Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 is a second, not-limited edition of the original Solaris. Sharing the same driver configuration (1DD + 3BA), with changes on the outside, as well as on the inside. It is yet again priced at $1499.
Let’s start this review with a little going back in time. It is 2018, and Campfire Audio launches its new flagship – the Solaris.
It was vastly popular, and it gained a lot of attention back in the day. There was a certain problem that has been mentioned numerous times, though – the size of the IEMs.
To put that straight – Solaris was a big, big IEM. So big that it resulted in an uncomfortable fit for many users. It was rather sad, seeing a product crafted to perfection in terms of build quality and the sound not realizing its full potential on the market.
Two years have passed, Campfire Audio kept listening, and they came up with the revamped 2020 version of its Solaris. The biggest change? The size, which was great to hear for many. Well, here it is, let’s see what it’s all about.
New flagship – same old attention to detail when it comes to the packaging and unboxing experience. The box itself has been updated as well. First of all, it is much smaller, and the graphic on top has been changed to this beautiful, floral-themed picture of the Solaris 2020.
The box is smaller mainly due to yet another change – the case. Sure, the original case was beautiful and well-made, but it was….well, just like the Solaris – huge. The 2020 version comes with a much smaller case hand-made of cork in Portugal. Just like with the Ara I received a while ago – I simply love it. It’s beautiful, functional, and protective. Wish it was black, like the IEMs, but this brown color is brilliant as well.
The rest of the unboxing is pretty much the same as with every CFA IEM – a selection of tips (including the fantastic Final E type tips), a cloth-pin, papers, and the cable.
Just like the Solaris LE reviewed last week, the 2020 version comes with the Alo Audio “Super Smoky Litz” cable. Compared to the standard Litz cable included with the rest of CFA’s lineup, it is more chunky and feels a bit more premium, thanks to that.
As stated in the LE’s review: It’s a good quality cable, but I hope that Campfire Audio will include a new cable with their next flagship IEM. More and more manufacturers decide to cooperate with cable manufacturers such as Effect Audio, Eletech, etc., to provide the best quality possible out of the box. The Super Smoky Litz is good, but I believe such a great IEM like the Solaris deserves an ever better cable, and I believe most of you will just get one.
Build quality and design
Campfire Audio made a big step to the site when it comes to the design of the new Solaris 2020, compared to the OG version. While the original was big, bold, and had gold faceplates that were screaming “LOOK AT ME”, the 2020 is stealthy, refined, and simply beautiful.
The build quality and finish are what you may expect from Campfire Audio – spectacular. I’m saying that in every single review of CFA’s products, and I’ll keep saying that – when it comes to the build quality of an IEM, Campfire Audio is a number one brand on the market for me.
As far as the design goes, I wasn’t really impressed when I first saw them in the official photos. I thought that they look kinda…basic, too basic. It was when I first got them in my hands when I realized how wrong I was. Everything, from the shape to fine details to the overall presentation and finish, screams quality and refinement. Don’t let the photos fool you – they look and feel great.
Okay, I’ve told you about the OG Solaris biggest problem, which was the comfort. Having in mind the 20% smaller body of the 2020 version, how is it regarding ergonomics?
To tell the whole story – I’ve got the Solaris LE, which has the same shape as the original Solaris next to me, and I can easily use them. They do get a little bit uncomfortable after an hour or two because of the size, but for me, they are far from being simply bad in terms of comfort.
Having that in mind though, I can easily use the Solaris 2020 for the whole day without any problem. They are much more comfortable than the original one, they don’t stick out of your ears as much, and it’s just a better experience in this regard.
When compared to other IEMs on the market, the 2020 is comfortable, but it won’t disappear in your ear like the Dorado 2020 or Vega 2020. They fit better thanks to even smaller and much more rounded shells, and I find them to be one of the most comfortable “high-end” IEMs you can get today. No worries though, if you’re considering getting the Solaris 2020 – the comfort definitely won’t be problematic.
Just like I said in the LE review – 1DD + 3BA driver configuration probably won’t impress anybody in 2021, especially at the asking price of $1499.
But how important is it really? Not at all in my opinion, as the main dish is the sound coming out of these, not the drivers used to do it. Solaris 2020 has the most important thing covered, though – a dynamic driver for the bass. There’s simply no way to achieve such a great impact and physicality to the bass from a BA driver, get over it. So, as far as the configuration goes – while not being impressive on paper, it’s tuned with such skill and refinement that it simply doesn’t matter at all.
Let’s put that straight and simple – the Solaris 2020 doesn’t sound as I expected them to. I was expecting that big, bold, and exciting signature known from the original Solaris. And while I could somehow call them so, there’s one thing that comes into my mind when listening to them – refinement.
The bass is the thing that has changed the least when it comes to the sound. It’s still physical, prominent, and extremely fun. While not as crazy sounding as the new Dorado 2020 or not as full and dynamic as the Unique Melody MEST, it represents all the benefits coming from a big dynamic driver. Thanks to that, it’s both impactful, roaring, and well-controlled. You’re gonna hear every single detail, layer, and texture, as the Solaris gives you a great insight into the music.
The most important thing, though – It’s tuned so well that it doesn’t matter if you’re listening to classical music, jazz, metal, or some modern pop – it can do it all without even the slightest problem.
Hugh Masekela’s “Hope” is one of the greatest jazz albums of all time, and trust me…it’s mastered like a masterpiece. How does the Solaris 2020 perform? You’d probably ask, well…it’s absolutely great. Rich, diverse and crispy low frequencies loaded with details, and the most important – it’s never too much nor too weak. Quantity is simply spot-on, which is very important when it comes to this kind of music, isn’t it?
The midrange…oh, the sweet midrange. Literally sweet. This is by far my favorite thing about Solaris 2020. It’s dark, moist, lush, natural, and rich to the limit. Being the biggest difference in the sound between the 2020 and OG Solaris, the midrange is a true star of the show here. As far as timbre goes – in my opinion, this is just perfect, 100% natural, and so pleasing to listen to….beautiful. This might as well be my favorite vocal reproduction in an IEM that I’ve ever listened to.
The most impressive thing, though – while being very rich and “wet” sounding, it’s ridiculously detailed and accurate at the same time. I honestly could give you like 10 song examples here, but I’d be praising it to the sun. If you really care about male vocal in music and you value that “tube-ish”, gooey, rich, and romantic midrange, this is the IEM for you. Period.
The treble is similar to midrange in terms of timbre and tone. While not being as forward and intimate sounding as the mid frequencies, they also have that sweetness and refinement. That’s yet another change to the original Solaris, which was more focused, forward, and energetic in the upper frequencies. There are no sacrifices to the quality, though, as the 2020’s highs are just as detailed and accurate. It’s just the overall presentation that has been changed, making a slight step back and wearing darker colors while maintaining that TOTL level of details and refinement. Not everyone’s gonna like that approach – sure, if you’re into more energetic, vivid, and forward treble response, then you’re probably won’t be happy with that change. It is more relaxing and less fatiguing to listen to, and it maintained all the great technicalities, though, which I believe is a great improvement over the original.
The original Solaris was praised to the sun for its soundstage, and I’m happy to report that the 2020 version is also very impressive in this regard. While the overall tone has changed to this dark and intimate goodness, it affects the staging in a way. See, the new Solaris is such moist, elegant and rich sounding that it gives you a sense of the soundstage being smaller than the original. I don’t believe it to be true, though, as the main difference is that the instruments and vocal is presented closer to the listener, and the overall size of the instruments has been magnified. It is still a big and accurate soundstage that sounds simply spectacular.
To summarize – the Solaris 2020 is an improvement in terms of design and comfort to the original Solaris. As for the sound, the signature has changed quite significantly, now offering a very rich, dark, and moist sound that is simply one of its kind.
VS Campfire Audio Dorado 2020
The main focus of the Dorado 2020 is being held on its monstrous bass and the overall spectacular sound. While it’s one of my favorite IEMs for modern music and metal, it can’t really compare to the Solaris 2020 in terms of refinement and technicalities. Solaris 2020 is more intimate, rich and calm sounding of the two as well. Thanks to such differences in tuning, I actually tend to switch between the two depending on the mood and the choice of music.
VS Campfire Audio Ara
The CFA Ara is a reference-tuned IEM and it sounds much more sterile and neutral. While I’d give a slight edge to the Ara in terms of detail retrieval, the Solaris 2020 wins when it comes to timbre and smoothness. Also, while female vocals may sound more impressive on the Ara, it doesn’t perform as well in the lower spectrum of the sound, including male vocals. The Ara is for you if you dig a very neutral and superbly detailed sound, but if you simply want to relax, the Solaris 2020 should be on your plate.
VS Unique Melody MEST
These two are quite different. The UM MEST is more spectacular, brave and exciting sounding and it has a slight edge in imaging. Solaris 2020 on the other hand is thicker in the midrange, especially with the vocals. While the overall detail retrieval is better in the UM, the Solaris is calmer and more “safe” sounding, that’s why these two compliments each other very well. If you can’t choose one…just get both, you won’t be disappointed.
Campfire Audio really did a great job with the Solaris 2020. They’ve listened to the main problems with the original Solaris and fixed all of them, maintaining flagship-tier sound quality. It is tuned differently than the OG, focusing on a rich, dark and very refined tone. It quickly became my favorite Campfire Audio IEM ever thanks to its beautiful, natural tone. I’m going to summarize the Solaris 2020 in one word – flawless.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Campfire Audio Dorado 2020, Vega 2020, Lime Ears Aether R, Meze Rai Penta, Audeze LCD3, Campfire Audio Ara, Noble Audio Khan, Final A8000, Unique Melody MEST, Campfire Audio Solaris LE, Fir Audio VxV
- Sources– Cayin N3Pro, Lotoo Paw Gold Touch, Cayin N5ii, Fiio M15, Cayin N6ii, Cayin N8, JDSLabs Atom stack, SMSL SU-9 + SH-9