Campfire Audio Andromeda Review: Holy Cow, This is a Dream, Awesomesauce!

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by Marvey, May 13, 2016.

  1. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Friend

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    Interesting - I find using the Iematch that Ultra (1.5 ohm) sounds thin and High (2.5 ohm) sounds uncolored. This is using GO2A SE and the balanced tinsel cable out of balanced output on the GO2A as 'reference' and then adding the Iematch in to see the difference. My original intent was just squashing the hiss.

    The conventional wisdom is that the lower the OI, the bassier it gets, so there must be other factors at play here, in the Iematch itself. I don't get a thinning out on the Chord Mojo which is even lower OI than GO2A, either.

    Not sure this is the same as the brightness @Hands experienced, but I'd be curious to see what you get listening for it, @jexby.
     

  2. bartzky

    bartzky Rando

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    I actually was in the middle of writing an answer when @k.e. tried to end this discussion here. Kudos for his peaceful words, so for the sake of this thread let's leave it at that.

    @Marvey: I will happily join the discussion again, if you link an appropriate thread for this kind of topic.

    But for now I will post a picture instead. Isn't she beautiful?

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. Spl4tt

    Spl4tt Rando

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    Wonderful. It'll be my first universal since like 6 years. Let's see if I get used to the fit
     
  4. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    Not surprised. @Hands hates BA timbre / odd-order distortion.
    LOL. Hands hates BA timbre / odd harmonics, any of kind 2-3kHz emphasis, and also thinks HD600 is too bright.
     
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  5. Spl4tt

    Spl4tt Rando

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    Lol wow. HD600 too bright? That's a special taste I guess
     
  6. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    It's generally helpful if you don't come in with guns blazing, using words like "misleading", citing outside plots, appealing to authorities (which we don't recognize), and not comprehensively reading the caveats and successive relevant posts. A lot has been written on how to lower the overall bass and tame the treble. It just so happened that my initial (and continued) impressions were from 2-4 ohm Z out sources and the use of Comply tips with the filters. There was late discovery on my part that with silicone tips, the Andros were too sharp for my tastes. Others have also discussed what worked for them to tame the treble. Many other potential issues were discussed, including fitment.

    This is not a review site. Not everything will be summed up in one tidy post. It's a process of exploration, offering differing opinions, re-exploration, and discussion through many posts. When you come in LATE to the party, seemingly not having read important past discussions, ignoring suggestions (rolling tips) by responding with a plot, and come off like a know-it-all trying to school us, garnering several dislikes, that's when I come in with the hammer and turn on dick mode.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2017 at 7:40 AM
  7. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Yeah, the pair I heard was really emphasized around 2-4KHz. I'd call it "hot," not "bright."
     
  8. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    The Etys would be the ideal device to torture you.
     
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  9. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    /dick mode off.

    Hahahahahahahaha. Sorry, I have to laugh at these assumptions because you don't know seem to know the site nor its members very well. No ill intent here.

    First of all, the need for a perfect room has been severely overemphasized ... by just a few, who should be shot with AA artillery guns. The rooms of most normal people (with furniture, softs, rugs, bookcases, racks, etc.) actually work quite well. This doesn't mean there isn't a place for room treatments. A few strategic panels or diffusors in a non-ideal room can do wonders. But in reality, these things are not necessary and I often recommend mental treatments before room treatments. However, I should say that the requirements in a professional environment (mixing studios, screening rooms, etc.) are different than from the home.

    Finally, a speaker that is set up using the same approach, with the same goals, will sound not all that different in a different room. We can get just as much frequency response variation (using a gated window) lifting ours heads or scooting to the side a few inches. This is coming from someone with four sets of speakers rotating in three rooms and plenty of measurement gear. Speakers only sound wildly different in different rooms when they are set up by stupid or lazy American HiFi salesmen at audio shows.

    As far as "who of us have nearly perfect speakers", I think you would be surprised how many of us on SBAF have such. I'd say about a dozen, at least. This group of people includes folks who have purchased commercial gear (from designers who emphasize the linearity of their designs), others who have built tried-and-true DIY designs, and more (including those from the prior two groups) who are not afraid of running EQ or precise calibration.

    How low and high frequencies are affected a by room are very well articulated in an article / video of a really smart old dude with a PhD featured on Inner Fidelity. I can't seem to find the link. But the jist of it from this PhD dude was that the room tends to impart more of its influence in lower frequencies and less in high frequencies - something that every community college / trade school graduate who works in mastering / mixing studios already knows.

    Applying DF to low frequencies as you suggested just doesn't work (it also doesn't make sense because FF and DF equalization are the same at lower frequencies). Most rooms in a home, even moderately large sized rooms, will have immense fuckery in frequency response below 90Hz. There will be room modes with narrows peaks and nulls from standing waves. Peaks and nulls of up to 12db are not uncommon. If you know the dimensions of the room, you can actually calculate the mode frequencies with a decent level of accuracy. There is nothing we can do about these narrow peaks, other than surgical EQ. Filling the nulls works best with two woofers or two+ subwoofers which can reach the region of the nulls. As we go up a bit, the area around 400Hz-500Hz can be another problematic spot, largely because of floor bounce. The lower frequencies are just going to have a lot of up and downs (with particularly more narrow and higher peaks as we go lower) dictated by the room. Bass traps (unless they are of immense size) are bullshit and don't work.

    As we go up to higher frequencies, there is as you said, more directivity (unless we are running horns or ribbons with wider dispersion). But this also doesn't necessarily mean that it's FF. This is where room reverberation (echos, reflections, decay) comes into play. (I don't think of the lower frequencies exhibiting reverberation because the wavelengths are so long, on the order of tens of feet, often larger than the room. It's more like infusion). Directed high frequency energy tends to reflect in a directed way, against the side walls, ceilings, back walls, etc. Depending upon how live the room is, these will result in a more bumpy frequency response measurement (gated long interval) that I have observed to be not consistent with DF / FF equalization differences. It's even debatable whether DF should be used because we hear in the time domain (not in large FFT windows) and have some ability to make out direct sound from reflected sound arriving later (from a side wall bounce for example).

    Either way, the discussion is probably moot when applied to IEMs. I believe the DF / FF curves were developed as targets for HATs and headphones, and even then, I am not sure which specific HATs. The problem with IEMs is that they bypass the head, torso, pinna, so really all bets are off.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2017 at 11:01 AM
  10. gixxerwimp

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  11. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    Campfire Audio “Andromeda” w/ Fiio X5iii, Sony WM1Z, Apple Lightning Adapter, Pro iCAN:

    I’ve made a number of attempts at getting my hands, or ears, on the Andromeda. I’m very bad at doing back-orders (I intensely dislike paying for things before they ship), and trying to find a used set was unsuccessful (for various reasons*). So, in the end, it was @aufmerksam that kindly, and generously, sent me his set to audition. I’m grateful to him for the time I’ve spent listening to them – it’s been both fun as well as useful. It’s another point of calibration given all that’s been written about them here, and they’re really rather nice just to listen to.

    Note that this will be the first of two posts in which I talk about the Andromeda in any detail. This post is more focused on general impressions and pairing with some specific sources. The second will be an all-up, technically-indepth, comparison between the Andromeda and various other, mostly more expensive, IEMs. In the interests of not being massively redundant, details will get split between these posts … so it’s entirely possible the bits some are interested in will be in “the other” post!

    Listening Setup:

    I listened to the Andromeda using four different chains. The first, which has been requested a number of times, was with the FiiO X5iii. The second was via the Sony WM1Z. In both of these cases I tested with and without the use of an iFi Audio iEMatch device, and using both the balanced and single-ended outputs from the two DAPs.

    Additionally, I used my main headphone rig via the iFi Audio Pro iCAN (both singled-ended and balanced), which, it is probably worth noting, has a built-in iEMatch implementation, rather than my normal WA5-LE, thus that chain was as follows:

    Roon -> Auralic Aries -> Schiit Yggdrasil -> iFi Pro iCAN​

    Finally, since I could, I gave them a whirl with my iPhone 7S and the Apple Lighting to 3.5mm adapter.

    Fit - Seal & Comfort:

    Finding tips that would give me a proper seal was not a problem. However, getting a proper seal while also maintaining listening comfort proved to be a far more significant challenge. The nozzles/bores on the Andromeda are the largest I’ve come across and, when combined with tips that I could get to seal properly, they’re sufficiently large that they rapidly became uncomfortable.

    I don’t have particularly big ear-holes (nor are they particularly even) – and this no doubt exacerbates the fit issues with this larger bore size. With other IEMs I tend to run with the small “Comfort” style Comply tips, the medium “Isolation” style Complys or the medium size “Spin Fit” models. Trying Spiral Dot tips didn’t help here and, in fact, none of my varied collection of other, somewhat random, tips was able to fix this issue either**.

    For the purposes of actual auditioning I obviously went with tips that gave me a proper seal and just listened in shorter sessions to avoid the discomfort. And that meant using the medium size Spin Fit tips and the small Comply “Comfort” ones. There is a definite, audible, difference between these tips although, fortunately, unlike with the EE Zeus R the Comply tips didn’t totally screw up the sound***!

    Listening:

    Hiss:

    This is my first experience with the Andromeda and I was expecting them to be very hiss-prone based on the reading I'd done. They're not much different in that respect to the SE846 nor the Zeus R, but at the same time, they're not any less hissy either. Directly out of the X5iii's SE output, hiss is immediately noticeable when the output stage engages. It's not intrusive, but you'll hear it in silent passages, between tracks and in longer, very soft, sections of music. It won't intrude over any tape hiss or other recording noise in this case, but it's not an absolute void.

    Switch to using the BAL output directly and hiss might become intrusive for you. I'm quite sensitive to it (not in the sense that it bothers me, but I hear it at very low levels which tends to emphasized how "much" of it I hear), and in this case I'd be wavering on whether it was too much. With all-electronics stuff, or where there is no recording noise, it is hard to miss in quiet passages, and is audible over the natural noise floor of the piece in some cases. I'm not sure I'd want to run the Andromeda in this mode with quite a few genres that I enjoy.

    If we add the iEMatch, then hiss is completely gone, even on the "High" sensitivity setting (no need for "Ultra") when coming off the SE output. It's barely audible in BAL mode ... and if you engage the "Ultra" sensitivity setting then they become completely silent there too.

    Switching to the Sony WM1Z, hiss is still apparent, both in SE and balanced output modes, but it is at a usefully lower level than with the X5iii and it really only becomes apparent in passages that are actually silent – the noise is lost if there is music audible at all. Adding the iEMatch unit here results in total silence, but isn’t necessary and actually does more harm than good in other areas.

    Via the Pro iCAN the Andromeda are completely silent out of both SE and BAL connections.

    Finally, the little Apple dongle … also completely silent here. In other tests it has exhibited the same inky-black delivery, but I thought it was worth confirming that with the Andromeda.

    Sound:

    FiiO X5iii:

    The first impression I got with the X5iii/Andromeda pairing (via the SE output) was of a bass-tilted presentation. Further listening in this configuration changed my perception a little … retaining the bass-emphasis but overlaying it on a slightly U-shaped signature. Some of this bass-centric delivery is, no doubt, down to the decidedly “Velvet Sound” tuning of the AKM 4490 DACs at the heart of the X5iii. This, probably combined with the low output impedance in this mode, yields more warmth and bloom than I really like and has a tendency to muddy up the lower registers.

    I wouldn’t say this makes the Andromeda a bass-head IEM by any means, even in this combination, but it’s more so than I’d personally want to have as my daily-driver. And I was able to drop the low-end output to perfectly agreeable levels using the built-in EQ function on the X5iii, but this can cause other issues, including lowering overall volume (not really an issue with the Andromeda), at least of firmware v1.1.5. And using the “Viper Effect” option(s) doesn’t really do the unit any favors either.

    The mid-range, while perhaps taking a slight step back from the low and high-end in terms of overall presence, is actually really good. It’s clear, lucid, articulate, detailed, exhibits good dynamics (both macro and micro), and is characteristically not dissimilar to the Focal Utopia. And within this band things are quite even handed and balanced. Music flows very nicely and I find the meat of the delivery to be extremely engaging.

