Campfire Audio Solaris

Design.

Every Campfire Audio IEM stands out with the original shape and unique details, designed and hand assembled in their Portland, Oregon workshop in US.  And ever since their original Andromeda shell was shamelessly copied by KZ, Ken stepped it up not only with a more unique design, but also with selection of materials and sculptured details which are more challenging to copy (Atlas and Comet being one of the examples).

Solaris features a 24k gold-plated faceplate lid with an imprinted company symbol on the top, and “LEFT” and “RIGHT” spelled imprinted label on the side, along with a hex screw on the side.  The inner-side of a durable PVD finished body (black finish) has unique etched ridges as well as a vent (assuming for DD), and the nozzle/spout has a stainless steel design very similar to Atlas/Comet.  As previously mentioned, you will also find a Beryllium/Copper mmcx socket which matches the cable connector.

Inside of this IEM, you will find 2BA highs (T.A.E.C.), BA mids (single rear ported mid-range driver), and 10mm DD mid/low driver (A.D.L.C.) – all part of 4 driver hybrid design behind the Solaris.  If some of this sounds familiar to you, it’s because these are all the design elements Ken carried over from his previous Andromeda and Vega/Atlas flagships.

A patented design of an optimized acoustic resonator assembly which is machined into the shell, referred to as Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber (T.A.E.C.), was used with 2BA high drivers, the same as in Andromeda.  It actually replaces the traditional tube and dampener system commonly used in many IEMs.  And the 10mm DD driver was “borrowed” from Atlas, originally derived from 8.5mm DD from Vega, which features Amorphous Diamond-Like carbon (A.D.L.C.) diaphragm hybrid design of diamond and graphite carbon – a non-crystalline diamond material.

As I mentioned in my intro, on paper it looks like Solaris is a combination of all the best tech used in previous Campfire Audio IEMs, a hybrid where 5BA Andromeda was morphed with DD Atlas by replacing 2BA lows with a single DD driver, while implementing other design and sound tuning improvements.

The fit.

I can only judge the fit of Solaris shells from my own experience where these 8g shells feel very comfortable in my ears, especially when I use Type-E FA eartips.  But I’m also aware of some people posting on Head-fi about having issues with the shell being too big for their ears.  Obviously, those people would benefit from CIEM design, similar to what Ken has been experimenting in his Equinox CIEM release.  Perhaps, Solaris will be under the same consideration one day.

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Sound Analysis.

I analyzed Solaris sound performance across different sources while playing a variety of my test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Robin Schultz “Oh child”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”.

By suggestion of manufacturer, I let Solaris burn in for 100hrs (playing continuously in a loop) until I was ready to start with a more detailed listening.  I did take periodic notes while going through burn in, and noticed some fluctuation in bass quantity and treble peaks, to the point where at first I had to switch to foam eartips to tame down some sparkle while I settled in on Final Audio silicone tips toward the end of the burn in to bring sparkle back.  As of now, I have close to 200hrs on Solaris, and the following sound analysis is based on the pair in my ears.  Recently, I have been asked if I heard other Solaris IEMs, to compare for consistency.  I haven’t yet, not until the next CanJam NYC which is in about 6 weeks.

I hear Solaris as having a very natural tonality with a balanced tuned sound signature.  Depending on pair up with different sources, sometimes I hear bass being a little more neutral which gives mids a bit more forward presentation or the other way around with bass hitting a little harder which pulls mids slightly back.  But overall, I hear the sound to be relatively balanced where nothing is too forward or recessed, and lows, mids, and treble are in a perfect coherent harmony with a realistic representation of instrument timbre and vocals tonality.

Lately, it’s not as common to hear this sound in a hybrid design since a number of other hybrid IEMs have a more clear distinction between dynamic lows and more forward revealing mids/highs. Based on what I’m hearing here, I believe the balanced signature of Solaris is achieved thanks to its coherent driver tuning where the lows/mids dynamic driver blends seamlessly with mids BA driver, and two high BAs extend the treble with a well-controlled detailed non-fatigue definition.

Soundstage expansion is very wide, in some pair ups even reaching holographic level due to staging depth being pushed more out of your head.  But even with this expansion, I still find it to be realistic, not exaggerated.  And of course, with a wide expansion you can expect an excellent imaging with an accurate positioning of instruments and vocals.  I mean, only the original recording engineer/producer will know the exact accuracy, but it was convincing to my ears where I can pin-point every sound position.

