Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 Review

 

 

Campfire Audio is a US based company located in Portland – Oregon, which is specialized in the development and production of portable audio equipments such like In-Ear Monitors, cables and headphones.

The Solaris 2020 is the successor of the Solaris In-Ear Monitor that was released in 2019. The Solaris 2020 features Campfire Audio’s T.A.E.C. (Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber) acoustic chamber design and offers a Hybrid Driver Configuration with 3 Balanced Armature Drivers (2 for the Highs & 1 for the Midrange) + 1 x 10mm Diameter A.L.D.C. type Dynamic Driver which are implemented in to the Durable Black PVD Finished Metal Body.

 

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank Campfire Audio for providing the Solaris 2020 IEM as review sample. I am not affiliated with Campfire Audio or any third person beyond this review and all these words reflect my true, unaltered opinions about the product.

 

 

Price:

The MSRP price for the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 is $1.499,00 USD and can be purchased under the link below;

 

 

 

Package and Accessories:

The Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 came in a similar box like the ARA In-Ear Monitor that I have reviewed recently, which shows a unique design that was wrapped with a cardboard that is of USA made “French Paper Company” paper which has a label on the top that features the product illustration along with different type of flowers. The label is surrounded with stars in “Gold” color.

The box itself is made from the same cardboard material with the Campfire Audio logo on the top in Gold color, set in a scene between a sky full of stars and a mountain surrounded by trees that could represent the nature of Oregon where the company is located.

This box is including the following items;

 

  • 1 pair x Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 Monitors
  • 1 piece x Campfire Audio Super Smoky Litz Cable with MMCX connectors
  • 3 pairs x Foam tips (small, medium, large)
  • 3 pairs x Silicon Ear Tips (small, medium, large)
  • 5 pairs x Final Audio Silicone Ear Tips (extra small, small, medium, large, extra large)
  • 3 pieces x Pouch
  • 1 piece x Cleaning Tool
  • 1 piece x Campfire Audio Pin
  • 1 piece x Campfire Audio Sustainable Cork Earphone Case in Brown Color
  • 1 piece x Warrant Card & instruction manual

 

Campfire Audio offers a very rich accessories package that includes a wide variety of silicone and foam ear tips.

The Solaris 2020 came with the same protective cork zipper case that has been included in the package of the ARA In-Ear Monitor, but this time in brown color. This Zipper case is a special attraction and an environmentally friendly update.

The sustainably harvested cork surrounds a substantial and protective rubber barrier that ensures that your earphones will remain safe while in transit. The interior is thick faux wool lining that preserves the anodized finish of your earphones. Each case is made in Portugal by a small team of skilled craftspeople that share our commitment to quality.

The Solaris 2020 came also with 3 pairs of double pocket soft pouch’s where you can put the monitors and the ear tips. The cleaning tool and a pin with Campfire Audio Logo are some pretty nice additions.

 

 

Features, Design and Build Quality:

The Solaris 2020 has a quite similar shape that we have seen before with the first Solaris In-Ear Monitor, while is now 20% smaller in size compared to its predecessor.

 

The monitor shell of the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 is made of a durable black PVD finished metal material that looks & feels very robust in your hands same like with all Campfire Audio products that I have seen before. Each pair of Solaris 2020 is hand assembled in Campfire Audio’s workshop that is located in Portland – Oregon.

The Solaris 2020 features Campfire Audio’s T.A.E.C.™ (Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber) technology that offers extended high frequencies response and that reduces the sibilance that could be generated in this area.

On the front of the monitor shell is Campfire Audio brand logo which is engraved in to the faceplate.

At the rear side of monitor shell is the angled sound nozzle which is in silver/metallic color. The sound nozzle is made of stainless-steel material and has a new grill design on the top.

The surface of the rear monitor body reminds me to those of a whale skin texture.

On the top of each monitor shell is the Beryllium Copper MMCX (Micro Miniature Coaxial) connector that looks pretty robust with the mating mechanism.

Each monitor has a vent and a screw in gold color that is located near the MMCX connector.

 

 

Campfire Audio Super Smoky Litz Cable:

The Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 came with the so called Super Smoky Litz cable that is made from four large conductors (4 cores) of Silver-plated Copper Litz wire. This cable has a pretty soft, flexible and durable jacket (insulation) in dark grey color with a twisted design.

Super Smoky Litz cable features beryllium copper MMCX (Micro Miniature Coaxial) connectors that provide a robust mating mechanism which is typically made from soft brass. Each connector housing is made of plastic material in smoky grey color and sports left and right indicators.

