Campfire Audio Ara, Andromeda 2020 and Andromeda Gold listening and notes session

Listening time - a journey of discovery - together.

usually a few days of listening and note taking is written up more cleanly as a summary. But i thought i would turn the clock back a bit for something different.

*Andromeda versus Ara added to the end.

I will be using a headphone switcher box for convenience with stock cables switched out to ALO Audio 3.5mm to 3.5mm. Its not 100%
scientific or infallible - but it gets us some of the way there.

Starting with the iBasso DX220 with stock amp 1mk2.
(Changes are more noticeable when going down than up with earphones and daps i find).

I will go through a random list of no particular songs, some i use for testing(Coldplay - sibilance), some because they are familiar to to others (Adele - Hello etc etc), some random (scroll and shuffle time) and of course some i like.

So doing this old school style. Real time, layman, stream of consciousness, subjective.
Music first.

I will keep on going until a pattern emerges. (later i will do a Andro 2020, Ara, Solaris 2020 version and a Andro v1, v3 and v4/2020 version).

lets begin.

iBasso DX220 with stock amp 1mk2. Mid gain, Brick wall filter, Android side.
Mostly 16/41 FLAC
All earphones are using Final Audio Tips and stock Smokey Litz cables.
Every earphone has well over 100 hours on them. (10 - 20 hours listening on each, the rest burn in).

*Apologies I do not have the MW10 as it was loaned to another reviewer months ago, when it comes back i will add it to the mix Andro Gold/MW10/Ara.

"lets roll!" and "on with the show"

Artist/song:Adele `Hello`
Andro Gold: Clear, coherent, noticeable bass, vocals just above the music. Soundstage: sphere around head.
Andro 2020: Lighter,- in more space/air, vocals more forward, less bass. Soundstage-sphere around head, controlled.
Ara: More defined, more bass than Andro 2020, vocals above the music. soundstage: height and width, forward prominent.

Artist/song: Massive Attack `exchange`
Andro Gold: Nice deep lower bass, atmospheric.
Andro 2020: Bass is lighter, a more gentle experience.
Ara: Seems to be a middle ground between the Gold and Andro 2020, enough bass, but controlled and not as much. I wish i had the MW10 at this point. delicate, technical without losing soul.

Artist/song: Coldplay `Don`t panic`
Andro Gold: Full bodied sound, still has the veer off into too brightness Coldplay has, vocals have the signature sibilance at times.
Andro 2020: The Andro 2020 seems more at peace with Coldplay. They complement each other.
Ara: (thats a short song, had to restart). Similar to Andro 2020 but seems to be more dynamic, mids?

Artist/song: Die Antwood `Never le Nkemise`
Andro Gold: Bass and vocals.
Andro 2020: Tamed the track down a bit.
Ara: the Ara coped best with this difficult track.
*not the best test track?

Artist/song: The Verve `Bitter sweet symphony`
Andro Gold: Too bassy for this track.
Andro 2020: Nicely balanced, fits the track well. Slightly subdued.
Ara: Adds space and energy to bring it more alive (need to check Solaris 2020 with this track).
Solaris 2020: a bit of a diversion. Nice and full, maybe a tad too much bass for some.

Artist/song: David Bowie ` Queen Bitch`
Andro Gold: Peaceful.  too much low end for this track.
Andro 2020: Seems a great match for vocals and guitar,
Ara: The technicalities and articulation aren`t the best match for this track. too revealing for a 70s track? Certainly revealing.

Artist/song: Smashing Pumpkins `1979`
Andro Gold: Nice energy, underlying driving drums.
Andro 2020: laid back, smooth, nice and even - how i like it.
Ara: Quite enjoyable, too revealing at the soaring parts.
* I did not like soaring parts - seemed too busy at times.

Artist/song: Iggy and the Stooges `Gimme Danger`
Andro Gold: Atmospheric, a medium match. driving due to the bass.
Andro 2020: kindergarten Iggy, a bit too polite.
Ara: Ooh this is more like it. Solid vocals, thundering guitars, coherent. Controlled.

Artist/song: PJ Harvey `a place like home`
Andro Gold: Nice and full, lacking some definition.
Andro 2020: Nicely balanced, good treble.
Ara: Nicely balanced, more revealing.

Artist/song: Richard Ashcroft `A song for the lovers`
Andro Gold: Good, but the emphasis on the low end does match the tracks design.
Andro 2020: Nice, adds that rising emotional feeling, a bit thin.
Ara: Noticing the sub bass at times on this one. seems a good match

quick break time....

Moving onto the familiar FiiO M11
Sharp roll off filter, low gain
FLAC 16/41

Artist/song: Nirvana `about a girl`
Andro Gold: Tonality is decent,
Andro 2020: A lighter touch, still enjoyable.
Ara: Fairly linear, less mids than the Andro 2020

Changed to High gain.

Artist/song: Slayer `Angel of Death`
Andro Gold: Nice low and high end, needs more lower mids.
Andro 2020: . More mids fill it out. a good match.
Ara: Driving. handles the song well. linear. A bit lighter sound.

Artist/song: Chemical Brothers `Asleep from the day`
Andro Gold: Beautiful, captures Hopes vocals beautifully.
Andro 2020: Lighter, vocals lose some body. more ethereal.
Ara: Linear. reference.

Artist/song: Massive Attack  `Air`
Andro Gold: Its ok. a bit linear (with bass), go figure.
Andro 2020: A bit more atmosphere and listening enjoyment. Coherent.
Ara:  Lacks a certain sense of emotion

Artist/song: Nina Simone `Beautiful land`
Andro Gold: Beautiful vocals, strings and wind instruments are vibrant.
Andro 2020: Fairly balanced, but lacks that low end body and warmth that makes the track sing.
Ara: Reference sound, enjoyable. like the andro 2020, but the Gold just crowns it.

Artist/song: The Smiths `Bigmouth strikes again`
Andro Gold: Sounds like The Smiths
Andro 2020: Sounds like The Smiths but more vibrant.
Ara: Fairly even. no ups or downs. Naturally reference.

Artist/song: Lana Del Rey `Black Beauty`
Andro Gold: Fantastic, tonality right for my ears. Smooth with depth and emotional highs.
Andro 2020: Same as above, but slightly subdued.
Ara: Same same samsies...but just more referenc-y

Artist/song: Dire Straits `Brothers in Arms
Andro Gold: Not sure if Dire Straits need a low end.
Andro 2020: A slight tilt in the mids.
Ara: Its Dire Straits! Perfect.

FiiO M11 is more towards the light end, DX160 has more body.

Changing to iBasso DX160.
Gain high, Fast roll off filter.
FLAC mostly 16/41.

Artist/song: Billie Eilish `Bad guy`
Andro Gold: Pumping strong clear bass, could be too much at times.
Andro 2020: Beautifully enveloping, seems to like a slight mids warmth.
Ara: Nice deep controlled bass, nicely balanced between instruments and vocals.

Artist/song: Beethoven - Cello sonata No.3 in A major., Op 69.III.
Andro Gold: OK. But a bit dark.
Andro 2020: Acceptable, but a bit light
Ara: Perfect.

Andro Gold: Good.
Andro 2020: I like this one.
Ara: This is also good. enough bass but the in between string and beats parts are enjoyable.

Artist/song: Norah Jones `Come away with me` *testers classic,...sorry no Krall.
Andro Gold: Quite delicious deep and rich.
Andro 2020: A bit light, vocals more forward.
Ara: A good balance between the three.

Artist/song: Gnarls Barkley `Crazy`
Andro Gold: Boom boom boom, that driving beat comes alive.
Andro 2020: Subdued, more even.
Ara: A bit more high end, retains decent bass.
*hard pressed to find a winner with this track.

Artist/song: Morcheeba `Crimson`
Andro Gold: Silky vocals with clear full bass.
Andro 2020: loses that full on low end that makes Morcheeba shine.
Ara: A nice balance between the three IEMs.

- Lunch break -

Artist/song:Elton John `Don`t let the sun go down on me`
Andro Gold: Sounds like Elton John, tonality is good.
Andro 2020: Same, but less low end.
Ara: Same, more extension in the highs, more `space`.

Artist/song: The Beatles `Eleanor Rigby (Stereo)`
Andro Gold: Ok. Good. not as suited to this track as the other two.
Andro 2020: Adds a little something something, timbre is good, what some term `musical`.
Ara: Clear, coherent, tonality is correct.

Artist/song: The Cardigans `Erase and rewind`
Andro Gold: Exactly as i would like to hear, deep bass, full sound, clear vocals. Perfect.
Andro 2020: As above, but a bit more even.
Ara: Clear and linear, lacking a deep low end. bass is still present and tight - not as deep as Gold.

Artist/song: Mazzy Star `Fade into you`
Andro Gold: Bass
Andro 2020: Lighter
Ara: In the middle

Artist/song: The Pixies `Gigantic`
Andro Gold:  ? Too much treble?
Andro 2020: Ok, but suits more linear?
Ara: I think the Ara is more controlled for The Pixies, ad the linear suits their loud/quiet, fast/slow style.

Changing to Apple ipod touch 6G
Using Flacplayer app by Dan Leehr. 16/41 mostly.

I am curious about this...

Artist/song: Hole `awful`
Andro Gold: Pleasant, Seems underpowered.
Andro 2020: More bearable - but still thin.
Ara: Seems to work as it more linear/reference.

Artist/song: The Jesus and Marychain `Perfume`
Andro Gold: iPod does not handle all the bass at times, early on was good, but did not let the treble shine.
Andro 2020: Good. A bit overly upper bass and lower mids warm.
Ara: Quite acceptable. natural. Tonally good.

Artist/song: Cat power  `The greatest`.
Andro Gold: Nicely balanced and dreamy.
Andro 2020: A nice middle ground between Gold and Ara on this track.
Ara: fairly even and reference.

Artist/song: The wind and the wave `Chandelier`
Andro Gold: A good match between dap and earphone on this track.
Andro 2020: Warm, even.
Ara: Lightness, clarity, even.

- OK. Thats enough of that one. I feel i am dealing more with the ipod than the music/earphones.


I was going to use the Opus#2 dap to `complete the circle` but its output impedance is 2ohms SE (close to 6G i should have used the iFi Audio IEMatch), so I am going to use the DX200 with stock amp1 to keep a continuity of sorts of 1ohm or under.

iBasso DX200 and stock amp1.
FLAC 16/41 again (mostly).

Artist/song: Nick Cave and PJ Harvey `Henry Lee`
Andro Gold: Lovely, full bodied, detailed, smooth.
Andro 2020: As above with less bass.
Ara: Clear, detailed, extended and lots of space and separation.

Artist/song: Metallica `Here comes revenge`
Andro Gold: If you like more bass.
Andro 2020: If you like more `body`
Ara: If you like more detail.

Artist/song: The Chemical Brothers `Hey boy, hey girl`
Andro Gold: too dark
Andro 2020: A good middle point
Ara: More separation and detail. Head nodding (i should have noted earlier...)

Artist/song: Henryk Gorecki - Symphony No.3, Opus 36 (detail)
Andro Gold: Subdued.
Andro 2020: Enveloping.
Ara: Articulate.

Artist/song: Led Zeppelin `Whole lotta love`
Andro Gold:
Andro 2020:
Ara: I liked this one. Gave a certain clarity and coherence.

Artist/song: Led Zeppelin `Immigrant song`
Andro Gold: Has that driving bass guitar and drums this song needs.
Andro 2020: Middle ground, but Gold nails this track.
Ara: Needs more phat bass

Artist/song: Radiohead `My iron lung`
Andro Gold: full on
Andro 2020: laid back
Ara: dynamic, layered, detailed, good imaging.,

Artist/song: Beck `Already dead`
Andro Gold: Relaxed. Nice tonality, low end and air.
Andro 2020: Relaxed. W sig at times.
Ara: more air brings the song alive. Great song for the Solaris also.

Artist/song: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper (A star is born) @Shallow`
Andro Gold: Absolutely brilliant. Chills.
Andro 2020: beautiful. As above with mids. Less bass.
Ara: Reference dap/amp with reference IEMs. Wow! Not sure if the Gold or Ara for this track.

Artist/song: Jeff Buckley `Hallelujah`
Andro Gold: Intimate. Close. extension.
Andro 2020: Gorgeous. luscious mids and divine vocals. Space and air.
Ara: Wonderous. really can capture every note. Even.


Ok. at this point I am beginning to mentally flatline after 4+ hours.

*I will probably use these with iBasso DX220 with Amp8ex and a 4.4mm balanced cable most of the time.

I will leave people with these notes to sort through and add a summary of my thoughts later on.


Addition. June 4th.

I received the Andromeda MW10 back yesterday.

So here is a quick summary from some shuffling back and forth.

Stock cables:
Ara - smokey litz
MW10 - Superlitz

Ara: More treble extension. More refined. Detailed. Excellent imaging and separation. More reference.
Seems wider.

MW10: More lower mids and bass. Vocals more forward. More a wall of sound effect. More linear.

To the listener the Ara might appear more refined or a MW10 ‘developed’. It has been said that the Ara is a mid way point between the Gold and the MW10.

oh well i will have to get out the Gold again sometime...

They are close.
Very close. The above is from very picky listening.

Solaris 2020 quick notes here:

Andromeda V1 vs V3 here:
(Andromeda V4 is the 2020 edition).

Campfire Audio 2020 models unboxing photos on Head pie also if you are a visual type.


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