Perfectly Balanced? | Campfire Audio Solaris Stellar Horizon 2023 Review

Perfectly Balanced? | Campfire Audio Solaris Stellar Horizon 2023 Review

Coming in hot, with a bold new look, Solaris Stellar Horizon is the third major revision of the Campfire Solaris. With a higher $2670 price tag, Campfire aims to elevate Solaris to the next level of flagship performance. Can Stellar Horizon maintain the core characteristics of Solaris while adding improvements in the sound and performance that deliver a truly endgame IEM experience?

Build and Design

The first, most obvious change from previous generations of Campfire Audio products is the all new packaging. Solaris is packed in a wooden box that transforms into a display stand for the IEMs. Along with that, there’s a soft leather case, three MMCX cables (4.4mm, 3.5mm, and 2.5mm terminations), and a good number of smaller add-ons. The cables are silver-plated copper and use Campfire’s new “Time Stream” design with a flat configuration that places the 4 cable cores side-by-side rather than weaved together.

Campfire Audio Solaris Stellar Horizon 2023 Review

You also get things like the warranty card, certificate of authenticity, an excerpt from a short story themed around the Stellar Horizon, and a trading card. The trading cards are something new that Campfire Audio has been doing, with cards representing a number of different products in Campfire history. The latest releases now have the product card bundled with them, but you can also buy packs separately to complete the collection.

The IEM itself has a brushed stainless steel housing, with a design on the front that resembles a piece of a star chart or a map of the solar system on each earpiece. The look is very unique, and the feel is of a very high quality well-made shell. These are slightly heavy, but also among the most comfortable Solaris options. They’re probably about the same size and comfort level as the Solaris 2020. Overall, this is an excellent design and a really unique package that’s filled to the brim with premium extras.


When I think about the core characteristics of the Solaris, it’s a tuning that’s balanced, natural, and just slightly warm – along with having a good sized soundstage. With the exception of Solaris 2020, there’s also an added element of style to it, with the gold plated original Solaris being a visual standout. The visual design team certainly got the memo, but does the tuning both capture key characteristics of Solaris while also improving on the sound?

The first thing I noticed was that Stellar Horizon is the most revealing, resolving Solaris yet, with a top end that combines the best aspects of the original Solaris and the 2020 version, while also refining both. It’s also slightly tighter in the bass, aiming for detail, texture, and accuracy rather than warmth.

Campfire Audio Solaris Stellar Horizon 2023 Review

The bass is largely linear, with good extension, and clearly a focus on bass quality – but it also provides a good amount of bass quantity. Solaris gives you the physical impact and natural character of a dynamic driver bass, but keeps it all well under control for a low-end that has just little more heft than being truly “neutral.”

The midrange is full and rich, offering a natural timbre and excellent detail. The transition from the bass is clean, with a subtle hint of warmth. The vocals have a slightly forward presentation with an intimate, holographic feeling. There’s a strong sense of cohesive layering that highlights the finer details and avoids congestion. 

The treble is the real star of the show, offering good extension and air, along with a level of definition that allows you to dive into the different layers of a song, without the definition being so strong as to feel unnatural or etched. There’s a bit of a revealing element to the treble – enough that you can really appreciate the finer details of a well mastered, high resolution track, but not so much that you can’t stand to listen to older or poorly mastered tracks.

The soundstage and imaging is as strong as ever, with a stage that’s both wide and deep, and a three dimensional presentation. Imaging seems more focused on cohesion than exaggerated separation. There’s a great weight and body to the instruments and voices, and a holographic sense to the placement and character of each, and an overall lifelike, immersive feeling to the stereo image.

Campfire Audio Solaris Stellar Horizon 2023 Review

The bass feels positively alive on Lakeside’s “Fantastic Voyage,” with a fullness and texture to the bass guitar and a nice sense of contrast with the synthesized bass. Along with the classic, deep, funky groove, “Fantastic Voyage” proves to be an excellent demonstration of Solaris’s imaging and layering. Everything from the guitars to the key and voices has a really clear sense of placement, both left to right and front to back, and it all works together to provide a really fun listening experience.

