Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 In-Ear Headphones - Official Thread

This is the official thread to discuss the new Campfire Audio Solaris 2020.

Solaris 2020


Highlights

  • 20% Smaller fit than the original Solaris
  • Hybrid Design: Dual Balanced Armature Drivrers + T.A.E.C.™, Single Mid Balanced Armature, 10mm ADLC Diaphragm Dynamic Driver + Polarity Tuned Chamber
  • All New Solid-Body Internal Acoustic Design
  • Circular Beryllium Copper MMCX
  • New Super Smoky Litz Cable

Specs

  • SPL: 115dB @ 1k
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz - 20kHz
  • Earphone Impedance: 15.5 Ohm @ 1k

@resolve did a video on the Solaris 2020 as well as the Andromeda 2020

I know a couple of our forum members have the new Solaris 2020. Excited to see your thoughts on them.

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Just received the Solaris 2020. Really like the size, fit and finish. Surprising bass response from such a small iem. Did some extensive tip-rolling and settled on SpinFit CP240 tips for now. The Smoky Litz cable seems to work well with these iems. Very pleased with the sound out of the box. Embarking on burn-in for the next few days.

Update:
Didn’t change much with burn-in, but I like them a lot. Like any other iem, the choice of eartips is critical. None of the eartips supplied by Campfire worked for me. I tried them all to make sure. I then tried with the SpinFit CP240 (double-flange) which I thought would work. I tried the Spiral Dots, which sounded great initially, but would lose the seal over time. Evidently I have oval ear canals, and need eartips that will deform to create a seal. Foam eartips have never worked for me. Currently I am using SpinFit CP145s which are comfortable, create a good seal and sound terrific! I would recommend going the extra mile with tip-rolling on these iems, as it will pay great dividends when you find the right combination.

What I like about the Campfire Solaris 2020:
I am very impressed with the performance of these iems, given their smaller size. The folks at Campfire Audio did a great job of reducing the size while still maintaining the performance of the original. They are very comfortable and light. I am not conscious of their bulk and weight while wearing them. Many iems are painful for me after extended listening, but these are not.

The bass response is crisp and powerful without being overwhelming or muddy. The midrange doesn’t get lost in the mix, and the trebles are clear and present without being shrill or sibilant. I am very happy with the “smoky litz” cabling supplied with the Solaris 2020 and will keep it. Another important factor is fatigue. So far, I have found the Solaris 2020 to be non-fatiguing. That’s not to say that i can wear them all day, but I can certainly listen for several hours.

For me, the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 is ‘just right’.

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Great writeup. The new Solaris are an intriguing proposition.

Wow, just tried the Campfire Audio Solaris with Spiral Dot eartips in a different size. What a revelation! These iems were really good with SpinFit eartips, but have taken on a whole new level of excellence with Spiral Dots. The bass has deepened, the soundstage has widened, and the midrange is more present.

Eartip selection is even more important that I thought. Changing to Spiral Dot tips has made the Solaris 2020 competitive with uber-expensive iems.

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Most definitely agree re Eartips when using iem’s. They’re extremely important to the whole setup. I’ve not heard the Solaris but would love to. Enjoy.

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I love my spiral dots!!! But! I found a new love in these IEM tips Azla Sedna

They are my new go to for IEM tips!

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What a coincidence. Just received my Azla Sedna eartips today. Will try them out tomorrow!

UDPATE:
These Azla Sednas are really nice. Great bass response! I take one size smaller in these than in the Spiral Dots. Now for an a/b shootout with the Spiral Dots!

UPDATE 2:
Love the Azla Sednas! They sounds really great. But the Spiral Dots are more comfortable for me, as they are softer than the Azla Sednas - so I will be sticking with the Spiral Dots after all.

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Sednas are great.
I also like Symbio W’s (hybrid foam/silicone)

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The Symbio W’s are great too! Very comfortable, great performance. They are definitely in the final four for me: Spiral Dot, Symbio, SpinFit, and Azla Sedna. I found it really worth the effort and expense to try all of the major eartip brands. Surprising how much difference they can make to the performance of earphones and iems.

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The best eartips ! My favorite as well :grinning:

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Solaris 2020 Review and Comparison to Campfire Andromeda

The Solaris 2020 is the latest and greatest remix of the controversial Campfire Solaris. Campfire Audio’s claim to fame was the Campfire Andromeda, an IEM with a near-universally loved audio signature. To this date, I maintain that the Campfire Andromeda was “sonic gold” - I wonder if even Campfire truly understands the science behind why so many people are drawn to the Andromeda.

