Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020, Solaris 2020, and ARA - Combined Review and Comparison.
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New Flames of Campfire!

Due to overlap in Unboxing, Accessories, Cable, some new Design concepts (Solid Body design), and based on numerous requests to compare 2020 Campfire Audio models, I decided to combine all 3 reviews in one instead of copying same sections in separate reviews.

The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion. The review was originally posted on my site, and now I would like to share it with my readers on Head-fi.

Manufacturer website: Campfire Audio. Available for sale directly or various retailers like Audio46 and others.


Intro.

I still can’t get over Ken’s and Caleb’s poker faces when I asked them early this year at CanJam NYC’20 if Campfire Audio is planning to release something new. Without blinking an eye, they only mentioned about a possibility of some lower end model later this year. You can only imagine my surprise when a few months later I was watching Head-fi TV where they were talking about the updated line up of Andromeda 2020, Solaris 2020, and all new ARA. So, when opportunity knocked on my door, Campfire Audio (CFA) didn’t have to ask me twice if I’m interested to review their new IEMs.

Once all three arrived and I started to share initial impressions and pictures on Head-fi, my original intent was to have a short combined first look overview, followed later by a full review. But as I continued to answer numerous questions about 2020 CFA models, I realized that short impressions write up will not be enough. I still wanted to publish a combined review because majority of questions I received were either about comparison of 2020 Andro and Solaris to their OG versions, or comparison of all three to decide which one to pick. And this is exactly what you will find in this full detailed review!

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Unboxing and Accessories.

The best way to describe CFA 2020 unboxing experience is “like a box of chocolate”. While I know some don’t really care about unboxing in general, this was on a totally different eye candy level. And don’t take my words for it, just look at the pictures.

Each IEM comes in a compact box with its own color scheme and 3D picture of corresponding model popping out from the cover of the fancy French paper wrapping. That wrapping is held together by a round sticker on the back which you need to cut/remove to unfold the top layer like it’s an origami, and inside it looked just like a candy box. The view was even more impressive since I was doing all 3 boxes at the same time in the kitchen, and my wife and kids passing by thought for real that I was opening candy boxes.

cfa-2020-x01.jpgcfa-2020-x04.jpgcfa-2020-x06.jpg

When you open the actual product box, inside you will find a new premium cork zipper earphone case, in different dyed colors (Andro – green, ARA – blue, Solaris – brown) to match the color theme of each IEM packaging. These cases are made in Portugal, from a material found in outer bark of the Cork Oak Trees, and each features a thick faux wool lining and a quality zipper. The cases are very compact, pocket friendly, and great for storage and keeping IEMs secure during transport.

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To make sure anodized finish of the shells is not ruined by IEMs banging against each other inside the case, Campfire also includes earphone protection double-pocket sleeve, 3 pairs of it. One was used for IEMs, and other spares were used for eartips storage. The other included accessories, besides a stock super smoky Litz SPC cable, were a set of Final Audio E-type brand name eartips (xs/s/m/l/xl), generic silicone eartips (s/m/l) and marshmallow eartips (s/m/l), Campfire Audio traditional lapel pin, and a cleaning tool.

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Cable.

The new stock 2020 CFA cable is 3.5mm TRS terminated, with 90-deg gold-plated plug and over-molded rubbery housing with a nice grip and built-in strain relief. The 4 twisted Silver-Plated Copper Litz multi diameter stranding wire conductors have a smoky finish with a medical grade soft PVC jacket. The y-split is a slim aluminum black “bullet” with a matching chin slider which retracts from the split. The wires going to each earpiece after the split are twisted, and closer to mmcx connector housing have a piece of heat-shrink pre-shaped flexible earhook (no more memory wire!!!). The mmcx connector itself uses a quality beryllium copper material, and the smoky housing of the connector has red/blue dots corresponding to Right/Left sides.

The original Super Litz cable found in OG Solaris has thicker conductors and a little stiffer in comparison to lighter, softer, and more pliable Super Smoky Litz cable. Also, the original Super Litz had memory wire, while Super Smoky Litz didn’t, only a flexible pre-shaped earhook.

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And in addition to physical difference, the perception of sound difference when going between these cables was quite noticeable as well. For example, with Andro 2020, the original “silver” Super Litz cable has more body in mids and narrower soundstage width, while Super Smoky Litz cable gives new Andro mids/vocals more transparency, more air between layers, and noticeably wider soundstage when tested with LPGT. The difference was noticeable to my ears in a number of blind tests.

cfa-2020-x42.jpg

Design.

