A quick look at our office IEM case will reveal that we really like Campfire Audio, so when they announced that they were updating two of our favorites – the Solaris and the Andromeda – and releasing a brand new earphone, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on them. Well, we got our hands on them, and there’s a lot to love. There’s a full review coming for the all new Campfire Ara, but first, we’ve got some thoughts on the whole Campfire Audio 2020 line-up.
Andromeda 2020 Impressions
Visually the Andromeda 2020 is nearly identical to the old one. The only difference I noticed is that while the previous version had three small openings at the end of the nozzle, the Andromeda 2020 has a vented opening. There are a number of internal changes to the structure and construction of the IEMs, both to improve the build process and tweak the sound, but visually it’s the same distinct look that the Andromeda has always had.
In terms of the sound, this is definitely the same Andromeda, but there are some subtle differences, the most notable being improvements in the mid-high range. Vocals feel a bit more open, and the small nuances – a touch of growl or rasp – are that much clearer. With the Andromeda 2020, going back and forth between Steven Wilson and Anet Tayib’s vocals on Steven Wilson’s “Pariah,” Wilson’s voice has a more crisp quality throughout, while there’s a touch more emotion revealed in Tayib’s lower register. The differences are definitely subtle, and I wouldn’t rush out and buy a new pair of Andromeda 2020s to replace your current ones, but it is definitely an evolutionary step in IEM performance.
Solaris 2020 Impressions
As soon as they’re out of the case, you’ll see that the Solaris 2020 has had some major visual changes. The 24k gold on the front of the shell is gone, replaced by glossy black all around. A closer look will reveal that they’re significantly smaller, which addresses an issue for some: the physical shell was uncomfortable for some people because it was too big for their ears. So what we get is a smaller, simpler design. If the previous version was reminiscent of a British luxury car, the Solaris 2020 is a sleek Italian sports car.
Whatever they did to change the case, these are still sonically 100% Solaris. The engineers clearly had their work cut out for them, creating the same sound in a smaller space, but it’s all still there. The full, round bass, the revealing midrange, and articulate highs (maybe even more articulate than the old version) are all here, and they didn’t give up an inch of soundstage despite making it 20% smaller. The new more svelte design combined with the same beautiful sound is enough to make you fall in love with the Solaris all over again.
Campfire Ara Impressions
The Ara is an all-new offering from Campfire Audio priced at $1299, in between the Andromeda and the Solaris. Visually they match the aesthetic of Campfire Audio’s main line of headphones, with the standard angular case – this time with a natural raw titanium finish. Inside, they’re got seven balanced armature drivers per side and all of the latest in Campfire Audio’s acoustic chambering technology.
Sonically, these fill a small gap in Campfire Audio’s lineup. While the Andromeda has a more “fun” tuning and tight bass all coming from balanced armature drivers, and the Solaris has a more balanced output with its famous low end driven by a hybrid design, the Ara sports a full array of balanced armature driver and an intense clarity and separation with a more reference driven, neutral tuning. The Ara is immensely coherent and articulate, with an incredible sense of separation between instruments. These are a must-hear if you love balanced, neutral IEMs tuned to reveal every last detail in your music.
The Bottom Line
Campfire Audio continues to move the world of IEMs forward with their improvements in technology and design. We’re really excited to spend more time with the updated Andromeda and Solaris, and I’m looking forward to getting some solid listening hours in on the Ara to put together the full review.