Most neutral iem’s roundup with best of list and reviews.

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by rhythmdevils, Oct 1, 2020.

  1. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    This has turned into a rather long review roundup because I kept writing impressions about an iem and then I’d find a way to make it sound better and write a new review. For a couple iem’s this happened a few times. But I’ve decided to include all the reviews because it is great testimony to how challenging it is to review iem’s or compare impressions. There are so many factors with iem’s that don’t exist with full size headphones- (tips used, the way the tips fit - depth of insertion, how tightly they fit affecting the seal, the way the iem’s sit in your ears which changes how the tips sit in your ears, and the source used which is an especially big factor for BA iem’s with wacky impedance curves causing them to change FR with different output impedance). So I’ve left them in to give important evidence of how fickle the sound you get with iem’s is. If this was a full size headphone review roundup I would only have one review per headphone.

    For your sanity I’ve made the titles of the final reviews large and bold and put the pictures there in case you just want to skip to those.

    I’ll update this thread with more neutral iem’s if I can get my hands on more. I’m getting the Gaudio Clariden on loan soon and depending on its sound I may add it to the list.

    List of rhythmdevils recommended neutral iem’s in order of price not including aftermarket tips

    • Surge+. Dynsmic waterproof iem 40$ now on sale otherwise 50$ - ever so slightly warm, great tonality.
    • EDC3 100$ on drop.com with optional modded Symbios W Peel tips if stock tips are too small - neutral
    • Sony M7 500$ now with Sony sale otherwise 700$ With Azla Sedna Earfit Light (NOT short) - neutral
    • CA Andromeda 2020 1,099$ with Penon Audio tips (see review for link to tips). - warmer than neutral but extremely resolving and fast
    • CA Ara 1300$ with Azla Sedna Earfit Light Short tips - the most neutral iem I’ve heard with deep insertion.
    • CA og Solaris 1499$ with normal not original or + or ++ JVC Spiral Dot tips - neutral

    My current favorite iem: Andromeda 2020

    Best iem if on a budget: Drop EDC3 which btw responds well to better source and amp so if you can afford it, add the iFI Hip Dac ($150), which I haven’t heard but have read enough to recommend in this situation. This combo would beat a lot of TOTL iem’s and sound fantastic.

    Most Ergonomic Neutral iem:
    1. Brainwavz B400 - sit really well on ears and don’t pull out or move when you move
    2. Drop EDC3 - just about as good and probably equal to the B400 for most people. But the way the chassis sits on my ear, the tip gets pulled out of my ears slightly over time or with movement. However I think this is probably a unique problem for me .
    3. Sony M7. Not as good as the above but better than the rest in the list. Still moves a bit with head movement and needs readjustment.

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    Surge + dynamic iem’s waterproof to 12 feet indefinitely. 40$ right now.

    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/40-dynamic-iem’s-that-sound-good-and-are-waterproof-to-12-feet-indefinitely.9569/

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    Tin Hifi P1 ortho iem


    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/tin-hifi-p1-ortho-iem-review.9766/

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    Westone UM PRO 10

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    Interesting iem’s. With the foam tips (a must, the silicone tips sounded terrible to me) they have one of the best FR and tonality of any iem. They lack extension on both ends of the spectrum but that’s how headphones should be. You pay more for better technicalities but always get good tonality and FR in the range of the iem’s response. They really just sound right.

    My only complaint aside from below is a tinny quality to the sound, particularly the midrange. But it’s something you could get used to if on a budget.

    There’s this strange effect that comes off as one dimensionally. I’m not talking about soundstage. The best I can do is an analogy. It’s as if you’re watching a projection of a film and that projection is really great, but you are able to see the projector. Film depends on something called "suspension of disbelief". Afterall it’s just a bunch of clips and our brains have to want to assemble them into a sequence and story, and make sense of jump cuts. But that requires a suspension of disbelief and when that falls apart, and you start seeing the production and are not lost in the film, it gets ruined. That’s what I feel happens with the Pro 10. I can hear the production. That may make no sense but it’s the best I can do. But it’s quite bothersome. Which is a shame because of how well these are tuned. They make me want to try higher end Westones but somehow I know that they go for the "hyper clarity" bright tuning for the more expensive models. Like everyone else. Can’t sell an expensive iem unless it’s peaky as hell!!

