I have now had all 4 iterations of the Campfire Audio Solaris here in house and currently have 3 of them here all at once- the og Solaris (gold), the og SE Solaris (abalone inlay) and the 2020 LE (all black with spiral pattern) So I obviously need to write something about how they compare. TLDR; The Solaris 2020 (the smaller one) is by far the worst of them all. I go back and forth on which of the other 3 I like the best they are all very similar. They each have strengths but I think the og Solaris (gold) wins in the end for me by narrow margins followed closely or perhaps equally by the SE Solaris. I’m going to first compare the Solaris 2020 to the og gold Solaris because I didn’t have the SE or LE when I had the 2020 loaner and the og is a good reference anyways because it’s widely owned and known. Then I’ll briefly describe the differences between the 3 big Solaris’s. The 3 big ones (not the 2020) sound more similar than different so breaking down everything would just be a waste of time. Gear used Pi2AES > RDAC | Gungnir A1 [ with iso transformer XLR to SE] | Metrum Amethyst > Schiit Loki > 789 with Sigma11 LPS Tips Used Penon generic cheap tips for all iem’s I prefer to use the Loki to correct output impedance issues over an ieMatch adapter because the ieMatch adapter dulls the sound and you loose resolution, clarity and microdynamics. So I have a reductive EQ setting that’s basically the same for all Solaris’s. The bass and lower mids are turned down about half way on the dials (bass a bit more). This makes them pretty damn neutral. Bass Quality Bass quality is basically the same with all 4 except worse on the 2020 (more bloated, less detailed and nuanced) The others have subtle differences in bass quantity but the quality is the same by all reasonable accounts. Sensitivity Interestingly they all also have subtle differences in sensitivity for some reason. Solaris 2020 (smaller, plain black) Since this is the outlier here I might as well get it out of the way first. It is by far the worst of all the Solaris models made. It has the smallest soundstage, a wonkier FR, recessed midrange, inferior bass quality, it’s more congested and less resolving with less space between notes. It’s not bad on its own, but the only reason to buy this model is if the other Solaris’s are too big to fit your ears. The og Solaris is far superior in every way and there’s one in the FS forums for $650. Almost 1/3 the cost of the Solaris 2020. Smaller did not work that well. But like I said, heard on its own it’s a good iem so if it’s your only choice it’s a good choice. It’s just not as good as the big ones. Og Solaris vs Solaris 2020 Fit The 2020 Solaris is much smaller than the og. I knew this but was still surprised by how much smaller when it came. I have no fit issues with the og Solaris but the 2020 definitely felt nicer in the ears and also the tips hold it in the ear better for whatever reason- maybe the size/weight. It surely looks better when worn as well. I don’t know how Kevin fit the same dynamic driver in there. Sound I was expecting the 2020 to have improved technicalities as well as improved voicing and a smaller size. Truth is it’s just smaller. It in fact has inferior voicing and much inferior technical abilities. Switching back and forth, the midrange is recessed on the 2020 in a way that isn’t easily correctable by the simple EQ of the Loki. The 2020 also just sounds worse in every way. The bass seems looser, it’s much less expansive sounding with less space between notes. And the og has a much more resolving, nuanced sound with subtleties in the music reproduced with more fidelity. Switching from the 2020 to the og, notes are suddenly more isolated in their own space, and I can hear details that are less noticeable in the 2020. Microdynamics are much better in the og. Macrodynamics maybe the same or close enough. I also find the og to have a more cohesive sound. Not in terms of DD integration with BA drivers but just in general the 2020 FR seems more wobbly. Less even. The og is also more - what I call "transparent" buy I think that term is used for different things. I don’t mean it in the sense of being transparent of upstream gear though it is more transparent in this way. I mean it in a more descriptive sense. Transparent as opposed to opaque. It’s a sound characteristic that involves a sense of air and space in notes. They aren’t solid sounds being blasted at you with walls around them but spacious sounds full of air. There’s a feeling of being able to put your hand through the note because it’s transparent. (The Orpheus is the king of this sound characteristic.) Whereas the 2020 sounds more like you will hit the edge of the note if you tried to put your hand through it. That may make no sense to you but it’s a characteristic that I often hear and the term transparent is all I can think of to describe it. I would pay more for the og than the 2020. I think current used market prices should probably be reversed if we’re taking SQ for money. If you have fit issues with the og, the 2020 is still a great iem. When not comparing them directly I still like the 2020. With EQ. Or maybe a high output impedance source makes it work. I only have an ieMatch adapter but that kills dynamics and resolution. Comparing the 3 big Solaris’s Og Solaris (gold) Strength The og Solaris is defined by being the smoothest sounding of all the other 4. It has by a wide margin the cleanest treble with the best timbre. Cymbal work is clean and you can really hear the tonality of the metal. High hats have a clean tssssss sound. It has slightly more treble quality than the other 3 large Solaris’s but that’s s good thing since I’m EQing up the treble a tiny bit. Weakness A slightly recessed midrange keeps this Solaris from being the clear winner. It’s not enough to be bothersome I only notice it in comparison to the other two. It is not severe I should stress. I hate recessed vocals and don’t notice it when just listening to the og Solaris. If it were more than subtle I wouldn’t be able to tolerate them. og SE Solaris (abalone inlay) Strength The og SE Solaris is defined by its mighty midrange. Those ceramic housings must be responsible. The midrange is no longer recessed at all. It’s very balanced and neutral with the rest of the spectrum. It is also more resolving - real resolution because this is the midrange not the clarity “T1 zone”. And it’s got more sense of space and 3 dimensionality as well. It’s a glorious midrange. The og SE also has the least BA timbre of any BA iem I’ve heard so far. Partly because of its treble reproduction that I explain below so I’ll get back to this. Weakness The og SE Solaris sufferers from the worst treble of all 4 Solaris’s. It’s kind of rough sounding and choppy. If the Andromeda and og Solaris reproduce a clean “tsssss” sound for cymbals, the og SE Solaris is a bit towards making a “tcha” sound instead. It’s not all the way there and again, if not comparing to the andromeda 2020 and og Solaris it would be much less noticeable. But I think I would still hear it. I have no idea why this happened it’s a damn shame because if it had the treble of the og gold it would reign supreme. Upside The midrange has no BA timbre that I can hear and in general they have very little BA timbre across the spectrum in part because of the midrange enhancements and because this rougher treble presentation makes for less BA timbre in the treble because you don’t get that overly smoothed treble tonality. All together, if you hate BA timbre this is an iem to look out for. I think Purr1n might like it because of this. Solaris 2020 LE (black with spiral pattern) Strength The stand out feature of the new 2020 Limited Edition (LE) is not really having a stand out of any kind which also winds up being it’s downfall. It’s as if all the other Solaris’s were averaged together but rounded down in the process to create this one. It’s the most cohesive of all of them. It has slightly less vocal recession than the og gold but less technically capable midrange and isn’t less recessed enough for this to really be a strength or matter. It’s still recessed and not as neutral as the SE and it’s not better technically like the SE. The treble is better than the SE but not as clean as the og gold. The 2020 LE has a bit more bass than the other 2 which are about equal. I find this to be a bad thing without question as they are already bsssy out of zero output impedance sources. Weakness Ultimately this averaged sound winds up making it the most boring of the big Solaris’s. It just doesn’t do anything that spectacularly in comparison. I could absolutely live with it. But comparing to the Andromeda it comes off as a bit dull. Whereas the og gold sounds kind of like an andromeda with DD low end and better tonality and soundstage (though not as even or ethereal for better or worse). Comparing it to the treble of the og and the midrange of the SE this one winds up feeling lacking. You would think that this averaged sound would wind up being the best. But it just doesn’t wind up sounding that way. It’s got fewer weaknesses to point out but no real strength in comparison to the others. It doesn’t do anything better than the other two except a bit better sense of cohesiveness but it’s subtle and doesn’t add up to anything very significant. The og gold is noticeably more resolving of detail and microdynamics. It’s a strange experience going from og gold to 2020 LE, it’s like switching DACs. Suddenly a level of micro details just disappear. This is compounded by a very slightly dry tonality. Listening to The Beatles Revolver, vocals sound a bit lifeless compared to the SE which immediately brings them to life as they are more upfront with a bit more richness, more detail, and more 3 dimensionality. There’s the treble which is immediately rougher but easier to ignore while being caressed by the midrange. It also seems to have a smaller, less spacious sound than the og gold or SE. Just by a bit. Conclusion The og and SE are the winners here and I have a hard time deciding which I prefer I really wish the SE carried with it the treble of the og. I wind up reaching for either one. But by a slim margin that is almost subconscious I think I prefer the og gold for its smooth clean sound. When switching from the SE to the og, there’s suddenly a whole lot happening up top that the SE doesn’t pick up but which the og articulates nicely. The same is true of the midrange when switching back but it’s not as dramatic. (Update: lately I’ve been reaching for the SE due to the more neutral, refined midrange. The midrange recession has started bothering me in the other 2 models) In the end you pick your poison and your medicine. The og has the cleanest, clearest sound, the SE has the best, most neutral and resolving midrange, the LE is the slightly more cohesive than the other 2 with slightly less midrange recession than the og but not by much and is the least clear sounding of all of them. Since the og gold can be had for much cheaper than the others and is available on the used market (the SE is unobtanium) and since the og is better than the LE, that’s the one I recommend of all 4 Solaris iem’s. Is it worth upgrading from the og or SE to the LE or 2020? Unequivocally NO. The exception being if you can’t wear the big models due to their size. But honestly I think the Andromeda 2020 is a much better iem than the Solaris 2020 and it’s also cheaper. It’s way more cohesive and flat once EQed. There’s way less wobbly FR (or none) and it has that great Andromeda ethereal sound. The 2020 has more natural tonality and DD bass but I think that’s the only advantage. Once EQed I’d be willing to bet the Andromeda 2020 has more detailed, faster bass than the Solaris 2020 which suffers here. Now it’s time for you to tell me that whichever unit I have of your favorite Solaris is defective. Ps. I will be sending my SE Solaris into Campfire Audio to be checked out to make sure there’s no issue with the treble response but since it’s in both channels I find this unlikely. And since it’s unobtanium anyways I figured I shouldn’t wait to post this as most of you are probably wanting to know how the new models stack up more than a new review of the old SE. if my SE has a treble issue that can be fixed it will only mean it’s by far the best of all Solaris’s but it’s inobtanium so it wouldn’t really matter. It would just be sad.