Both sides of the connectors do come with transparent heat shrink ear guides for extra comfort.

The cable sports a metal Y splitter and chin slider in black color.

The 3.5mm single ended headphone jack has a plastic housing in black color with an L angled profile. The cable is only available with this standard 3.5mm termination, while I would expect a 2.5mm balanced plug that could be used with adapters to use the Solaris 2020 with devices that does support have 4.4mm TRRRS and 2.5mm TRRS balanced outputs.

What I like about the cable is the very low microphonic effect and that it is not prone to mixings.

The Super Smokey Litz cable can also be purchased separately under the link below;

 

 

 

 

Fit, Comfort and Isolation:

The Solaris 2020 is not the IEM with the smallest monitor size, while the well designed shape of the monitor and reduced size compared to its predecessor makes it pretty comfortable for longer listening periods without to hurt my average sized ear concha’s.

When it comes to the isolation, the performance depends highly to the use of the right ear tips, which are form me the Final E type ear tips which are included to the package. The result is an average performance that is good enough to use the Solaris 2020 in relative noisy environments like the bus, train or metro.

 

 

Technical Specifications:
  • Driver Units     : 3 x Balanced Armature (1 x Mids, 2 x Highs + T.A.E.C.) + 1 x Dynamic Driver
  • Freq. Resp.      : 5 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Sensitivity       : 94 dB SPL @ 1 kHz: 6.54 mVrms
  • Impedance      : 15.5 Ohms
  • THD                 : Less than 1%
  • Connector       : Beryllium Copper MMMC (Micro Miniature Coaxial Connector)
  • Plug                 : 3.5mm Single Ended

 

Drivability:

The Solaris 2020 is a very efficient In-Ear Monitor thanks to its quite low impedance of 15.5 Ohms and a sensitivity of 94 dB. Any source should be able to drive the Solaris 2020 to very loud volumes without the need of any amplification. This makes it also to a very sensitive IEM that catch’s any unwanted background noise which could be produced from your source.

 

  

 

Equipment’s used for this review:
  • In Ear Monitors        : Campfire Solaris 2020, Meze Audio Rai Penta
  • Sources (DAP/DAC) : iBasso DX220 MAX, iBasso DX220, FiiO M11 Pro, QLS QA361

 

 

 

Albums & Tracks used for this review:
  • Sonya Yoncheva – (Giuseppe Verdi) II Trovatore, ActI (Flac 24bit/44kHz)
  • Dionne Warwick – Walk On By (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Randy Crawford – On Day I Will Fly Away (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Sonya Yoncheva – (Giuseppe Verdi) II Trovatore, Act I (Flac 24bit/44kHz)
  • Edith Piaf – Non Je Ne Regrette Rien (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Diana Krall – So Wonderful (DSF)
  • Saskia Bruin – The Look of Love (DSF)
  • Casey Abrams – Robot Lovers (Spotify)
  • Barry White – Just The Way You Are (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Isaac Hayes – Walk On By (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Sting – Englishman in New York – (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Elton John – Rocket Man (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Dire Straits – Money for Nothing (DSD 64)
  • Chopin – Nocturn No. 20 In C-Sharp Minor (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Fazıl Say – Nazım Oratoryosu (Live) (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (Spotify)
  • Gogo Penguin – Raven (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Armin Van Buuren – Vini Vici (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Lorde – Royal (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Massive Attack – Angel (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Twerl – Lishu (Spotify)
  • U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Portishead – The Hidden Camera (MP3 320kpbs)
  • Metallica – Sad but True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • Rush’s – Leave That Thing Alone (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Slayer – Angel of Death (Spotify)
  • Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Spotify)
  • Yosi Horikawa – Bubbles (Tidal Hi-Fi)

 

 

 

 

The Sound:

The Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 is a Hybrid In-Ear Monitor with a warmer than neutral tonality that offers a very dynamic sound signature with a powerful but controlled bass response, impressive transparency and detail retrieval in the midrange and a treble presentation that shows a great level of extension and clarity without to sound sharp or shouty.

The Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 is written after a burn-in process of approx. 80 hours. I have used the Final E Type Silicone Tips and Super Smoky Litz cable that came in the box together with the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020.

 

Bass:

The low end of the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 is produced with the special tuned 10 mm diameter Dynamic Driver that offers an impressive subbass performance with a powerful, deep and well extending presentation. The Solaris 2020 shows in general a good amount of intensity without to affect the clarity in this area in a negative way. It offers the listener a nice sense of power that is audible while listen to string instruments such like the contrabass and bass guitar or with percussion instruments like kick drums.