Due to its more natural tonality, sometimes it’s hard to judge the transparency of the sound and if there is any coloring, but based on its balanced tuning and lack of exaggerated bass or over-emphasized upper mids or treble, I find the sound to be naturally-transparent and quite resolving.  The layering and separation of sounds is above average, what I would expect with this type of tuning where there is not too much air between the layers of the sound.  Everything is easy to distinguish, nothing is congested, just that with a more natural tonality and controlled airiness, the layering is not at the highest level.

Bass is north of neutral with a nice sub-bass extension, going down to the rumble revel, and a moderate mid-bass punch with an average speed of attack and decay.  Bass feels more analog, dynamic, not as multi-layered or tight like you would hear it with BA drivers, but with a nice control, blending in smoothly with lower mids without spilling over.  Lower mids have a fuller body, while upper mids are natural, resolving, with a decent retrieval of detail.  Treble has a very good definition, no issues with sibilance or piercing sparkle even so I can hear a peak around 6.5k and another smaller one around 12k (both confirmed multiple times while running a sine sweep), but it’s tastefully tuned without being exaggerated, at least to my ears which are usually more sensitive to high frequency spikes.  Overall, the sound has a lot of clarity and resolution, but done in a natural way.

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Eartip rolling.

For those who are not familiar, eartip rolling refers to trying different eartips with IEMs to compare their effect on the sound.  The effect will vary depending on your ear/earcanal anatomy, and below describes how I hear it.

With the included silicone tips that have a wide bore opening, I hear more treble sparkle and upper mids being more forward, more open.  Depending on the selected size, the seal will be important to achieve the low end balance because it could easily attenuate down.

With the included foam tips that have a medium bore opening, the treble sparkle is more attenuated, mids sounds more organic, and as a result the bass has more weight.  If you like a smoother, more laidback tonality, these will suite you well.

The included Final Audio Type-E tips worked for me better than the one above, silicone and foam tips, because they give a perfect balanced between natural organic tonality and revealing upper mids with a treble sparkle.  Also, for me personally, they have a more comfortable and secure fit.

I also tried Symbio hybrid eartips.  Those provide a great secure fit and comfort as well, and do enhance the bass with deeper rumble and more mid-bass impact, to the point where I even hear mids perception being pushed slightly back.  These tips are great if you want to improve low end impact of Solaris without compromising the retrieval of details and resolution of the sound.

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Page 3 – Comparison, Pair up, and Conclusion.

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37 thoughts on “Campfire Audio Solaris

  1. Great review as always Alex! Nearly perfect seems a big word but I would agree with you since I have tried them myself and not have tried TIA Fourte which what they say as the holy grail. So would you say Solaris is your most fave iems to date? Hope to get an update with a comparison of Andro SS – Solaris. Cheers!

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    1. It’s hard to name “one fave” IEM because they pair up differently with various sources, and depending on the music, I might prefer a tuning which is more neutral or more revealing or with more bass impact, etc. But I would say that right now Solaris, U18t, and Mellianus are in my Top 3. Hopefully will get a chance to hear Andro S at Canjam NYC.

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  2. Thanks for the Review! I tried the Tia Fourte and U18t. Really really like the U18t sound and almost bought it but thought it was a bit north of my budget.

    How do Solaris VS U18t? Please give some opinion Twister thanks!

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    1. U18t is brighter, more mid-forward, faster bass (typical BA performance), leaner lower mids, brighter upper frequencies. U18t is better to analyze sound details, Solaris has a more natural smoother tonality. These two don’t overlap, imho.

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  3. Thanks for the review.
    What would you choose as a source for Solaris if you only had like 500-650$ budget? (DAP or a portable DAC/AMP).
    Mojo / DX150 / AK SR15 / R6+IEMatch / ZX300 / something else?
    (I already have a iFi Micro iDSD BL but it’s too big and heavy to use as a portable source)

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    1. N5iiS would be a good source, but also there is an upcoming R6 Pro which has low output impedance, doesn’t require iematch. Haven’t heard it yet, but curious about it myself. The sources you mentioned above are on a warmer side, except R6. I like Solaris with more neutral, more revealing sources, like LPGT. R6 is fine, so makes me wonder if R6 Pro be even better.

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      1. Thanks for the reply. R6 Pro would be great if it costs less than 700$. How do you think Solaris will pair with something like Fiio X7MII/Q5?

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      2. Not a big fan of fiio daps. X7ii should be fine, probably more neutral, more clean, usually this DAP doesn’t have as full body, but I haven’t used X7ii in a while, need to charge the battery.

