“The Andromeda Galaxy, also known as Messier 31, M31, or NGC 224, is a spiral galaxy approximately 780 kiloparsecs (2.5 million light-years) from Earth. It is the nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way and was often referred to as the Great Andromeda Nebula in older texts. It received its name from the area of the sky in which it appears, the constellation of Andromeda, which was named after the mythological princess Andromeda. Being approximately 220,000 light years across, it is the largest galaxy of the Local Group, which also contains the Milky Way, the Triangulum Galaxy, and about 44 other smaller galaxies.”
I always found it interesting how we lose some of our passion for stargazing and outer space in general as we grow older. From my personal experience as well as from observations in others, kids are initially fascinated by the limitless possibilities and endless expansive proposition of space. Stars, planets, the quiet lifeless vacuum of galaxies in-between seem so foreign to our experience down here on this small rock circling the sun that the subject almost conjures a god-like reverence. But as we grow older we are either taught (or learn on our own) that eyes are better turned downward away from the sky and aimed more towards the more immediate issues, schooling and 401k accumulation. And with our reluctant release of the unknown, so goes with it some of the wonderment of life in general. Campfire audio seeks to bring some of that sweet passion for life back into yours with the release of a new flagship to its universal IEM line called Andromeda ($1,099).
Campfire Audio is a subset of the ALO Audio brand family. The new Andromeda harnesses the power of 5 balanced armature drivers per side in a machined aluminum housing like the rest of the In-Ear line from the company. The color of choice this time around is green, and each CNC’d shell is produced in small groups from a solid block of aluminum. The new flagship offers a step up feature to a triple bore design, which sets it apart from even the next-in-line dual-bore Jupiter ($899). Other internal talking points include the use of a “tubeless resonator box” and heightened damping and isolation from the anodized enclosure. In the hand the little piece feels well built, less jellybean and more sturdy precious metal. The finish is mildly reflective without being shiny and there are 3 visible screws on the outward facing panel that give it a slight industrial feel. While not as small as some of today’s single dynamic driver options, for a flagship earphone with 5 drivers the casing is relatively small when compared side-by-side with other product leads (especially the JH Layla universal). In fact, the case appears to be the exact size of every piece in the lineup regardless of number of internal drivers. Once again the cable connection choice strays away from the traditional 2 pin IEM jack in favor of a MMCX detachable type. This type of connection can be a bit tricky to remove, but once mastered offers several benefits including the ability to rotate 360 degrees. Full rotation capabilities come in handy when manipulating the curved over-the-ear part of the IEM wire.
I would be remiss not to mention the included Litz cable as part of this review. Wherever you stand on the acoustic influences of cable, the silver-plated copper standard for the Andromeda is physically and aesthetically light-years beyond the typical black or clear options that accompany IEMs of this type.
The Campfire website elaborates:
“Made of individually enameled strands of silver plated copper. Four conductors are protected with a durable medical grade PVC jacket. Extremely flexible and resistant to oxidation. Over molded 3.5mm (1/8″) stereo plug and beryllium copper MMCX connectors. The custom beryllium copper MMCX connectors are a huge step-up for our MMCX connectors giving them 100x the rated pull life of a standard MMCX connector.”
Pull life is important with the MMCX connector. It takes a bit more physical exertion to detach and overcome the hold they have once they are clicked into place on the socket. The included cable is very much in the vein of the pricey aftermarket accessories that accompany the headphone hobby. Indeed, the standalone price of the Litz cable on the Campfire site reigns in at a $150, but the even better news is that the upscale cable with also be available downstream and is included with every Campfire IEM including the single driver Orion ($350).
The sound of the Andromeda can be described within a central idea of smoothness. No detail trickery of heightened treble at play here. The full picture is smooth and natural from top to bottom. Lesser IEMs have a tendency to fiddle with different responses in order to create an illusion of more detail. The final result can often err on the side of analytical or create a sense of treble that is too biting. The Andromeda feels balanced (as it should) across the river of sound from bass to treble with juicy mids and punctual lows. Compared to the company’s own two-BA-driver Nova ($499), the flagship shares much of same even-keeled frequency response but offers up more detail overall and extension in the treble (along with some additional liquidity). Even though the Nova remains steadfast in its likability and naturalness for its pricepoint, at more than twice the price the Andromeda’s transparency is quite noticeable (which is much more of a rare occurrence than you might think for universal IEMs). The sonic tapestry here is fun, dynamic and vivid. As I’ve written before, lows are tricky with universal-fit style IEMs. Extra caution needs to be applied or a bad seal can suck out all the bass response. Using both Comply foam tips and silicone based tips I was able to detect ample bass without a since of overkill. Overdone bass is the bane of IEMs in general as the in-the-head feeling is even stronger than on-head options and bass presents itself in even less of a physical way than both headphones and of course, loudspeakers. The Andromeda manages to avoid all this unpleasantness and deliver a fair and balanced low end that doesn’t intrude into the middleband. Along with the bass, the mids and treble make for a solid “togetherness” presentation that doesn’t feel broken up along county lines. To push a metaphor a bit further, the transition between each frequency chunk is smooth, as is the overall texture presentation, as is the treble – like a calm, unblemished pond at sunset… you get the point.
When it comes to flagship pricing Campfire could have gone even bigger. In a day where it is not uncommon to see $2.5k+ prices emerge at the top, a $1,099 pricetag feels generous. It also leaves the company a little wiggle room should they want to approach the subject again, but for now everything seems more than kosher. A thousand dollars is a lot of money to almost everyone, but stacked up against the market things look (and sound) very promising for the new line of IEMs from the longtime audiophile company.
Wonderment and awe are still out there. Those seeking a bit more from their music can likely find it from a solid audio source and the new flagship piece from Campfire. Its capable reproduction makes its way to your ears with plenty of fine detail paired with tonal and texture dexterity that supersedes most of the IEM pack. There is a pleasurable smoothness to the earphone that can be viewed through multiple vantage points and natural demeanor that carries with it an element of fun and livelihood to its projection.
So maybe its time to take a break from the everyday. Lie in the grass, look up at the sky, pop in some top-flight IEMs and enjoy your music like you did when you were a child. The Andromeda awaits.
More info: [Campfire Audio]