Introduction to the Campfire Audio Solaris Stellar Horizon review
Campfire Audio is now one of the most covered brands here at Ear Fidelity. We started covering them from their Dorado 2020 and Vega 2022, and throughout the years we’ve reviewed most of their lineup. What’s also worth noting at the beginning, is that Campfire Audio is probably one of the most known brands when it comes to IEMs in the world. Their Andromeda is nothing short of legendary for years now, as it’s been one of the most popular high-end (well, back then it was high-end) IEMs on the market period.
Their Solaris 2020 was one of the best experiences I’ve had with Campfire Audio in my life as a reviewer. It is such a unique, pleasing IEM to listen to, and the build and design are both extraordinary.
However, Campfire Audio turned its heads more towards limited editions of its most-known products, rather than pushing the limits and trying to keep up with the crazy world that is the IEM market in the past 5 years or so. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this kind of approach, but it’s not a secret by now that Campfire Audio left the Summit-Fi IEM race a long time ago. Last year they released their new flagship, Trifecta, which seems to awaken the hopes for the true Summit-Fi IEM by Campfire Audio for their fans.
Now, in 2023, Campfire Audio decided to refresh their Solaris model with the version called Stellar Horizon. There’s a slight controversy though, as the price went up from $1499 to $2670. You’re getting a lot more in the packaging, but the price difference is still large. Everything in the world gets more expensive, that is true, but the Solaris Stellar Horizon is not just an example of inflation.
Luckily, Campfire Audio has listened to feedback throughout the years, and they finally included more cables in the packaging, including the long-awaited balanced one. This was one of the biggest cons of their IEMs in the past, as even after spending $1500 on a pair of IEMs, you’ve only been given a standard, 3.5mm cable. Nowadays, all high-end equipment comes with a balanced output, so it’s about time.
The last thing I’m going to mention is that we met the guys from Campfire Audio again this year when we visited Munich High-End show. These are one of the coolest people in the industry, without the slightest doubt. Down to earth, chill, and just nice, happy they got to do what they’re doing. Big shoutout to Chris, Ken, and the rest of the team. I have my fingers crossed that the beer party will work out next year!
Okay, let’s get to the point, join me in this review to find out whether the new Solaris Stellar Horizon is a valuable addition to their lineup, and if Campfire Audio is back into the high-end IEMs market with a product worth buying.
Here comes probably the most unique, cool, and creative packaging in the history of IEMs. Campfire Audio has always been known for its great attention to detail when it comes to the unboxing experience, but now they’ve outdone themselves.
First of all, the box of Solaris Stellar Horizon is now made of wood, which surely raised the cost of the packaging, but it also feels more premium and luxurious now. It has a weight to it and feels a lot more secure, increasing the “premium” feeling of the whole experience. You don’t have to worry about an evil delivery guy destroying your precious new babies while in transit. But there’s more…
What’s worth mentioning, is that the box now also acts as a showcase stand for the IEMs, thanks to the dedicated, colorful wooden part with a hand-painted hand that’s holding the IEMs. I strongly believe that this is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in an IEM packaging. It’s such a convenient yet great-looking way to store your new Solaris while you’re not using them. Lastly, it makes my life as an audio reviewer (that really focuses on his photography game) a lot easier, since it’s just so great-looking and I didn’t have to think too much about framing my shots. Yeah, I’m kidding here…a little.
Not everything is perfect though. Unfortunately, Campfire Audio has completely redesigned the case, and I believe it wasn’t a great idea. You see, the whole point of an IEM case is to protect them while you take them outside, and the new case doesn’t really do that. I think that every IEM in this price range should come with a hard carrying case, as it’s by far the most functional. Don’t get me wrong, the case included by CFA is of great quality, but it’s soft, meaning you could use it to store your IEMs on your desk…and that’s about it. I wouldn’t trust it enough to take it with me and just toss it into a bag. You probably shouldn’t try that either.
The biggest change with the unboxing of the reviewed Campfire Audio Solaris Stellar Horizon is the inclusion of 3 cables in the box. You’ve got a standard, 3.5mm cable, and two balanced cables, one terminated into 2.5mm and one 4.4mm. I think Campfire Audio could have cut the price a little bit by not including the 2.5mm cable, as it’s not really a valid option anymore, and it’s definitely much more niche than both the 3.5mm and 4.4mm.
I have to give credit where it’s due though, and seeing that Campfire Audio has finally included balanced cables with their new IEMs makes me happy. They’ve listened, and they delivered.
Design, Build, and Comfort
Just like with the unboxing experience, Campfire Audio has always been praised for the build quality and design of their IEMs, and the new, reviewed Solaris Stellar Horizon is probably their Opus Magnum in this regard.
