Campfire Audio Solaris - raising the bar?

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by mscott58, Oct 10, 2018.

  1. Rockwell

    Rockwell Friend

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    I would love that as well as some thoughts on the SE thrown in the mix...my feeling is that the mid-range is the area most notably fine tuned there as well... but I haven't had any real time with OG since months before I got the SE so I'm basically relying on memory there.
     
  2. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    @purr1n has one. He’s probably busy with real life and will post impressions/measurements later.
     
  3. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Revival but was hoping it'd be a more enthusiastic one than this.

    Long story short got Solaris in at amazingly generous terms off an excellent dude and have been enjoying listening to them since I got them in a bit over a week ago. Finally got tips that sounded good besides actually staying in my ears and all was great. Then out of nowhere they started sounding off in the one channel a couple hours ago so I busted the MiniDSP EARS out to verify.

    [​IMG]
    YELLOW is left channel, CYAN is right channel.

    I know for a fact that these arrived in good condition because this would have stood out to anyone not even listening for it, plus I have quick measurements from 05 March that show the left channel as being fine.

    Does this look like a dead DD/busted crossover/anything not easily sorted, and is there any chance it could just be a blocked vent somewhere? 50Hz is probably just my sloppy desk wiring, can't be arsed to care rn. I'm happy to pay for shipping on top of repair fees since I'm not the original owner after all, but that'd just be a kick in the face considering the cost of doing so securely besides just a bunch of other things piling on lately.

    There are far more important goings-on in the world so I could just shelve this for now.
     
  4. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Campfire customer service is really really good IME
     
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  5. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Guess these'll be headed back to the US for a round trip since I rather doubt there's an authorised repair centre here. Gonna email em to see what the damage might be.
     
  6. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    The nozzle fell off my Andromeda 2020 and they fixed it and I don’t think they even charged me. Maybe that’s because all they had to do was glue it back on but most companies would charge anyways. 64 Audio charges a flat $400 (?) fee no matter what.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2022
  7. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    I'm neither the original owner (think I might be the fourth actually) nor is this even close to within warranty so I'm steeling myself to eat a fair fee on top of shipping, which is probably $100 on its own. Been a fairly poop day besides this so thanks for the assurance.
     
  8. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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  9. Biodegraded

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    Unfortunately, that looks most likely to be the DD having busted or become disconnected. Do the bass & lower mids sound (or measure) distorted, or just lower in level? If just quieter, maybe the it's the wiring; if distorted, it's more likely to be damage to the driver itself.

    I'm not familiar with the design of the Solaris but from what I can see in the pics, there's only one (rear) vent, which the description talks about as being associated with one of the BAs. If a DD is essentially unvented, it's easy to damage when pushing into or (particularly) pulling out of your ears or measuring tube too fast (done a couple myself that way).

    Nonetheless, do check any vents to see if there's something blocking the rear (there'll be a screen or filter, so don't poke anything in L that looks like it's also present in R), or if there's a front vent, if it looks like a filter that's present in R is missing in L.
     
  10. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Measure higher distortion in the low end for the busted side so likely the former scenario. I try to be very careful about driver flex because claims that it generally does no harm rang false to me but I guess I screwed up somewhere. Only the one vent near mmcx visible, nothing amiss
     
  11. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Before anything else, I'd like to thank @ChaChaRealSmooth for offering a still-impressive piece of kit (FR preferences notwithstanding) at a steal of a price and on excellent terms. Also many thanks to Campfire Audio itself for superlative aftersales support, going above and beyond in helping out and even tossing a spare cable my way considering I was nowhere near being the original owner.

    For whatever reason the one channel on the original pair I'd bought failed, and so the pair I currently own are essentially factory new, which means I got to experience the joy of breaking these in for myself. My impressions fresh out of the box effectively line up with everyone else's so I'll not go into detail, but suffice to say that headstage was diffuse but so was the imaging, and they effectively stumbled over themselves trying to resolve complex passages at first (e.g. Muse's Knights of Cydonia sounded vague and hazy). I'd also like to add that there was a distinct mid-to-upper treble tizz out of the box that mellowed out after a few days of regular use but was profoundly unpleasant for a bit (could be brain burn-in)

    Given how long ago these were released (considering how quickly tech moves nowadays) and how the current universal IEM landscape has changed dramatically in the four-odd years since, I doubt that a "proper" impressions writeup really is necessary at this point since everything that can be said about these IEMs has already been repeated ad nauseam.

    [​IMG]

    Still, just as an additional datapoint, I'd like to make a case for my preferring the JVC Spiral Dot++ tips despite my sticking with the stock Campfire Audio Marshmallow tips for general use (which I feel @Kunlun would appreciate, haha). Impressions will be out of an Apple USB-C dongle and out of a Magni-Modi 3+ stack plus a random feature of an Original Master Phones Amplifier straight out of 2007 that a friend'd lent me in a temp trade for the MCTH.

    TANGENT: why in creation are these tiny silicone nuggets so ludicrously expensive?!?! That said, I've learnt my lesson buying random cheapo tips off the local equivalent to Aliexpress; got some misodiko-branded double flange tips for my beater ER2XRs and besides mucking the sound up slightly the way the ends of the silicone tips flare out actually hurt my ear canals with extended use, gah. /endtangent

    I've said this before several times on the forum, but the Spiral Dot ++ tips turn the Solaris into what I'd wanted the Klipsch HP-3 (my main headphones for the last few years) to be, ergonomic considerations and source sensitivities aside. Using the Marshmallow tips as a baseline, extension on either end increases appreciably to the point where I'd make a case for the Solaris being a satisfying enough basshead IEM-- it doesn't have the same dark, but unstifled, rumble that you'd get with something like a Fitear TG334 but manages to live up to expectations in terms of low end responsiveness and texture-- and having a pleasant amount of upper air sparkle that manages to be inoffensive for the vast majority of my listening.

    Having said that, the extension towards the bottom-most octaves doesn't manage to satisfy me when using the Marshmallows; both the head-thwacking bass pulses on Sakamoto Ryuichi & Alva Noto's Noon or Nine Inch Nails's Discipline and the third bass drop on Daft Punk's Doin' It Right come across as lacking foundation and substance.

    I have Elysian Fields's Sugarplum Arches as one of my default treble pain tests because it runs the gamut from accented vocal sibilants (sss, shh, and tch) as well as bold cymbal crashes-- even with the massively open bores on the Dot++es it remains inoffensive, though I'm now tempted to see if I can borrow a pair of Azla Sednas to see if I have the same reaction to them as I did the first time I got to hear Solarises (see here: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...aris-raising-the-bar.6926/page-12#post-258931). Same case with Fleetwood Mac's You Make Loving Fun.

    Do keep in mind that, influence of tips aside, I could just be ageing rapidly and growing markedly less sensitive to treble harshness. The Dot++ tips likewise manage to ameliorate the slightly "hollow" sound vocals tend to have when listening with the stock Marshmallows which is another point in their favour-- off-sounding vocals are the sort of thing that I can eventually learn to tolerate, but I'd rather not have to.

    Even then though, there's a certain amount of glare to some J-Pop that could just be inherent to the recordings but are nonetheless poorly suited to the Campfire's voicing. For some quick examples, check out Sweet Soul Revue by the Pizzicato Five, fhána's Critique and Curation, or, of course, Hametsu no Junjou by Macross's very own Walkure :p

    [​IMG]

    In terms of how the Spiral Dot++es influences headstage, I'd say that it only serves to improve upon the stock performance with the Marshmallow tips, though even with the Marhsmallows front-to-back layering remains superb and a distinct strength of the Solaris. Granted I'm no IEM connoisseur and haven't heard all of the latest and greatest, but when these don't leave me particularly wanting for more relative to what I'm getting with my desktop chain (PC>Modi 3+[via USB]>Massdrop/Cavalli CTH>Klipsch HP-3 or Sennheiser HD600) I'd qualify that as being rather impressive.

    One thing that I genuinely appreciate about the Dot++ tips besides their modifying the FR to better suit my preferences is how they improve the delineation of sonic images; Youth Lagoon's Dropla is a fairly haunting piece with a beautifully enveloping tapestry of sound, and even with the Marshmallow tips the Solaris manages to convey a sense of immersion that is genuinely shocking for the form factor, but when it comes to arrangements e.g. Dave's True Story's Voletta's, Radiohead's Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, or the Foo Fighters' White Limo the improved spacing between sonic elements helps un-muddle busy sections that might otherwise devolve into unintelligibility.

    Another feature of the Solaris that stands out to me is its having very real capacity for macrodynamic slam; Fragments of Time off Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories", Paul Simon's Under African Skies, and Young Folks by Peter, Bjorn, & John all open with percussion that feel like they're on the verge of giving me a con-cussion with these.

    With how much I'm leaning towards the JVC tips' sonic presentation I guess it might come as a surprise that I'm daily driving the stock Marshmallow tips, but my main reasons for doing so are to do with a genuine fear that I might abruptly have to get these repaired again and be out another $290 ($200 for a worst-case scenario repair [I love my luck], $90 for shipping). With the Spiral Dot++ tips, I notice that:

    A.) there's a great deal of water beading on the nozzle grille after extended use, and
    B.) there is significant driver flex in the left channel, likely due to my ear canals being different enough in size that I need mismatched tips between them. I am not keen on shelling out more money on pricey silicone... for the foreseeable future at any rate

    So yep, the above and the fact that the Marshmallow tips just look nicer on the Solaris mean that other than a few rare occasions when my inner basshead needs an itch scratched, I'm going to be keeping to the Marshmallows for now:

    [​IMG]

    I'm probably beating the ghost of a dead horse at this point, but on the topic of variability between Solaris units I've had the pleasure of hearing four units and being able to measure two of them. While I did use the same tips between runs and have something of a set process when measuring gear at this point, please do keep in mind that I could have always screwed something up.

