Campfire Audio Solaris - raising the bar?

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by mscott58, Oct 10, 2018.

  1. Baten

    Baten Almost "Made"

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    I too wonder how other people seem to not be as bothered by this.
    Hence the unit variance theory.
     
  2. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    Meh, I'm willing to bet unit variance is a lot more prevalent in the iem world than you think. Just checking Knowles spec sheets on different popular driver models will show various amounts of deviation and still be in 'spec'. Some models have relatively small deviation allowances, say 4db or less at specified frequencies, while others have much, much larger spreads that are still in spec. And Knowles is probably going to have tighter tolerances than the competition for armature drivers. Left and right unit matching, for an in-ear manufacturer is going to be the priority.

    The dip really isn't in the upper midrange per say; more like transition of upper mid to lower treble (4k-7k). Also a dip in upper mids is not going to make vocals sound thin; quite the opposite. Look no further than Westone and Earsonics house tuning. They have had huge valley's of depression in that area of the frequency response for years and across most models, hence the house sound. It makes vocal sound overly chesty and deep. Personally, that sucks with female vocals. Since the dip in Solaris is a little higher, I find vocals to have more weight than say Andromeda but the dip definitely causes a blunting of female vocal harmonics. This dip may affect some peoples ear geometry differently- to wit I can understand hearing vocals as nasally, even if I do not. To my ears, the dip in Solaris doesn't affect vocal too strongly but does negatively impact instrument timbre in this region. In this regard I find my Andromeda to have better tonality, even if it trails the Solaris in every other aspect.

    This dip or hollowed out effect will have nothing to do with hybrids in general. As mentioned, Westone and Earsonics have a much more agregious suck out, and they are multi-armature. Although I do suspect tuning hybrids and keeping unit variation down in them adds a much bigger layer of difficulty.
     
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  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Possibly something broken or played back on a source with funky EQ settings. Seriously, this stuff happens.

    I was at a local meet years ago when Jason brought a prototype amp with TH-X00. I was like WTF, this isn't possible how wrong it sounds. Lo and behold, I checked the JRMC EQ settings. They were screwed up.

    Many other stories too with defective headphones, a dead driver in an IEM, or gear in its death throes, or 230V gear plugged into 115V.
     
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  4. buonassi

    buonassi Rando

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    I've noticed similar but it's confined to lower midrange suckout. I wonder if, despite measuring good in the transition band from bass to mids, that the driver change is responsible for a change in loudness perception for the upper mids and they come in a bit louder than nearby dynamic driver frequencies? My oriolus mk2 is one such example.
     
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Lower mid suckout would imply lack of body, an artificial sense of clarity, muted fundamentals, say of the body of a cello or soundboard of a piano. An example of a transducer that does this is the TH-900 headphone. I'm not hearing this effect on the Solaris. I mean, it's not bassy or excessively warm, but it is quite fuller-bodied, moreso than Andro for instance.
     
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  6. EagleWings

    EagleWings Friend

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    I know a person, who used to think that lower mid-range was 1-4kHz. And I remember reading a post on reddit about, how a certain IEM sounded warm because of the boosted upper mids.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2019
  7. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    Got to spend some more time with a demo Solaris from a different store in Nam, and this time I brought a bunch of tips to roll with as well.

    Store confirmed something like 2000 hours of burn-in on this unit. Also in their words "using only the highest quality components". In short, it's supposedly a well burned Solaris and I can confirm that it does sound the part: coherent, nice, airy.

    Now, on to the more interesting stuff: I found that tips rolling actually has quite a profound effect. Yeah, sure, all tips sound different, but then I think I may have an explanation for why some hear the midrange as being sucked out: you ain't using the right tips!

    Here're my notes:

    1) Spinfit: makes the Solaris unit sound a bit shrill, sharp and kinda dark-ish at the same time. It's not bad but definitely not my cup of tea. No midrange suckout.

