Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 Review

Introduction to the new Solaris 2020

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020
Campfire Audio Solaris 2020

In 2018 Campfire Audio, too much fanfare, released their highly regarded Solaris earphones. It was a significant departure from the companies industrial-looking designs and added yet another option for IEM users looking for an endgame audio experience. They were terrific earphones and the ones that I came to use as my daily drivers for the past two years and the standard by which I measured other earphones.

There was very little I disliked about the original Solaris earphones. It was interesting to see an updated version for 2020, and while these are not revolutionary changes on the original, they are better in every way. So if you want to know more about the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020, feel free to read the rest of this review.

Packaging – A premium unboxing experience

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020
Campfire Audio Solaris 2020

Campfire audio always does some great packaging, and the Solaris 2020 is no exception. It’s a lovely unboxing experience that adds some excitement to the process, and I like the ethical use of materials. You get an outer sleeve with details of the earphones inside and that familiar starry night sky seen on other Campfire Audio earphone boxes. 

Flip it over and remove the seal, then the box unfolds in and displays the box amongst an exploding star background. It’s simple, it’s classy, and I like it.

Now we get to the real nitty-gritty and open the box to reveal a smaller box that contains the accessories and a carry case in which you will find the Solaris.

The packaging is excellent, and with it all being cardboard, there is nothing in the way of waste materials.

Accessories

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 accessories
Campfire Audio Solaris 2020

You couldn’t ask for more in the way of accessories. These seem to be standard across the range of CA earphones as we see the same extras included with the companies Andromeda 2020 earphones as well as the new Ara model. 

In the box you will find the following accessories:

  • 1x Cork Campfire Audio Carry case
  • 1x Cleaning tool
  • 1x Campfire Audio pin badge
  • 3x different styles of eartips in multiple sizes
  • 2x mesh bags for the eartips
  • 2x bags to protect the earphones
  • 1x User Manual and a Warranty Card

Of course, you also get the earphones that come with the cable attached. 

The Cable

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 with cable attached
Campfire Audio Solaris 2020

The cable is a new design from Campfire who has had some terrible quiet cables in the past on their flagship products. The materials and build of the original Litz cables were excellent. Still, the memory retention and propensity to discolor over time was annoying and meant I would always use an aftermarket cable like the Dunu Hulk with their earphones. 

The new cable (the Smoky Litz that you can purchase separately for $200USD) addresses both those concerns and brings it more in line with other premium earphone cables. The bottom half is a quad twist and the top a 2 line twist. 

They have a beautiful dark gray finish to them that will prevent color changes from oxidization from becoming noticeable, and they have excellent hardware for the MMCX connectors and splitter. 

The cable terminates in a right-angle 3.5mm jack, so you will need to buy an aftermarket cable if you want to use the earphones from a balanced source.

It’s still not my favorite cable, but it’s a good one and a massive upgrade from the original Litz.

The Case

The case is also new for this year, and it’s a beauty. Campfire Audio, in my opinion, has the best cases in the market. Traditionally went for a leather-covered clamshell design. They looked and felt great, and they always came to match the aesthetic of the earphones with which they sold.

The new case is made from cork. This choice is part of Campfire’s effort to move further to use sustainable materials in the packaging and accessories. 

The Solaris 2020 case comes in a wine red color, and it matches the IEMs entirely. It’s unique looking and is the perfect size to take the earphones and some accessories when you are on the go. 

I do have one gripe about the case, though, and that is that it is no longer a hard case. The precious models would be much more resistant to crushing, where this one has no structural rigidity.

Build Quality and Design

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020
Campfire Audio Solaris 2020

The Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 has to be one of the prettiest earphones I have ever seen. No pictures can do justice to how good they look and feel in real life.

The original Solaris were significant, and in your face design with the gold faceplates and big body, they had a presence about them and might not have been to everyone’s taste. I liked them, and despite their size, I never had issues with the fit.

I wasn’t sure if I would like the new ones, but as soon as they came out of the box, I was impressed. The body seems far smaller than the 20% size reduction claimed, and the finish on them is perfect.

Instead of the textured gold finish on the previous version, we get treated to a gloss finish black for the faceplate and the body. The nozzles are paired to the body, and their high gloss stainless steel finish provides a nice contrast to the main housing. Those nozzles also feature the new grate design on the Andromeda and Ara models, and it looks clean and will help prevent the ingress of unwanted nasties into the sound tubes.

