The Andromeda 2020 takes everything good from the original version and doubles down on it. Whilst at the same time tweaks some of the more controversial areas that caused a lot of preferential debate.
It is still a fairly ‘musical’ tuning but the BA low-end seems tighter and more defined now with better layering. It also has a stronger and more refined vocal presence and a treble tuning that is slightly more relaxed than the original. Overall, the new internal chamber design with better midrange tuning delivers a smoother and more refined signature to the Andromeda 2020.
Let’s talk about that midrange driver because I think its technical capability is excellent. The tuning helps deliver a perceptibly more vibrant and coherent midrange on the 2020 version with less of a drop of an upper mid dip and stronger vocal performances.
The additional smoothness is also helped by a treble dual-driver tuning that, for me, is hugely different from the original. The older signature had a stronger mid-to-upper treble peak in comparison to the lower treble. You got an almost ethereal-like tone with plenty of sparkle but also a little less body from a lower treble suck-out.
The new tuning also follows the principle of evenness from the Ara but on a slightly downward more relaxed path compared to the Ara’s upward curve. You get a better lower-treble presence and a more relaxed upper-treble tuning. The headroom is still there but the sound is so much smoother, and natural with less contrast and more body.
That seems to have given CA some confidence to tease out more vocal presence on the 2020 without fearing the sibilant reaper. That 1-2k bump is a little higher up than before. Vocals now sound more forward and ‘big’ hence that vibrant signature I immediately heard when A/B’ing the old and new.
Campfire Audio has toned down the levels of bass/treble contrast on the Andromeda to produce a slightly smoother tone to instruments and vocal timbre compared to the original.
The 2016 Andromeda has some nice low-end warmth but a slightly uneven upper-mids and lower treble dip combined with a stronger upper treble peak. This often ended up delivering a mix of ethereal and warmth.
Sometimes it could sound sibilant or smooth depending on what was playing or the type of recording. You could call it excitable or slightly uneven depending on your preference.
This time there are fewer bumps and valleys to navigate from the mids upwards which in particular benefits female vocals which sound broader and more rounded. With the dropping of the upper treble peak and better upper mids presence, everything from percussion downwards has a fuller tone with the better body but also a more liquid and wetter attack.
Overall, a slight bias to even-harmonics over odd with less sharp partial overtones delivering a more forgiving tone than the original tuning.
Staging has changed a bit on the new Andromeda also. It was never the deepest but on the new Andromeda 2020, the bass weight has tightened up over the original creating more awareness of low-end notes both in terms of definition and layering.
Mids are definitely more tangible and further forward in the presentation compared to the older tuning. Vocals come out a bit better with more spacing and air to breathe. Female vocals no longer fade a little with less of a lower treble drop and sound more consistent in their positioning.
Instrumental separation is excellent on the Andromeda 2020 with an above-average sense of width and no lack of air either. Height is perhaps a little less than the original, at least perceivably so given the lack of forwardness on the upper treble.
You do get a more strident forward treble sound on the older version that can create that ethereal tone right at the top end but surprisingly I find the headroom on the new 2020 version to be more natural sounding albeit with less ‘sparkle’.
Down through the years, the original Andromeda has become a reviewer’s reference tool when it comes to efficiency testing, especially for hiss. The Andromeda 2020 does not deviate from that well-worn hiss-detecting path. It is not quite as sensitive as the Solaris (SE & 2020) not anywhere close to the king, Empire Ear’s Zeus, but it’s still a master at seeking out high-noise floors.
The good news is that DAPs are getting better with regard to noise performance so modern DAPs such as FiiO’s M15 and the HiBy R8’s unbalanced outputs are actually quite well-behaved. Not totally black mind you but nothing like you used to get on previous generations.
Their balanced outputs, however, are really a ‘no go’ with too much hiss to be listenable, not that you should need to go balanced with the Andromeda in the first place. This is the same for Cayin’s E02 4.4mm output from their N6ii player. I would suggest the single-ended E01 for a lower noise floor with the Andromeda 2020.
That is not always the case for balanced output pairings. Cayin’s tubed single-ended output on the new N3Pro is noisier than the balanced solid-state output alternative though both have some noise with the Andromeda. The N3Pro single-ended sounds perfectly fine though once the music starts rolling, it is only quiet passages that take a hit.
The iBasso DX220 MAX and the Lotoo PAW 6000 are deathly silent as is the 2.5mm TRRS from Colorfly’s U8, two of the best performers for noise with the Andromeda 2020. I must point out though that channel balancing on the DX220 MAX is not great at very low levels but not surprising given its pure analog design.
Luxury & Precision P6’s balanced output was also surprisingly quiet. However, the gain was way too aggressive from the first step to be useful, a common theme among most some DAPs with stronger balanced output power.
In terms of tuning synergy, the Andromeda 2020 is very easy to match with a wide variety of DAPs or portable sources. It has a likable and flexible signature that only the brightest of DAPs would struggle with.
The quest is really about dynamic range and resolving capability combined with a low noise floor as the Andromeda 2020 does a really good job of letting the source’s capability shine through.
