Andromeda 2020 - Campfire Audio
by Ellison Wolf
Portland, Oregon based Campfire Audio has a pretty extensive line of IEMs available, ranging from $199 all the way up to $1499. The Andromeda 2020s sits near the top of that range retailing at $1099 and while they aren’t the most expensive headphones I’ve had the pleasure to check out, they are the most expensive IEMs I’ve ever tried; I was curious to see, not only if the price difference made for that much better of a listening experience, but how I would enjoy high-end IEMs compared to over the ear headphones of similar price and caliber.
Now, I’ve never been one to ooh and aah over un-boxing stuff, but with each level of unboxing, the care and detail by Campfire Audio became more evident. When I finally unearthed the very enticing looking anodized aluminum emerald green Andromedas, I was pretty amped to get these in my ears. If they look this good...
The package came with ten different tips in two separate pouches to find the correct fit. Some are silicon, some are the squishy “marshmallow” moldable type. It also came with a tip cleaning tool, a little push pin to wear on your lapel if you’re sporting a tux or polo shirt, and their Smoky Litz cable. Opening the zippered felt lined eco-friendly cork pouch reveals the cable and another pouch holding the Andromedas with their more-than-attractive emerald aluminum exterior.
Inside their machined aluminum shell is a 3D printed tuned acoustic expansion chamber housing dual high, dual low, and a single mid-frequency balanced armature drivers. This is a big step up from my current IEMs that I’ve been using in my band for rehearsal and gig duties for about 4 years that have three drivers. The reason I’ve been going with my current pair is that they are designed to let some ambient noise from the audience, stage, etc. in, which—as a singer—I find helpful for singing on pitch. It’s also nice that if someone [bandmate, sound-person…] wants to talk to you with your IEMs in, you can hear them without having to take them out. For that reason, I’m not sure I’d want to switch to the Andromedas as they’re designed to prevent those types of sounds from bleeding, even though there’s no question that the Andromedas sound better and are more fun to listen to. If you don’t like having ambient noises filtering in when on stage, then the Andromedas might work great for you.
Pulling the Andromedas out of the package, they already had a pair of squishy tips installed, so I figured I’d try them first as I historically prefer those to the silicon tips. You can always get customized tips fitted to your ear for a personalized fit as well. After I squished the tips and the Andromedas settled in my ear, they fit snug and secure, and I was ready to have a listen. My lord, or rather Lorde! With the volume only on 3 on my MacBook Pro these flooded my ears with an onslaught of sound, and it almost felt like a completely new listening experience. Some of that I attribute to the loudness of the Andromedas themselves, but they did sound marvelous right away. Everything was crisp, the high end was clear but not ringy, the mids were warm and the bass was beefy and well defined. It reminded me of the time when I was a teenager and bought a new [and unknowingly better] stylus for my turntable as the previous one had finally gone out, and put on Prince’s Purple Rain. With the new stylus I heard things in the songs I’d never heard before; melodies, keyboard lines, bass lines... It was a eureka moment, and with the Andromedas in my ears I found myself having a similar experience. I chose Lorde’s “Royals” for my first test because there’s tons of space in the song, so I could really hear decay well and place specific sounds. There’s also a great bass drum sound and overall I really just love the production of the song as well as the song itself, and the Andromedas did not disappoint in delivering the song’s sonic excellence.
My next test was a more synthy number with Oneohtrix Point Never’s, “Lost But Never Alone”. The sonic clarity along with the song itself was transcendental. In my day-to-day life I’m usually sitting behind a computer—I digress—and I don’t always take time to just listen, to really pay attention, unless I’m in music review mode for Waveform. When the chorus on “Lost But Never Alone” kicked in, I stopped what I was doing and just melted in my chair, letting the music seep in. The song’s production is pretty interesting in that it’s not sonically clear throughout; intentionally hazy and broken, and the drama that creates is heightened when the song cleans up as it progresses. Listening through the Andromedas the song became addictive; I wanted to listen to it again and again, something that—when it happens—is special. The music becomes a part of you, you internalize it. I wanted to live inside that song. I still do.
My final test was to just patch them into my modular rig. I’ve had the same patch—more or less— in my main setup for about a month and I’ve had time to refine it and tame some of the wildness and the Andromedas really brought out every detail that was going through my mixer. It’s not too dense of a patch, and pretty droney, and again, just sitting there listening with my eyes closed, without tweaking the patch, was a wonderful experience. There’s something about having the drivers so near to your eardrum; it’s intimate, as close as you can be to having the music physically being a part of you.
The Campfire website includes mixing and mastering on its list of uses for the Andromeda along with the styles of music they think the Andromedas excel at for everyday listening. I’m not sure I’d use these as my everyday mixing headphones, for numerous reasons [listening fatigue, sounding too good, etc.] but definitely for referencing, as I try to listen to mixes in as many environments with as many different sources as possible and I they’d be valuable for that.
My only gripe with these headphones actually has more to do with the cable, which is an issue not uncommon in IEM cables: the red dot on the cable to denote the right earbud was barely perceptible and could benefit from being larger, or having some other, easier way to denote the left earbud from the right. I’ve had this issue before—actually with every pair of IEMs I’ve ever owned—to where I’ve had to use a brightly colored nail polish on one bud in order to quickly see the right from left in a club setting. I won’t be doing that with the Andromedas, they’re way too pretty to muss up like that—but I might do something to the cable to help in a dimly lit environment.
Overall, I’m very impressed with the Andromedas, and Campfire Audio themselves. From the unboxing to the construction of the IEMs to heightening my enjoyment of listening to music, with those emerald things in my ears the experience has been so enjoyable. Perhaps the biggest praise I can give them is that they’ve made me want to listen to a lot more music—to just listen and enjoy. How often does that happen?
10Hz–28 kHz Frequency Response
94 dB SPL @ 1kHz: 7.01 mVrms
12.8 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance