1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.

    Dismiss Notice

Campfire Audio Solaris

Rating:
5/5,
  1. ExpatinJapan
    Campfire Audio Solaris - The fire within Tiphereth
    Written by ExpatinJapan
    Published Dec 20, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Excellent hybrid coherency, solid shell build, perfect cable, absolutely magical to listen to
    Cons - shells may be too big for some ears.
    Campfire Audio Solaris Review
    - Expatinjapan


    [​IMG]

    Campfire Audio Solaris review
    - expatinjapan

    https://campfireaudio.com/shop/solaris/

    "Introducing Solaris
    New Dimensions of Sound, Technology, and Construction
    Pushing ourselves to discover what is possible, we explored the outer horizon and found something exceptional; Solaris.
    Solaris is the summation of our experience creating earphones and the acoustic technologies we’ve developed and discovered along the way. It delivers a sound that is second to none."

    "Super Sonic
    New Dimensions of Sound, Technology, and Construction
    Holographic presentation. Intimate detail retrieval. Soaring highs, engaging mids and impactful bass. Music sounds like music with lifelike performances, superior layering and unbelievable imaging.
    The traditional wall between high end two-channel hi-fi and personal audio just got thinner." - Campfire Audio



    [​IMG]

    I first demoed the Solaris at the Fujiya Avic show in Tokyo at the end of October and gratefully received a pair for review along with a 4.4mm cable.
    I was instantly moved by the experience, having reviewed most of the Campfire Audio line up already I had a decent overview of the different models current and discontinued, but I was also hearing whispers that this Solaris was something special. That this was the pinnacle of current CA development intrigued me.
    But certainly not, surely not enough to unseat the trusty well used Campfire Audio Andromeda I usually use, or so I thought.


    [​IMG]

    "Solaris is a hybrid design, blending the best of the balanced armature performance with the physicality of dynamic drivers. It features 2 custom balanced armature drivers paired with our T.A.E.C for extended highs, without sibilance or fatigue. A larger single rear-ported balanced armature driver provides rich delivery of mid frequencies. A specially tuned version of our 10mm A.D.L.C. dynamic driver, optimized with our Polarity Tuned Chamber, anchors the sonic performance with deeply engaging mid-frequency tonality and visceral bass response."
    - Campfire Audio


    Unboxing


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Campfire Audio Premium Leather Earphone Case
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    "Our new Super Litz cable is made from four large conductors of Silver-plated Copper Litz wire. Each conductor is individually comprised of a selected set of particular diameter strands. The Super Litz cable is the perfect balance of physical gauge and performance.

    The cable is terminated with our custom beryllium/copper MMCX connectors and over-molded 3.5mm plug. This cable brings out the best in Solaris." - Campfire Audio


    [​IMG]

    Final Audio E-Type Tips (xs/s/m/l/xl) – Campfire Audio Marshmallow Earphone Tips (s/m/l) – Silicon Earphone Tips (s/m/l) – Campfire Audio Lapel Pin –
    Cleaning Tool – Earphone Protection Sleeve.

    [​IMG]

    The earphone shells
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Stock Super Litz 3.5mm cable

    I have tried the Solaris with the Atlas silver cable.
    The Solaris stock cable is physically thicker. The weave is the same.

    The stock Solaris cable is a better match. It keeps that full, rich and expansive sound that makes the Solaris addictive and delicious.

    I do find usually that the stock cables CA chooses to pair with their earphones are excellent choices.
    I do some cable rolling experimentation and mostly always go back to the stock/original cable.

    The Jupiter is my main exception. But the pair I have came with the earlier Tinsel cable. I often pair with the Reference 8 or the iBasso CB13.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Specifications

    5Hz–20 kHz Frequency Response

    115 dB SPL/mW Sensitivity

    10 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance

    Less than 1% Total Harmonic Distortion
    Features
    24K Gold Plated Lid
    Durable PVD Finished Body
    Dual Custom Balanced Armature Drivers + T.A.E.C. (High)
    Single Custom Ported Balanced Armature Driver (Mid)
    Specially Tuned 10mm Dynamic Driver (Mid + Low)
    Plasma enhanced Chemical Vapor Depostion (C.V.D.) Amorphous Diamond Like Carbon (A.D.L.C.) Diaphragm.
    Beryllium / Copper MMCX Connections
    Stainless Steel Spout

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Size comparisons with other Campfire Audio Models
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Campfire Audio Solaris and Andromeda

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Campfire Audio Solaris and Atlas

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Campfire Audio Solaris and Vega

    [​IMG]




    Fit and tips

    This was early days whilst I was still playing around with placement and tip size.
    Later on I achieved a deeper insertion and also angled the IEM more vertically.

    One might want to try a smaller tip size than usual.

    BTW I have small ears.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Symbio W Peel by Mandarines became my go to tips for the Solaris.

    A nice thick silcone to keep the lows full and mids rich and a wide bore for treble.

    http://symbioeartips.com/termek/symbio-w-peel/

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    One can also see the general size as they are placed in my palm.
    [​IMG]

    Pairings
    The CA Solaris seemed to pair with most daps etc well.

    I found the WM1Z to have a certain warmth that was all enveloping and bought out each tracks emotion.

    The ALO Audio Continental V5 was also a great match, the Solaris loving the tube goodness.

    The iBasso DX200 with Amp 8 was also an excellent pairing.

