Battle of TOTL - Campfire Audio Solaris

Introduction:

I started this particular hobby since 2016. It is always enjoyable and memorable. This year I decided to accomplish something different - actively providing feedback and opinions in this forum. The friendliness of fellow Head-Fiers make the journey fascinating.

I have been impressed by Campfire Audio for long since the launch of Orion and Jupiter. I can still remember how they created an unforgettable memory with their performance. Started with Tinsel (Balanced and Unbalanced) as their stock cable, move to Litz (Unbalanced) then Cerakote (Ck) coating, Campfire Audio has never disappointed me and I believe most of their fans.

This year, Campfire Audio take a huge leap, announced the launch of Limited-Edition Andromeda S, with stainless steel body and the long awaited Solaris - the new TOTL. I have been waiting for this unit to arrive in Singapore for long and finally I can share my honest opinions with fellow Head-Fiers in this platform.

Packaging

Accessories - Campfire Audio Premium Leather Earphone Case

- Earphone Protection Sleeve

- Super Litz for Solaris (Silver Plated Conductors featuring multi diameter stranding with Berylium Copper MMCX and 3.5mm Stereo Plug)

- Final Audio E-Type Tips (xs/s/m/l/xl)

- Campfire Audio Marshmallow Earphone Tips (s/m/l)

- Silicon Earphone Tips (s/m/l)

- Campfire Audio Lapel Pin

- Cleaning Tool


Specifications - Dual Custom Balanced Armature Drivers + T.A.E.C. (High)

- Single Custom Ported Balanced Armature Driver (Mid)

- Specially Tuned 10mm Dynamic Driver (Mid + Low)

- 5Hz–20 kHz Frequency Response

- 115 dB SPL/mW Sensitivity

- 10 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance

- Less than 1% Total Harmonic Distortion


Build, Fit and Isolation The outer shell of Solaris is 24K gold plated. The colour is closed to Sony WM1Z outer body. The braiding of the new Super Litz Cable looks like Silver Litz which is used on Atlas. The braid is very strong while the flexibility is not compromised. This IEM is relatively big as compared to other Campfire Audio IEMs. Nonetheless, it sits well in my ear and the isolation is good. This is subjective because I have a relatively big ear. Those who have small ears might find it challenging to have a good fit and isolation.

Pairing I used Opus #3 and stock Super Litz Cable for this review.

Test Track - Hotel California (DSD) - 90/160 on low gain

- Somewhere, Somebody (DSD) - 90/160 on low gain

- Billie Jean (24 bit/96 kHz FLAC) - 50/160 on low gain

- Misery (16 bit/44.1 kHz FLAC) - 55/160 on low gain

- Perfect (24 bit/ 44.1 kHz FLAC) - 55/160 on low gain

- Don't Know Why (16 bit/44.1 kHz FLAC) - 55/160 on low gain

- Red (16 bit/44.1 kHz FLAC) - 55/160 on low gain

- Hello (16 bit/44.1 kHz FLAC) - 55/160 on low gain


Sound This is not a power-hungry IEM, just like other Campfire Audio IEMs. It can be easily driven. Impedance mismatch at the DAP output might cause hissing for this IEM. The sound signature for this IEM sits between fun and analytical. Balanced and smooth across the whole frequency spectrum with no particular emphasis. The soundstage is wide and very precise imaging is performed. It gives me a "wow" within the first few seconds. The depth might be insufficient if you are comparing with TOTL like Legend X from Empire Ears but I believe this can be improved through cable rolling.

Bass The bass attacks fast and decays fast. It has sufficient power to hit your eardrum while maintaining the presentation in other frequency spectrum. Simply says, it does not bleed towards the mids. I find the bass slightly lack depth, but this could potentially cause by my DAP. I will continue to try with other DAPs. When listening to Misery from Maroon 5, the few second kicks will definitely make your body shake with the rhythm. The body of bass is rich. People might expect the bass to be like Atlas or Vega but unfortunately it is not. The bass is more well controlled. Not as emphasis as you can find in Vega and Atlas making this IEM more balanced sounding.

Mids As a Mandopop lover, I appreciate good vocals – both males and females. IEM that can produce the vocal with dynamic and soul will definitely win my heart. I love how Solaris brings the mids – smooth presentation. It’s neither too aggressive nor recessed. Campfire Audio successfully find the balance. Fascinating. The upper mids are breathy and spacious. When I am listening to Jennifer Warnes’s Somewhere, Somebody, the layering is done flawlessly. Her vocal is silky smooth with soul. Very neutral.

Highs Solaris has a well-extended high that is not fatigue causing or piercing. The presentation of the high frequency is gentle, spacious and airy. After long hours of listening, I find myself a little reluctant to remove it from my ears. The cymbals sound crisp in Solaris. Very well-articulated.The highs of Solaris is very similar to Andromeda. If you loved Andromeda, you will love this.

Comparison Andromeda S vs Solaris I will say Solaris is an upgraded version of Andromeda S which tackles the mentioned insufficient in Andromeda S. It sounds fuller and more dynamic as compared to Andromeda S. This is provided you are interested in a fuller and richer sound signature. The space and air in Andromeda S is more than Solaris so in term of details presentation Andromeda S plays it better.

Legend X vs Solaris Legend X, being the TOTL of Empire Ears has set a high reference point for other TOTL. Legend X has a deeper presentation, especially in lows. If you were a bass head, go for Legend X. For me, Solaris’ lows impressed me sufficiently and more extended lows will make a negative influence – might crack my mind. Legend X has a smoother presentation. If you need something with better details presentation, go for Solaris.

Phantom vs Solaris TOTL of Empire Ears EP Series, Phantom has a rich and smooth presentation. This is a close fight with Solaris in term of price. I prefer Solaris – wider soundstage, better presentation in details and more well-controlled bass. I always find the bass of Phantom a little tubby and the overall presentation is blanketed. Solaris is more open overall. Plus one for Solaris!

Verdict Being a long waited TOTL and high benchmark set by Andromeda, many audiophiles will have high expectation towards Solaris. After spending some quality time with it, I will consider change my daily listening reference to it. It does not disappoint me but impressed me with how it sounds. Well done Campfire Audio, Well Done Solaris!

 

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