Campfire Audio Solaris review - expatinjapan


Campfire Audio Solaris review
 - expatinjapan


"Introducing Solaris
New Dimensions of Sound, Technology, and Construction
Pushing ourselves to discover what is possible, we explored the outer horizon and found something exceptional; Solaris.

Solaris is the summation of our experience creating earphones and the acoustic technologies we’ve developed and discovered along the way. It delivers a sound that is second to none."

"Super Sonic
New Dimensions of Sound, Technology, and Construction
Holographic presentation. Intimate detail retrieval. Soaring highs, engaging mids and impactful bass. Music sounds like music with lifelike performances, superior layering and unbelievable imaging.

The traditional wall between high end two-channel hi-fi and personal audio just got thinner." - Campfire Audio





I first demoed the Solaris at the Fujiya Avic show in Tokyo at the end of October and gratefully received a pair for review along with a 4.4mm cable.

I was instantly moved by the experience, having reviewed most of the Campfire Audio line up already I had a decent overview of the different models current and discontinued, but I was also hearing whispers that this Solaris was something special. That this was the  pinnacle of current CA development intrigued me. 
But certainly not, surely not enough to unseat the trusty well used Campfire Audio Andromeda I usually use, or so I thought.



"Solaris is a hybrid design, blending the best of the balanced armature performance with the physicality of dynamic drivers. It features 2 custom balanced armature drivers paired with our T.A.E.C for extended highs, without sibilance or fatigue. A larger single rear-ported balanced armature driver provides rich delivery of mid frequencies. A specially tuned version of our 10mm A.D.L.C. dynamic driver, optimized with our Polarity Tuned Chamber, anchors the sonic performance with deeply engaging mid-frequency tonality and visceral bass response."
- Campfire Audio

Unboxing






Campfire Audio Premium Leather Earphone Case




"Our new Super Litz cable is made from four large conductors of Silver-plated Copper Litz wire. Each conductor is individually comprised of a selected set of particular diameter strands. The Super Litz cable is the perfect balance of physical gauge and performance.

The cable is terminated with our custom beryllium/copper MMCX connectors and over-molded 3.5mm plug. This cable brings out the best in Solaris." - Campfire Audio



Final Audio E-Type Tips (xs/s/m/l/xl) – Campfire Audio Marshmallow Earphone Tips (s/m/l) – Silicon Earphone Tips (s/m/l) – Campfire Audio Lapel Pin – 
Cleaning Tool – Earphone Protection Sleeve.


The earphone shells








Stock Super Litz 3.5mm cable

I have tried the Solaris with the Atlas silver cable. 
The Solaris stock cable is physically thicker. The weave is the same.

The stock Solaris cable is a better match. It keeps that full, rich and expansive sound that makes the Solaris delicious and addictive..

I do find usually that the stock cables CA chooses to pair with their earphones are excellent choices. 
I do some cable rolling experiments and mostly always go back to the stock/original cable.

The Jupiter is my main exception. But the pair I have came with the earlier Tinsel cable. I often pair with the Reference 8 or the iBasso CB13.




Specifications

5Hz–20 kHz Frequency Response

115 dB SPL/mW Sensitivity

10 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance

Less than 1% Total Harmonic Distortion

Features

24K Gold Plated Lid

Durable PVD Finished Body

Dual Custom Balanced Armature Drivers + T.A.E.C. (High)

Single Custom Ported Balanced Armature Driver (Mid)

Specially Tuned 10mm Dynamic Driver (Mid + Low)

Plasma enhanced Chemical Vapor Depostion (C.V.D.) Amorphous Diamond Like Carbon (A.D.L.C.) Diaphragm.

Beryllium / Copper MMCX Connections

Stainless Steel Spout






Size comparisons with other Campfire Audio Models



Campfire Audio Solaris and Andromeda



Campfire Audio Solaris and Atlas



Campfire Audio Solaris and Vega



Fit and tips

This was early days whilst I was still playing around with placement and tip size.
Later on I achieved a deeper insertion and also angled the IEM more vertically.

One might want to try a smaller tip size than usual.

BTW I have small ears.



Symbio W Peel by Mandarines became my go to tips for the Solaris.

A nice thick silcone to keep the lows full and mids rich and a wide bore for treble.

http://symbioeartips.com/termek/symbio-w-peel/



One can also see the general size as they are placed in my palm.


Pairings

The CA Solaris seemed to pair with most daps etc well. 

I found the WM1Z to have a certain warmth that was all enveloping and bought out each tracks emotion.

The ALO Audio Continental V5 was also a great match, the Solaris loving the tube goodness.

The iBasso DX200 with Amp 8 was also an excellent pairing.




ALO Audio 4.4mm Super Litz cable

Just some audio gear picture pron follows


Removing the memory wire

I decided to remove the memory wire from the 4.4mm so it may sit on my pixie sized ears better with great success.