    [​IMG]

    ALO Audio 4.4mm Super Litz cable

    Just some audio gear picture pron follows

    [​IMG]

    Removing the memory wire
    I decided to remove the memory wire from the 4.4mm so it may sit on my pixie sized ears better with great success.
    Super litz is outer plastic, metal wire, more plastic.
    Triple job.
    Heres an article on removing the memory wire of the ALO Audio SXC-8 cable
    https://www.headpie.net/2018/06/alo-audio-sxc-8-mod-like-surgeon.html?m=1
    *one also has to decide whether to clip the metal memory wire or pull it out completely.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Price
    US$1499.00
    https://campfireaudio.com/shop/solaris/

    [​IMG]
    Another of my usual go to tips are the JVC Spiral Dots.

    [​IMG]

    Sound
    [​IMG]

    I first tried the Solaris at the Fujiya Avic show which were a demo pair or Ken Balls unit hooked up to a Sony WM1Z dap by a 4.4mm Super Litz cable with foamie tips (see above photos). Ken Ball also choose the music which was nice.
    What did I think on that first impression? Bear in mind these are immediate first impressions, and I was on a PRESS card so the crowd had not arrived and it was fairly quiet. Oh and I do not like Foam tips.

    Solaris Notes, October 2018. FA Show.
    Wow factor (And I rarely get that these jaded days).
    I demoed a burned in unit with a Sony dap and 4.4mm cable. Using foam tips.

    Balanced and coherent. Even, but not flat or neutral. But towards that yet in a realistic sense.
    It even made me a bit on the verge of being teary eyed, so beautiful a sound.
    A hydrid done right.

    Certainly Campfire Audio have reached a high point of their development within the limits of todays technology.
    I remember the first demo unit I received from CA the Jupiter and being blown away at the time and later the Andromeda which improved on the Jupiter.

    I had a similar experience with the Solaris.

    *A short show impression but it certainly left an impact on me.
    I enjoyed it so much I did not get all analytical whilst listening to it.


    [​IMG]

    Onwards and downwards.

    As the Solaris became my daily commute earphone my other reviews began to suffer and a backlog was annoyingly beginning to build up. But I could not resist the temptation to listen to the Solaris. And I review and listen to a lot of earphones, each of course is a personal taste but the Solaris certainly caught my ears and much to shock dethroned my daily go to IEM the Andromeda.

    What was strange is it is not even a sound signature I knew I wanted or was even looking for. It just arrived and captivated me, and it still does.

    It certainly is a hybrid well done, and having experienced quite a few hybrids I have not overly been impressed or moved by them, either strongly V shaped or lacking coherency.

    The Campfire Audio Solaris is an altogether new breed of beast.



    [​IMG]

    Burn in/ Breaking in

    My initial out of the box impressions lacked the wow factor I had from when I listened to Kens well used pair.
    But as I listen every 24 or 48 hours (I have not been listening every day- helps to track changes) I can hear it changing and moving more towards that first listening experience.

    Out of the box they are great, get some hours on them and they mature and become excellent.
    76 hours on the Solaris and it is starting to open up now and approach the performance of Kens unit I tried at the Tokyo show.

    The sweet spot was when i reached around the 150 - 200 hours on the Solaris (listening and leaving to play overnight, it does not take so long). Ken Ball recommended a break in time of around 150 hours but I found the sweet spot to be a little further.

    [​IMG]

    The Solaris sound is just wow. I love it.

    Nice full sub bass, bass that is controlled and responsive, great lower mids, even-ish smooth upper mids with a slight dip, nicely extended treble without verging into the no go area of screech, sibilance or faking of space.

    The sound stage is huge for an IEM and could be described as holographic.

    Imaging and layering is exquisite and perfect.
    Instrument placement is mere perfection.

    Timbre is a bit warm and natural in form.

    Rich, soft warmth, detailed, air, clarity and resolution.

    I enjoy how the vocals often sit just above the music, I am not a fan of forward vocals. I want to hear the music also.

    solaris.jpeg

    [​IMG]

    Overall
    The Campfire Audio Solaris is an IEM that I have loved since day one.
    Temptation to gush on audio forums is very tempting, but although people ask for impressions often the overly enthusiastic or simply positive impressions get met with claims of too positive, shill etc. Why people ask for impressions is beyond me at times....groan. Anyway... :)

    The Campfire Audio Solaris is a solidly made in ear with an excellent cable. Although they may appear robust, and are do take care of your precious.

    The fit may not be for everyone.

    I recommend tip rolling to tune the sound signature closer to what you might prefer.
    Never underestimate the power of tips.

    Its a sensitive in ear so it prefers a source from below 1 ohm to around 2 ohms for best results.

    The Solaris is like having a nice home speaker system strapped to your ears.

    The Campfire Audio Solaris is one the few totl IEMs that really has made an impression. Many IEMs of a similar quality are twice or thrice the price.

    I really enjoy listening to music with the Campfire Audio Solaris and have a chance to forget about the gear and lose myself in the sound of music.


    Or as the 13th Century poet Rumi puts it: “You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean, in a drop.”