The IEMs are incredibly sturdy feeling, and the level of precision is top-notch. The fit and finish are both impeccable with these, and you’ll surely feel that you’re handling a high-end pair of IEMs while using the Solaris Stellar Horizon.
The looks also evolved a lot. The Solaris 2020 was a very cool design, but it was simply black at the end, while the Stellar Horizon is much more complicated in its design. Keep in mind though, that if you want to take some macro photos of these, do it right away after unboxing them, as faceplates get dirty immediately, and they are basically impossible to clean.
The body of the IEM is made of brushed stainless steel with brass fasteners and MMCX capture. They certainly have some weight to them, but I wouldn’t call them too heavy. More on that later though.
The faceplate is made of laser-cut black acrylic with gold PVD inlay, and it looks incredible in real life. It adds a lot of depth to the overall design, and it looks beautiful with proper light. These are a jewelry level of design, and you’ll surely be grabbing a lot of attention in the crowd wearing these. However, it looks premium and sophisticated, so there’s probably nothing wrong with grabbing attention for that.
I already mentioned the cables, so let’s go in-depth on this topic. The new CFA cables are a flat design, and while I’m definitely not a fan of those, these ones are rather brilliant. They are completely tangle-free, comfortable to use and they do feel premium. It’s a huge upgrade over the last iteration of CFA cables, and now you’re getting three of these. If you just bought the new Solaris Stellar Horizon and you plan to use it with your balanced DAP…now you can just do it straight out of the box. Great news.
I’m also happy to see that the reviewed Campfire Audio Solaris Stellar Horizon still uses MMCX connectors. I’m not a huge fan of 2-pin, as these are not as secure as good (that’s a very important point) MMCX are. Campfire Audio has always been the true GOAT when it comes to MMCX connectors, never ever failing me once, and I’m happy to report that they kept it with the new Solaris Stellar Horizon.
Continuing into ergonomics, the Solaris Stellar Horizon is a very comfortable set of IEMs. While these are nowhere close to being the lightest, the shape is very ergonomic, and the cable also adds to the comfort level. Overall, you shouldn’t have any problems using these during long listening sessions, I don’t find them problematic even after hours of listening to music, which is a great thing. Keep in mind tho, that our ears could be vastly different, so it’ll still be the best to try them on your own, but from my point of view, these are wonderfully comfortable to wear.
Now let’s get into the tech inside the reviewed Solaris Stellar Horizon. Campfire Audio never really joined the whole “more drivers!” trend, and the Solaris SH further proves their approach.
First of all, the driver configuration is rather bland by today’s standards, but once again – it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s the way these drivers are designed and used that really matters.
The single dynamic driver is 10mm in size and here’s what Campfire Audio has to say about the “Radial Venting” technology:
Our new Radial Venting surrounds the 10mm ADLC dynamic driver, creating a greater air volume and expanding the physical space in which the driver operates. This creates a greater soundstage and a more even performance of the dynamic driver.
While there’s no real way to evaluate the result of this technology itself, the soundstage is fantastic in the reviewed Solaris Stella Horizon, so there’s certainly some truth to it.
Other than the dynamic driver, Campfire Audio used three dual-diaphragm balanced armatures, which have been custom-made for CFA.
The Campfire Audio Solaris Stellar Horizon is rated at 4.40 Ohms, and 94 dB, which makes it easy to drive, mainly. because of the sensitivity. An impedance of 4.40 Ohms is extremely low, probably the lowest I’ve seen in an IEM. Keep in mind that you might get some background noise on some DAPs and Amps, but shouldn’t be really anything deal-breaking.
I’ve had no problems whatsoever driving the Solaris Stellar Horizon from the Cayin N3 Pro, iBasso DX170, or the EarMen CH-Amp. Every single one handled the IEMs like a champ, with great dynamics and no distortion. While such a low impedance is quite demanding on the amplifier, it’s countered by the high sensitivity, so you don’t really need a powerhouse to drive the new Solaris Stellar Horizon.
How does the Campfire Audio Solaris Stellar Horizon sound?
Let’s now see what the reviewed Solaris Stellar Horizon sounds like and how it compares to the Solaris 2020 and a few other IEMs.
First of all, the new Solaris is vastly different sound wisely to the Solaris 2020. While the 2020 version was romantic, warm-ish, and smooth sounding, the Solaris Stellar Horizon aims for a way more technical, neutral kind of presentation.
Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing will depend entirely on your personal preference. However, looking at how much more expensive the new model is, going for a more impressive technical performance seems entirely logical to me. Let’s see how it goes.
