Campfire Audio has gone through a lot of iterations of their popular Andromeda line of in-ear monitors over the years and it's still one of the most popular premium IEMs on the market. It's always had the nice shell design with bold colors and a good technical and sound experience for the most part, which has made it a staple recommendation for years now, despite the continual change and special edition models that have come out.
And there's been a lot. Even last year, Campfire released two updates to the Andromeda brand, with the 2019 update featuring a new shell design and new packaging, and the Andromeda Gold special limited edition model with black shell and gold fasteners. This year, Campfire has released a 2020 update to this classic line.
This is a follow-up written review of the Campfire Andromeda 2020. I did a video review of this same product earlier and that can be found here: https://www.audiodiscourse.com/2020/08/campfire-andromeda-2020-video-review.html
As a quick note, I do want to thank Taron from Headphones.com for letting me have some time with a loaner unit to write this review with. They also have a community forum called The Headphones Community, which is active and fun forum for audio enthusiast and one I highly recommend.
The 2020 model keeps the identifiable green anodized color and design, along with the updated shell that has more rounded edges that no longer pinch and stab the back of my ears. Like last year's Gold model, the deeper and larger nozzle with grills from the Solaris is now on this 2020 update. This makes this overall, the most comfortable design of the Andromedas that I've tried (Andromeda Gold being the same design).
The packaging features the fancy outer paper covering and an inner box that is reminiscent of last year's opening experience, which is an enjoyable one. The included case is made out of cork and has a greenish hue to it that looks unique and interesting. It has the purse-like look with zippered opening and soft inner padding. The package also comes with tips and several mesh protector pouches to store the IEMs individually in.
The included cable is the Smokey Litz cable that I really enjoyed previously. It's lightweight, tangle-free, and easy to wear, and a significantly better experience than the cable used on the older Campfire products. The connectors are still mmcx at the shell, and the source features an L-shaped 3.5mm connector jack.
Like previous iterations of the Campfire Andromeda, the 2020 model is extremely source pairing dependent. This is because the multi-BA design is very sensitive to the output impedance of the source, whether that be your phone, audio player or an amplifier. Whatever is connected to these IEMs, may make a subtle but audible impact to the level of bass or treble this IEM projects.
In my testing, I've noticed audible changes depending on the source I use as well as the cable length I used! It seemed that every 3 feet cable extender I added made a 1 decibel change to the measurements I performed, with bass lowering and treble increasing as output impedance increased. I plotted a graph below of measuring directly out of the less than 0.10 ohm Topping A90, and using a 2.7 Ohm iFi EarBuddy adapter.
For my actual listening, I tried the Campfire Andromeda primarily out of my Topping A90, hooked up to the Schiit Bifrost 2, as well as my portable DAP, the Sony NW-ZX507.
The ZX507 is about 1-1.5 ohm output impedance from my various FR measurement test approximations, but I have yet to confirm it by measuring it directly.
The Andromeda 2020 has a nice balanced sound signature that is slightly warm with a smooth treble response that is a bit different than the older models. While the older one, I tended to refer to it as "Haze-Fi", due to it's recessed upper mid-range and lower treble, the 2020 edition has that area raised up to a very natural and preferred level for my ears, making this an IEM that closely matches my target preference curve from 1KHz and up.
The first time I put this set on, I immediately noticed the Andromeda's excellent imaging and layering capability. The first track I put on was Tingvall Trio's "Sjuan", which is a piano-led jazz song with deep basslines and a steady assault of snare drums and cymbals. The way each instruments resonates on the Andromeda was surprising, as I don't remember feeling this way when I heard the original set, and it's not something I've noticed in many IEMs in general. To me, it somewhat resembles the type of natural reflection that I heard from the Emu Rosewood cups that I recently reviewed on my Fostex 600 series headphones.
While the Andromeda doesn't quite have the full natural effect that a typical hardwood used for real instruments has -- it does have a little bit of a shimmering effect instead of a natural decay -- I do enjoy the extra bit of resonance that adds a lively nature to my musical selections.
Bass response on these are surprisingly not the extra-warm and sometimes bloated affair I occasionally got with the original Andromeda. It's a little tamer, while still being just north of neutral in warmth. There's not a deep elevated sub-bass, but there's still enough to make it sound present and rounded out. While I do think a little more sub-bass emphasis would have been nice, I can't truly say I missed it either while listening to this product.
Texturing seemed pretty good. It doesn't necessarily have a lengthy decay that is more noticeable to some of it's competitors, but it layers instruments well with the added sonic resonance that creates a nice sound in a complex passage. I noticed that in particular songs from Beach House ("Lemon Glow" or "Lose Your Smile") or Sonic Youth songs.
