Campfire Andromeda 2020 (Discontinued): The Emerald Sea provides a warmer, more detailed and more V-shaped sound than the original. Its bass is a lot more present in the sub and mid-bass especially and the ES has superior extension delivering more rumble and slam. The 2020 is cleaner and more separated. The ES is a bit more controlled and is much more dynamic, but the 2020 is just as fast and benefits from a more balanced and separated tuning, resolving slightly better. The midrange is more balanced on the 2020 as well. It is more present, and its vocals are larger and medium warm. It is also more articulate giving it greater clarity, but some have found it slightly sibilant.
The ES is a more relaxed and lusher earphone. It is more laid-back, especially male vocals and vocals are more neutrally sized. It sounds warmer, thicker, and more filled-in. The treble is a touch smoother which aids this impression and results in reduced fatigue. Resolution is improved on the ES but the thicker tuning makes this hard to appreciate on most tracks. The treble is much improved on the ES, being more linear and more extended. The 2020 has a crisper note attack while the ES is more balanced with a better timbre and texture. It has superior detail retrieval in all regards and a larger soundstage. That said, the drop in separation is somewhat disappointing meaning the 2020 still comes off as more of an all-rounder.
MMR Gae Bolg ($1199): The Gae Bolg resembles the original Andro models more in terms of overall tonal balance. It has a light warm bass with a nice mid-bass punch but noticeably less bass presence overall than the ES. The ES has a noticeably thicker bass response, but it has much better extension and slam at the bottom too. The ES also has better texturing. The GB meanwhile provides a cleaner and more balanced bass. It has a more accurate timbre and is faster, tighter, and more articulate. The midrange is more present on the GB giving it a more balanced overall sound. It retains a light warm tone and has a dense, smooth overall voicing with a vocal focus. The ES sounds a bit wetter but also more recessed and less transparent.
The ES has better resolution but less separation making it sound a bit more complex on the imaging front but not as well defined. The GB due to its lower peak and upper-midrange dip has a slightly nasal voicing. The treble is slightly more present on the ES but not by a large degree. The voicing, however, is very different once again. The GB has a crisp lower treble with a nice sense of bite and definition. It then trails off producing a darker, cleaner background and a more damped sound overall. The ES is airer and has much more headroom and sparkle. It has greater detail retrieval but a thinner and more energetic sound overall. Texture levels are similar, the ES has the advantage of greater extension and a brighter mid-treble especially. The ES has a larger soundstage, and both have excellent imaging. The GB has very sharp localization while the ES layers slightly better.
Soundz Avant (1390 EUR): The Avant is a more W-shaped monitor sporting a similar level of bass emphasis but mated to a far more present midrange. The Avant has a bit more sub-bass slam while the ES provides slightly more impact in the mid-bass. The Avant comes across as a bit cleaner as its bass isn’t so dominant within the sound and its upper bass is slightly less present. It is more defined and a bit faster overall. The ES sounds a bit more textured but also more bloated. The midrange is notably more intimate and present on the Avant giving it a more balanced yet slightly vocal forward sound. It has notably more vocal size and a much cleaner, nigh-neutral tone. The ES is much warmer and thicker lacking the same clarity and balance in favour of a more relaxed, lush voicing. The ES is arguably a touch more naturally voiced to my ears, but it also isn’t nearly as revealing meaning the Avant has an advantage when it comes to definition and fine detail retrieval.
The ES meanwhile offers better listenability over time and has a bit more texture to its midrange. The treble is very interesting for though the Avant has double the drivers, the ES keeps up and even outpaces it. The lower treble is more present on the Avant, and it has a slightly denser voicing with more crunch and bite on the leading edge. The ES meanwhile has greater headroom, shimmer, and air. Though both offer similar extension, the ES has more sparkle which brings micro details far more to the fore. It is effectively the more detailed IEM as a result while the Avant offers a slightly more textured foreground. Both IEMs offer a very large soundstage, the ES is a bit wider, the Avant a bit deeper. The ES offers a more holographic imaging while the Avant is slightly sharper in terms of direction. The Avant has better separation.