    [​IMG]

    Bonus section
    Campfire audio at the Fujiya Avic Tokyo Headphone show


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    The Equinox made an appearance also


    Campfire Audio Equinox (universal version of the CIEM)
    Smooth, nice bass. Like Atlas but vented, no driver flex.
    Universal demo is a good easy fit.
    Bass thick and lingering with a fast response, clear treble, more mids than Atlas.
    More ‘tame and flatter than Atlas’
    Superlicious!
    Campfire Audio original promotional photos of the Solaris.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    https://campfireaudio.com/shop/solaris/

    [​IMG]
    Thank you to Campfire Audio for sending Head pie the Solaris for review
  2. yong_shun
    Battle of TOTL
    Written by yong_shun
    Published Dec 11, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Nice leather case
    Balanced sounding
    High quality stock cable
    Price is attractive as compared to other TOTL
    Cons - Shell could be too big
    Disclaimer:
    A loaned unit from my friend. Not a sponsored review.


    Introduction:
    Started this particular hobby since 2016. It is always enjoyable and memorable. This year I decided to accomplish something different - actively providing feedback and opinions in this forum. The friendliness of fellow Head-Fiers make the journey fascinating.

    I have been impressed by Campfire Audio for long since the launch of Orion and Jupiter. I can still remember how they created an unforgettable memory with their performance. Started with Tinsel (Balanced and Unbalanced) as their stock cable, move to Litz (Unbalanced) then Cerakote (Ck) coating, Campfire Audio has never disappointed me and I believe most of their fans.

    This year, Campfire Audio take a huge leap, announced the launch of Limited-Edition Andromeda S, with stainless steel body and the long awaited Solaris - the new TOTL. I have been waiting for this unit to arrive in Singapore for long and finally I can share my honest opinions with fellow Head-Fiers in this platform.

    Packaging
    20181211_102811.jpg 20181211_102837.jpg 20181211_102916.jpg 20181211_102942.jpg 20181211_103006.jpg 20181211_103020.jpg
    Accessories
    • Campfire Audio Premium Leather Earphone Case
    • Earphone Protection Sleeve
    • Super Litz for Solaris (Silver Plated Conductors featuring multi diameter stranding with Berylium Copper MMCX and 3.5mm Stereo Plug)
    • Final Audio E-Type Tips (xs/s/m/l/xl) – Campfire Audio Marshmallow Earphone Tips (s/m/l) – Silicon Earphone Tips (s/m/l)
    • Campfire Audio Lapel Pin
    • Cleaning Tool
    Specifications
    • Dual Custom Balanced Armature Drivers + T.A.E.C. (High)
    • Single Custom Ported Balanced Armature Driver (Mid)
    • Specially Tuned 10mm Dynamic Driver (Mid + Low)
    • 5Hz–20 kHz Frequency Response
    • 115 dB SPL/mW Sensitivity
    • 10 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance
    • Less than 1% Total Harmonic Distortion
    Build, Fit and Isolation
    The outer shell of Solaris is 24K gold plated. The colour is closed to Sony WM1Z outer body. The braiding of the new Super Litz Cable looks like Silver Litz which is used on Atlas. The braid is very strong while the flexibility is not compromised. This IEM is relatively big as compared to other Campfire Audio IEMs. Nonetheless, it sits well in my ear and the isolation is good. This is subjective because I have a relatively big ear. Those who have small ears might find it challenging to have a good fit and isolation.

    Pairing
    I used Opus #3 and stock Super Litz Cable for this review.

    Test Track
    • Hotel California (DSD) - 90/160 on low gain
    • Somewhere, Somebody (DSD) - 90/160 on low gain
    • Billie Jean (24 bit/96 kHz FLAC) - 50/160 on low gain
    • Misery (16 bit/44.1 kHz FLAC) - 55/160 on low gain
    • Perfect (24 bit/ 44.1 kHz FLAC) - 55/160 on low gain
    • Don't Know Why (16 bit/44.1 kHz FLAC) - 55/160 on low gain
    • Red (16 bit/44.1 kHz FLAC) - 55/160 on low gain
    • Hello (16 bit/44.1 kHz FLAC) - 55/160 on low gain
    Sound
    This is not a power-hungry IEM, just like other Campfire Audio IEMs. It can be easily driven. Impedance mismatch at the DAP output might cause hissing for this IEM. The sound signature for this IEM sits between fun and analytical. Balanced and smooth across the whole frequency spectrum with no particular emphasis. The soundstage is wide and very precise imaging is performed. It gives me a "wow" within the first few seconds. The depth might be insufficient if you are comparing with TOTL like Legend X from Empire Ears but I believe this can be improved through cable rolling.

    Bass
    The bass attacks fast and decays fast. It has sufficient power to hit your eardrum while maintaining the presentation in other frequency spectrum. Simply says, it does not bleed towards the mids. I find the bass slightly lack depth, but this could potentially cause by my DAP. I will continue to try with other DAPs. When listening to Misery from Maroon 5, the few second kicks will definitely make your body shake with the rhythm. The body of bass is rich. People might expect the bass to be like Atlas or Vega but unfortunately it is not. The bass is more well controlled. Not as emphasis as you can find in Vega and Atlas making this IEM more balanced sounding.

    Mids
    As a Mandopop lover, I appreciate good vocals – both males and females. IEM that can produce the vocal with dynamic and soul will definitely win my heart. I love how Solaris brings the mids – smooth presentation. It’s neither too aggressive nor recessed. Campfire Audio successfully find the balance. Fascinating. The upper mids are breathy and spacious. When I am listening to Jennifer Warnes’s Somewhere, Somebody, the layering is done flawlessly. Her vocal is silky smooth with soul. Very neutral.