    CA Orion

    Out of an iPod Touch 7th gen

    Awesome FR. I think it’s perfect. But God awful tonality. Some of the worst tonality I can remember hearing. Reminds me of Ultrasones. It’s metallic sounding with this dreadful way of shoving details way louder than they should be. Forcefully. Like an over sharpened photograph. The detail is presented above the actual tone of the note. It’s just a terrible listening experience. I can’t imagine releasing this iem to the public. It seems to have potential because of the great FR but wow it needs work. I feel like I can hear all the notes bouncing around in the metal casing and coming out "Orionized". Fucking crime against music.

    CA Orion Out of iPod touch > iFi nano/AK120

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    Wow! This is a whole different iem. Reminds me of the Ara going from shallow to deep insertion. It’s still got that great FR, basically perfect. But the metallic tonality is almost completely gone. Hard to explain this one. It’s very listenable. Pretty damn neutral. The only real problem now is an etched quality to the lower treble. It’s not harsh it’s not a peak it’s a tonality issue. Notes in this range do in fact take on the metallic tonality that overwhelmrd the spectrum before. Sounds in this region loose their proper timbre and stick out and mush together. The more I listen the more unpleasant it gets. Listening to the cure right now and it’s pretty bad. So a deeper fit and a dac/amp and maybe higher output impedance helps this iem but it still suffers from some serious tonality issues.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2020
    Dzerh, Bill-P, spoony and 9 others like this.
  2. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Brainwavz B400
    This was the first iem I really liked. When I was using shallow insertion only. I used Symbios F Peel silicone tips (not the hybrid foam kind, plain silicone) https://symbioeartips.com/termek/symbio-w-peel/ which fit loose but didn’t come off (shallow seal probably helped with this). They sounded very natural to me, on the warm side of neutral but with great layering and soundstage and a rich lower midrange that I loved. They just sounded "right" coming from other iem’s and a sigh of relief.

    I’ve now heard many more iem’s and fit them different in my ears, so the Symbios tips no longer work. With deeper fit these become quite dark iem’s. They need CP100 Spinfit tips to bring out the treble (best brand tips for bringing up treble due to the length of the tube in the tip. Problem is spinfit tips tend to recess the midrange. So what was a very natural sounding iem now has a bit of a recessed midrange and with basically all tips are going to be quite dark. With spinfit tips the midrange isn’t terribly recessed just a bit. But I hate recessed vocals. Treble is neutral. So is the rest of the spectrum.

    Otherwise they still have very impressive layering and separation and soundstage. Treble is a little plastic-y and bass is nothing special but gets the job done. They still have that glorious lower midrange. These are great cheap iem’s for sludge metal because of that lower midrange. The distorted electric guitars sound awesome. Whereas my og Solaris picks up all the detail in the lower mids, These are more about rich tone, and they gloss over detail in favor of reproducing that gorgeous rich lower midrange an electric guitar is capable of.

    They still have a strong tendency to just sound normal. With CP100 tips and deeper insertion. They really want to just sound like music. I wish they didn’t have that tiny bit of vocal recession.

    Of course they lack the refinement and detail of my og Solaris. The B400 is all about tonality.

    I actually prefer them straight out of an iPod.

    UPDATE: I discovered a better sounding tip that’s dirt cheap and good quality but needs modification to fit the small nozzle of the B400.

    Here’s a link to the tip on Penon Audio:
    https://penonaudio.com/3-pairs-in-ear-silicone-eartips.html

    The problem is that the cylinder of the tip is too large to fit on the B400. I used these tips (which are excellent tips but I used a size that didn’t fit me).

    US $3.84
    https://a.aliexpress.com/_mLe92b1

    I cut off the cylinder of the tip, crammed it into the Penon tip and fit this onto the B400. in that order. It fits really well now. This tip has the effect of thinning out the sound,so synergyzes well with the B400.

    Result: more balanced, mids are forward but not peaky. Still warm tonality and south of neutral a bit but it’s in the ballpark and sounds good. Maintains huge soundstage. I think the EDC3 is the better iem still, just more balanced tone and FR. About equal refinement. But these B400 with modded Penon Audio cheap tips are still good for the price.

    UPDATE: Brainwavz B400 with CP500 tips

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    I tried Spinfit CP500 tips with the B400 which I remembered are even thinner sounding than the Penon Audio tips.

