Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020 Review – Return of the King

Sound –

Testing Methodology: Measured using Arta via IEC 711 coupler to Startech external sound card. Deep (more balanced) and shallow fit (brighter) measured with and without the coupler nozzle. 7-9KHz peaks may be artefacts/emphasized due to coupler resonance, less so with deep fit. Measurements besides channel balance are volume matched at 1KHz. Fit depth normalized to my best abilities between earphones. Due to these factors, my measurements may not accurately reflect the earphone or measurements taken by others.

Preambles –

If you’ve ever watched Top Gear’s initial coverage of the Bugatti Veyron, you’ll be well acquainted with the laws of diminishing returns –attaining higher level of performance requires infinitesimally greater effort and investment. Take the Andromeda as a prime example, already achieving very strong performance. As a result, though the 2020 model makes quite drastic internal changes, the result that users experience will be mostly familiar, just subtly reworked and refined.

Tonality –

The Andromeda is a W-shaped monitor that portrays an engaging, well-contrasted presentation imbued with a full-bodied character that retains strong coherence. In listening, it’s really no wonder why the original was so well received and continues to be an industry staple; it’s a very well-considered tuning underpinned by an outstanding technical foundation. A perfectly linear or neutral tuning this is not, however, and in turn, you’ll see the Andro being dubbed as all manner of things; be it thin, thick, bassy or bright. It also does not help that the earphone is highly source-sensitive which has made it somewhat divisive over the years.

The 2020 model is a good response, the Andromeda’s more temperate and well-behaved relative. It introduces a more balanced vocal range without skewing the timbre or tone to a huge degree while compounding on the technical strengths of the original. Altogether this forms a sound that is a compendium of many characteristics that all work in harmony.

Bass –

What many love about the Andro is that this is a high-end monitor that doesn’t skimp on bass. The quality too is impressive, albeit bested by a few due to recent innovations. We observe an immediate improvement in sub-bass extension on the new model; sub-bass reaches deeper and hits harder, notes are granted greater solidity and focus in their presentation. It isn’t as physical as a DD or something like the Aether R with its 3D printed low-pass filter, but delivers a pleasing sense of pressure that most vanilla BA monitors don’t. As seen on the original, there’s a modest push through the mid and upper-bass.

In turn, notes are full, voluminous and moderately warm. Yet, as the mid-bass doesn’t come across as isolated in its emphasis, the timbre doesn’t sound especially wonky or tubby. Something I always appreciated on the original Andro was its especially quick and very well damped bass presentation. When such a note presentation is set to a fuller tuning, it creates a very satisfying punchiness. The 2020 retains a very similar style as one would expect, and the uptick of sub-bass contributes to a slightly heavier attack and note weight on top. Transients and decay remain very quick, even slightly faster than the original. However, as there’s enhanced note body, this doesn’t come at the sacrifice of much texture or volume.

Rather, it works to the benefit of timing, organisation and coherence, all of which are excellent due to the aforementioned qualities. The quick presentation also means that separation operates at a surprisingly high level despite their fullness and warmth. Under less scrutiny, however, it is mid-bass definition and dynamics that are most notably improved over its predecessor – even if the tuning is no cleaner. The Andromeda 2020, therefore, retains the fun, lively and tactile bass performance of the original while introducing noticeably greater technical ability.

Mids –

Beyond the curated note delivery afforded by Campfire’s new solid body design, the largest change to the Andromeda 2020’s actual sound signature is undoubtedly the midrange. Relative to the original, we observe a slightly flatter tuning, especially around the upper-midrange making for a slightly more open presentation, alongside an uptick of presence from 2kHz through to the lower-treble. There’s still a slight L-shape before the lower-treble bump but, overall, the same rich, smooth and articulate voicing fans of the original have grown to love. What differs is the vocal presentation, now sitting further forward in the mix. This means that, though the bass and lower-treble are slightly more commanding than before, neither are overly prominent in the overall mix, so the presentation remains subjectively very balanced.

A light warmth works in tandem with bolstered vocal body and upper-midrange density to produce a nice full and coherent note structure. There isn’t any thinness here, similarly, zero veil or chestiness, a striking yet musical balance. Much of this can be attributed to the forward lower-treble that redeems strong vocal clarity and puts impetus on articulation for a presentation that still lies on the revealing side overall. There is some rasp that is, to some extent, offset by the denser upper midrange – so it isn’t pushed to the extent of sharpness or sibilance. Of course, the Andro isn’t flat or perfectly accurate but engaging and vivid whilst upholding coherence.