    Highs
    Solaris has a well-extended high that is not fatigue causing or piercing. The presentation of the high frequency is gentle, spacious and airy. After long hours of listening, I find myself a little reluctant to remove it from my ears. The cymbals sound crisp in Solaris. Very well-articulated.The highs of Solaris is very similar to Andromeda. If you loved Andromeda, you will love this.

    Comparison
    Andromeda S vs Solaris
    I will say Solaris is an upgraded version of Andromeda S which tackles the mentioned insufficient in Andromeda S. It sounds fuller and more dynamic as compared to Andromeda S. This is provided you are interested in a fuller and richer sound signature. The space and air in Andromeda S is more than Solaris so in term of details presentation Andromeda S plays it better.

    Legend X vs Solaris
    Legend X, being the TOTL of Empire Ears has set a high reference point for other TOTL. Legend X has a deeper presentation, especially in lows. If you were a bass head, go for Legend X. For me, Solaris’ lows impressed me sufficiently and more extended lows will make a negative influence – might crack my mind. Legend X has a smoother presentation. If you need something with better details presentation, go for Solaris.

    Phantom vs Solaris
    TOTL of Empire Ears EP Series, Phantom has a rich and smooth presentation. This is a close fight with Solaris in term of price. I prefer Solaris – wider soundstage, better presentation in details and more well-controlled bass. I always find the bass of Phantom a little tubby and the overall presentation is blanketed. Solaris is more open overall. Plus one for Solaris!

    Verdict
    Being a long waited TOTL and high benchmark set by Andromeda, many audiophiles will have high expectation towards Solaris. After spending some quality time with it, I will consider change my daily listening reference to it. It does not disappoint me but impressed me with how it sounds. Well done Campfire Audio, Well Done Solaris!
    1. View previous replies...
    2. yong_shun
      @szore Personally I prefer Solaris over Andromeda S because of its richness in the mids. There are controversial comments on this IEM. Some find it too rich to the extend the air and space is compromised. Singapore dealers got it on this Monday. I am not very sure about NYC. Thank you for your support!
      yong_shun, Dec 13, 2018
      bluebair likes this.
    3. Mr.Z
      Any comparison to Atlas?
      Mr.Z, Dec 14, 2018
      yong_shun likes this.
    4. yong_shun
      @Mr.Z I personally feel that Solaris sits between Andromeda and Atlas in term of their sound signature. Solaris is not as analytical as Andromeda while not as fun as Atlas. The lows is more well controlled and the attack is faster. I would describe Atlas lows as a hammer while Solaris lows as a sword. One emphasis on the power while the other emphasis on speed.
      yong_shun, Dec 15, 2018
  3. davidmolliere
    A smooth exciting ride into hyperspace!
    Written by davidmolliere
    Published Nov 8, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Speaker like presentation
    Holographic soundstage with pinpoint precise imaging and top notch layering
    Extended and exciting but non fatiguing treble
    Rich, smooth yet articulate and transparent mids
    Subwoofer like sub bass and bass with great control, detail and textures
    All rounder, does well with any genre and is also forgiving of lesser mastering
    Scales very well with an amp (low OI) and upgrade cables
    Very good stock cable
    Price is fair
    Cons - Shells are big, hard to fit for some smaller ears
    Bass attack lacking a bit with less powerful sources (low OI amp gives best results)
    Isolation is very average even with deep insertion
    Gold plating probably susceptible to scratches
    Disclaimer
    I have purchased and paid the full retail price for the Solaris, this is not a sponsored review.

    Packaging
    The Solaris is delivered with a nice printed card box containing the following :

    Accessories
    • Campfire Audio Premium Leather Earphone Case
    • Earphone Protection Sleeve
    • Super Litz for Solaris (Silver Plated Conductors featuring multi diameter stranding with Berylium Copper MMCX and 3.5mm Stereo Plug)
    • Final Audio E-Type Tips (xs/s/m/l/xl) – Campfire Audio Marshmallow Earphone Tips (s/m/l) – Silicon Earphone Tips (s/m/l)
    • Campfire Audio Lapel Pin
    • Cleaning Tool
    Specifications
    • Dual Custom Balanced Armature Drivers + T.A.E.C. (High)
    • Single Custom Ported Balanced Armature Driver (Mid)
    • Specially Tuned 10mm Dynamic Driver (Mid + Low)
    • 5Hz–20 kHz Frequency Response
    • 115 dB SPL/mW Sensitivity
    • 10 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance
    • Less than 1% Total Harmonic Distortion

    Introduction
    By now, not much introduction is required for Campfire Audio, which is one of the highly regarded company building IEMs since 2015. Fairly recent, although ALO Audio has been around for a while. Maybe what’s less known is that Ken Ball was running a lab as a plant pathologist for the US Department of Agriculture when he decided it was time for a change (recommended read : From plants to Campfire Audio : the story of Ken Ball).

    Ken literally started from his basement and as a self-taught engineer he is always « trying things not off the shelf, that normal electrical engineers wouldn’t think to do » . So Campfire is basically based on passion and trying out different things. It certainly turned out alright, in a short time span since 2015 quite a few unique and now all time classic such as the Lyra, the Andromeda, the Vega and the Atlas. There is certainly a Campfire house sound that is distinctive from other brands that can clearly be identified despite the very different approach between say the Andromeda and the Vega.

