Campfire - Solaris
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1) Tl;dr version:

If your considering the Solaris as a major upgrade to your current mid-tier or lower IEM, go for it - 95% of your quality recordings are going to sound amazing. Just understand that it may take a minute or three for your brain to begin fully appreciating them.

2) Bloated, self indulgent version:

Understanding full well that we’re probably hundreds of pages and thousands of posts beyond the point of really needing another “listening impressions” review in this thread, I nevertheless thought I’d offer a few brief observations for the benefit of anyone who might be contemplating a Solaris purchase as an upgrade after many years of listening to an older, less capable IEM.

By way of background, I meet the most basic requirements for offering such an opinion. Prior to the arrival of the Solaris three days ago, the only IEMs I’ve used for the past dozen years or so have been a pair of Shure SE530s. Apologies up front to all the audio cognoscenti here who are now having to clean the orange juice and coffee out of their keyboards, :) but yes, you read that correctly - my only IEMs for well over a decade have been the Shure SE530.

I certainly don’t think anyone would need to justify such a purchase at the time. As the more seasoned among us may recall, for anyone making their first quality IEM acquisition back in the 2000s, the SE530 definitely had the potential to be a revelation. I know it was for me. As far as mobile solutions of the era go, iTunes and iPods had just given us the ability to store massive amounts of lossless CD rips on one fairly small device with a baseline SQ approaching that of our portable CD players. Combining the iPod with an iQube V1 and the SE530 resulted in a travel combo that provided me with countless hours of classic rock, metal and new wave audio bliss on many long transcontinental flights.

Of course the iPod eventually gave way to the iPhone, and a Mojo was added into the mix along the way for good measure, but what I might be less able to justify, particularly in these circles, is why I haven’t tried any other IEMs in the interim. Well, what can I tell you? I guess I’m not a ‘flavor of the month’ kind of guy. <insert massive understatement alert here> But whatever the reasons, the Solaris is here now and it too has been a revelation, in any number of ways.

Of course there is the largest measure of truth to all the accolades that have been heaped upon the Solaris with respect to its soundstage, depth, isolation, separation, layering, extension, etc. And while these are all inarguably positive attributes, I will say to the person contemplating such a major IEM upgrade as mine, after having spent so long with only one other pair, that there is much truth as well to the notion that you need to be willing to spend some time retraining your ears.

I won’t lie. At first listen - despite all the research I had done, all the reviews I had read, all the comparisons to other IEMs I had seen made - I was worried that I may have made a mistake. On paper, the Solaris’ advertised sound signature matched up almost perfectly with my general preferences. Yet there were so many more layers of sound present, and so much more extension as compared to my much older Shures, that initially my ears were more than a bit overwhelmed. Separation and even some clarity - of the bass in particular - seemed to suffer in contrast to how I remembered songs in my mind through the SE530s.

Yet as I worked to process all the new sonic information being presented, I continued bouncing haphazardly around my music library. In short order, I began to land upon songs where the differences between the two IEMs seemed less dramatic. Rush’s Moving Pictures might be my favorite album of all time and it’s one that sounds pretty powerful on the SE530s. Here though, a significant overall improvement could be heard through the Solaris immediately. A heavy sigh of relief was breathed. Then it was off to Memphis with Marc Cohn, down to the waterline with the boys from Dire Straits and on to a brief exploration of Richard Butler’s gravelly vocals fronting the Psychedelic Furs. A long standing love affair with the first ladies of new wave, Terri Nunn and Dale Bozzio, was taken to a new level. In all these cases, the Solaris was stunning on first listen. Progressively, those feelings of relief further gave way to ones of excitement and anticipation.

More importantly, through this process, my brain is quickly learning to decode the Solaris’ presentation of nearly all the music in my collection, finding the increased separation, detail and texture that these new IEMs have to offer. That’s not to say there still isn’t some work to be done. For whatever reason, Metallica’s Master of Puppets continues to sound almost comically unnatural to me - as if it were being broadcast from underwater. I can’t tell you why, as many other Metallica tracks sound marvelous. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. And, if all else fails, there’s no law preventing me from continuing to listen to certain songs or albums with the SE530s.

