The Campfire Andromeda needs no introduction. Since its launch in 2016, it has been one of the most popular earphones in its price range, and the standard by which many other earphones have been judged. Over the years, there have been a handful of revisions and special editions, which brings us to the newly released Andromeda 2020 – the fourth full revision of the line. The Andromeda 2020 brings together years of work and refinement to create the best version of the Andromeda yet.
Build and Design
The core look of the Andromeda has remained the same – a metallic green finish on aluminum shells with Campfire Audio’s signature angular design. While there have been some minor changes to the spout, the screws and other minor details, the exterior design remains consistent and recognizable. The interior, however, has been completely redesigned for the Andromeda 2020. Campfire now uses a solid-body 3d printed acoustic chamber, which provides improvements to both the acoustic properties of the IEMs and their durability.
Campfire’s packaging is excellent as always with a sturdy fold-out box containing the case, a selection of Final eartips in various sizes, some small cloth containers for the IEMs and eartips, and the IEMs themselves with the cable attached. The latest models from Campfire come in a case made of cork, rather than leather or faux-leather, and it feels stiff, sturdy, and definitely unique.
Internally, it features the same setup as previous generations, with 5 balanced armature drivers: 2 for the highs, 1 for the mids, and 2 for the lows, with a passive 3-way crossover. Campfire uses MMCX connectors for all their IEMs, and the included cable is generally quite solid and tangle resistant.
Possibly because it was one the first truly high end IEMs that I heard, but the Campfire Andromeda has what I consider to be the quintessential IEM sound. The tuning is generally balanced, with a slight elevation in the bass to provide a solid pop and thump, a treble rolloff around 10-15k to remove harshness, and the balanced armature drivers provide a fast response with a level of detail and separation that few over-ear headphones can deliver. The detail and separation also help deliver the wide soundstage, and clear imaging.
Possibly my new favorite track for testing imaging is “Cockroach King” by Haken. The song features some of that stereo magic with strong left/right positioning that seems to have fallen out of favor as of late. With the Andromeda the lead vocals are placed in the center, while voices pop in from one side and then the other. The guitar and bass are playing ping pong across the stage, and drum fills move across the stage so fast I twisted my neck a little bit by looking from left to right almost involuntarily to follow the run down the toms.
“Dust” by Oh Wonder, has some really fun imaging. The song starts with the pop duo singing in unison, and the feeling is almost as if they're inside your brain singing into your ears from the inside. As the drums and electronic instruments come in they surround your head. With the Andromeda various aspects of the electronic percussion and synthesizers bounce from side to side and create the sensation of a sphere of music surrounding your head.
While sometimes the Andromeda feels like it leans a little bit toward the technical end, it delivers acoustic instruments with a surprising natural transparency. On the Decemberists “The Crane Wife 3” the opening mandolin is bright and crisp. The vocals are clear and natural. I feel like I’m 5 feet away from Colin Meloy, and he’s singing right to me. As the band builds, the dynamics swell and the clarity and detail across the sonic spectrum by the Andromeda becomes fully apparent.
The Andromeda’s mix of detail, dynamics, and tuning seemed like the perfect combination for listening to some more modern movie compositions, like Hans Zimmer’s “Interstellar” score. The dynamic shifts and blending between electronic and traditional orchestral instrumentation provided a good test for the Andromeda. The separation and detail allow you to pick up the nuance of the orchestral strings while a synthesized bass rumbles in the low end. The climax of “Stay” provided an incredible demonstration of Andromeda's prowess as slowly and steadily every aspect of the song builds, from the sub-bass synth through the low end of the orchestra, up to the high end of the string and electronic instruments in the higher range. Throughout the entire movement as everything seemed to be turned up to the maximum, the Andromeda remained perfectly coherent, and I could pick out clear details from every range.
Comparison: Andromeda 2020 (v4) vs. Andromeda v3
With the exception of some special editions with significantly different hardware configurations, each update of the Andromeda has been quite incremental. While there are clear differences between each revision, for the most part the differences are only noticeable by listening side by side – or to people who have spent hundreds of hours with an Andromeda.
Going back through some of my reference tracks, my main observations that the soundstage on the Andromeda v3 feels a bit more crowded, and some detail is lost in the vocals and instruments which sit in a similar range. Haken’s “Cockroach King” was perhaps the most notable. The feeling of spaciousness in the bands positioning was slightly diminished on the v3, and where on the Andromeda 2020 the drum kit had felt larger than life through some of the complicated fills, on the v3 it didn’t have quite the big exciting feel of the 2020. On the flip side, it did feel like some of the cymbal work was a little more up front and noticeable on the v3, where it was a little less dominant on the 2020. The other selections mostly had less notable differences. On “Dust” the general sensation was the same, but the separation was a touch cleaner on the 2020. For the Decemberists the only differences I could strain myself to hear were a slightly lessened feeling of spaciousness on the v3, and some pleasant airiness from the mandolin which was present on the 2020 but not the v3. Hans Zimmer also told a similar tale. The aspect that was probably clearest on the “Interstellar” soundtrack was that the soundstage on the 2020, in addition to feeling a little bigger overall, feels specifically deeper than the v3. As if on the Andromeda v3 the orchestra was lined up from left to right on a stage that went three rows deep, but the 2020 model added a fourth row.
The Bottom Line
Since the release of the original Andromeda four years ago, it has been a force to be reckoned with in the IEM world. Along the way there have been small steps towards making it even better, and with the 2020 revision, the Andromeda is the best that it’s ever been. If you’re hungry for powerful, versatile IEMs with the right balance of detail, technicality, and fun, the Andromeda might just be your meal ticket.