Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020 ($1099): The detail king retains its crown

Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020: The detail king retains its crown

Pros: Fabulously detailed sound
Ariness of clarity abounds
Its good to be green
Build quality is top notch
Continues to go its own way

Cons: Fit may still be an issue for some, even with the smaller shell
Some will not like this much detail?
Because of the detail, it may sound a bit thin to some

Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020 ($1099): The detail king retains its crown



Andromeda 2020

Intro (same as the Solaris & Ara):


As luck would have it, the tasty trio of new CA wares came my way, the Ara 2020, Andromeda 2020 and this; the Solaris 2020. Upon first listen of all three, I noted how they seemed similar to me. Then after closer inspection, I began to understand the intricacies of each and how they were different. The Andro is the detail king, rightly taking back its crown as an extremely detailed critter. My goodness, it really does. The Solaris? Not having heard the first or second gen, I cannot say how it is different other than reading the reviews of HeadPie, thecontraptionist and twister6. They are much more versed than I, but the Solaris to me proved why it is the flagship of the range. It is like Ken & Co took the criticisms in stride and produced and F-you, this is what we can do. All three-sound phenomenal, and I again appreciate what Campfire Audio has done to the market. They produced three winners of distinctly different signatures, enough so that you will find one, which fits your tastes. And the Aras just sounds right no matter the source music. It really does, and I can see why it is the favorite of some.

I am a very lucky reviewer to have all three on hand and will do my best to discern the sound of each. As these are loaner units to me, I have no financial obligation whatsoever in this and simply appreciate and covet my time with the trio together.



Specs:

Specifications


10Hz–28 kHz Frequency Response
94 dB SPL @ 1kHz: 7.01 mVrms
12.8 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance



Features

Anodized Emerald Green Body
Dual High Frequency Balanced Armature Drivers + T.A.E.C.
Single Mid Frequency Balanced Armature Driver
Dual Low Frequency Balanced Armature Drivers
Custom Beryllium / Copper MMCX Connections
Machined Aluminum Shell
Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber™ (T.A.E.C.)
Stainless Steel Spout



Gear Used/Compared:

Empire Ears Legend X ($2299)
Campfire Solaris 2020 ($1499)
Campfire Audio Ara 2020 ($1299)

Cayin N6 mk2
Shanling M6 Pro
MBP/EarMen TR-AMP



Songlist:

Joey Alexander-Warna album and others
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado
twenty one pilots album, Trench
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Big Head Todd & The Monsters-Beautiful World
Mark Knopfler-Down The Road Wherever
Elton John-yep, still good, still cool
Tidal MQA


Unboxing:

This will be short. The units came to me in their new cork case, with drawstring “laundry-like” airy bag inside and some tips. That’s it. But from the website you note that you get the traditional Campfire Audio plethora of goodies, that are functional and needed. I have always preferred Comply foam tips on the CA models I have had and reviewed, and this is no different.

The cork case is a new thing, and I do appreciate how CA continues to think about their environmental impact. More and more this is becoming the trend, and Campfire is right up there at the forefront.

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Technicals:

The Andromeda has five BA’s as opposed to the Arta, which has seven. Long known as the detail king of the Campfire family, and possibly the segment, the Andromeda provided the baseline for the Ara. As such it does well on its own and does owe a debt of gratitude to the Andromeda. The Andromeda has dual high frequency BA’s, which contain the + T.A.E.C. system Campfire uses to tune the acoustic chamber for optimum resolution. Using a single mid frequency BA driver for vocals and those sounds associated with the mids, provides a solid sound, which combines with the upper BA’s. Dual low frequency BA Drivers give an excellent, clean bassline along with fast decay for a thoroughly enjoyable quintet of sound emanations.

Custom Beryllium/Copper MMCX connections while de rigour at the moment are solid options and provide excellent connectivity. All of the above fit nicely into the machined Aluminum shell, of slimmed down size from the past. Slightly rounded corners help with the fit as well.

The Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber™ (T.A.E.C.) provides the means for all of the above to work in concert together, and along with a slightly warmer tuning of the treble note does provide the Andromeda with a richness that may not have been had before. With richer of note, and with the slightly warmer treble sounds emanating, this does not hinder the overall reference quality of the Andromeda. Personally, I found the original a bit too neutral for me and a bit hot up top. Mind you the sound was superb, but not to my liking. The new tuning changes that, and I find the Andromeda 2020 to be absolutely where it should be at the top of the food chain with regard to a “reference sound.” Not boring at all, but the above changes makes for an exciting and enticing sound.

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Sound:

Continuing from above, the original Andromeda was phenomenal in its speed, clarity and succinctness. Providing the listener with as crisp and detailed sound as many had heard, the knock was that it was TOO detailed. The loses of musical tonality was a knock against the Andromeda, but to me that was unwarranted. It showed how poor some recordings were and that certainly could not be the CA models fault. It laid bare the fallacies put across our ears.

Listening to Alex Fox’s To The Gypsies (Live), the sound is warm, rich, enticing and dare I say a mature brand of reference. Certainly not boring at all but sublime in presentation with an overall slight warmth of which I truly like. From the off with the trio, I really, really liked the changes to the tuning. Again, I bring back that this certainly could be a big and loud F-U to the detractors, showing what CA can do. And I am all on board. 110% with this. I find nothing boring or lacking about this “change” in character, since the excellent reference quality is still there. This is superb tuning and is to be applauded.

Bass coming from the above-mentioned song is taut and responsive. With very good speed and fast decay you get that sense of vibrancy, which usually defines the upper end of the Andro, so to hear it here is quite the treat. When the electric bass guitar hits about mid-song, the bassline fulfills its obligation to help but not step on the mids or the rest of the sound signature. Certainly not dynamic driver territory, but not meant to be the sound from the lower regions provides the foundation upon which the rest are built.

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From the same song, the acoustic guitar lays down a solid rich, vibrant mid tonality, which is what the Andromeda is known for. A certain sweetness permeates my ears as the orchestral instruments come in. Once the song opens up, the crispness comes through and there is air between the notes for days. But not to the point where it separates all of the sound distantly. This openness aids in the presentation of the soundstage as well, giving the Andromeda 2020 a wide, expansive note, which broadens the soundstage in height and depth as well. I know I mixed both tonality and stage but that is how the Andro ties together all to me.

One thing I recall from Pinky’s Andro was that the treble ran a bit hot to me, but that was only because I had yet to hear an IEM with that level of clarity. I have heard a few more, but it struck with me. Even though I have now heard IEM’s, which cost 4-5x the price of the Andromeda 2020, and their airiness of note and crisp clarity define the level at which they lie; it is the Andro (from memory) that defines how I look at that segment. The Great Gig In The Sky has one of the most sensuous solos ever in the rock-n-roll genre, and that solo is divine through the Andro 2020. Her voice is such that it still sends chills down ones back when she is mid-song. Through the Andromeda her voice is sublime, superb and sensuous. That distinct separation of notes provided by the crisp nature of the Andro allows her voice to be heard and felt in your gut like you are front row, such is the sensation I feel. Just marvelous.

Already mentioned somewhat within the words above, layering & separation are worth their weight in Titanium. Distinctness of instruments allows and helps you hear that separation; which as you would hope helps to provide the distinctly wider soundstage. Working in harmony together all of this provides for distinct layers, and clear separation of note like few others regardless of the price. THIS has carried over from the original Andromeda, and I fondly recall my first listen. This is a damn fine listening unit, and may, just may be my favorite of the three on hand as a result.

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Comparisons:

Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020 ($1099) v Empire Ears Legend X ($2299):

Only briefly mentioned here as my favorite, the EE LX is my standard for many things. But the treatment up top would be perfect had it the sound from the Andromeda 2020. I love the sound as is, but combine the two in a love child, and it would be my nirvanic listen forever. Enough said.


Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020 ($1099) v Campfire Solaris 2020 ($1499):

From my Solaris 2020 review:
Having had the pleasure of hearing Pinky’s original Andro’s I was mesmerized by the crispness of sound and the clarity wrought from an IEM. At the time, I considered my short listen a lesson in clarity that withstood the time and test of many more expensive IEM’s. Detail is the name of the Andromeda 2020, and as such has huge shoes to fulfill the obligations wrought by its grandfather. Running “only five” balanced armatures per side (dual high, dual low, and one mid) the Andromeda benefits as well from the TAEC technology for the highs. I do think and quoting from memory, that the Andro 2020 has reclaimed its rightful spot as the detail king. Clarity of such is hard to surpass than this, even if those highs SEEM a bit tamed versus the Ara. Going back to back to back, I can clearly define the trio, and I was surprised that the Ara holds itself so well against the Andro. Maybe those two extra BA’s have something to do with that, but the Andro still holds its spot with regard to a clarity of which few can match, especially at this “entry-level” price into the realm of TOTL territory.

You could certainly do much worse at this price than the Andro, which makes you appreciate its heritage all the more.

All of the above said, and with what I said in the EE LX comparison, I still seem to gravitate towards the Solaris of the three. More bass from that DD, and a verve to it that fits my listening most likely more than the other two of CA here.


Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020 ($1099) v Campfire Audio Ara 2020 ($1299):

From my Ara review:
There is no denying that the Andromeda is the former king of detail. The precision of which the clarity of sound comes through is a hearing to be well, heard. I can remember from the original that I was “quite impressed” with the level of detail retrieval and clarity wrought from that boxy shaped IEM. It pretty much set the tone for me until much more expensive unit came across my computer.

It still holds a very high place with regard to clarity and to think it is the most affordable of the three makes you wonder why you would spend more. The Ara might be the case for justifying that extra money spent. You get an extra two drivers, which are oriented for the lower frequencies, so they have no benefit or addition to that clarity of the Andromeda. So, what makes the Ara better than the Andromeda? A bit better in the bass retrieval department and a wonderfully rich tonality and soundstage. Slightly different, but not necessarily better.

The Andromeda is easier to drive as well. And to me it presents a more vibrant signature than the Ara, along with a slightly lifted vocal presentation. So, it comes down to the smooth richness and vibrancy of the Ara versus the uplifting vibrant tonality of the Andromeda 2020. Both are fabulous and I really could not pick a winner.


Finale:

Well, what did I expect from the three? To be wowed? To be overrun with emotion? To appreciate what I have on hand in this trio of listening pleasure? Well, in a word, yes. And I was largely met with those descriptors or aspirations from each. Upon the initial listen, I was quick (too quick) to discern the difference of the three. But after dedicating my time equally between the three, I found their subtle and not so subtle differences noteworthy allowing for each to describe their “niche” within the CA luneup. And they did.

It has been a couple of cycles since the Solaris showed its mettle, and with the Ara being the new kid expectations were held high. One could think that all three are close enough in price to “settle” for one and be happy. You could, but you would be missing the finer points of each. The Solaris takes its rightful place at the top. The Ara provides that tie between the Solaris and Andromeda with the two “extra” BA’s on hand. And I can clearly see why it is the favorite of the holder who shall not be named. Had I heard only the Ara, I might well have been satiated and that would be all right. But then I would not have had the opportunity to hear the grandfather of the bunch after a muscle toning session. And to me that is what the Andromeda 2020 has gone through. It has gone to the gym for a toning session to keep up with the youngsters, while holding its place at the top of the detailed clarity segment. By and large it does, with much respect from me as well.

The Andromeda 2020 may have new tuning going for it, but it certainly has not lost its tie to the past or its roots. Detail and clarity are superb and to me the one to be had at this price. It is a wonderful unit, and I highly recommend a listen.

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