    2) The black silicone ear tips included in my Andromeda package: has slightly thicker bores vs some other black silicone tips I have, in case you need to identify which is which. Sounds basically like Spinfit but less sharp, so now it's just dark. But interestingly, these tips make the Solaris sound a little hollow and kinda shouty. Also too much beiss. Very very not my cup of tea.

    3) Black silicone tips with thinner bores: a bit brighter sounding but not shrill or sharp. Interesting. Way too much beiss though. Actually, sounds kinda V-shaped or U-shaped. Doesn't have midrange suckout. Seems like it'll be perfect on airplane when you want +12dB sub bass to your Solaris.

    4) White silicone ear tips with thin bores: more mid-centric (middle midrange) than anything else. Actually it kinda balances out the slight bass boost and slight treble lift of the Solaris to my ears. Somewhat comparable to the foam tips minus the extra shoutiness. This is closer to my preference and it's actually one of my favorite ear tips to try. Though there is mild midrange suckout.

    5) Noble black/red ear tips: kinda adds a bit of low mid and lower treble emphasis. Actually sounds like it balances out Solaris as well but in a different way compared to the white silicone tips above. Oh, also tighter bass for some reason. This IS my favorite ear tips to use. These tips were also on my Andro for the longest time. I think... if you are not opposed to silicone tips, these may be worth a try.

    6) Foam tips included with Andro: well, what can I say? They're foam. Kinda gross after a short while but other than that, pretty balanced sounding. Basically sounds like the white silicone tips above but with a bit extra shoutiness, or vocal-closeness or what-have-you. Also highly recommended.

    7) Final E ear tips (as recommended by Head-fi?): Uh... no. Midrange suckout + super dark + shouty. It's like the worst combination of everything above IMO. Even Spinfit was the better choice. Maybe these just don't fit me but seriously, they sound the worst out of everything else to me.

    So I found that depending on the tips, the effect of the midrange suckout on Solaris can go from significant to non-existent. It may be worth it to try some tips rolling if you've got the time.

    On that note, even the best fit of the above tips was pretty bad for me. Solaris still hangs down outside my ears. Andro is like... 1000% better fit for 5% worse frequency response. If not for fit, I'd have already gotten Solaris. Hm...

    Edit: forgot to mention: all of the above were medium sized. I know small and large sized ear tips will sound different so YMMV there.
     
  8. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    Just heard these at the local store. With the final E tips they had on them, my initial impression was that the bass was fuller and more textured than Andro, but the mids (vocals, piano, guitar) to be a bit thinner sounding. Moar and tighter bass with Spinfits, but even thinner mids. Spiral dots filled in the mids to where I probably wouldn't notice the difference from Andros with a bit of brain burn in. I had a bit of a headache, so I wasn't able to meaninglfully compare technicalities. But the main difference between Solaris and Andro for me was better DD bass. No obvious issues with bass>mids transition. Fit wasn't too bad for me. I was able to get them securely inserted with all 3 tips and they didn't feel overly heavy.

    Source was ZX2 and my Andros have @Bill-P's foam mod and Han Sound Zen 4-wire copper cable.
     
  9. TomHP

    TomHP Almost "Made"

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    Spent about 2 hours today in the local Taipei store listening to Solaris, comparing mostly to my PP8, although I also brought my SE846. Source, my modded AK70 (so very low output impedance of 0.4 Ohm). I had them change the eartips that were on there (no idea what it was) to Spinfits because I couldn't get them to stay in my ears at first.

    In short: they're great, really enjoyable to listen to, but not flawless. Still, quite possibly the best IEMs out there right now for straight up music listening enjoyment.

    I think I'm finally starting to understand how a more DF tuned response (i.e. PP8/ER4 etc...) changes things vs. a (relatively spoken) more mid sucked out response like Andromeda/Solaris to my ears.

