Today, we’re comparing a shiny newcomer to an all-time favorite. My colleagues have written extensively about both, the Solaris and the SE846 here and here. This review is for folks who are familiar with at least one of these models, but can’t yet commit to opening their wallets. The Solaris is 500 bucks more expensive than the famous SE846. What makes the Solaris so much pricier than the SE846, and is it worth investing the extra cash to get it? Let’s find out in this Campfire Audio Solaris vs Shure SE846 Review.
Campfire Audio Solaris vs Shure SE846
The Shure SE846 wins hands-down in this department. The only problem I have with the Solaris is the fit. After extended periods of use, the shells start to grate on the outside of my ear canals. That being said, not all people have the same complaint. And my ears are a little dainty. Still, you can be shure that you won’t have this problem with the SE846. Ugh, sorry. Extremely reliable in terms of snugness and comfort, the SE846 will also give you more sound isolation.
The SE846 houses 4 balanced armature drivers, while the Solaris employs a hybrid setup, with 3 balanced armatures for the higher frequencies, and one dynamic for the lower frequencies. So, in theory, we can expect a bigger lows from the Solaris.
The great thing about the SE846, is that you’ll get a lot in one package; with 3 MMCX cables in the box, you can make calls or go wireless if you choose. The Solaris, however, only comes with the one MMCX cable. No mic and remote included. That being said, the cable use for Solaris is a beast. Campfire has super-sized its ALO Litz to a Super-Litz. Thick, durable and damn pretty, it’s certainly integral to Campfire’s famous sound signature.
As mentioned above, size does matter. And some people prefer it small. The Solaris shells are yuge in comparison to the more reasonable and well-contoured SE846. But if you like to bling out, the Solaris is hard to beat. With a gold-plated lid and PVD finished body, ain’t nothing going to freq up these buds. That being said, the SE846 feels lighter and less cumbersome, while the shell seems solid enough to sustain a lot of wear a tear.
Overall Impressions: The rich and fast Solaris vs the comparatively thin, but dependable SE846.
With the stems that come out of the box, you’ll getting a thicker, more forward leaning bass from the SE846 than you will from the Solaris. (If you feel like lightening the bass on the SE846, you can use the different stems, included in the box, to change up the sound signature). But if you’re a sucker for grip, you’ll appreciate the bass on the Solaris. It’s so damn fast, and it offers a much tighter, dryer profile than the SE846. Playing some double bass tracks, both IEMs offered an impressively natural sound with a similar amount of resolve. But listening to cellos, the Solaris displayed a cleaner, more textured feel. Certainly, in terms of transparency, the Solaris is the sure winner.
Similar balance and presence here. Pretty even mids with vocals sitting slightly forward. But listening to rock songs with heavy instrumentation, the Solaris also did a better job in cleanly layering the instruments so that nothing felt left out. Listening to acoustic guitars strums, both IEMs had great separation. But the Solaris showed more outline, giving guitar picks extra definition. And the Solaris displayed more color in tone, giving it a more dynamic feel. The Solaris is so rich, in fact, that it almost makes the SE846 sound tinny in comparison.
The Solaris presented slightly more transparent highs, giving more substance to strings in this range. I also listened to some Miles Davis. And again gain, the Solaris displayed more nuance while also being easier on the ears in the very highest registers. Moving onto pop music, the Solaris offered more sparkly highs. And again, the added speed produced by the Solaris made high-pitched percussion instruments tighter and more crystalized.
You’ll get a more spacious soundstage from the Solaris, with slightly more accurate instrument placement. The sense of depth, for example, was more audible on the Solaris. And because instrumentation is so beautifully layered and outlined on the Solaris, it feels more multidimensional, especially when listening to complicated arrangements.
The SE846 is a fantastic IEM. And if you’re on a “budget,” it’s impossible to beat (Andromeda excluded). Well balanced, with a freqload of transparency, there’s a reason why it has been a best-seller for so long. But after comparing it to the uniquely colorful and vibrant Solaris, the SE846 begins to lack charisma. And if you’re going to throw down this much cash on a headphone, I’d consider spending some more of your kid’s tuition fund on an IEM that’s unparalleled at its price point. That being said, if your ears canals are sensitive and you generally have problems with fit, the SE846 is a safer bet.
You can find both of these IEMs for the best price here:
Audio 46: Shure SE846 (Use our promo code, “majorhifi” to get a 10% discount)