Fir M4 ($1899): The M4 offers a more W-shaped sound with a bit more midrange presence and a slightly smoother treble. Though it has almost as much bass, it has a bit less upper bass and a bit less sub-bass albeit this is negated by the inclusion of a dynamic driver. The M4 extends notably better and has a greater sense of depth and dynamism. The ES is slightly bassier as it has a bit more bass but less midrange presence. The ES is a bit faster in the bass, it sounds a bit more defined but also more rounded. The M4 has much better impact and a slightly more structured bass response with less mid-bass bias. The M4 has more mid presence that enables it to remain balanced in the presence of its larger bass. It is a much cleaner sound with a light warm tone, neutral body and slight smoothness in the upper midrange. The M4 sounds just as natural but more present and defined. The ES by comparison is notably more laid-back and has a huskier, warmer and thicker voicing.
It has less separation but does sound richer. The M4 has slightly larger vocals and slightly higher resolving power; this difference is further exacerbated by the cleaner tuning. The treble is a step brighter on the ES giving it a more energetic and vibrant character. The M4 is very resolving but has a slightly cleaner mid-treble with similar upper-treble extension and presence. The M4 offers a slightly cleaner transient response, delivering a bit more crispness in the lower treble and a touch more fine detail here. It has a bit more texture while the ES has a slightly smoother attack but more shimmer and air above, giving it a more open impression. The M4 sounds a bit cleaner, highlighting its foreground details more. It has similar sparkle and extension; both are excellent performers here. The M4 offers similar soundstage dimensions to the ES, the ES perhaps being a touch wider, and the M4 a bit deeper. Imaging is holographic on both, slightly more so on the ES while the M4 offers better layering with more delineation between foreground and background. The M4 also offers better separation due to its cleaner tuning.
The Andromeda must be commended on its excellent staying power. Campfire really cracked the code at providing the right mix of ingredients being balanced enough for genre-flexibility, yet coloured in a manner that gives it excellent engagement and fun factor. The past iterations have been subtle changes, accordingly, they have always upheld this character. Ironically, by maintaining the same $1099 asking price, the Andromeda has also come to represent even better value years later where the competition has inflated. Potentially, Campfire Audio felt this design was getting a bit long in the tooth as the Emerald Sea is a different beast entirely. It comes in at a slightly higher price and brings both ergonomic and technical upgrades but also tonal changes that may be divisive. The Emerald Sea is not nearly as source-sensitive as past models.
The treble and soundstage really steal the show, making improvements to low-level detail retrieval and listenability whilst retaining an open, sparkly nature. Those wanting warmth will also love the immediately more present, extended and dynamic bass. I personally find the changes too heavy-handed but respect the choice to carve out a new identity for the Andromeda. It feels like the drastic bass boost deserved a new name rather than “fixing what ain’t broke”. However, that’s just my perspective, I’ve seen just as many impressions online loving the more impactful changes so consider your personal preferences first and foremost. While I do think the loss of separation and balance do mire an otherwise impressive and capable platform, the Emerald Sea will appeal to bass lovers also wanting superb resolving power but may alienate fans of the original models.
The Emerald Sea is available from Campfire Audio (International) for $1399 USD at the time of writing. I am not affiliated with Campfire Audio and receive no earnings from purchases made through these links.
Track List –
Billie Eilish – dont smile at me
Bob Seger – Night Moves
Courtney Barnett – Rae Street
Cream – Wheels of Fire
Dire Straits – Communique
Dirty Loops – Next To You
Eagles – Hotel California
Elton John – Honky Chateau
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
H.E.R – I Used To Know Her
Jasen – BYE
John Mayer – Continuum
Kanye West – Ye
Missy Higgins – The Sound of White
Radiohead – OK Computer
TALA – ain’t leavin` without you
The Beatles – Abbey Road
The weeknd – After Hours
Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride