the Campfire line-up as well, which I appreciate.

 

You also get a dark leather zippered carrying case which I really like, it sets itself aside from the canvas one included with the Orion and Nova models. While it isn't exactly pocket friendly nor does it open all the way around like most clam shell cases, its soft wool interior will certainly keep your earphones safe during transportation.

 

The included cable is actually sold separately by ALO Audio for $149USD, so it certainly isn't included as an afterthought and is an excellent pairing for such a premium product. The cable is supple, uses MMCX connections and the ear guides are easily malleable which I'm sure a lot of people will appreciate. One concern of note are that the MMCX connections rotate in the socket, which can make getting a fit cumbersome at first. The right angle termination could also be slimmer and may not work with every smartphone case on the market. All-in-all, the litz cable is a much appreciated accessory and a large improvement from the tinsel ones originally shipping with the Orion and Jupiter, so it's clear that Campfire took customer feedback there.

 

 

Build / Comfort / Isolation

 

The build on the Andromeda is something to marvel at the first time you remove them from their case, and every time after that too. Others have said that photographs do not do the emerald green shells justice, and it wasn't until receiving my pair did I understand what they meant. The color is a lot more subdued in real life but still subtly beautiful. While the bore is a little wider than what most will be used to, I find this actually makes it much easier to fit different tips on, and the angle of the bore is pretty much perfect for my ears to get a solid seal.

 

Speaking of seal, I have absolutely no issues with comfort or ergonomics regarding the aluminum shells of the Andromeda. Despite housing four more drivers than the Orion, the weight of the earpieces are still negligible, and I had no discomfort for listening for up to three or even four hours straight. I find that as with the Orion the fit is largely ear tip dependent, as with foam tips the shells have a habit of hanging out of your ears, which may work for some but irritate others (such as myself). However with silicone tips the shells nestle comfortably in the ear for me, but I could easily see this as an issue for those with smaller concha. It seems that Campfire has taken feedback throughout the lifespan of the Andromeda by producing new batches of the monitor with slightly trimmed outer edges, however I have not personally noticed a difference between them and the fit of the Orion which did not have these adjustments. 

 

Isolation is definitely above average with the included Comply foam tips, and does not suffer as much as one would think with silicone tips either. Given my extensive experience using the identical fitting Orion in many noisy environments as well as public transportation, I would rate the isolation of the Andromeda satisfactory for usage just about anywhere.

 

 

Sonic Impressions

Please note that evidence shows the Andromeda is highly reactive to the output impedance of various sources and may not match the descriptions given below to a tee depending on what you run it out of. For reference, all sonic impressions were given in pairing with a HTC10 smartphone. (Yes, it drives them quite well.)

 

Coming from the entry level Orion, I had a plethora of doubts about pursuing a monitor over three times the cost. Since I was already so happy with the performance of the Orion, did I really need to upgrade? Would the mid range I loved so much on the Orion be compromised in favor of additional bass quantity or a brighter overall signature? All of my fears were quashed the second I hit play on the Andromeda's for the first time and a big stupid grin took over my face. Ken Ball and his team have proven with the Andromeda that five seems to be the magic number, as this combination and crossover of drivers produces an effortlessly musical and sweet take on a reference tuning; one that I could only dream of experiencing when starting out in this hobby a handful of years ago. 

 

It is no secret that the mid range is the strong suite of the Orion, and once again it proves to be Campfires ace in the hole. The mids on the Andromeda are exceptionally clear and in focus, almost revealing to a degree. Female vocals soar and swoon, with no added difficulty as multiple voices join the chorus. Resolution from the Orion is carried over intact and joined together with a beautifully rendered treble allowing a greater sense of air and three dimensional space for even the most powerful and moving vocal performances. Acoustic guitars and other stringed instruments come alive on the stage and yet in signature Campfire fashion don't take the focus off the vocal presentation, just the way this reviewer likes it.

 

 

 

"So I listen to the radio..."

 

The MTV Unplugged (1999) recording featuring The Corrs is my favorite Unplugged set of all time and contains many of the bands' favorites. While already an absolute joy on the Orion the set comes alive on the Andromeda, showcasing all of its ability to reproduce a sense of space in a recording. While the stage doesn't unrealistically (for an IEM) expand out of the head, it does seem to fill every single nook and cranny of it with the groups signature flute, drum and violin arrangements. On hits such as Radio and Forgiven Not Forgotten the Andromeda shows it's prowess at rendering Andrea and Sharons' lead and backup vocals with a certain addictive sweetness, without warming them over to the point of unrealistic coloration. A big win in my book.

 

Moving on to the low end response, I was taken aback when first experiencing the Andromeda, as reviews and other subjective impressions as well as objective measurements had led me to expect a much warmer tuning. While I can't exactly confirm or deny this as of now, the consensus is that due to impedance swing the quantity of bass may vary greatly from one source to another, attributing to the all of the different perceptions of just how much bass quantity is present in this monitor. Out of my source, both the bass quantity and quality are perfect for my subjective tastes. The bass is elevated a hair above neutral and rises the deeper into bass levels you go. The upper bass has a tight snap, mid bass a fat punch and sub bass a deep resounding thump. Another factor possibly making it difficult to pinpoint bass quantity is the chameleon character the low end response of the Andromeda has that allows it to adapt to any track as required. Just when I think one track was (appropriately) bass light the next rattles me with an intense drum line. Bass notes are slightly thick but never muddy or slow in even the most fast paced double drum abusing rock and punk of my library, giving it a very realistic feeling especially in well recorded live sets.

 

 

 

"I think she's a genius..."

 

The Murmurs were a alt pop duo project between Leisha Hailey (of Uh Huh Her fame) and Heather Grody. Although their 1998 LP Blender never quite caught critical reception in the US it remains one of my absolute favorite pop rock albums for the pairings creative use of silly, twee vocals and melodic catchy offerings such as La Di Da and Sucker Upper. Once upon a time one of my favorite albums to play through the Orion, the Andromeda turns up the engagement and punch to 11 with it's added bass extension and treble excitement. Bass lines are extremely satisfying but still take a relative backseat to Leisha & Heathers carefree power-pop melodies. Don't listen to this album if you hate having songs stuck in your head.

 

While I still believe the mid range is the star of the show on the Andromeda the true accomplishment here is a delicious, ever-present treble which adds the last octave of excitement and air to many recordings that were missing on the Orion. The kicker is that it manages to do all this with absolutely no harshness or sibilance, so I can still turn up my favorite substandard punk and girlcore recordings without fear of splashy treble or shouty vocals. This complete lack of listening fatigue coupled with an addictive sound is a recipe for disaster when it comes to any sort of productivity, as I've already found myself self-bargaining to listen to "just one more track". One nitpick with the treble presentation is a matter of speed, cymbal crashes just don't have the full sense of decay they should. It is not quite as short as say the Sennheiser HD650, but a relatively small price to pay for the other benefits associated with this part of the response.

 

 

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 90

 

"This one's called Annie..."

 

I'm a massive Elastica fan, and I can tell you straight away they had a lot of difficulty when it came to finalizing mixes for their records. In the hunt for a perfect takes on their debut self-titled they would deliver different mixes or recordings of a single track up to eight times, before sometimes giving up and just returning to the original demo. So when given a day to record and mix Radio One Sessions (2001) it quickly became apparent that some of their best work shone through on raw, adrenaline-fueled first-takes and out-takes. The tracks and B-sides on Radio One Sessions are not free from their share of recording artifacts or overzealous guitar work, but that is exactly the type of energy that makes the LP and why throughout all my demoing it has been my favorite listen on the Andromeda so far. Whereas most equipment labeled as forgiving usually involves some sort of treble attenuation or roll-off to protect the listeners virgin ears from the horrors of modern studio work the Andromedas management of the high frequencies swallow up every track and spit it back out at the listener in a way that lets you have your cake and eat it too. Lead guitars in opening track Annie are kept on a short leash but still allowed to bite, bass guitar work in hit single Waking Up is perfectly placed on the stage and front woman Justine's effortlessly sexy vocals in Vaseline are always in crystal clear focus. I could probably talk about how the Andromeda doesn't break a sweat with this record all day but it would quickly devolve into gloating and rabid fanboyism, so I'll put a plug in it for now.

 

 

Summary

While I concluded early on that the Orion was close to perfection for my personal tastes, I think I can safely say now that the Andromeda is perfection for my tastes and a definite keeper. I recall jokingly telling others that an Orion with a bit more excitement and weight on both ends of the spectrum would be mint, never expecting to find such a tuning. Little did I know I'd have to pay three times as much to experience it. With limited experience, it is difficult for me to assign a value proposition to the Andromeda within it's price bracket, what I can say is that it's a tuning I think a lot of people will enjoy given that they are careful and perhaps even patient with source matching.

 

And finally, a positive note for those of you who were intrigued by this review or others but can't quite afford the hefty price tag of the Andromeda yet, I still believe the Orion is an excellent choice for it's relatively entry-level asking price and isn't as far off in performance as one would expect (full review of the Orion here). If the Orion is an ambitious skipper, the Andromeda is the crown jewel of the Campfire Audio fleet.

Posted

Pros: Incredibly spacious sound for an IEM, Great combination of musicality and detail, All metal housing, Solid build quality, Great cable and case

Cons: Metal housing edges have edges that can impact fit, They are highly sensitive and source dependent, Price

At the time this review was written, the Campfire Andromeda was recently listed for preorder/sale at Campfire Audio’s website. Here is a link for purchase:

 

https://www.campfireaudio.com/product/andromeda/

 

Introduction

The 2016 Axpona Audio Exhibit was a great turnout. Notable earphone displays were Empire Ears, Etymotic, Onkyo, Shure, JH Audio, Campfire Audio and many more.

 

It’s pretty epic to be in a giant room with a large array of the world’s finest earphones. They’re lined up on display tables, being driven by some of the world’s finest sources. In one room, we had summit-fi earphones the likes of the Noble K10U, Siren Series from JH Audio, Shure KSE-1500 and SE846, Vibro Aria, Etymotic’s new ER4 lineup as well as many more.

 

If you are reading this, I would assume you most likely have some type of interest in headphones. If you have an opportunity to go to an audio show in your area, be like Nike and JUST DO IT!

ben stiller do it starsky and hutch

It’s an awesome experience that helps YOU find what type of sound signature and earphones you’d like. Not only that, you get to meet the people behind the  products.

 

What I like to do at these types of events is come up with my own personal best of show for each type of gear that is presented. Being a fan of in-ear monitors, I spent most of the weekend listening and evaluating them in particular. After three days of listening to all the earphones there (some of them several times), I have to say that the best of show this year for me was the Campfire Andromeda. Allow me to explain why.

 

The first day I plopped down into chair at the Campfire booth and met Caleb. They had the whole lineup available to listen to. Caleb explained the models to me, including their “New Flagship Prototype” named Andromeda. These were the initial impressions I noted in my phone while checking them out:

 

“CAMPFIRE ANDROMEDA”

*Solid build with lightweight aluminum all metal housings. Even the nozzles are metal.

*Cable has no spring or memory. It’s a Litz braided rope with MMCX connectors that swivel at the housing. Very sharp looking and works well.

*MMCX connection seems very solid and was confirmed with brand rep to be a stronger than standard connection.

*Five balanced armatures, unique tubeless set up replaced by metal “Resonator box.”

*Sound is... WOW! *clear and spacious *detailed and responsive *crisp without being harsh, INCREDIBLE! LISTEN TO AGAIN!!!

 

After about ten minutes of listening to them, I put the Andromeda down, looked at Caleb and said “Dude, these are incredible!” Caleb smiled, agreed with me, then introduced me to his colleague, Ken. I explained that I would love to be one of the first to review them on Head-Fi. I gave them my Head-Fi credentials and continued to listen to the rest of the lineup. Everything Campfire had to demo sounded great, but there was an added dimension the Andromeda had which I particularly liked.

 

That weekend I listened to many of the best in-ears the world of audio has to offer. Just about anything I tried sounded excellent, but there was something about the Andromeda that kept me coming back for more. Before the weekend was over, I think I listened to them four or five separate times. Every time I was finished listening, it left the same overwhelmingly positive impression.

 

Over the course of that weekend, the Andromeda sound had catapulted its way towards the top of my list of all time favorites. Impressions were shared with friends at Axpona, and many who listened to them agreed. To my ears they sounded as good or better than any other IEM at the show.

 

A few days after the event Ken contacted me to see if I was still interested in covering the Andromeda. Without hesitation I agreed. I’ve had them for the last few weeks and listened to the them almost exclusively. It’s an honor to share the good news on the Andromeda flagship from Campfire with the Head-Fi community.

 

What is Campfire Audio?

Campfire Audio is a branch from ALO Audio. The letters ALO are abbreviated letters for “Audio Line Out” which is the company that Ken started years back. His roots were in earphone modifications and cables. To this day he still has a large assortment of high quality cables listed for sale on his website.

 

Somewhere along the way, Ken lost the domain name of “Audiolineout.com” and renamed it ALO Audio. The name has stuck and to this day ALO Audio has a steady stream of online traffic and sales.I had a chance to check out their hand built portable amplifiers, the RX and Continental Dual Mono. Long story short, they both rock, particularly with in-ear monitors. The cables Ken had on display looked premium as well.

 

Ken’s success in selling cables and doing earphone modifications paved a way for him to start his most recent endeavor. Ken told me it has been a dream of his to have his own line of premium in-ear monitors. The Campfire Audio lineup is a product of that vision.  

 

Review

Andromeda comes in a small and modest green and blue box with white lettering. There is nothing exquisite or flashy about the packaging.

 

Flipping the box open, I’m greeted with a premium brown leather rectangular clamshell zipper case.

 

Unzipping the clamshell case revealed the Andromeda earphones and cable. If you thought the leather case was already premium, the inside of it is lined with what appears to be a wool material. This provides the Andromeda with padding and prevents the earphones from wiggling around when transporting them. Underneath the case and earphones a cardboard tab can be removed, revealing a few bags that hold the accessories.

 

Specifications and Accessories

Specifications

Frequency Range: 10Hz-28kHz

Sensitivity: 115 DB SPL/MW

Impedance: 12.8 Ohm @1kHz

Cable: Silver Litz cable, MMCX connection

 

Accessories

 

1x Pair Andromeda earphones

1x Silver Litz cable with exclusive MMCX connectors and memory wire

1x Leather carrying case

3x Pair Comply Foam tips (S, M, L)

3x Pair memory foam tips (S, M, L)

3x Pair silicone wide bore tips (S, M, L)

1x Owner’s manual

 

Housings

 

The Andromeda is a made from a single block of high grade machined aluminum. They are an all metal design that is relatively lightweight. The Andromeda currently comes in a metallic emerald green tint. While some would think it would make them an eyesore, or something that will clash with much of their wardrobe, I find them to be a very sophisticated.

 

From housing to jack, the Andromeda has a very high end look with an almost jewelry like appearance. The machine screws and clear MMCX connectors add an extra sense of quality and craftsmanship.

 

The Andromeda fit is reminiscent of many over the ear monitors. I consider it to be a bit more on the bulky side of things. The size doesn’t bother me as much as some of the design aspect. I will go over this in the fit and ergonomics section of the review.

 

Cable, Y-Split, Cable Jack, Strain Reliefs

The cable is awesome. It’s a four strand braided Litz wire with swiveling MMCX connectors and memory wire. The flexible cable has virtually no spring very little memory.  The Y-split is a metal jacketing that splits the four strand braid into two twisted lines that lead to each channel. A clear rubber chin/neck slider is attached to the cable and works well. The Cable Jack is a gold plated 3.5 mm jack, and ninety degree solid frosted clear rubber jacketing.  The Andromeda has two inches of memory wire that lead to two MMCX connectors.They are covered in the same frosted clear hard rubber coating found at the jack. Every aspect of this cable is premium and Find it an upgrade in terms of quality and performance over most of what I own.

 

Functionality

The MMCX cable that comes with the Andromeda doesn’t have a mic/remote. Replacement MMCX cables can be purchased and used with the Andromeda housings. I tested and confirmed that this is possible.

 

Ergonomics, Fit and Microphonics, Isolation

If there is one thing about that Andromeda that might be a dealbreaker is the shape of the housing, and how it may impair some people from being able to wear them comfortably. The machined housings are constructed of many planed surfaces that leave the Andromeda with some edges and corners that might irritate some user’s ears, depending on what tips they are using. Regardless of how the Andromeda fits the user's ear, I don’t think anyone will be able to comfortably lay their head on a pillow while wearing these.

 

The key to getting a cozy fit with the Andromeda is tip selection. When tip rolling with the Andromeda variances in insertion depth would cause edges of the housing to rub against parts of my ear and eventually cause irritation. Finding a tip that seals well without narrowing the bore diameter of the nozzle, and at the same time forcing the Andromeda to stick out farther from the ear seemed to work best. I was lucky, the tips that seemed to work best in my case were the attached stock foams tips. For silicone tips, I used a pair of stock Sony MH-1 or RHA  tips. Your mileage may vary.

 

Isolation is decent but not elite. I would say it is along the lines of the average in-ear monitor. When worn over the ear and using the included chin/neck slider, microphonics were eliminated.

 

Sound Review

I did my demo with my usual gear. I used an LG-V10 for portable and smartphone use, and either my Shanling H3 or iBasso DX80 DAP for high fidelity portable use. For desktops I used my Toshiba Satellite Laptop in combination with a ifi micro iDSD playing at 32/192kHz. I tested them with several other sources as well. I used Google Music in its highest download quality (320 KBPS) and I also streamed FLAC via Tidal streaming service. I also used purchased and downloaded tracks in MP3, FLAC, WAV and DSD. I make sure that any gear I test has sufficient playtime before writing a review.

 

I used my usual same songs for testing gear:

“Limit to your love” by James Blake (bass speed, punch, response)

“Doin’ it Right” by Daft Punk (sub bass)

“Get lucky” by Daft Punk (bass to midrange transition resolution, male vocals)

“Madness” by Muse (soundstage, separation)

“Some nights” by Fun (soundstage and male vocals)

“The soundmaker” by Rodrigo y Gabriela (texture and imaging)

“Bassically” by Tei Shi (bass to midrange resolution, female vocals)

“Skinny Love” performed by Birdie (female vocals, acoustic playback)

“One” by Ed Sheeran (male vocals, acoustic playback)

“Outlands” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack (symphonic presentation, imaging)

“Sultans of swing” by Dire Straits (detail, separation, balance)

“And Justic for All” by Metallica (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)

“Ten thousand fists” by Disturbed (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)

 

Note: Other tracks were used, but the listed songs were primarily used to assess and break down the gear’s response.

 

Source Selection

Andromeda is an extremely sensitive in-ear monitor, coming in at just under thirteen Ohms. With a more powerful DAP like the iBasso DX80, I got a slight background hiss from Andromeda. They work great with a high fidelity smartphone like the LG V10 or iPhone 6. Streaming services through your phone will sound great, but your music will sound even better with high bitrate music files played through your favorite DAP in low gain. If you plan on using the Andromeda with a more powerful source, an impedance adapter will most likely help with any noise floor issues.

 

The best source I had for the Andromeda was the iFi micro iDSD in its most sensitive power setting. It was an incredibly clear and balanced sound that was very revealing, packing lots of texture and detail while still retaining a controlled and slightly emphasized bass presence.

 

Sound Signature

The Andromeda has been described as Bassy, but to my ears it depends on what source you’re using. With a Warm or bass boosted source the Andromeda sounds musical with an emphasized lower frequency range and smooth treble response. Using a colder and brighter source with Andromeda makes them sound very technical and extended (primarily in treble regions) while still keeping a little bit of low end oomph. Either way you listen to them, the general consensus is that your preferred source will be determined what you like more. For me it’s split between each, and what music I want to use.

 

The tuning is pretty genius. It’s a five driver design. All five of them deliver sound into what was described to me as a metal box that operates as “resonator.” What this means is that rather than have armatures attached to tubes that fire right into your ear, they have a microsecond to meet in this box and resonate into each other before it reaches your ear. The result is a VERY spacious and holographic sound that is unique and refreshing. With this technology, upper frequencies have the extension and detail without the harshness I often time get with armature drivers. To be honest, the presentation is flat out awesomesauce.

 

Rather than fire a particular frequency range into your ear like most armature earphones, the crossover and armatures all do their job first, pumping out each frequency as assigned, but before it reaches your ear the music has time to mesh in the exclusive resonator box, similarly to speakers in a room. We don’t mash our ears up against the grill with a funnel to listen to our favorite speakers, we stand back in the room and give the speakers some space so it can use the room around us to its advantage. Campfire’s five armatures are similar. It fires all of its frequencies into this genius little  box, allowing the music to become more cohesive, spacious and less harsh.

 

Bass

The bass of the Andromeda is slightly emphasized and uber dynamic. You would never think the Andromeda bass came from balanced armatures because of the power and performance of its  low end frequencies. It sounds more like a titanium diaphragm dynamic driver to my ears. The bass is extended, responsive, and somewhat bold. The Andromeda will definitely bring the rumble when it’s called upon. At the same time you won’t get any type of lingering bass or bass that doesn’t belong in the track. The low end response of the Andromeda sets up to work well with just about all genres of music.

 

To my ears the Andromeda has a bass that is relatively balanced, and maybe even leaning towards sub bass tones. Andromeda’s low end is fast, textured, responsive and has nice sense of tone and depth. In the high end market, many top tier earphones don’t carry the same sub bass presence these do.

 

Andromeda’s bass rocks the snot out of the bass lines of most modern genres of music like hip hop and EDM. The Sub bass lines are extended and the tone is that of a 15 inch subwoofer. With a good sealing tip, there’s a depth that makes it very enjoyable.

 

Midrange

This is where the magic happens with Andromeda. Starting with the Lower midrange, things get really spacious sounding. Bass guitars can distinctly be picked out from the mix. Low end guitar chucks have some power behind them. Low frequency strings would occasionally give me goose bumps. Unlike any other in-ear monitor I’ve ever listened to, Andromeda has the ability to render a sense of space that makes live and acoustic recordings sound incredibly good. The big and dynamic sounding instruments can be discerned rather than paste together like many in-ear monitors.

 

Upper midrange of Andromeda is natural and smooth without any sense of things being rolled off. There isn’t a whole lot to say about this range other than it is very formidable and works.

 

When evaluating in-ears I try to be picky and see if there is anything about its sound that some people will say leaves them with a negative impression. If there is anything I can say that about the Andromeda, it’s that when playing the most complex musical passages you can throw at it, Andromeda’s sound gets a little overwhelmed, smearing the sound or making their upper midrange sound a bit stuffy to my ears. This rarely happened and even so, it’s a small caveat in comparison to everything the Andromeda does well.

 

Treble

This is an area that makes Andromeda a star. If you’ve dabbled in armature earphones in the last few years, you’ve probably heard an armature that overall sounds excellent, but seems to have a sense of harshness. When certain pronunciation of the letters S or T are played, or when a cymbal crashes it will be rendered in a harsh and almost screeching type of sound. Andromeda has none of this. You will hear all cymbal crashes and the letters S and T. It will not be portrayed in a way that I would consider the Andromeda to be sibilant.  

 

Treble is extended and polite. It’s true to the recording and yields all the details and clarity needed to say it is elite.

 

Soundstage and Imaging

I’ve touched on it in the sound impressions, but this criteria is why I consider the Andromeda to be one of the top earphones I’ve ever heard. When talking to people about the Andromeda sound, I’ve mentioned several times that the soundstage reminds me of a high end audio system. To me,  Andromeda’s sound is like listening to a well driven pair of top of the line tower speakers in a large room.

 

In terms of imaging, the sound of Andromeda is very three-dimensional. Sounds come at you from all angles with plenty of texture and detail. At the time of writing this review, the Andromeda hands down THE BEST in-ear I’ve heard in terms of soundstage and imaging.

 

Conclusion

Normally I would do a couple comparisons to similarly priced and designed earphones before “jumping to a conclusion” but I want to generalize and tell you why the Andromeda sets itself apart from its competition. When demoing the Andromeda at Axpona, many asked for comparisons to other elite earphones in its range. Fortunately, I had the luxury to actually do these comparisons as people asked. Bouncing back and forth between earphones that sometimes cost a lot more than Andromeda did, I couldn’t help it like the sound of the Campfire flagship more. Of course source and preference plays a part in this and I can see some people liking other top of the line earphones more. Using Andromeda with my LG V10 and micro iDSD, it is tuned perfectly for my preference.

 

Andromeda is not what I would consider a perfect product. The machined aluminum corners can cause irritation where they regularly make contact with the user’s ear. They are highly sensitive and need an impedance adapter with most dedicated DAPs. On top of all of this, they are over a thousand dollars, which isn’t cheap. However, the Andromeda has so much upside that I can overlook all of these factors and say that they are definitely worthy of their asking price. Usually I can’t mention price to performance when things get as expensive as the Andromeda. In this case I will make an exception. The Andromeda is built like a tank and sounds as good as any in-ear monitor I’ve ever heard, including more expensive models.

 

Andromeda has an added dimension to its sound that makes many other earphones seem flat and lifeless. Campfire audio has produced an earphone that gives listeners something that is unique and refreshing in terms of in-ear monitors. They combine a slightly musical signature with a level of separation, extension, detail and soundstage that makes them a personal favorite. Upon the conclusion of this review, I’m going to contact Ken and Caleb and tell them that I’m buying this pair. I have plenty of earphones to listen to, but I like these enough to not let them leave. The Andromeda sound quality makes me look at other earphones that I’ve given five star reviews and makes me consider lowering it if these are the new standard. Instead, I’ll end this review by saying these have six star sound.

 

Thanks for reading and happy listening!

Posted

Pros: Detailed, cohesive and spacious sound. High-quality litz cable included. Well made. Nice case included.

Cons: Some people may not like the memory wire and Shure-style connector. The unusual shape may not be comfortable for everyone.

Ken Ball from ALO Audio is a big fan of the outdoors. If you see an image of nature on the ALO Audio, and now Campfire Audio web site, it will have been one he took himself. So for his new venture into in-ear monitors it was only appropriate that they be named after features of the night sky. 

 

While I did have a listen to his first three models of IEM at a previous Tokyo headphone festival, I wasn't so enamoured by the brightness of the Jupiters, which seemed too strong for my tastes. It wasn't until this year, when I heard the Andromedas for the first time, that I was really moved by the sound. I was moved not so much because of any particular feature of the sound, but because their seeming lack of anything in the sound that reminded me I was listening with IEMs. The cohesion of the overall presentation had the IEMs immediately disappearing, leaving just the music. 

 

Ken didn't hold back on the design in any way, shape or form with the Andromedas, exemplified by the fact that the pair I have for review are actually factory rejects. It would take a careful eye to see why, but he doesn't deny his intent to be perfectionist and send customers only a perfect product. As well, since I receive my pair, the design has been changed ever so slightly to add a couple of facets to area opposite the nozzle facing your ear, which may be better for people for whom the design is a bit of a tighter fit.  I didn't have any discomfort from the metal, but I have very average ears.

 

Unusually, for a manufacturer, he started off building cables by hand, then working with others to make amps and DACs, and now headphones, rather in reverse of many other companies that started with headphones first. That has, however, given him an advantage with his range of IEMs, as he has the experience to design a good cable. As much as one may dislike the idea of the importance of a good cable, I can attest to the difference they can make. On my pair of JH13s, if I use the stock cable, the sound is harsh and unlistenable. A change to a well-made Litz-wire cable from a third party transforms the sound. Time and time again I've had good headphones that I felt were simply held back by the stock cable. Where the manufacturer has included a good cable, this hasn't been an issue. 

 

 

Irrespective of opinion on the matter, the cable itself is the same thickness and flexibility of a regular IEM cable, excepting the metal splitter and neatly-fitting transparent plastic choker. The MMCX plugs are a custom beryllium copper plug that has a tighter grip than a stock MMCX connector, the ring having a larger bend. Removal requires quite a firm pull, which the instruction manual advises be done straight and not at an angle. The downside is that this type of connector turns endlessly, which can be annoying if you're like me and line up your IEMs for insertion by the direction of the cable. I'm also sure some people will prefer a non-memory-wire version of the cable. 

 

Accessories

 

The Andromedas come with a good selection of ear tips: Silicon, foam and Comply TX-400; and a cleaning tool. The Complys are difficult to install, having a narrowish tube, the good side of that being that they stay on very tightly. With a bit of foam in the tube, they are good for keeping earwax out of the canals.

 

The included leather clamshell zip case has faux sheepskin lining, giving it a classy, old-school appearance suggesting a product intended to be used for a long time. 

 

 

 

 

To the IEMs themselves, they consist of 5 balanced armature drivers -- 2 for the bass, 1 for the mids, and 2 for the highs. These are housed in a CNC aluminium enclosure with a uniquely shaped design. For my ears, that edgy shape could be felt a bit on insertion, but it didn't end up bothering me at all. I'm more sensitive to the discomfort of having anything in my ear canals to really notice. However Ken has acknowledged concerns and will be smoothing the design slightly in future production runs.

 

Ear canal discomfort may be an issue for some, as the three-port aluminium nozzle is big, and requires similar tips that DITA Audio's The Answer, RHA, and FitEar's universal series do. Since that permits tips with a variety of sizes, some tuning is readily possible as it is with the DITAs. Select tips with a narrower nozzle and the highs are tamed a bit, the bass being brought out more. If I select Spinfits for comfort then this is exactly what happens, making the Andromedas warmer with stronger bass, but not as pleasant overall as with the stock tips.

 

After an initial listen, I ran the Andromedas in for a couple of days using pink noise, with periods of listening in between. Most of the time I ran them out of an ALO Audio Rx or Pico Power connected to my Schiit Yggdrasil. Sometimes I used a Chord Mojo. DAP pairings I shall address separately. For most of the comparison I used the stock silicon tips. 

 

 

If you have experience with many full-sized headphones, I can simplify things and say that the Andromedas are much like a pair of MrSpeakers Ethers in overall tone when used out of a good DAP or amp. From the very present, but sweet highs down to the moderately strong mid-bass, with a few exceptions both have a similar character. This made acoustic recordings a joy, enough to make one forget that you are listening with IEMs. Using my iPhone or Soundaware's M1, both of which have a <0 Ohm output impedance, the bass drops back a bit, which I find pleasant when the music is already very bass-strong.  While mostly mid-bass prominent, it does extend well down to the deep bass if you have a good seal. 

 

Generally speaking, foam tips will reduce the treble and narrower-bore tips will increase the bass. At one extreme, if I used the Andromedas out of the Mojo or similar, which brought out the most bass, and had the included Comply foam tips on, they sounded at their darkest, similar to what I had experienced often with the Laylas. This was sometimes too dark for me. Spinfits and DITA medium-bore tips seemed to cause the mid-range to take a back seat to a degree, so at the recommendation of other members I tried JVC's Sprital Dot tips.

 

Spiral Dot tips use a spiral of indents in the bore to reduce turbulence. Since some JVC IEMs have a similar bore shape as the Andromedas, they fitted perfectly. Also, given the wide bore of the tips, the treble could come out well. This increased the overall coherency of the sound, leaving me to balance up the amount of bass via the choice of amp or DAP.  The only downside is that the very wide bore can make the highest treble a bit bright, which was fine with most acoustic music, but other music, if treble-strong, can be a bit unpleasant.

 

 

Random tracks from putting my three-stars and better playlist on random. It should be noted that I listen at a moderate volume level.

 

Let the Sunshine In sung by Julie Driscoll, being an old pop number with less than perfect recording quality and lacking in bass was rather thin-sounding as a consequence. I wish someone would re-master this.

 

Let there be Light - Justice. This band plays best with headphones and IEMs that really give a good bass kick. The Andromedas are possibly a touch too light-sounding, but when I switched over to the DITAs to compare how a dynamic sounded with bass, with the "reference" tips they had even less bass. That leaves me feeling the Andromedas will be good for someone who likes their bass kick, but without there being too much, even with this kind of music.

 

Englishman in New York - Sting. One of the best features of the Andromedas is their ability to render a sense of space in the recording, despite being IEMs and this recording was a good example of that. The level of detail, down to the decay of notes echoing across the recording space emphasised this.

 

Dazzling Blue (Album) - Alexis Cole. This Chesky binaural album has become my reference for headphone listening. If anything the bass lines can be a bit strong. It's here that I feel more like I'm listening with IEMs, as the bass crowds a bit into the rest of the sound space, if it is rendered very well. 

 

Spanish Grease (Dorfmeister Con Madrid De Los Austrias Muga Reserva Mix) - Willie Bobo - Verve Remixed.

This is music that, along with the other tracks and similar albums I lump into the category of “club music” which is brighter with a stronger beat. Due to the mastering being somewhat bass-light, with these tracks I preferred more bass-strong/treble-light IEMs for preference, even when I rotated tips on that moved the sound signature of the Andromedas in this direction. 

 

What was apparent throughout listening was the sense of space that live recordings are presented with.  What is more, the clean-sounding treble wasn't bothersome, even when modern, brightly-recorded (but not compressed) recordings were being listened to. The presentation is very much a "This is how the recording is, for better or for worse" one. 

 

That presentation works fantastically with acoustic recordings, from vocals through to jazz and classical, but are also capable all-rounders, quite able to deliver music with strong bass.

 

Devices

 

My usual portable go-to is the Chord Mojo. The Andromedas have a tiny amount of hiss audible when plugged in without music playing. Being a close to 0 Ohm output device, the bass is quite prominent, yet quite clean-sounding, the sense of spaciousness still very pleasant. 

 

ALO Rx (2015 version) -- Even less hiss than the Mojo. Brings out the treble and spaciousness a tiny bit more.

 

Headamp Pico Power -- low gain setting. No hiss at all and a minute amount on medium gain. Plenty on high gain, but no worse than the Mojo. Very smooth and neutral "nothing but the facts" but less spacious-sounding than the Rx or Mojo direct. 

 

Sound Potion Monolith -- My favourite pick, combining the smoothness of the Pico Power with the spaciousness of the Rx and only has a tiny bit of hiss on low gain.

 

 

Comparisons

 

Shozy Zero 

 

While it may seem an odd comparison, these considerably more bass-strong IEMs were useful for providing a contrast to the presentation of the Andromedas. Where bass thump and a well-smoothed treble was more important than ultimate detail, such as with “club” music, the Shozys were strongest, whereas the Andromedas win with acoustic music where space, soundstage and separation are most important. 

 

Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors

 

Compared to the Andromedas, they are tuned to a more neutral frequency response and are less sensitive. The Andromedas picked up hiss from ALO Audio's new Continental V5 (CV5) whereas the UERMs didn't. The Andromedas also have more mid-bass emphasis, the treble varying depending on the tips used. 

 

JH Audio Layla Universals (original version)

 

I was expecting the Andromedas to sound brighter, as I've always found the Laylas to be a bit dull-sounding, but surprisingly, with the bass turned down, they are more similar than not. The Laylas have the advantage that they can be CIEMs, and the multiple drivers give them more headroom for louder listening, something not so important to me. The main issue for me with the universal Laylas was getting a good fit and adjusting them to sound the best, something I didn't have as many issues with when using the Andromedas. I reckon the Laylas would work best as a CIEM.

 

DITA Audio The Answer (Truth Edition)

 

(Going to add this shortly.)

 

Conclusion

 

Very often discussion of new, high-end products centres around how they can be improved. The Andromedas are one of those products that is great right out of the box sonically, especially if you your tastes are more towards well-mastered acoustic music, with a spacious and detailed sound. With more modern, brighter-mastered music they are a not quite so suited, at least without some tip rolling. Most pleasing is how much care Ken has put into designing and making them.  The only cautions are that the design and cable ergonomics wont be suitable for everyone.

 

Thanks to Ken Ball for proving the Andromedas for review.

 

Unboxing and Video Review

 

 

Posted

Pros: 1.Extreme clarity in the mid and high end. 2.Wide soundstage and clear separation 3.High sensitivity 4.Excellent build quality.

Cons: 1.Bass may be too clean and lean for some 2. Sharp corners may not fit everyone comfortably.

 

Established in 2006, Audio Line Out (“ALO”) made its name by building high end audio cables for audio equipment. In 2015, ALO announced the creation of another branch that would be responsible for making IEMs called Campfire Audio (“CA”). Since then, CA has launched an impressive lineup of IEMs: the single BA Orion, the dual BA Nova, the single DD Beryllium driver Lyra and the four BA Jupiter.  Their latest 5 driver flagship offering, the Andromeda caught my eye and I decided to take a leap and purchased it.

In my earlier days of this hobby, I found more enjoyment in the lower frequencies. The hard, the thumping, the wobble and ooze were all that I had sought after. The Prodigy, Crystal Method and Fatboy Slim were at the forefront of bands that fueled my adolescent angst. Finesse and grace was not on the priority list. With the passing of time, my taste has changed. It was my birthday in May, and having taken an extensive demo tour in Hong Kong with my partners in crime, I was finally ready to take the plunge into the deep end of the pool. I knew right away that my crown jewel would not be a bass heavy IEM. I wanted a piece with a great sound signature that would stand the test of time, something that hopefully as a person I would have to grow into.

I already enjoyed the Jupiter: great soundstage with immense clarity and smooth bass texture. It was certainly one of the most unique sound signatures I had ever heard, but despite its soaring highs and tremendous soundstage, I personally felt that the Jupiter’s mids were lacking a bit of sweetness. So when I heard from Oliver that there was an early bird rate from CA for their new flagship that had added a mid driver – the Andromeda, I took a rather haphazard chance and dropped my $999 USD.

Specs 

Frequency Range – 10HZ–28 KHZ
Sensitivity – 115 DB SPL/MW
Impedance – 12.8 OHMS @ 1KHZ
Detachable Cable with MMCX Connection Type

I don’t have anything especially important to say about the specs apart from that the Andromeda is a highly sensitive IEM. Please turn down your volume when listening to the Andromeda or you will suffer from hearing loss.


 

 

 

Unboxing and Accessories

Like the rest of the CA lineup, the Andromeda comes in a neat little textured cardboard box with colourful printed graphics of galactic entities. When you first open it up, you are greeted only by a rich dark brown coloured hard leather case which has a very premium feel and also appeals to the handmade, artisanal, yet grounded feel of all of Campfire Audio’s products. Unzipping this case reveals the strikingly green Andromeda coiled up neatly inside a soft, off-white wool lining.

Underneath the case is another piece of card separating the main compartment and the accessories compartment, where you will find 3 sets of different tip choices, as well as an earhphone cleaning tool. The generous tip selection consists of S, M, and L sizes of Comply TX400 tips, normal foam tips, and silicon tips. There’s also a little Campfire Audio pin included so you can show off to the world what they’re missing out on.

 

 

 

Comfort and Build

I was very worried that I had just blindly bought an IEM I had never tried on and that the fit would be unsatisfactory. However, I was quickly reassured when I remembered that the Jupiter fit me very well. I would like to point out that even though I was part of the early bird batch that confirmed my payment May 10th, I had to wait for a family friend to bring it to Shanghai earliest July 12th as I could not find a better and safer way to transport my highly valuable item across the Pacific Ocean. During my wait I tried my best to not read the immense amount of Andromeda reviews pouring out from the community, firstly to try to keep myself as unbiased as possible but secondly also to keep me from going insane during my long wait time. 

And finally, they have arrived. Oh how beautiful they are. The lush green color stands out from the crowd as a strong, forward statement. Black, blue and red are too last decade, and do not communicate the true intent and spirit of the designer. Green evokes a more exotic flavor. It conjures imagery of emerald, jade and malachite. The almost iridescent surface reflects light gorgeously, forcing me to tinker with it more than I imagined before even beginning to tip roll. The CNC milled anodized aluminium housing showcases the bold attitude of CA through its brave cuts and angles of the shell. Industrial, sturdy and modern are words that spring to mind when looking at the impressive metal housings held together by precision cut screws.

 

In terms of comfort – there have been some reviews from the community that have mentioned that the angular form of the Andromeda were slightly uncomfortable, with the corners slightly jabbing into the antihelix area of the ear. Personally, it fits me snugly and comfortably, but Campfire Audio has decided to release a new version with two chamfered off corners to provide a more comfortable fit. Since my unit was a pre-order, it does not have the new chamfered corners design.

The metallic canals of the Andromeda, which ends in 3 precisely milled out bores, leans towards shallow in terms of insertion – but your mileage may vary. Foam tips are slightly longer and grip the ear slightly better, while silicon tips provide a shallower insertion. The tips that I settled with are the M sized silicon tips which were the best for me in terms of comfort and sound. I tried the Complys and although there is a small boost in bass volume, the Comply M size was too big and the S too small for me. This review was done based on my experience with the M silicon tips.

The Andromeda now comes with the new ALO Litz cable, a stunning silver plated copper cable with a four core braid and transparent MMCX connectors. The right and left connectors are easily distinguishable through a small blue and red dot on the left and right sides. Compared to the older ALO Tinsel Wire cable which was extremely prone to tangling up , the new Litz cable is much more ergonomic as it is slightly more robust, and the braiding helps to keep it tangle free. I’m usually not a big fan of memory wire, but the Litz cable memory wire has the perfect balance between stiffness and softness. The sturdy MMCX connectors are easily snapped on and off, allowing for easy cable switching. 

All in all, the Andromeda looks as good as it feels secure. There is no doubt that this is a piece of incredible craftsmanship. Seamlessly melding together striking aesthetics with a unique and musical sound.

Sound and Separation

And finally, what you’ve all been waiting for – the sound. No doubt all of you want to know:What’s the bass like? The mids? How about the highs? But one of the first things one notices when listening to the Andromeda is its expansive soundstage.

The Andromeda has an incredibly impressive soundstage, rivalling the absolute top of the industry. Width extends to just beyond my shoulders, height goes up to just beyond the tips of my hair and depth reaches down to just below the back of my jaw. This makes for a highly immersive listening experience, throwing the user into a world of three dimensional sound and music. 

 

Bass

The bass of the Andromeda extends deep, with a bass presence just a touch above neutral, making it a conservatively warm IEM. The bass is unobtrusive, only finding its way into the music when called upon, and shying away when told to step back. Bass impact is very sharp, with an incredibly fast attack, making songs with a hard edged beat almost unbearable to listen to at moderate to high volumes. Bass texture is smooth, rich and thick with great control, almost too lean for my current taste, but nothing that cannot be adjusted with a few tweaks of the equalizer. The Andromeda responds very well to tweaking in the 60 hz and 170 hz range, easily adding warmth and bass volume for people who feel that the low end lacks oomph. Please note, adding more bass response will undoubtedly skew the entire sound signature and affect the sweetness of the mids. 

Mids

The Andromeda has exceptionally lush mids. Sweet, full and enveloping, female vocals sound natural and realistic. You are able to clearly make out the shape of the singers’ lips, as well as picking up all their intimate breaths and whisps. Trumpets, pianos and guitars sound great with just the right amount of timbre, echoing in your head and lingering with a beautiful resonance. Instrument separation and imaging is very well defined with astounding clarity. When listening to live orchestra, each instrument and sound source has lots of air and space between them, offering a very comfortable and grand listening experience. 

The upper mids are really where the Andromeda begins to shine. Where many other IEMs may begin to sound screechy and chalky, the Andromeda has just begun getting into its stride. The Andromeda “sings” effortlessly when reproducing high female vocals, violins and other higher frequency instruments. The upper mids of the Andromeda “rings” and “sings” its way into a deliciously airy and sparkly high end, with no bumps or drops in between. 

Highs

The Andromeda’s highs are where these IEMs really shine and standout from the crowd, with exceptional clarity and extension. Campfire Audio has used a “tubeless resonator box” design where the two balanced armature drivers in charge of the high frequencies are contained and instead of having the traditional design with tubes and dampers, the resonator box allows the highs to resonate straight out of the bore without compromising even the slightest bit on clarity. Where other IEMs may sound narrow in their pursuit for the high frequencies, the Andromeda goes on up and up seemingly without end, with great texture and impact. It shows immense clarity and has a brightness which is not dry at all. Liquid and cohesive, sibilance is controlled to an absolute minimum, only showing a shadow at the most intense of moments. The Andromeda performs very well with female opera vocals, violin solo performances and other musical recordings focusing on the upper mid to high frequencies. There is no breaking, no sharpness. Just a smooth, constant flow of bright notes. 

Concluding remarks

Undoubtedly a bright IEM with a focus on the mids and highs, the Andromeda exercises control and restraint in its presentation of bass. I wouldn’t call this sound signature reference nor neutral. It is just a touch warmer than flat in the bass department and a few percentage points even further in its rich mids to highs. The sound is engaging, revealing and clear. 

The standout feature of the Andromeda is its soundstage and imaging in the upper frequencies. Clear and concise with such an agreeable texture, the highs of the Andromeda can clearly place whatever sound source thrown at it to surgical precision. It is also this which makes the highs so easy to listen to, making you easily overlook any little shrieks and hisses that meander through the Andromeda soundscape.

If you are looking for an earphone with unparalleled clarity in the highs with a gentle focus on the bass and mids, while also boasting cutting edge production technique, then look no further. I am sure that the Andromeda will bring your listening experience to new heights and perhaps beyond what was previously perceived as the limits of the sky. 

 

This review was originally written for Accessible Audio 
All photos taken by @alffla

Posted

Pros: warm sound signature, comfortable (with right fit), great soundstage/instrument separation

Cons: very expensive, microphonic cable, fit dependant on tips

Disclaimer:

I received this Campfire Jupiter as part of the Australian/New Zealand tour that ALO Audio/Ken Bell arranged. This is my honest opinion of the Campfire Andromeda, and I am in no way affiliated with or work for ALO Audio. Thanks to @d marc0 for organising this and letting me join in a little late.

 

In addition, this review will not focus on technical aspects of the equipment. Rather I will focus on their representation of music to me. My enjoyment or boredom, bliss or disappointment with the equipment. Think of it as an emotional review.

 

Introduction:

 

OK, so I told myself last year – “just get back to Head-Fi, find a suitable setup, and leave…” I’m still here, after realising that the community had matured so much since last decade, yep 2009! The ability to now take part in tours and auditions opened up a whole new world of experiences. Now I was able to test out some great equipment, without the commitment, it’s like Friends with Benefits.

 

Thus far I have been given the opportunity to review the Aune X1S, Jays q-Jays, the Campfire Orions and Campfire Jupiters. This time round, I was given the opportunity to take some more IEMs for a spin – introducing Campfire Audio’s Top-of-the-Line IEMs, the Andromeda in-earphones

 

Official product page: https://www.campfireaudio.com/andromeda/

 

 

Hardware:

 

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

Like the Orions & Jupiters, the Campfire box carries its signature “lost in space” box, and the Jupiter’s sitting cosy in the fur-lined carry case.

 

 

 

 

The contents of the box included:

  • Campfire Andromeda IEM ear pieces
  • MMCX terminated, silver-plated IEM Cable (1.35m) with gold-plated 3.5mm L-plug (2x)
  • Tips:
    • 3 pairs of Comply TX 400 tips (S, M, L)
    • 3 pairs of foam tips (S, M, L)
    • 3 pairs of silicon tips (S, M, L)
  • Cleaning tool
  • Carry case
  • Campfire Audio logo pin
  • User guide

 

RRP: $1099  USD (~$1,475 AUD)

 

 

BUILD & DESIGN

There’s not much more I can add from my write-up of the Jupiter’s & Orion’s build and design. There is a distinct craftsman ship that Campfire Audio have now defined. Again, in their words “FIVE balanced armature drivers and tubeless resonator in a machined aluminium enclosure”. These things are solid, I am pretty sure you could easily drive over them (not that I did…!)

 

 

 

 

TECH SPECS

Driver: Four Balanced Armature Drivers
Impedance: 12.8 OHM @ 1 KHZ
Sensitivity:  115 DB SPL/MW
Frequency Response: 10 HZ – 28K HZ
  

About Me:

 

As with any tour or review, these are my opinions and observations with the Campfire Orion and my hardware. For the purpose of this audition, I used the following equipment –

Source: iPod Classic/iPhone 6S using a mixture of Apple Lossless and MP3 files

Amplifier/DAC: HeadAmp Pico Portable Amp/DAC

Headphones: 1964Ears V3

 

My taste in music is quite peculiar and focuses heavily on heavy metal – in all forms (from death to Viking, from prog to heavy, from Pagan to Mongolian!). A majority of my listening was with bands such as Iron Maiden, Fallujah, and Caligula’s Horse & Ne Obliviscaris. However, I still enjoy a variety of genres, so also included Jazz, Blues, Rock, and Classical.

 

 

The Listening Experience:

 

Music listened to for this review:

Idina Menzel (female vocal)

Delta Goodrem (female vocal)

Opeth (progressive metal)

Fallujah (atmospheric technical death metal)

Ne Obliviscaris (progressive black metal)

Gojira (technical death metal)

Caligula’s Horse (progressive rock)

Hans Zimmer (soundtrack)

 

My initial impressions were:

Bass: tight, deep, controlled

Highs: beautiful and lush

Comments: I thought the Jupiter’s were the best IEMs I had ever heard, and I was pretty sure nothing could top them, I was (kind of) wrong.

 

I really wish I could test the Andromeda’s and Jupiter’s side-by-side, as I found that based on my memory both seemed to sound very similar.

 

The Andromeda’s pack a punch, fantastic full-bodied sound that was quite difficult to fault.

 

They improve upon the Jupiter’s when it came to female vocals, especially the issue with sibilance. The Andromeda’s present female vocals in a smooth lush manner, that’s not harsh or overly high. Listening to Delta and Idina was an absolute treat with the Andromeda’s, being able to really hear the subtleties in their voices, and being able to truly appreciate their vocal ranges.

 

As for Metal and the various metal genres, the Andromeda’s are fantastic. Although lack the attack with the quicker songs. Listening to music such as Fallujah (Atmospheric Death Metal) was fantastic as usually most earphones tend to turn the technical drumming/riffs into mud. That is to say, most of the time it’s muddy. The Andromeda’s strengths with soundstage and instrument separation meant the music was not out of balance. It was synergetic!

 

The soundstage/instrument separation however far surpasses the Jupiter’s. The Andromeda feel like everything is nicely balanced, separated and placed out to give you a sense of being in the music.

 

As stated with the Jupiters:

In terms of the IEMs themselves – fit/isolation was fantastic, although they are dependent on the tips. I had a couple of issues with fit at the start, but after trying a few variations I managed to settle on the large foam. The cables were also quite microphonic, every time I moved around or adjusted my glasses I could hear noise. However, none of these totally hampered my listening experience.

 

This was a difficult review to write as in my opinion the Jupiters and Andromedas are very close in sound-quality. Both, compared to my V3s, are phenomenal. Trying to compare Jupiter/Andromeda with my other IEMs was not a task I attempted as they are different beasts, and considering the Jupiters/Andromedas are TOTL IEMs.

 

 

 

 

Value & Conclusion:

Look, when it comes to the Jupiters and Andromedas, the differences are subtle, and basically for me it came down to price. If I could choose, I would easily pick the Jupiter’s and save myself a few hundred dollars. Both IEMs are outstanding, however I couldn’t really find any astronomical reasons to pick the Andromedas over the Jupiters. That being said, with more time, and the ability to put these side-by-side might yield a better outcome.

 

Thanks again to ALO, Ken and Mark for the opportunity to take these for a spin!

Posted

Pros: Brilliant sound across the board, beautiful design, high quality construction

Cons: Large nozzles won't fit all ears comfortably/securely, treble is a little too prominent for my preferences towards warmth

Campfire Audio have been churning out some beautifully designed and crafted IEMs lately - machined aluminium in gorgeous industrial, but somehow ergonomic shapes, unique resonators in place of the more common sound tubes, beautiful and high quality cables with MMCX connectors and sound tuning that is equal parts varied and consistently enjoyable. Admittedly, their dynamic driver-based Lyra model didn't wow me, but the balanced armature-based Jupiter and Orion models were both great.

 

I was excited to see what magic Campfire Audio wove into the Andromedas to build on their already excellent range and, on first listen, the Andromeda showed all the signs of being the perfect amalgamation of the outstanding performance and tuning demonstrated in the earlier models.

 

 

Design & Accessories

Like all of the Campfire Audio range of IEMs, the Andromedas are a combination of impeccable design and luxurious appointment. The Andromedas come with a beautiful, dark leather carry case lined with wool (or synthetic wool - I'm not sure), a high-quality braided cable, a broad selection of silicone and foam ear tips, and a cleaning tool. All-in-all it's an outstanding range of accessories that makes the Andromedas feel every bit as high-end as their price tag suggests.

