Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 Earphone Review

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Pros – 

Excellent build quality and vastly improved ergonomics, Quality stock cable and custom MCMX connectors, Very balanced hybrid sound, Highly resolving treble with abundant sparkle, Revealing, defined yet natural vocal presentation

Cons – 

Housings still on the larger side, Sacrifices a touch of energy and separation in its pursuit of coherence

Verdict –

The Solaris 2020 feels like a new earphone, removing all significant barriers holding critics and users back from the original.


Introduction –

Campfire Audio is a fan-favourite audio company from Oregon, USA. The friendly staff are highly driven and ambitious, with each release stepping forward at the forefront of acoustic innovation. The Solaris was their most ambitious project, a 4-driver hybrid implementing every one of CFA’s innovations. This came at the cost of dimensions, with a large housing that alienated many potential buyers. The Solaris 2020 is the company’s latest effort, implementing a new 3D printed internal acoustic structure to shrink down the housing without shrinking down the sound. The refresh has been subtly re-tuned too, appending common complaints of the original. The new Solaris 2020 comes in at the same $1499 USD asking price, occupying a firmly premium price point as its sophisticated design would suggest. You can read more about the Solaris 2020 and treat yourself to one here.

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Campfire Audio very much for their quick communication and for providing me with Solaris 2020 for the purpose of review. As always, all words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

Specs –

Frequency Response: 5Hz–20 kHz Frequency Response

Sensitivity: 115 dB SPL/mW

Impedance: 15.5 Ohms @ 1kHz

THD: Less than 1%

Driver Type: Specially tuned 10mm A.D.L.C DD (lows), single updated custom BA driver (mid), dual custom BA drivers + T.A.E.C (highs)

The Pitch –

T.A.E.C

Tuned acoustic expansion chamber is a 3D printed sound chamber for the 2 high-frequency balanced armature drivers. It’s a tubeless design mitigating the loss of extension and resonances of a traditional tube and damper system. It also provides the impression of a larger soundstage

Polarity Tuned Chamber

By controlling the cavity volume in front of and behind the dynamic driver, Campfire Audio are able to tailor the pressure, extension and frequency range of the driver. In the Solaris’ hybrid design, it functions as a low-pass filter which permits the driver to focus on reproducing low-frequencies with greater performance.

3D Optimised Acoustic Construction/Solid Body

Solaris 2020 Exploded

Image courtesy of Campfire Audio

With a sophisticated driver array it’s important to ensure all work in harmony. The Solaris 2020 employs Campfire Audio’s new solid-body acoustic design whereby the drivers are arranged with a 3D printed array that gives them finer control over the sound output by each driver in addition to reducing resonances for an overall more refined and resolving sound.

20% size reduced, 25% weight reduction

The original Solaris was lauded for its sound quality, implementing all of the technologies Campfire had developed at the time. However, this came at the cost of ergonomics for many, being an especially large earphone. The new Solaris is considerably smaller and lighter. Its fit has been transformed while retaining the same unique aesthetic design and sound quality.

Retuned Sound/New Midrange Driver

The Solaris 2020 has been redesigned from the ground up and this applies to its sound too. Campfire make special mention of a new larger, rear-ported midrange driver in addition to a specially tuned DD both of which are reaffirmed by my measurements and subjective impressions. This provides a more linear and coherent sound.

Accessories –

The unboxing experience is identical to the recently released IO and Polaris II with stunning foil laminated shell that unfurls to reveal a protective hard box inside. Within box are the earphones protected within a zippered carrying case with each earpiece housed within a protective sleeve. These sleeves are super handy, compact and protect the earpieces not only from drops and scratches but also from each other with its two separate compartments. The zippered carrying case assumes the purse-like dimensions of the IO/Polaris II cases but implements an environmentally sustainable cork construction as opposed to leather. It’s been stained for a similarly striking aesthetic. The internal surface is still shearling, soft and protective.

DSC08390

Meanwhile, the other accessories are located in a separate box on top. Campfire includes 3 pairs of marshmallow memory foam tips in addition to 3 pairs of generic wide-bore silicone tips. They also include 5 pairs of Final Audio E-tips that are some of my favourite on the market, providing a very coherent sound and excellent ergonomics. They’re shaped similar to Sony Hybrids but possess a flexible sound tube that articulates to the shape of the user’s ear canal similar to Spinfits, but without disrupting the acoustic pathway. As such, you reap similar ergonomics benefits but with a more transparent sound, excellent! Small touches such as a cleaning tool and Campfire Audio pin are pleasing touches that enhance an already premium experience.

Design –

The Solaris 2020 makes no departure from the original in terms of the base design. It is a standout amongst the rest of Campfire’s shells varying in both shape and texture. To my eye, it’s slightly more shapely than its predecessor and indeed, comes across as substantially more compact; much more so than that 20% figure would imply. Once again, the metalwork on display is exemplary with gorgeous marrying of each component and texture. We observe stainless steel spouts similar to the Atlas that accept T400 size tips mated to glossy main housings that ripple like a gentle sea. The faceplates see noticeable revision, assuming a svelte murdered out aesthetic over the loud yet premium 24K gold plates on the originals. Sure, the gold is exclusive, yet Campfire assures that the new PVD gloss faceplates are substantially harder wearing.

DSC08391

The Solaris 2020 adopts MMCX similar to all of Campfire Audio’s IEMs. The connectors themselves are outstanding, of Campfire Audio’s signature Berrylium plated design with low tolerances and even tension between sides, they promise increased longevity over standard copper models. The Super Litz cable makes a return and assumes the smoke jacket seen on all of Campfire’s newer releases. The new jacket is softer and more pliable which makes it tangle-resistant and easily coiled despite its tightly twisted braid. The cable now has pre-moulded ear guides as opposed to memory wire that I personally find more comfortable and more stable, carrying the weight of the housings and larger cable very well. The right-angle 3.5mm plug is well-relieved and the entire package is very confidence-inspiring.

Fit & Isolation –

Anyone following the Solaris 2020’s release would have seen what a transformative difference Campfire’s new design has made to fit. The original’s larger housings hovered outside my ears, forming a mostly comfortable albeit not especially stable fit and the sheer size of them was certainly the most alienating factor for prospective buyers. By contrast, the smaller, lighter Solaris 2020 sits within my ear, making them considerably more planted and lower-profile. As such, they’re infinitely more socially acceptable to uninitiated onlookers in addition to being less prone to wind noise when out and about and jostling loose during movement. I find them similarly comfortable to the OG Solaris as they do remain a larger earphone in the grand scheme of things.

DSC08565

That said, their larger housings are well-shaped and contact large patches of the outer ear, so concentrated hotspots aren’t an issue, but dull pressure areas can form after several hours of listening. Fit depth is a bit deeper than before and isolation is noticeably improved too. Evidently, they are still not on par with the fully-sealed BA models from Campfire, but with foam or custom tips would surely suffice for loud environments such as public transport. As opposed to the transportable Solaris, the new Solaris 2020 is truly an earphone you’ll want to take everywhere. Though still not an especially compact earphone in and of itself, its fit is more traditional so it carries its dimensions more gracefully than its predecessor.

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About Author

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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