    How does the Solaris (from the latin "Sun") fit into the picture? The latest Campfire release and new flagship, the Solaris is a hybrid design sporting one dynamic driver (10mm ADLC, probably the Atlas driver) for low and mids, a custom ported balanced armature for the mids and two armatures for the highs and a brand new super litz beautifully built 4 wires silver plated copper cable. The product pitch : « Solaris is the summation of our experience creating earphones and the acoustic technologies we’ve developed and discovered along the way. It delivers a sound that is second to none. Holographic presentation. Intimate detail retrieval. Soaring highs, engaging mids and impactful bass. Music sounds like music with lifelike performances, superior layering and unbelievable imaging. The traditional wall between high end two-channel hi-fi and personal audio just got thinner. »

    Quite a tall order, isn’t it?
    Let’s see how it checks out!

    Build
    The Solaris build is flawless, the 24K gold plated lid is a perfect match to the WM1Z body and as usual the rest is PVD finished with a stainless steel spout and the usual Campfire beryllium/copper MMCX connectors. Those are beautiful IEMs, the only question is how durable the gold plating will be, as it’s bound to be susceptible to scratch especially on the edges. Handle with care! Also, this is an eye catcher so depending on where you’ll be using them, be careful…

    Fit and isolation
    The Solaris shell are on the bigger side, protruding quite a bit from the ears, but luckily remain surprisingly light which means no strain while wearing them. This being said, the sheer size of the Solaris can be an issue with smaller ears and ear canals, and some had to return their units because of a fit issue. The nozzle like the Atlas nozzle is quite big as well and unless you’re like me blessed with larger ear canals deep insertion won’t be possible. In my case, the Solaris is sitting flush, with full insertion and I am using one size smaller eartips. I have found the best fit and seal was the M size UE900 tips, and the comfort is on the high side. Of course your mileage may vary as it's very much dependent on your own physiology.

    I am not sure I understand why Final E tips are included as I found they affect the SQ, in general I'd stay away from any tip that has a stem narrower than the bore size. Isolation is good but nothing to rave about either (note that I am a low volume listener), probably a side effect of the lighter shell. I still consider this a good design choice as heavier shells would have affected comfort. Given the lightweight of the Solaris, the earhooks of the stock cable were not really needed there and negatively affect comfort in my opinion.

    Listening notes
    I have listened to the Solaris for over 40 hours before writing this review. The unit has been burned in almost 24/7 for over 7 days (so approx 150 hours). While I mainly use a Hansound Zen (full copper) balanced cable to enjoy the Solaris to the fullest, I have stuck to the stock cable for the purpose of this review. The vast majority of my time with the Solaris is with Sony WM1Z (unit has over 300 hours on it and running firmware 3.0) but I have included select comparisons with other sources such as Mojo, Oriolus BA300S and ALO CV5.

    Sound
    The Solaris have a highly engaging signature with a grandiose presentation relying on a great holographic soundstage with pinpoint precise imaging and an onion like layering. They feature lively treble, rich and articulate mids, a solid bass foundation all within a smooth delivery that make it non fatiguing with even the most energetic and/or busy genres. All of the above qualities make them fantastic all rounders that can give you great listening experience with a variety of genres. While Solaris will shine on better source material, it’s quite forgiving of lesser recordings, making it all the more versatile as basically everything will sound good provided you have a good source.

    I am more a Jazz, Indie, Blues and Folk kind of guy and I was absolutely excited by the Solaris on those genres but I found myself listening to a lot more Rock, Metal, Dance, EDM and Dubstep than I would have thought when reviewing the Solaris. Initially meant to tests how it handled those genres but I took so much pleasure getting back to those genres that I ended up rekindling with entire albums altogether. I had a similar experience with the VE8 especially with Rock and Metal but the taller and deeper soundstage provided extra air of the Solaris helped listening for longer period of time and with more excitement. The extra sub bass presence and extension of the Solaris vs VE8 did also help there, as well as even more lively treble with more weight.

    The first contact with the Solaris had me totally « wowed » by a few key items :
    • its soundstage depth and height with a very holographic rendering
    • Its pinpoint imaging, with some ahah moments on well known tracks, things seemed to fall into place way more precisely and naturally
    • Its treble, I have never heard Andromeda but the lower treble tuning is both exciting and non fatiguing, hi hats have never sounded better
    I can see your reaction « but why isn’t the bass in there? » as many would expect something very special with the driver from the Atlas, with a lot of wowing power and impact. Well, this wasn’t what initially struck me. I value my first impression even if the unit was not burn in those raw first minutes will usually be interesting nonetheless. Ken recommends at least 5 or 6 days for the dynamic driver to be fully burnt in and given my experience with the Vega I knew this was clearly something to keep in mind. Here is the surprise though : even out of the box, the Solaris didn’t sound « unruly » as its Vega brother. The bass clearly has good control out of the box, with great textures and detail. If anything the bass out of the box is almost too sensible, I found myself wishing for more impact.

    Let’s dive into this a bit more…

    Bass
    The bass is well extended with subwoofer like sub bass, with no saturation even on the most sub bass heavy tracks. The LCD i4 is the only other « IEM » that provided a similar experience in the sub bass. But the Solaris has in my opinion even better bass than the LCD i4, there is more detail and control, probably also by way of a cleaner bass tuning with less mid bass emphasis. The flipside is that you loose some oomph factor in the mid bass and I won’t lie, I wished it had a tad more impact. You can’t get it all and the bass quality is off the charts with the richest bass textures and layers I ever had the pleasure to listen to. This is especially important when listening to classical or Jazz where for instance double bass sound as good as they ever will in my opinion. There is a very tactile feel to the bass. Burn in definitely made bass tighter and after a 100 hours or so I didn’t notice further improvements.