And, as many have reiterated over the years, despite not tracing any conventional curve, the voicing on the Andro just works. It’s strangely natural with nothing that really stands out as obtrusive to the listening experience. If you enjoy an explicitly smooth articulation or are especially sensitive to sibilance, the Andromeda 2020 remains on the more vivid and aggressive side. It does prioritise quick, defined transients over the utmost accurate timbre overall. Nevertheless, the Andromeda 2020 remains just as inviting and musical as the original with a slightly cleaner tone and a more balanced vocal presence. The delicate changes here feel like the final piece to Campfire Audio’s metaphorical puzzle.

Highs –

In-line with its W-shaped signature, the Andromeda 2020 retains the sparkly and energetic presentation of its predecessor. The lower-treble now sits just slightly more forward than before and extension has been noticeably improved in both measurement and listening. The Andromeda 2020 is detail abundant in both the foreground and background, it is also more aggressive in its detail presentation that draws attention to this quality. Treble instrumentation sits a touch more forward than before, as lower-treble has been increased to a slightly greater extent than the midrange. Instruments have a sharper attack but also a cleaner transient response with greater fine detail retrieval.

There’s a cleaner background with a dip through the middle-treble to retain contrast and defined layers to good effect. The original Andromeda comes across as airier with greater shimmer while the 2020 model is more focused in its detail delivery. It sounds more grounded with greater instrument body and texture if not excelling in these regards relative to more linear competitors. You do also sacrifice a hint of air and atmosphere in so doing; the 2020 coming across as more technical with keener directionality, the original Andromeda being floatier but also less coherent. The Andromeda 2020 has a large advantage when it comes to background detail retrieval especially.

Small details are more apparent and more defined, with a general bump in resolving power. The signature Campfire sparkle remains and the added resolution and focus help the monitor to apply this to noticeably more immersive imaging than the original too. Altogether, impressions of the highs very much resemble those of the other frequencies, Campfire Audio has done an admirable job of enhancing technical ability without excessively altering the tonality and character beloved on the original.

Soundstage –

Another fact much loved on the original Andromeda, the 2020 model provides a similar wide-open soundstage as before. There is, in fact, even greater width on display in exchange for a touch less depth due to the monitor having a slightly more forward vocal range and, by extension, less focus on the bass. In turn, it isn’t quite as rounded as that monitor. Still, that is not to say that it is any less immersive. The Andromeda 2020 has noticeably sharper imaging, with much keener directionality and more defined layers especially. Organised over its greater width, it crafts a more involving listen. The original, however, does sound a bit more holographic due to its hazier transients and directional cues combined with greater air and similar sparkle, it sounds more atmospheric. Separation is higher on the Andromeda 2020 as well, it is more coherent, but its notes are generally more defined and better organised overall.

Driveability –

With the same 12.8 ohm impedance as the original, the Andromeda 2020 is, unfortunately, just as source sensitive. You may also note a large change to sensitivity, the original being 112.8 dB, the 2020 only 94 dB, however, in listening they are almost identical in terms of efficiency with the new model actually being just a little louder at the same volume setting for me.

Output Impedance Sensitivity

The 2020 Andro is just as source sensitive as its predecessor which isn’t much of a surprise given that the changes to sound aren’t due to any major rework to the drivers or crossover. In turn, expect large variations in sound signature between sources of differing output impedance. Comparing the Hiby R6 (10-ohm) to the Shanling M2X (1-ohm) revealed a huge loss of bass quantity and extension, diminished vocals and high-frequency dominance. The sound was hugely different and, in my opinion, not especially enjoyable. As such, a low output impedance below 1.5 ohms is highly recommended.

Driving Power

The Andromeda doesn’t require a huge amount of power to maximise its potential due to its efficiency. In fact, bass was tight and punchy even from the midrange Shanling M2X, not too much more dynamic from the desktop THX 789 costing multiples more with hugely larger power output. It does scale well in terms of resolution and staging, however, I would definitely recommend pairing the Andro 2020 with a resolving, low impedance source.