    Magic!!

    I finally got back to a balanced sound with deeper/proper insertion with the B400. The sound is incredibly neutral all the way through the spectrum but with a slight treble boost. Not lower treble, it’s beyond the range of harshness. The boost only affects cymbals and high frequency information. I think this is probably a lot of people’s ideal FR. And the great thing about using Spinfit tips is that they increase the already best in the market soundstage and imaging of the B400 even more. Everything good about the B400 already described just moar.

    These tips require the same modification as the Penon Audio tips to fit- a second smaller diameter cylinder cut off a cheap iem and crammed into the cylinder of the CP500 to make it smaller. With the CP500 you’ll need a stiffer silicone cylinder, because the CP500’s cylinder is just soft silicone, no rigidity.

    I recommend using the clear iem from this cheap AliExpress tip package To harvest the stiff cylinder.

    US $1.99
    https://a.aliexpress.com/_mOfh9lZ

    Treble
    Very slightly elevated beyond harshness range - see above. The only problem is that the treble lacks ultimate refinement. Instead of a clean "tsssss" with cymbals on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, it’s more of a slight "tshhhhh". But this recording has very clean cymbal work that’s very well recorded and stands out on its own so it’s really the worst it gets for the B400/CP500 combo. Most of the time it’s not that big a deal.

    Midrange
    Perfectly balanced with the rest of the spectrum, very neutral with maybe a touch of warmth. Not emphasized or recessed.

    Bass
    I love the bass with most recordings, it’s tight, and tuneful. Technically though when I use my bass test tracks, it’s a little loose and lacks a bit of control but extends all the way down and it’s flat and neutral. I think the reason I like the bass is probably because the mid-upper bass which is all that’s present in most recordings is rendered excellently. Super tight and punchy, not loose at all. But the lower bass must be a bit loose and uncontrolled. But I have yet to hear a recording other than my bass test tracks which shows this. My bass test tracks are very difficult to render properly for transducers and are very revealing of weaknesses. Almost all songs don’t have any information down where the B400 has loose bass issues. But I guess if you listen to techno or something with a lot of lower bass information this could be an issue. I have yet to hear it even on techno/dance type music.

    Of Note:
    The B400/CP500 combo does something special that no other iem I’ve heard does. It has a percussive dimensionality to instruments. All other iem’s I’ve heard are much more flat sounding. The B400/CP500 has this dynamic 3 dimensional quality to notes where they are not only separated better than other iem’s but have a depth to them or a roundness to the notes where you can hear not just the note but various depths within the note. It’s really awesome to hear. I wish Brainwavz could make a higher end model retaining this quality but more neutral (with other tips) and more resolving and refined. But I don’t see that happening because as far as I know Brainwavz made these iem’s by buying a BA kit manufactured by another company (probably Chinese but I don’t know) and the magic comes from using 3D printing for the housing allowing them to make any shape and experiment endlessly to tune the drivers.

    Build Quality
    I have no problems with it but it’s probably one of the worst in this roundup simply because they are 3D printed and the black version is painted and the paint comes off after time. It came off for me with my 1.5 year old B400 I bought used and when I alcohol wiped the enclosure most of the paint came off. I don’t care at all but others who think of iem’s as man jewelry will care. FWIW I feel they’re very solid in construction I’m just guessing they are less durable. They seem robust to me. BTW, despite the paint maybe coming offf, I recommend buying these in black because the paint will dampen the enclosure which can only be a good thing.

    I highly recommend the B400/CP500 combo. I will compare to EDC3 but it’s going to be hard to beat. The EDC3 definitely has better treble though.

    Nuforce DROP EDC3

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    NOTE: I used "Symbios W Peel" silicone tips for these for this review. https://symbioeartips.com/termek/symbio-w-peel/ (The stock silicone tips are too small for me). The Symbios W Peel is not the foam hybrid, it’s a plain silicone tip, one of my favorites. But the stem is too large for the EDC3. I used a cheap silicone tip that fit the EDC3 and in a size too small as to not waste a tip, cut off the stem, and shoved that into the stem of the Symbios W Peel to make the stem smaller. Just so you know I didn’t use stock tips and if the stock tips are too small for you I highly recommend doing this. Symbios actually has some adapters they will ship with your tips if you ask that are just tough silicone tubes to do exactly what I did but no cutting up tips.