While unboxing experience and selection of accessories was nearly identical between these three, the design of each IEM requires a separate attention which I’m going to cover individually in this section of the review. But before I begin, there were 2 common features I would like to bring up.

First one is Campfire Audio Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber (T.A.E.C.) which is a patented design of an optimized acoustic resonator assembly machined into the shell. It actually replaces the traditional tube and dampener system commonly used in many IEMs by adjusting the volume of space in front of the driver. T.A.E.C. has been used in many previous CFA IEMs.

The new addition in 2020 models is a Solid Body Design which provides optimized acoustic performance by including the tuning chambers directly into the earphone print. In other words, it is what CFA refers to as a single monolithic boot design with all the drivers inside, including the built-in sound path, which also ensures a much tighter build tolerance.

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ARA (https://campfireaudio.com/shop/ara/, $1,2999)

cfa-2020-x07.jpg

Starting with the new kid on the block, it’s a brand new 7 BA drivers ARA IEM which according to CFA was inspired by a tuning of their special edition Andro Gold and also 10-year anniversary edition MW10 (MixWave) which featured crossover-less design. As a matter of fact, while having a familiar outline of a signature Andro shell, the spout is elongated, similar to Andro Gold design.

The shell is machined from Grade 2 Titanium billet, with a raw titanium finish, PVD black stainless-steel spout with a new grill design, and black screws. And of course, you will find their latest beryllium/copper MMCX socket. The titanium shell, accentuated with black screws and spout, has a rich eye candy look. It is still lightweight, has a comfortable secure fit, and good isolation.

Inside, you will find a crossover-less driver single boot design which incorporates their new Solid-Body acoustics design. The split between 7BA drivers is Dual (2x) high frequency BAs (T.A.E.C), Single (1x) mid frequency BA, and Quad (4x) low frequency BAs. The impedance of ARA is 8.5 ohms with 93 dB sensitivity, but despite its lower sensitivity it did not require to push volume higher or to drive with more powerful source.

Solaris 2020 (https://campfireaudio.com/shop/solaris-2020/, $1,499)

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From the “new kid”, we move on to a “total makeover” surprise which is 2020 version of Solaris. One of the main complaints about OG Solaris was its size which some found to be a bit uncomfortable, asking CFA for custom version of this popular hybrid. Campfire reply was a new 20% smaller shell which is also 25% lighter in weight (from 8g to 6g). Also, the new design is less flashy since the gold faceplate is gone. With an exception of stainless-steel spout, it’s now an all-black shell with a bonus feature of a fingerprint magnet.

The shape of the shell is a perfectly scaled down version of the OG Solaris, featuring a durable black PVD finished body, vented shell (for dynamic driver), and as already mentioned, a stainless-steel short spout with a new grill design. Of course, the latest beryllium/copper MMCX socket is there as well.

Inside, it features single boot “Solid-Body” acoustic design, and the identical driver config as OG Solaris. It is still a 4-driver hybrid design with Dual (2x) high frequency BAs (T.A.E.C), Single (1x) mid frequency BA, and the same single 10mm DD for lows with plasma enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (C.V.D.) Amorphous Diamond Like Carbon (A.D.L.C.) diaphragm. The impedance of Solaris 2020 is 15.5 ohms with 115 dB sensitivity.

Andromeda 2020 (https://campfireaudio.com/shop/andromeda-2020/, $1,099)

cfa-2020-x08.jpg

Since its first introduction, Andro went through a number of different versions and special editions, everything from v1, v2, v3, white, gold, mw10, and now 2020 version. Some changes were cosmetic only (going from v1 to v2), others were special limited editions with unique tuning. But the common Andro iteration remained the same inside of zirconium blasted aluminum shells with a classic emerald green anodizing finish and the latest custom beryllium/copper MMCX socket.

The only exterior change here is the new grill pattern at the end of stainless-steel short spout. But inside, Andro was updated with a single monolithic boot Solid-Body acoustic design. The 5-driver config and the crossover are still the same with a Dual (2x) high frequency BAs (T.A.E.C), Single (1x) mid frequency BA, and Dual (2x) low frequency BAs. The impedance of Andro 2020 is 12.8 ohms with 112.8 dB sensitivity.
 
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Sound Analysis.

I analyzed Campfire Audio models sound performance paired up with LPGT in High Gain using stock cable and stock Type-E eartips while playing a variety of test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, David Elias “Vision of her”, Dua Lipa “Love again”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”.

