During the original launch of the first three IEMs, the Jupiter was pitched by Campfire Audio as their highest resolution of the range at that time. I am not completely sure if they came out and said this was their flagship and given it is a Quad BA, and there is room upwards, that might not have been the wisest thing to do. However, most people presumed as such based on it being the most expensive.
Of course, being a BA design there is always room to move upwards and onwards and whilst I am not a subscriber to the ‘more is better driver’ theory, when done right, it can and should sound better. So I am not at all surprised that Campfire Audio have taken a bite out of the driver theory and produced their new $1099 5 BA driver Andromeda, which they are putting out there as their best sounding IEM to date. Is it their flagship? Maybe it is this year, who can tell. I am certain though is that the Andromeda is the clearest sign yet of the maturity of the team in CA and the current confidence that their IEM range is doing the business.
What Is The Pitch?
Universal 5 driver
The Andromeda configuration is entirely BA with 2 drivers for the lows, 1 for the mids and 2 (plus tubeless resonator) for the highs. There are not a huge amount of wholly universal 5 BA driver IEMs kicking around in the market at the moment. After hunting around that observation took me a little by surprise. Usually, it is the universal version of an existing CIEM or a CIEM itself that packs in 5 drivers upwards such as the Noble 5, the UM Merlin (hybrid) and or the recently launched universal hybrid the Fidue Sirius (another 4+1 hybrid). Probably the one standout 5 driver in the market by a well-known name was the W50 from Westone, (you can also throw in the UM-50 into that pot also), which we reviewed in June 2014 and I am afraid to say it did not strike a chord with me at all.
CA have sought to differentiate the Andromeda from the cluster of competitive CIEMs out there at this price mark by introducing two key design choices. The first we saw and talked about a little during the Orion review and that is the switch from the previous SPC Tinsel cable to their new Litz constructed cable. Campfire claims that the new cable really ‘ups’ the sonic resolution beyond and introduced up to a 3dB gain in the lower frequency response when they tested side by side the old cable on the Orion. This cable now comes standard with all new CA IEMs by the way so this effect should be felt right across the board.
The second aspect of the Andromeda is the continuation of the use of an optimized resonator assembly we first saw in the Jupiter which CA believe is a clear upgrade on a traditional tube and dampener system that you find in other IEMs. CA’s pitch here is that the resonator assembly allows the Andromeda to really have an edge over traditional designs in terms of detail retrieval and treble extension (primarily applied to the dual BA for the highs) that may not have been possible with tubes and dampeners, even with 5 drivers.
CA have drawn from the previous releases so for the Andromeda it very much a case of “if it is not broken do not fix it” design wise. There are a few minor tweaks though even though both the Jupiter and the Andromeda share almost the same form factor. The biggest one is the color. It is green. I couldn’t honestly say it would have been my first choice but up close and personal it does work much better than I had anticipated as well as having a little more pop than the Jupiter’s blander color scheme.
Second, the materials used and the CNC process seems to have gone through a refinement process with the Andromeda now feeling a lot smoother and of a higher quality finish than the slightly duller materials of the Jupiter’s housing. The CA logo, in turn, benefits from a more prominent and sharper cut on the smoother faceplate of the Andromeda shell. In short, it stands out a lot more.
Bores, Edges, and Screws
The edging on the housing of the Andromeda does feel a little bit sharper and less rounded than the Jupiter which I found to be a curious design choice given comfort can be critical and the screws have also changed to a slightly larger silver variant. They do look of much higher quality but they also much more prominent on the Andromeda design than the more discreet Jupiter screws. One final difference to note is the tri-bore delivery system on the nozzle compared to the dual-bore design in the Jupiter. In all other design areas including nozzle length, angle, and the highly durable MMCX beryllium copper cable connectors are the same between the Jupiter and Andromeda.
Overall the Andromeda does have a slightly more solid industrial feel than the Jupiter and in the hand, it also feels a tiny bit heavier. Given that it is packing an extra driver it would not be a surprise to me that there is some official weight differential though very marginal.
Fit & Seal
Despite the slightly sharper edges of the Andromeda, the fit and comfort levels were excellent and on the exact same level as the Jupiter which was also a very good fit indeed. I was half expecting these to have a slightly more unforgiving fit and of course ears do differ but thankfully at no time did I feel any undue pressure on my outer ear. Given the weight and aluminum finish though you do feel a bit more presence than the tinier Westone variants though the MMCX system does give you more lateral movement to get them snug and secure.
The seal with the Comply tips is well above average and whilst the nozzle is not the deepest there is really zero movement or gaps being created in either an open or close jaw stance. Once again the Andromeda beats out the SE846, IE800 and the Roxanne for fit and seal, which at this price is essential.
The cable on the CA IEMs is a bit of a journey with the rather stiff memory plastic coated sheath cable in the beta units to the more pliant wearable version in the retail release to the now, and in my mind, superior Litz cable that I spoke about before in the Orion review. The original cable was constructed from SPC (silver plated copper) into what CA term as their ‘tinsel wire’ and was housed in an FEP (Fluorinated ethylene propylene) jacket.
The new cable is now a dual wire braided SPC Litz 1.35m cable of similar length to the original Tinsel wire but a bit thicker and heavier. It is much more pliant and easier to work with no memory retention whatsoever and a very classy matching y-split silver metal tube and clear plastic chin strap. It is terminated with MMCX pure Beryllium copper connectors and it retains the transparent plastic right-angle 3.5mm jack from the original tinsel cable.
The newer Litz cable also has soft and easy to manipulate memory plastic-coated sheaths just like the previous version 2 of the Tinsel cable. It is purported to generate an increase in overall dynamic range, a 3dB gain in the low-end response over the previous cable as well as producing a cleaner more resolving signature than the Tinsel.
The final change to the Andromeda release is more of a cosmetic one but nevertheless an initial out of the box eye-catching one and that’s the good old “huggy bear” style leather case. Magnificently worn looking tan leather with lashings of internally lined fluffy fur has now been replaced by a chocolate brown leather finish and, yes, lashings of fluffy fur. Combined with the green of the Andromeda it is an attention-seeking combination, bolder perhaps and probably quite pornographic on some audiophile level.
It does everything that previous designs have done before; great at protecting your IEM, enough room for a spare cable or set of tips and doesn’t look out of place on a camping week for two in the Rockies or in the back pocket of your local pimp.
Beyond the new chocolate infused hard case CA have also seen fit to include a number of other accessories including:
A guide booklet
Comply TX-400 Tips
Foam earphone Tips
Silicone Earphone Tips
Earphone clearing tool (with magnetic holder)
Small CA branded broach
Andromeda Sound Impressions
The Andromeda probably has one of the best tonal frequency responses I have heard in a long while for a 5 BA driver setup or any setup for that matter outside of the big hitters from 64Audio and Vision Ears. It is incredibly more expansive in many respects compared to the Jupiter, with only a purposeful coloration where it matters and showing off excellent clarity and detail.
I would not though term the tonal balance as neutral, lean or thin. In fact, it has a decent amount of body to it which makes the level of clarity all the more impressive. The Andromeda has a very high level of musicality combined with a high degree of technical capability right across the board.
The Andromeda is essentially tuned with a solid and weighted low-end response that cascades downwards from the get go and with some elements of peaking around the 2-4k for vocal presence focus and a nicely plateaued peak around the 7-10k marker to allow the treble to shine without any sudden and sharp peaking. It is a very organic natural sound overall with a slightly u-shaped response which is going to appeal to a lot of casual and audiophile listeners alike.
I always loved the energy the Jupiter gave me, especially in the mids and treble performance, but the Andromeda is just that bit more resolving in comparison with superior staging, dynamics, and instrumental separation. Be warned, it is highly sensitive, can throw out a bit of noise on less efficient amps and tonal balance can change depending on the output source you connect it to. I have grown used to the CA line up being very efficient, the Andromeda just might be the most efficient of the lot.
I love how CA tuned the Andromeda bass. Thick, weighted and more forward sounding but resisting any temptation to overcook the mid-bass and instead keeping everything controlled and deep. Sub bass reach and presence is excellent for a BA with a greater emphasis on the 30-60Hz marker before it starts dropping down towards the upper bass to lower midrange transition.
Nothing bleeds or sounds bloated, definition and articulation are excellent also and unlike most BA designs the low end of the Andromeda sounds very spacious indeed. It is the kind of snappy solid bass that works very well with arena rock for me, adding excellent depth and body with double kick drums.
Spacious, smooth and with plenty of detail. Avoiding that mid-bass or upper bass hump really allows the Andromeda mids to shine with a very natural sounding instrumental separation and timbre. Vocal presence is elevated around the 2-4k range bringing a welcome focus on vocal performance without losing everything else behind them.
Both male and female vocals sound life like, never overly rounded or lacking in detail. It can be a little source dependent, some will give the midrange a little bit more neutrality such the AK240 and others, such as the Shanling M5 will produce a warmer sound. In both cases, though sibilance was kept to a minimum and detail still shone through. I would caution on using the Andromeda if you are hugely into shredding solos, though, it doesn’t have the searing neutrality or a sharp enough attack to keep pace. For that, I still think custom units such as the VE6XC and the Roxanne have the edge.
CA has been clever with the treble tuning and certainly the resonating chamber design makes it mark by offering excellent extension and clarity combined with an FR curve that, whilst elevated, is not peaky. Forwardness is apparent around 7-10k but it is not a straight up and down tuning thank god, there a mild plateau that keeps sharpness satisfyingly in check. So whilst you get the impression of the Andromeda being revealing and lively with little in the way of roll-off you just wouldn’t term it as being inherently bright or too strident.
The Andromeda is efficient, to put it mildly. Rated at 12.5 ohms and 115dB means it will run on just about any half-assed amp and will still have the propensity to sound pretty well driven. I wouldn’t classify it as a hugely forgiving IEM though and there are some marked variations in its tonal balance based on what exactly you match it with. Output impedance matching is a factor in Andromeda’s performance.
Quite apart from that noise will also play a role in matching, though those using a Jupiter or one of the other CA IEMs and wishing to upgrade will not be terribly surprised by that statement. I have regularly referred to the Jupiter in efficiency and noise testing simply because it is one of the most revealing units in my collection and the Andromeda probably even more so. Noise is amplified from the usual source suspects such as the Shozy Alien, the Sony ZX1, and ZX2, Cayin N5 balanced out. Also from the well-worn lineup from traditional amping setups such as the Cypher Labs Theorem 720.
Other Audible Matching Quirks
To be frank, those names shouldn’t evoke too much of raised eyebrow, however, previously and relatively quieter amp stages on other IEMs did throw up a little too much noise and mechanical quirks for my liking. Amps such as the Mass Kobo 395 (lots of hiss) and ALO Audio’s CDM on low gain (minor hiss), Shanling’s Flagship M5 DAP (hiss), the latest iPod Touch 6th Gen (crackles during track selection) and even Cypher labs efficient IEM portable analog amp pot noise and power up pops were quite audible. Better behaved sources included the X7 and X5ii from FiiO, the Lotoo Paw Gold, the Opus#1 from The Bit and on the amping side the iBasso P5 (without the power pack), Stoner Acoustics Ruby, Mojo and the RX from ALO Audio.
Default DAP Volume
Note that in some cases the default starting volume for quite a lot of the DAP’s was simply too high. For example, the X7 was about 8 steps below stock volume settings and the X5ii at just 22 digital steps so do as an advisory I would drop the volume before starting any audio playback on DAPs just to be on the safe side.
The core tonality described is really a best case scenario, a sum of the averages so to speak. In truth, the Andromeda shifts its tonal balance somewhat depending on the output source or amp being matched to it.
FiiO X5ii & Sony ZX2
For example, paired with the FiiO X5ii you get a balanced clear sound with a greater emphasis on a snappy tight bass performance than sheer quantity. By contrast, the slightly noisier Sony ZX2, (without ClearAudio+ but including DSEE HX and Dynamic Normalizer), sounds a touch more neutral, slightly darker, and less forward sounding than the X5ii especially in the mids. You can of course switch on ClearAudio+ but that just brings everything was too forward particularly at the low end; great for bass heads and EDM does get some additional bass heft but it lacks a bit of coherence on everything else for me personally.
FiiO X7 & Shanling M5
FiiO’s X7 exhibited excellent noise control on the AM1,2 and 5 modules but combined with the X7 the Andromeda didn’t wow me on any of the modules. Don’t get me wrong, they sounded good, technically excellent actually but it was missing a touch of sparkle particularly with vocals which I found sounded much better on the Shanling M5 even if it was the noisier and brighter of the two DAPs. My advice with the X7 is to keep the more neutral and efficient IEM module locked on or at the very most the AM2 module. The AM5 module does it no favors with its very high output power.
Accidental Hero – Kojo KM-01
Quite by accident, I stumbled upon an incredibly bewitching stacked pairing of the Kojo KM-01 brass analog amp and the Andromeda. It smooths out a lot of the rough edges on the treble performance of the M5, adds some tasty richness into the low end and keeps the vocals very much ‘on song’ with DAPs such as the Paw Gold. The Kojo KM01 also eliminates the M5 and Cayin N5 noise with a black background and sounds absolutely wondrous with strong female vocal performances.