In "Lose Your Smile", the soundscapes that remind me of Air's Moon Safari come to life well on the Andromeda with glistening instruments panning left and right, and the sweeping synths strung across the field around me. The depth and macrodynamics are quite nice on this track.
On the other hand, "Lemon Glow" does seem a tad tame. This song can really rumble and hit hard with impactful and strong bass response. With the Andromeda, this slam factor is missing a bit. The deep low textures do seem a little missing in this case.
The mid-range is very smooth and coherent and there's not too much more to say about it. I find that vocals are done well. There was never any sense of shout or fatigue or sibilant in any track I heard, and general voice tonality sounded correct. After listening to a lot of recent chi-fi offering where there is an elevated 1-2KHz region, going back to something with a smoother transition between the mid-range and lower treble presence region is a breath of fresh air. Female voices don't come across ultra-forward, and have a little more space to breath.
My best example of this is the Stevie Nicks-led "Dreams" from Fleetwood Mac. Her voice can become very shouty and fatiguing on some IEMs where there is a early and steep rise, but on the Andromeda, her voice is nicely placed not too far forward, while still sounding in the center of the stage.
One example of a track where I find the coherency and mid-range and treble sound very much in-tune with each other is Jason Isbell's "24 Frames." The song has a wonderful amount of instrument play and transitions from an all-acoustic beginning to effects-driven electric guitar in the breaks between the chorus and the bridge that sounds ultra-smooth. Isbell's voice has a soft but defined voice. There acoustic guitar strings have a nice resonance to it, while cymbals hit with nice extension and realism.
I have yet to listen to the 2020 Solaris nor I had a chance to listen to the Special Edition model, but when compared to the original Solaris, from memory, I find the Andromeda to have a much more coherent and more correct tonality and instrument timbre across the board. Where the Solaris may beat the Andromeda is the 3D soundstage which is fun and unique, and perhaps the more natural lingering decay in the bass. That said, the Solaris does not have a typical lengthy decay, but still more so than the Andromeda 2020 does.
The Solaris was a tough one to wear as well, and I had major fit pain after 30 minutes to an hour of usage and this has not been a problem at all on the Andromeda 2020 design. This pick is easy for me, and while I still like the Solaris, the Andromeda 2020 is now the king of the Campfire lineup for my preferences.
The Hidition Viento-B is a Custom IEM that I own now, and does have some similarities to the Andromeda 2020. I find both to have some similar mid-range and treble traits and both have a very natural tonality and strong coherency. The Viento-B has better sub-bass extension and elevation which creates more sub-bass rumble for me, while the Andromeda does have a nice resonance-effect, most likely due to its tubeless and acoustic chamber design.
The MEST is new quad-brid IEM featuring dynamic driver, balanced armatures, electrostatic tweeters and a bone conductor driver for good measure. It has a more V-shaped sound signature than the Andromeda 2020, and I do find it a more exciting listen with a bigger bass response and a more holographic soundstage that seems to change from song to song, while still retaining generally accurate timbre. The Andromeda 2020 is much more even keeled and presents stuff in a more normal and natural way.
The U12t is one of my most highly rated IEMs as it has solid tonality and technical performance. Actually, all the ones listed in this comparison section are very good, but the U12t is also the most boring of all of these in some sense. This is because it does nothing really wrong and does most things right. It does have a lot better bass performance than the Andromeda 2020 in my opinion, with more sub-bass extension and elevation, better decay and slam, as well as a thicker sound. It does have less exciting treble and does seem to be a tad more laid back, and hence I do find it a bit boring sounding, but tonally correct.
The Dawn is also one of those IEMs where I find the tonality its strongest suit. It doesn't quite have the technical chops as the U12t or the Andromeda 2020. I think the Dawn, again, has better sub-bass. The Andromeda has a more coherent sound and much better dynamics as I found the Dawn to sound very forward and missing a lot of depth and layering capability for something that cost $1400. The Andromeda doesn't have issues with this area.
I've said a lot of good positive things about the Campfire Andromeda 2020 and that actually would have surprised me coming into this. I was not a big fan of the original version, but did appreciate it for what it was. This model came in and really took me away. I am impressed most by it's technical performance in the area of layering of instruments, dynamics and imaging. The tonality has changed for the better and sounds much more inline with my target preferences, and I found the new fit to be much more easy to wear and extremely comfortable.
To top all of that up, the standard unboxing and accessories that Campfire has been known for is left untouched and still one of the better packages available today.
My only main area I found lacking was it did not have an elevated deep sub-bass which does make it lack a little bit of rumble and the shakes, and the bigger concern of source matching. The impedance shifts on the Andromeda 2020 are very much the same as the original one, however in this case, I prefer a lower impedance than a higher one.
All in all, the Campfire team did a wonderful job on this updated model to their classic Andromeda. This one comes highly recommended.