Regardless, the Solaris is perhaps an attempt by Campfire to show that they are more than the Andromeda. The Solaris seems to be cultivated from feedback gathered over the Andromeda’s lifecycle, and attempts to fill a niche that is not satisfied by the Andromeda. In this sense, people interested in the Solaris should be warned - it is not a direct upgrade from the Andromeda. The Solaris is decidedly a sidegrade, and an expensive one at that. Let’s discuss.

I’ve had the Solaris 2020 for over a month, and have been waiting to write this review in order to get over new-toy syndrome.

Build Quality and Comfort

The build quality of the Solaris exceeds the Andromeda, and that’s high praise. I always loved how the Andromeda felt in the hand - the cold metal body with some heft to it felt rather premium. The Solaris takes this a step further, with a sleek, black PVD coat that (while being a fingerprint magnet) adds a sense of stealthy elegance and feels just a tad bit more premium than the Cerakote or anodized surface of the Andromeda. It also seems less prone to wear or chipping.

The packaging is stunning. The Campfire Solaris arrives in a stunning tan/gold box that is befitting its name. I am also a fan of the new cork cases included with the Campfire IEMs. They look decidedly rustic, they have an intriguing texture, and are far more sustainable (and ethical) than leather. However, the zippers on the Campfire cases remain notoriously rough and annoying to use. I had to apply some WD-40 to the zipper to make it more usable.

The Solaris 2020 is not as comfortable as the Andromedas for me. The nozzles are bigger, requiring me to go down a tip size, but more importantly, the IEMs seem to protrude out of my ears more than I’d expect. Also, the design of the Solaris seems to exacerbate the asymmetry in my ear canals. I had to use different sized tips on each side, something I rarely have to do on any IEM.

The included Final Audio eartips are acceptable on the Solaris 2020. Aftermarket Comply Foam tips sound even better to me, and are much more pliable and comfortable than the included foam tips. Both tips clean up the highs of the Solaris, reducing sibilance and increasing comfort.

Sound Quality

While the Andromeda had an instantly lovable signature, the signature of the Solaris took me time to understand. “Brain burn-in” is definitely a thing here, and it took me about a week to see why I should keep the Solaris.

The Solaris is less engaging and more relaxing than the Andromeda. This can lead to an initial impression that the Solaris is not as technically capable as the Andromedas, but much the opposite is true. In critical listening, I found that the Solaris was able to extract more detail from songs than the Andromeda. However, the Andromeda was more promiscuous with the (lesser) detail that it managed to extract in comparison to the Solaris.

Technicalities

The soundstage of the Solaris feels similar to the Andromeda (maybe a bit less) and imaging is superior. The Solaris doesn’t feel as airy as the Andromeda, despite (to my ears) being more accurate at high frequency reproduction. For example, in in Zalza - Terminal (2:37), the Solaris is better at producing the sound of falling rain compared to the Andromeda, but overall the Solaris has less air than the Andromeda, leading to an initial impression of reduced stage.

Instrument layering is superior: when multiple instruments are playing, each instrument contributes its proper weight and characteristics to the sound. This feels really good when you have multiple strings/cellos/violins playing concurrently.

Instrument separation is about the same: it’s about as easy to pick apart instruments on the Solaris as it was on the Andromedas.

Highs, Mids, and Lows

In long-term listening, I find the Solaris highs are more bearable than the Andromedas, and more natural too. After a listening session with the Solaris, when I return to the Andromedas, the highs feel unnaturally thin and almost tinny. The increased soundstage is there but it’s simply not worth the trade.

I find the Solaris mids are excellent and are more forward than the Andromedas. The mids feel spot-on to me, but I’m not the best judge of mids, so I can’t really say much more here.

The Solaris bass is fantastic. The Solaris exhibits far more bass and sub-bass than the Andromeda. The bass feels more natural, more full, more tactile, and manages to fill in many of the sub-bass frequencies that are absent on the Andromeda. In terms of bass, the Solaris is a huge win, and I’d almost recommend the Solaris over the Andromeda based off of the lows alone.

Sound Summary

To conclude, the Solaris’s audio is a marked change from the Andromeda. It is more intimate, but it is more full - it has more substance. The Solaris’s note is warmer, thicker, and fuller than the Andromeda while maintaining phenomenal technicalities. This comes at the expense of some air and soundstage. As such, I maintain that the Solaris is a sidegrade from the Andromeda and not an upgrade.

