First Impression: Campfire Audio Ara vs Andromeda 2020

Introduction

Ken Ball started Audio Line Out in 2009, hand-building some of the most excellent niche audio cables in the world. His efforts grew that company from his basement into ALO audio; of the most well-regarded names in personal audio. A long line of successful amplifiers and cables spread and cemented that reputation, which remains firmly in place today.


Campfire Audio announced the launch of three new models, Campfire Audio Ara, Solaris 2020 and Andromeda 2020 in May 2020. ConnectIT and Campfire Audio had hosted a Facebook live stream to introduce on these models. For those who missed, you can check it out on my YouTube channel:

I have been impressed by Campfire Audio since the first launch of Orion, Jupiter, and Lyra. To me, the new Campfire Audio Ara is an upgrade for the current pure balanced armature (BA) drivers models. For Andromeda, it is now getting closer and closer to perfection, with minor upgrades throughout generations.

Unboxing

I did an unboxing video for Ara, here's the video:

Basically, the accessories included in the packaging is almost the same for three models, except the case of different colour and Super Smoky Litz cable in Solaris 2020.

Technical Specification

Campfire Audio Ara

  • 10Hz–28 kHz Frequency Response

  • 94 dB SPL @ 1kHz: 7.094 mVrms

  • 8.5 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance

  • Dual High Frequency Balanced Armature Drivers + T.A.E.C.

  • Single Mid Frequency Balanced Armature Driver

  • Quad Low Frequency Balanced Armature Drivers

  • Beryllium / Copper MMCX Connections

  • Machined Titanium Shell

  • Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber™ (T.A.E.C.)

  • PVD Black Stainless Steel Spout

  • Black Screws

Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020

  • 10Hz–28 kHz Frequency Response

  • 94 dB SPL @ 1kHz: 7.01 mVrms

  • 12.8 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance

  • Anodized Emerald Green Body

  • Dual High Frequency Balanced Armature Drivers + T.A.E.C.

  • Single Mid Frequency Balanced Armature Driver

  • Dual Low Frequency Balanced Armature Drivers

  • Custom Beryllium / Copper MMCX Connections

  • Machined Aluminum Shell

  • Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber™ (T.A.E.C.)

  • Stainless Steel Spout

Build

Ara is the first model that Campfire Audio utilised Titanium in building the shell. The shell is well polished - shiny and smooth. To certain extend, I find the surface is smoother as compared to Andromeda. There are three black screws on the faceplate to secure it. You can find the same Campfire Audio logo engraved on the faceplate.

For Andromeda 2020, it has a anodised emerald green aluminium shell, which looks the same as previous generations (except for limited edition). Similarly, you can find the three screws and Campfire Audio logo on the faceplate, nothing has changed here.

Both models are using Campfire Audio custom beryllium/copper MMCX connection. As a Campfire Audio IEM users for years, MMCX failure seldom happen to me. I have 100% faith to the quality of this MMCX connector.

The nozzle is slightly different on Andromeda 2020 as compared to previous generation. The nozzle no longer having a triple sound bore design, it is now using a grille like nozzle, which can be found on IO and Polaris II. The material used is still the same, stainless steel. For Ara, it is using a stainless steel nozzle too. Campfire Audio took additional physical vapour deposition process to colour the nozzle to black. The nozzle is longer on Ara, which is similar to IO and Polaris II.

The stock cable provided in the box for both models is Smoky Litz cable. This cable made its first appearance in the launch of IO and Polaris II. This is a huge upgrade from original Litz cable in term of ergonomic aspect. The cable is now more supple and soft. The metal wire in the ear guide is removed for a better fit, especially for a user with spectacle, just like me.

Fitting and Isolation

I particular like the fitting of Ara - the deeper insertion and smoother surface results in a more comfortable listening experience. For Andromeda, the insertion is not as deep as the Ara. However, it still provides me with sufficient isolation.

Sound Analysis

Both of the models can be easily driven with smartphones or digital audio players (DAPs). I am using my reference DAP, Lotoo Paw 6000 for this first impression. Both models are paired with original Smoky Litz cable, using Final Audio Type-E ear tips provided.


The two models are relatively sensitive, as compared to IEMs from other brands. When I paired it with more powerful amplifier like my ALO Audio RX Nickel version, a noticeable hiss presence.

Sound Signature

Both of the models are having the similar profile and characteristic - well-balanced with slight touch of brightness. The attacks and decays are fast on both models, personally I feel it is faster on Ara, which makes it better in terms of details presentation. Andromeda 2020 is having a more reserved speed, making in more neutral and polite as compared to Ara. The resolution on both IEMs are extremely high, definitely in the top of the line (TOTL) range.

Soundstage

The soundstage of Ara and Andromeda 2020 are comparable. Ara has a slightly richer texture, probably related to the fuller-bodied bass. Andromeda 2020 will sound more spacious and airy under this comparison. The presentation is neither too forward nor away from the listeners.


Separation is never an issue for Campfire Audio. Note to note from the track are well-separated. In the period of auditioning, I do not face any congestion in the presentation. The layering is better on Ara, the deeper bass response is layered well with the mids and highs, making it a more capable monster to handle complicated genres like rock bands.

Lows

This is the most prominent difference in terms of sonic performance. Having twice the number of low frequency drivers in Andromeda, Ara ables to produce bass with fuller-bodied and deeper extension. The punch is more prominent as compared to Andromeda. It preserved the fast, tight and clean bass of Andromeda, or even improvised on it - yielding in a speedy and precise bass.

For those who are looking for an upgrade in the bass region from current Andromeda, Ara is definitely a good choice.

Mids

Both models are powered by dual BA drivers in the mids. The mids of Ara is positioned slightly forward, as compared to Andromeda 2020. I observed the transition from the bass to mids has been done better by the Ara, possibly due to the fuller bodied bass. On Andromeda, I can always feel the slight recess in the mid bass and lower mids, to ensure the bass is not colouring the mids.

Despite having a deeper and fuller bass, Ara does not suffer from mids colouration, which is common issue for full-bodied bass.

The mids on Ara is more energetic as compared to Andromeda. For those who are used to the Andromeda mids, you might find it a little aggressive. I actually enjoy this more aggressive mids. It brings vocals and mid frequency instruments closer to me. Both models are having a natural timbre in mids. Nicely done!

Highs

As I mentioned, both of the models are having slight touch on brightness. This profile is more significant on Ara. The highs sparkle more in Ara as compared to Andromeda. Andromeda is doing a better job here - smoothly and well-extended highs. Possibly due to the fuller-bodied in overall sound profile, the highs of Ara experience some lack of space and air as compared to Andromeda.

The sparkles are now more prominent and penetrate deeper into the listener.

Verdict

Ara is indeed a good upgrade for Andromeda in many aspects such as deeper bass and fuller-bodied mids. It has the same profile and characteristic as Andromeda, but at the same time with some significant differences on some regions. This is a good addition to the lineup - with Andromeda 2020 and Ara, Campfire Audio definitely can fulfil more needs from different groups of audiophiles.


Stay tuned, full review on both models will be online soon!




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