Let’s start as usual, with the bass. The Campfire Audio Solaris Stellar Horizon offers a very high quality of bass, but keep in mind that this is definitely not the strongest-hitting bass out there by any means. Personally, I’d even go as far as calling it a slightly bass-light IEM, which is not entirely up there with my personal preference. However, as a reviewer, I’m always trying to put my personal preferences aside and focus on objective evaluation.
Hence, I simply have to admire the sheer quality of the technical aspect of the low frequencies here. The slam is there, and while not the biggest, it retains the speed and clarity that is on par with other IEMs in this price category. Both layering and physicality of the bass are great and it creates a great foundation for the rest of the frequency response.
“Random Access Memories” by Daft Punk is a great album for testing audio equipment, and it showcases a great bass response of the product if it has any. Listening to this piece on the Solaris Stellar Horizon is a great experience, and the bass frequency is definitely doing it a favor. Doesn’t matter if it’s synthetic bass or a bass guitar, low frequencies sound natural, snappy, and dynamic. This is a very strong performance here, and if it was slightly stronger overall, I’d be absolutely in love with it. It might be just perfect for you though.
Let’s now get to the midrange. Here lies the biggest difference between the reviewed Stellar Horizon and the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 version. The latter is a romantic, lush, and smooth-sounding IEM in the entire midrange response, and the new Stellar Horizon doesn’t really offer any of these.
Instead, the new model focuses on decay, technical transparency, and detail retrieval. Looking at this comparison in the most objective way I can, there’s no way not to call the Solaris SH superior to the older model. It gives you more information, and more neutral and uncolored sound that should be your priority when it comes to IEMs that cost that much.
Going deeper into the timbre of the midrange, I’d say it’s slightly on the thinner side, and it works better with female vocals than it does with male ones. I’m not saying that the Solaris SH works badly with male vocals though, that would have been incredibly unfair for the hero of this review. Mariusz Duda from Lunatic Soul sounds great and melodic, but he lacks just a touch of body in the lower midrange, which results in his voice sounding a bit metallic and not as rich as it does with the Solaris 2020.
However, when I tried Tove Lo and her fantastic “How Long”, the Solaris Stellar Horizon simply turned into an astonishing show. The forwardness, detail, and timbre of her voice were just absolutely marvelous, and I actually went on to listen to the track three times in a row. Additionally, what I’m going to spoil for you is the soundstage which is absolutely up there with the best of the best on the market, which further enhances the midrange performance, especially with female vocals.
The amount of air, together with it moving when the artist sings sounds great, and the separation is just perfect. If you’ll get to try the Campfire Audio Solaris Stellar Horizon, try a track with a few female vocalists singing at once, and I promise that you’ll be left shocked. This is something that the legendary Final A8000 is known of for years now, but the Solaris SH takes it a step further.
Now, we’re heading into the treble. It actually reminds me a bit of the 2017 iteration of the Andromeda. It’s right on the edge, in just a perfect way. This is definitely a forward-sounding treble response, and I’d actually call the reviewed Campfire Audio Solaris Stellar Horizon a slightly bright-tilted IEM, but it doesn’t get too hot or too harsh, even though it comes close to it. That’s what I meant by saying that it’s “on the edge”. It often comes quite close to being “too much”, but it never actually does that. This must have taken endless hours for the Campfire Audio team to tune, and if that kind of treble performance was their goal, I must admit that they achieved it entirely.
The album to listen to when testing the treble response is (of course) Acoustic Live by Nils Lofgren. Yes, I know, it’s been overdone for years now, but it’s just a brilliant mastering for showcasing the treble performance, so bear with me for a moment.
Because the treble response of the Solaris Stellar Horizon is so focused, airy, and forward-sounding, this album sounds absolutely spectacular. The string action and the high pitch of certain parts of the album sound lifelike, offering an impeccable show of textures and details. Another very important aspect for me is the ability to recreate the metallic sound in a natural way, and the Solaris SH can definitely do it. The metallic ringing, the acoustic guitar strings vibrating, and people clapping in the audience, all of these benefit greatly from the kind of treble response that the Solaris SH offers. These are just fantastic for acoustic music, offering a very vibrant, airy, and sparkly type of sound.
Now onto the soundstage, and this is probably the best aspect of the Solaris Stellar Horizon.
The staging is vast, and airy and offers a fantastic separation and great imaging. The size of the soundstage is huge, which works well with the entire frequency response of the IEMs. You definitely cannot call it an “intimate” sounding IEM, as the Solaris Stellar Horizon aims for a big type of experience, with a lot of air between the instruments.
An album that showcases it well is “Hell Freezes Over” by Eagles. There are a lot of instruments playing at the same time on many tracks, and the Solaris Stellar Horizon never loses its pace and spaciousness. This type of sound works great with music that needs a lot of space and air.
The radial venting technology used by Campfire Audio seems to do the trick here, giving the dynamic driver room to breathe and resonate freely. If you’re a fan of spacious-sounding, airy IEMs, the new Solaris Stellar Horizon might be one of the best choices you could make in the current IEM market.
Let’s start with the most obvious comparison between the new and the old Solaris models.
As I said previously in this review, the Solaris 2020 is richer, lusher, and warmer sounding of the two, which could work for some. I’m a fan of the 2020 version thanks to its romantic and sweet sound, but it should come as no surprise that the Stellar Horizon version is better when it comes to technical performance.
The Stellar Horizon is faster, more detailed, more spacious, and airier than the 2020 version, which will surely appeal to customers in the high-end market. Because of that, I agree with Campfire Audio on the change of the tuning here, especially since the price difference is very big.
Both are valid options on the market though, as the Solaris Stellar Horizon isn’t really a natural successor of the Solaris 2020 because these two are too different to be considered that. The more expensive model is much more technically capable, which is a very logical thing if you’ll think bout it.
However, for long listening sessions, I think that the Solaris 2020 might be a better choice, because of its more forgiving, richer sound signature that will be more relaxing and less tiring over long periods of time. The Solaris Stellar Horizon isn’t really a fatiguing listen, to begin with, but it certainly involves you more with its more forward, brighter, and leaner type of sound.
The Dita Perpetua is a single dynamic driver IEM coming at $3000. It is a flagship of Dita Audio, which we reviewed a couple of months ago.
The Perpetua is a very relaxing, coherent, and easy listen, just as I stated in its review. This is definitely not a technically impressive IEM at this price range, but its strength is a completely non-fatiguing, easy-going type of experience.
The Solaris Stellar Horizon sounds totally different here. It is much more technically capable, more forward, and more involving sounding, resulting in an IEM that will appeal more to those of you who value the detail and resolution the most. Additionally, the soundstage of the Solaris Stellar Horizon is bigger, more airy, and more precise, further highlighting the technical superiority of the Solaris Stellar Horizon.
However, once again, the Perpetua is going to be more relaxed and easier to listen to for extended periods of time, which is worth considering if you tend to listen to your IEMs for hours and hours a day. While the Stellar Horizon is much more technically acclaimed of the two, it’s also going to be more involving and expressive sounding.
The Final Audio A8000 has been famous for its speed and decay over the years. However, as the world evolves and the technology gets better, it’s been less relevant in the current market.
What’s interesting is that the Solaris Stellar Horizon shares many similarities with the A8000. Both focus on the technical aspect of the sound, but I think that the Stellar Horizon is a more valid option in 2023.
First of all, while this is highly subjective, the Stellar Horizon is much more comfortable for me. I’ve always had slight problems with the ergonomics while using the A8000, and I’m not having any with the Solaris SH. Also, while both are built impressively, the CFA will scratch much less than the A8000, which is starting to show scratches very quickly.
Lastly, the sound of the Solaris Stellar Horizon is more impressive and less fatiguing at the same time. While both will be a great choice when choosing a technical sounding IEM, the A8000 is starting to sound a bit dated in 2023, having too many compromises sound wisely. It’s especially prominent in the soundstage category, as the Solaris Stellar Horizon offers a much bigger, airier, and more accurate staging than the A8000.
Campfire Audio Solaris Stellar Horizon Review – Summary
The new Campfire Audio Solaris Stellar Horizon is the best IEM that CFA ever released when it comes to technical performance. Instead of considering it as a successor of the Solaris 2020, I’d rather say it’s the bigger brother of the Supermoon, as they share a lot more similarities.
Of course, the upgrade comes at a big price of $2670, but now you’re getting a lot more in the box. The overall unboxing experience is one-of-its-kind, and there are more accessories included when compared to the Solaris 2020.
However, I’d personally wish that Campfire Audio offered a single cable with interchangeable plugs, or at least not include the 2.5mm cable in the box. It raises the price even further, and the 2.5mm standard is not valid anymore in 2023. A hard-carrying case would have been a great addition as well.
Overall, the Solaris Stellar Horizon is a highly technical, fast, and very spacious-sounding IEM that will appeal to many. Pair it with a great build quality and beautiful design, and you’ll end up with a very exciting pair of IEMs.
Big thanks to Campfire Audio for providing the Solaris Stellar Horizon 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.
Founder of Ear Fidelity. I’ve been into audio for many years, working in production, distribution, retail, and marketing throughout my career. Now trying to revolutionize the art of reviewing audio gear, but one thing will never change: Music is the most important.