Anggun’s “Want You To Want” is an amazingly rich and powerful contralto pitched vocal and a background piano. It needs a setup with plenty of control and space for it to sound at its best as well an accurate timbre for the dominant piano background track. The Andromeda/Kojo combo nails it and then some, sounding spacious, full-bodied and attention grabbing. It is just a pity there was only 300 of this little brass portable amp wonders made and it does weigh a proverbial ton for its size.
Campfire Audio Jupiter
Of the two the Andromeda is also marginally the easier to drive with perhaps a 1-2 step difference using the Paw Gold. There is though a qualitative tonal difference between these two particularly in body, depth of bass response and vocal/mids performance. The Andromeda has the weightier, meatier sound with a full-bodied sub-bass performance that is lacking in the Jupiter. The Jupiter’s bass is good, decent presence and a hint of warmth, but it doesn’t have the same impact as the Andromeda. Vocals on the Andromeda are more forward than the Jupiter though both have a nice natural feel about them.
The Jupiter also lacks the spaciousness and dynamics of the Andromeda. Tonally it’s on the same wavelength but just does not have that same engagement and clarity that the Andromeda is capable of.
I always thought of the SE846 as one of the most sensitive IEMs out there until CA released their BA IEM range. The Andromeda really is way more sensitive than the SE846 with quite a substantial difference in gain and volume settings on just about every source I used. For example, on the Paw Gold, the SE846 sits around 45-50 steps whereas the Andromeda is quite happy at 10-12 steps lower (35-40).
Tonally the Andromeda is more spacious and airy sounding than the SE846 with better treble extension and a more expansive and vibrant midrange. Bass performance on both is thick and weighted but the focus of the Andromeda is slightly lower on sub to mid than the SE846 which is a bit more mid-bass focused. Personally, I find the Andromeda more cohesive and 3-dimensional sounding than the SE846 flatter tonal presentation.
The IE800 single dynamic flagship IEM can never be considered a bastion of comfort and isolation unless you do some serious tip swapping. Compared to the Andromeda it falls way behind on these two aspects and is also considerably harder to drive effectively.
Tonally the IE800’s dynamic driver is competitive in terms of delivering an excellent, if slightly over-emphasized bass, excellent levels of clarity and good treble extension. However, the midrange lacks the same richness and natural flow of the Andromeda and whilst the treble does extend ever so well it is a lot more brittle and spiky sounding than the Andromeda’s smoother response. At times the IE800 has the chops; classical, some aspects of EDM it really excels in but for pop, rock, jazz, and soul the Andromeda takes some beating.
JH Harvey Roxanne
Double the driver count, 12 versus 5 but relatively similar pricing for the universal. In theory, that should give the Roxanne a technical advantage with double driver counts across the lows, mids and highs. It also makes it a big beast and comfort and fitting wise a definite try before you buy. There is a gap also in sensitivity with the Andromeda requiring about 3-5 steps less on the Paw Gold volume setting minimum.
For all that additional driver count the Roxanne sounded surprisingly muted compared to the Andromeda. Top end sparkle was lacking compared to the Andromeda using the Paw Gold as the main DAP and source and keeping the bass tuning to a minimum. The Roxanne also sounded less spacious than the Andromeda and lacking in a bit of quality extension at both ends comparatively speaking. The resolution and detail are great on the Roxanne by the way but it just doesn’t have the same level of brilliance as the Andromeda which I think makes all the difference.
There are IEMs and customs in particular that are throwing out 8 drivers at $800 and 10 drivers for not much more than a grand. You would think a 5 driver BA design shouldn’t outperform any of them and therefore the $1k isn’t justified. You would be dead wrong on that account unless you have some perverse taste in uber treble thin performances in a phone box type of environment. The CA Andromeda punches way above its numbers in terms of delivery and tonal excellence.
This is a musically driven u-shaped response. Do not expect it to be a neutral color free experience, but it’s fantastically fun to listen to and the details are all there in a very spacious setting. It is also dead easy to drive and though its tonal balance shifts a little depending on what you match it with I found it overall to be a very flexible IEM that just simply sucks you right in and performs regardless.
I am also glad to see CA come out and say that the Andromeda is THE flagship and there will not be anything higher than it for a while, if at all. The cable issue also seems to be very much settled and with the inclusion of the Nova I think Campfire Audio has an incredibly competitive line up of IEMs right now on the market.