The other bit of conventional wisdom that I found to be particularly applicable in this transition, as it would be with any top quality IEM, is that the Solaris is quite capable of exposing the limitations of the source material. I noticed that with some of my Beach Boys recordings, the highly refined instrumental isolation, separation and soundstage of the Solaris tends to expose an unnatural amount of space and distance between the individual instruments - almost like you were hearing them emanate from three or four widely dispersed but highly point sources. Fortunately the vocals are dead center, right where they should be, and they’re spectacular. So too with some of Van Halen’s earliest offerings, where Eddie’s guitar can sound just a tad too far pushed off stage left. But these are minor hindrances to what has otherwise been a massive reawakening of my musical library. With each new day this week, I’ve eagerly looked forward to stealing away whatever moments I can to continue this exploration into uncharted IEM territory.
Like you, I went from the SE530 to the Solaris, and I'm not looking back - they sound great and so glad I finally made that jump.
 
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I've been really enjoying these last few days with Solaris after not hearing them for close to two weeks. I stand by my original claim that they're a good mix of the best of the Atlas and Andromeda without the extremes of either.
The Atlas and Solaris compliment each other. The Solaris is impressive out of the box, the Atlas takes time. As I stated in my Atlas review, the initial wall of bass started to subside and it is like a new IEM. Both IEMs are super engaging. As I write the Solaris review I will add some comparisons to the Atlas. The stage of the Solaris is just so well well defined.

Never forget, nothing at this level sucks, it is all about finding a signature that checks your boxes.
 
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Like you, I went from the SE530 to the Solaris, and I'm not looking back - they sound great and so glad I finally made that jump.
The 530 to the Solaris is quite a big jump. You're missing a solid 10 years of refinements between these 2 earphones. For me, I went from more recent top-level IEMs to the Solaris, and I was already impressed enough to cough up the dollars for them. But, whatever.. as long as they sound great to your ears, it's a worthwhile purchase. Enjoy your Solaris! :)
 
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The 530 to the Solaris is quite a big jump. You're missing a solid 10 years of refinements between these 2 earphones. For me, I went from more recent top-level IEMs to the Solaris, and I was already impressed enough to cough up the dollars for them. But, whatever.. as long as they sound great to your ears, it's a worthwhile purchase. Enjoy your Solaris! :)
Thanks, enjoy your Solaris as well. I was just plodding along with the Shures since I was good using my iPhone as the source, and I was listening mostly during flights. Once I upgraded my iPhone and lost the headphone jack, I went on a search to find out how to use cabled IEMs with my iPhone and discovered head-fi and this hobby. And it's been a slippery slope in a great way ever since :ksc75smile:
 
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I went from more recent top-level IEMs to the Solaris, and I was already impressed enough to cough up the dollars for them.
Yup. I recently spent two weeks with a Sony IER Z1R and when I came back to Solaris I was amazed at how much I missed and (on the whole preferred) their sound.
 
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Thanks, enjoy your Solaris as well. I was just plodding along with the Shures since I was good using my iPhone as the source, and I was listening mostly during flights. Once I upgraded my iPhone and lost the headphone jack, I went on a search to find out how to use cabled IEMs with my iPhone and discovered head-fi and this hobby. And it's been a slippery slope in a great way ever since :ksc75smile:
wow... that's really an Upgrade...

come to think of how i started and end up like this, was from my broken Gaming headset, finding this Headfi and trying IEM as alternative, at that time KZ ZS6, then tried and bought again other Hybrid IEM like TFZ King, CFA Polaris and CFA Solaris....
And was one of exciting quest, meeting new hobby friend, learning new things, demoing other IEM, like Tia Fourte, Trio, etc...
but majority of my quest is for DAP... because my ear alrd like Solaris that much
 
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Like you, I went from the SE530 to the Solaris, and I'm not looking back - they sound great and so glad I finally made that jump.
I still use my shure 535 for gym and bicycle riding. Still love them and the isolation. However, solaris is a whole other level imo.
 