    These are super neutral iem’s. That’s my first impression. I’ve run through my test tracks and nothing sticks out or is bothersome. It’s hard to write a review for these because they’re really cohesive and just sound like music. When I put them on, even coming from my og Solaris I just want to listen to music. I can’t imagine a higher compliment for a headphone.

    Yes, they are way behind the og Solaris in terms of detail and resolution and well, everything. But most apparent is the increased clarity in the og Solaris. Suddenly instruments hold their own place in the soundstage and are full of way more detail and subtle nuances. The EDC3 mushes everything together by comparison. But come on I’m comparing a 100$ iem to a 1500$ iem. They are just similarly neutral.

    Man I’m really enjoying the cure right now. I just want to listen despite the lack of fidelity compared to my Solaris which is right here.

    There’s just something undeniably "right"" sounding about the EDC3.

    Bass
    Great bass response. Tight and controlled all the way down. Very flat and neutral. Very "tight" no loose flabbiness at all.

    Midrange
    Excellent A+. Not rich, and also not peaky or accentuating female vocals. Very neutral. Very natural. Never shouts or harsh.

    Treble
    Again, very neutral. Listening to "Reckoning" on "In the Rainbows" by Radiohead, all the various cymbal hits and high pitched percussive sounds are exactly the right volume in relation to each other and in relation to the rest of the spectrum. (Note:I wouldn’t typically recommend this as a treble test track because it sounds good with peaky treble. But that’s not what I’m listening for. I know it really well and know what it’s supposed to sound like. There’s a ton of treble information throughout the treble range, so since I know how all the sounds are supposed to be balanced, it becomes an excellent test track FOR ME. But I’m not listening to see if it sounds "bad" - it never does).

    Treble however lacks refinement and is a little rough and mushed together. Just not as defined and clear as it could be. This is one of the sacrifices of the price.

    Conclusion
    One of the most neutral iem’s on the market (that I’ve heard), maybe second or third to the Ara, with excellent, natural tonality. Lacks refinement, separation, imaging, clarity of more expensive iem’s.

    UPDATE: I discovered that Spinfit cp360 tips, with Preferably a Symbios adapter or your Own DIY if not sound even better than the Symbios W Peel tips. Bigger soundstage, and refinement across all frequencies especially treble which becomes more extended, airier and cleaner. It’s seriously so good it leaves me questioning the worth of my TOTL Campfire iem’s.

    EDC3 VS B400/CP500 tip combo

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    The B400 is much warmer and rolled off in the treble, requiring spinfit tips to bring the treble up. Then both iem’s are very similar in FR both very neutral. The B400 has better layering in its instrument separation and imaging. The timbre is more plastic-y and fake sounding than the EDC3 which sounds more natural. The EDC3 also has a rich lower midrange but it’s flat, and not exaggerated. But neither is the B400 with the Spinfit tips. Both are about equally refined. The EDC3 is noticeably more clear sounding with better detail retrieval.

    Win goes to to the EDC3 for its increased clarity, better bass and better timbre.

    Sony M7 with Azla Sedna Earfit Light tips

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    This is a bit of a hard iem to review.

    It’s got maybe my favorite frequency response of any iem I’ve heard. It’s basically perfect with Azla Sedna earfit light (not short) tips which are rather long tips so they bring up the upper frequencies nicely so they’re very neutral if not just south of neutral. But there’s no peaks, bumps or anything like that they are very cohesive sounding and flat with maybe a bit of a downward slope. They’re the only iem I’ve hear that allows me to comfortably turn them up loud which is a ver good sign. Everything sounds right on them and I just want to listen to music. They have perfect tonality with one glaring exception: a rubbery sound to the whole spectrum which gets worse in the bass. Such a damn shame. I’m guessing it’s one order of distortion that is very bad. I won’t try to guess which one I don’t know enough about distortion.

    Bass extends all the way down and the mids to bass are very flat. Bass lacks detail and is a bit loose but being so neutral it’s not a huge deal. The rubbery tonality is a bigger deal.