Super litz is outer plastic, metal wire, more plastic.
Triple job.

Heres an article on removing the memory wire of the ALO Audio SXC-8 cable

*one also has to decide whether to clip the metal memory wire or pull it out completely.






Price

US$1499.00



Another of my usual go to tips are the JVC Spiral Dots.


Sound



I first tried the Solaris at the Fujiya Avic show which were a demo pair or Ken Balls unit hooked up to a Sony WM1Z dap by a 4.4mm Super Litz cable with foamie tips (see above photos). Ken Ball also choose the music which was nice.

What did I think on that first impression? Bear in mind these are immediate first impressions, and I was on a PRESS card so the crowd had not arrived and it was fairly quiet. Oh and I do not like Foam tips.

Solaris Notes, October 2018. FA Show.

Wow factor (And I rarely get that these jaded days).

I demoed a burned in unit with a Sony dap and 4.4mm cable. Using foam tips.

Balanced and coherent. Even, but not flat or neutral. But towards that yet in a realistic sense. 
It even made me a bit on the verge of being teary eyed, so beautiful a sound.

A hydrid done right.

Certainly Campfire Audio have reached a high point of their development within the limits of todays technology.  

I remember the first demo unit I received from CA the Jupiter and being blown away at the time and later the Andromeda which improved on the Jupiter.
I had a similar experience with the Solaris.

*A short show impression but it certainly left an impact on me.

I enjoyed it so much I did not get all analytical whilst listening to it.


Onwards and downwards.

As the Solaris became my daily commute earphone my other reviews began to suffer and a backlog was annoyingly beginning to build up. But I could not resist the temptation to listen to them. And I review and listen to a lot of earphones, each of course is a personal taste but the Solaris certainly caught my ears and much to shock dethroned my daily go to IEM the Andromeda.

What was strange is it is not even a sound signature I knew I wanted or was even looking for. It just arrived and captivated me, and it still does.

It certainly is a hybrid well done, and having experienced quite a few hybrids I have not overly been impressed or moved by them, either strongly V shaped or lacking coherency.

The Campfire Audio Solaris is an altogether new breed of beast.



Burn in/ Breaking in

My initial out of the box impressions lacked the wow factor I had from when I first listened to Kens well used pair. 
But as I listened for every 24 or 48 hours (I have not been listening every day- helps to track changes) I can hear it changing and moving more towards that first listening experience.

Out of the box they are great, get some hours on them and they mature and become excellent.

76 hours on the Solaris and it is starting to open up now and approach the performance of Kens unit I tried at the Tokyo show.

The sweet spot was when i reached around the 150 - 200 hours on the Solaris (listening and leaving to play overnight, does not take so long). Ken Ball recommended a break in time of around 150 hours but I found the sweet spot to be a little further.


The Solaris sound is just wow. I love it. 

Nice full sub bass, bass that is controlled and responsive, great lower mids, even-ish smooth upper mids with a slight dip, nicely extended treble without verging into the no go area of screech, sibilance or faking of space.

The sound stage is huge for an IEM and could be described as holographic.

Imaging and layering is exquisite and perfect. 
Instrument placement is mere perfection.
Timbre is a bit warm and natural in form.

Rich, soft warmth, detailed, air, clarity and resolution.

I enjoy how the vocals often sit just above the music, I am not a fan of forward vocals. I want to hear the music also.




Overall

The Campfire Audio Solaris is an IEM that I have loved since day one.

Temptation to gush on audio forums is very tempting, but although people ask for impressions often the overly enthusiastic or simply positive impressions get met with claims of too positive, shill etc. Why people ask for impressions is beyond me at times....groan. Anyway... :)

The Campfire Audio Solaris is a solidly made in ear with an excellent cable. Although they may appear robust, and are do take care of your precious.

The fit may not be for everyone.

I recommend tip rolling to tune the sound signature closer to what you might prefer. 
Never underestimate the power of tips.

Its a sensitive in ear so it prefers a source from below 1 ohm to around 2 ohms for best results.

The Solaris is like having a nice home speaker system strapped to your ears.

The Campfire Audio Solaris is one the few totl IEMs that really has made an impression. Many IEMs of a similar quality are twice or thrice the price.

I really enjoy listening to music with the Campfire Audio Solaris and have a chance to forget about the gear and lose myself in the sound of music.

Or as the 13th Century poet Rumi puts it: 
“You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean, in a drop.”




Bonus section

Campfire audio at the Fujiya Avic Tokyo Headphone show











The Equinox made an appearance also

Campfire Audio Equinox (universal version of the CIEM)
Smooth, nice bass. Like Atlas but vented, no driver flex.
Universal demo is a good easy fit.
Bass thick and lingering with a fast response, clear treble, more mids than Atlas.
More ‘tame and flatter than Atlas’
Superlicious!

Campfire Audio original promotional photos of the Solaris.













Thank you to Campfire Audio for sending Head pie the Solaris for review



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