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  4. Great review! And finally somebody who supports what I have written about Sirius and Solaris some time ago on Headfi!
    When I first tried out the Solaris at the Tokyo Headphone Show (right when it came out), I had my Sirius with me and thought exactly like you: these sound really similar! This is interesting, because when Sirius came out, I remember some people were complaining about its “slightly weird tuning”. Now it feels more that Sirius was ahead of its time, because these kind of signatures have become state of the art. I agree that Solaris is on a bit better technicals level, especially in terms of detail retrieval – still I feel Sirius is a wonderful and underestimated earphone with a fantastic built quality!

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    1. Hmm, not sure where you read in my review that LX has a balanced sound? Unless you misread it, LX has L-shaped tuning with a heavy emphasis on bass, which I mentioned in half a dozen of my last reviews where I compared LX, and even in my LX review where I said that I can’t even listen to LX without EQing down 60Hz by about 6dB. Regarding soundstage, not sure which source you are using, could be some variations due to that, but I do hear LX wider (and I have the final pre-production LX unit, unless they changed it in the production model?).

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  5. Thanks for the review. Helped me a lot into ordering Solaris. Now I have U12t which I basically love. Blows my Angie, Ie800s, Se846 and Xelento out of the water. Solaris and Kaiser Encore are on their way out of curiosity and good reviews. I also have a craving for Tia Fourté. Would you say that Fourté will complement this lineup or overlap with others and someone has to go? Or would you say as a hybrid Solaris is better than Fourté so no need for extra purchase? Fyi I have Wm1z and Sp1000m and U12t is a love affair with Wm1z even with se.

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      1. U18t is my favorite IEM, but I like it with Leo II cable, to add more body and improve the bass. But personally, my top 3 are U18t, Solaris, and Mellianus (they cover different sound tuning). But I also like U12t and Trio, and N8 😉 Yep, 64audio fanboy.

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    1. always a personal preference, but Fourte sounds too harsh to my ears in the upper mids, lower treble. I would recommend you to hear them first before making a purchase. It’s all depends on your tolerance. They will give you super resolution, and their bass is amazing, but they culd sound harsh. U18t sounds more natural to my ears, more mid-forward, but if you want more bass – it doesn’t have as big punch.

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  6. Just now I received Kaiser Encore and listening to Aerosmith ”Hole In My Soul” and Steven Tyler Vocals are so harsh even with the foam tips and silicons are unbearable. This song is my harshness detector. If Fourte is even harsher then Kaiser Encore then it is a no go for me. Have you had the chance to listen to Encore ?

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  7. Hi again, I received my U18t and Solaris. Man u18t has so amazing separation, clarity and soundstage with m15. Solaris despite the price is in the same league with U12t and U18t. U18t has more details but Solaris is more musical and I think it has something to do with the lows. Anyone buying a Solaris, U18t or U12t will not regret the purchase.

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    1. Trio bass hits harder, more sub-bass rumble as well, mids have a similar tonality, but Solaris is more forward (more balanced with lows and treble). With treble, here they are similar, still on a brighter crisper side, but less harsh than, let’s say, Fourte… One thing to note, Trio shells are more compact and easier to wear, while some people have issues with larger Solaris shells.

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  8. thanks Tw6, yeah, besides the, fit the Solaris is more ostensious… KB mentioned that he acknowledges ppl would like a more discreet version… looking forward to the “Eclipse” version of it…

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  9. Hey twister I wanted to know where you rank the solaris against the fourte and legend x, as well as u18t and u12t, I currently have been listening to the u12, and faudio major to sort of take over from my fitear togo 334,u12 amazing seperation and clarity just a bit soft on details how much different is u12 from u12t and also I prefer a more organic,lusher sound with more focus on details as similar to the fitear tg 334 due to my music being more rock, hippop, triphop which out of the above inears would you say is closest to having a more mid-forward good bass and overall organic sound, sorry for the loaded question

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    1. These are totally different iems, Fourte, Solaris, LX, U12t… I reviewed U12t and Trio very long time ago, with lots of comparison to U18t, Fourte, U12. That would be a good review for the reference. And btw, U12 is very source dependent, it was originally tuned for high output impedance sources, U12t is different… As for my personal ranking, U18t and Solaris are two of my favorite iems. LX has too much bass and I need to eq it down, and Fourte mids/treble are too bright and analytical for my taste. I like a more natural revealing tuning, not too smooth or too analytical.

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      1. So between the legend x,u18t, ,u12t and the solaris which one would have a more organic lush mid-range or sound (I dont like thin sound) which would be good for vocals,rock,hippop etc and still have good bass and treble as well, as you have stated because the fourte is bright I will not even bother taking that into consideration

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