    Treble is also a challenge to review. There is part of the treble range that I really like. I believe it’s the mid to lower treble. Cymbal hits (when the drummer hits the cymbal with a drumstick) sound unique to all headphones I’ve heard. The best way I can describe it is that it’s very clean and the tonality has a sense of weight to it that sounds really great. Cymbal hits are super satisfying. The upper treble however is not incredibly refined and so (I forget what this is called doh) the tssss tssss sound a cymbal can make sounds a bit rough, where it’s much more refined on my og Solaris. Which presents cymbal hits very realistically. Just not with that sense of weight that I’ve never heard in treble before. Super awesome. Too bad the upper treble isn’t more refined.

    Midrange. Nothing much to report. ZERO weirdness in the upper mids and a flat midrange and lower midrange that makes vocals really shine.

    Soundstage is great but not as good as the best CA iem’s.

    Resolution and sense of speed are not as good as CA iem’s but very good in general. They sound very good and are good at extracting low level details. But compared to the best CA iem’s I have to give them a B- here. But the price reflects this.

    CA Ara

    After my time with the Ara, I found out deep insertion was required to get the right sound with them, and I simultaneously discovered how to make deeper insertion work with my ears. Chacharealsmooth was kind enough to give up his spit so I could give them another shot, so I’ve got impressions with shallow fit and foam tips and impressions with deeper fit.

    SHALLOW FIT

    I’m just going to be honest despite Campfire Audio’s extreme generosity letting me borrow these.

    First I should say that the build and finish of these iem’s is my favorite of any iem I’ve seen. The plain titanium metal, visible screws, boxy industrial shape. I’m a big fan of industrial design aesthetic. I love amps designed the same way with visible tubes, screws, old school volume knobs, meters.

    I love the old TTVJ 307A amp. Sounded good too!!
    https://flic.kr/p/7Jgf2Y

    I really wanted to like the Ara and went in expecting to be blown away. So just keep that in mind.

    I think fit issues got in the way of me finding the sound that some of you seem to have found with them. These are bright iem’s with wonky FR but good tonality for those who hate BA timbre and better bass response than other iems I’ve heard. But I don’t mind the BA sound with most BA iem’s I’ve heard. So I spent most of my time rolling foam tips to try to tone down the bright wonky FR. Turns out what they need is silicone tips with deep insertion. But deep insertion doesn’t work for me for whatever reason. I actually found a silicone tip that allowed deep insertion for me and actually made them warm, south of neutral. But still parts of the FR stuck out.

    These 1.69$ tips from AliExpress. https://a.aliexpress.com/_dTPNdJz

    Like Joan Shelley’s recent live recording (one of the best fidelity live recordings I’ve heard though the music is a bit sappy for me).





    There are times even with these deep insertion silicone tips that as her voice rises it suddenly sticks out. RESONANCE. With all other silicone tips they were bright and uneven and resonant.

    With foam tips, they turn into 40$ iem’s. Just shit resolution and transients. A wall of sound effect that made them sound really flat. Really reminded me of Kevin Gilmore amps minus the cold tonality of KG amps. Flat and fucking lifeless as all hell. My 40$ Surge + which I recently reviewed beats them in every way but bass control and treble refinement with foam tips on the Ara. Listening to Paul Simon’s Rhythm of the Saints made it painfully obvious. The Brainwavs B400 was way faster, more articulate, with a shape and space around notes. Again, much better in every way except bass extension/control/detail and treble refinement. Technicalities that don’t matter on their own.

    The one good experience I had listening to them was with these Riyo foam tips
    https://www.amazon.com/Replacement-Eartips-RIYO-Earphone-Headphones/dp/B0722LZ66S

    with this song.



    Bass comes in around 5:50

    The bass was incredible! No other iem I have here captured the whole bass notes being played with such incredible depth and detail and accuracy. Sublime. All other iem’s present it more like farts combined with the sound of him moving up and down the strings. The Ara with Riyo foam tips produced full bass notes along with more of these details. Unfortunately this incredible bass fidelity disappears with silicone tips, at least with the way iem’s fit in my ears.

    These Riyo foam tips were also the best foams as far as maintaining speed, resolution and transients. I recommend everyone get some in case you need foam tips for large bore iem’s. But IME silicone is always better if the iem is well tuned. Which the Ara is not unless the designer tuned them with deep insertion silicone like some of you who like them.

    I can’t do deep insertion, the tips hit a wall and won’t go further. Using smaller size tips just makes them loose. No added depth as others report. I think my ears are better designed for full size headphones.

    But other iem’s that don’t have wonky, uneven FR issues which need correcting with deep insertion are fine for me.

    FWIW my impressions matched Crinacle’s review of the Ara pretty closely. And another member pm’d me and reported hearing the exact same thing I did. So it’s not just me.

    I’d say these are likely very good iem’s that are super picky about fit. If you can get a good deep insertion fit with silicone tips they may sound great for you, see other positive reviews for reference. If you can’t do deep fit or can’t get the magic fit with these for whatever reason, they are not worth it at all and sound like ass. So I would try to figure out how they’ll fit you and then listen to the proper reviews that match how they’ll likely sound for you.

    CA Ara with deeper fit

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    note: Ara not pictured with tips used in review

    holy shit this is a completely different iem. In every way. Gone is the peaky upper midrange.

    I’ll keep my impressions rather short here.

    These are the most neutral commercial headphone of any kind I’ve ever heard- iem’s, on ears, and full size headphones. They’re just spot on and remind me of my mackie reference monitor speakers more than any commercial headphone I’ve heard. Everything is in balance. There is no wonky upper midrange peaks or bump. I think we’ve heard enough praise for me to leave it at that.

    Their weaknesses

    They don’t have a big soundstage. Going to my og Solaris is kind of a sigh of relief for how much more spacious they are. But soundstage isn’t my top priority.

    They can have a kind of brittle treble that’s not as refined as the Solaris or andromeda 2020. It’s subtle and not a big deal but it’s there. However, once I used the Azla Sedna earfit light short tips with them this became a non issue. I love that combination.

    They have very little BA timbre. I don’t know how he did it esp with no crossovers. It’s not just the bass (because of the 4 bass drivers) but the whole spectrum. I’ve often thought that BA drivers suffer from internal driver ringing that quickly dissipates and winds up still looking fast and clean on CSD’s and similar measurements. I think the Ara is better damped and the result is no internal driver ringing and a more natural timbre. The downside to this is it sounds a bit overdamped sort of like the HD650. Not nearly as severe and not dull sounding. But they don’t have that ethereal super fast sound of the Andromeda. They sound much more, well normal.

    I think these should be called reference monitors. They’re just absolutely flat from bass to treble as far as I could tell.

    I honestly don’t think everyone will like this. Most people seem to like the upper midrange "female vocal" peak and I have great respect for CA for having the guts to not just follow everyone else and make a truly neutral iem. If I could afford them I would buy a pair for sure.


    CA og Solaris

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    Note: not pictured with tips used in review

    I’ll make this kind of stream of consciousness.

    With regular not original and not "+" or "++" JVC Spiral Dot tips these are very neutral FR wise. Great soundstage and layering and separation. Super clarity and highly resolving. Dynamic, super tight, controlled and detailed bass that extends all the way effortlessly maintaining that control and despite being a dynamic BA hybrid it’s integrated with the rest of the FR range, creating a cohesive whole (with these tips and the right output impedance source. From the iPod headphone jack and wrong tips they can have a HUGE subwoofer effect that is separated from the rest of the spectrum ruining cohesiveness and actually is capable of being so strong and loud it physically vibrates the entire iem. If you’re a crazy basshead you can get your fix here but be careful about your ears and brain :-0)

    Midrange is totally neutral and transparent. Flat trough the lower mids though it can sound a tiny bit thin if I’m nit picking. I’d like more warmth to the tonality of the midrange of this iem. I often find myself bored by their sound despite their technical prowess and I think this is why. I’m going to try pure copper cable as I’ve never been a fan of silver and have experienced it having this effect in the past with headphones and speakers. Even the HD650.

    Treble is clean and articulate and transparent. No complaints at all. Very refined.

    No harshness, no peaks, no love bumps in the FR. As I said, very neutral with these tips and the correct source (2-4 ohms output impedance)

    CA Andromeda 2020

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    These are super bassy and shelved from the midrange down to the treble, a very unfortunate overcorrection from the treble peak of the og Andromeda. But they still have the same technical abilities hidden away in that awful, dull mess of a FR. So they need the right tips with the right fit as well as the same source requirements as the og Solaris (2-4 ohm output impedance) and I’m going to add that the source not be bassy or super warm. Slightly warm is ok. The AK120, XD05 Plus with 2134 or 626 opamps or iFI Micro BL are all good. The iFI Nano is approaching too warm and diffused sounding to be a great match but it works.

    So tips. I tried a lot. What works best for me are tips with the opposite signature as the Andromeda 2020 ie very lean sounding tips. My favorite at this point are these cheap no name (but well made) tips from Penon Audio

    https://penonaudio.com/3-pairs-in-ear-silicone-eartips.html

    but fit is going to be a factor as well. With a tighter seal they won’t sound as lean. The large size doesn’t seal super tight in my ears which may help. Another option might be the Spinfit CP500 tip as that is the most lean sounding tip I’ve heard but I haven’t felt the need to try it after hearing the Penon tips.

    So with this combo of tip and source, they are warmer all around than the og Solaris with an FR that is slightly south of neutral but not terribly so. If they deviated from neutral the same amount North as these do South, they’d be called neutral by a lot or most people. Since bright seems to be more accepted than warm for whatever reason. Point being these are close to neutral but tastefully warm.

    Bass is way less articulate, controlled and resolving than the og Solaris but it’s fine if just judging these on their own. It extends all the way and is plenty detailed and controlled unless you use different tips or source, then the bass can get huge and the BA drivers can’t pull it off and it’s yucky. These have better midrange to lower midrange tonality than the og Solaris. They also have a slightly bigger soundstage and are slightly more resolving and refined and slightly better at digging up subtleties. og Solaris is definitely more dynamic while these have a slightly more ethereal sound.

    Treble is more refined, transparent and clean and has about similar quantity maybe a bit less treble presence but only a bit. Pretty close to neutral again here.

    I’m going to experiment with a silver cable and see what effect it has. Could help lean them out just a bit more.

    Ultimately I feel you can tell they were both designed by the same person and the BA drivers have a similar house sound.

    Andromeda 2020 wins at soundstage, resolution, speed, transparency. og Solaris wins at sense of clarity and bass quality and ultimate neutrality.

    I prefer the Andromeda 2020 right now but hope cable changes can get them more similar and then my opinion may change.

    I LOVE the build quality and industrial design of Campfire Audio’s iem’s. But I wish he would quit painting that beautiful metal. The Ara is by far his prettiest iem. The rest are unfortunately painted. I wish they all were plain metal I dont care if they’d look the same. The og Solaris would look so awesome if instead of gold on the outside edge it was just plain metal, leaving the black as is. I understand why he decided to do a dual color scheme - to make them look smaller. But plain metal on the outside would look so good and no bling effect. This isn’t man jewelry. These are tools.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2020 at 3:46 PM
  3. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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  4. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Reserved for pictures of my schlong
     
  5. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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  6. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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  7. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    One more. (This forum only allows so many characters per post)
     
  8. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Hmmm maybe I reserved too many posts oh well. I better get ahold of more neutral iem’s!
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2020
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  9. Rockwell

    Rockwell Almost "Made"

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    Great post-- thank-you for sharing your thoughts. I own both the Solaris and the Andro and concur with much of what you write.

    I had this problem with the OG Solaris when I had one during much of 2019 and it was my only real nitpick with them (and ultimately one of the reasons I let go of the Solaris for a while). At the time I felt that I wanted a little more low end punchiness or oomph...but I'm relatively inexperienced in this hobby and that was just my best attempt to put words on it. I always do my best to enjoy an IEM on its own terms but after a time some aspect or another will trigger my OCD and with the OG Solaris it was that I felt it was missing a little weight or presence somewhere. At the time I thought it was bass impact however reading your post I wonder if maybe it was the mids. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the 2020 and/or the SE as they seem to have fixed whatever it was that bothered me about the OG.
     
  10. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Yeah I bet it was the slightly thin tonality in the midrange. That makes phones a little clinical. It’s very subtle on the og Solaris though so it’s hard to pick up on and listen to that board feeling because when you listen with a technical mindset they’re perfect sounding.

    I first put my finger on that being the problem when I preferred them with the warmer XD05 Plus vs the iFI micro BL The slight thinness of the midrange became very apparent when switching from the XD05 Plus to the iFI micro BL listening to Bob Marley’s “Exodus”. His voice was not portrayed with proper warmth.

    I’d love to hear the SE or 2020 version if someone wants to loan me one. :) I’d add it to the roundup.
     