    The Solaris bass is in my opinion bass done right, but bass-heads might better go the Atlas or Legend X way as bass quantity and impact might be found lacking depending on the genre you listen to but also on your source. The above is true with WM1Z (firmware 3.0) but several listening sessions with the Mojo gave me a hint that other sources might provide different synergy and results. More on this in the Sources matching section.

    Mids
    The Solaris mids are very musical striking a very nice balance between articulation and smoothness and the right amount of body and weight to have presence but not too much in order to keep the right separation. Vocals are just slightly forward enough to be in front of the instruments but I wouldn’t call the Solaris forward by any means. This is subtle. Timbre is very natural, with a slightly warm tone that makes the Solaris very musical.

    The lower mids are emphasized just enough to give male vocals satisfying power but not overly so as not to lean towards a darker signature. The upper mids on the other hand are clearly tuned for smoothness, but are neither recessed or muddy as the Solaris has good clarity and female vocals are beautifully portrayed with a touch of sweetness. There is no hint of sibilance whatsoever even with the worst tracks I had handy. As across all range, layering is great. There is a richness to the sound and an overall sense of realism and accuracy. I find it very interesting given the profile of the mids (neutral warm) that Jazz and Classical sound so great, as usually thinner sounding IEMs fit the genre better. The Solaris is not thick per say but it does have body and weight combined with a lot of air, separation is more by way of its vast soundstage so it doesn’t need to rely on a thinner signature to make complex music sound articulate. On top of this, contrary to the bass and treble, I found the mids have interestingly a sharper attack with more snap, you get satisfying crunch and whack.

    There is clearly something unique there that feels so engaging to me.


    Highs
    The highs are very exciting while never harsh or hot, both attack and decay are smooth. There is plenty of detail and a lot of sparkle, contributing greatly to the engaging nature of the Solaris and bringing a lot of air. Treble is not slow but nor is it the fastest treble around but it has distinctive weight and body making it also very "tactile" (for lack of a better word). Percussion have never sounded better to me, and hi hats are really something I never thought I’d enjoy so much. It's the first IEM since the VE8 that has me wowed by treble… Last but not least, note linger beautifully when called for, somewhat reminiscent of my experience of Final Audio Heaven VI. In my opinion, the Solaris treble are key to the emotional nature of the IEM, as well as bringing balance and excitement to a very smooth signature.


    Source matching

    All of the above impressions are from WM1Z with firmware 3.0. I have also tried the sources below :

    DX120
    Note : I ran the DX120 with reference sound mode and super slow roll off filter, with the stock cable balanced.
    This was an interesting pairing, quite different from WM1Z, a leaner more reference sound with a twist as the DX120 has more mid bass than the 1Z (with firmware 3.0) providing more kick there and more treble sparkle as well thanks to a colder tone than the 1Z. The lower mids are leaner, making for a cleaner but less musical presentation to my taste, I prefer a fuller sound, but I am nitpicking and that's really an unfair comparison to begin with.

    If you're into a reference musical signature, the DX120 with the Solaris will be a highly portable combo. I think that the DX120 is not too far off from the DX200... not really as pure reference as AMP1 but not as warm as AMP3 either.

    Mojo
    Mojo has more mid bass so you do get some extra kick which no doubt will satisfy bass-heads better but to me you loose in the exceptional detail and textures that makes the Solaris shine in terms of bass quality. There is more lower mids and upper mids are smoothened a bit which make the Solaris warmer, darker and less articulate. The Mojo loosing at least 20% soundstage vs the 1Z also affects the separation making it a less than ideal pairing especially for Jazz and Classical. A lot of the WM1Z / Solaris magic is lost there. Treble looses quite a bit of sparkle compared to the 1Z, it's good but nothing to rave about.

    Oriolus BA300S
    With the Oriolus BA300S plugged into the WM1Z, things get interesting as the BA300S extra power is significant with 700mW into 16ohm while the balanced output of the 1Z in high gain tops out at 250mW into 16ohm. That's on paper, how does it translate in real usage?

    Short answer is, the Solaris scale very well even with this mid tier tube amp which again shows that even low impedance and high sensitivity IEMs can benefit from extra power. With the BA300S, the Solaris clearly enjoy extra driving authority in the bass department, scratching the little itch for more bass impact with a bonus of even richer textures and detail similar to standalone WM1Z. This could probably also be credited to an even lower output impedance of 0.3ohm for the BA300S over the 0.94ohm of the 1Z.

    ALO CV5
    The Continental v5 is another step up the ladder source, with high grade ESR capacitors and a 16V power supply providing a +/- 8V voltage swing. It's also more versatile as it allows for tube rolling and while the baseline amp signature remains consistent you can tweak it significantly enough to adjust pairing with your IEM.

    Compared to the Oriolus BA300S, running with the 1Z the CV5 demonstrate greater authority yet and although it's not a balanced implementation the soundstage is significantly wider and a little deeper. There is significantly less hiss than the BA300S as well. With the default 6111 stock tube - same as the BA300S - the presentation is tighter in the bass, mids are leaner with less body a very clean presentation and the treble is both better extended and more refined. I found myself wishing for more weight and body and a bit of warmth that I do have from the 1Z alone. This is even more striking with the DX120 as source for the CV5.