“Pariah” by Steven Wilson remains one of my favorite vocal reference tracks, with the soft male vocal on the verses and the more raspy female vocal on the chorus. The key aspects are the balance between the male and female vocals and how it captures the details in each: Steven Wilson’s more breathy but emotive delivery and Ninet Tayeb’s greater dynamic range. Along with that, the song is mastered with a great deal of dynamics and ample opportunity for the vocals to get lost or drowned out as layers of guitars and synths build to its crescendo. Solaris Stellar Horizon gets all of this – from the unique details of the two voices to the building of dynamic layers throughout the song.

Danny Elfman is best known for his highly memorable movie themes, but he also has works which include more traditional classical pieces. “I. Grave. Animato” from his violin concerto offers a more reserved, somber sound than his Spider-Man or Edward Scissorheads soundtracks. The warm, lush layers of strings are a great demonstration of Solaris’ highly natural timbre, and strong resolution. Each instrument has a strong sense of individual character, giving the listener an almost tactile sense of the bowing of the strings and providing a great sense of clarity of each instrument. It’s all punctuated by the subtle warmth that keeps it all grounded and enhances the sense of cohesion as the song builds from just violins into a full orchestra.

Comparison: Noble Audio Sultan, 64 Audio U12t

There are few IEMs as universally loved as the 64 Audio U12t, and so it makes a great comparison for just about anything in the $2000-$3000 range both in terms of the tuning of the IEMs and the level of sound and performance for the money. For another comparison, one of my first thoughts about the Noble Sultan on its release was that it was in some ways like an upscaled Campfire Solaris. Now that the Solaris has been upscaled a bit, how does it compare to the Sultan?

Campfire Audio Solaris Stellar Horizon 2023 Review

In terms of the build, design, and package, Solaris Stellar Horizon wins hands down. Its stainless steel shells and faceplate design match U12t in comfort and durability and exceed what Sultan is doing in terms of visual design. And other than Sultan providing the most protective case of the group, the Stellar Horizon package is head and shoulders above 90% of the IEM packages out there right now – even at this premium price point.

In terms of sound, Sultan and Solaris share a lot in common with each having some small advantages over the other. U12t goes for a slightly different tuning, but they’re all in the same general family of balanced but not fully neutral tunings. Both Sultan and Solaris have a bass presentation that’s slightly emphasized and well extended, but doesn’t cross into exaggerated “basshead” territory. U12t emphasizes the bass a little more, but there’s a somewhat different character to the more emphasized balanced armature bass compared to the tighter presentation of a dynamic driver bass. In particular, Solaris demonstrates the strongest sense of detail and texture in the bass, while Sultan can feel a little less precise, and U12t’s bass is more smooth sounding.

The midrange is where Solaris shines, with the natural timbre, excellent vocals, and generally strong cohesion. U12t is pulled back more in the mids, offering a little less of a highlight to vocals, and sometimes hitting a little darker in the timbre. Sultan has strong low mids, but isn’t as strong in the upper mids. As a side-effect of the tribrid design, Sultan doesn’t have the same sense of coherence as U12t or Solaris either, with the crossover between the BAs in the mids and the ESTs in the high sometimes feeling slightly off in a way that you just can’t place.

The treble is where Sultan really shines though, demonstrating excellent resolution and good balance in the tuning. The fine details of vocals, guitars, and other instruments are incredibly well presented, with vocals having just a little more sustain, and cymbals feeling just a little bit crisper than the competition. Solaris comes close, but can’t quite reach the same level of resolution. While U12t has a great sense of air in the upper treble it comes up short on the fine instrumental and vocal details when compared to Solaris and Sultan.

Final Thoughts

Solaris Stellar Horizon succeeds at everything it needs to do. It provides a clear improvement in sound quality of the previous versions, but it also retains the core characteristics of past versions of Solaris – even combining and refining the unique pieces of the original and 2020 Solaris. Stellar Horizon is a balanced, natural sounding IEM with performance that exceeded our expectations, delivering a true flagship listening experience.