    YELLOW: Campfire Audio Solaris (@Stuff Jones's old unit) measured 05 March 2022
    GREEN: Campfire Audio Solaris (replacement set from Campfire) measured 22 April 2022

    [​IMG]

    And just as a sanity check against something that doesn't have the Solaris's reputation for variability:

    YELLOW: Campfire Audio Solaris
    CYAN: Etymotic ER2XR (stock small triflange tips) my impressions of them HERE

    [​IMG]

    So yep, for whatever reason the slight nasality I've heard with other Solarises over the years is blessedly gone with this set and there's instead a bit of shoutiness that actually accentuates the front-to-back stacking of images with a better-defined center stage (see: Focal headphones). The less-pronounced upper midrange dip makes pulls off a good balancing act between expanding an artificial headstage (not that there is any such thing as a "natural" headstage I suppose) and keeping instrument and vocal harmonics from sounding dead. See: Epica's Storm the Sorrow and Nightwish's Shudder Before the Beautiful. I do miss really feeling that last bit of body to electronic guitar crunch, but I can't reasonably expect IEMs to offer the same kind of physicality that most decent headphones can offer, nevermind even budget bookshelf speakers.

    It's easy enough to give the Solaris a bit more etch and bite, however: pairing them with a (probably?) high-OI amp the like of the Master Phones Amplifer leans the bass out into near non-existence and turns them into an abrasive and acerbic listen. I'm gonna be sticking sub-1ohm as best I can.

    Directly comparing the replacement set to a low serial number pair (SN~200, same exact pair I listened to in my earlier meet impressions from 2019), and keeping in mind that my set was fresh out of the box at the time, I found that on top of the predictable changes borne of burning in (i.e the low-SN pair had smoother treble, better midrange delineation, and just more freely-expressive bass overall), my pair somehow managed to have more in the way of macrodynamic punch throughout the frequency range and less of that mild nasal colouration I heard with all other pairs to date. Again, based on memory on top of being able to directly compare, a more polite upper midrange vis-a-vis all other pairs that robs electric guitars of that last bit of face-searing you'd normally get off, say, Steve Vai's Erotic Nightmares or Machine Head's The Rage to Overcome, but on the upside listening is less fatiguing overall.

    Much as I don't outright hate how Grados are voiced (to say nothing of how they do headstage), I still opine that I wouldn't have one as my one and only transducer.

    Upon picking them up I also managed to get ears on the 2020 edition of the Solaris as well as the Sony IER-Z1R. Ergonomics aside (I much preferred how both other sets sat in my ears; the reduced volume of the Solaris 2020 is hard to capture in photographs because I was genuinely shocked at how much more compact they ended up actually being), I can't say that I loved how either of them sounded. The Solaris 2020's treble was much too pronounced for my tastes even with the Marshmallows equipped to blunt a bit of that edge, and the IER-Z1R was just offensively glarey at anything but the lowest volume settings. Much as I'm sure the both were more than technically competent, their voicings just weren't suited to me.

    That all said, I'm inclined to agree with @rhythmdevils and @shotgunshane that the original Solarises still deserve a place in many people's collections, just going off how their voicing appears to remain somewhat idiosyncratic, how resolving of nuances they ultimately are, and how you don't really need to spend a crippling amount of money on a DAP or desktop system to drive these to outperform a lot of full-size headphones out of not-shit desktop gear. The fact that they can be found at steep discounts likewise speaks well to their value.

    You may need a fixed or variable attenuator though, just going off how alarmingly sensitive they are. Pretty sure I've heard hiss coming out of an Apple dongle when maxing the digital volume on my phone out.

    [​IMG]
     
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    Last edited: Jul 22, 2022
  12. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Quick request for a sanity check:

    CONTEXT: https://superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?profile-posts/30513/

    Had these in an airtight bag with a silica gel packet for a couple days hoping it was just moisture, but that didn't help at all. Now have it stuck playing music at moderate volumes hoping the agitation might help dislodge anything there. Good idea or bad?

    [​IMG]

    For reference, here's the old busted LEFT channel (pastel yellow) I'd returned months ago overlaid with the currently-buggered RIGHT channel (darker yellow).

    [​IMG]

    Didn't mean to get the colours so close to each other but eh, auto generated. didn't save the measurement either, too miffed to bother.
     

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