Suggested Pair Ups

I enjoyed the Andromeda 2020 from myriad sources, its sound is flexible to many source tonalities again, so long as the output impedance is low. More transparent sources such as the THX 789 surely provide an enjoyable experience, you won’t have to worry about a lack of attack or body. Similarly, the slightly warmer Shanling M2X was no issue, in fact, I slightly preferred the bass voicing as the slight reduction in sub-bass presence relative to the THX desktop amp gave the mid-bass more room to breathe. The midrange is tuned in such a manner that it isn’t prone to becoming overly warm or thin, similarly, the treble isn’t temperamental either. The Andromeda 2020 benefits most from a low-impedance, high-resolution source with the tonality being up to personal preference.  

Comparisons –

  • For comparisons to the Ara and Solaris 2020, please refer to my reviews for those earphones.

Andromeda 2018 ($1099): The 2018 Andro is clearly cut from the same cloth, though does come across as more U-shaped with its more laid-back midrange. Its bass is similar in tuning but doesn’t extend as well. Similarly, transients are a bit softer so notes are less defined compared to the 2020 model. The midrange is most different naturally, the 2020 being more balanced with the bass and treble, so more W-shaped. The voicing is similar, the 2020 is a bit cleaner tonally and vocals are more forward. It also is a bit more revealing as the upper-midrange has been brought forward slightly by proportion to the surrounding frequencies.

Articulation is slightly smoother on the original for fans of a warmer, more organic presentation. The top-end is more detailed and extended on the 2020. It has a crisper lower-treble and a more focussed foreground detail presentation. The 2018 has an airier presentation, with less contrast and layering. Though it is also more atmospheric. The 2020 has a wider soundstage, the 2018 has a deeper stage. The 2020 is much more coherent with much sharper imaging while the 2018 is a touch more holographic.

Custom Art Fibae 7 (1100 EUR): The Fibae 7 is a similarly W-shaped monitor, but is a little more vocal forward. It has a deeper extending sub-bass yet and more emphasis here too. The mid-bass is also a touch warm but it isn’t as full or warm through the upper-bass and lower-midrange so the voicing is cleaner. The Andro is faster, punchier and slightly more defined down low while the Fibae 7 is weightier and more dynamic with slightly higher mid-bass separation. The midrange is more forward on the Fibae 7 and it is more revealing due to the more forward upper-midrange. That said, it isn’t quite as coherent as the fuller Andromeda. Both are warm, the Fibae 7 is slightly cleaner. Most notably, the Fibae 7 has a more neutral and linear lower-treble so articulation is more accurate.

In turn, though forward and revealing, it is not sharp or fatiguing, the Andromeda actually is more prone to sounding sharp on poorly mastered tracks. That said, the Fibae 7 can also sound a bit intense due to its forwardness. The treble on the Fibae 7 is slightly more detailed in the foreground, especially fine detail as it is more linear, delivering better body and texture. The Andromeda 2020 offers better extension up top and greater sparkle and air, however. So it has more micro-detail and energy up top, the Fibae 7 prioritising a cleaner background. Both have very wide soundstages, the Fibae 7 isn’t quite as wide but also has slightly more depth. The Fibae 7 has more defined layers while the Andromeda 2020 has slightly sharper imaging and localisation.

Avara EST-6 ($1100): The EST-6 is less engaging but much more linear in its presentation. Bass doesn’t extend as well and isn’t as punchy but is flatter in its tuning with just a hint of mid-bass emphasis to retain a natural/neutral tonality. The Andro is fuller and warmer throughout, equally quick, however, as the EST-6 is cleaner in its tuning, it is afforded slightly higher definition and separation. The midrange tells a similar story, both are naturally voiced, but the EST-6 comes across as even more coherent and even-metered. It has a more neutral tone and body, and is more accurate in its articulation, just a touch smooth. The Andromeda is more revealing despite being warmer.

It is more coloured but also more engaging and articulate at the cost of absolute note resolution and coherence. The EST-6 is undoubtedly the choice for those valuing lifelike timbre while the Andromeda provides a more vivid and high-definition display. Up top, the Andro is brighter and more aggressive. Its lower-treble is crisper and thinner, higher up, it is airier with more pronounced sparkle. The EST-6 is a bit more even, it has a darker background and less air and clarity. However, it also sounds more effortless with a hair more micro-detail and resolution. The Andromeda has a much larger stage, width especially, while the EST-6 has slightly more coherent imaging.

