Introduction to the Campfire Audio Andromeda Emerald Sea review
Campfire Audio Andromeda might be one of the most known IEMs in history. Started by the OG Andromeda back in 2016, the Andromeda family was always a steamy, hot dream for audiophiles. Full BA design, that focused on smooth, coherent sound.
Unlike others, when tuning, CA didn’t sacrifice pleasure and timbre for 0,5% more detail. Campfire Audio always had its own vision of doing things, which as you know I appreciate a lot. Through time, we had 13 versions of Andromeda, with the reviewed Emerald Sea being the latest. Campfire likes to play with limited editions, creating unique designs with spectacular finishes.
I would absolutely kill for a chance to get IEMs with Cerakote finish. Do you guys know what it is? It’s a ceramic (duh) finish that will outlive us all. Often found on guns and Hi-Tec equipment. How about a polished stainless steel Andromeda? There you go. Different finishes, or tunings separated all of the variants, but when it comes to basic models we had five of them: 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020, and Emerald Sea.
The aforementioned Andromeda 2016 was the product to put Campfire Audio on the map. It featured a 3D-printed acoustic chamber. Obvious now, but it was something else in 2016. Together with T.A.E.C. matching high-frequency drivers to the rest of them. It combined that with 5 BA drivers to achieve an exquisite sound that shook the audio community.
The big change came in the shape of Andromeda 2020 priced at $1099. It elevated previous designs with the Solid Body technology, straight from their CIEM products. It means that drivers are connected in a refined acoustic chamber that delivers their sound straight to the nozzle with nothing in between. It refined the sound reducing coloration and distortion even lower.
Finally, in February 2023 the new model was shown. The new Andromeda Emerald Sea is a big step up over the older models. Among changes, you can see the new shell, new packaging, and new sound. It also had a significant bump in price up to $1450. I understand that you might feel it’s unjustified, but after everything went up in price so significantly, it’s hard to argue with the change.
I had the pleasure of meeting the Campfire Audio crew at the Munich Audio Show. It was a blast, thank you guys for having us! Then I listened to the Emerald Sea for the first time and I knew I needed that sound in my life. I kindly explained that if we don’t get a sample for a review I’m going to put some pineapple on a pizza. We agreed that it was unacceptable, and here we are now.
Fun fact! Did you know, that Andromeda 2020 was the IEM that got me into the hobby? I was like: oh, so that’s what it’s all about. Shoutout to Paweł, who made me listen to it. I wouldn’t be here without you Bro. I might have promised him unspeakable things if I can review the new Andromeda. Nothing sexual though. Probably.
I like nice packaging. I put a lot of attention to it. Probably, because I unbox something new every month or two. And I have unboxed a few audio products in my life, both portable and stereo. Never, have I ever seen anything close to how Andromeda Emerald Sea is delivered to you. While it sounds ridiculous to say, unboxing was an experience. Can’t say any less than that without doing a disservice to Campfire Audio.
The main box is covered with textured paper with colorful stickers explaining the contents of the box. The box itself is made out of laser-cut wood. It opens up like a jewelry box, and I believe they consciously went for that feel. Inside you find a green leather case containing the IEMs in the typical Campfire Audio anti-scratch sheeting. The case is much larger than those previously added to Andromeda’s. It will fit even medium DAC/AMPs with no issues.
The case is closed with magnets, not zippers as it was done previously. It is also flatter, which makes it easier to fit in your pants without getting the ladies too interested. That is only the beginning though.
Next up, accessories. As a part of the set, you’ll find three Time Stream cables: 3,5mm, 2,5mm balanced, and 4,4mm balanced. One is already connected to the Andromeda’s, other two are in the brown sheet with the manufacturer’s logo.
On top of that, tips. The well-known set is here. Three sizes of marshmallow foams and three sizes of silicon tips. I love both of them, they are among my favorites available. Okay, here is the gangster part. The top cover opens up and has a slot. A slot for the small hand (hand-made actually!) that is designed to hold and present the IEMs when you are not using them. Having Andromeda is a flex? Well, now it’s a flex on having Andromeda Emerald Sea. Double flex. Flexception.
Design, Build and Comfort
The emerald green is reserved for Andromeda. The distinct color is with this model from the beginning. It is here with the newest iteration too. What has changed is the shell shape. It looks much more streamlined with no visible screws and much smoother angles. It somehow reminds me of the style depicted in Cyberpunk 2077. I can easily imagine them being worn by some corpo from Arasaka. Especially with the new cable having silver and gold accents. For non-gamers think corpo world aesthetic of Blade Runner 2049.
The dominant emerald is broken by polished stainless steel accents: nozzle, MMCX socket cover, and new screws. To be fair, I don’t think those are screws at all. Those are probably locks deactivated by pressing and rotating the ring. Compared to screws they blend seamlessly into the shell. I like the new looks a lot, but I might like the old look more. I’m still conflicted about that, even though it is a clear and obvious upgrade. Sometimes we aren’t rational.
Build quality is perfect and there is nothing to complain about, and you know me – I like to complain. The comfort is exceptional as always. Campfire somehow makes IEMs with big nozzles that do not make me itchy after a long time of using them. It was one of the characteristics that shook me when I tried Andromeda for the first time in my life. It was easy to wear, compared to other, bulkier products.
The base of the IEM is a set of five balanced armatures: two for low frequencies, one midrange, and two for high frequencies. Reviewed Emerald Sea is the first variant of Andromedas to use dual-diaphragm balanced armatures. Of course, they are a custom design for Campfire Audio.
The shell is machined from aluminum, exactly to the spec. Looking at the shape, it has to be machined on a 5-axis CNC machine. You have X, Y, and Z axis as normal. The other ones are time and gravity. Trust me Bro, don’t Google that. Okay, okay. The 5-axis means that the head of the machine and the item under work are moving, allowing for much more advanced milling. The MMCX socket, made out of beryllium copper is secured with a polished stainless steel ring.
Did you guys know, that MMCX is adopted by the IEM industry from Radio Frequency electronics? This connector is being used to deliver super-duper high-frequency signals like Wi-Fi antennas, FPV drones video feed, or GPS.
Going deeper into the construction the drivers are housed in the Solid Body 3D printed waveguide that guarantees the perfect acoustic environment for each of the balanced armatures. It also ensures the best possible connection between the drivers and the nozzle of the IEM. The high-frequency balanced armatures are using the tried and proven T.A.E.C. Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber, which is fancy for a really good coupler.
Compared to traditional solutions it doesn’t dampen the treble and allows 100% of the energy to flow to the Solid Body and the nozzle. Compared to the previous entry to the Campfire Audio Andromeda family, the reviewed Emerald Sea has an even lower impedance of 6,375 Ohms. Looks dangerous, but due to its high sensitivity, it shouldn’t load the amplifiers too much.
While it looks like the impedance of a floor-standing speaker, don’t connect them to your speaker amps output…
The new cable, Time Stream is added to all of the Campfire’s flagship IEMs. It’s a flat wire that uses 4 conductors out of silver-plated copper. Non-switchable connectors guarantee the most non-compromise connection possible. I was a bit skeptical of a flat wire at first, but thanks to its soft and pliable jacket it is very comfy in everyday use. As you can see, reviewed Andromeda Emerald Sea has a lot of cool tech underneath the green coating. Campfire Audio is still one of the most innovative manufacturers around. Don’t suppose it’s gonna change anytime soon.
How does the Campfire Audio Andromeda Emerald Sea sound?
There is some slight controversy around the new Campfire Audio Andromeda Emerald Sea. Compared to previous iterations, it supposedly has a warmer tone.
Listen, Andromedas have a cult-like following. They are one of the definitive IEMs on the market since that one beautiful day in 2016. It’s normal that people are emotional about them. Campfire decided to stray from the previous tuning a bit, going further into the warmer side of the force. People don’t like change.
To be honest, if they kept the course, and made Andromeda 13.0 just more refined, most people would be happy with that. I would too, to be frank. But sometimes change is good. Trying new things, effin’ around, and finding out is part of the growth. I respect that decision. And I believe we should give an honest listen to the new model.
Beans are already spilled, it has a warmer tuning. Especially when connected in SE configuration with mushroom tips. It has the accent put on the midrange, with high end and lowest lows recessed slightly. This is a significant change from the previous, neutral tuning. When used with balanced amps and silicone tips, we are getting much closer to the “old ways”, but we sacrifice the isolation of foam tips. I’ve settled with the middle ground: BAL and foams.
If you go SE with foams, just add +2 to warmth in the text below. It’s crazy-revealing, so I hope your DAC/AMP game is top-tier. Emerald Sea delivers amazing low-level detail if your setup has noise low enough. Also, another quality I know Andros for: the textures. It’s something that balanced armatures do very well, and combined with the timbre it will send shivers down your spine. My experience with Emerald Sea was: you start listening in the evening: “Oh I wonder how that will sound with them” and it’s morning already. I’ve decided to trademark “it gets you there” for equipment that sends me into an emotional listening state. Reviewed Campfire Audio Andromeda Emerald Sea gets you there. It’s GYT. Polish readers will love it.
Well it’s not similar to the applause in which democracy dies, it’s not thunderous. Those who know, they know. It’s not expected either. The warmer tuning didn’t bloat the bass at all. Listening to Morphine – Buena I can say that the timbre of bass is just spot on. It rumbles, building a foundation for the melody. What catches the attention is the richness, the abundance of detail, and the incredible, natural feel of the instruments. I spent an unholy amount of hours with garage bands back in my time and that is the type of memory that recalls.
The drums presented in the song are fast and punchy. Snappy snare leads the rhythm and kickdrum reinforces it. They aren’t ground, or rib-breaking but they are definitely not lacking. Honestly, they remind me of Andromeda 2020 in this regard. The rock is handled by the subject very well. But what about something harder?
Let’s go with a Panda Bear’s feat on Random Access Memories – Doin’ it right. Big, boomy, synth bass doesn’t overwhelm the reviewed CFA Andromeda Emerald Sea. While it is not a kick of dynamic or bone-conduction drivers, it still pumps enough air to give an enjoyable experience. I would make a claim, that everything including hard rock will get your foot tapping. If you want to go harder, more often, you might want to look somewhere else. All the gossip about the Emerald Sea having a bloated sound can be put to sleep. It doesn’t.
The star of the show, with no doubt about that. My frequent readers know, that I enjoy a solid portion of Alan Parsons Project from time to time. I even got an autograph last year at Hi-End Munich. Since Andromeda is so famous, I think we need to get the big guns to match. And what APP song is more popular than Sirius from Eye in the Sky? It was used by Chicago Bulls as a theme song and instantly became a hit around the world. Kinda like Andromeda became the IEM to get years ago.
I’ll use it together with the next one on the album, the Eye in the Sky to explain the midrange to you. First of all, the midrange is incredibly organic and smooth. It just flows like smoke in the summer sky. Probably from a campfire you have set up with your friends. It’s an amazing mix of smoothness, that doesn’t influence dynamic range, detail that is insane, yet not overwhelming. This is exactly how the lack of resonances of the enclosure and lack of internal disturbances sound like. An amazing driver working comfortably to deliver everything to you.
There is a hint of warmth lurking around, but it doesn’t change the sound. It adds a layer of engagement. It goes excellently with songs like When I Fall in Love by Andrea Bocelli. Instant shivers, I melted and wished he was singing those words to me. And I’m not even into guys. Maybe I should mention the stunning vocals of Rebecca Pidgeon on In the Spanish Harlem… It’s probably my favorite midrange in IEMs, ever. It’s just right.
I was curious about this part, as it is slightly recessed compared to the previous iterations of the Andromeda. A listen to The Lonesome Lover by Max Roach allowed me to quickly understand the changes. There is less treble overall, but it hadn’t lost the qualities we admire in this model.
Once again – incredible detail, textures, and a nice edge. Even when the band goes all out the treble is separated perfectly from everything else. You can pinpoint every stroke on the crash. On the other hand, let’s listen to the Orinoco Flow by Enya. The marimbas used in the song give a very distinctive sound, that is hard to replicate for many IEMs. No issues here, Emerald Sea handles it like a boss.
Beautiful decay doesn’t get covered by anything. Treble is always hard to do well, because often it gets covered by other sounds, or the drivers can’t deliver the needed low-level detail. Emerald Sea shares beautiful, open, and airy treble with famous detail. It is a little behind midrange but it doesn’t lose its qualities.
I kinda like to mess with snobby people who listen to crazy audiophile music. When listening to the newest Campfire Audio Andromeda Emerald Sea I have to say I’m starting to get it though. Take a listen to Felix Laband’s album Dark Days Exit. It’s just lovely what the American IEM can do.
It’s precise like a surgical scalpel, every sound is defined in a 3D space with a millimeter precision. The incredible low-level detail allows the sounds to pop out of nowhere, and transition freely. It will blow your lid off. Don’t take drugs before listening to that, or you are GONE.
The soundstage is deep and wide with no hard boundaries. The only thing that I would like to be different is the center of the soundstage being so close to me. It is around my nose, which is closer than I like. Thanks to the open and airy nature of the sound it is not bothering me as much, but you know, we all have our preferences. Wanna go further that way? Try Becoming Insane by Infected Mushroom. It slaps.
I know you have high hopes, for a big comparison, but I only have brief notes. Got my hands on Andro 2020 for only 2 hours. I had iFi GO Bar and both were driven in balanced mode with Time Stream cable. So, what is the difference?
