Though I have no experience with the 2019 revision, as compared to the 2018 model, the 2020 makes some nice refinements to both the design and sound. We observe the same smoke jacket cable as the 2019, with pre-moulded ear guides providing enhanced ergonomics. The finish of the housings is also much better. The 2018 model has visible if not palpable machining lines around its perimeter where the 2020 is completely uniform. The edges and corners have been smoothed and the finish is a finer satin. The machines orientation and CA logos look a lot more intricate, altogether, abundant tweaks that tell a story of continued refinement.
I can’t help but think that Campfire themselves have a strange relationship with the Andromeda – similar to Thom Yorke and Creep, they seem almost resentful of the hubris that comes with such a runaway hit. The company is determined to demonstrate that they can continue to grow, innovate and set trends as opposed to simply executing them better than others. As such, the Andro didn’t get nearly as much talk as the other two models, yet it is not to be undervalued. There’s a reason the Andromeda was such a hit years ago and it remains a formidable offering in its price range. The 2020 model also makes more significant changes than one might posit based on the simple change in acoustics.
Switching from the Andromeda (2018) to the new 2020 reveals subtle differences. The presentation is just a little cleaner, a little more balanced, slightly more resolving in the highs. It’s a very safe revision of their former design that ensures the experience is very familiar and undoubtedly, an upgrade overall. Tone and base signature are very similar but with a wide-band midrange boost that brings vocals more in-line with bass and treble; a more W-shaped signature as opposed to the arguably U-shaped signature prior.
Bass is very similar, warm, voluminous and very punchy; achieved via modest sub-bass and upper-bass emphasis, in particular. The signature is unchanged, yet the presentation is slightly more discerning with better control. Extension is similar and attack remains quite concise with fast decay that retains a defined and detailed image despite fullness and even a touch of tubbiness around the upper-bass. There’s just an uptick higher definition on display here and slightly more information in the sub-bass.
The midrange was most contentious on the original, particularly, the upper-midrange was laid-back which could make vocals a touch recessed for some. The 2020 does append this to some degree while retaining the same warm, smooth voicing. It does so by bringing the entire midrange forward by a few dB. Vocals are indeed slightly clearer, cleaner in tone and more prominent in the mix but without offsetting the overall balance too much. This makes the 2020 a more balanced earphone than the original in addition to being slightly more transparent. Still, without direct comparison, I doubt many would notice an immediate difference.
As stated by CA, the top-end is indeed slightly more detailed. Taking a note from the Solstice’s notebook, the 2020 implements a small bump in the lower-treble that provides a more defined detail presentation and a bit more foreground/background contrast. This makes it easier to isolate small details so the 2020 sounds appreciably crisper and more detailed than before. As the Andro has a slightly airer background, I feel this is a good tuning decision to bring focus to the foreground instrumentation. The same excellent extension and large headroom remain as does the upper-treble sparkle. If anything, there’s slightly more resolution and I hear a slightly cleaner transient response too. The 2020 is certainly a nice refinement of the original.
The soundstage is also slightly wider to me, on behalf of a slightly cleaner background but the original has noticeably more depth due to its more laid-back vocals so the presentation is less rounded. The imaging is just as holographic but is now more stable where the original was floatier, granting an ethereal sense of immersion but also a poor sense of direction compared to modern flagships. The 2020 is more orthodox, still sparkly but with sharper directional cues and a keener sense of position.
Early Verdict –
Without a doubt, these are Campfire Audio’s most universally charming flagships yet – All could be considered balanced in isolation and all are natural in timbre with none of the wonkiness seen before. Furthermore, they do so without tracing any conventional curve. Campfire Audio are blazing a trail with 3 unique high-end earphones that sound quite unlike anything else. And yet, they are highly refined signatures that provide a good medium between tri-frequency balance and engagement while shining a spotlight on the technical excellence achieved by T.A.E.C, Polarity tuned chamber and their new solid body design. Ultimately, this demonstrates that Campfire Audio are receptive to their audience and are continuously learning from each and every venture. The beauty lies in choice, with offerings to suit all kinds of preferences.
I’ll be looking forward to spending more ear time with each model in the coming weeks approaching the full reviews, stay tuned!