[Cliffnotes] Campfire Solaris Special Edition: Cosmetic

Welcome to my Cliffnotes, a series where I push out rapid fire opinions of some of the IEMs I’ve heard but can’t be bothered to fully review. Thus I won’t get too in-depth,  nor will I be too formal and technical. Less analysis, more… from-the-heart if you will.

Introduction

The Campfire flagship needs no introduction at this point.

Whether you know it as Campfire’s greatest creation or as the centerpiece of Campfire’s greatest controversy, the fact remains that it is one of the most famous IEMs out there today. It’s no Andromeda, but in terms of combined acclaim and notoriety, the Solaris gets closer than any other model that Campfire has ever released to date.

And we all know that when Campfire cooks up something popular, the special editions are sure to follow.

So what exactly is the difference between the Solaris SE and its original? Apart from the abalone faceplate, Campfire claims the following:

And of course, a $400 premium over the original’s $1,500 retail price.

Product page: https://campfireaudio.com/shop/solaris-special-edition/

MSRP: $1,900

Driver configuration: 1DD + 3BA hybrid

The Big Question:

Is there unit variance?

I’m cautiously relieved to say… no.

Yeah I know, a sample size of 2 is a joke by itself, but it’s not like I have free access to multiple samples of a limited-run product. At this point, I’m happy to just not have to fight Campfire again.

(High frequency variation is within the norm.)

The Impressions

It’s a Solaris.

No wait, that’s not fair. It’s a Solaris with a different faceplate.

Now before the Campfire crowd pulls out their pitchforks, hear me out. Let me frame this in a more relevant perspective: the Andromeda S and the Andromeda Gold. Now, the Andromeda S was a slight retune of the original, replacing the midrange driver with a different one and so bumping up the centre midrange a tad. It was still an Andromeda but was different enough that some would call it “an Andro with mids”, though the added midrange boost came with the unforeseen drawback of attenuating treble sparkle by virtue of reducing the contrast between the mids and the Andromeda’s upper-treble spike.

The Andromeda Gold… well, you can read up my review here but here’s a quick summary. In my own humble opinion, the Gold redesigns the Andromeda so drastically that it shouldn’t be called an Andromeda anymore, but rather its own entity entirely.

The Solaris SE? Well in terms of any tangible changes, it’s no Andromeda Gold. It’s barely even the Andromeda S. The changes that exist within the Solaris SE lie squarely within the intangibles, i.e. in imaging, resolution and coherency, and I’m not sure if the changes in those areas justified the use of that fancy ceramic zirconia chamber.

Campfire was right, not a lot of difference on FR.

The minute changes I do manage to hear is an extension in decay, which brings a smidgen more body to the mids compared to the original. But as a consequence of that, I found the original slightly cleaner sounding in the transients with better separation. The timbre of the SE is improved somewhat, but not enough for me to claim that it’s excellent in this regard.

Imaging also seems to take a hit as the SE doesn’t diffuse out as far as the original in my comparisons. The marketing was right in that regard in that the SE is more “precise”, but at the same time it is the unapologetically wide staging of the original Solaris that made it so alluring. 

But apart from those… the Solaris SE is still a Solaris. The same strengths, the same weaknesses. Nothing is fixed but nothing is ruined either, and so do not expect anything more lest you succumb to the sweet nothings of many a hype-man.

Is the Solaris SE worth it? Possibly as a collector’s piece, valued more than simply for its sound.

But let’s say you don’t already own a Solaris. Are the sonic improvements alone worth the $400 premium? In my opinion, absolutely not. Save your cash.

The Solaris SE’s grade will thus be linked to the original Solaris.

I’ve left Singapore yesterday but I should have enough content to last me a good while. Shoutouts to my big money Patreon boys:

“McMadface”
“Desertscrub”
Denis
Nicholas
Alexander

And special shoutouts to two new entrants to the big money club: “Galactus” and Rahul!

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