The rumors are true. The Emerald Sea is a warmer-tuned IEM. The overall warmth of ES is not something giant, but I feel like it builds more depth to the sound. The treble is a little more dull and recessed. The mids and bass are leaner and a bit flatter (depending on how you look at it). The sound staging of both is very similar in style, but I feel that ES takes it a bit further, offering quieter background and more air.
Make no mistake, they sound more like each other than not. ES is a full-blown Andromeda, there is no doubt about that. The touch of warmth pushes it a bit towards a more organic sound. While I love the Andromeda 2020 as it was my gateway drug into IEMs and Ear-Fidelity, I understand the move by Campfire to slightly change the sound.
I do believe it makes Andromeda even more analog, smooth, and natural. I know my life will be in danger, but based on this comparison, I would pick the Andromeda Emerald Sea. You can still get some older Andromeda’s at Campfire Audio’s store if you prefer the older tuning. Both are fantastic IEMs that I can stack against anything.
Craft Ears, a manufacturer from Poland is really making waves on the market. I was excited to see how their flagship stacks to Andromeda Emerald Sea, as it is available at a similar price.
Tri-brid design with DD, BA, and EST drivers gives hints about what to expect. At first, you can tell the Aurum has a much different tuning. It has a slight V-shaped characteristic, but not as much as eg. UM MEST. First of all, the Emerald Sea takes the crown in sound staging and resolution. It is well known for that, so no surprises here.
The Aurum is not far off, don’t get me wrong. On the other hand, Craft Ears IEM has a fantasthicc bass, making it much better suited for heavier, more low-heave genres. While it cannot match the texture ability of Andromedas, it is still a highly capable, fun product. And you can get it in CIEM, which is great.
Reviewed Campfire Audio Andromeda Emerald Sea is a super sensitive, slightly midrange-focused, resolution monster with crazy sound staging. On the other hand, Aurum is a power-hungry, engaging, v-shaped box of fun, that is not far in terms of detail and ability. To be honest, I’d like to have both. Emerald Sea for odd days of the month, and Aurum for the rest.
iFi Audio GO Bar
A very popular choice, it is my current daily driver. The GO Bar is famous for its immense power, but with the new Andromeda, I had to use the IEMatch function to get noise under control.
Neutral sounding, with a healthy punch, is a solid choice for most pairings, but I don’t think it’s the best match with Andromeda in general.
Compared to other dongles I tried it doesn’t bring that much to the table. I would leave GO Bar for more demanding earphones and headphones, as its sound gets better, the louder it plays.
RU6 is a unique dongle, one of the few that feature true R2R DACs. As Bruno has mentioned In his review, the strong points of this machine are smoothness and soundstage.
Great choice when you want to reinforce the pros of the Andromeda, but since the top end is recessed in both it can get unexciting in some songs. That’s a choice that can be great, but I advise auditioning before pulling the trigger.
Lotoo PAW S1
Here is a very pleasant surprise. PAW S1 is the cheapest dongle I can wholeheartedly recommend for the Emerald Sea.
Quiet, dark sounding with a solid sound, it doesn’t break any records, but for its price, delivers excellent performance. While it lacks the refinement of the more expensive dongles, it created a very enjoyable experience. I have to try PAW S2, it might be it.
Campfire Audio Andromeda Emerald Sea Review – Summary
I’d say the King is back, but it’s not like he went somewhere at all.
Campfire Audio is still one of the biggest, meanest, and most versatile players in the field. Reviewed Andromeda Emerald Sea is only cementing that fact. If you think that packaging is out of this world, listen to the IEMs. While a controversial change in tuning is generating a lot of emotion-loaded comments, it is still an Andromeda, with all of the qualities that you are looking for in that series.
The absolute resolution, crazy sound staging, and jaw-dropping textures. The new, refined build is a direct improvement in terms of looks and ergonomics, the Emerald Sea is a worthy successor of the series and it smacks many more expensive IEMs in the mouth like it’s Will Smith at the Oscars. It’s impossible not to recommend it.
You should try it if that’s your jam. High sensitivity and low impedance require careful pairing of the electronics. Campfire Audio Andromeda Emerald Sea, it gets you there.
Big thanks to Campfire Audio for providing the Andromeda Emerald Sea for this review. I wasn’t paid or asked to say anything good or bad about this product, all of the above is just my personal, unbiased opinion. Campfire Audio hasn’t seen this review before publishing it.
I can really say “been there, done that” in regard to audio. Designing, building, fixing, reviewing, selling. All of that for big boy stereo. Headphones are something new and fresh for me. We all need something exciting now and then, so join me in my quest of discovering this cool world. We will listen to, drink and WE WILL bring the balance to the force. Oh, I like beer.