I’m really being asked to choose between two Campfire Audio IEMs. There have been a plethora of Campfire earphones to choose from in the past few years. Recently I was happy to review both the Ara and Andromeda 2020 models respectively. Both were welcome additions to the Campfire family, but what would happen if we pit them against each other like sadistic heathens? These are some of the more recent models from Campfire, and in this, we’re going to look at both thoroughly in order to figure out which IEM does one thing better than the other, and what kind of listener is each for?
Look and Feel
On first look at both models, the Ara and Andromeda 2020 almost look exactly the same, besides the fact one is emerald green and the other is silver. They both feature the same angular shapes seen in most Campfire products Both IEMs are easy on the eye and sport a hardened shell that aims for longevity and excellence. You can tell just by one glance that Campfire only wants to deliver the most sustainable product. The Ara does boast an improved titanium shell compared to the aluminum of the Andromeda 2020. In that regard, the Ara then takes a greater part in protecting all the complex components inside this housing. In terms of comfortability, which is probably heavier in the deciding factor than look, both IEMs have a firm fit. Their angular design sits comfortably enough within your ear, the earphone stays secure enough for prolonged listening sessions.
The internal makings of the Ara and the Andromeda 2020 couldn’t be more different. Both IEMs’ support a vastly distinctive design that makes each earphone unique. Starting off with the Ara, underneath that titanium shell you get a seven balanced armature design, two drivers for highs, one for mids, and four for lows. The balanced armature drivers give the Ara a consistent separation of frequency bands and make sure no crossover or bleed occurs. On the other end, the Andromeda 2020 chooses to make a significant leap in innovation. Inside the Andromeda is a tunned acoustical chamber, a first for Campfire Audio. This technology allows for a direct signal from driver to ear without the sounding too harsh, as well as give a major boost to high-end properties. Along with the new acoustical chamber are 5 balanced armature drivers, two for the highs, one for the mids, and two for the lows. So each IEM has a different set of drivers meant to output its own exclusive sound signature. The Andromeda 2020 does get the most credit in is acoustical chamber design, as well as its uniquely 3D printed solid body. The Ara aims to give you more of what you already know from Campfire, while the Andromeda 2020 tries to make more strides in composition.
All Campfire IEMs deliver a power signal compatible with most major devices. Both the Ara and Andromeda 2020 boast the exact same sound pressure level as well as impedance, and frequency response: 94dBSPL with the frequency response of 10Hz-28kHz. The major difference lies in impedance, with the Ara sporting a whopping 85 Ohms at 1kHz and the Andromeda 2020 with 12 Ohms at 1kHz. No matter the difference in output, do be careful with your volume control, as these IEMs will without a doubt be authoritative.
In my extensive listening sessions with both the Ara and Andromeda 2020, I discovered an interesting dilemma. I believe a good number of earphones have similar soundstages, and I usually chalk up an average sound field to having an “IEM soundstage,” as I have rarely come across one that stood out significantly. It’s undoubtedly my bias toward the soundstages of headphones and even studio monitors. However, the Andromeda 2020 is the closest attempt to bring a headphone-like soundstage to an IEM. Out of the two, I believe the Andromeda has the most accurate and resonant sound field out of Campfire’s lines and is incredibly satisfying to listen to. The sense of spatial imaging is limitless in the Andromeda, as you feel the individual sound particles float off into the ether. The spacing between elements is superb and values a lot of control. The Ara in comparison expresses a different feeling than the Andromeda. The imaging aims for a more floaty impression, not leaving a ton of room between sound elements, but articulate in its response to dynamic range.
There’s a lot to like in this range with both IEMs, but it all depends on what you’re looking for. The Ara feature a more natural timbre, with a slight boost in the low mids. It’s all about clarity with the Ara, and the lows show some character, but you won’t get the width and power that you do with the Andromeda. The Ara has smooth bass, while the Andromeda is more growling. Both have a punchy response, but the space of the Andromeda’s lows are unmatched. You’ll get more sub-bass to feel in the Ara while the Andromeda wants to kick your skull in.
Both IEMs triumph in their crisp and full midranges. The Ara has a more warm consistency while the Andromeda supplies a significant amount of crunch, but both still have ample low mid-drive that make a hard-rocking guitar detailed and rich. There’s a significant amount of mid-range body in both earphones with each showing off different characteristics. Vocals on the Ara sit more forward in mixes, while vocals in the Andromeda sit more at the top, and revel in its dominant separation and layering.
There’s a soft ambiance in the Andromeda that I adore. Their highs are full of richness, and definition. Combined with the Andromeda’s soundstage and you have a special pairing. The Ara doesn’t falter though. The high end on the Ara feature cleaner textures, as well as a smoother overall tonality. It’s really all dependant on preference, but both IEMs have a lot to offer in this range.
There are some obvious properties of the Andromeda 2020s that I prefer over the Ara, but at the end of the day, these are two stellar IEMs worth their price points. If I had to come to a conclusion about the Ara it’s that there’s more of a reference sound being produced her, which is an aspect of an earphone I greatly appreciate. If the Ara is more your style it’s by no means a poor choice, but I believe that the Andromeda 2020 sports a more unique and colorful sound signature that more listeners will gravitate toward.
Campfire Andromeda 2020 available at Audio 46
Campfire Ara available at Audio 46
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