A review of the Andromeda 2020 IEM from Campfire Audio, plus impressions of the original Andromeda vs Andromeda 2020.
Our journey with the Andromeda IEM from Campfire Audio has been a long one. When founder Ken Ball and the crew from ALO audio started off into the world of portable transducers, the emerald green stopping point in the lineup proved to be a standout to our ears. Whether it was the mysterious Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber or something else, the Andromeda offered up delicious texture not found in too many IEMs at the time.
We are now starting straight into the eyes of a brand new gen two, dubbed the Andromeda 2020. Previous incantations have been replaced on the company’s direct-to-consumer site, so the 2020 is all that we have now from the lean green machine that could (the Andromeda SE Gold edition is marked as out of stock). Carefully opening the elaborate packaging, I found myself hoping that the new model turns out better than the actual 2020 year has so far.
Before we dive into the sound, a quick mention of the packaging and accessories is worth mentioning, especially within this execution. As with other earphones from Campfire Audio, it looks as if some thought went into both of these extraneous UX extensions to keep things on brand. While some reviewers and consumers (and justifiably so) prefer to focus solely on sound, the efforts here reflect time, intent and a well rounded approach to presentation – both sonically and aesthetically.
While the original Andromeda arrived tucked into a very nice dark brown leather case, the review unit for the Andromeda 2020 is accompanied by an environmentally friendly sustainable cork zipper case in green. The interior is lined with thick faux wool, and really completes the entire look, feel and thought process of taking out the earphones and actually listening. When one looks at the execution here, it almost puts most others to shame. With such high price points, most of the experiential execution is sleeved so heavily on a simplistic “we are audiophile” presentation. The gear here is cohesive and adds to the overall enjoyment of pulling out your hard-earned investment for use.
The wire we received with the review sample was also different from last time around. According to the product page, the cable is a silver plated, copper conductor litz terminated in MMCX coated with beryllium copper. There is also a small mesh bag and Final Audio tips, Campfire Audio tips and silicone earphone tips along with a cleaning tool. That’s three varieties in at least 3 different sizes. As any universal fit IEM lover knows, fit in the ear canal is of the utmost importance to getting the most out of your earphones, so the variety here is most welcome. I found the tactile feel of the included lintz cable to be most pleasing, having almost a rope-like feel to it along with interesting coloring.
In the hand, the two versions are pretty close to each other in appearance. The most noticeable design difference is probably the shift from a deliberate three bore delivery system to a more screen/grate covered hole in the nozzle.
Housing changes include a single-printed body, with fewer moving parts as a result. As with much of the improvement in IEMS, the way things are housed internally have accounted for refinements in recent years. The adaptation of 3D printing and designs that look at the whole, not just the sum of the parts appear to be the focus of generational updates.
I began my listening impressions by getting a baseline from some Meze Rai Penta’s I have on hand, which are similar in price and represent what I feel is a good neutral tuning with fine resolution at this price. They aren’t the most exciting, but they are super even handed, so a good baseline reference.
By comparison the original Andromedas are bassier, and livelier in the treble, but not disruptively so. They definitely add their own spin for a more ‘fun’ sound. I did find on some tracks the bass shelf of the Andromeda was a little bigger. There’s a kind of looseness in the low end that make certain music really fun, but can cloud up some music a bit too much. It’s never tubby, but it does bleed up into the low mids just a tad.
On the high end the Andromeda is lively but not bright on the top end, has great detail retrieval, there’s a perception not just of more treble, but in fact more detail and spatial cues than the Meze’s. They trade off the frequency response neutrality of the Rai Penta, for an increased transient punch and liveliness, they really are fun not just because they have more bass!
Moving on to review the Andromeda 2020 is a surprising experience – I expected an incremental improvement, but was instead greeted by rather more than that. Immediately I could tell the new Andromeda was much tighter sounding, especially in the bass. What had previously been a rather wide, large bass shelf was now much narrower, really starting on the low end of the midbass and sub bass. It no longer bled into the mids, and was perceptually a little lower in level, but sounded more focused, better damped and punchier. The greater slam but slightly lower level only enhanced the sense of accuracy and enjoyment for most music, in my opinion. Things that were meant to sound huge sounded huge, while music that was less bassy still had just a little extra punch, but I didn’t find any music I felt it was inappropriately bassy on, as I had with the original Anromeda. Moving up from the bass, the midrange is fairly similar, but benefits from a tightening and focusing of the sound as well. Although I had no issues with the original Andromeda’s treble and midrange, the new one seems to pull more detail, more transient impact and more sense of space from the recordings without significantly changing the frequency response.
Images are better placed in the aural soundstage, everything seems to be punchier and more visceral while also being less lively and with much better decay. If I had to hazard a guess, the new Andromeda seems to have a much improved damping scheme, because while the old one certainly had no issues with seeming too lively, the new one presents a darker background and much more coherent listen, especially noticeable on music that is aggressively bright. Neither Andromeda was tizzy or fatiguing, but the new one seemed to organize and present the information with a finesse and a crystalline clarity that the older Andromeda hints at but doesn’t quite achieve as well as the new one. I suspect the new Andromeda may not service bassheads as much as the previous one, but I have rarely heard this combination of extremely punchy but not too elevated bass and absolutely addictive midrange and treble detail in a single IEM.
In our review of the Andromeda 2020 it certainly seems the two emerald green models are birds of a feather, but the newest replacement in market has definitely exceeded my modest expectations. Now, to be fair, the new Andromeda is still cut from much the same cloth as the original, it simply presents a refinement and sonic reworking as it were. If you weren’t a fan of the Andromeda’s tuning before, I don’t know if the new one is different enough to convince you, but if you liked what the Andromeda had to offer and wanted more, the 2020 model might just be the ticket. A beautiful presentation, inside and out – nicely done indeed.
More info: Campfire Andromeda 2020