For example, the Cayin N3Pro ultra-linear tube output sounds very sweet and pure but at the same time sounds quite closed in and lacking in dynamic range with the Andromeda 2020 compared to the likes of the DX220 MAX or the HiBy R8. It is not just a price thing, the iBasso DX160 is also a very quiet pairing with excellent dynamic range and channel separation.
There are some nuanced timbral differences depending on the source. The HiBy R8 is a shade softer on the top end compared to FiiO’s M15. The M15 will tease out a bit more of a treble response from the Andromeda with a very clean midrange and slightly less bass bloom compared to the R8.
The DX220 MAX has a more vivid vocal performance compared to those two DAPs whereas the LP P6’s denser presentation outguns them all with incredible texture and detail when paired with the Andromeda 2020.
Campfire Audio Ara
The Ara was one part of the trilogy of releases from CA this year, the other being the Solaris 2020 and of course the Andromeda 2020. It is pitched slightly higher than the Andromeda at $1299 but does share a lot of physical similarities.
This includes the classic edged form factor with a solid-body design, 3D printed interior as well as T.A.E.C. tubeless technology for the higher frequency driver tuning. The Ara also shared the same new MMCX design but also retains the beryllium/copper MMCX connection materials so you get the best of both worlds.
The differences? This is a 7 BA driver universal monitor as opposed to 5 inside the Andromeda 2020. It also uses a machined titanium shell and 3 black Torx screws adorning the faceplate instead of anodized CNC Zirconium blasted aluminum and 3 silvery screws. Both use the same 4-wire 1.35m SPC Litz with a 3.5mm TRS connection and smokey jacket.
The configuration is naturally a bit different with the Ara using one BA for the highs, one for the mids, and four for the lows. The Andromeda 2020 uses 2 for the highs, 1 for the mids, and 2 for the lows. Both use the same midrange driver as the Solaris SE.
In terms of load, the Ara is marginally more demanding at 7.094mVrms compared to 7.01Vrms but otherwise, both are quite easy to drive and both might show a bit of hiss on high noise floor amp stages.
First, a similarity between the two and that is volume, both sit comfortably on virtually the same level on our tested DAPs; the LP P6 and the HiBy R8.
The Ara, overall, pulls your ear a little more north of 1k. Not that it lacks bass, but the mid-bass rise is milder than the fuller and punchier low-end on the Andromeda 2020. The resulting presentation is more linear with a smooth transition into the lower mids whereas the Andromeda is weighted, more forward-sounding with a bit more of a drop into the lower mids.
To balance that out the treble on the Ara is marginally stronger than the new Andromeda 2020 treble which has a very natural but gently fade from 4-10k. The Ara has a very gentle rise in the opposite direction but nothing exaggerated or narrow in peaking that would upset the coherence.
You will hear a more forceful upper harmonic order on the Ara’s notes but less so than the original Andromeda’s highs. What that means is the midrange timbre and the dominant instrumental timbre is more neutral on the Ara but not as sibilant in the upper mids.
The Andromeda 2020’s timbre is thicker than the Ara, with more sustain and a slightly wetter delivery, especially for vocals. The Ara vocals have a comparatively neutral character with less body but are actually a little more forward sounding. Vocals on the Andromeda 2020 are marginally further back when the bass kicks in but they have a more weighted and denser sound.
Overall, if you are listening to reference-sounding tracks with a more precise midrange and treble requirement then grab the Ara. If you need more low-end power, a richer midrange timbre, and a smoother high-end then the Andromeda 2020 is a better bet.
Meze Rai Penta
We covered the Rai Penta earlier this year and it does share a few superficial commonalities with the Andromeda, not least its price. However, that is where the similarities sort of end. These two are very different monitors and will appeal to different tastes.
The Rai Penta’s 5-driver configuration is actually a hybrid consisting of a single 10mm dynamic driver and a quad-balanced armature setup. I am presuming a 3-way crossover with the dynamic driver for the lows and 2 BA for the mids and 2 BA for the highs.
The Andromeda 2020 uses 5 BA drivers with 2 for the highs using tubeless T.A.E.C. technology, 2 for the lows, and that a mid-range BA driver.
We will not draw a direct comparison with their ratings aside from impedance which is 20Ω for the Rai Penta and 12.8Ω for the Andromeda 2020. Despite the switch to Vrms for sensitivity ratings, the Andromeda 2020 is far the easier of the two to drive.
In terms of design, both use CNC aluminum but the approach is very different. Props to Meze for a beautiful design with very smooth and elegant curving on the dark blue CNC sculpted chassis. The CNC Zirconium blasted aluminum and anodized green finish on the Andromeda is very eye-catching also though the edged finish is not quite as refined.
Both use MMCX but the Rai Penta uses the weaker standard brass V1 plates whereas the Andromeda 2020 uses the better beryllium/copper MMCX connection V2 MMC connectors.
The two also use 4-wire SPC for their cables though finished quite differently with a translucent jacket as opposed to smokey, straight-angle metal-finished dark barrels as opposed to CA’s rubbery right-angle TRS jacks.
Comfort and isolation give an edge to Andromeda 2020. The bass port of the Rai Penta means passive isolation is just so-so, even with foam tips. The Andromeda 2020 gets a little closer into the ear and has no venting ports either to produce a better seal.
Both of these monitors are aiming for the same territory, a generally u-shaped musical experience with a solid vocal presence. However, that low-end dynamic driver on the Rai Penta will create a different vibe to the dual BA of the Andromeda.
On initial impressions, the Andromeda does have a punchier or weightier bass response. The Rai Penta actually sounds quite controlled for a dynamic driver but where it comes into its own is the dynamic driver timbre which has a bit more nuanced detail over a longer sustain.
The Andromeda texture is a shade glossier and not quite as ‘gritty’ to bite into. It is harder hitting but smoother in sound with a shorter decay and a perception of greater speed.
From the mids onwards there are a few more differences. For instance, both have a dip in the lower mids but the Rai Penta’s is overshadowed more by its bigger 1-3k hump whereas the Andromeda 2020 1-3k rise is much gentler. Vocals sound further forward on the Rai Penta but can dominate a bit more whereas the Andromeda 2020 sounds more integrated.
The Andromeda 2020 sounds more resolving on the technical side, assisted by what seems to be a better treble extension giving it an airier staging quality. Midrange instruments sound vibrant and articulate.
The Rai Penta isn’t veiled by any means but does not have the same airy headroom with a lower treble dip that takes a little bit of potential openness out. With less treble presence the Rai Penta timbre is natural-sounding but a bit denser and becomes more center focused, especially when vocals come into play.
Vision Ears EVE20
The EVE20 was launched earlier this year as part of Vision Ear’s EVE series of one universal IEM being launched every year which is entirely unique.
Inside this is also an all-BA affair like the Andromeda 2020 but using 6 drivers as opposed to 5 with a dual-vented sub, a dual full-range driver, and a dual mid/high BA driver configuration. The Andromeda uses dual drivers for the lows and highs but a single full-range driver for the mids.
The specifications for impedance are 25Ω for the EVE20 and 12.5Ω for the Andromeda 2020 though their SPL is harder to compare due to CA’s switch to Vrms whereas Vision Ears adopts the more traditional mW dB rating. Suffice to say both are easy to drive but fairly sensitive IEMs and both will show any hiss on high noise amplification floors.
In terms of design, the EVE20 opts for a lightly contoured hollow body acrylic shell a beautiful ruby red faceplate, and an olive transparent acrylic shell underneath. It is hugely different in aesthetics and feel compared to the CNC Zirconium blasted aluminum and anodized green finish on the Andromeda 2020.
The CA design is sturdier, and should take a few more knocks but the EVE20 is lighter and marginally comfier also in the ear with that smooth shell. Neither have bass venting ports, so with the stock tips, both have a similar level of passive isolation. However, I tend to swap out the EVE20 stock SpinFit tips for Final E due to the better performance.
The cable on the EVE20 is a bit basic, a 4-wire OFC P1 Tech-style cable with a black jacket. It is nice and light but sounds a bit compressed and not quite as good as the 1.35m SPC Litz 4-wire included with the Andromeda 2020.
To my ears, these are the two closest direct competitors of the three we compared in this review. Both are going for that musical, punchy sound with good low-end heft, strong vocal presence, and clean highs. The differences are there but more nuanced than say the Ara and Rai Penta alternatives.
For a start, the EVE20 is a little more v-shaped for me. Not so much more bass but more of a sharper dip into the lower mids and greater treble presence, particularly the upper treble.
The upper treble reminds me a bit more of the older Andromeda tuning with a certain ethereal quality to its performance. Certainly, it has more dB up there than the newer smoother Andromeda 2020 treble which has a more linear top-end and a comparatively relaxed 8-10k presence.
On the low end, neither has out and out sub-bass dominance but the slight difference comes from that marginally shorter mid-bass sustain on the EVE20 and the earlier drop into the lower mids. It simply does not take quite the same warmth and weight up into the mids as the Andromeda so instruments and male vocals do not sound quite as meaty on the EVE20.
The EVE20 also has a bit more shimmer and presence in percussion as well as a shade more sibilant emphasis on female vocals with that extended upper treble tuning. The Andromeda 2020 instrumental timbre sounds more rounded to me, a little denser and heavier with its more relaxed upper treble tuning less of a factor on vocals and percussion.
It is still the Andromeda only a better Andromeda. Yes, there could be an argument that it is safer less polarizing tuning with a more relaxed treble. After all, it was the tubeless treble driver that got a lot of people talking about it in the first place.
However, the better midrange tuning, combined with a more vibrant low-end, stronger, and smoother mids tuning and just simply more coherence throughout should win over plenty of followers both old and new.
It is still my reference for reviewing just about any source with its easy-to-drive nature and a sound signature that lends itself really well to a wide range of DAPs. The Andromeda 2020 still retains that classic status monitor for me. It is a world-class elbow dip for any audiophile who wants to get something fun to listen to.