The subbass rumble in tracks such as, Lorde’s “Royals”, Massive Attack’s “Angle” and Armin Van Buuren’s “Vini Vici” was very exiting to hear and to feel.

The midbass region of the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 shows less intensity compared to the subbass area, while it still pretty strong and impactful in its presentation. It is slightly ahead the subbass region in terms of quantity and extension and is able to add the Solaris 2020 a nice musical tonality. Instruments like cross drums and trumpets are quite accented and do show a warmish and soft tonality. The midbass performance of the Solaris 2020 is stunning while listen to genres like pop and electronic music.

The general performance of the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 in terms of bass speed and layering decent, while the low end decay is impressive that has yield far better after some burn-in (about 50 – 60 hours).

What I do also really enjoy is the softness and naturalness of the bass notes that are produced by the dynamic driver.

 

Midrange:

The midrange of the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 has a slightly warmer than neutral tonality and is able to produce a top level of clarity, airiness and detail retrieval that was shown by the Solaris 2020 in almost any song that I have listen with it.

 

Vocals & Instruments:

The midrange of the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 does not shows a typical V shaped character with recessed vocal presentation and sounds fairly intimate and detailed with both male and female vocals. The level of transparency and airiness is on a good level thanks to the well pronounced/highlighted upper midrange and treble area.

The lower midrange has a moderate level of depth and intensity that is sufficient to show a good sense of warmth and fullness while listen to romantic male vocals like Barry White and Isaac Hayes. I enjoyed the Solaris 2020 also with vocals like Sting and Elton John that did sound pretty natural, emotional and have been shown with good level of clarity.

Female vocals on the other hand do sound quite realistic and effortless, while the level of detailed retrieval and realism while hearing the emotions Dionne Warwick, Saskia Bruin and Aretha Franklin or Randy Crawford is simply breathtaking. The general female vocal presentation of the Solaris 2020 is lively.

When it comes to the instrument presentation of the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020, I can say that they do sound in general with a mildly warm tonality and good amount of body. The instrument timbre is neither too analytical nor too dry, while the level of airiness, detail retrieval and clarity in stunning.

Instruments like guitars are slightly bassy, while violins are bright in tonality towards the top end. Other instruments like the piano do show a good level of extension along with a natural touch of brightness. All those instruments are produced in a quite controlled and detailed manner without to show noteworthy negative conditions/situations like over-brightness or sharpness.

 

Upper Midrange & Treble:

The upper midrange of the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 shows a fairly natural tonality and is responsible for the nice overall timbre. The upper midrange transitions are controlled and fatigue-free with most tracks and genres I have listen to it.

The upper midrange presentation of the Solaris 2020 is lively, controlled and balanced from instruments like violins and flutes up to female vocals.

The treble presentation of the Solaris 2020 sound energetic and shows a top level of detail retrieval and extension especially in the upper treble region and offers also a nicely tuned treble brightness and sparkle without to be sibilant or sharp.

The lower treble region sounds slightly less pronounced compared to the upper treble area that shows a peak around the 7 – 8 kHz region. The lower treble range of the Solaris 2020 adds to the overall presentation a good level of clarity, while the extension is pretty successful while listen to instruments like snare drums or cymbals and soprano voices like Sonya Yoncheva.

The upper treble region of the Solaris 2020 is able to produce a good level of sparkle for instruments like pianos, hi-hats or female vocals like soprano vocals thanks to a slightly peak in the 7—8 kHz area that is not overdone.

The general treble intensity and quantity is not too much or to low and will satisfy most listeners while listen to a wide variety of genres from pop to jazz, from metal music up to electronic music. The overall control and detail retrieval of the Solaris 2020 is stunning.

 

Soundstage & Imaging:

The Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 offers an outstanding performance in terms of separation and placement of instruments and vocals. The openness of the stage is the main reason of the spacious sense between instruments and vocals. The soundstage performance of the Solaris 2020 is top of the line in terms of both depth and wideness.

 

 

Some Comparisons:

 

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 versus Meze Audio Rai Penta:

Both the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 and the Meze Audio Rai Penta are IEM’s with a hybrid driver configuration that do offer a very esthetic looking monitor housing with top build quality.

The subbass region of the Meze Audio Rai Penta shows a good level of intensity, depth and extension befitting a product of this level, while it is behind in performance when it comes to the quantity and rumble. The Solaris 2020 has also the upper hand in terms of subbass extension and offers a slightly better performance when it comes to the decay.

The midbass region of both the Rai Penta and Solaris 2020 is pretty close in terms of quantity, effectiveness and tonality. The main difference is that the Solaris offers slightly better control and speed in this area.

The Rai Penta is a successful IEM when it comes to the midrange performance that I do enjoy a lot, while it sounds slightly more recessed and compressed in this area compared to the Solaris 2020 which offers a better level of detail retrieval as well as transparency and airiness.

The lower midrange of the Solaris 2020 shows slightly more depth and body, while the upper midrange of the Rai Penta is a bit more highlighted. Both IEM’s are very pleasant to listen to while listen to male and female vocals, but the Solaris 2020 has the edge when it comes to the detail retrieval and clarity in this area.

The treble range of the both IEM’s shows some similarity especially in the lower treble region (presence) in terms of intensity and detail retrieval. The main difference is in the upper treble register that is especially audible after the 6 kHz region. The Solaris 2020 offers here more airiness and sparkle along with higher level of extension and definition.

When it comes to the soundstage performance and separation of instruments and the vocals, I can say that both In-Ear Monitors do offers a top level of performance. The Solaris 2020 offers a slightly better sense of depth and wideness.

 

 

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 versus Campfire Audio ARA:

Both the Solaris 2020 and the ARA are IEM’s with that do offer a very solid build quality. The Solaris 2020 features a 3+1 hybrid driver configuration, while the ARA is producing the sound with 7 Balanced Armature Drivers.

The Campfire Audio ARA has a slightly brighter tonality and balanced presentation compared to the Solaris 2020 that shows a warmer tonality and closer to V shaped sound signature.

The ARA has a more linear bass character from the sub- up to the midbass region, while the Solaris 2020 shows an audible boost in the subbass region that does decrease towards the midbass area.  The subbass of the Solaris 2020 has slightly more depth and extension, while the ARA shows a quicker decay and faster response in the lower frequency region. Both the ARA and the Solaris 2020 do offer a very controlled bass response with good detail retrieval and layering, while the Solaris 2020 sounds a bit more bassy and full bodied.

The bass that is produce of those IEM’s shows different characters which will be a matter of your taste, while the overall performance of both IEM’s is stunning.

The midrange of the Solaris 2020 has a slightly warmer tonality compared to close to neutral ARA, due to the bass and lower midrange tuning that shows slightly more intensity and depth. The midrange of both In-Ear Monitors is very successful in terms of technicality and do offer a high level of clarity and detail retrieval.

The lower midrange of the Solaris 2020 has a touch more depth and intensity, while the upper midrange of the ARA is a bit more highlighted. The vocal presentation of the ARA is slightly more upfront and intimate compared to the Solaris 2020. Male vocals do sound a touch fuller and have a bit more depth with the Solaris 2020, while both a successful with female vocals that do sound very detailed, transparent quite intimate without to show any noteworthy negative conditions like sibilance or harshness.

The treble range of both the ARA and the Solaris 2020 offers a top of the line performance in terms of extension, resolution and definition, without to sound too aggressive/shouty or to lose the control in this area.  The ARA shows more intensity and slightly more extension in the lower treble range, while the performance in terms of clarity and definition is fairly similar.

The upper treble of the Solaris 2020 has more extension and is a bit more highlighted especially in the 6 – 8 kHz register that adds it slightly more airiness and sparkle

Both the ARA and the Solaris 2020 do offer a decent performance in terms of separation and accuracy of the placement for instruments and the vocals. The soundstage of both In-Ear Monitors is pretty similar in terms of wideness, while the Solaris 2020 shows slightly more depth.

 

Conclusion:

The Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 is an outstanding In-Ear Monitor in terms of sound performance as well as overall build quality. It offers wonderful and carefully tuned sound character that will satisfy most listeners with its powerful but controlled bass response, a highly transparent and detailed midrange and a treble character that shows a great level of extension and clarity. All those sound characteristics makes the Solaris 2020 to a great all-rounder that is suitable for a wide variety of genres, from rock to electronic music, from jazz to metal and classical music.

 

 

Pros and Cons:
  • + Overall Dynamics and Technicality
  • + Bass Performance (Layering, Speed, Control)
  • + Midrange Character (Clarity, Resolution, Timbre)
  • + Treble Extension & Control
  • + Soundstage Performance (Width, Depth, Imaging)
  • + Nice accessories package (Super Smoky Litz Cable, Ear Tips Selection, etc.)
  • – No Balanced Cable and/or Adapters Included
  • – The Rock-Solid Metal Housing is a bit large

 

Thank you for the Read!

 

 

 

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