I found myself in Portland and stopped by Campfire Audio - I figured I’d get a couple of pictures for bragging rights but JD was able to set me up without an appointment. (Don’t be me - call ahead. )
I tried everything but the Solaris - which I currently have at home - over the course of two hours. Everything was auditioned using the matching stock 3.5mm cable connected to my iFi Nano iDSD BL’s IEMatch port to my iPhone via USB; JD offered up his Cube and a WM1Z for balanced testing but I ran out of time. My goal was to find a good EDC pair - I enjoy the Solaris but, due to their size/weight, I can really only enjoy them at home with foam tips in. I stuck to Spotify 320kbps in the spirit of what I’m likely to use while moving around. Since I was looking to find an EDC I’ve included all of my wear impressions; note that the Andromeda/Polaris V2/IO have the exact same dimension of case and cable so I didn’t call them out separately.
I’ve probably read more about CA than any other company at this point so I had some idea of what to expect…but I was pleasantly surprised. Figured I’d post my quick impressions of the entire line in case they’re helpful, presented in the order I tested them.
In the interest of full disclosure, JD sent me home with four of the mesh bags, refusing payment, and the three pairs of tips I used during the audition. No other compensation requested or received.
Andromeda ($1099 MSRP; tested with Final Audio and CA’s foam tips)
Fit excellently in my ear and was light enough that the Final Audio tips kept them firmly in place without discomfort. The angle of the cable jack let the cable flow easily over my ear without having to do the nearly-90-degree bend my Solaris requires.
For audio, there’s not a lot I can say here that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll have to go with comparisons:
Massdrop x Noble Kaiser 10 Universal ($900 MSRP): the Kaiser 10 universal is a significantly larger, heavier, and less comfortable IEM. I think it’s fair to say it’s a less biased tuning than the Andromeda but that bias brings out significant details and more impactful bass.
Sony IER-M9 ($1499 MSRP USA, available for ~$1099 in Japan): somewhat more comfortable than the Andromeda but really only shined for me with the WM1Z (and if you’ve got that, just get the IER-Z1R). They’re both very coherent but the Andromeda presents more details.
Finally, the Andromeda v2 stock cable is excellent - much easier to manipulate than the Solaris cable and very well matched overall.
Andromeda Stainless Steel (limited edition; tested with Final Audio and CA’s foam tips)
I mentioned trying to track one of them down and JD was happy to provide one for testing. No word on whether it’s coming back or if more Andromeda tunings are planned.
Compared to the baseline Andromeda I simply didn’t care for it. The mids were very forward compared to the baseline version and the low/high end felt a little recessed.
The difference in weight is noticeable but not overwhelming. If you find one, it’ll come with the older cable - with stiff memory wire.
Atlas ($1299 MSRP; tested with CA foam tips)
The Atlas required the foam tips when worn down; the weight dragged the FA tips down and completely veiled the sound. You might be able to get away with multiple flange or SpinFit tips (since they’re designed to flex) but I wouldn’t expect it. JD said they can be worn up or down but I found up to be a bit odd due to the cable and weighting.
The Atlas, I was told, uses the same dynamic driver as the Solaris but, of course, has no crossover as it’s a single dynamic driver unit. You get tons and tons of bass with a hint of treble - the foam tips probably don’t help.
The silver cable is well matched.
Equinox ($1499 MSRP; “beta”; CIEM only - in-shop universal tested with CA foam tips)
I couldn’t help but notice most of the CA employees I saw wearing this. JD brought out his personal unit and one of his older CIEMs - CA is targeting this at audiophiles, not on-stage musicians, so it’s significantly shallower and - although I couldn’t test this personally, of course - more comfortable as a result.
Same driver as the Atlas but vented leading to a more balanced presentation. I don’t think it’s fair to judge it based on the universal - the foam tip adds a lot of distance to the driver - but even in this configuration it was an enjoyable listen and I preferred it to the Atlas. I’d strongly consider if it I knew I wanted a CIEM - I’m planning to get some experience with CIEM tips (e.g. Snugs) before committing.
Same silver cable as the Atlas.
Polaris V2 ($499 MSRP; tested with Final Audio tips)
Tons of bass - Atlas-level, it’s fair to say - but a major loss of coherency at the crossover point. I could see really enjoying this with certain tracks or genres but I couldn’t find anything that really clicked from my demo tracks. The Atlas does a significantly better job if you’re looking for bass.
I’d be extremely excited to see a 2BA 1DD design from CA based on what I’ve heard today - if it fits in the same shell as the Andromeda/Polaris/IO I suspect I’d give up my Solaris in a heartbeat.
Same cable as the Andromeda.
IO ($299 MSRP; tested with Final Audio tips)
…and this is why I couldn’t say many nice things about the Polaris V2.
The Polaris is a 1DD 1BA; the IO is a 2BA. The crossover is extremely well done. You don’t get the slam of the Polaris but you far more of the sparkle and balance of the Andromeda. In every way, I’d call the IO the Andromeda Lite - it’s a tremendous entry level headphone for $299 that’s unfairly compared to much more expensive offerings. (Yes, I know, I’m making those comparisons right now. )
A fair competitor - price-wise - is the Massdrop+. The Massdrop+ has one more driver and significantly more bass/sub-bass reach but has a severe treble roll-off and a mediocre accessory set.
Comparing it to the various Chinese brands you’re paying a premium for excellent tuning and a gorgeous red/gold metal casing.
Same cable as the Andromeda.
Comet ($199 MSRP; tested with Final Audio tips)
The Comet is designed as a pocketable EDC - EarPods replacements, really - and the 3-button cable (unique to the Comet) underlines this.
The 1BA design really suffers in comparison to everything else on offer. The build quality is excellent and the accessories are good…but that didn’t leave much budget for sound.
I’m honestly not entirely sure who I’d recommend the Comet to. The IO, for example, is more than twice the IEM for less than twice the price; there are cheaper options from lesser brands that offer the same sound quality as the Comet.
3-button cable unique to the Comet; somewhat thinner and less durable than the other options.
Campfire Audio Mesh Bag ($5 MSRP)
Campfire Audio sells a mesh bag and includes it, I believe, with all of their IEMs. It has two compartments each of which is large enough to one Solaris IEM…these things are brilliant, especially for those of us with many metal IEMs that hate having them click against each other in a shirt pocket. Why these aren’t included with every high-end IEM - and why I can’t find similar separated carrying cases in general - is a mystery to me.