Over the course of Campfire Audio’s Solaris product history, there have been 4 iterations with the first being the Original (OG) Solaris, the next being the Solaris Special Edition (SE), then the Solaris 2020 and now the Solaris Limited Edition (LE). Each version has brought slightly different tunings to the table with the Solaris 2020 featuring a more compact enclosure. Interestingly, Ken Ball (founder of Campfire Audio) has opted for the bigger enclosure in the Solaris LE – this time with an all-new concentric flower aesthetic.
The reason behind this move has been twofold – the enclosure is said to provide superior sound-staging and the Solaris Limited Edition utilizes the same Solid Body design as the Solaris 2020 before it. As a result, the LE aims to capture the best of both worlds. Also included is a special ALO Audio Pilot USB-C DAC which is a plug and play system supporting PCM, DSD and MQA. The Solaris LE (nicknamed the ‘flower’ limited edition) retails for $1499 and can be purchased from ALO Audio’s website.
The packaging of the Solaris SE is simply stunning and may just be their best yet. This time, the theme brings together dark and lilac hues in a formation resembling volcanic rock and amethyst. This ties in very nicely with a depiction of the black in-ear monitors themselves. As with their other products, Campfire Audio have incorporated a starry-themed appearance with gold-specks surrounding the outer cascades of the box.
Included as part of the accessory IEMs are a canvas zipper case, earphone tips, cleaning tool, Campfire Audio pin & earphone bag. The canvas zipper case is roomier than the cork case provided as part of Campfire Audio’s other products. While this does differentiate it as a limited-edition product, this carry case is highly functional and should be included as part of their stock accessories. Also included is an ALO Audio USB-C type DAC which is a new addition to Campfire Audio’s stock accessories.
Build & Design
The Solaris LE is a nod to Campfire Audio’s previous efforts with a larger body enclosure similar to the original Solaris model. However, unlike the first iteration, the LE has a more understated aesthetic with a redesigned all-black finish and geometric flower pattern inscribed onto the faceplates.
All versions of the Campfire Audio Solaris stray away from the company’s prior industrial designs and exude a premium feel. While the Solaris LE does not have the flashy 24K gold faceplate of the original model, the overall aesthetic is outstanding with curvilinear ridges on the underside and a floral pattern on the overside. The housings are finished with black PVD and the spout is machined from stainless steel.
The Solaris LE is a quad-driver IEM with an amorphous diamond-like carbon (ADLC) diaphragm for the lows, a single updated custom BA driver for the midrange and dual custom BA drivers for the treble. As with its predecessors, the Solaris LE incorporates tubeless acoustic expansion chamber (T.A.E.C) technology which is a 3D printer resonating chamber designed for the extension of frequencies. As mentioned, the Solaris LE inherits the Solid Body design of the Solaris 2020 with the larger enclosure of the original model. As a result, driver components are more splayed out enabling greater potential for soundstage and interplay of musical elements.
ALO Audio Pilot
Campfire Audio have included their very own parent brand’s portable USB-C type DAC in the accessory items. The portable DAC manages to pack in a ESS Sabre 9281CPRO chipset and features a 3.5 mm jack with mic support. The system is plug-and-play and incredibly easy to use straight out of a smartphone device with a USB-C port. The sound is quite impressive from this simple device with a full-bodied and natural tonality. The Campfire Audio Solaris LE also develops a grander soundstage with more air between instruments and vocals. Compared to the stock sound out of a Samsung Galaxy S8, the Audio Pilot also instils greater levels of smoothness amidst an overall warmer and vocal-orientated character.
Campfire Audio have included the same Super Smoky Litz cable as the Solaris 2020 before it. The cable is made from four large conductors of silver-plated copper litz housed in a medical grade PVC jacket. The dual braid design has great handleability with minimal microphonics. The cables plug into Campfire’s custom beryllium copper MMCX connectors and are terminated in a L-shaped 3.5 mm plug.
Fit & Isolation
The original Solaris did have some issues of fit and the Solaris Limited Edition is no exception to this trend. With the larger housings, the monitors do stick out of the ear more than one would expect. The Solaris 2020 obviated this issue but the return to the larger housings re-introduces this compromise. Having said that, tip selection is important to achieve that perfect seal.
Isolation levels are average on the Solaris LE and it is not the best monitors for drowning out ambient sound. However, this does improve with double-flange tips.