Lime Ears Aether R (1200 EUR): The Aether R is a similar style of earphone, being W-shaped, but definitely different in execution. It also has a warm bass, with a little more mid-bass focus, the Andro being a bit more linear but also fuller yet. The Aether R has slightly better sub-bass extension and is more dynamic and harder-hitting. It has an adjustable bass boost, being a bit more balanced with it off, and warmer and fuller with it on. The Andro is a bit more defined in the mid-bass and doesn’t sound so humped due to its greater linearity. The midrange voicing is a bit more natural on the Andro despite the Aether R being less sculpted overall.

The Andro is fuller while the Aether R is a bit warmer and more vocal forward. The Andro has sharper articulation being a bit more revealing while the Aether R is smoother and denser up top but more contrasty down-low, deriving higher definition. Treble is slightly brighter on the Andro and also sparklier. The Aether R has a cleaner voicing, with greater separation and a slightly cleaner transient response. The Aether R has more treble instrument body and texture, it’s a bit more organic while the Andro is more energetic and sparkly. The Andro has a larger and more holographic soundstage in turn, while the Aether R has slightly more stable imaging yet.

Campfire Audio Solstice ($1499): The Solstice was the first CFA IEM to utilise solid-body. Yet it is more than just a universal Andro, it carves out a unique identity. Sub-bass extension is just a hair better and bass is less emphasised and more linear in its tuning. The Andromeda definitely comes across as the warmer, more voluminous earphone here. The Solstice meanwhile, benefits from similarly concise attack and quick decay. As its bass tuning is cleaner and more even, its note delivery is noticeably more defined. Relative to its less present bass, the Solstice also has a slightly more up-front midrange. It has no dip in the lower-midrange as there is less warmth to separate vocals from.

In turn, it sounds just as full-bodied if not slightly more so, but also slightly cleaner tonally. Both are on the musical side and both are revealing, the Solstice being a little flatter perhaps drier, the Andromeda a bit more coloured with more warmth and clarity. The Solstice has a sharper lower-treble which may be most contentious in its tuning. The Andromeda 2020 sounds a bit more organic here, while the Solstice is crisper, thinner and more aggressive in its detail delivery. The Andromeda 2020 has slightly more air and sparkle, the Solstice a darker background. Both extend very well, the Solstice has a larger soundstage, both depth and width while the Andro’s imaging is slightly more holographic.

Verdict –

It’s very easy to see why the Andromeda has such insane staying power in the market. It’s not a sound for all, better timbre can be had, but it achieves a striking harmony between tri-frequency balance and tasteful colouration that very few match. There is often merit to the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and we’ve seen this mistake repeated countless times, especially in audio. Being such a deeply subjective hobby, it becomes difficult to provide an undisputed upgrade, however, I feel Campfire Audio have addressed this issue with great tact; the new Andromeda is even more balanced, detailed and coherent as promised. As always, preference is key; expect to sacrifice some atmosphere and midrange warmth that, for some, may be the very reason they enjoyed the original so much. Nevertheless, the new Andromeda is undoubtedly more technical and cleaner in its note delivery, while preserving a clear identity that you won’t find replicated elsewhere. The gorgeous build and design are even further refined and the upgraded smoke Litz cable is very easy to live with. The Andromeda 2020 isn’t just a homage, but an entire overhaul that addresses the original’s weaknesses whilst compounding upon the its core charm.

The Andromeda 2020 is available from Campfire Audio (International) for $1099 USD at the time of writing. I am not affiliated with Campfire Audio and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.

Track List –

Beck – Mellow Gold

Bob Segar – Night Moves

Brb. – Sorry That I Love You

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit

Crush – NAPPA

Dire Straits – Communique

Dirty Loops – Next To You

Eagles – Hell Freezes Over

Elton John – Honky Chateau

Eric Clapton – Unplugged

Joji – Sanctuary

Nirvana – Nevermind

Pixies – Doolittle

Post Malone – beerbongs & bentleys

Radiohead – OK Computer

Rich Brain – The Sailor

Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Ryan Soo

Ryan Soo

Avid writer, passionate photographer and sleep-deprived medical student, Ryan has an ongoing desire to bring quality products to the regular reader.

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