For non-audio opinions, please refer to my unboxing post.
From the creative geniuses that brought you the Andromeda, the Andromeda CK Pacific Blue, Andromeda CK Snow White, Andromeda CK Iceberg Special Edition and the Andromeda S (also known as SS for Stainless Steel) comes a brand new, totally unique release: the Andromeda Special Edition Black.
Wait no, scratch that. The Andromeda Special Edition: Gold. Sorry, it’s just that when I look at these IEMs, the first colour that comes to mind is really… you know what, I’m rambling. Let’s move on.
The Campfire Andromeda Special Edition: Gold is a mouthful of a name that I’ll hereby shorten as “AG” (for Andromeda Gold) and the original Andromedas as “OG”. It sports two extra bass drivers and boasts a crossover-less setup, so at this point it has nearly nothing in common with the OG except for the shell shape. It has more in common with the now-discontinued Orion for obvious reasons, which brings into question why Campfire decided to associate this new model with the OG in the first place.
Some background here: many would be aware that I have huge respect and appreciation for the OG, getting a much lauded “S-” grade in my ranking list. It is an IEM that, while known for its imaging chops, also has a sound signature that is wholly unique to everything yet somehow doesn’t sound tonally wrong. The OG is characterised by its warm body, which in combination with a contrasted upper treble emphasis made for a sound that was absolutely brimming with “wow factor” that little would find offence to. Unless of course, you’re absolutely afraid of treble.
It’s no surprise that expectations are high for the more expensive, limited-to-1000-units variant of the OG that promises a more “dramatic” experience. With Campfire’s recent string of controversies and bad press, the AG may be one of their last chances to redeem themselves.
MSRP: $1,300 (out of stock)
Driver configuration: 7BA
This unit was kindly loaned to me by the industry standard bloke, “McMadface”. S/N is censored just in case.
Frequency response analysis
This section is meant for those who have not learnt how to interpret the graphs that I create.
The AG’s frequency response is not similar to any academic target curve, so I’ll skip that analysis.
From 20Hz to 1,000Hz which encompasses the ranges of “sub-bass” to “lower mids”, the AG presents a wide-band emphasis that peaks at 60Hz. In theory, this should translate to increased note weight and richness, though potentially at the cost of note separation.
The range of 1kHz to 6kHz seem to be the most contentious, with an oscillating pattern peaking at 2kHz, 3kHz and 5kHz respectively. Most academic target curves only have a single peak usually centered at 3-4kHz to compensate for the loss of head and pinna gain, so this kind of response is seen as undesirable under this interpretation.
This is followed by a relatively large 8kHz emphasis. While the measurement rig produces a 8kHz resonance peak as well, the magnitude and Q-factor of this peak along with sustained SPL up to 10kHz suggests that the driver inherently has its own 8kHz resonance as well.
To put it in simpler terms, the 8kHz spike on the AG will most likely exist on subjective listening, much like the OG.
The “crinacle Neutral Target” is a target curve that represents how I perceive neutrality in an IEM.
When analysed under my own neutral target curve, the AG seem to show a warm V-shape kind of signature, with its warmth mainly derived from the midbass and lower-midrange emphasis. The aforementioned observation of “uneven mids” still apply here.
Obvious comparison with the OG here: the AG boosts up the midrange, but specifically at the points 2kHz, 3kHz and 5kHz as mentioned before.
The 7kHz resonance point of the OG is due to its short nozzle length, which prevents me from hitting the 8kHz resonance with a deep enough insert.
Similar to the OG, it’s pretty hard to nail what exactly the AG’s signature is. It’s definitely not neutral, but then again I wouldn’t call the treble and bass significantly boosted over the mids to call it “V-shaped” either. And here’s an extra kicker: the treble sounds more subdued than that of the OG, possibly due to the lowered contrast between the mids and treble.
While the measurements indicate a focus on warmth from the lower-midrange/midbass emphasis, it doesn’t quite sound overly thick or rich on subjective listening either. The AG, in terms of relative placement between each frequency range, just sounds… balanced. With some additional caveats of course which I will explain later.
