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In-Ear item created by Hisoundfi, May 16, 2016
Pros - The sound! Oh, blissful, angelic sound! Did I mention the sound?
Cons - Fit may not be the best for some listeners. However, there are options by way of tip rolling and custom-tip options as well.
Review: Campfire Audio Andromeda and Snugs Only
Before I start the review, I would like to give thanks to Mr. Ball and Mr. Jobin, for providing the complementary Andromeda and Snugs Only, respectively.
Wow - it has been quite the whirlwind from the point that I’m writing this, from the first time I was introduced to the company. I didn’t know too much about ALO and Campfire Audio since a couple of years ago when I listened to their products at T.H.E. Show, Newport Beach, so I inquired with Mr. Ball to learn a little bit more about their philosophy regarding their company and products.
What is your audio background?
None !!! I am ex USDA Plant Pathologist and my degree is biology based. But have been doing professional audio manufacturing for over a decade now. I am very good with my hands and thinking or looking at problems from different or unusual angles.
What gave you the inspiration to create ALO and Campfire Audio?
ALO started when I began making cables in my basement a long time ago. I really wanted to make cables that looked as good as they sounded. I them moved on to active electronics. However my dream from the beginning was to make the whole headphone and or IEM. I was modding a lot of headphones for customers back then and while it was fun and good the amount you can improve a headphone is only so much. In addition modding a headphone is really an act of deconstruction and then rebuilding. The amount you can take this must always start from the stock headphone so you can only improve it so much. What I really wanted to do was to make the whole headphone or IEM from scratch in my own vision. The problem with this is it is incredibly costly and the companies that are willing to work with you are very few. Who would make custom parts for you when you’re only ordering a few 1000? Most parts makers will want more like MQO of 10,000 pieces to start. So my dream of Campfire Audio had to wait, and wait until I saved up enough cabbage to buy tooling and stuff
What is your goal for your customers with regards to their experience with your IEMs?
More than anything I want Campfire Audio to be unique, look unique and sound unique/different and true to our own thing. This is a tall order since most all IEM companies all use the same BAs and most of the configurations are the same using the same techniques. We use all machined aluminum, or ceramic, use different parts when we can, make our own custom parts when we can. I don't know and don’t care what other people are doing with their builds, we are making our own thing. I spend most of my time in the lab doing experiments with these BA drivers, often very odd implementation. My affinity for looking at problems and possibilities from totally different angles than most people I think gives me an edge over other audio engineers. I think creativity is a powerful tool that can produce things that are special and or unique. I am very good with my hands and tend to try many things that most people I think probably would discount. These things I think very much helped in making our IEMs "different". By the same process I also make a lot of failures and waste in experimentation, but in trying I find that among all the duds and dead ends there can be a real gem. In addition I never stop learning my craft as well as building upon the things I learn in experimentation. So in the end I don't want people to have to listen to boring IEMs and neither do I.
What was the reason(s) to you use your proprietary design when creating the Andromeda?
Just trying to achieve the above (last answer)
What are your goals for the future with regards to Campfire Audio?
We have very big dreams for Campfire Audio and have a lot on the docket. We only hope and pray that our customer will resonate with what we are trying to do and support us. Every dime I made goes back into Campfire Audio. I have spent all of my ALO savings as well as my personal savings to get Campfire “lit” and off the ground. So with the support of customers we can together take it to the next level.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Just adding on to the last question, we have a lot of grand ideas and concepts that are on paper that I think would be next level I just need to keep chugging away in order to fund future projects and developments that we are very excited about. The costs to do some of the things we want to do are probably out of reach but it’s nice to dream big. I might add that Campfire / ALO is only 5 people so we are limited in what we can bite off. I do have a lot of outside help but still we are only scratching the surface of what could be.
An extra one...where are your IEMs made/created?
Beautiful Portland Oregon!! Aluminum shells are machined also in Oregon, anodized in Oregon and we hand assemble and test everything here in Portland. I do have some parts custom made in Taiwan for me but we designed and engineered everything – with the exception of the BAs of course. I have a very talented mechanical engineer who is one of my good friends that works for me. He is a wizard at engineering, 3D modeling and industrial design.
Campfire Audio Andromeda: $1,099
Earphones mentioned and compared
Campfire Audio Vega: $1,299
Jerry Harvey Audio Layla: Starting at $2,725
Shure SE846: ~$1,000
Ultimate Ears Pro Reference Remastered: Starting at $999
Audio equipment used in the review
iPhone 6 (Space Gray, 128GB): $849.99 or $399.99 with a 2-Year Contract
Microsoft Surface Book: Starting at $1,499
Questyle Audio QP1R Golden: $899 USD
Questyle Audio QP2R Golden: $1,299 USD
Campfire Audio Litz Cable 3.5mm: stock with Andromeda or $149
Campfire Audio Litz Cable 2.5mm Balanced: $149
Penon Audio Grey-Red Eartips: $3.99
SpinFit Eartips: varies depending on pair amount
Snugs Only: ~$259
Software Applications Used
Spotify Premium – Extreme Setting
TIDAL HiFi – Lossless
Spoiler: About the editor
An avid wrestler, coach, teacher, father and mentor, I like to immerse music lovers in headphones, earphones and sources that do nothing but make the listeners smile.
Ringing in my ears? Oh, tinnitus? I get that about 2 times a year, for about 10 seconds each time. Other than that, I’m currently good to go with regards to my hearing. Even if my hearing is perfect or not so perfect, what I hear may or may not match what you hear, for a multitude of reasons (genetic, physical, psychological, age, etcetera).
My music preferences are anything that has a great beat to it, not too vulgar in nature and anything that can induce head-bobbing, toe-tapping and maybe even dancing if the mood is right. I normally listen to (alphabetically): Alternative, Classical, Hip-Hop, Indie, Popular/Top Hits, Rock, and R&B/Soul. I will even from time to time listen to Blues, Jazz, Modern Electronic, Retro/Classics, and World.
Measurements - I measure headphone output dB with my decibel measure app that anyone can download, replicate and have an instant reference with what I use to test. Frequency spectrum measurements are seldom posted, as the manufacturer’s measurements are usually the best guidelines to go by. Why? They use them to tune their equipment, and the measurements are from their own specific parameters. I agree with Ken Ball from ALO’s overall statement/post when it comes to frequency response measurements (verbatim):
“…I thought it might be good to post some frequency response measurements first before we see a lot of variations posted by people. Without going into a long drawn out thesis / debate on measurements I just want to say that I have not seen any reviewers measurements that are accurate and it can be difficult to interpret a freq measurement. I don't use HRTF compensation curve on my measurements because I am familiar with the raw freq curve so when I see a curve I know what it sounds like and am comfortable with what I am seeing. So to state my measurement so I can be happy that this is the official freq I am posting it here now. I do not really want to get into any debates on what the freq means or read into it too much as a freq measurement is only a very small part of the over all picture of the product. I would MUCH rather listen to the IEM than read a freq.
In addition, I dont want to sound like I dont welcome people to also have fun and measure, but just want to say that taking a accurate measurement is tricky, also tricky to read into the measurement. I spent over $15,000 on on measurement system and it took me almost a year with professional help to calibrate and set it up 100%. So in doing so it is expensive and can be difficult to set up and calibrate. I know my set up is accurate because I send my IEMs to independent labs to double check everything.”
I also had the chance to talk with Dan Wiggins from perodic audio at various audio events and has been very enlightening to talk audio with him. Here are Mr. Wiggins’ thoughts on measurements (verbatim):
Wanted to toss my $0.02 into the mix...
For those that know who I am, then you know I have a bit of a reputation in the industry (good). For those that don't, I can guarantee you've heard my work if you've ever listened to live or recorded music. From recording microphones to studio monitors to PA systems to consumer systems, I've designed audio systems and transducers for pretty much all the big players - and done so many, many times (not to mention lots of headphones and IEMs along the way).
In my experience, measurement correlation between systems is hard to first establish and even more difficult to maintain. Datasets within a measurement system/location/team can be fairly consistent over time as long as the equipment is rigorously maintained, processes are slavishly followed, and the team cares greatly about consistency. Otherwise - all bets are off.
In production of audio systems, we use "golden samples" - we use a very small number of selected reference units that are deemed as "ideal". A day's production usually starts with the online production test systems measuring the golden sample, then tolerances are set accordingly to that measurement. All production must pass within the tolerance window, and the few (typically one or two a week) that essentially have no deviation from the golden sample are culled out and reserved as future, replacement "golden samples" (the tolerance can be discussed later, but suffice to say it is probably an order of magnitude larger than most HeadFi'ers would expect).
In other words, we use physical representations to calibrate against, rather than abstract numbers and concepts. It all comes down to how measurements can change from not just system to system or operator to operator but day to day. Temperature and humidity can affect measurements in significant manners. Environmental noise can - and definitely will! - corrupt measurements. Different mountings of DUTs (Device Under Test) by operators will affect measurements.
In essence, after installing literally hundreds (perhaps over a thousand) acoustic test systems, at dozens of factories in dozens of countries, I can confidently say that expecting consistency between two or more systems is a fool's errand. Won't happen.
Measurements are a great way to confirm you are getting what you expect, and to document where you are. And they are relevant within the same local world (equipment, team, environment). They can be used to guide design of product by a team, a team that is familiar and experienced with what measurement X really means in terms of what they are designing.
So with that, measurement correlation between different teams is never really expected, nor should it be. In fact, I start to get nervous if things line up too well! Great consistency tells me either the wrong settings are being used (we're not looking at a fine enough level of detail - we're oversmoothing/over-interpolating), or some fudging is going on to make things look closer than they really are.
All that said - don't expect measurements from one person to closely track that of another. Look at how products vary inside each measurement set, and assume the variances are at least relative - that is much more instructive. If one system is hot or cold in the treble, it will be consistently hot or cold, and you'll see that as you compare larger datasets between different systems. That is what we should pay attention to, rather than a few cherry-picked comparisons.”
Measurements are possibly valid to obtain a glimpse or gist of what we are hearing, but measurements are not the end all be all. Various manufacturers have told me privately that even though it may measure flat, it may not sound flat. Also, measurement devices do not equal our brain and cannot measure with absolute 100 percent certainty with regards to what we hear and feel. I listen with my ears, and write based on my interpretations of the music that is being presented to me.
A wise man once told me: "Music is the only thing that doesn't have war, pestilence, garbage, crap - music is so general, it's such a beautiful canopy of peace."
Listening to the Andromeda for the first time
I helped to exhibit at an AXPONA in Chicago, and I was able to listen to the Andromeda for the first time. It was such an invigorating experience, as listening to the Andromeda was such euphoria, especially when compared to other IEMs I have listened to around that time frame (including other CA IEMs as well).
Campfire Audio's banner at AXPONA
Downtown Chicago - near Headquarters Beercade...
...here's one of my favorite games at Headquarters Beercade
Passed the old-school Street Fighter game with Ryu
When I first received the Andromeda, I immediately posted my thoughts on the main Andromeda thread: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/cam...dromeda-and-nova.805107/page-51#post-12572191 -- Needless to say, I was one happy music lover.
Color choosing process
If you purchase directly from Campfire Audio, you are going to get emerald green colored shells, but if you purchase from a distributor from certain areas of the world, you can get yourself different colored shells such as white, and even gold or silver chrome if you are able to find them. The green is a color that I am happy Campfire Audio went with. More about that a little later.
Packaging and accessories
When you take a look at the initial packaging, you’ll see a minimalistic design, which aids in producing a smaller carbon footprint as a result. I love the idea behind it, actually. You’ll receive a small box, slightly larger than the dark leather case that is inside of it. Open up the initial cardboard case, and you’ll see “Nicely Done.” along the upper flap. Nice touch! Inside of the case, you’ll see:
Campfire Audio Andromeda
Campfire Audio Litz Cable 3.5mm
Silicone Tips (S, M, L)
Foam Tips (S, M, L)
Foam Tips with wax guard (S, M, L)
Campfire Audio lapel pin
I really like the lapel pin, especially - something as small and different from the norm of what is included with IEMs shows that Campfire wants to be unique, and that is emphatically welcomed.
Build and aesthetics
Paired with the QP1R
With the UEPRR
SpinFit eartips compared to the stock eartips (the Penon Audio eartips are slightly longer than the SpinFit eartips
From left, moving clockwise: Legend Omega, UEPRR, SE846, Andromeda
Serious UEPRR shine
SE846 and SCS with Andromeda
Legend Omega with Andromeda - three different focal points
Silicone eartips with acrylic housing
The first thing that you see with the housing is how unique it is and how much effort was put into making them. The Andromeda is locally produced in small batches, the aluminum housing is said to improve the sonic performance of the earphone by “reducing vibrations that introduce distortion.” The Andromeda takes hours to build its shell, and is quality in your hand and a sight to behold. The green is an anodized finish. Before the finish, the aluminum shells are blasted with a Zirconium material to create a smooth finish. The blast also prepares the surface of the shells to hold the color from the anodization. As a result, the green color will stay a looker for the duration of the earphone's life. The housing is so iconic that the design has been copied -- the manufacturer(s) that have done so won’t be noted as an upstanding company, in my opinion. Campfire Audio put the work in to create a housing shape, and to have another “company” copy the design and sell it as their own is simply not cool, no matter if the “company” simply wants to make a buck off of Campfire Audio’s success. I stand behind these words.
The Andromeda’s MMCX connectors utilize custom Beryllium Copper, which eradicates the traditional shortcomings of most MMCX connections. Since the connectors extend the life of the earphone, upgrading the cable will be worry-free because the mating pins of the earphone won't wear out. You can also spin the earphone all of the way around without signal cutout, as well.
The cable that Andromeda uses is my current favorite stock cable that I have used or own. It is Campfire Audio/ALO’s own Litz cable, made out of Silver Plated Copper. Soft, supple, and with the right amount of shine, with zero oxidation, as I have had this cable for over a year now. The 2.5mm Balanced cable is just as awesome, aiding in even more of a blissful sound signature paired with the Questyle Audio QP2R. The memory wire is thin, but sturdy, and helps position the earphone housing in my ear better. The Y-connect is nice and minimalist, as the silver Y-connect is right below a very thin clear plastic slider, helping to create a tighter fit, if needed. The cable itself is braided in such a way if the cable is twisted, the cable does not lose its braid or shape. The L-shaped plug is clear, giving you a “clear” look inside of the termination. The “CA” on top of the L-shaped plug, coupled with the slimness of the horizontal area of the plug, leads to touches that are much appreciated. There are no microphonics that I can detect, and the tight braiding leads to a more uniform look. This is one of the best looking and performing cables that I own.
The leather case is very nice and reminds me of a bespoke piece of clothing, as it's part of a dress suit, or a nicely dressed DAP that's outfitted with a leather case, as well. Supple on the outside, very soft on with inside with its lining, and is a joy to use as my Andromeda case.
Andromeda, with Ramen and other yummy food and soft drinks
There is more weight of these earphones compared to acrylic or some titanium earphones, but the weight shouldn’t be an issue, especially when using a cable that uses robust memory wires so fitting the Andromeda in your ears will be easier. With that said...
Fit and comfort, with Snugs Only and universal eartips
My fit with silicone eartips
This is the one elephant in the room, in my opinion. For some people, fit will not be a concern at all. The uniquely shaped housing leads to possible issues with the fit, as there are rather sharp angles to the housing. This has been addressed in newer versions of the Andromeda, where an extra angle was crafted, so earphone fit could be a bit better. The overall fit of the Andromeda was one area that I have been working on for over a year. Most earphones; if fit isn’t that great, I’ll move on to another earphone. However, the sound of the Andromeda is so amazing to my ears, I wanted the best fit that I could possibly muster. This has not been limited to only trying out different universal eartips. No -- I have enlisted the help of Snugs. I first talked to Mr. Jobin about the company, and wound up a very happy person, knowing that they really care about the customer. I got 3D scanned with their 3D scanner, and my “virtual impressions” were sent immediately to the Snugs lab’s server. I was the first in the world to give my Andromeda to Snugs so they could create a template for creating custom Andromeda Snugs Tips.
My first foray into the custom Andromeda eartips began with Snug’s “Only” custom eartips. The design is very nice, with green and orange/red custom eartips colors, both with lots of glitter, because, you know, I like bling! The ear canals were curved, but somehow seemed a bit too shallow, since it was only the ear canal portion of the eartips that were created. The tips slipped on without much issue, but I was always worried that I would lose a custom eartip. One side fit my ear okay - and the other side didn’t fit as good - I had to work both tips for a while to find the right position for the best fit. The main issue was that there wasn’t a concha area of silicone created, so that meant I only had the actual ear canal to try to obtain a fit - much more difficult than simply having a “concha guide” to obtain as perfect a fit as possible. Not only that, the sound was unfortunately not similar to the Andromeda with universal silicone eartips.
CanJam London was where I first met the Snugs team, and was 3D scanned
Passing Big Ben on the way to...
...Park Plaza Westminster Bridge - site of CanJam London
The first version of Snugs Only for the Andromeda
Part 2 of the custom eartip adventure started at this year’s CanJam London - I wanted to talk to Mr. Jobin about the Andromeda Snugs Only in person, even though we have conversed back and forth during the year via email. Mr. Jobin pulls out a small container, showing his new Andromeda custom eartip design! I could see that this design is shorter in overall length than my original Snugs Only, but is wider in width to fill out the ear canal more sufficiently with its custom-created silicone. Many thanks to Mr. Jobin for creating the second version for me. When I received it, I noticed the addition of a very thin eartip guide, to help me remove the eartips if I needed. I never need to use the eartip guides.
The second version of Snugs Only for the Andromeda
The design is slightly thicker than the original Snugs Only, and the blue denoting the left side with red denoting the right side made it not only easier to denote each eartip side, but made denoting the earphones easier as a result. Both colors and design as a whole looks very quality-made.
When fitting the second version Snugs Only into my ears, I made sure the dots were facing up, and using the dots as a guide and rotating the custom eartips slightly helped me obtain a better overall fit than the first Snugs Only.
The sound did change compared to my favorite universal eartips. I would say the original Snugs Only warmed the sound a bit, with a bit less treble and overall stage presence, and the 2nd version Snugs Only warmed the sound a bit more, with about the same stage presence as the original, mostly due to the increased seal and isolation that I experienced. Concerning compared perceived frequency response differences, the change in sound of the Andromeda’s universal silicone eartips compared to the 1st and 2nd version Snugs Only is more drastic than the sound difference between the SE846’s universal silicone eartips compared to the SCS.
It was mentioned to me that creating a concha area would make the tips too bulbous, and I understand that. I almost want there to be full shell Andromeda pair of custom sleeve, regardless of there being a chance of the sleeves being a bit bulbous. If you are getting custom tips, why not just go the full route of making it as custom as possible? The custom sleeves are the route to true fit, seal and isolation of sound in my experience.
The Snugs Only custom eartips are worth a try if you do not have any universal eartips that work out for you, and you adore the sound of your Andromeda. I personally like the sound of my universal silicone eartips more than the Snugs, but that can be due to reasons such as the source that I am using, and also my sound preferences. I am used to the sound of the Andromeda with universal eartips, and most anything else may not the best sound for my ears - but that doesn't mean the Snugs Only wouldn't be absolutely awesome for you. I did wind up finding universal eartips that gave me a good fit with an excellent seal with isolation.
The eartips that I use that I have found to fit me the best, are the Penon Audio Gray/Red eartips. Usually I use medium eartips with my other earphones, but specifically for the Andromeda, I found out that the Large size of the Penon eartips work out the best for me.
Easy C/IEM side detection
You can tell each side of the earphone a few ways:
There will be a “L” and “R” on the inside housings themselves to denote left and right earphone.
The stock Litz cable will have a blue dot at the connector to denote the left side, and a red dot at the connector to denote the right side.
My favorite way to detect each side -- this works for most earphones - not all, but most: look at the earphone facing you. If the connector is pointing/facing the left, then the earphone is the left side. If the connector is pointing/facing the right, then the earphone is the right side.
Disclaimer and hearing factors
The Andromeda’s sound impressions are mainly for anyone wanting a point of reference regarding how they more or less pair with the iPhone 6, QP1R, QP2R and Surface Book. Other sources may vary slightly or greatly as the Andromeda sounds different enough with these three sources to warrant mentioning. The Andromeda will have a warmer and pronounced effect in the overall bass region when pairing with the iPhone 6. The Andromeda will have a supremely detailed with slight treble and bass with extended detail when paired with the QP1R. The Andromeda will further the detail with increased soundstage and abyss-like background when it is paired with the QP2R, especially utilizing the Balanced Litz cable and connection. The Andromeda will have a more balanced and natural sounding approach to its presentation when paired with the Surface Book. For reference, the Andromeda is a very sensitive and is very easy to drive, as a smartphone such as the iPhone does not take full volume for the Andromeda to emit levels that can damage hearing quickly. 9 out of 16 volume is when the Andromeda starts to sound very loud to my ears.
We all hear differently, and our experiences with regards to how our interpretation of what we hear vary greatly. Some factors that come to mind (and not limited), are:
Your inner ear and skull’s overall composition: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart...kull-affect-how-you-hear-music-654940/?no-ist.
Hearing loss as we age, also known as presbycusis: https://www.ohio.edu/news/months/nov1998/111.html,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presbycusis.
Heredity, noise trauma, dietary habits, smoking, hypertension, atherosclerosis, are other factors that affect people’s overall hearing ability.
Analyze this and that
The test tracks that I use in my reviews are located in these albums (album alphabetical order)
1989 (Deluxe Edition) by Taylor Swift (FLAC 44.1kHz/16bit)
21 by Adele (FLAC 44.1kHz/16bit)
Bad (2001 Special Edition) by Michael Jackson (FLAC 44.1kHz/16bit)
Bangerz by Miley Cyrus (MP3 320kbps/44.1kHz/16bit)
Beyoncé by Beyoncé (FLAC 44.1kHz/16bit)
good kid, m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar (FLAC 44.1kHz/16bit)
Heart Blanche by Ceelo Green (MP3 320kbps/44.1kHz/16bit)
Hybrid Theory by Linkin Park (FLAC 48.0kHz/24bit)
Make Yourself by Incubus (MP3 320kbps/44.1kHz/16bit)
No. 5 Collaborations Project (EP) by Ed Sheeran (MP3 320kbps/44.1kHz/16bit)
One by One by Foo Fighters (FLAC 88.2kHz/24bit)
Random Access Memories by Daft Punk (FLAC 88.2kHz/24bit)
Schubert – Berliner Philharmoniker by Nikolaus Harnoncourt (FLAC 48.0kHz/24bit)
The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd (FLAC 44.1kHz/16bit)
Thriller by Michael Jackson (DSD 2822.4kHz/1bit)
X (Wembley Edition) by Ed Sheeran (FLAC 44.1kHz/16bit)
Several standalone tracks (track alphabetical order)
Dock of the Bay by The Persuations – A Cappella Dreams (WAV 44.1kHz/16bit)
M.O.R. by Blur – Blur 21, Blur (2012 Remaster – Special Edition) (MP3 320kbps 44.1kHz/16bit)
Schubert String Quartet No. 14 in D minor D. 810, Death and the Maiden: III. Scherzo. Allegro molto by Oslo String Quartet – The Schubert Connection (DSD 2822.4kHz/1bit)
Serenade (Spanish Dance), Op. 54, No. 2 by Jano Starker and David Popper – Wilson Audio Ultimate Reference (APE 44.1kHz/16bit)
The Peppery Man by Natalie Merchant – Leave Your Sleep (WAV 44.1kHz/16bit)
These Bones by The Fairfield Four – I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray (WAV 44.1kHz/16bit)
If I am listening to a product that is not able to be listened with the highest resolution tracks that I have mentioned, I will listen to the TIDAL versions (FLAC).
Are Your Earphones Correctly Inserted?
The frequency response across the full audio spectrum should be smooth, and the bass response should be fully present - that is, if you have a "full, tight seal". If you have any doubts regarding hearing both earphones equally (assuming you don't have a hearing tested significant FR imbalance), you can self-administer the "Audio Seal" test - it's to help determine if your earphones (Universals/CIEMs) are correctly inserted. The webpage comes with downloadable and streamable audio files in .mp3 or .wav format. The test is great to find out if you have a correct insertion and proper fit, and can reveal other issues other than an incomplete and/or poor seal. From the webpage: "The test consists of two brief audio tracks. Both include two sine waves, one at 50 Hz and the other at 500 Hz, played at the same volume. On one track, the two tones are played together. On the other track, the tones alternate in 2-second intervals."
Here's the link from Sensaphonics: www.sensaphonics.com/test
The Andromeda is simply one of my favorite sounding in-ear monitors, regardless of internal or external technologies implemented. The Andromeda is supremely resolute, immensely detailed, and just an ongoing joy to listen to music - paired with my favorite sources. I would like to call the Andromeda “Holographically vibrant”. This earphone, when using silicone tips, will have an emphasis in the upper midrange, with a bit of bass presence.
The 3D soundstage is so blissful, that you can almost smell the concert you are listening to, making it as close to 4D as possible. Width, and the quality of that width is astounding.
Bass is plentiful but is never in basshead territory. The midrange is vibrant, especially in the upper areas. Full of air and has a sound of aural angels, of sorts, the Andromeda emits from its green housing of angelicness. The treble is full of vigor, always ready to pounce with love, at a moment’s notice.
Imaging, sublime. Detail, it's got loads of that. The swag factor of knowing you have an amazing sounding earphone with knock-out looks as well? Priceless.
Here's my friend @Netforce (Alan’s) thoughts on the Andromeda: “Nice clean clear sound, with slight warmth, good soundstage, better than most IEMs. The Andromeda sounds natural - very tight, impactful bass, extended mids, nice full treble -nice and extended. I didn't hear any specific peaks personally.”
I have taken the Andromeda to meets and events all around the world this past year, and everyone has adored the earphone except for two. That may not seem like very good numbers, but check this out: most headphones and earphones that people listen to, I will be happy if 50% of them like the ones they listen to. For only two to not love the earphone is amazing - that equates to more than a 98% rate of people really liking the sound of the Andromeda. From audiophiles to stock phone earphone-touting listeners, they all seem to reach a similar consensus: the Andromeda sounds darn good - with lots of people saying “wow” once they listen to the earphone.
The selected comparisons to the Andromeda, below, are with earphones that are and are not around the price range of the Andromeda. If you’d like a comparison of an earphone that is not mentioned in the review or is not located in my profile, feel free to message me and send me anything you’d like that can then be added to the review. Without further ado…
Campfire Audio Vega
The Vega - at this year's inaugural LA Audio Show
The Vega - at home for extensive listening
I was able to listen my Head-Fier friend's Vega for over a month at the comfort of my home, and was able to hear the goodness of the Vega and also compare it to the Andromeda.
The Vega has a better fit to my ears than the Andromeda, because of the slimmer profile that has a small circular shape to its housing. I can see where some people may need to use a different pair of eartips than the Andromeda, since both housings are vastly different in size and shape. I used the medium stock silicone eartips with the Vega, and I do not have any fit issues.
The main differences in sound signature are that the bass of the Vega is more emphasized compared to the Andromeda, and the upper midrange and treble of the Andromeda is more emphasized than that of the Vega. The Andromeda is a more vibrant-sounding earphone than the Vega, as the treble extends further to my ears. The Vega has a more dynamic and bassy signature, especially in the sub and mid-level bass areas. Midbass quality is similar between the two earphones, but the quantity is observed more with the Vega. The midrange of the Vega is smoother and warmer than that of the Andromeda, but the Andromeda's midrange is more breathy and transparent. The treble is where the Andromeda shines, as it is more extended, crisp, and articulate, than that of the Vega. The bass area is where the Vegas shines, as it is more full, rich, and punchy than that of the Andromeda. Space, and the interpretation of that space, favors the Andromeda, as it has one of the most enthralling, all-encompassing soundstages that I've listened to in a portable product. This includes in-ears and headphones.
The Andromeda would be my favored of the two, mainly because the sound of the Andromeda has not be duplicated in an earphone, and there is not an in-ear that I've listened to that sounds very near the sound of the Andromeda. The Vega has a sound that is very good and emits a sound that a lot of people will enjoy, and the Andromeda has a sound signature that is truly unique, yet captivating at the same time.
Jerry Harvey Audio Layla
The Layla will have a universal fit that may be too big for listeners to handle, because of all of the internal components the Layla is comprised of. Fit may be more difficult compared to the Andromeda as a result. However, the Layla feels very good if you go for the custom version, since it's a just about perfect representation of your individual ear anatomy.
The bass of the Andromeda is similar to around 2 o’clock of the Layla’s bass knob with regards to quantity. The Andromeda’s bass has more quickness, with less decay than the Layla’s. The Layla’s midrange is more natural in sound, but the Andromeda’s is more vibrant, with urgency and zest. The Andromeda’s treble extends further to my ears, but the Layla’s is more reference in sound. Soundstage favors both of these fine earphones, as both extends as far, or farther, than some to most traditional headphones in the market. Detail is more pinpoint with the Andromeda, but more natural and reference with the Layla.
Both are truly world-class in-ears.
The fit of the SE846 can rival that of the Andromeda, as both may need different types of tips to check out before finding one set that feels the best to your ears. However, the SE846 can be fitted with Sensaphonics Custom Sleeves (SCS), that turns the SE846 into a silicone custom in-ear. In my experience, the SCS is very comfortable, and is great for working out as well. The Andromeda with the Penon Audio eartips offers a good seal, with very good isolation.
The bass of the SE846 is tough to be reckoned with for a 4 BA driver earphone, as it has as much quality with a bit of quantity as any earphone in the market. Smooth, controlled and just the right about of visceralness. The Andromeda’s bass isn’t as ambidextrous, but it is quite vivacious and consistent, which should be enough for lovers of bass. The midrange is more warm and viscous than the Andromeda, and the Andromeda’s midrange is a bit more vibrant, especially in the upper midrange, compared to the SE846’s. Higher registers favor the Andromeda, which extends further than the SE846’s treble, and can also help in perceiving more of a dynamic sound from the Andromeda as well. Detail favors the Andromeda. Smoothness and ported-nature of the lower midrange and bass favors the SE846.
Ultimate Ears Pro Reference Remastered
The custom version of the UEPRR is very good. You can use traditional impressions, or go with UE’s 3D scans, to help create as perfect as a fit, as possible. The custom fit of the UEPRR will more than likely feel better in the ear than the universal shells of the Andromeda, especially with the abrupt angles of its housing, as well.
The UEPRR has more of a balanced sound than the Andromeda. Meaning, all areas of the UEPRR don’t stand out compared to the Andromeda - as I feel the upper midrange of the Andromeda stands out, with more pep, than the UEPRR. Bass is a bit less pronounced than the Andromeda, and quality favors both, with the Andromeda having a bit more perkiness. Midrange is more reference and balanced in nature than the Andromeda, but is not nearly as vibrant as the Andromeda’s midrange, especially in the upper midrange. The treble of the Andromeda extends further to my ears compared to the UEPRR, and has more sparkle, sheen, and shine. The Andromeda, as a result, may seem a bit bright listening back-to-back with a more laid-back, reference sound, such as that of the UEPRR.
Cultivate a fresh sound™
What does this mean? Too often we focus on only the music we are accustomed to. I am usually this way as well. Here’s an opportunity to listen to something you either may not normally listen to, or haven’t heard of. As I publish reviews in the future, I will have new and older tracks from various genres that I’ve listened to in this section, and will be largely based on what songs really moved me in particular to the reviewed product I’ve listened to on it. Even though the tracks will be linked to YouTube videos or audio-only versions, the tracks will either be listened solely from the iPhone 6 and TIDAL HiFi - Lossless, or from my Microsoft Surface Book and TIDAL HiFi - Lossless. Instead of describing each track in immense detail, you can simply listen for yourself and bask in the beautiful music you may have just found for the first time right now! What’s also great is that you can come back here just to listen to the tracks mentioned! If you have any personal issues with any tracks posted, please PM me and I'll replace it with another track. It's all about positivity in our musical journey. With those kind words of encouragement, here we go…
Evolution of K-Pop by sleightlymusical
Mama ft. William Singe by Jonas Blue
Cry To Me (Official Music Video) by Skip Marley
If I'm Lucky (Official Lyric Video) by Jason Derulo
Is the Andromeda right for you?
I would say so. At least give the Andromeda a listen. Out of all of the people who listened to mine -- to have only two not enjoy the sound is absolutely remarkable - that’s over a 98% success rate, in my experience. What’s great is that if the Andromeda doesn’t sound the best to your ears, you can also check out Campfire Audio's other IEMs that sound amazing, like the Dorado and Vega - those may be better to your liking.
The design of the Andromeda has been copied, however, the sound of the Andromeda may never be copied, which is a testament to how special and thoroughly invigorating the sound of the Andromeda is to me, as well as others who have listened to the vibrant bliss that is of the green borealis.
Worth the price of admission for true, aural glory.
Five Balanced Armature Drivers
Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber™ (TAEC)
Machined aluminum enclosure made in Oregon
Anodized finish with Zirconium blast surface treatment
Premium Litz Wire cable; Silver-plated-Copper conductors
Designed and hand built in Portland, Oregon USA.
Typically ships in about 7 business days
Pros - great storing case, cable, foams and SpinFit eartips
perfect workmanship, unique looks
universal sound signature that don’t demands particular synergy, but is sensitive to audio-source’s quality
natural, vivid, hi-res and balanced sound with great bass and midrange plus extended highs
Cons - no 2.5mm cable included
average single-flange eartips
demand a clean signal sound source
angular shells can cause some ergonomy-related problems
Below is the English version of Maciej Sas's review that is available at http://zakupek.pl/test/sluchawki/recenzja-campfire-audio-andromeda/
Campfire Audio Andromeda is an IEM equipped with 5 Balanced Armature driver. Does it really offer great soundstage, deep and even bass, extended highs? Is it worth its 1100 USD price tag?
We’ve already tested some Campfire Audio’s IEMs, which is a sister company of ALO Audio. Andromeda is one step up from Jupiter and it’s the highest model among IEMs using a Balanced Armature driver. Andromeda looks very similar to Jupiter – their housing is also made using machining technique with 3D-printed chambers, which are supposed to haul trebles and expand the soundstage.
Accessory set is similar to those added to older version of Campfire Audio’s Jupiter, but in case of Andromeda, the tips variety is a bit different. The packaging is as always impressive with unusual graphics, yet a simple design.
Case is typical for the American company. It is hard and made of leather. Its interior is lined with a imitation of... sheepskin coat. Andromeda’s case is darker than the one added to Jupiter.
There are no Comply foams in the included set, but their substitutes also do the job. SpinFit tips are very intriguing as their tangs are partially movable. Typical single-flange tips are very ordinary, just like tips that can be found in many cheap IEMs. It’s also a pity that the balanced cable is lacking.
Campfire Audio boasts about their production methods. The earphones are hand-made in the US and the whole procedure is complicated and long-lasting. Andromeda uses the same shell shape as lower models – it is CNCed aluminum covered with zirconium and anodised. Housing color is green, which significantly differs Andromedas from its younger brothers. Inside, there are 3D-printed chambers called TAEC, which stands for Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber.
The form of the IEMs is special. The shells are highly angular, V-shaped, several times cut at the edges, with grooves in the upper part, screwed with clearly visible Tri-Point screws. The inner part shows additional bulges where large channel indicators are embossed. Anromedas use MMCX sockets and are worn Over the Ear.
Cables are ALO Audio’s speciality. Andromedas use Litz Cable, which is braided (Litz geometry) and silver-plated. Splitter is made of metal and with the additional slider added. The 3.5mm jack plug’s housing is quite bulky. MMCX sockets are made of copper and beryllium, which shall expand their life-span.
Build quality is awesome and color scheme unique. Andromeda is without doubt an unordinary product and the Portland-based company cares about details and uses high-quality materials.
Angular shells might cause some ergonomic issues. Earphones in focus might require some adaptation, certain method of inserting and shuffling the ear tips. For me, tear-shaped IEMs produced by Noble or Shure are more comfortable, but Campfire Audio is not bad either.
At first, shells pressed and irritated my ears during prolonged listening sessions. It turned out that I need to change their angle, move them a bit more clockwise. Owners of bigger ears, however, should not experience any problems.
Cable arranges perfectly and the ear hooks are flexible and one can easily give them a desired shape. Microphonics is not a big issue. The 3.5 mm plug is rather big, but it should work fine with all the additional cases for DAPs or smartphones.
In my opinion, the included foams are better than Comply. They are made of more durable, thicker and less porous material. The foams don’t expand too quick, so one can insert earphones without rush. Isolation is good and the sound doesn’t change as much as with Complies.
SpinFit tips are also interesting. Their movable flange easily fills the ear canal, so inserting the IEMs goes quickly. In case of SpinFit, isolation is, however worse than in case of either single-flange or foam tips.
5 Balanced Armature drivers
Frequency range: 10Hz – 28 kHz
Sensitivity: 115 dB SPL/mW
Impedance: 12.8 Ohms @ 1kHz
IEMs: Campfire Audio Jupiter, Noble Audio Savant i Noble 4, Etymotic ER-4PT, RHA CL750, Brainwavz B200, FiiO F5
AMPs and DAC+AMPs: Burson Conductor Virtuoso (Sabre), RHA DACAMP L1, AIM SC808, ODAC i O2, Leckerton UHA-760, Zorloo ZuperDAC
DAPs: iBasso DX200, FiiO X5 III, iBasso DX90, Cayin N3
Interconnects: Forza AudioWorks Copper Series, Klotz
Music: many genres, various realisations including 24-bit and binaural tracks
In the past, I didn’t like Jupiter much, while I enjoyed Andromedas instantly – they got all that the lower model lacks. The overall characteristics of Andromeda is balanced, but not very analytical. They should be placed somewhere between being musical and analytical as they provide plenty of details, don’t reduce the midrange, but remain mild and easy to listen. The sound signature is quite flat and hi-res, without lab harshness and cold. In addition to that, there’s quite big and three-dimensional soundstage.
Lows are great! Bass is full and deep, can be precise or hard or massive and soft. It’s dense and plastic, has thick character, but it also doesn’t lack speed or dynamics. Mid-bass is a bit accented, which adds a bit of warmth and makes the sound neutral. Sub-bass rumble is also sensational and, what’s important, there are no gaps in the upper bass. Low quantity is optimal – the music is well-ballasted. Bass passes lots of details in a non-blatant way. Instrument’s texture is highly diversified, which highlights different bass-guitar playing techniques. Andromedas work well with different genres, including some really heavy music.
Midrange is realised via just one BA driver, yet this range is on par with the rest. Mid tones are natural, near and clear. It’s not cold, sharp or analytically raw. One can hear some hardness, but without roughness or hiss. Midrange presentation is not as close and intimate as in Etymotics or Shures, but it’s neither as distant as in Westone’s or Earsonics’ IEMs. The same applies to details – guitar, brass or keyboard instruments are very natural and detailed, but at the same time they sound musical and engaging. Andromedas shine in jazz, but also perform well in electronic music. They can sound either digital or ‘dirty’, archaic.
I was expecting high tones to be much more exaggerated, while trebles are served in a well-controlled way and their quantity is proportional to the bass. Andromedas are not bright or cold and high tones are not prioritised. Their quantity is optimal and people enjoying strong trebles might take Andromeda’s sound as softened. At first, I also lacked a bit stronger highs, but I quickly appreciated the non-harsh, universal and hi-res tuning.
Soundstage is of high-standard. The space-size is OK for in-ears, but not exceptional. What is unparalleled is holographics – instruments are big and plastic, positioned in a three-dimensional environment. Depth and width are also great and the perpendicular is also above average. Andromedas seem to sound from outside one’s head, surrounding the user with all the tones. Separation is perfect, but sound is not very airy, the distance between the instruments aren’t very vast.
Andromedas vs audio-sources
The IEMs are not very sensitive regarding source’s signature, but it’s better to avoid dark-sounding gear. Andromedas do respond to source’s quality, especially to the clearness of the signal. The earphones in focus are low-impedance and high-sensitivity, so the hissing is highly audible (which, however, disqualified just a few pairings).
Highest hiss-levels could be observed in case of Cayin N3 or FiiO X5 III. DX200 hissed a bit less, but still at noticeable levels. DX90 sounds clearer than the current iBasso’s flagship device.
In terms of sound quality, DX200 worked best, with great soundstage and dynamics and loaded down bass. FiiO X5 III also performed well. It sounded balanced and soft, pretty detailed, yet DX90 offered even better sound.
Leckerton UHA760 served the clearest signal (especially with the minus gain), either as a mobile amp or DAC+AMP. It reduced the hiss and alone paired well with the Andromedas. UHA760 also cooperated well with DX200 and X5 III. UHA760+X5 combo worked better than the UHA760+DX90 duo.
Andromeda vs Jupiter vs other IEMs
Andromedas further develop the sound of Jupiter, especially at the edges. They offer more direct and brighter signature, which results in improved soundstage, separation and resolution. Andromedas are one level up than Jupiter and a logical step forward. Both IEMs share the same core: natural sounding with great midrange and holographics. Andromedas tuning is even more balanced, more universal and more complete, while Jupiters don’t demand as pure signal Andromedas and the hissing is not as strong too.
Noble Audio Savant use ‘just’ 2 drivers, but it performs quite well in comparison with Andromedas. Savants are a bit brighter, with flatter bass. Midrange is a bit reduced and trebles are of lower resolution and not as well-controlled. Noble Audio’s IEMs, on the other hand, offer wider and more airy sound due to lack of bass. Another Noble’s product called ‘4’ show similar near midrange, but resolution, soundstage and treble control are all not on par. Highs can be harsh at time and the bass is much flatter.
Etymotic ER-4S, when compared to Andromedas, are just a pair of flat studio monitors. They are brighter, with worse holographics and imaging. Etymotics, on the other hand, sound more direct and unforgiving. Tuning of Andromeda is more musical and more universal with richer midrange and fuller bass.
RHA CL750 are brighter and thinner in bass and mids. RHA’s are colder, sharper and sound artificially. Andromedas offer more lush mids, deep bass and soft, non-fatiguing highs. Those two pairs are like night and day.
Campfire Audio Andromeda is a marvellous pair of IEMs! I felt anxious for them as in the past Jupiters disappointed me a bit. On the contrary, Andromedas engrossed me with their gorgeous bass, unique midrange, hi-res trebles and great holographics. Their sound is complete and universal, with plenty of details which don’t limit the musicality.
There are some flaws, though. Angular shape can irritate some users and the sound can at times be too hard and too thick in bass or midrange. Andromedas should be rated somewhere between being technical and musical. It’s not the best choice for those seeking for very analytical and bright tuning. It’s also a pity that the 2.5mm balanced cable is not included.
+ great storing case, cable, foams and SpinFit eartips
+ perfect workmanship, unique looks
+ good isolation
+ universal sound signature that don’t demands particular synergy, but is sensitive to audio-source’s quality
+ natural, vivid, hi-res and balanced sound with great bass and midrange plus extended highs
- no 2.5mm cable included
- average single-flange eartips
- demand a clean signal sound source
- angular shells can cause some ergonomy-related problems
Pros - Excellent Sound, Comprehensive Package, Great Build
Cons - Large Housing, Bass Response Too Polite For Some, Vega's Timbre
Campfire Audio Andromeda And Vega
An Impressive Binary Sunset
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A LONG ABSENCE
Apart from getting 20 yards away from a bear, accidentally descending down a snow-packed couloir (via a controlled* 50-foot slide) at Denali NP, and driving on a seriously questionable road somewhere above the Arctic Circle, I’ve been fine. Mostly. Yes, I’ve been in Alaska for a month, putting myself in precarious situations and generally relying on "hold my beer" logic to survive; I almost qualified for several Darwin Awards as a result. Naturally, I was absent, for the most part, from the audio world. But I've returned, and in fairly good time. The number of reviews I’ve built up is certainly not insignificant, and it seems that a lot has happened since I was last in the Lower 48. Those who have been keeping up with the Sony MDR-Z1R thread will know. But that’s old news, and this certainly isn’t the Donna Reed show – so let’s get going.
*To the extent that sliding through waist-deep snow is "controllable".
My interest in Campfire Audio actually began a while ago at the first Canjam Singapore after a fellow audio enthusiast insisted that I audition his Jupiter. It sounded good, but lacked that je ne sais quoi that would have otherwise made me leap. Needless to say, I was interested in Campfire Audio’s various developments, and I wrote to them regarding covering their lineup. Well, a year later, I’m privileged to have finally gotten the chance to cover Campfire Audio’s flagship models. The good folks at CA are busy, and rightfully so, because they are certainly producing excellent earphones. But wait! One of the flagships is a dynamic too. EX1000 fans may now take a moment to briefly reminisce about the days of old.
For those of who are still (somehow) in the dark about Campfire Audio, here’s a quick primer. Based out of Oregon, Campfire Audio was actually a project conceived by the good folks at ALO Audio. Ken Ball and team have clearly set their goal on producing high quality UIEMs capable of competing with the best, all while introducing new driver materials and featuring a rather unique design philosophy. It’s an approach that stands in stark contrast with the increasingly astounding (and pricey) contenders of the ongoing driver count race. Nicely done, I must say. Interestingly, Campfire Audio’s product offerings are split into two lineups. One is comprised primarily of BA driver earphones, while the other features more varied dynamic/ hybrid offerings. I think it is fairly safe to conclude that the latter mixes sound signatures up a bit, but I’ll discuss that more when I compare the Vega and Andromeda.
A little while back, I mentioned the importance of flow in my reviews. This long trip certainly has given me more than a couple of ideas for future pieces and the fresh makeover of Head-Fi is good reason to do some spring cleaning. Prepare yourself as I attempt to break up an otherwise rigid review format and go on hopefully entertaining tangents. And watch as none of this comes to fruition (50% chance, give or take, especially if it’s a Monday). I’ll also be introducing my measurement rig in this review. I’ve been working on it for a while and I do have decent confidence in its capabilities as of now. It’s a rather big section, and for those who are not interested please do feel free to skip it. It is an interesting recap of the process and hopefully articulate enough to be helpful.
The Campfire Audio Andromeda and Vega were provided directly by the CA team for the purposes of this review. I am neither a paid affiliate nor an employee of Campfire Audio. As always, I do reserve the rights to the media in this review, so if you would like to use the photography/ videos please do drop me a line (at the very least please provide an appropriate attribution). I dislike watermarks on photos and would rather not use them. It’s been a blast putting these two earphones through their paces. It’s also been a great time for me to push forth on my measurements of IEMs (my expedition in headphones having temporarily reached a “satisfactory” point, as I await further findings). Once again, a big thanks to Campfire Audio for this opportunity and I hope you enjoy reading this review as much as I did writing it.
Editorial Note 1: Have posted a thread as well as a "review"- still don't fully understand the new showcase system yet and text formatting system, so I'm sticking to the tried and true thread post.
Editorial Note 2: Some of these photos had to be posted lower-res than I had initially wanted due to the fact that I can't seem to locate the "resize" function in the new editor. Thus, manually resized in Photoshop. If there's a workaround, please let me know immediately.
Packaging And Accessories
Quality! These are excellent products to unbox. The packaging is both functional and sensible, leaving little in terms of material waste. Arriving in a star-studded (literally) cardboard box and sealed in with plastic wrap, the Campfire Audio IEMs are nestled inside a leather carrying case. The interior lining is definitely a nice thought, and the case shuts compactly enough to the point where the earpieces will not be sliding and scratching each other. As added protection, the Vega features two earpiece pouches. Strangely, this is not present on the Andromeda (and it should be). Apart from that, the general package is fairly comprehensive and complete. A full list of items is provided in the description below the photo.
Package is fairly complete, featuring 1) Carrying Case 2) 2 x Earpiece Pouches (Vega Only) 3) IEM Cleaning Tool 4) Campfire Audio Logo Pin 5) 3 Pairs Comply 6) 3 Pairs Spinfit 7) 3 Pairs Silicone Stock 8) Earphones 9) Literature 10) Warranty Card
Build Quality And Design
The build quality on the Campfire products is quite commendable. It is certainly a highlight that must be mentioned. The Andromeda is made in the USA, and features a machined aluminum body with an anodized finish (Zirconium blast treatment). Some have asked if the earphone is really as green as it looks in the photos - the answer is yes. However, the carefully milled facets of the housing lend a very nice colored gradient to the earphone that changes with various lighting conditions. I suppose I know this because I spent too much time on the photography in this review. Other key design features include the 5-balanced armature drivers (2 low, 1 mid, 2 high) and a proprietary "tuned acoustic expansion chamber".
The Vega is comprised of parts from Taiwan and made in China. That said, the earphone's build is still high quality. It features a liquid alloy metal housing with a PVD (physical vapor deposition) finish. It's a type of finish achieved by evaporating a solid/liquid into gaseous form and depositing it back onto the target surface as a thinly applied coating. The nozzle is plastic, and there is indeed a faint injection mold line on it (more sanding?). A tuning port can be found at the top of the housing. Throughout my time with the Vega, I did notice driver flex manifesting itself as a crinkling sound depending on how I inserted the earphones. It has been mentioned on the forums that there is no danger of damage from this flex though. The Vega's driver is an 8.5 mm dynamic driver made from ADLC (amorphous diamond-like carbon).
Stock cable is very nice and is a silver plated copper litz wire in medical grade PVC jacket. There's a sturdy 3.5 mm plug with good strain relief, and the y-split is also quality, if not prone to scratching. Cinch is made from clear transparent plastic. The real star of the show is the ear guide, which blends heat shrink with a guide wire - it's simply the best of both worlds. MMCX connector is made from beryllium copper.
Those who have read /been following my reviews will remember that we discussed, at some length, my personal headphone measurement rig/ process in the Sony Z1R review. It is fairly obvious that the results of non-standard measurement rigs are far from absolute, and should generally be applied in relative comparisons for best effect. Given these various limitations, one may ask why we, as enthusiasts, should even be bothered to develop measurement systems at all, considering that we are generally unable to match industry-standard equipment, and can in fact potentially mislead ourselves with erroneous results. The answer is two-fold and quite practical in my mind. First, it is an undoubtedly enjoyable process. The ability to quantify the qualitative (i.e. subjective) is gratifying (and equal parts, frustrating). But in general, it provides us with a better understanding of the devices we are measuring, and this comprehension can make the pursuit of audio far more enjoyable. Second, when applied effectively, decent measurements can provide objective insight – and allow for many meaningful, tangential explorations. Did you ever wonder just how “distorted” distortion is? If yes, a rig can help in the understanding of that area of sound. The list continues. Furthermore, it allows us to avoid the serious issues that can arise from purely subjective descriptions and misunderstandings. In my mind, certain descriptors can be directly correlated with measurements, giving us very substantive evidence to assist in descriptions. This isn’t to say that numbers are everything, but when applied appropriately, they can account for much indeed. Henceforth, I leave this open to interpretation, and for use as the reader sees fit.
Editorial Note 3: I wrote the above section of the review a little while back as I was reflecting on the process. That is to say, over a month ago. Given the recent discussion about measurements, I've decided not to edit this section at all - this is, and has been, my perspective on measurements for a long time.
I use the UMIK-1 from MiniDSP, a measurement microphone with an onboard soundcard. It is quite convenient and comes with its own calibration file. There is, to my knowledge, a 3rd-party company called Cross-Spectrum offering further, more extensive calibration services, albeit at an increased cost. It’s certainly worth a look for those investing in a measurement microphone. Microphone aside, the coupler is probably the next most important aspect of a working system. As I describe my own system, do note that this isn’t meant to outline the construction of the definitive measurement system. Instead, it is an objective look at the capabilities of my system, its shortcomings, and what I feel confident in assuming/ sharing.
Meant for illustrative purposes only, this photo shows my rig with the guide on. Obviously missing is the foam surrounding, and clearly wrong is the fact that the rig is lying directly on the table.
There are three factors that I ran into quite frequently in assembling the rig – coupling distance, seal, and resonance. In describing the modifications/ build of my own measurement system, I will go over the issues I encountered with each of these elements and how they can be resolved. Let’s start with the microphone. It is very much possible to detach the head of the microphone from the body. Clasp it with a vice and give the body a hard tug. Have your soldering kit ready, because from personal experience, it is easy to snap the wire off the solder point. In fact, I had to re-solder two points on the microphone (one broke and needed repair, the second broke in the process of the repair). To detach the microphone from the head, push gently using a soft object (pencil eraser, etc.). The microphone capsule should come off easily. As per recommendation, I’ve applied a ring of glue around the microphone capsule. Do note that depending on the glue used, you could potentially make it impossible to remove the capsule from the head, so do take caution with those soldering joints. I’ve thought about it, and in fact it may not be a bad idea to put some hot glue down, sealing the microphone permanently to the microphone headphone compartment and more or less securing the solder joints. There were pieces of white foam that came out the head compartment as well, and looked rather skimpy. To replace that, I cut a foam tip and pushed it directly behind the microphone. It seems to be a needed upgrade. You’ll also notice a large tangle of wires that came out from the body as well. When putting everything back together, use a pencil to push the tangle back in, as opposed to pushing on the microphone head. You will break the wire (especially at the solder point) doing this.
The next step in the process is to build a coupler. I’ve got close to 10 iterations of “coupling” devices lying around. The one I’ve more or less settled on is shown in the pictures. I’ve used electrical tape to create a ring (just thick enough) such that the slightly larger ½ inch PVC tube can be sealed very completely with a bit of a push. The end of the chamber features a plastic flange that forms the PVC tube and enables better fits with certain types of IEM tips. This is where coupling distance really comes into play. As I will demonstrate in a graph below, it is very important that the coupling distance is correct, otherwise you’ll notice key FR landmarks (peaks, dips, etc.) in wrong places. I’d take a generally accepted uncompensated FR, and adjust your coupling distance such that the peaks align where they should. I’ve found that this will float in the ballpark of 1-1.5 cm depending on how you couple the IEM to the microphone. The further you couple your earphone away from the microphone, the more you see artifacts in the higher frequencies (repetitive peaks, and such). Resonance from the coupler discounted most forms of thin metal coupling for me. I’d stick with PVC and plastics for enthusiast measurement systems. Now, the Andromeda/ Vega present a very unique opportunity to adjust one’s rig. This is because Ken @Campfire Audio has provided uncompensated measurements that we can do comparisons against. Considering that his is a well calibrated, industry standard rig, I find this to be an interesting proposition. I do not believe my measurements to be better, so feel free to take note of the differences. And it is always fruitful to discuss your measurement techniques with other individuals - it provides insight/ means of improvement. One last mistake I made – don’t rush to take a bunch of measurements of tons of earphones, find one IEM to work with and go from there. Otherwise, you’ve but just a pile of fairly unhelpful numbers. IEM measurement is unforgiving, and can be more difficult than headphones in fact, so do take your time.
Coupling distance matters a lot! See how it has affected the FR, especially in the upper range.
Some things I noticed for the Andromeda – subbass attenuation feels like it should be 1-2 dB less. The region past from 1K-4K as measured is not perfectly flat, but has some dips and artifacts. I should note that higher frequencies, when measured on this rig, aren’t particularly accurate – best that the reader look and evaluate him/ herself. Third harmonic distortion exists on the Andromeda, but this is may be an attributable characteristic to the BA driver itself. Other measurements seem to support my measurements, at their current distortion levels. Overall, most things seem to check out fairly nicely. Vega came through generally unscathed and the difference between these two should be obvious.No smoothing has been applied in any of these measurements.
Green are the various trials performed, Purple is the average.
Ken Ball's measurements for the Andromeda. My rig has artifacts in the higher frequencies.
My distortion measurements for the Andromeda.
Green are the various trials performed, Purple is the average.
Ken Ball's measurements for the Vega. Differences in higher frequencies.
It seems that mine correlates to measurements from another site.
My distortion measurements for the Vega.
The Andromeda is a superbly balanced earphone, made even better by choice ear-tips. Bass performance is responsive and tight, but not lacking. Sub-bass is rendered as needed with detail cues demonstrating the reproduction capabilities of the earphone. Mid-bass is expectedly inoffensive. The midrange is linear and connects to the higher frequencies without a hitch. Upper frequencies are naturally well-extended and liquid without ever coming off as tiresome. Detail retrieval is excellent and soundstage and imaging are spot on. A touch of coolness tints the Andromeda’s tonality, and it’s certainly something that resonates with me. As a long time ER4 user, I’m truly impressed (I’ll explain a little later). This isn’t an earphone for specific genres or songs or setups. It’s a transducer that reveals and navigates almost all source material.
Like a Klingon ship racing through the galaxy. Federation be damned.
The Vega is certainly the Danny Zuko of the Campfire Audio line up. Featuring a prominent bass response that makes full use of the earphone’s dynamic driver, the Vega digs deep and hits hard. It’s a heck of a lot of fun to listen to. In certain ways, the Vega reminds me of the Sony Z1R in earphone form, the comparison being rather crude, of course. Given this, it is surprising that the Vega doesn’t suffer much bass spill, and midrange generally comes through intact. Higher frequencies are well-extended, but do fall behind the Andromeda. Overall technicalities of the Vega are slightly behind the Andromeda. Instrumental timbre was one of the Vega’s weaker points. That said, the Vega moves in ways the Andromeda doesn’t. I can’t emphasize it enough, but the Vega is simply tons of fun.
Together, these two headphones could complete a collection, providing a versatile toolkit that will satisfy even the most dedicated of enthusiasts. It is a rather refreshing look at IEMs, considering that recent developments have been marked by increasingly pricey offerings prompted by the informal driver count war. I’m not thrilled by all of these offerings – and some of my experiences with large multi-BA drivers have been quite negative. I’m not convinced that more is better, and I’ve tried some extremely expensive earphones where crossover points were audible and general coherency was atrocious. I’ve never quite given up on the merits of a properly executed single dynamic driver earphone, and the Vega has satisfied in this regard. In the course of this review, I’ve utilized the Onkyo DP-CMX1, theBit Opus#1, Teac HA-P90SD, and borrowed the Chord Mojo and Questyle QP1R from a fellow newly-converted audiophile. Sounded pretty good out of all of these sources. The earphones do have very low impedance though (Andro 12.8 ohms @ 1K, Vega 17.6 ohms @ 1K) so damping factor can be an issue. The sensitivity of the Andromeda means that noisy sources will be punished!
SELECTED LISTENING IMPRESSIONS
I’ve often been asked to be more narrative in my approach to reviews, and I do think that providing comparisons and walking through specific pieces of music will allow readers to get a better sense of what I’m addressing. I’ve picked moderately complex compositions that provide opportunity to showcase interesting aspects of each earphone, and will conclude on some general observations.
A typical mess as everything gets sprawled out during the listening/ auditioning/ testing process.
The Planets, op.32, Venus
Gustav Holst, conducted by Karajan and performed by BPO
The opening (00:00) features a horn call comprised of four ascending notes. It’s a smooth, haunting motive that is also texturally detailed. The timbre of the horn is appropriately rendered on both the Andromeda and ER-4S. However, the Vega portrays a mellower, smoother sound that reminds me less of a horn and more of a euphonium. Not exactly accurate. At 00:10, the second horn call is answered by a combination of oboe and flute chords. There’s a certain clarity conveyed by the Andromeda/ ER-4S – the reedy sound of the woodwinds being clearer and more incisive than on the Vega. At 00:37, the gentle rumble of the bass hints at a larger orchestration. The Vega and EX-800ST both deliver satisfying performances, while the Andromeda tends toward a more balanced portrayal. The ER-4S falls on its face. The violin solo at 02:05 is poignant and chilling. There’s a lack of bite from the Vega that reduces the realism of sound. The theme that begins at 03:15 is fantastically grand on the Vega though. Spot the celeste at the 07:36 mark. You'll notice that the Andromeda has more sparkle. I imagine that Karajan may have preferred the Vega. The smoother, more rounded sound, exemplifies the musical vision of the “emperor of Legato”. However, from a technical standpoint, I find the Andromeda to be better for classical music in general – it simply presents instrumental timbres better.
Time Out, Take Five
The Dave Brubeck Quartet
A jazz classic, Take Five features an instantly recognizable tune in the uncommon 5/4 time. The start of the piece (00:00) provides easily accessible comparison material. With Joe Morello on the drums alone, it’s clear that reproduction on the Vega and Andromeda differ greatly. The bass drum kick is emphasized, while the cymbal ride is smoother and less brassy compared to the Andromeda. Snare drums seem about the same. Beginning at 00:20, Paul Desmond enters with the alto saxophone, and here we have yet another point of analysis. The left/center/right recording method with single mic means that each of the instruments is panned hard to a side spatially. While modern methods may dictate this as being less than ideal, it does provide an opportunity to test the soundstage/ imaging of our transducers. Perceived width and depth on the Vega is still smaller (but not small) than on the Andromeda. At 02:30 where the drum solo begins in full, the Vega proves once again that while it may not be as technically proficient as its sibling, it can be great fun to listen to.
The Vega sports a sleek profile, one that seems to hide the fact that it can easily produce a massive sound.
It should be no surprise that the tonal balance of the Andromeda favors midrange performance over that of the Vega. Listening to Diana Krall’s East Of The Sun (West Of The Moon), there’s a certain spaciousness that pervades Krall’s voice. Appropriate rendering of vocal texture and linearity aid in the easiness of sound. It’s a fuller (and slightly wetter) sound than the ER-4S, which is a good thing. The Vega’s mids are smoother, and are slightly less defined and present. It’s well-executed considering the earphone’s impressive bass, but for those who listen exclusively to vocals the Andromeda is the go-to.
CHOICE OF EARTIPS
I've begun work on eartip measurements, though I do not yet feel confident in utilizing them yet. Here's a quick look at my general measurements (but should not be relied upon!). I urge readers to use the subjective impressions below.
This is simply meant as preliminary look into how eartips affect sound.
However, measurements not entirely reliable at this point in time.
Spinfit (Baseline) – I’ve chosen this as the baseline for observations as they seem to be one of the most popular, and I do find myself returning to them a fair bit. Tends to yield a brighter character to the earphone with a nice zing. Extension is excellent. Spinfit can be unpredictable between user-to-user, if not by its whole premise alone.
Spiral Dot – Another excellent choice. Doesn’t have the same sonic edge as the Spinfit, but doesn’t lack in extension and certainly adds extra weight to sound. Many will find this to be a nice and pleasant ear tip, provided it fits. I recommend buying ½ a size smaller than your usual as the diameter on these eartips is fairly large due to its wide bore design.
Sony Stock Silicones – Not bad, but between the Spinfits and Spiral Dots, I really don’t see what these do better. Higher frequency extension is weaker than the Spinfits, and lower frequencies are less clear. Vocals are less immediate too. Deeper fit brought housing into contact with the ear, which was uncomfortable.
Sony Isolation Hybrid – Clear improvement over Sony Stock Silicones. Brings extra isolation, slightly improved bass response, all while maintaining comparable extension and clarity. It’s a nice flavor. Fairly comfortable to wear, if not a little difficult to fit onto the nozzle.
Sony Foams – Available in Japan only (I think). If you need foam tips and have access to Japanese products (import/export, etc.) I’d use these. Featuring a foam eartip with a silicone backing, these eartips tend to last longer than Comply tips, are far less prone to ripping, and generally less icky. Complies do seem to isolate and seal better though. Similar to the hybrid tips, but adds slightly more warmth and bass. Highs less extended?
Stock Silicones – Somewhat similar to the Spiral Dot in terms of bore and insertion depth. Sound isn’t remarkably different, but I find the fit to be slightly less agreeable. Those who prefer a softer ear tip will probably enjoy the stock silicones better. They do tend to bring the housing closer (and into contact with the ear) too.
Comply – I don’t really like the way Comply eartips fit and feel. They wear out fast, have a tendency to rip, and just annoy me. That said, Comply eartips do offer a decent amount of isolation, and for me increase the bass. It should be noted that Comply eartips affect sound based on the amount that they are compressed. More compression leads to better seal, which in turn can increase bass and treble. Less compression can result in the foam attenuating the highs, etc. I’d suggest going with the former in most cases.
To me, the Andromeda and Vega are excellent earphones. The Andromeda's balance is very pleasant to me, and the Vega offers a similarly well executed signature that features a tonal balance that is indeed rather hard to pull off. Couple that with the excellent build quality of these IEMs, and it's just hard to argue with these earphones. If you're in the market for a new pair of high-performance IEMs, you definitely need to do yourself a favor and at least give the Vega and the Andromeda a try.
Pros - Sound, Build, Accessories, Fit, Colour, Attraction of the opposite sex
Cons - Not the most stealthy IEMs
I was recently given the opportunity to review the Campfire Audio Andromeda thanks to the kindness of Ken/ALO/Campfire and D_Marco
It is great to be part of a community that allows such experiences, putting such trust in those also interested in this fine, rewarding but infinitely more and more expensive hobby.
Prior to getting my ears around the Andromeda I was also lucky enough to hear the Lyra, Orion and Jupiter from the Campfire line, so I will try to draw some comparisons, however bearing in mind these are from memory.