 

Aesthetics & Ergonomics

 

Beyond the accessories, the design of the Andromedas is equally high-end. The housings are machined from aluminium and finished in a rich, anodised green that's reminiscent of British Racing Green as used on some classic, vintage sports cars. It's not a colour you normally see in the audio world, but it's a great looking colour and grants the Andromedas a truly unique aesthetic. As well as the aesthetics, the choice of aluminium housings means you know that they are rigid and not creating mechanical distortion in the sound reaching your ears.

 

Ergonomically, the Andromedas are more comfortable than they look. At first glance the Campfire IEMs look to be all angles, but the Orion and Jupiter models proved to me convincingly that the angles and curves are in all the right places to produce a comfortable wearing experience. The silver-coloured nozzle is quite chunky, but it's still small enough in diameter to fit into my slightly troublesome ears although I wouldn't want to wear these while exercising because the nozzle prevents a truly secure fit in my ears. That said, they fit well enough to seal the ear canal and reproduce their optimal sound without any hint of discomfort.

 

 

Driver Configuration

 

The Andromedas are a 5-driver design which means that each earpiece contains 5 balanced-armature drivers. That's not particularly unique in the earphone world, but the Andromedas share the unique technology pioneered by their older siblings - a tubeless resonator design. I can't say exactly what that means (because I don't know, not because I'm sworn to secrecy), but the essence of it is that the traditional tube system to carry sounds from the drivers to tip of the nozzle in most IEMs is replaced by this unique approach in the new Campfire Audio IEMs. Looking closely at the nozzles on the Andromedas, it appears as though each driver or set of drivers (e.g. bass, mid and/or treble groupings) deliver sounds into chambers which are controlled for resonance with damping or similar techniques. The sounds then exit the chambers via the openings in the nozzle without the potential turbulence or resonance that plastic tubes could make.

 

There are many amazing IEMs on the market that manage to sound exquisite while using the traditional nozzle approach (and may actually benefit from them by extending the lengths of the nozzles to adjust for timing variations between frequencies) so it's not fair to say that this technology instantly raises the Campfire Audio products above their competition, but the tubeless resonator technology certainly doesn't seem to harm the sound and therefore may conceivably be improving it.

 

Sound

 

The sound from the Andromedas is effortless in that annoying way that some people can be athletic. What I mean is that there's no sense of strain or effort, but equally there is no sense of flaw or laziness.

 

Treble

 

Campfire Audio market the Andromedas with the claim that "this system's high frequency extension is unattainable using conventional techniques", referring to the tubeless resonator system discussed above and I can definitely confirm that there is no lack of extension to the treble from the Andromedas and the treble they deliver is super smooth with no hint of sibilance and no sense of any "peakiness" despite a slight emphasis in the treble.

 

Compared to the Jupiters, the Andromedas have a better overall treble balance, but don't lose any overall sense of treble energy or detail - they just balance all the treble frequencies out more evenly without any spikes. The Jupiters had good treble, but the Andromedas have great treble. That said, the amount of treble may not be perfect for listeners with tastes similar to me. Very importantly here I want to clarify that the following remarks are about the amount of treble, not the quality of the treble - the quality of the treble is marvellous. Where the problem lies for me is that I find the treble to be slightly too prominent in the overall sound signature. As good as the treble is, I don't want it to be the star of the show at the expense of sonic balance and the Andromedas definitely have a slight tilt towards a V-shaped signature. My listening tastes align neatly with the Noble Kaiser 10 and AudioQuest NightHawk - two products that are supremely organic and musical. To my ears, the Andromedas are leaning a bit more towards Hi-Fi rather than organic musicality. That's not a criticism because they sound spectacular at what they do with treble, but the signature is just not my preference. However, for those that like the increase in perceived resolution, increased sense of space and the sparkle of great treble, the Andromedas are absolutely worth an audition.

 

Mids

 

As I already alluded to above, the mids on the Andromedas are slightly less prominent than the treble and that's a shame because the mids are glorious. They are full, well-weighted and immensely enjoyable. If Campfire Audio were to pull back the treble emphasis these might have been my favourite ever IEMs, but as it is they are sitting pretty in second place I think. Whether reproducing female vocals, male vocals or instrumentals there is a wonderfully engaging presence and focus to the mid-range from the Andromedas. Everything is crystal clear and sharply focussed, but rendered with a warmth that keeps everything completely realistic and natural - I just wish the treble didn't occasionally demand attention away from the mids.

 

When compared to my favourite IEMs, the Noble Kaiser 10s, the Andromedas not only hold their own, but are actually even more engaging in many ways. I still prefer the slightly tamed treble from the K10s, but the laser-sharp focus and natural rendering of the vocals and instrumentals from the Andromedas might be impossible to beat. In fact, the Andromedas' mids remind me of the insane mid-range quality from the FitEar ToGo! 334.

 

Bass

 

The bass quality and quantity from the Andromedas is really impressive! The other IEMs I've reviewed in the Campfire Audio range (Jupiter, Orion and Lyra) all had nice bass presentations in their own ways, but the Andromedas stepped it up. The Andromedas have impressive punch and weight in their bass presentation. In fact, I wonder if Campfire Audio have employed one of those huge, bass-specific BA drivers like those used by Noble Audio in the K10 and Noble 5 (now the Dulce Bass I believe). There is also very good extension to the bass - something that BA IEMs have gotten better and better at over recent years and the Andromedas are definitely keeping pace with excellent weight and presence right down to the lowest audible bass registers.

 

There's a nice lift to the bass from the Andromedas, but it's been executed in a very considered and balanced way. The result is wonderful punch, weight and depth while never straying from a neutral and accurate overall sound signature. The bass is quick and controlled, but never seems to lack body and presence - a masterful piece of tuning indeed! The Andromedas are equally as adept with acoustic, classical, electronic or rock (or anything else I threw at them) because the bass is so accurate and never over steps the mark.

 

I decided to put the Andromedas up against the Kaiser 10s again and used the thumping kick bass of Everlasting Light [Live] by The Black Keys to see how well they both performed. The Andromedas delivered visceral thump and rapid decay so everything sounded solid and full, but agile and clean. Moving to the K10s brought some extra weight to the bass without losing the speed. On bass presentation alone (discounting the Andromedas' exceptional mid-range), the Nobles had a slight edge so I tried Elijah Rock from Harry Connick Jr.'s Oh, My Nola album. This is a much cleaner recording of a really thumpy kick drum and bass. Once again the competition was super close and once again I'd give the bass edge to the Nobles. Interestingly, on this recording (which is excellent) I would also give an overall edge to the Nobles because the treble energy from the Andromedas creates a very slightly unnatural presentation of the overall performance.

 

 

Staging & Imaging

 

One of the benefits of treble emphasis (even only slight emphasis) is the potential to massively increase the perceived soundstage size and also the accuracy of the image. When done right, as it is with the Andromedas, the resulting presentation is nothing short of astounding and that is completely true here. The Andromedas produce the best soundstage I have ever experienced in a headphone or an earphone. Being a sealed in-ear design, the Andromedas can't compete with a fully open headphone for sheer soundstage size, but they are far more accurate with imaging and sound placement. The resulting balance of size and imaging accuracy is beguiling and has me seriously considering a purchase even though I already own one of the best IEMs on the market.

 

Conclusion

 

The Andromedas are easily one of the best earphone or headphone products I have ever had the pleasure to audition or own. They easily hold their own against the very best flagship IEMs on the market and are a spectacular blend of technical expertise and masterful tuning. Although they pack a little more treble energy than I personally like, most people will absolutely love the presentation as it's right in line with the preferred signatures around the Head-Fi world. What sets the Andromedas apart though is the perfection with which they execute this common sound-signature. The tubeless resonators must be doing something good because the Andromedas offer the best quality treble and mids I have ever heard and they are no slouch in the bass - being bested (barely) by the Noble K10s holds no shame!

 

If I were in the market for a pair of universal IEMs, the Andromedas would be top of the list right next to the Noble K10s and I would probably choose the Andromedas based on the difference in price. In my experience there is really no universal worth looking at beyond the Andromedas. If they were made as a custom I would be in very big trouble!

Posted

Pros: Incredible soundstage, control, and tonality

Cons: could do with a little more kick in the bass

Disclaimer: The Campfire Audio Andromeda was provided to me by Ken as a review sample in exchange for my honest thoughts. This should have been up a long time ago, but life doesn’t always go your way so my apologies for the delay. I hope this review can be of use to anyone still considering the Andromeda as a next purchase.

 

To start off, I would just like to say that I probably wouldn’t be posting any pictures, I might add them on in future, but as of now, there just isn’t much point; there are tonnes of beautiful pictures that other reviewers have put up and my photography skills just aren’t that great, so my apologies to anyone hoping for some amazing photoshoots.