Since I’m combining the write up of all 3 new Campfire Audio models, I decided to format Sound Analysis section differently in this review. I will go over each model individually, including a few selective comparison examples, especially to OG models. And in the Conclusion of the review, I will summarize and compare all 3 to make it easier to decide which one will suite your sound preference better.

Furthermore, the discussion of Campfire Audio IEMs always ends up with questions about pair up and hissing due to their sensitivity. Don’t expect any miracles in 2020 versions of Andro and Solaris, or the new ARA version. If you heard the hissing with your particular audio source at a lower volume or in quiet song passages with Andro or Solaris, it will still be the same with ’20 versions and even a touch more with ARA.

ARA

I found ARA to have a more neutral with a little bit of mid-forward flavor signature and a brighter tonality which has a more revealing transparent micro-detailed sound. Overall tuning is very coherent. The soundstage expansion has a decent width and depth with a little more out of your head depth than width. Also, good imaging with a convincing and accurate placement of instruments and vocals. I can also hear a great layering and separation of the sounds with plenty of air between the layers.

Starting with a bass, it is very neutral and natural. The rumble/extension doesn't go too deep, bass is there with an average speed impact, but it is the kind of bass you hear rather than "feel", being all about the quality rather than the quantity. Mids are very transparent, hardly any coloring, lower mids are neutral, not too thick or too thin. Upper mids are more revealing, detailed, layered, not too analytical or harsh, still natural and more forward in presentation. Treble is crisp but not too harsh, has a very good extension and airiness. I do hear more crunch in lower treble, and in poorly recorded tracks there is some emphasis on "s", but to my ears I don't detect any harsh sibilance.

Perhaps the tuning of ARA doesn't have as much of "fun" coloring, but it's great for vocal tracks or any songs where you want to dive into details without being overwhelmed or distracted by extra bass impact or analytical harshness.

Comparison.

When ARA was introduced, I heard from a few people that it will be a great monitor for studio mixing and production, thus I thought some might appreciate the comparison to UERR. Both IEMs have a very similar neutral bass impact and extension, and also similarities in neutral tonality of lower mids. The big difference here is in upper mids and treble where UERR mids are smoother and warmer, and treble is also smoother in comparison, while ARA mids are brighter, more transparent, more layered, and treble is crisper and airier.

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Solaris 2020

I found 2020 version of Solaris to have a balanced signature with a more revealing yet still relatively natural tonality which has more emphasis on clarity and retrieval of details. The tuning is still relatively coherent for a hybrid design without an over-emphasized dip in lower mids to separate lows, but the new Solaris still sounds unmistakably like a hybrid with a dynamic driver pumping the bass. Here you have a very wide/deep soundstage, approaching the holographic level, and a great imaging with an accurate positioning of sounds. The layering and separation of the sounds is also very good, with plenty of air between the layers.

Starting with lows, Solaris’20 bass goes down to a deeper sub-bass rumble and punches harder and faster with a textured analog dynamic driver impact. But unlike a typical slower dynamic driver, here the bass is fast and well controlled. Mids sound natural, with plenty of revealing details and lots of clarity. Lower mids are slightly above neutral, giving the sound more body, while upper mids have a natural retrieval of details without being too bright or too smooth or too thin, again, with a good balance between the clarity and naturalness of tonality, especially when it comes to vocals. Treble has a good control, but sounds a little more on a brighter side, with a good extension and plenty of airiness. Lower treble peaks are a little higher, giving the sound more clarity and higher level of definition. In some poorly recorded tracks, you can also hear a little more emphasis on "s", but again, I don't find it harsh or sibilant. Instead, it helps to bring more clarity, airiness, and higher definition to the sound.

The overall tuning of Solaris’20 is nicely balanced with a textured analog quality of the bass and extra revealing upper frequency details to work well with any genre of music.

Comparison.

Relative to original Solaris, the biggest difference I hear is in upper mids, with a lift between 2k-4k region which gives vocals more focus, more emphasis, improved clarity and better retrieval of details. As a matter of fact, it reminds me a lot of Solaris SE tuning I heard briefly at the last CanJam NYC’20 show.

When comparing Solaris’20 to another IEM like 64 Audio Trio, I hear a very similar soundstage expansion. Bass impact is not quite the same where Trio slams harder with a more elevated impact, scaling up in quantity. Mids of Trio are pulled slightly back and extend more out of your head, while new Solaris mids have a more forward presentation which brings vocals closer to you. Trio mids are a little warmer and smoother, closer to Andro '20, while Solaris '20 mids/vocals are more transparent and revealing. Both have a similar treble quality, quantity, and extension.