Conclusion

The Solaris seems like Campfire’s attempt to prove that they are more than the Andromeda, and I think it largely succeeds. The Solaris is every bit as capable and enjoyable of a headphone as the Andromeda, and while it doesn’t have that instant ‘wow’ factor, the Solaris does right what the Andromeda does wrong.

In the battle of technicalities and qualities, where some are traded for others, I personally find that the Solaris comes out ahead of the Andromedas, and it is now my IEM of choice. The Solaris’s thicker note is extremely compelling and draws me into the music more than the Andromeda ever did. However, I maintain that the Solaris is a sidegrade, not an upgrade, because the sound of the two headphones are distinctly different. If the Andromeda is an Sennheiser HD800S, the Solaris is a ZMF Verite Closed (review here).

If you’re new to the hobby, I might still recommend the Andromeda. If you’ve been around for some time - if you’re looking for a headphone that does what the Andromeda cannot - or if you simply have new-toy syndrome, I’d wholeheartedly recommend the Solaris.

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What was the controversy?

some early unit variation in the 4-6KHz region.

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Excellent writeup and comparison. I really want to get the Solaris to try out.

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These are tough to photograph… I’ll be posting some pics to the Headphones.com IG here tomorrow but here are some that did/didn’t make the cut…

as far as sound goes… check out @Precogvision review… I pretty much align with what he had to say:


… and the one I wished turned out better =’(

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The Campfire Solaris was an IEM that I loved and I hated all at the same time. I really enjoyed it’s “holographic” soundstage and hybrid-sound that was generally well balanced, although with some occasional muddiness and some occasional hollowness in the lower treble. The deal breaker for me was it’s very large size that pained me to wear for more than an hour at a time, if even that.

I went through hundreds of tips with the Solaris to find something that fit, and even got custom tips made but in the end, I sold the Solaris for greener pastures. But I always wondered what would have been if they had made the shell smaller.

Well, 2020 is here, and Campfire just released an updated version of the Solaris. This model comes in at 20% smaller in size and also weighs a little less. It also comes with a new design and a black piano gloss finish that is much attractive yet elegant.

I do want to mention that despite the smaller size, I still found the overall width of the Solaris to be a bit bothersome for me. It can dig into the rear side of my concha and that contact can feel pinched in a short period of time, something I did feel with the original Solaris as well as the original Andromeda and Orion, prior to the new Campfire shell changes last year.

The cable has been swapped out to the Smokey Litz style cable that matches the other newer IEMs that Campfire has released in the past year. In this case, the cable that comes with it is the new “Super Smokey Litz”, which is little bit thicker than the original Smokey Litz, and is more in line with the feel and size of my preferred Dunu DUW-02 cable.

Like the original model, the Solaris 2020 is a hybrid featuring a single dynamic driver, and three balanced armature drivers, with an updated upper mid-range driver from the previous generation.

Before I start my sound impressions, I do want to thank the fine folks at Headphones.com for providing me an opportunity to borrow the Solaris 2020 for this review. Please be sure to check out their store and their awesome 365-day return policy if you get a chance!

Sound Impressions

As with all Campfire Audio products I have tried, these are all source picky. So with that, I will put a disclaimer that I used the Solaris primarily with three sources: The Topping A90 desktop amp, the Sony NW-ZX507 and the iPhone 5S, which I use as a digital audio player for testing. The majority of this review was tested on the A90 amp, but with some portable use on the other two players.

The Solaris 2020 has a balanced sound signature with a warmer than neutral low end and and interesting upper-mid range and treble response that some may find hollow, sharp, bright, relaxed, or in my case, all of the above. Does that even make sense? I don’t know, but I feel like the uneven treble response makes this IEM change from song to song, in a good and bad way. Let’s discuss.

When I listen to London Grammar’s album, “Truth is a Beautiful Thing”, the 2020 Solaris seems to resemble an improved sound from what I remember hearing on the original Solaris. I unfortunately do not have both side-by-side to do a real comparison, but I don’t remember the bass decay to sound as natural as it does on the 2020 and the natural resonance that fades out in the sweeping track, “Big Picture” really goes well with the Solaris. Hannah Reid’s vocals aren’t shouty and sound a little softer than what I hear on other IEMs without the dipped lower treble region that the Solaris and 2020 edition have. In this case, that’s not a bad thing, as she still sounds central in the song but not overwhelming and not a hint of sharpness in her strained vocals.

