Campfire Audio Solaris - raising the bar?

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

  1. Mystic

    Mystic Mystique's Spiritual Advisor

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    Every balanced armature design I've tried would give me fatigue after a little while of listening. This happened for years, no matter what iem I tried (warm, bright, bassy, etc). Figured it may of been just the way my ears were designed until I realized that the only iem I ever got along with long term was the Phonak PFE, which uses a single dynamic driver. Decided to give the Lyra 2 a try and loved it, then got the Vegas. I'm assuming I'm sensitive to balanced armatures, not very scientific but it's worked for me lately so I will be sticking to dynamics from now on.

    Yes, I wore the Solaris like that. It's just too big. Even the Andromeda was too big for me. Nobles and Shures are too big as well. Small iems like the CA dynamics (not sure about Atlas though, looks kind of big) & MD Plus fit perfectly.
     
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  2. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    @Mystic, the Phonak PFE parent company is a hearing aid company. The PFE 012/112/132 variants were all a single armature iems and the 232 was their dual armature model. I believe all models used the same changeable filter system.
     
  3. Mystic

    Mystic Mystique's Spiritual Advisor

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    Haha that's ironic. I'm really glad I thought they were dynamic iems or I may never of tried the Lyra 2 and Vega!

    I remember always using the black filters.
     
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  4. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    Thanks to the loaner tour I was able to compare the Solaris to my Andromeda and LCD-i4. My original hopes were to see if the Solaris could replace either one of those two. It turns out it isn't that simple (for me).

    Lets start with the basics.

    The build on these are the best I have seen from Campfire or anything else that I have had the opportunity to have my hands on. Not only are they beautiful, but the craftsmanship is at the next level. I liken this to the Utopia - the price is justified.

    I was slightly worried about ergonomics, but it turns out these actually fit my ears better than the Andromeda for the most part. The diameter of the bore seems larger though and causes a little bit of irritation. I used medium spiral dots for both the Andromeda and the Solaris. With the LCD-i4 I used the medium groovy tips. Not too much of an issue, but they stick out pretty far from my ears. It looks ridiculous, but wasn't a big deal for how I wear them.

    Now the part that people care about - the sound.

    TL: DR - they are pretty darn good - I could be very happy if they were my only headphone!

    I really enjoy the tonal balance that they went with. I'm especially impressed with the mids & treble and it has me wondering if this is what the Andromeda S is more akin to. I will need to check those out!

    Will the Solaris replace the LCD-i4 or Andromeda for me? Unfortunately, I don't think so. The Solaris ended up being more of a competitor for the Andromeda and the LCD-i4 still is in a different class for me. The LCD-i4 has its issues tonally that requires EQ, but its presentation is getting very close to where I want to be. Effortless and grand with extension in both directions that the Solaris just can't match. The Solaris makes me think what it would be like to have studio monitors inside my head where the i4 is just open with its wall of sound and smooth bass.

    Another minor quibble I have with the Solaris is the timbre in the low end. I'm hearing its Atlas DNA in there and I believe that is what is causing me some listening fatigue. It reminds me of the utopia in that it enjoys being played at an increased volume and it is just so fast, tight and with an almost perfect amount of impact.

    As far as the Andromeda goes - I'm not sure if it is the all BA vs. Hybrid thing since I've never heard a hybrid before, but I feel like the presentation of the Andromeda is more cohesive and a little more relaxed than the Solaris. The Solaris is more in your face begging you to listen to every detail. I'll use the same description for the Andromeda as I did the LCD-i4 and that is effortless.

    I'd love to have these added to my collection and it might be something I look into in the future. I think Ken created something that almost anyone can enjoy. The funny thing is - if any of my friends asked me to recommend a headphone for them - I would pick the Solaris - it is quite a great all-a rounder.

    Thanks again for the opportunity to listen to these!

    **EDIT** My chain for all the listening was the Sonic Frontiers SFD-1 into a Krell Klone. The Solaris is more sensitive than the Andromeda and I can hear the noise floor even using the IEMatch.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
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  5. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    My impressions mirror @M3NTAL’s, especially the Solaris / Andromeda comparison.

    I feel the Solaris is very impressive sounding from the lower mids up, a bit more refined than the Andros and also projects a bigger sound, where all the elements are of a bigger scale in an otherwise similar soundstage. The Andromeda feel more spacious and laid-back, as a result.

    However, the bass feels disconnected from the rest, which is a bit of a shame. It’s not bad, mind you, but I prefer the cohesiveness of the Andro.

    Finally, comfort is not good with these. I tried many different tips. The silicon / spinfit are the only ones that fit in my ears (the foamies are just unbearable) given how big the bores are. This is the fatal blow for me. I would have gotten them otherwise.
     
  6. TwoEars

    TwoEars Friend

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    Excellent review, I always appreciate reference points and comparisons to other gear. I wonder though if Campfire Audio might have a bit of sensitivity problem on their hands. The Solaris is 115 dB and the Andromeda is 113 dB, and as everyone know 3 dB is about a doubling of volume so this is seriously, seriously sensitive. No doubt this sensitivity is what give you a lot of the detail retrieval and sense of space in the sound, but it also means you need some very, very good sources with no hiss and background noise. And unless you're careful there's a very real possibility of blowing both your in-ears and your eardrums to smithereens.

    I wonder if anyone's tried attaching an inline resistor to the cable? Or make a 3.5mm plug adapter with a resistor? You could probably solder something together and place a variable resistor on the GND channel. This might give you a way to reduce background hiss and it should also work as a sort of bass boost unless I'm mistaken.
     
  7. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    It’s my understanding there is only one crossover at about 4k, so the dynamic driver and mid armature driver overlap and run free if you will.
     
  8. Rockwell

    Rockwell Acquaintance

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    I've had the Solaris for about a week (and probably about 60-70 hours of use) and one thing I'm appreciating above all is how balanced and cohesive it is. Nothing stands out yet at the same time everything stands out. I've never tangibly perceived such a sense of unity from portable music before-- I can focus on each level and be totally wowed but at the same time sit back and appreciate how seamlessly it all blends together. If I were to chime in on the burn-in factor at this point I would say that as the hours wear on with this unit the sound becomes more and more cohesive. When I first tried it there was a vague sense of each of the different layers working to carve out their respective spaces but as the time wears all on of that dissolves into a serenely engaging unity. It doesn't matter what I'm listening to-- I can engage with each of the different layers if I choose but it's also easy to sit back and embraces the whole of the sound and not be distracted by any particular layer of it. Whether it's due to actual burn in or psychological burn-in who's to say but I think it stands as a testament to the quality of the tuning on this thing (for those who prefer a more balanced signature).
     

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