The Solaris LE digs deep with ample sub-bass extension which is similar to the original Solaris. Both models have a bias towards sub-bass frequencies compared to the mid-bass allowing the lower midrange to play unperturbed. However, while the bass is palpable, it is by no means as explosive as Campfire Audio Atlas nor as authoritative as the 64 Audio Nio’s bass. This is not the bass for a basshead and some may consider the mid-bass to even be a touch light for their tastes. However, the Solaris LE akin to the Solaris 2020, has a compelling bass with good texture, speed and natural rear-note linger. This is likely owing to the ADLC diaphragm which adds some level of resolve coupled with the moving mass of the dynamic driver. In Eryn Kane’s ‘Feel The Need’, the LE presents rhythmically engaging bass lines which are well-disciplined and devoid of bloat.
The midrange of the Solaris LE bears the hallmarks of the Solaris 2020 with an overall smoother sound with a mid-forward deposition. However, compared to the Solaris 2020, the Solaris LE benefits from added stage and separation to notes likely owing to its driver implementation. Micro-details are not as strong as the original Solaris or the Campfire Audio Ara which are generally more resolving and transparent. Akin to the Solaris 2020, there is a good solidity and texture to vocals which adds to the level of engagement from tracks. This is evident in Andra Day’s ‘Rise Up’ where the Solaris LE preserves vocal fry without being too clinical or diffuse. Compared to the original Solaris, the Solaris LE dials up the upper midrange which does give this frequency range some shine but not to the point of causing sibilance or fatigue.
The original Solaris retains the most sparkle while both the Solaris 2020 and Solaris LE have a more restrained and smooth treble section. Notes on the Solaris LE lean towards a more laidback sound compared to the likes of the hyper-resolute 64 Audio Tia Fourte. There is a bit of pullback on the very high frequencies which limits perceived extension and air. Note size is also slighter thicker and more rounded compared to the original Campfire Audio Andromeda. As a result, the Campfire Audio Solaris LE offers a more forgiving and fatigue-free listening experience.
Soundstage & Imaging
The Solaris LE renders a beyond average soundstage in the elements of width and depth. It is slightly bested by the original Solaris in terms of width and perceived height. However, there is a good amount of holographic rendition to tracks with decent separation between vocals and instruments. The mid-forward nature coupled with the slightly thicker note tone does give a reduced sense of separation compared to the 64 Audio Tia Fourte. Though, the Solaris LE is more capable in this department compared to the recently released Solaris 2020.
Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 ($1499)
The Campfire Audio Solaris LE, like the Solaris 2020, presents a slightly warm vocal character with a mid-forward predisposition. The Solaris LE expands the 2020’s sound with better sense of scale and separation. Both have good center stage focus with excellent sub-bass extension. All in all, there are a bit more similarities than differences when comparing these two models. This is likely the result of their exact driver configuration albeit slightly different acoustic implementation.
Campfire Audio Solaris (Original) ($1499)
The OG Solaris heralds more of a departure from the newer Solaris models. In a way, it captures the holographic prowess of the original Andromeda with an added able-bodied dynamic driver bass. There is more contrast from bass to treble with great extension at the top-end. Micro-detail retrieval is also better in the original Solaris compared to both the Solaris 2020 and Solaris LE. The upper midrange was a source of contention for previous users and Campfire Audio have dialled up this region allowing some shine here. Overall, there is a marginally darker tonal character in the new Solaris models compared to the original despite the upstroke of the upper midrange. As a result, the Solaris LE reduces glare and fatigue.
64 Audio Trio ($2299)
Like the Solaris LE, the Trio is another hybrid monitor incorporating dynamic and balanced-armature drivers. However, the two have a different sound with the Trio’s being more u-shaped whereas the Solaris LE n-shaped. As a result, the Trio renders more distant and diffuse mids compared to the Solaris LE. Where the Solaris LE tails off at the higher frequencies, the Trio uses its tia drivers for a more articulate and extensive top-end.
Campfire Audio are keen re-inventors of existing product lines with the release of their special edition models. The Solaris LE offers a different tonal profile compared to the original Solaris. While some may prefer the more vivid and contrasting take on the original, others may be drawn to the darker tonal profile of the Solaris LE. I do wish there could be more micro-detail retrieval on the Solaris LE to compete with other hybrids in this arena. Having said that, the Solaris LE skilfully evades glare and harsh leading transients. Together with the packaging, the Solaris LE is one of their best looking products to date. Whereas yester-generation products did have a more industrial aesthetic, the Solaris LE exudes a premium quality feel you may expect from a flagship product. It is also nice to see the inclusion of a portable DAC system with the capability of transforming modern day smartphone devices to a high-fidelity system.
Campfire Audio Solaris LE Specifications
- 5Hz–20 kHz Frequency Response
- 115 dB SPL @ 1kHz
- 10 Ohms @ 1kHz Impedance
- Less than 1% Total Harmonic Distortion
Retail Price: $1499
Available from: ALO Audio