Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020: A Legend Reborn

Greetings!

Today we’re checking out the newest version of Campfire Audio’s legendary Andromeda.

My first experience with this well-known model was the 2019 update. I was expecting something fantastic given years and years of glowing commendations from various forums. They certainly didn’t disappoint. The Andromeda is a modern classic for a reason. It looks awesome and the sound quality is just that damn good.

When the 2020 Andromeda was revealed to have received a slight re-tune, I was intrigued. The 2019 model was already near perfect. What could Campfire possibly do to improve things? Enough apparently, all thanks to some minor adjustments to the mids and treble. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

What I Hear The Andromeda 2020 doesn’t stray far from the 2019’s sound, though the adjustments applied result in a product that is clearly superior, at least to my ear holes.

Just as with the 2019 model, I find the 2020 Andromeda’s low end perfectly satisfying. That’s because I don’t really hear much of change between the two models. On Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”, the low range armature on both models attacks it with a growly texture and quick slam for each note. The 2019 may be a hint more textured, but it’s hard to tell given how similar the presentation is. The snappy decay present on both is realistic with notes hanging around only as long as is required. Not unexpected given the Andromeda is a pure-BA earphone, but I’m left wanting for more presence in the sub-bass regions. Even so, I still come away satisfied with what I’m hearing in most instances. Running the Andromeda through a congested, quick track like Havok’s “D.O.A”, rapid double bass hits are clearly defined despite all the chaos going on. As with the previous generation of Andromeda, the low end of the 2020 version won’t wow with it’s quantity or depth. It instead impresses through it’s technical capability and general control. The Andromeda remains one of a select handful of armature only earphones whose low end is tuned well enough to be suitable for my favourite genre of music, liquid drum and bass.

While the low end of the 2020 Andromeda didn’t see many changes, if any, the already near perfect treble has somehow gotten even better. Ignoring the measurements, I find the 2020 model just a hint brighter. I suppose it could be that the new model takes even less power to drive, but this impression comes after volume matching. Extension is still excellent and there are no nasty peaks that caused me any form of discomfort, just like the 2019 model. With last years model I was left looking for a teensy bit of extra upper end sparkle, something that I feel the 2020 model provides. This means it loses some of the older Andromedas non-fatiguing nature, but with it comes improved clarity. Everything just sounds that much cleaner and more detailed while retaining the same smooth delivery and tightly controlled notes. That said, The Crystal Method’s “Grace feat. LeAnn Rimes”, sounds better through the 2019 Andromeda. The screeching effects that sully the track starting at 1:30 almost sounded good with the 2019 Andromeda. With the 2020 model the shrillness present through nearly every other earphone peeks through. Not much of a negative since this is such an extreme, fringe case, but notable none-the-less.

The Andromeda series is known for their luscious mids and vocals, and the new model continues the tradition. As with the 2019 model, vocals are weighty and lush but now with even better clarity. Daft Punk’s “Touch” is a perfect match thanks to Paul William’s emotional performance. I’m even more engaged this time around, particularly at the peripheries of the track when the instrumentation backs down and the focus is on Paul, simply because he just sounds that much more crisp and clear. The 2019 Andromeda was no slouch with this track, but the difference is quite noticeable to my ears. Switching gears to Aesop Rock’s distorted vocals on Malibu Ken’s “Tuesday” or Riya’s breathy performance on Lenzman’s “Open Page”, the Andromeda 2020 handles it all with ease. Helping greatly is some excellent timbre that avoids the plasticy, metallic edge than is common to armatures. Guitars are property textured with the right bite and pianos light and airy or powerfully punchy. The versatility and accuracy the Andromeda presents in it’s midrange keeps it at the forefront.

The 2019 Andromeda’s sound stage didn’t quite meet my expectations based on what I had read about it. It was good no doubt, but it wasn’t the step up I was hoping for. The 2020 model improves upon this and is more what I was hoping for last time around. While the width and depth is only slightly larger and still has an evenly rounded feel to it, the impression of space between individual notes is improved thanks to the cleaner, tighter presentation the 2020 model brings with it. That said, as with last years model the imaging, layering and separation qualities are what really take it to the next level. Imaging is spot on with impossibly smooth, nuanced channel transitions. Tracks sound deep and layered with instruments playing in well defined areas, forward or back on the stage. They never blend and muddy each other, instead remaining separate and clear. This makes live recordings like King Crimson’s “Cat Food” and “Indiscipline” a joy, giving you the impression of sitting among the crowd. Just close your eyes, lean back, and listen.

I remain thoroughly impressed with the performance of the Andromeda. While the measurements don’t show much in the way of change between the 2019 and 2020 models, listening to the two side-by-side does. The new model displays a bit more energy to the brilliance region, improves upon the already impressive staging, but more importantly, brings forth improvements to overall detail and clarity. The differences aren’t sweeping, but they are clearly audible making it hard to go back to the 2019 version, despite how good it may be.

Compared To A Peer (volumes matched with Dayton iMM-6)

Campfire Ara (1,299.00 USD): The Andromeda and Ara certainly sound like sibilings but while there are similarities in how they present, they each have their own character. Starting with upper frequencies, the Ara is the more energetic of the two thanks to additional energy in the brilliance region. This gives the Ara a cleaner, crisper sound and improved clarity. They are both exceptionally quick and well-controlled. Dipping into the mids the Andromeda has more presence with vocals having a thicker, warmer presentation. I also find it has ever so slightly superior timbre thanks to the additional warmth on tap. Bass is where the two are quite similar in terms of quantity, extension, and tonality, though I find the Ara to offer more texture and an even more rapid attack and decay. Sound stage goes to the Andromeda which comes across wider and deeper with more space between layers. That said, I still prefer the Ara’s imaging which is somehow even tighter and more nuanced. Instrument separation is similar, as is layering, though the Andromeda has a slight edge in the latter.

When it comes to build I have to give it to the Ara. They use the same cable and have more or less the same shell design. The Andromeda rounds off the edges a touch more though which gives it a slightly softer look and a barely perceptible edge in comfort, also helped along by the lower weight. So why do I prefer the build of the Ara? Well, the materials. The Andromeda is made from anodized aluminum versus the Ara’s smooth, unpainted titanium. The Ara’s materials are straight up denser and more durable, and will be less likely to show scratches and dents. Plus, paint chips and wear won’t be a concern, though I do expect it to weather over time.

Overall they are both amazing earphones. While the Andromeda is no longer Campfire’s flagship armature-only model, that takes nothing away from how competent it is. That said, they cater to two different listeners. Go for the Andromeda if you want a neutral-warm earphone with good technicalities. Go for the Ara if you prefer neutral-bright with a focus on detail and clarity.

Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020 (1,499.00 USD): The 2020 Andromeda and 2020 Solaris very much sound like they are cut from the same cloth with the Andromeda’s tuning targeting the mids and treble when compared to the Solaris.’ more balanced feel. The treble presentation on the Andromeda is slightly more vibrant with some extra sheen up top giving it a hint more energy. The extra presence region emphasis gives it a bit more detail too, particularly in vocal regions. The Solaris’ presentation carries more weight, warmth, and density, most notable in the mids. That’s likely down to the dynamic driver which shares presentation duties with an armature vs. the Andromeda and it’s lone midrange armature. Attack and decay qualities are quite similar in the mids and treble, as is timbre quality. The low end is where most of the differences in presentation lie thanks to Solaris’ use of a dynamic driver. While bass quantity and extension is quite similar, I found the Andromeda to lack the visceral punch of the Solaris on the same tracks. On the other hand, while plenty quick and un-phased by complicated passages, the Solaris’ dynamic driver lacks the rapidity and effortless control of the Andromeda’s low range armatures. When it comes to sound stage the Andromeda 2020 comes across wider and deeper, despite having more forward upper mids. They both image equally well with the Andromeda showing slightly better layering qualities to the Solaris’ improved instrument separation.

When it comes to design and build, I’d say the Solaris feels like the more premium product. The weight and feeling of density it carries is not replicated by the equally well constructed Andromeda. Added details like the ribbed interior and vent designs also help give the Solaris an edge. When it comes to visual design, I still prefer the Andromeda. While the angular shells in use are nothing new at this point and have been copied to death by immoral imitators, it is aging wonderfully and remains very eye catching and appealing. To me it is a timeless design that will remain desirable decades from now. The Solaris is beautiful too, but isn’t quite as interesting or distinct. If you disagree, good. Like what you like and everyone else be damned. When it comes to cables the Solaris’ is basically the same thing. While thicker, it shares all the same hardware. I personally like thin and light cables so I prefer the one shipped with the Andromeda, even if it is clearly inferior. Overall they both come across as the premium products they are with the Solaris exuding just that much more premium juice from it’s shapely pores.

In The Ear The machined aluminum housings of the 2020 Andromeda are still adorned with their iconic green anodized finish that looks as stunning in person as it does in images. Just as with the 2019 edition, the quality of their machining and anodized finish is outstanding. The shells are smooth with all machining grooves flattened out, and the paint job remains resistant to the chips that would result from small bumps and knocks on past models utilizing the same shell. The ~6mm long stainless steel nozzles that were new to the 2019 model have been replaced yet again for a slatted design that falls more in line with the rest of Campfire Audio’s existing lineup. The same prominent lip that kept tips tightly secured on the previous version remain for the 2020 update. Textured silver screws top things off and attractively accent the green finish. The 2020 Andromeda retains use of Campfire Audio’s familiar and extra durable beryllium/copper MMCX connectors. I say extra durable because that’s what the marketing blurb spouts, but also my now almost three year old and well-loved Polaris has seen tens and tens of disconnects and the MMCX connectors are just as firm now as they were out of the box. Fit and finish is as to be expected, that is to say it is fantastic. Seams are barely visible and everything lines up perfectly without any gaps or off kilter angles.

The 2020 Andromeda comes with the same Silver Plated Copper Litz cable that was new for the 2019 version. The 90 degree angled jack is smartly designed with an extension to permit compatibility with a wide variety of device cases, though strain relief is still stiffer than I find ideal. That said, I still have yet to experience any issues with it on the numerous cables I’ve used with it. My experiences with Campfire’s cables have shown them to be plenty durable. Within the small, reliefless aluminum y-split, the cable divides sending two strands on each side to the ear pieces. Slotting into the top of the split is a small plastic chin cinch. It moves much more smoothly here than on older Campfire cables and as a result is much more useful. Also useful is the retention of the preformed ear guides we saw on the 2019 Andromeda. While the memory wire used on past Campfire Audio cables worked, I found the “memory” aspect of that title limited at best which led to the wire straightening out over time. Ditching that entirely and sticking with preformed guides has resulted in a much more pleasant experience since I’m not constantly rebending the wire to ensure it stays behind my ear. I am glad Campfire Audio has stuck with this cable and is using it with numerous models in their lineup.

When it comes to comfort you’d be forgiven for assuming Campfire Audio’s iconic angular shell design is a pain in the ear. Maybe for some, but not for me. Ergonomics are just right with the low profile Andromeda conforming quite naturally to my outer ear. That plus the use of lightweight aluminum, a small size the belies the chunky appearance, and the stubby nozzle keeps the Andromeda sitting in a way that does not feel out of place. I can wear the Andromeda almost indefinitely without experiencing any discomfort. I also noticed when comparing to the 2019 Andromeda that the edges of the 2020 model’s shell have been softened up and rounded slightly. While I didn’t notice any difference in wearing comfort, those who have had issues with the design in the past might so it could be worth giving them another try if that was what held you back with past versions of the Andromeda.

When it comes to isolation, the Andromeda is outstanding. The fully sealed housings relegate the sharp tapping of keyboards to a subtle snap and the tire rumble of cars passing by to a dull murmur, though as with the IO vocals seem to cut through the silence surprisingly effectively. It really is an odd experience, though handy if you’re listening in an area where you risk being summoned by someone nearby. Of course, should you wish to eliminate this just toss on some foam tips and overall isolation improves even further.