They are noticeably lighter, too, at around 25% less weight than on the outgoing model. It is evident in hand but very much so in the ear, and it dramatically improves comfort when listening to the Solaris for extended amounts of time.

Fit and finish are exceptional. There are no rough seams or imperfections to be found anywhere on the earphones, and they look and feel like a beautiful piece of jewelry. Campfire proves time and time again why they have some of the best-built headphones on the market, and the Solaris 2020 is the best finished and most premium I have seen from them to date.

Isolation

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020
Campfire Audio Solaris 2020

An earphone’s ability to reduce unwanted background noise comes down to a few factors, but the most important are insertion depth, construction material, and body size. The Solaris 2020 does a great job of isolating.

The body fills the majority of your outer ear, and they are made from high-quality metals with very little space on the inside. Insertion depth is a medium, but they seem much more seated than the original, which I think is due to the angle of the nozzle being set in a different position. The Solaris is a good isolator and provides significant reductions to unwanted background noise.

Comfort

I have medium-sized ears, and I never had an issue with the original Solaris model despite acknowledging it was one of the largest earphones I owned. The 2020 model is a joy to use by comparison, and while it is still on the larger side, it is far more comfortable than the outgoing model.

The body sticks out far less now, and it is easier to get a fit with the mentioned nozzle position. The cable helps as well as they have a new molding for the cable guide instead of a memory wire that can sometimes prove fidgety.

The contours on the body make them sit very nicely between the tragus and anti-tragus of your outer ear, and the metal used for the body always remains cool to the touch, which helps prevent sweaty ears.

These are still not going to be suitable for people with very small ears but they are a giant leap forward in terms of comfort for most people. If you are struggling with finding earphones that fit you can always read our list of recommended earphones for small ears which also contains options from the Campfire Audio line.

Sound Quality

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 packaging
Campfire Audio Solaris 2020

Without a shadow of a doubt, the sound is the reason you want to buy these earphones. The original Solaris set the bar as far as I am concerned when it came to open, airy and engaging earphones. The Solaris 2020 raises it further. Remarkably, they managed to keep it so true to the original, while at the same time, making a significant change is one key area. 

Even though this is quite a prominent and noticeable change, there were no knock-on effects to the considerable soundstage and fantastic spacing that we loved with the original. It is still inherently unique sounding, and I can’t think of any other earphone that produces such an engaging and musical listening experience.

Bass

The low end of the Solaris to my ears remains unchanged. You have the grand-sounding tight and controlled bass, which can unleash holy hell when it needs to. The most impressive thing about the low end of the Solaris is its ability only to act when called upon and not lean to a low bias when not. Its eminently controlled and taught when listening to jazz and rock. It gives texture and lots of detail and doesn’t overly impose itself into the lower midrange. It is also not presented to be the dominant feature of the signature. 

However, when you switch over to bass-heavy music like EDM and Hip-Hop, the Solaris shows just how powerful its low end can be. It has an excellent deep sub-bass response and a punchy hit characteristic of its well-tuned dynamic driver. On Emika’s “Drop The Other,” you feel the real deep vibration from the sub-bass, yet it doesn’t swamp her vocals. On Two Feet “Quick Musical Doodles,” everything becomes clear… the bass is incredible.

The stand-out thing in its tuning is that it can be one of the best bass head earphones you have heard, or it can take a back seat. They’re tuned with the capability to go low, but it’s not tuned to throw low-end grunt out there at all times. I love it as it makes it one of the most versatile earphones I have heard this year.

Midrange

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 case
Campfire Audio Solaris 2020

I don’t use measurements. It’s a good method of validation if you don’t have access to many headphones, something you can go to if unsure what headphones to choose. However, I enjoy the process of figuring out the tuning for myself and seeing how it would fit into my standings. I also don’t check a companies’ official frequency curve graphs before conducting reviews. I want to go in blind, do a lot of A/B testing, and see what my ears can pick up. That might not be to everyone’s taste, there’s no denying the benefits of graphing, but this site is nothing more than a collection of my experiences with different audio products.

Going back and forth with the original Solaris was interesting. They sound so similar in so many areas, virtually indistinguishable, but there is one obvious point of difference. The midrange on the 2020 model is far more prominent and forward. 

Campfire used to produce earphones in two main tunings smooth and musical or visceral and reference. Only in later models did they start dropping some serious bass head and treble head offerings. The Lyra and Vega to me were hugely enjoyable because of the smooth, lush sound in the mids. To an extent, so was the 2018 Solaris. The Solaris 2020 removes some of the lushness and becomes natural and smooth. It’s vibrant as well and packed full of mid-range detail and texture. 

Vocals are without a doubt where you will see the most benefit from this tuning tweak, and male and female vocals excel after being brought forward. The tonality is spot on, and in acoustic vocal tracks, the pushing of the midrange up to meet the treble makes the earphones more energetic and lively while losing nothing in terms of smoothness.

Treble

The upper frequencies of the Solaris 2020 are fantastic. It shows when the treble is done well it can be such a special thing. The transition from the upper midrange to the lower treble range is completely noticeable, it exists without separation or disjointedness. The ability to sound smooth and musical, bright, and airy whilst not diverging to an overly bright and sharp response has to be admired.

The decay sets the ability for the set to produce such an incredible open soundstage. Cymbal crashes crystal clear and vibrant. Never sibilant, never harsh. Jazz shines with these earphones, but the way it compliments the low end on the EDM tracks shouldn’t be overlooked. If you enjoy peaking highs moving into deep bass drops, I can’t think of a better-performing earphone on the market.

Soundstage

The soundstage is huge. This is due to the treble providing an open and airy feeling while the bass gives the impression of a large soundstage that’s not really how it works. Still, the two in combination can be a potent pairing. In the original Solaris review, I state that it was the biggest soundstage I had heard on an earphone to date, and that is still true on the revised model. It’s not bigger though, it’s enormous, but I don’t think it appears more abundant, in reality, just a little different.

Source Pairing

The Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 is an efficient earphone with a low impedance of just 15.5 ohms so it is going to be easy to power from most sources. However, this is an earphone that is very capable of revealing any bottlenecks in your setup and it is worthy of pairing with a top-class source. 

For example, this Solaris 2020 review was conducted, predominantly with the YnLVMei A2, Chord Dave, and Astell & Kern Cube. All of these were fantastic pairing. Moving down a level to something like the Ibasso DX160 and Shanling M2 didn’t sound quite right. 

My recommendation is that if you are going to get the Solaris to use it with a high-end source because they shine when paired correctly.

Negatives

Only three things worth mentioning here. The price and the cable and the size. None of which I think should be a barrier to making a purchase 

They are expensive, but in my eyes, they are worth it. The knowledge and craftsmanship that has gone into the Solaris just can’t be found elsewhere. They are unique, and while there are now a lot more options at this price and beyond than there were upon the release of the original, they remain, undoubtedly, one of the world’s best IEM’s. 

The cable is good but there are others I have just come to prefer using like the Fearless Audio cables available through Linsoul as well as the Dunu Hulk. These aren’t necessary upgrades, of course, all cables sound the same to me so this is more about cable feel and movement.

Finally the size, again not an issue for me with medium ears, or probably for people with small/medium ears. The shrinking of the Solaris makes them a joy to use for me but they are still large earphones so tiny ear folk should look at some of the barrel style IEM’s we have on our list of the best earphones for small ears.

Update Q1 2021

We are well into 2021 and the Campfire Audio Solaris remains one of our staple earphones here at Audiophile On. However, the one that is getting the most playtime is the companies Dorado 2020 model which we reviewed late last year. The Dorado for me is the more pure emotional listening experience in contrast to Solaris’s technical mastery. I am not going to go into great depth here as I suggest you read both the reviews to find out which is best suited for you.

Conclusion

I said at the start of the review; the Solaris is one of my all-time favorite earphones. Well, no, the Solaris 2020 is no one of my favorite earphones. I have a lot of high-end IEM’s, some are on their level sonically, none sound the same. These are unique and special, and that’s just from the sound. The packaging, styling, and build quality are all on top of the line and create a fantastic all-around experience. 

To find out more about the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 earphones the feel free to check out the companies official website.

 

Audiophile Onhttp://www.audiophileon.com
Audiophile On is a website dedicated to high-end audio products. With over 15 years as a reviewer, all articles are hand-written by one person to allow the comparison of products. Headphones, earphones, speakers, amplifiers, or DAC's we cover here.

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