As mentioned, the AG is a very balanced sounding set of in-ears, though this should not be confused with sounding “neutral”. The AG is most certainly not flat-sounding and has its own distinct colouration in tone, but not to the extent where it can be referred to as any sort of specialist. In a way, you can consider the AG as a jack-of-all-trades with the subsequent tag of “master-of-none”, where its presentation serves to offend as little as possible.
Treble is one thing I’ve liked with the OG, and the AG takes its own spin on that by virtue of boosting up the midrange. The treble still retains a little bit of the OG’s signature snap and sparkle, though now it sounds relatively reigned in and almost tame in comparison. Treble control and tuning is an extremely hard thing to get right, and the AG manages to pass with flying colours. So, for those who take offence at the OG’s high frequency presentation but like almost everything else about it, the AG just might be your flavour.
And of course if there’s one thing Campfire Audio is known for, it’s the imaging capabilities of their IEMs. Being a modification of the original Andromedas that were held to high regard for their wide staging, you would expect the AG to do the same. And thankfully, they do.
My usual reminders: I don’t usually talk about imaging in IEMs because a good 80% of them are in a vague, indistinguishable blob of “average”. And my expectations are always set low; without the usual interactions with the head and the pinna flange, IEMs simply have a tough time with HRTF emulation. But whether it be due to some form of phase-play relating to Campfire’s TAEC technology (which is basically a box that the spoutless BA drivers fire into) or just a function of the frequency response itself, the Andromedas (all of them) have this distinct ability to throw out the sound a little beyond the ear. I’m not going to throw hyperbole and exaggerations at you, the AG is nowhere close to sounding like a proper pair of headphones much less a well-calibrated 2-channel setup, but having the music sound like it’s not coming from inside your ears or head is a pretty big accomplishment to my eyes.
The AG’s midrange sounds a little bit weird.
Hear me out. The OG’s mids definitely sounds recessed but it did not, in any way, sound unnatural. And here’s where the AG just takes a little weird turn off the beaten track; it’s not bad, but every time I put it on after a listening session with my other daily drivers I just get a tiny nagging feeling that the instruments sound… off. Whatever it may be, it’s not that exactly a hard complaint but it certainly gets shoved right into the forefront especially against the OG.
The other thing about the AG, perhaps a different take on one of the points highlighted as a “Good”: the AG sounds… boring. Almost generic at times, though that could be attributed to how unique the OG was in a time where the “K10 tuning” was rapidly gaining in popularity. The OG holds a special place in my heart in that, despite its boosted lower midrange and suppressed upper midrange, it still manages to sound very clean and almost sterile at times (higher output impedances). An oddity considering that combo usually means a muddy or bloated presentation, but the OG somehow avoids that through a delicate balance of a wideband bass boost and its signature treble spike.
The AG plays around with that delicate balance in a more significant way that the Andromeda S did, and I think it’s a case they’ve broken the fine line with the changes. It could be the uneven mids, it could be the reduced midrange-treble contrast, who knows. I would still say that I can see this being at the top of someone’s favourite IEMs list, but for me I simply can’t get excited at the AG’s presentation. Which is ironic, considering that AG is claimed to be the more dramatic one according to their makers.
In terms of personal enjoyment, my ranking goes as follows:
- Andromeda S
- Original Andromeda
- Andromeda Gold
Ultimately though, the AG is a decent kilobuck IEM that still maintains some of the strengths of its “predecesors”, though ultimately doesn’t do much to set itself apart from the red ocean of high-end IEMs. That said, in my own honest opinion, the AG should be considered as its own separate product rather than as an Andromeda variant. But I guess the Andromeda name is too valuable not to utilise.
Special thanks again to “McMadface” for his kind loaner of the Andromeda Gold for the purposes of this review. Without his help, who knows when I’d be able to get a shot at these babies.
And of course, thank you to my loyal supporters at Patreon, and shoutouts to my big money boys: