Campfire Audio Solaris

Comparison.

In these comparisons I used the same selection of music as in my sound analysis, driving IEMs from LPGT and SP1000 SS, volume matched for consistency.

Solaris vs Andromeda – both have a very impressive soundstage expansion with a similar out-of-your head depth, but I hear Andro as being a little bit wider.  Their bass has a similar impact and extension, but if you listen closer, Andro has a little stronger punch while Solaris has a deeper rumble.  The biggest difference here is in mids and lower treble.  Solaris mids have a fuller body more natural mids, with a more forward presentation, while Andro has a leaner mids with a more revealing tonality and slightly less forward presentation.  The difference in presentation of mids could be due to the tuning difference in lower treble, specifically around a higher 7k peak in Andro which gives its mids a perception of being pushed slightly back, while lower treble of Solaris is less peaky which gives its mids a more forward presentation and a more natural tonality.  Both have a good treble extension.  In a summary, Solaris has a more balanced natural sound, while Andro has a slightly more v-shaped revealing fun tuning.  Also, Andro is smaller and more compact versus Solaris shell being bigger and sticking out more from your ear.  Coincidentally, while I haven’t tried Andromeda S (stainless steel version), some people refer to its tuning of mids being closer to Solaris, while also inheriting a slightly more problematic fit due to increased weight.

Solaris vs Vega – here I find the soundstage to be quite similar.  Starting with bass, the difference is very noticeable where Vega dominates with a lot stronger mid-bass impact and deeper sub-bass rumble.  In comparison, Solaris bass is more balanced, and also exhibits a lot more control.  While Vega mids are smoother and warmer and pushed back, Solaris mids are more revealing with a noticeably better definition and more forward presentation.  Lower treble has a lot of similarities with a smoother and a more natural tonality, while Solaris has a better extension.  Vega’s tuning creates a more L-shaped sig where mids pushed back, while Solaris signature is more balanced with a more natural bass and more forward detailed mids.  With a single DD, Vega shell is noticeably smaller with a more comfortable fit.

Solaris vs 64 Audio Fourte – in this comparison, soundstage depth is very similar, while Fourte is wider in staging width.  Mid-bass has a very similar impact, but sub-bass rumble is noticeably more elevated in Fourte.  Lower mids in Fourte are leaner while Solaris has a fuller body, and upper mids in Fourte are not as forward and a lot brighter and more revealing, while Solaris upper mids are more forward and more natural in tonality.  With treble, Fourte is brighter, crisper, with more sparkle which could get borderline harsher, while Solaris is more controlled, smoother, and more natural when it comes to treble.

Solaris vs 64 Audio N8 – soundstage depth is nearly the same, while N8 soundstage width is just a little bit wider, but not by a lot.  This is a very interesting comparison because the difference here is mostly in bass where N8 has a deeper sub-bass rumble and harder hitting mid-bass slam.  In comparison, Solaris bass is more neutral-balanced and not as hard hitting.  Both have a fuller body lower mids tonality and detailed, naturally smoother tonality upper mids.  The only difference in mids is Solaris mids/vocals have a slightly more forward presentation.  The treble also has a very similar well controlled natural tonality and similar extension.

Solaris vs Empire Ears Legend X – here, soundstage depth is the same, while LX soundstage is wider.  As expected, LX bass is more dominant with a harder hitting mid-bass and deeper sub-bass rumble. Solaris bass is more neutral-balanced with less impact.  Both lower and upper mids have a very similar quality with a more natural detailed tonality, but Solaris presentation is more forward and with a little better retrieval of details, especially since its bass is not as dominating.  Also, Solaris lower treble has more sparkle and a little crisper, while LX treble is smoother and not as airy.

Solaris vs Fidue Sirius – in this comparison I found the same soundstage depth, while Solaris soundstage was wider.  Bass between these two hybrid iems is nearly identical in both quantity and quality.  Also, both have nearly identical lower mids with fuller body and more natural tonality.  When it comes to upper mids, they also have a very similar, slightly more forward presentation, and natural tonality, but Solaris has a much better retrieval of details, especially on micro-detail level, and I also hear a slight improvement in layering and separation of the sounds.  Also, Solaris has more sparkle in treble, but overall both have a natural treble tonality.  I was surprised how close these sound, though Solaris has a better technical performance.

Pair up.

In each pair up, I was using 2.5mm balanced cable, either connected directly or with 4.4mm adaptor (3.5mm adaptor for my phone).  Of course, Solaris is easy to drive, but considering its higher sensitivity of 115dB and lower impedance of 10 ohms, in some pair ups (not all) you do hear the hissing, especially when it’s a quite music passage or vocals with a simple instrument arrangement behind it.  I noted that in the comments below.

Lotoo Paw Gold Touch (LPGT) – wide soundstage expansion, decent low end rumble, bass is more neutral balanced, mids are a little more forward (the perception due to less mid-bass impact), very resolving, natural, detailed, and treble is crisp and still well controlled and natural. Zero hissing, black background.

iBasso DX200Ti w/amp8 – closer to holographic soundstage expansion, a little more bass impact with a deeper rumble, mids are very natural and detailed, but not as forward (more balanced, even pulled a little back), and treble has a nice natural sparkle and airiness.  Hissing is noticeable, especially when idling or in a quiet passages.

Sony WM1Z – wide soundstage, deep sub-bass rumble and stronger mid-bass impact, mids are very natural, detailed, well balanced, treble is crisp, while still being well controlled and natural.  Hissing is noticeable, especially when idling or in a quiet passages.

A&K SP1000 SS – closer to holographic soundstage expansion, more neutral balanced bass with a decent low end rumble, mids are more balanced, even a touch pulled back, naturally resolving, detailed, treble is more natural, still has a sparkle, but smoother peaks.  Zero hissing, black background.

Hiby R6 – very wide soundstage.  Directly connected, signature is more mid-forward with a rather neutral flatter bass, brighter more revealing mids, and very crisp treble. With iEMatch, bass gets elevated to a more neutral balanced quantity, balancing better with the mids which are still pushed a little more forward but with a more natural revealing tonality, and treble is still very crisp (even more crisp than in some other pair ups).  Zero hissing.

Shanling M5s – wide soundstage.  The tonality is warmer in this pair up, and the overall signature is more balanced.  Bass has a deeper extension and more mid-bass impact.  Mids have a fuller body with a more natural organic tonality, and treble is crisp with a natural sparkle.  There is a faint hissing I hear in this pair up.

theBit Opus#1 – closer to holographic soundstage expansion, nice sub-bass rumble, neutral balanced bass, slightly more forward mids with a natural detailed tonality, and treble with a natural controlled sparkle. Zero hissing, black background.

Samsung Galaxy S9 – wide soundstage, nice sub-bass rumble, neutral balanced bass, slightly pulled back mids with a natural detailed tonality and a bit laidback presentation, and a treble with a little more sparkle, though still under control.  Hissing is noticeable here, especially when idling.

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Conclusion.

Many flagship IEMs fall into the category of “money is no object” where some people just accept diminishing returns to get to that sweet sound spot.  As a result, the sound takes higher priority over other factors.  Solaris is not a budget IEM, it’s a flagship in every sense of its definition, from the sound tuning (if that’s your preferred signature), to the internal and external design (build quality, shell materials, internal patented tech and drivers), and premium accessories (new Super Litz cable, luxurious leather case, brand name eartips).  Furthermore, while the current average flagship IEM price is around $2k, Campfire offers quite a lot for $1.5k.  It’s still a high price, but you get a lot of value in return, when compared to some other flagships.

Recently, we had a discussion on Head-fi if Solaris is a flawless IEM or not.  Nothing is 100% flawless because there always going to be people who prefer a different tuning based on their personal sound preference.  Also, due to variation in our ear anatomy, larger size of Solaris shell might not fit everybody.  Ken has been experimenting with CIEM design in Equinox, and maybe one day it could be extended to Solaris.  I can only speak from a personal experience of how Solaris fits in my ears and how that pair “in my ears” sounds.  With that in minds, I find these new flagship IEMs nearly perfect with its balanced coherent signature, natural detailed tonality, and luxurious eye-candy design.  In their own words:

cfa_solaris-03

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16 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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