    I do find a little heat in the mid/upper treble region. I wouldn’t describe this as brightness as such, it’s much more that some notes have a bit of a “zing” to them and carry a bit more energy than I think is strictly neutral. The first word that came to mind was “hot” when hearing this. This was most noticeable using the Spin Fit tips. Switching to the “Comfort” configuration Comply foam tips almost completely removed this sense of extra upper-end energy and resulted in a more even overall tonality and a smoother, less peaky, presentation.

    Overall resolution and texture are very good, and the delivery is more natural and balanced than, say, the Shure SE846 which, no matter what I do with them, always seem to draw attention to their bottom-end and never quite manage the sense of air, space or sparkle that seems to come very naturally to the Andromeda.

    Anyway, after switching from the Spin Fit tips (which are generally my go-to tip) and to the Comply’s I stayed with the foamies for the rest of my auditioning (only swapping them out occasionally to see if I was missing anything … something prompted by the extreme negative impact they had when I used Comply tips with the Zeus R).

    Generally, the presentation is nicely cohesive and while perhaps not as seamless as the AAW W900 (little is), is still at a very high level. If I wasn’t specifically listening for coherency issues after my initial time with the tia Fourté then there’s nothing here that would have called attention to itself. And even then matching and blending seems to have been done with a very sensitive ear and an expert touch. Very impressive.

    Switching to the balanced output on the X5iii did, as I mentioned, elevated the hiss quite a bit. More than I’d be comfortable with in most cases. This is true with other sensitive IEMs as well and is definitiely noticeable with the SE846 and Zeus R as well. In fact “noticeable” is the wrong way to describe it … as it’s impossible not to notice.

    On the upside, the balanced output on the X5iii delivers a more neutral presentation than the single-ended one. Yes, there’s still a hint of U-shapedness to the sound, and the bass is a bit moister with a little bloom … but that’s apparent with other IEMs paired with the X5iii as well. If it was not for the increased hiss (something I am unusually sensitive to), this would be how I would choose to listen to the X5iii/Andromeda combination.

    Throwing iEMatch back into the mix, in either SE or BAL modes, well ... it fixes the hiss, as mentioned, but it also results in an obviously leaner presentation and while that suits bass-heavy stuff quite well, it's less successful with "normal" recordings. In other words, it swings things a bit too far the other way and winds up robbing the music of some of its body.

    So, the pairing is not perfect as-is. Very good, and musically very enjoyable for sure. But the need to trade-off tonality against hiss is going to be more problematic for some than others. In my case, additional time with the unit did not result in my adjusting to this and I ultimately opted to run the X5iii/Andromeda pairing via the SE output and EQ-down the low-end a little.

    I found that strategy to work better, overall, than using the iEMatch unit and dialing up the bottom end. The sound was more coherent in SE w/ bass-de-emphasis and you avoid the additional dongle on your cable.

    Sony WM1Z:

    I will say a lot less here as there is less that needs to be said. The Andromeda combined with the WM1Z was a very agreeable listen. Tonality was less skewed and while there’s still a certain degree of “excitement” to the Andromeda’s presentation here, it’s less emphatic than with the X5iii. Bass is more natural and exhibits better texture and the slam isn’t softened by bloom the way it is with the FiiO unit.

    I did still notice some heat to the higher regions, but this was mostly controlled by switch to the Comply tips. I mention this mostly to indicate that it isn’t’ a unique thing to the X5iii pairing. If you listened to an entire “Heart” or “Erasure” album, you’d probably get a bit sensitive to this, but otherwise I just found it to just make things a little more lively than would be the case with something a bit more restrained.

    For portable use, if it was my choice, I’d run the Andromeda out of the WM1Z via it’s balanced output, no need for iEMatch (or adapters), but that says as much about my player preference as it does about how the Andromeda work here. And, while I don’t have it anymore, the WM1A/Andromeda pairing would, I think, be very close to my ideal signature. It might not hit the high-points on all the technicalities compared to some other things I’ve heard recently, but without hearing those it’s a rather impressive result.

    Pro iCAN:

    This was very close to the presentation of the Sony WM1Z tonally, but does serve to help demonstrate the level of scalability the Andromeda exhibits. Every time they were paired with a more capable chain, they let the strengths of that chain come forward. And, with this overall setup, it was surprising just how close to my TOTL full-size cans the Andromeda were able to get.

    Now, we’re still talking about balanced armatures here and, for whatever reason, they never sound quite as “right” as good dynamic transducers or, in most areas, more competent planar designs, particularly texturally and in terms of coherence (no doubt due to the tendency for BA-designs to be multi-driver), but in other, technical, areas they gave a very impressive performance.

    iPhone 7S/Apple Lighting to 3.5mm Adapter:

    As mentioned, this resulted in a silent background. The slightly U-shaped presentation, with some bass-emphasis, is present here though. Not to the same extent as with the X5iii – nominally I’m sure that’s due to the less-warm signature of the DAC in this dongle, but this is a bassier presentation than with everything else.

    I don’t find it “over done”, it’s quite fun for the most part, but it strays further away from neutral than the WM1Z or Pro iCAN. If I wanted a super-simple with-me-always solution this would be something I wouldn’t have any trouble listening to. Though it would not be my first choice for critical listening (more down to the Apple dongle than the Andromeda).

    Summary:

    I really enjoyed listening to the Andromeda … issues with ear-pain from the fit notwithstanding (and that’s going to be a very specific, personal, thing). They are musically engaging, capable of a fully emotive delivery (“Carmen” was particularly intoxicating), exhibit excellent technicalities (and at no point did I find myself hankering to switch to something else) and were thoroughly enjoyable.

    It’s nice to listen to something that has received a great deal of praise and find that it is easily justified. In the current environment of rapidly escalating IEM pricing, and an apparent driver-count arms-race, it’s refreshing to see innovation in other directions while delivering what, in the grand scheme of things, is a very good value product.

    Yes, it feels a bit odd to me to be thinking about an $1,100 IEM as “good value” … I still remember buying the SE846 when it was released and that was, I think $1,299 officially (most people paid $999 in the end I believe), which was the most expensive non-custom IEM by some margin. And compared to the SE846, I think the Andromeda is a much better bet unless you really just want a very prominent bottom-end and some modest tuneability.

    Anyway, here I feel that you’re looking at genuinely close-to-top-of-the-line levels of performance for, what in today’s world, is a comparatively reasonable price point.

    As a pairing with the Fiio X5iii, at $1,498, the levels of performance available are extremely impressive, and that would make a very capable and enjoyable, combination with the caveat that you'll need to be sure the trade-off in terms of bass-emphasis/tonal balance and hiss is something that will work for you. For me, as mentioned, it requires a modest bass-cut via EQ so that I can use the more bass-emphatic presentation from the SE output to avoid the extra hiss from BALANCED output (which you can't EQ away).

    Am I going to buy a set of Andromeda?

    Well ... no ...

    But the only reason I’m not adding a pair of Andromeda to my collection is down to the comfort/seal issue. Otherwise they’d be worth it for take-everywhere use and as a solid, well-known, reference for comparing other IEMs against.

    --

    *The cosmetic wear issues on the Andromeda seem pronounced, and consistent, enough that used copies are, at best, in “B-stock” condition. And, purchase-wise, that means that I’m looking at an $849 IEM not an $1049 one. So, used prices would be based on that $849 initial figure, not $1049. This made it impossible to find a sensibly (for me) priced used copy.

    **I keep full sets of Comply “Comfort” and “Isolation”, Spin Fit and Spiral Dots in all available sizes on hand, even though generally the small Comfort Comply and medium Spin Fit tips are where I wind up with most IEMs.

    ***Using Comply tips with my Empire Ears Zeus R totally screws up the signature for me. They become significantly recessed in the treble and even the upper-mids get attenuated in ways that I don’t like. It makes them sound dull, lifeless and almost broken. The same tips on the SE846, Andromeda, Vega, U12, U18 etc. cause me no such issues.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2017 at 3:58 PM
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