This review will be fairly brief as I do not have a lot to say about the Andromeda.
This is in no way a negative, in fact far from. I absolutely love the Andromeda in all of its green glory.
I will start with the one and only negative I feel is of significance and we will go from there. But be told, its all UPHILL from there.
If I could pick a negative from my listening with the Andromeda it would be that it lacks a little soul. Now this is quite subjective I know, however I like my music with feeling. My favourite IEM of all time is the Tralucent Ref1too. Yes at times it had far too much bass and was at times too Dark, but with the right source and the right music it just connected with me. It took me back, it made me feel as though I was living the music.
Now I find the Andromeda (and all of the Campfire line except the Lyra) to technically exceed the Ref1too in most regards. However if I were given the choice I would take the Transducers with soul every time, even if I do cringe at some genre’s/tracks.
NOW. That seems like a pretty big deal breaker, except, I would buy these in a heart beat. On-wards and upwards I say!!!
Firstly, they are accessorised beautifully. They come in a far more subtle cardboard box than its lesser siblings.
It comes with a fantastic leather portable carry pouch that is lined with lambs wool.
It comes with an array of Comply and Silicone Tips that are bound to fit most ears out there and it comes with a fantastic cable. Not only does this cable look quality, I had zero issues with microphonics when walking to and from work.
The build quality is also superb! The very solid feeling aluminium units are anodized in a perfect shade of green. Rarely did I wear them in public without getting attention. Either that or I had something in my teeth. Probably also green. It’s always something green.
The sound, well in a nutshell is very very very good and well within what I expect from an IEM of this price range. The beauty of the Andromeda is that is sounded fantastic with everything I played through it. From Progressive Rock, Death Metal, Folk, Jazz, Jazz Fusion, Pop, Acoustic Rock it all sounded perfect.
The highlight for me was the bass. But at heart, no matter how much I try to lie to myself while listening to my Ether C headphones, I am a bass head.
Are the Andromeda a bass head IEM. No…. No they are not. However if you are a bass head with taste, then perhaps these are worth a look as while their bass is excellent and for me the highlight, the rest of the signature exceeds any basshead iem/headphone I have heard.
It punches. It punches hard. I was surprised that I was listening to a full BA iem. The only time I had experienced bass like it from a BA is the TG334 and the 1964 v8/u8.
It has a great thump to it, however it maintains texture and control. It has a slow decay for a BA driver, however it is more controlled than many dynamic drivers I have heard that manage similar impact and volume. I thoroughly enjoyed the bass on the Andromeda for its ability to hit hard but sound great with all music. I have found many headphones that manage to impress me with bass impact and volume, trip up on tracks that simply do not call for so much bass, or are more technical and require a more nimble approach. No such problem with the Andromeda.
The mids are smooth, in line with the upper registers and present vocals beautifully. I am not a fan of overly forward mids, particularly upper mids and I found no such traces of either in an offensive way with the Andromeda. Often I find the mids (and more so the highs) with BA driver iems sound artificial to me. I play guitar and I like guitars to sound like guitars. Same for any instrument. While the Andromeda does lack that euphoric quality I was referring to at the beginning of this review, it does sound very natural and realistic. I was very pleased with the mid range presentation.
The highs are smooth, extended, detailed and realistic. What more could you want. I never found them sibilant, even with some punk recordings that are just terrible. But by the same token, I was never left wanting for more detail. These are Highs done right!.
First lets rank these suckers:
This is a COMPLETELY SUBJECTIVE RANKING.
Andromeda vs Orion:
The Orion to me was a case of fantastic tuning, limited range. I personally felt that the tuning of the Orion was bang on with the drivers they implemented. It sounded natural, cohesive and pleasant. It did sound a little thin, it did lack extension at both ends and it did lack bass impact.
To me, the Andromeda has everything I wanted added to the Orion. It has the bass. It has more body to the sound, giving it more realism and feeling, it has fantastic extension at both ends and just sounds more refined.
While you would expect all of this given the price difference, this is how they compare to me with the Andromeda wiping the floor with my previous favourite Campfire iem.
Andromeda vs Jupiter:
The Jupiter I found technically brilliant. As I stated in my Jupiter review, it had nice bass, smooth mids and highs, good sound stage and amazing separation. However it sounded off to me. Instruments seemed to pop out individually so well, that it didn’t sound like music, it sounded like many instruments individually playing a tune. Technically I cannot fault that, its amazing really, however from an enjoyment stand point it didn’t invite me into the music, it didn’t make me want to listen.
The Andromeda to me is like the Jupiter with improved and increased bass, a richer mid-range with more body and a very similar top end. However the big difference being that the music sounds whole again. Sure if I listen for a guitar I can isolate it and tell you where it is in the array of instruments, but I am being presented with music.
I will work on getting some images up and the formatting fixed in coming days.
Pros - Build quality, cable quality, fits nicely, good isolation, perfect sound balance and quality
Cons - I can't afford it
I got this unit as part of Australia/New Zealand tour arranged by @d marc0, thank you very much for including me in this tour
I am just another music fans in this world, I love listening to music, and that made me stumble into head-fi around 9 years ago when looking for the best way to listen to my music. I am not in anyway an audiophile, heck not even close, so please forgive any lack of details in my review. Most importantly this is my personal impression on the unit, most likely i heard things differently than you, my ears, my preferences, my brain
I've listened to CA Andromeda for about 2 weeks. I use them exclusively from LG V10 amped by Fiio E18. The source will be either the built-in LG music player or Google play music.
Ok I am not going to muck around with this one, CA Andromeda is perfect. I can fault them in any way, they simply sounds right to me, in every aspect. There is enough bass, perfect midbass/warmth, forward enough mid, and excellent treble response.
Is this the best IEM in the world? probably not, but it's the best I have heard so far. Does it beat my full size cans? hmm.....yes and no.
I can only compare them to my ZMF Blackwood, so yeah (as usual) it's not a fair comparison but it's all I got.
All right, let's start with the obvious, for soundstage, ZMF Blackwood clearly beat CA Andromeda, that's the very first obvious thing I notice when comparing them. I don't have
any problem with Andromeda soundstage, but ZMF sounds more spacious compare to Andromeda.
Now let's talk resolution and details, again CA Andromeda is awesome, they are really really good, but when you compare them side by side with Blackwood, I will have to pick up
the Blackwood as the winner, however the difference is not that big here, I really have to focus on listening to notice the difference.
However there is one thing that I prefer Andromeda over the Blackwood, the balance. As I mentioned before, they are just perfect. Blackwood is awesome headphones, but I found Andromeda
to provide better bass compare to the Blackwood, and probably slightly better treble sparkle. Please bear in mind I compare both of them from the same source/amp, so it's very likely
Fiio E18 is not adequate to drive ZMF Blackwood.
No argument, the best IEM ever for me, I am in love. The only downside is I can't afford them....yet, but I will own them one day
Thanks for reading
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pros - Smooth sound signature, extremely detailed & resolving, great cable, good comfort
Cons - Shells get scratched fairly easily, hissing across sources
Holy hell, these are great. Nicest stock cable I’ve used, very flexible and the silver looks fantastic. Build quality for the IEMs are very good, but the aluminum has a bit of nicks from use, no big deal. Comfort is actually extremely good, despite the abundance of hard edges. With the right tips, these just disappear in the ear. I’m using JVC Spiral Dots/Ortofon L tips which have been working great.
These can be summed up by having a very slight U-shaped sound signature, with very good coherence. Coming from FitEar ToGO 334!, these have much more treble presence, which helps to add that “sparkle” to music. Mids are similar in quality but less emphasized so it doesn’t have as much richness. Bass quantity is a bit less, but the quality can be considered better, as the Andromedas are a bit faster than the TG334s which makes the low end sound more defined. I’d say imaging and soundstage are at the same level between the two, but the Andromedas are more “out of head”. The increased treble is the biggest differentiator I find in favour of the Andromedas. They have a very “hi-fi” sound, even straight from my Samsung S7 Edge.
In terms of source requirements, these are very sensitive so they are quite easy to drive. Bit of hissing with both of my sources, but apparently an impedance adapter helps to clear that up. Sounds great out of S7 Edge and iPad, so DAC/Amp definitely not necessary.
Summary: Very great pair of IEMs. Slightly better than the TG334 I had, while being cheaper, which makes them my best yet. Definitely worth looking at.
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.
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'.
Spoiler: Click here for a summary of my known bias
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 boxInside the flap - the CA Andromeda leather caseHidden 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 openedAll accessoriesThe 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/badge3 sided zipped leather caseProtective 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).
I’ve listed below the main specifications for the Campfire Andromeda.
$1099 (Campfire Website)
Five Balanced Armature drivers
Dual low, single mid, dual high frequency
Other Acoustic Feature
Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber
10 Hz – 28 kHz
12.8 ohm (@ 1kHz)
115 dB SPL /mW @ 1 kHz
3.5mm gold plated, 90 deg
1.2m, removable (MMCX) – silver plated copper (ALO Litz Cable)
26g including cable and tips
CNC aluminium, then zirconium blasted and anodised
Body shape / fit
Ergonomic, cable over ear
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.
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 face - beautifully machinedRear side view - perfect upward angle on the nozzlesFront 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 socketsInternal face - edges have been rounded slightlyBeryllium 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 cableFormable cable ear loopsVery 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 jackY split and cinchFormable 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 foamSpinFits 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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.
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 L3Balanced 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.
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 SiriusFrequency 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 U6Frequency 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 U10Frequency 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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