    I rolled to the 6832 tube and this is a much better pairing with the Solaris, significantly more bass kick and mids are fuller with satisfying body and weight and treble tone is more pleasing. Textures are also a step up from 6111. Overall not that much warmer than the 6111 though but much more musical to my ears. This is a fun combo with a lot of energy. Switching to CV5/6832 with DX120 as a source, definitely more kick in the bass but more treble presence as well and leaner mids than from 1Z.

    The best sounding combo source for the Solaris so far has been WM1Z with the CV5 (6832 tube), you basically retain the 1Z qualities adding quite a bit of headroom which benefits the macro dynamics significantly, the CV5 being quite the lively amp to begin with. Soundstage gains another 10% or so compared to 1Z alone, making for an even grander sounstage. The 1Z alone is a tad more laid back and will be the preferred set up for late night listen.

    Other
    I look forward to audition the Solaris with the DX200, SP1000 or Hugo 2 in upcoming meetups as I suspect synergy will be very good and different from 1Z. I'll keep you posted.


    Upgrade cables
    All of the above impressions are from the stock cable, single ended. I have purchased a balanced Hansound Zen 4 wires in 2.5 termination that I then upgraded to 8 wires copper cable with 4.4. termination. All of the impressions below are from WM1Z balanced out in low gain :

    First of all, the Solaris does respond well to be run balanced, soundstage and imaging are further improved with better separation. I'll soon post comparison with the stock cable balanced as Campfire kindly provided me with one when I asked to order an upgrade.

    Hansound Zen 4 wires balanced

    With the 4 wire Hansound Zen, bass is a bit tighter and more textured. Note that the Hansound Zen has a subtle effect on the signature compared to the stock cable, it's not a colored cable that makes the Solaris much warmer or bassier. It's fairly transparent with the following improvements : bass has a bit more impact and is a bit tighter overall, mids are largely similar to the stock cable with slightly more body and highs have a little less sparkle and a tad warmer tone. I find there is good synergy for my taste.

    Hansound Zen 8 wires balanced
    The 8 wires Hansound Zen improves this much further up to the point I wouldn't even consider it's in the same tier as the 4 wires. It probably has to do with a much lower cable impedance that 8 wire design usually features and the Solaris responds very well. I had to lower the volume by 10% to achieve the same SPL. On the downside there is a noticeably more hiss, but nothing that would affect the listening experience other than critical listening on very very quiet passage in tracks.

    With the 8 wires, the soundstage is wider and taller but more importantly much deeper. Bass is more layered and has gained even more textures, it was already very good but the 8 wires takes it to elite territory. This is something to behold. Both macro and micro dynamics are also in a different ballpark and quite honestly I am reaching the levels of SQ that I had never experienced so far with any gear I have owned. The Solaris sound even more like a full size headphone, so open, that my brain is reconciling the sound is coming from IEMs. Transparency and clarity is also better and the Solaris show its technicality a little bit more.


    Verdict

    With the Solaris, Campfire Audio has built what will undoubtedly become as much of a classic as the Andromeda, living up to its quite bold promise « Holographic presentation. Intimate detail retrieval. Soaring highs, engaging mids and impactful bass. Music sounds like music with lifelike performances, superior layering and unbelievable imaging. The traditional wall between high end two-channel hi-fi and personal audio just got thinner. »

    In Star Wars : A new hope, Han Solo said « Traveling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations we could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova and that'd end your trip real quick, wouldn't it?». To me, buiding an hybrid is a bit like travelling to hyperspace, it's very easy to go wrong and quite hard to build something as highly coherent as the Solaris. Metaphorically speaking, I am glad Ken did his calculations right and propelled us into hyperspace, and the trip is nowhere near its end there are many galaxies yet to explore and countless hours of fun.

    Never had an IEM sounded so speaker like in the way it presents music, a big sound much more akin to full size open back headphones than any IEM except the LCD i4 which is arguably not really an IEM with its 30mm planar driver and his open back. It’s no small feat to have accomplished such soundstage and imaging with a closed back IEM, very few have managed this (U18t comes to mind) let alone on the warmer side of the force. This combined with a smooth and engaging signature help the Solaris bring you into the music and when you realize that you’re more often than not forgetting time and space, you know something special is happening.

    If you’re looking for an IEM with world class holographic soundstage, pinpoint precise imaging, quality bass (with subwoofer like sub bass), transparent mids and exciting while non fatiguing treble then you’re in for a very singular experience with the Solaris (actually the first title of this review was : It's a kind of magic!). If you’re looking for a bass-head experience, a good low OI amp will help but you’ll probably be best served looking towards the current kings namely Atlas or Legend X as I don’t believe EQ’ing or a bassier source will change this for you without loosing the distinctive bass qualities (detail, textures, layering) that in my sense make the Solaris pretty unique.

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    Bonus : Select comparisons
    I can only compare with what I own or have owned long enough (several hundred hours of listening) but here are a few select comparisons. Unfortunately I have never owned or auditioned Andromeda so this much expected comparison will have to wait for other reviewers to chip in!


    Comparison to LCD i4
    There are some commonalities between the Solaris and the LCD i4 : a huge soundstage, great sub bass extension, smooth signature. Granted the LCD i4 edges out the Solaris in terms of soundstage, but not by much which is quite a feat. Sub bass extension is similar although the Solaris has more impact due to its closed back nature. The LCD i4 has more mid bass the Solaris has cleaner more articulate bass with more detail, while the LCD i4 has a tad better textures and a clear advantage in speed. The Solaris mids are more transparent than the LCD i4, with leaner lower mids and upper mids are clearer and more articulate providing more bite as well as more detail. The LCD i4 is warmer. Treble are very different, despite being similarly extended the Solaris is much more exciting by way of its lower treble tuning. To me the Solaris is much more engaging, the LCD i4 missed out on the opportunity to have more articulate mids (upper mids are too smoothed out) and more treble sparkle.

