The Andromeda, whilst not the flagship monitor of the Campfire Audio range, is perhaps their most iconic IEM. I remember when I first heard it and couldn’t help but think CA was on to something big here. The synergy of the 5-driver configuration was and still is, fantastic.
So much so, that Campfire has launched quite a few editions of the Andromeda with variations ranging from the finish to an additional 2 drivers for the Andromeda Special Edition in 2019.
Well, come at the end of 2019 and 2020 we have a new ‘version’. However, instead of Andromeda XX, we have a new name, The Solstice, and an entirely new finish, custom.
It will come as no surprise to say that on the inside the Solstice is indeed an Andromeda. The driver configuration has not changed and that means dual high-frequency BAs inside a tubeless chamber using T.A.E.C, a single BA for the mids and a dual BA for the lows.
The specs have not changed with either at 112dB SPL and 12.8Ω which was unusual in 2016 but not so much these days with some going as low as 4Ω
What has changed is pretty much everything around those drivers. The first is a modified acoustic chamber. This might be a similar process to the Solaris SE which also had a modified chamber. Along with the T.A.E.C tubeless design, CA claims that the new chamber enhances the driver responsiveness particularly on the low-end and the openness of the soundstage.
The second is the unusual ‘solid body’ design that now comes in an artist and audiophile fitting. The difference being short and stubby nozzles for comfort or long and probing drum ticklers for isolation and secure fitting.
Unboxing & Accessories
The packaging is consistent with recent Campfire Audio TOTL offerings with the new paper wrap and cardboard flip lid. This one is particularly low profile with the word Solstice of the front and not much else. So subtle that my shipping guy had it listed as a perfume rather than earphones.
Inside, you get the same cool ‘pimpy’ fur-lined black leather case as the Solaris SE. I do like this one more than the original Solaris smooth hide. The crinkled retro finish on the zipper case is extra nice. Plus there is a ton more space to pack in the drivers and more than one cable.
Aside from that and because these are customs you will not find any selection of tips but rather one cleaning tool, the cable, and a manual. That is all you will really need for any custom beyond a silica pack or two.
The Solaris shares the same design principle as the Equinox save for the slightly different stainless-steel shape. The shaping is different to allow for a bass vent on the dynamic driver configured Equinox whereas the all-BA Solstice does not need one.
Beyond that, we now have the more liberal use of the term “solid body” as part of the design vernacular. I tend to think of this as silicone injected or filled mold work.
Some companies tend to use this method for strengthening their shells. However, the Solstice uses a lot of tubeless design internally so this may well be of added importance.
Like the Equinox, the Solstice is a custom 3D-printed acrylic solid-body, (single print). Also, like the Equinox, the Solstice only comes in black with that silver cap in the middle.
This means all of the Solstice acoustic chambers occupy the negative space of the print. This also means that there are no tubes, connecting parts, and drivers because everything is captured in a single print. With this approach, CA are able to optimize the acoustic configuration for each ear inside the 3D scanned impression
The all-black Solstice body combined with the chrome-finished stainless-steel center is visually quite striking and flawless in its finish. Just do not expect it to come in pink, blue, or anything else that takes your fancy.
Then there is the nozzle. Since the Equinox, Campfire Audio has brought in 2 nozzle options – Artist & Audiophile or security and isolation vs relaxed and comfy.
This one is an audiophile finish which is the same approach as the Equinox we reviewed last year. It is impishly short, fat, and deadly smooth. I presume the Artist’s length is more of a ‘drum tickler’.
The Solstice uses a dual-bore exit so no horn design with one largish rounded bore and a smaller second bore just above. The abrupt stop is just about at the point where the Solstice will slip and seal into your ear canal.
The cable is described as a 3.5mm standard smoky Litz which I believe is the same cable as you will find with the IO and Polaris 2. I would have loved to have seen it with the SuperLitz at this price point. That’s a great cable, this is an ok cable.
Visually, the new SPC Litz with the smoky jacket and matching black barrel finish is the perfect visual match for the black of the Solstice. You can opt to get it in 3.5mm TRS, 2.5mm TRRS, and 4.4mm balanced.
The complete cable options line up is as follows:
Smoky Litz with 3.5mm
2.5mm TRRS Balanced,
4.4mm Pentaconn Balanced
Artist Smoky Litz (64″ + Memory Wire Earhooks) Red + Blue MMCX overmolds or Grey MMCX overmolds
Also, the smoky litz cable has no stiff memory wire and instead now uses a springy type memory coating. I prefer this over memory retentive memory wire when sliding over the ear. Less manipulation required and more comfortable as a result.
This particular cable is 1.35m and terminated with a right-angle 3.5mm TRS jack and those beryllium MMCX connectors on the other side. It is a quiet cable, no physical noise on the wire but it does retain a tiny bit of kinking here and there.
Comfort & Isolation
The Solstice are incredibly comfortable in the ear. There is something to be said about half of the mold not probing up into the second bend of your ear canal. Take that long winding bit of the nozzle away and yes, the Solstice becomes even more comfortable.
This is almost like the reverse of that a quality universal monitor design which places a lot of emphasis on the tips doing the final seal. Not here, it is the body and the rump of a nozzle closing the gap.
Does it work? Yes, and no. I see a good case of the artist finishing because I do think the isolation could be a shade better. It is good, better than most if not all universals but a little lower than some of my finer custom fits.
(Tested with a Lotoo PAW Gold Touch, Cayin N6ii, and a FiiO M11)
Well, out of the box the Solstice definitely has an Andromeda tuning but it is not an exact duplicate. The mere fact you are closing out with a custom and not using foam or rubber tips is one factor. The other is whatever little tweaks CA have done internally.
For one thing the Solstice low-end seems to have a little more thickness and slam compared to the original. Mids are a little less edgy, more refined but still with excellent instrumental separation and vocal presence.
The treble I am loving. Has CA faded this ever so slightly right at the top or found a way to retain the note body without the original’s aggressiveness?
Either way, there is plenty of headroom and extension but a slightly lighter touch which in turn delivers some sweet timbre with detail and pace to burn.
And yes, this is still a sensitive monitor and you do not need huge amounts of power at 112.8dB SPL and 12.8Ω. The Solstice will run just fine on anything from a HiBy R3 to a Lotoo PAW Gold Touch.
So the custom Andromeda has arrived in the form of the Solstice. I am sorry I do not have the older versions of the Andromeda to compare this with but I still do have my trusty original green universal so we will get a comparison in the main review.
The performance out of the box is exciting and interesting. Half of me is wondering if the artist fit sounds in any way different to the audiophile given the different nozzle lengths and isolations. The other half is just thankful we finally have a custom Andromeda after 4 years of patiently waiting.
The price is higher than the original, I get that. However, in terms of 5-driver customs it is cheaper than some rivals such as the Empire Ears Phantom and around the same price as the Vision Ears VE5.
CA has done its competitive benchmarking homework so I do not consider it overpriced and it is as competitive sounding in 2020 as it was in 2016.