  11. imackler

    imackler Key Lime Pie Infected Aberdeen Wings Spy

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    @rhythmdevils Have you tried the UERR? I've been AB'ing the IER-M7 and the UERR, and think they play in the same ball park, though the IER-M7 is definitely bassier. The UERR has more clarity and less warmth than the IER-M7. I think the treble is better on the UERR than the IER-M7. More detail, though the IER-M7 has it's detail, just more tame. I think I could be happy with either for all day listening, but am leaning toward the IER-M7 as its a slightly less demanding listen. I find that either is more balanced than my OG Andromeda, though it's more fun than either.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2020
  12. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Never heard the UERR or UERM for that matter. I’d be happy to though! ;)

    I’m pretty damn happy with my Andromeda 2020 with the Penon Audio tips that’s my favorite iem I’ve heard all in all. (I had the wrong link in my review above btw, I’ve fixed it to the proper tips.)
     
  13. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    So @Rockwell which do you prefer, Your Solaris SE or Andromeda 2020? I prefer my Andromeda to my og Solaris. It’s quite a bit more fast and nuanced and resolving of subtleties with a bigger more spacious soundstage.

    the copper cable I bought did nothing to the Solaris by the way.

    Interesting we have the same 2 iem’s.
     
  14. Rockwell

    Rockwell Almost "Made"

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    The Solaris is my favorite overall but that may have a bit to do with the fact that about 70% of my listening is electronic music. I have been through some of the cream of the crop of all-BA IEMs-- the Anole VX, Andromeda, VE8 and u12t-- and while they are each great in their own right they all left me craving more solidity down low. Some criticize Solaris for having "BA-like" DD bass because of its quickness I find it just right as it manages to preserve much of the speed and tactility of a BA while providing the undeniable solidity that only DD can muster. The Solaris renders a TR808 bassline better than any other IEM I have heard to this date.

    I agree about the speed and nuance but I'm not sure would describe the Andromeda as more spacious...more airy perhaps, but the Solaris seems grander to me.

    This was what I wrote on HF shortly after being able to compare the two directly for the first time:

    "A few weeks ago my thought was that Solaris sounds like "Andro with its big boy pants on" and I stand by that to some degree-- my first thought after putting them in was how much I noticed (and to a great extent missed) the denser and richer low end, vaster sense of space and by extension the more holographic stage. In terms of technicalities I think Solaris bests Andromeda in all areas except perhaps minutia of detail, but this is largely an unavoidable consequence of the increased low end presence. On the other hand the Andromeda has that unbeatable coherence that (in my experience) has only been achieved so far with single driver type setups. There is a definite sweetness and allure to Andromeda's sound that Solaris doesn't quite capture-- but in fairness I haven't heard anything else which quite does either. On that note I would probably give Andro the slight edge over Solaris tonally-- but both suit me just fine in that regard, with no errors or omissions to my tastes. Andromeda also puts forth a more etheric type sound-- Solaris is more spacious and Andromeda gives more space between notes if that makes sense. The more I listen to both the more I feel they were each ideally named. Andromeda is a galaxy which conjures images of spaciousness and unity, whereas Solaris derives its name from the sun, a massive centre of gravity which cannot fail to grab your attention. Ultimately if I had to pick one I would go with Solaris as I feel it takes the DNA of the Andromeda and expands it into a more complete and evolved sound signature-- however if given the choice I wouldn't go without either as I feel they compliment each other beautifully."

    And I would still stand by that more-or-less. I do love the Andromeda though. I actually listed my Andromeda on HF a week ago as I need to recover some $$...but I haven't "bumped" the thread in a few days because a large part of me doesn't really want to sell it.
     
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  15. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    I just listened to the B400 with Spinfit Cp500 tips again. I’m so blown away by the B400 and EDC3. I think they both have better FR than the CA Andromeda 2020 and og Solaris but the CA iem’s win in technicalities.

    If you’re new to hi-fi headphones or even just new to iem’s I would seriously recommend buying the Brainwavz B400, fitting them with CP500 tips and the EDC3 and get Spinfit CP 360 tips and fit them to those.

    then get an iFI hip dac which is tiny and cheap and neither of these iem’s need IeMatch (higher output impedance) so the hip dac will be fine.

    then pick which iem you prefer sell the other and be done with it.

    you’ll have awesome sound quality very close to TOTL and save yourself a ton of time and money.

    spend it on music.
     

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