    Comparison to VE8
    Both the VE8 and Solaris are fantastic all rounders with a very musical and smooth tuning. The VE8 is faster, with shorter decay. Mid bass is more prominent on the VE8 with better kick but sub bass is better extended on the Solaris with that subwoofer like quality. Both have a smoother attack, neither has hard hitting bass. I think the Solaris bass is overall more balanced with leaner mid bass and more sub bass presence.

    Mids are interesting, the Solaris is slighgly warmer than the VE8 I find a tad more lower mids on the Solaris and on the flipside a tad more upper mids on the VE8. Notes are bigger on the Solaris, there is more space between instruments by way of its soundstage which is considerably deeper but similarly wide. Maybe the VE8 is a bit taller there. The VE8 has slightly more body and weight, the Solaris mids on the other hand breathe better. Both have highly coherent mids, no strange peak and a smooth experience.

    Treble : both are sublime but with a different take. The VE8 treble is smooth and has good sparkle, with great speed it's airy and feathery a very delicate and refined presentation of the treble. I'd say upper treble are as good as it gets and lower treble is tuned for sparkle with just enough excitement. The Solaris has more weight to its treble, but it's not as fast. It's an exciting treble with an emphasis on lower treble while upper treble while very very good takes a back seat to the excitement and sparkle. IMHO the Solaris walk a very fine line pushing treble excitement as far as it can while never sounding harsh or fatiguing... The VE8 was the first IEM that made me realize I loved good treble. The Solaris does the same, showing me another path to exciting and smooth treble. This makes both IEM very emotional.

    Comparisons to Phantom (Custom)
    This will sound strange as it’s BA vs DD but I find although it doesn’t extend quite as low as the Solaris, the Phantom has more bass impact thanks to sharper attack and more kick in the mid bass. There is more rhythm to the Phantom, it’s more physical while the Solaris is more mature with a more refined bass presentation providing more detail and textures.

    The Phantom mids are thicker, warmer and more forward. It has a tad more lower mids, but more importantly the Phantom has upper mids tuned for clarity : a necessity given the lesser treble sparkle, that prevent the Phantom to fall into darkness so to speak. The Phantom mids have more power and their presence is felt while the Solaris has more transparent mids with upper mids tuned for smoothness as the treble is providing the air and clarity to its signature.

    Both the Phantom and Solaris have unusual weight and body to their treble, but the Solaris has much more sparkle and it’s treble tone is brighter than the Phantom. The Phantom lower treble is much more conservative where the Solaris is playful. The Phantom engages you with its bass kick while the Solaris is giving you shivers with its treble.

    Solaris separation is better than the Phantom while remaining just as coherent there is simply a lot more air by way of its much bigger soundstage. Imaging is great on both but simply sounds better because the image itself is much bigger and deeper on the Solaris.

    Comparisons to EX1000
    The EX1000 is brighter than the Solaris, those are two different signatures. The EX1000 is more neutral bright to my ears while the Solaris is neutral warm. The EX1000 can be a bit harsh at times (although a copper cable will help), the Solaris is as smooth as it gets. Both have a high level of detail but the EX1000 is focused on sharpness and Solaris on smooth delivery. Both have great extension, the Solaris has more kick in the bass but they share good bass texture with a high degree of naturalness. The EX1000 is faster with quicker decay. The Solaris mids are thicker there is more body and weight and lower mids have more presence. Both have great articulate mids but the EX1000 upper mids are clearly more prominent. The treble is very extended on both, but the presentation is very different. The EX1000 is thinner, with more upper treble presence, it's a airy treble with quicker decay. Resolution is better on the EX1000. The Solaris has weight in the treble, it's has more texture and has more impact. Lower treble is more prominent on the Solaris but always smooth and sibilance free contrary to EX1000.

    Both share a great soundstage, I think the EX1000 is wider or appears so because it doesn't have the great depth of the Solaris, also the Solaris soundstage is taller and overall more holographic. The Solaris is bigger sounding probably also thanks to that deep reaching sub bass.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. davidmolliere
      @Piotr Michalak I didn't use the cipher or any EQ on the LCD i4, although it's flattering and very handy on the go I always prefered a DAP. I didn't ear the LCD i4 as neutral bright but maybe it's just different sources, DX200/AMP8 is not bright.
      davidmolliere, Nov 9, 2018
      Piotr Michalak likes this.
    3. lithiumnk
      Excellent review @davidmolliere. I feel solaris as lcdi4 companion in noisy environment. Any impressions with desktop grade equipment (DAC/AMP).
      I strongly believe lcd i4 when paired with a dedicated desktop DAC & AMP & Audeze Reveal Plugin/Roon presets takes a quantum leap forward in all areas as compared to my portable Sp1000cu + mass kobo 424 + EA Horus combo (all balanced) i.e. the scalability is impressive.
      lithiumnk, Nov 13, 2018
    4. tamleo
      Hi @davidmolliere do you really think the ex1000 is that good? it is just a sub-$500 iem compared with the Solaris that has way more tech and price..
      Thank you!
      tamleo, Jan 18, 2019 at 10:59 AM