    • PP8: strong centre image, very precise imaging, easily discernible layers in the middle and good depth. Spatial image size taylors off to the sides, kind of like a triangle.
    • Solaris: very wide sounding, almost rectangularly shaped spatial image from L to R. But, center image more blurred and less precise.
    Besides spatial imaging, it's very well balanced, with nothing immediately sticking out as being unforgivable so everything below is nitpicking.
    • Bass is good, nicely present but not overblown. Too upper bass heavy though, slightly lacking in real sub bass extension. Yet, not the best bass response. It's just not detailed enough down low for that. I hear much more clearly the different layers in e.g. Daft Punks Lose Yourself to Dance on the PP8.
    • Already mentioned the mids being lower in the mix. Spectrally it doesn't sound unnatural, but vocals are pushed further away in the mix, not as forward as more DF tuned earphones.
    • High frequencies nothing to complain about, very smooth, good extension, natural sounding cymbals etc... Very nice.

    All in all, besides the small imperfections noted, a highly enjoyable and forgiving set. In my opinion, but I know there's strong opponents of that idea here, the PP8 is stronger technically and presents a more "studio monitor" like rendition with small sweet spot, whereas the Solaris is a more enjoyable listen for longer durations most likely, but everything ends up sounding quite similar. It's as if differences in mixdowns get glossed over with a Campfire Audio sauce, whereas the PP8 makes differences in recordings much more readily known. I need to give it a couple nights sleep, but this would be a great companion for my PP8... so I will very likely purchase one in the near future.

    Congrats Campfire Audio, I'm sure this IEM will sell very well indeed. A winner!
     
  10. traveller

    traveller Rando

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    If you have the opportunity, I can also recommend to try the Symbio W Peel with the Solaris, they are wide bore and are my favorite aside from the Foam tips included. So far they have been comfortable over longer listening sessions.

    The regular Symbio W I found to get sore after a while due to the harder memory foam + weight.
     
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  11. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    Spent about 4 days with these thanks to the loaner tour. I solely compared the Solaris with Andromeda playing from a Sony NW-ZX2 using a 2.5mm TRRS to 3.5mmTRRS adapter for fake balanced operation. Qualifier/bias: I tend to prefer a slight "tone and body," mid-centric sound.

    First, ergonomics:

    It took me quite a bit of fiddling to get a good seal trying out a bunch of my own tips. Ended up with best fit (and sonics) using a pair of single flange silicone tips left over from my old K10u (clear dark gray tip with red throat). Not sure if I'd be happy with the bulkiness of the Solaris for a daily driver IEM. The fit fussiness didn't really allow me to experiment with different insertion depths, which could explain the slight hollowness mentioned below.

    Sonics (all relative to Andro):
    • Bass weight, extension, and definition is better. Bass and mid-bass detail is better. The album Busted Stuff by Dave Matthews Band, is typically kind of weak and "bass light" sounding, and listening on a system that is more (artificially) fleshed out in the bass and midbass usually just makes things sound muddy. Through Solaris, however, it was an absolute treat - I can't say I've heard Carter Beauford's drums sound so punchy and realistic. The immediacy and cleanness of the bass and sub bass from Solaris is impressive.
    • Upper midrange tended to sound sucked out a bit compared to Andro. Solo piano wasn't quite as convincing through Solaris, compared to Andro. Plucked strings lacked a little presence region bite that made mandolins sound a little too zingy.
    • Treble extension sounds a bit better than Andro, better smoothness, and better micro-detail. Horn "brilliance" was more realistic.
    Overall I consider Solaris an upward move from Andro, save for the lack of upper midrange involvement/presence. Personally, however, I'm a bigger fan of the Andro's sound. With Solaris I found myself listening to the recording, whereas with Andro, I found myself enjoying the music more.
     
  12. scapeinator1

    scapeinator1 Once You Go Black You'll Never Go Back

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    I've listened to these pretty much continuously since I got them from PTS yesterday and comparing them back and forth with my Andro S. I've been using my LG G7, oppo HA-2, and the Jotunheim.

    I'm just going to cut to the chase and say that I much prefer the Andro S to the Solaris, and I know that may not be a popular opinion but it's no competition for me. The reason is chiefly that the full bodied vocals on the Andro S for me outweigh any of the benefits the Solaris brings to the table. Certainly I could see the argument for the Solaris outclassing the vanilla Andromeda but this isn't the case for the Andro S. That all being said the Solaris is fine and everything that I'm about to describe can be thought of as comments from a comparison rather than saying any part of the Solaris is intrinsically weak per se.

    I am definitely hearing the "sucked-out" vocals on the Solaris compared to the Andro S and it does detract from my enjoyment of music in general. When I listen to Paramore I want Hayley to be front and center, and she almost gets veiled and pushed back in the Solaris esp throughout Brand New Eyes and Riot. I'm getting a similar effect with Aretha Franklin "Ain't No Way" and a lot of other soul music like Syl Johnson's "Is It Because I'm Black" (amazing song btw). In vacuum the Solaris' vocals are good, great even, but they don't knock me down like the Andro S can. This may be EQ'able, but I generally don't EQ.

    As far as treble is concerned, the main feature that jumps out at me on the Solaris is an overemphasis on "mouth sounds" and plucking sounds. Using ASMR as a test environment for this, almost every video I tested with the Solaris sounded like a "mouth sounds video" in a way that I do not hear on any of my other gear. In this context that may not be a bad thing based on personal preference, but I found it distracting. This sharpening of the treble also has the effect of making a lot of soul music sound weird because the music now sounds veiled and yet sibilant in a way that was not intended. Now this may only be a problem for me because I listen to a lot of soul music, but I never had this problem with the Andro S which would preserve the original balance of dominant mids and wake up the treble a tad bit. It also makes pop punk a bit too aggressive such as with Fall Out Boy's "Sugar, We're Goin Down". Otherwise, the treble was pretty solid, plenty of air and good detail contributing to a solid sense of soundstage that was more precise than the Andro S.

    The bass was well executed. The overall coherency is great with the bass feeling well integrated. It doesn't have a mind of its own and it doesn't overshadow everything else. In this way, it's avoids the overbearing bass assault that the atlas can be prone to. When it's time to kick in, the Solaris wows with a very solid bass response that feels like it has a lot of headroom. Songs that showcase this well are mostly electro and hip hop: Empress Of "Water Water", Future "Comin Out Strong", SZA "Garden (Say It Like Dat)", dvsn "Do It Well", Freddie Gibbs "Triple Threat", Avicii "Touch Me". It's quite a treat to bump your head to and really impressed on @PTS 's setup, which I'll let him get into more.

    That being said, as I think Marv and others have said, the bass on the Andromeda was not weak by any means and it was almost tighter in certain respects while not being nearly as expansive or impactful. Even listening to the Andro S and the Solaris side by side I can't say that I find the Andro S bass bad or even unfavorable.

    I'm enjoying my time with the Solaris loaner quite a bit because of how much it enhances the experience with "fun" music, but I think long term I will stick with the Andro S.
     
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  13. muse

    muse Almost "Made"

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    I took much of the information contained within this thread into consideration, and went for a second helping. Exact same unit, but with different tips - spinfits, as opposed to the stock silicone, which allow for a deeper insertion.

    I'm going to leave the nitty gritty technical explanations to others who are more qualified, but this previous midrange suckout is now completely gone. Zero.

    Which was hugely surprising to me, because this is literally the first and only instance so far that a hybrid sounds... coherent enough to my liking. It isn't perfect, and it is in that regard where I still prefer the Andros, but it doesn't detract away much, if at all, from the overall listening experience.

    I feel I'm nitpicking here, but since I'm in agreement with much of what has been mentioned as a strength of the Solaris and don't wish to repeat them, I'll just point out the one qualm that I have - that the imaging and soundstage to be a teeny bit off, in terms of disproportion. The soundstage width seems fairly constricted with respect to the other axes.

    I'm also finding that it scales well with a better source. Sound is good straight out of my Android phone, but there is a very clear step up when played through my ZX2 streaming tidal.

