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.
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.
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.
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.