On the opposite spectrum, when I listened to a few select jazz tracks from both Tingvall Trio and the upbeat latin-jazz band leader, Poncho Sanchez, I found both of these heavy percussion groups to sound just a bit off. The hollow sounding lower treble region makes drum hits sound dull and missing some energy and generally inaccurate to my ears.

Buena Vista Social Club’s Cuban-Jazz compilation has many instances where I found the Solaris 2020 to come off a bit forward and piercing. For example, the “twangy” guitars in “Y Tu Que Has Hecho” produces a sound that is little abrasive to me that I don’t necessarily find that way in other IEMs. I think this has to do with the uneven treble response and I’m also finding it a little bothersome on piano tracks where the upper octaves are in use.

Another example of some guitar screeching sounds I found a little abrasive are the acoustic-guitar laiden tracks from The Civil Wars. In “20 Years”, it’s just a little too forward at times. That said, their vocal harmony sounds very nice on the Solaris 2020, and I found imaging is very good as well.

One thing that this track among many others exemplify is the improved layering and imaging capabilities of the 2020 version of the Solaris. I found that there’s a nice soundstage that is both wide and also deep, and instruments and voices are nicely assigned their own location in it without becoming very congested, even in busy tracks – this was a problem on some heavier, bassier, songs with the original Solaris that I don’t find a problem here.

Comparisons

I covered some of the comparisons, the best I could, to the old Solaris in main body of the review but let’s try to cover some other similarly priced or tuned IEMs:

Campfire Andromeda 2020

The other IEM that had a revision from Campfire this year is the Andromeda which I recently wrote a high praising review of. I find that the Andromeda doesn’t have the bass quality and quantity that the Solaris does, but it is tuned much more in-line with my preferences and I believe it works better as an all-arounder. The new Solaris and Andromeda both feature similar capabilites in imaging and depth and soundstage, and I find that the Andromeda may have a slight upper hand in resolution, while also being a lot easier to wear. All-in-all, I like the Andromeda more than the Solaris but do keep in mind that the Solaris has a much more realistic bass response.

Unique Melody MEST

The MEST is a quad-brid IEM that I also have raved about. I also find this one to top the Solaris in almost every category including better texturing, layering, and more fun bass response. It also has improved resolution and a much more interesting soundstage and imaging capability. That’s not to say the Solaris is bad in any of these, it’s just that I believe the MEST is a more exciting IEM overall, while also sounding more correct.

Final Audio A8000 + Dunu Luna

The Final A8000 is probably my next review on deck, and I put both it and the Dunu Luna together. They are both similarly tuned IEMs that feature a full beryllium dynamic driver (not just coated). They both feature a more neutral reference sound but with a mid-bass bump and a large emphasis in the lower treble around 4-6KHz. Both of these sound very lean and lightweight compared to the Solaris, and also have much more shrilly highs. In this case, I prefer the Solaris 2020 over both of these sets for pretty much every genre of music.

64 Audio U12t

The U12t from 64 Audio is one of my reference standards for IEMs as it is one that does almost no wrong while not being the natural best at anything either. It just works well. In this case, it is tuned to sound much more natural and works with every genre equally as compared to the Solaris which I found a bit more picky. I think that the Solaris can do better in certain music types but the U12t just works better across the board. The Solaris has a lighter bass response, particular sub-bass, than the U12t, and has more sharper and exciting treble region. The U12t is a little smoothed out, but doesn’t suffer from any sibilance or sharp edges that I found with the Solaris from time to time.

Thieaudio Monarch

The new kid on the block is the Thieaudio Monarch, which I just got in a review set. This one has only had a few hours of listen but it’s a keeper. That’s all I’ll say for now. It’s also half the price of the Solaris…

Wrap-Up

The Campfire Solaris 2020 edition came with a lot of excitement and anticipation in my view. I really enjoyed the original gold-colored set, but found the shell and design to not match my ear anatomy in any way feasible. When the announcement of a smaller version of it came out, I was thrilled.

Unfortunately, time has passed and I feel like the Solaris 2020 doesn’t really belong with others in the similar price range, and I think the tonal tuning turned out for the worse, while it did improve on technical performance across the board. It’s a tricky balance, but tonality still matters a lot for me, and so the additional dip in the treble and the peaks that can cause sharpness and fatigue in some music I enjoy make this less exciting for me in the end.

I still think it’s a good IEM, no doubt, but I also feel like there are others in the same price class, and some priced even less, including it’s sibling, the Andromeda 2020, that top this one as preferred pick for my listening tastes.

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