 

My first experience with Campfire Audio was with the Lyra. I was extremely impressed with the Lyra, not just sonically but as a product on the whole. The Lyra ticked so many boxes for me, awesme sound, with a signature right up my alley, premium and beautiful construction (how can anyone fault that ceramic?),  and great ergonomics to top it off. Short afterwards, I got in touch with Ken regarding the Jupiter, and as some of you might remember, I’ve had a previous review of the Jupiter up on here as well so do feel free to check it out.

 

I then had the chance to meet Ken at Canjam Singapore this year, and I must say, it is one of the main highlights of my time a Canjam. We spent quite a while chatting (it must have had been 2 hours at least), and I got to know one of the nicest guys I’ve met. Ken was extremely humble, down to earth, and just so excited about the things he was working on. It would have been difficult not to have been infected by his enthusiasm for the hobby. It was then that I got the chance to give the prototype Andromeda a quick listen, and boy was I in for a surprise. It was simply amazing. It reminded me of the Jupiter in some ways, but it kind of fixed what the Jupiter didn’t quite do for me. During the time that I had talking to Ken, I also got to hear some of his other tech. I wouldn’t spill much on it, it’s not my place too, and don’t worry, Ken isn’t going to be popping out new flagships every other month, but that was real hard evidence of the hardware, dedication, and most importantly progress that Ken was making in the IEM design field. Treat them more as proof of concepts, prototype designs to be refined and improved until Ken deems them good enough for his loyal customers. It was truly an eye opening experience.

 

One thing that really got me onto the Campfire Audio train was the way they designed their products. There are a tiny handful of companies that I truly respect for not taking things the easy way, and for taking every single aspect of the design into consideration. Housing material, internal damping, the use of dampeners (or rather the lack thereof), the choice not to use sound degrading curvy plastic tubes, I find that all too often, these are compromises that manufacturers take to make their life easier. Think about how much harder it would be to do the tuning almost completely from the crossover, instead of just slapping a dampener here and there to cut off the peaks, or how much harder it would be to play with things like bore diameter to play around with the resonance for tuning. That’s what Campfire does, and boy have they done a good job.

 

Well now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get down to the earphones themselves.

 

 

PACKING, DESIGN, BUILD QUALITY, ERGONOMICS

The Andromedas are, like all other Campfire products, packaged in a simple, minimalistic box. They’re not elaborate and ultra classy like my Dita earphones, but they definitely are well designed, and very well thought out. This is something I really appreciate with them. A lot of the competition, even some really expensive IEMs, have such a minimal and lacklustre packaging, that really makes me question the value of the item.

 

Like all Campfire and ALO products the Andromeda is extremely well build. The shell is CNC’ed out of a solid block of aluminium and this really makes for an incredibly premium feeling product. They are very comfortable for me as well, they have an angled, short, wide bored nozzle. This fits me very well and I can wear it for hours on end without the slightest discomfort. Bear in mind that some people have complained about the fit due to the short nozzles, so this is really subjective.

 

 

SOUND

Let’s cut the chase. The Andromedas are some of the best IEMs I have heard at any price point. Sure they’re not perfect, but what IEM ever is? That said, they sound very very good, and over the past months they have been my daily driver.

 

The Andromedas are quite the unique earphone. They sound very different depending on the source, more specifically, the output impedance of the source. I have tested It with some sources with an output impedance of less than 1, such as the Chord Hugo, Mojo, and the Fiio X5. I have also tried them with a high impedance (10 ohm) source, the Soundaware Esther, and the results are remarkable. With the low impedance sources, the Andromeda has a slightly thick sound in the lower mids, with a pretty weighty and thick bass, it’s almost more emotive, warmer, and richer sounding. With the high impedance source, the Andromeda takes on a very different sound, it is altogether much more neutral, much less thick, airier and more open sounding, almost monitor like. The Andromeda is also very sensitive to tip rolling, and I have found it to perform best with slightly smaller bored silicone tips.

 

The Andromedas have some of the best highs I have heard in an IEM. They are very well extended, very sparkly, yet smooth. People who know me well would know that I generally prefer a signature with a bit more bite and edge to it, resulting in the Ditas being among my favourite earphones. It’s not so much that I don’t hear the bite and the sibilance, I’m just slightly more tolerant towards it than most people are. With the andromedas, I have almost never heard it being sibilant. It remains extremely clean and crisp sounding with adequate bite, but almost never sibilant. Almost. Different songs are mastered and mixed differently, and as such, it is impossibly to have a tuning that is clean edged and sparkly enough for all songs, yet not sibilant at all. The highs are not necessarily dead accurate, but they are very very enjoyable. They have a very slightly emphasized sense of sparkliness which brings so much life and air to the top end, something I really enjoy.

 

The midrange of the Andromeda is sweet, with a slight emphasis on the upper midrange, resulting in a certain sweetness to the sound. It is however, dependant on the output impedance of the source. As mentioned above, with a high impedance source, the midrange would sound leaner, more neutral. With a low impedance source, the midrange of the Andromeda would be noticeably thicker, richer, and somewhat lush sounding. The midrange is slightly more forward sounding in the general spectrum of things, and taking into account the vastness of the stage (which I will get into in a while), it really creates for a well layered, contrasted, and engaging sound. One issue I have with the midrange of the Andromeda, though, is that slight upper midrange emphasis that I mentioned. Now, it’s not a bad thing per se, and with certain recordings, it colours the midrange in a very pleasant way, but personally, I would prefer it a tad more linear in this region. Now remember what I mentioned about tip rolling? Well, this is where it comes into play. I find that with slightly smaller bored tips, that slight upper midrange colouration is reduced, and the result is something I thoroughly enjoy, something I have grown to love. Again, I’m not saying that the Andromeda is bad in this regard, you just have to put in a little effort to fine tune it to your liking.

 

The Andromeda’s bass is another area that can be slightly controversial. Again, with high impedance sources, it is very linear, very neutral, albeit a tad light at times. With low impedance sources, it is much more full bodied, much more present. The good? Regardless of source, it extends very deep, and when the song calls for it, the deepest of the sub bass is always there. It is also very textured, very controlled, and resolving, never once getting muddied up. What I sometimes hope for though, would be a little more slam and dynamics in the bass, a little more life if I might put it that way. Then again, I generally (with extremely few exceptions), don’t expect BA earphones to have the same sort of kick that I find with the best dynamic earphones, so that’s something that I can let slide.

My favourite part of the Andromeda would, without a doubt, be its soundstaging and imaging properties. It is one of, if not the most spacious, most well layered, open, and pinpoint sounding IEMs that I have ever heard. If I had to pick a word to describe it, it would be “reference” sounding, not so much in the sound signature (which actually is kind of a reference sig if you run it off a high impedance source), but in terms of the way it stages and images, so wide, so deep and tall, so well layered ad pinpoint, and most importantly, it is ever so controlled. Not once does it lose composure, it always keeps its cool, always in control, always separating and placing images nimbly. The sense of control and grip is just immaculate.

 

Which brings me to my next point. Up till now, I have said many things about the Andromeda, some of which might not seem so good. I assure you, however, that this is not the case. Contrary to that, I am trying very hard to find things that I do not like about the Andromeda. Those guys who know me well, know that I only really like a small handful (probably single digit) of IEMs out there, and the Andromeda is right up there with the best in my books. What I have pointed out, are not so much flaws as they are pointers to those hoping to gain a better insight to the sound of the Andromeda, hopefully, I have managed to describe it well enough.

 

There is one last characteristic which I must bring out. The immaculate sense of control of the Andromeda can, at times, make the music a little too reined in for my tastes. In its attempt to control everything so well, it sometimes loses a bit of the bloom that I like with dynamic drivers. It doesn’t sound so “live”, if I might put it that way. What the Andromeda really reminds me of, however, are an excellent pair of studio monitors, extremely well controlled, extremely pinpoint imaging, and incredible separation. It might not be the most lively sounding at times, but for what it does, it does amazingly well.

 

The Andromeda is, in my opinion, the studio sound done right, immaculately controlled, but with a slight sweetness that prevents it from becoming overly dead. If that’s what you’re looking for, then look no further, the Andromeda is exactly what you want.

Campfire Audio Andromeda
Description:

Five balanced armature drivers and tubeless resonator in a machined aluminum enclosure. Designed and hand built in Portland, Oregon USA. Specifications Frequency Range: 10Hz-28kHz Sensitivity: 115 DB SPL/MW Impedance: 12.8 Ohm @1kHz Cable: Silver Litz cable, MMCX connection Accessories 1x Pair Andromeda earphones 1x Silver Litz cable with exclusive MMCX connectors and memory wire 1x Leather carrying case 3x Pair Comply Foam tips (S, M, L) 3x Pair memory foam tips (S, M, L) 3x Pair silicone wide bore tips (S, M, L) 1x Owner’s manual

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