I analyzed Campfire Audio models sound performance paired up with LPGT in High Gain using stock cable and stock Type-E eartips while playing a variety of 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”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, David Elias “Vision of her”, Dua Lipa “Love again”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”.
Since I’m combining the write up of all 3 new Campfire Audio models, I decided to format Sound Analysis section differently in this review. I will go over each model individually, including a few selective comparison examples, especially to OG models. And in the Conclusion of the review, I will summarize and compare all 3 to make it easier to decide which one will suite your sound preference better.
Furthermore, the discussion of Campfire Audio IEMs always ends up with questions about pair up and hissing due to their sensitivity. Don’t expect any miracles in 2020 versions of Andro and Solaris, or the new ARA version. If you heard the hissing with your particular audio source at a lower volume or in quiet song passages with Andro or Solaris, it will still be the same with ’20 versions and even a touch more with ARA.
I found ARA to have a more neutral with a little bit of mid-forward flavor signature and a brighter tonality which has a more revealing transparent micro-detailed sound. Overall tuning is very coherent. The soundstage expansion has a decent width and depth with a little more out of your head depth than width. Also, good imaging with a convincing and accurate placement of instruments and vocals. I can also hear a great layering and separation of the sounds with plenty of air between the layers.
Starting with a bass, it is very neutral and natural. The rumble/extension doesn’t go too deep, bass is there with an average speed impact, but it is the kind of bass you hear rather than “feel”, being all about the quality rather than the quantity. Mids are very transparent, hardly any coloring, lower mids are neutral, not too thick or too thin. Upper mids are more revealing, detailed, layered, not too analytical or harsh, still natural and more forward in presentation. Treble is crisp but not too harsh, has a very good extension and airiness. I do hear more crunch in lower treble, and in poorly recorded tracks there is some emphasis on “s”, but to my ears I don’t detect any harsh sibilance.
Perhaps the tuning of ARA doesn’t have as much of “fun” coloring, but it’s great for vocal tracks or any songs where you want to dive into details without being overwhelmed or distracted by extra bass impact or analytical harshness.
When ARA was introduced, I heard from a few people that it will be a great monitor for studio mixing and production, thus I thought some might appreciate the comparison to UERR. Both IEMs have a very similar neutral bass impact and extension, and also similarities in neutral tonality of lower mids. The big difference here is in upper mids and treble where UERR mids are smoother and warmer, and treble is also smoother in comparison, while ARA mids are brighter, more transparent, more layered, and treble is crisper and airier.
I found 2020 version of Solaris to have a balanced signature with a more revealing yet still relatively natural tonality which has more emphasis on clarity and retrieval of details. The tuning is still relatively coherent for a hybrid design without an over-emphasized dip in lower mids to separate lows, but the new Solaris still sounds unmistakably like a hybrid with a dynamic driver pumping the bass. Here you have a very wide/deep soundstage, approaching the holographic level, and a great imaging with an accurate positioning of sounds. The layering and separation of the sounds is also very good, with plenty of air between the layers.
Starting with lows, Solaris’20 bass goes down to a deeper sub-bass rumble and punches harder and faster with a textured analog dynamic driver impact. But unlike a typical slower dynamic driver, here the bass is fast and well controlled. Mids sound natural, with plenty of revealing details and lots of clarity. Lower mids are slightly above neutral, giving the sound more body, while upper mids have a natural retrieval of details without being too bright or too smooth or too thin, again, with a good balance between the clarity and naturalness of tonality, especially when it comes to vocals. Treble has a good control, but sounds a little more on a brighter side, with a good extension and plenty of airiness. Lower treble peaks are a little higher, giving the sound more clarity and higher level of definition. In some poorly recorded tracks, you can also hear a little more emphasis on “s”, but again, I don’t find it harsh or sibilant. Instead, it helps to bring more clarity, airiness, and higher definition to the sound.
The overall tuning of Solaris’20 is nicely balanced with a textured analog quality of the bass and extra revealing upper frequency details to work well with any genre of music.
Relative to original Solaris, the biggest difference I hear is in upper mids, with a lift between 2k-4k region which gives vocals more focus, more emphasis, improved clarity and better retrieval of details. As a matter of fact, it reminds me a lot of Solaris SE tuning I heard briefly at the last CanJam NYC’20 show.
When comparing Solaris’20 to another IEM like 64 Audio Trio, I hear a very similar soundstage expansion. Bass impact is not quite the same where Trio slams harder with a more elevated impact, scaling up in quantity. Mids of Trio are pulled slightly back and extend more out of your head, while new Solaris mids have a more forward presentation which brings vocals closer to you. Trio mids are a little warmer and smoother, closer to Andro ’20, while Solaris ’20 mids/vocals are more transparent and revealing. Both have a similar treble quality, quantity, and extension.
The difference in fit.