Campfire Audio have the reputation of serious brand in the portable world and each their product becomes a real event in the portable audio world. This is especially true for their new flagship that has taken all the best from their both top models: Andromeda and Atlas. Meet Campfire Audio Solaris.
This new hybrid model sports everything that the brand supporters love. Low frequencies are played with 10 mm dynamic driver covered with that amorphous diamond-like carbon. For mids there is a custom open balanced armature transducer. Highs are played through double armature tuned by a special expansion chamber. This 3D presentation of headphones has been much taken care of. The creators have also carefully worked well on the acoustics of dynamic transducer, tuning its sound.
As usual, we get new, peculiar design and carefully thought over (in comparison to other modern TOTL headphones) price, that is $1500 as of writing this review.
- Transducers: 10 mm dynamic + 3x balanced armature
- Frequency range: 5 Hz – 20 kHz
- Sensitivity: 115 dB/mWt
- Impedance: 10Ω
- Total harmonic distortion: <1%
- Cable: detachable “super Litz” with MMCX connectors
- Jack: 3.5 mm TRS
Packaging and Accessories
The first surprise is the increased size of packaging. It is made in the same style as previously but became twice bigger. Also the leather pouch that is present in accessories, increased in size as well. The stock detachable cable is here too. Right below the case we see the following accessories:
- three pairs of single flange silicone tips
- three pairs of foam tips
- five pairs of silicone Final Audio tips
- cleaning tool
- brand badge (of course!)
Upon the whole, the accessories number and variety is very good, as always.
Fit and design
Solaris again demonstrate that Campfire Audio are one of the leaders of IEM world not only in terms of sound quality, but also in terms of material processing. When I look at Solaris, it sometimes crosses my mind that engineers have tried to make them more complex just to demonstrate their technical abilities. Luckily this time they have done it not only in a beautiful, but in comfortable way (for me, at least).
The IEM bodies are made of two parts – the golden outer (and Campfire Audio insists it is real gold coating) and inner black. The faceplates have no ornament – just a usual slightly textured surface with company logo. However in the inner part of the IEMs engineers decided to use a complex texture that resembles velvet. Luckily Solaris lack sharp edges and this ensures a comfort fit. Of course, this is subjective to me, because those with very small ears may think differently.
The IEMs are designed for over the ear wear and you will hardly be able to wear them cable down. Due to rather long nozzle the isolation is on above average level, especially if you use foam tips.
Of course the cable is detachable and brand MMCX connectors with beryllium coating are used. Campfire Audio have developed a brand new cable for Solaris, that has been simply called Super Litz. It is made of silver coated copper cable conductors and has two times as many conductors as in the previous version of litz cable by Campfire Audio. The main aim has obviously been to get the best sound possible and engineers have had to sacrifice comfort a little – the cable is more stiff in comparison to similar modern solutions (for example ALO Audio Silver Litz), but luckily it is still more soft than ALO SXC8. Despite of this, Super Litz is rather comfortable in everyday use, it does not stiffen when it’s cold and is not prone to tangles. Ear hooks have good memory and prevent Super Litz from being noisy.
I have used the following equipment for critical listening:
- Yulong DA9 and Resonessence Labs Concero HP as DAC and AMP
- Apple MacBook Pro Retina 2016 as source
- Audirvana+ as player
- Lotoo Paw Gold Touch, theBit OPUS#2, Astell&Kern A&ultima SP1000 and others as portable players
- Hi-Res recordings in lossless formats (Dr. Chesky The Ultimate Headphone Demonstration Disc and others)
I allowed 60 hours burn-in before final listen and noticed changes during the first 40 hours.
Speaking about the main presentation you should remember two previous Campfire Audio flagships. And really, here we get Atlas bass (slightly diminished) and mids and highs from Andromeda (with slight step forward).
The IEMs require careful choice of tips because the sound may differ quite a lot. I mostly liked the Final Audio solution.
The lows here are weighty and plays with authority, but still has good resolution and textures. Of course the depth is good as well as control and there is no interference with the mids section. Bass is slightly less in quantity in comparison to Atlas and to my hearing it is correct change that brings bass to its required amount in order to get involving and energetic presentation. Bass is universal and is likely to appeal to those who love synthetic basshead music as well as to those who prefer peculiarities of acoustic instruments.
Mids are made in style of good dynamic transducers – they are very detailed but still do not accentuate microdetails and do not try to show all faults of the records. This, however, does not mean that it makes much sense to listen to bad recorded music with Solaris. Mids are weighty, very lively, sound dynamic and energetic. This leads to very good macro details but here it is achieved not at expense of resolution or natural sound. Of course the vocalists emotions are transmitted very good here, as well as the character of instruments and other aspects of recording that bring wow-effect. Solaris are not created for those who love pure neutrality and monitor-like presentation, but still they do not bring anything unnecessary to recordings. The soundstage is really maximum you can get from IEM in terms of width and almost there in terms of depth, the separation and layering are very natural. Still Solaris emphasize the depth a little, thus increasing separation.
Highs are slightly accentuated, but the accent is moderate and there is no harshness due to perfect detail retrieval and naturalness. Only too treble-sensitive people will find the amount of highs abundant. I think those are the best highs in the Campfire Audio history. The T.A.E.C. technology allowed to make this frequency range sound more lengthy and therefore more natural. The layering increased, attacks and decays sound as true as in the previous models. Such presentation allows Solaris to play emotionally and fully, bringing good overtones and decays.
In comparisons I will limit myself to top models that I own.
Unique Melody Mason V3 Those are the IEMs that sound more flat and monitor like, they are somewhat more detailed in the lower part of the frequency range and offer more micro-details. However, they have less full-bodied lows and are not as emotional.
Noble Audio Kaiser Encore This is the model that is somewhat in between Mason and Solaris. They are more vivid in comparison to Mason, but not as weighty and emotional as Solaris. The latter have better highs and Encore in their turn are more detailed (although somewhat lack fullness in comparison) in lows.
Campfire Audio Andromeda Those IEMs are for those who love monitor presentation – more detailed and less weighty bass, less accentuated highs of slightly less length.
Campfire Audio Atlas Those in turn are a good variant for people who want to add more weight on lows, accent on highs and get additional emotions in the midrange.
Solaris have usual strictness to source – low impedance and high sensitivity take care of that. The variants with high output impedance or noise will do no good. Luckily modern players are almost deprived of such problems. However, you can always use attenuation, should your player reveal such abilities.
Solaris are universal in terms of style without any preferences. They are critical to recording quality – 8 out of 10.
And of course, some tracks for example
Chris Rea — Josephine – I will not be original with this track as example, but it sounds really good with Solaris. Great rhythm section, detailed and emotional mids that show all vocal peculiarities and lengthy highs that make recording sound very lively.
Charles Lloyd & The Marvels — Defiant This is the track that is not such well-known – a good jazz from one of legendary modern sax players. This is the example that shows that jazz has not been transformed to the music for elevators completely. Solaris accentuate technical ability but do not sound dull at the same time and play this track almost ideally – to the maximum IEMs can do – lively and professional.
The Clash — London Calling I still cannot understand the people who assume all punk rock musicians can’t play… Have you ever heard The Clash? Of course it is not complex material, but it is so energetic! Listen to it with Solaris and you will understand that everything is in place here: from involving bass line to great sounds of the guitar.
Solaris turned out to be the IEMs everyone has wanted. To the great resolution and technicality of Andromeda the creators added weighty and full of drive bass of Atlas, combining it to a very professional presentation. Traditionally this sound is wrapped in a stylish and unusual body, as the TOTL IEMs should not only sound, but look great.
Translated by Vadim Kolchev