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The difference in fit.

cfa-2020-x25.jpg cfa-2020-x26.jpg

Andromeda 2020

I hear Andro’20 to have a balanced signature with a natural revealing tonality, and overall a more fun balanced tuning due to an evenly balanced emphasis on lows, mids, and highs (w-shaped). It still sounds coherent with all drivers working in perfect unison. The soundstage is very wide and deep, approaching holographic level. With that, you should expect a great imaging and accurate positioning of every sound and vocals. Also, I hear a great layering and separation of the sound with plenty of air between the layers.

Starting with lows, bass has a good low end extension with more noticeable sub-bass rumble, not too elevated but noticeable, and a faster mid-bass punch with more impact as well. Overall, bass is articulate and well controlled. Mids sound more natural and still with plenty of revealing details. Lower mids are slightly above neutral level, giving the sound more body, while upper mids have a natural retrieval of details without being too bright or too smooth, striking a good balance between the clarity and naturalness of tonality. Treble is well controlled, with a good extension and moderate airiness, tuned with just enough control to give the sound plenty of clarify and definition without harshness of lower treble peaks. Even with Type-E eartips which to my ears can put more accentuation on “s”, Andro ’20 treble sounds well controlled and natural.

The tuning is nicely balanced and has enough emphasis and control to work with any genre of music.

Comparison.

I hear a very noticeable change between Andro OG (v2, the same tuning as v1) and 2020 version in upper mids. While the bass and treble sound close enough, upper mids are lifted, around 2k and 4k region, to give the vocals more focus, more clarity, more balance, and improved definition. To my ears, Andro OG always had a fun tuning with more emphasis on low end and treble, while mids were pulled slightly back. 2020 version gives vocals more focus and improved definition, changing the signature to more balanced.

When comparing Andro’20 to another IEM, like 64 Audio U12t, I hear a number of similarities with a very similar bass quantity, quality, and extension, though Andro bass is just a little bit tighter. I also hear a similar quality and extension of the treble. Mids/vocals is where I hear the biggest difference, most in presentation where U12t vocals are more out of your head and more distant, while Andro’20 vocals positioned closer and have a little more transparency. Also, Andro soundstage is a little bit wider.

I added the comparison with DUNU Luna after the review was published because I received quite a handful of questions about it. Though both have a similar soundstage width, Andro’20 soundstage projects a little further out of your head, while Luna soundstage depth is not that far out, giving the sound a little more intimacy. With bass, Luna is probably in between of Andro'20 and Solaris'20, having a deeper sub-bass rumble and a little more mid-bass punch when compared to Andro'20, but not quite reaching the level of Solaris low end extension and impact. Both have natural detailed mids/vocals which I'm hearing closer in tonality, but I do find Luna to be more transparent while Andro has some coloring. With treble, Luna sounds more natural while Andro treble is brighter and with a little harsher sparkle. The biggest difference here comes from a technical performance aspect where Luna sounds faster and tighter.

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Conclusion.

Since I received all three new Campfire Audio IEMs at once, during my long listening sessions I went back and forth with comparison, constantly stacking them up against each other. And while these are certainly 3 different IEMs, the gap between 2020 versions of Solaris and Andro wasn’t as wide as between the corresponding OG versions. Even ARA, in some way, felt like a variation of a new Solaris minus the bass.

In overall comparison between these three new 2020 CFA models, I find Solaris and ARA to have similar mids, but Solaris has bigger and bolder bass impact with a deeper sub-bass rumble, while ARA has crisper and more energetic lower treble. When it comes to Solaris and Andro, I hear a similar bass impact, except Solaris has a deeper sub-bass rumble with more analog texture. The mids of Solaris and Andro have a natural detailed tonality, but Andro has more body and sounds more organic while Solaris is more transparent and airier.

And in the final Tl;dr comparison summary:

Soundstage WIDTH: Andro and Solaris are similar and wider than ARA.

BASS: Andro and Solaris have similar impact, though Solaris goes deeper and has more texture, while ARA is more neutral and flatter (which gives its mids more focus).

MIDS: Andro has a fuller body smoother tonality, while Solaris and ARA are more transparent and layered.

TREBLE: Andro and Solaris have a similar sparkly well-defined treble, but smoother fuller body tonality of Andro mids make its treble to have perception of more controlled peaks. In comparison, ARA treble is crisper, brighter, and airier.