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Thanks, enjoy your Solaris as well. I was just plodding along with the Shures since I was good using my iPhone as the source, and I was listening mostly during flights. Once I upgraded my iPhone and lost the headphone jack, I went on a search to find out how to use cabled IEMs with my iPhone and discovered head-fi and this hobby. And it's been a slippery slope in a great way ever since :ksc75smile:
IKR. This hobby is dangerous. Trying is free, but getting hooked... well, that costs your soul. :sweat_smile:
 
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Yup. I recently spent two weeks with a Sony IER Z1R and when I came back to Solaris I was amazed at how much I missed and (on the whole preferred) their sound.
To be fair, the Z1R is an exciting earphone that defines bass in a very, very good way. The Solaris, on the other hand, is a detail champ, and presents music in a natural, yet tasteful way. They both complement each other well, and I could see how one would choose the Z1R for dance music, and the Solaris for rock and pop.

But yeah, I love my Solaris. I just wish CA's next flagship wouldn't be this big. :grimacing:
 
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To be fair, the Z1R is an exciting earphone that defines bass in a very, very good way. The Solaris, on the other hand, is a detail champ, and presents music in a natural, yet tasteful way. They both complement each other well, and I could see how one would choose the Z1R for dance music, and the Solaris for rock and pop.
The Z1R has better bass, in terms of extension and definition...but on the whole the Solaris' more balanced presentation won the day for me. Even in some dance tracks the superior detail retrieval and layering of the Solaris stood out while the recessed midrange on the Z1R made me feel like something was missing, despite how much I loved the bass. (And let me add that the bass on the Solaris is AWESOME-- the idea that it is weak or limp is false and imho likely propagated by people who could never get a proper fit). Both the Solaris and Z1R are top tier IEMs and which is "better" really boils down to one's priorities and preferred sound sig.
 
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wow... that's really an Upgrade...

come to think of how i started and end up like this, was from my broken Gaming headset, finding this Headfi and trying IEM as alternative, at that time KZ ZS6, then tried and bought again other Hybrid IEM like TFZ King, CFA Polaris and CFA Solaris....
And was one of exciting quest, meeting new hobby friend, learning new things, demoing other IEM, like Tia Fourte, Trio, etc...
but majority of my quest is for DAP... because my ear alrd like Solaris that much
It's been quite the year...learning about headphones, IEMs, DAPs...going to CanJams...and best of all meeting new people that are willing to share their knowledge and experience. Yes, I've spent a bit of money...also got an A&K DAP and Empire Ear Phantoms. It's all great as I listen to music that I've never heard before and hearing my favorites in more detail. :ksc75smile:

I still use my shure 535 for gym and bicycle riding. Still love them and the isolation. However, solaris is a whole other level imo.
I still use my SE535 occasionally, but they are on their last leg due to the cable. Definitely a good entry IEM when I started with them around 2010 or so.

IKR. This hobby is dangerous. Trying is free, but getting hooked... well, that costs your soul. :sweat_smile:
I needed new things to spend my money on :ksc75smile:
 
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It's been quite the year...learning about headphones, IEMs, DAPs...going to CanJams...and best of all meeting new people that are willing to share their knowledge and experience. Yes, I've spent a bit of money...also got an A&K DAP and Empire Ear Phantoms. It's all great as I listen to music that I've never heard before and hearing my favorites in more detail. :ksc75smile:



I still use my SE535 occasionally, but they are on their last leg due to the cable. Definitely a good entry IEM when I started with them around 2010 or so.



I needed new things to spend my money on :ksc75smile:

There is still fullsize over ear headphones and then 2way speaker setups. Speakers can get really expensive really fast. Especially when you are chasing the resolution and performance that you get with totl open backs like they abyss or susvara. Speakers do give you an experience that even the best headphones can't match though.
 
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The Z1R has better bass, in terms of extension and definition...but on the whole the Solaris' more balanced presentation won the day for me. Even in some dance tracks the superior detail retrieval and layering of the Solaris stood out while the recessed midrange on the Z1R made me feel like something was missing, despite how much I loved the bass. (And let me add that the bass on the Solaris is AWESOME-- the idea that it is weak or limp is false and imho likely propagated by people who could never get a proper fit). Both the Solaris and Z1R are top tier IEMs and which is "better" really boils down to one's priorities and preferred sound sig.
Yeah, the timbre and tonality on the Solaris is top-notch. When you first try them on, you'd think that a balanced sound is all you're going to get from the Solaris. However, they are an engaging pair of IEMs, too; they play very well with a myriad genres. Lows aren't going to be as solid as that on the Z1R, but here on the Solaris, it's very well layered, with adequate slam on request.
 
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