In The Box The packaging for Campfire Audio’s 2020 trio follows the format set by 2019’s releases with the earphones arriving in a squat, square box, protected by an exterior sheath that is sealed shut by a Campfire Audio seal on the back. While past releases had a clear astronomical theme to them, this year things have gone more psychedelic Hawaiian. On the front of the sheath is a large sticker with an image of the earphones along with the usual branding and model info, all set over top of a vibrantly coloured floral pattern. Another sticker is present around the front edge containing another image of the earphones, some company info, among other details, all set over the same wild background.

Breaking the seal allows the sheath to unfold in four segments revealing the main box within. Lifting it out reveals the same uplifting interior to the sheath that we saw last year; the CA logo dead centre with rays exploding outwards in a dramatic fashion. Looking back at the main box we see Campfire’s familiar mountainous scene along with more CA branding. Lift the lid and you’re greeted to “Nicely Done” printed on the front flap and their now standard half-moon carrying case, though this time it is made from sustainably harvested cork instead of leather. You also find a smaller cardboard box containing the main suite of accessories. Tucked beneath it all is a warranty card and manual. In all you get:

  • Andromeda 2020 earphones
  • Cork carrying case
  • Smoky Jacket Silver Plated Copper Litz Cable
  • Final Audio tips (xs/s/m/l/xl)
    Campfire Audio Marshmallow tips (s/m/l)
  • Medium bore single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
  • Campfire Audio lapel pin
  • Cleaning tool
  • Mesh accessory case (x3)

Overall a pretty fantastic unboxing experience, as I have come to expect from the brand. Their use of recyclable, sustainable materials is a brand standard and a welcome departure from the needlessly complicated (though fun to disassemble) and less environmentally friendly packaging of the competition. The accessory kit is right up there with the best I’ve experience thanks to the inclusion of a wide variety of tips and styles. Final Audio’s Type E tips are durable and provide a fantastic seal, giving most earphones you pair them with a slight low end boost thanks to the small bore. The included wide bore tips are fairly standard but they too provide a good seal and are a more balanced sounding option. Campfire’s Marshmallow tips have shown themselves to be fairly resilient for a foam tip and do a great job of boosting isolation and softening treble peaks. The inclusion of a number of mesh bags to store everything in is awesome too.

Final Thoughts While 2020 has been a hell of a year and a complete crap shoot in many regards, not everything about it has sucked the big one. Campfire Audio’s new releases are a shining light amidst the smokey skies and masked wastelands. The all-new Ara is a detail monster, the reworked Solaris addresses the main criticisms levied at it’s precursor, and the new Andromeda soldiers on as reliable and competent as it’s ever been. The updated tuning takes what was already a world class earphone and dials in just a little more goodness, treating those who opt to experience what is pretty much a staple recommendation for many looking to dip their toes into the upper echelon of earphones.

If you already own the 2019 Andromeda you won’t need to upgrade to the 2020 version, though you might still want to. For anyone else looking at TOTL portable audio, the 2020 Andromeda should be on your short list.

Thanks for reading!

– B9

Disclaimer A huge thanks to Caleb with Campfire Audio for arranging a sample of the Andromeda 2020 for the purposes of review. The thoughts within this review are my subjective opinions and do not represent Campfire Audio or any other entity. At the time of writing the Andromeda 2020 retailed for 1,099.00 USD: https://campfireaudio.com/shop/andromeda-2020/

Specifications

  • Frequency Response: 10Hz – 28kHz
  • Sensitivity: 94dB SPL @ 1kHz 7.01mVrms
  • Impedance: 12ohms @ 1kHz

Gear Used For Testing LG Q70, Earstudio HUD100, Earmen TR-Amp, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501

Some Test Tunes

Supertramp – Crime of the Century

Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid

King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic

King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black

Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma

The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy

Steely Dan – The Royal Scam

Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams

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