Each IEM has a solid build and eye-candy design, comes with an upgraded quality cable and premium accessories. Each one offers a refined sound tuning, which for some could be more like a fine-tuning when going from one model to the other. And in today’s world of multi-kilobuck IEM flagships, Campfire Audio still offers a great value with its price/performance ratio. At the end of the day, I hope my review will help you decide which one will suite your sound preference better!
 
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Great job. I must've got a bad pair of Solaris 2020... the treble on mine was very subdued and didn't possess that CFA sparkle and air.
 
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Superb analysis, Alex. I'll definitely be using this as a resource for folks looking for a comparison of the three new models.
 
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Yes, I highly prefer the treble on my Solaris 2020 in comparison to the OG Solaris, the fuller bodied lows of the 2020's sort of "tamed" the treble to my personal preference which was detailed but not overly shrill.
 
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Excellent review! Awesome reference for the latest CA lineup.
 
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As usual excellent review and comparison :)

Is Leonidas II still the best paring for Solaris 2020 or you would recommend other cables as well?
 
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As usual excellent review and comparison :)

Is Leonidas II still the best paring for Solaris 2020 or you would recommend other cables as well?
Leo II is a great cable, and so does Code 51 and PPH8, but personally I'm using stock Smokey litz cable with Solaris '20 and I think the pair up is great. All my high end cables are 2pin and I'm not too crazy about wearing adapters for extended period of time. Plus, it is not easy to recommend a cable that cost a lot more than IEM itself while delivering only a marginal improvement. I would recommend cable rolling with your existing cables, to find the best pair up synergy, but spending $2k on Solaris cable not gonna make it sound 2x better :wink:
 
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Leo II is a great cable, and so does Code 51 and PPH8, but personally I'm using stock Smokey litz cable with Solaris '20 and I think the pair up is great. All my high end cables are 2pin and I'm not too crazy about wearing adapters for extended period of time. Plus, it is not easy to recommend a cable that cost a lot more than IEM itself while delivering only a marginal improvement. I would recommend cable rolling with your existing cables, to find the best pair up synergy, but spending $2k on Solaris cable not gonna make it sound 2x better :wink:
I used to have Leo II when I had the u12t. Loved the pairing and how comfy it was. And the holographic presentation was unbelievable so I must say I would be curious on how it would sound with Solaris 20 which I like even more than u12t. Leo II can be had for around 800 pounds in UK which is a lot, I agree :)

I like the super smokey litz though, unfortunately not yet available in Europe in balanced
 
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As usual excellent review and comparison :)

Is Leonidas II still the best paring for Solaris 2020 or you would recommend other cables as well?
I preferred Cleo over Leo II for Solaris OG. Cleo sounded airier with tighter bass.
 
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Regarding cables for the Solaris 2020, I personally prefer the Super Smokey litz cable when using my LPGT, with either the stock 3.5mm cable or the 4.4mm balanced one, it gives the Solaris 2020 a very good body of sound and detail without the soundstage getting too wide or unnatural.

I have also used my Null Audio Thera cable on my Fiio M15 and that combination with the Solaris 2020 is excellent too.
 
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Is the 2020 Solaris or Andromeda more suited for diverse music taste - 90’s pop, jazz, piano, and classical music? I would love to hear your feedback.
Thanks 😊
 
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Some information for Solaris 2020 owners!
I emailed Campfire Audio to enquire about getting the standard Super Smoky Litz cable terminated with a 4.4mm plug.
They said they're not re-terminating the cables, but are doing a special offer to Solaris 2020 owners. They sold me a brand new 4.4mm Super Smoky Litz cable for the special price of $99. That's $100 off normal price.
It arrived to me in the UK today - just 48 hrs after shipping. Bravo Campfire Audio!
 
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Is the 2020 Solaris or Andromeda more suited for diverse music taste - 90’s pop, jazz, piano, and classical music? I would love to hear your feedback.
Thanks 😊
I would assume 90s pop to sound more full and punchier with the Solaris because the Solaris has a balanced amount of bass and lower bass extension. Jazz and music and orchestral music with strings should sound great with both the Solaris and Andromeda 2020s
 
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Some information for Solaris 2020 owners!
I emailed Campfire Audio to enquire about getting the standard Super Smoky Litz cable terminated with a 4.4mm plug.
They said they're not re-terminating the cables, but are doing a special offer to Solaris 2020 owners. They sold me a brand new 4.4mm Super Smoky Litz cable for the special price of $99. That's $100 off normal price.
It arrived to me in the UK today - just 48 hrs after shipping. Bravo Campfire Audio!
That's great. Did you pay customs tax on that?
 
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