    To cut things short, it's an impressive IEM, though I don't necessarily agree that it's a direct upgrade to the Andros, more like a sidestep with a similar amount of gains and tradeoffs.
     
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  14. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    @muse- just curious, did you listen to the same songs as before?
     
  15. muse

    muse Almost "Made"

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    Yes, exactly the same.
     
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  16. PTS

    PTS Friend

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    I was initially planning on leaving in-depth impressions (much like my Comet/Atlas review) after participating in the Solaris loaner tour, but I ended up doing most of my listening during my last hour with them, in the presence of @scapeinator1.

    His thoughts (see above) largely mirror my own, although I could only wish to be as articulate. I wanted to wait until he came by to pick to Solaris up, as I wanted something to compare them to and I knew he was bringing in Andromeda S (which I think is still my favorite IEM). So we swapped back and forth (using either portable devices or the RME ADI-2 PRO headphone out) and vocalized our thoughts in advance to posting.

    Overall I found the Solaris to be similar to the Andromeda, only with more drum and bass slam. Serious 'hit you in the chest' slam, which I've not experienced with an IEM before. This can come at a price though, as I thought it sometimes muddied genres of music that tip towards the low end. From the short time I got to listen, I thought it was wonderfully detailed and had a lovely mid range / top end, but the subtleties of which (good and bad) might have become more evident with time.

    If you're looking for something well balanced and enjoy the CA house sound, I'd personally recommend sticking with something like the Andromeda. If you're looking for more slam, give the Solaris a try.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2019
  17. Galm

    Galm Still looking for Little Red Riding Hood

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    Shipped to @M3NTAL today.

    As for impressions...

    Solaris was a bit of a weird one for me. It both did what I expected but also wasn't quite what I'd hoped for.

    The first and "biggest" thing unfortunately isn't the sound it's their appearance and size. While I actually really like black and gold (look at my avatar) these guys... Are not subtle. I currently own snow white Andromedas and one of the reasons I love them is that they don't really stand out much. They look like normal earbuds to the untrained eye.

    Solaris is quite a few levels up from that. They're quite large and stick surprisingly far out of my head. The cable is also a lot thicker and firmer which while it looks *fantastic* is not ergonomically helpful vs my Andro cable. The overall comfort for me was also generally not my favorite... I think the best way to describe it was that it felt backwards as in... They always felt like I had them on wrong (I didn't) and my ears would need some stretching to get used to them long term.

    One of my favorite tests to do with a new earbud or headphone is to wear them while doing something else and see if I get fatigued or not. It's also a test to see if I *notice* them or not. I kind of like headphones that I can basically just forget about while I'm working or reading or whatever. Andro I can wear for hours, same with my EQed Utopia. But Solaris was just a bit too much for me in terms of comfort and sound.

    Now getting into sound, it's excellent. The bass was what I expected it to be which is really quite excellent but about 3-4db higher than I'd like. I'm a big fan of the extension on these and of bass in general, I want to hear those low Hz. But I don't wanna do it at the sake of neutrality as much. Overall though I really really enjoyed the low end I just know it's a couple notches higher than I'd like for long term listening.

    The mids were definitely buffed vs Andro and more pronounced in a good way. They were really enjoyable and clean with a timbre I felt was quite accurate and pleasing. I've heard punchier mids, but almost always at the cost of timbre so I really liked what Solaris was doing here. If there was any criticism the upper mids had a bit of elevated bite in some songs where they were just really prominent. It's not something that really bothered me but I don't know if it's what V Shaped lovers would enjoy.

    Highs were really good. They honestly sounded pretty similar to Andro to me, I think they may have edged Andro out a bit, but it's hard to tell when Andro has less mids and therefor more prominent highs.

    Overall I can really see why people like them and I think they're really great sounding iems. But for my preferences Andro still makes more sense in terms of usability. I will miss that beautiful bass extension though.

    Thanks for letting me hear 'em!
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2019
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  18. Vansen

    Vansen Gear Master (retiring)

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    Just moved @Galm ’s impressions here.
     
  19. Mystic

    Mystic Mystique's Spiritual Advisor

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    Impressions from the loaner:

    My experience with portable gear is pretty limited, so not sure how useful these impressions will be. I spent a couple hours with the Solaris on a couple different days. My ears are pretty small and I have always had fit issues with iems. If it wasn't fit issues it was sound, I just did not get along with balanced armatures. I recently discovered I don't have any problems with dynamic iems and bought a Lyra 2 a few months ago, which quickly escalated to a Vega.

    Main portable setup: Cowon Plenue D -> CA Vega. I use EQ (Cowon has some of the best digital EQ in the industry imo) to tune the Vegas bass down a little, which allows the mids to appear more forward as well.

    The Solaris is HUGE. I really wasn't prepared for just how big they would be. They are extremely uncomfortable for extended periods of time. The nozels are short and stubby so they don't get very deep insertion and kind of just sit in your ears. People with bigger ears may not find fit to be as much an issue as I did though. Build quality is excellent. These look and feel like $1.5k iems. The cable is much nicer than the one that came with my Vega which wasn't bad to begin with. The carrying case has a larger footprint than the other Campfire iems.

    It is a shame the fit was so bad for me because the sound was excellent. Really well balanced throughout. I don't care for balanced armatures but these didn't bother me. Then again I didn't find anything wrong with the MD Plus until I had to live with them for a month.

    Compared to stock, non EQ'd Vega:
    Bass - Much more linear extension. No huge jump in bass quantity. They still had excellent impact though and detail retrieval was at least on par with the Vegas in the bass. Listening to electronic music was just as enjoyable as it is on my Vegas.

    Mids - This is where I feel the Solaris really one ups the Vegas. Mids are more present and clearer sounding. Female vocals especially come through with a much more natural tone. Guitar crunch stood out with more prominence, while the Vegas are slightly distant.

    Treble - About on par with each other. I've read the Vegas have hot treble in the beginning, the pair I bought had already been played for a couple hundred hours. Marv has posted measurements showing a difference between new and burned in Vegas. Detail is about on par with the Vegas. I felt the Vegas might be a bit smoother, this could be the armature sound getting to me though. Solaris is still pretty smooth and I don't notice any extreme peaks or dips.

    Compared to EQ'd Vegas: Not sure how useful this will be, but this is how I listen to my Vegas. There are mods in the Vega thread that do essentially the same thing I do. This brings my Vega closer to the Solaris (mainly in bass quantity and mids forwardness, or rather a lack of distant mids). There is one area my Vegas still can't touch, and that is the quality of the mids. The Solaris are just plain clearer and more natural sounding. Enough of a difference that I would be buying a pair right now if it wasn't for the terrible fit.

    Overall I think these are worth the price IF you don't have fit issues (try and demo a pair), considering the ridiculous prices Campfires competitors are charging. Though with how good used prices are on Andros and Vegas it may be a tough call. I just wish more care went into designing the fit. Perhaps it's just something that can't be helped with having multiple drivers. I know Ken has this vision of his for dynamic drivers, yet he seems to be just fine making neutralish iems in any configuration OTHER than single dynamics. Perhaps some day...
     
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  20. TwoEars

    TwoEars Friend

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    @Mystic Nice review, Is there a particular quality about balanced armatures you didn't like in the previous ones you tried? Just curious.

    Also, just a wonder.. the Solaris is designed to sit tilted more upright in the ear than other CA models. If the main housing of the Andromeda is worn almost level to the ground then the housing of the Solaris should be much more tilted upward and vertical. Was that the way you wore them? Just checking. Apparently they spent a lot of time trying to make the Solaris comfortable, tilting the housing and giving it a longer neck etc, so it's a shame you didn't find them comfortable.

    @PTS I've heard from other reviewers that the Solaris sits between the Vega and Andromeda in terms of bass quality and impact, so your impressions align well with that.
     

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