Campfire Audio is an American audio brand whose new range of in-ears includes an updated version of the Andromeda. With five balanced armature drivers in each bud, combined with the company’s bespoke innovations, the Andromeda in-ears aim to splice an eye-catching design with high-quality sound in one premium package.
Based in Portland, Oregon, Campfire Audio was founded by Ken Ball, who started the well-regarded personal audio label ALO Audio. Campfire Audio’s Andromeda are among the most expensive pairs in the brand’s earphones catalogue and are designed and hand-crafted at Campfire Audio’s HQ, where the onus is on using “quality components” to fashion “world-class audiophile” sound.
The question is, with a name like Andromeda, is the sound out of this world?
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Campfire Audio Andromeda design and build – an eye-catching effort and a comfortable fit
The further up on the headphones ladder you go, the more emphasis is placed on presentation. Campfire Audio has put plenty of thought into how it wants the Andromeda to be perceived, which is clear as soon as you start to open the packaging.
Opening the Andromeda box is like unwrapping a present on Christmas Day. First, there’s the sealed cover, followed by a box inscribed with the words “Nicely Done” – and, in keeping with the Andromeda name, the box is also adorned with stars. Finally, there’s a premium leather earphones case to store the Andromeda buds.
It’s arguably over the top, but you understand that the first impression Campfire Audio wants to convey is one of premium quality. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill in-ears – they’re meant to feel special.
The Andromeda themselves are small, angular and industrial-looking due to the machined precision of the in-ear housing. The bevelled head screws give a slightly ungainly look, but the small Campfire Audio logo is a nice touch and next to the gleaming stainless steel spouts are the left and right side inscriptions.
They certainly catch the eye. The emerald-green finish stands out, though a fellow staff member felt they looked ugly, another called them cool and both felt the finish was too much. With these in-ears, beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder.
They don’t have the ergonomic look of Fender’s Thirteen 6, but they do look very nice when placed in the ear. They’re a comfortable fit, too, and, with the over-ear hook, stay pretty secure when you shake your head.
Build quality is excellent. That industrial look gives the firm impression they’d be able to withstand a few knocks. Nevertheless you wouldn’t want to take that risk with an in-ear this expensive. The cable is litz wire, which twists on itself and is light to wear but doesn’t come with an inline mic, so you’ll need to use your player to change the volume or track. These in-ears are apparently tangle resistant, but I’ve had to unbunch them more than a few times after chucking them into a pocket.
If the default ear tips don’t fit, there’s an exhaustive number of alternatives to choose from, with one set ranging from extra-small to extra-large. There’s also an amusingly tiny brush for cleaning them.
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Campfire Audio Andromeda sound quality – plenty of energy and power, but these in-ears aren’t the last word in detail or clarity
Inside the tiny housing, Campfire Audio has furnished the Andromeda with two drivers for high frequencies, a single one for midrange and another two for low frequencies to make five drivers in total, and a frequency response of 5kHz to 20kHz.
Those balanced armature drivers combine to create a big sound. They’re loud, so loud that my initial thought was the volume was turned up too much − it was, in fact, a nudge over midway.
You may want to fiddle with the volume to find the right balance. If they’re too low the Andromeda lose that sense of propulsive energy. Any higher and they can become harsh and overwhelming, depending on the equipment you’re using.
Listening to Nas’s If I Ruled the World (Imagine That) on Tidal, the bass is strong and defined, offering a solid foundation. Nonetheless, the first sign that not everything is as it should be is the harsh sounding drumbeats, giving the song a lean feel.
Still, it’s capable of generating a decently wide soundstage and the stereo imaging does its best to draw you into the track with the placement of vocals, whether it’s Nas or Lauren Hill’s voice filling in the soundstage both near and far, granting that sense of spatial awareness and scale.
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It’s a similar story with a Tidal Masters version of Beyoncé’s Hold Up from her Lemonade album, with the placement of sounds opening up the soundstage as Beyoncé’s vocals take prominence. There’s plenty of power on tap as well, attacking songs with relish, but in doing so the Campfire Audio Andromeda lack a sense of clarity − they aren’t as measured or as composed as you’d like a pair of in-ears that cost a shade over £1000 to be.
The Andromeda are in-ears that demand your attention but aren’t the most relaxing performers in terms of sound. Though they’re not overly aggressive, that sense of detail and depth through the frequencies also feels as if it’s shrouded by the sheer bombast on offer.
There’s the suspicion that it’s not articulating treble frequencies with quite as much skill either, feeling a bit over-emphasised and bright. My presumption is that Campfire Audio’s bespoke TAEC (Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber) technology plays a factor in producing this presentation.
The TAEC provides acoustic tuning without compressing the audio signal, extending high frequencies. But the Andromeda aren’t particularly neutral sounding and, combined with the energetic approach, the Campfire Audio Andromeda could benefit from a little bit more nuance, sharpness and clarity. A long listening session leaves the impression of fatigue and a hankering for something less exuberant.
Should I buy the Campfire Audio Andromeda?
The Campfire Audio Andromeda aren’t the last word in subtlety, but they offer plenty of energy and a hard-hitting, big sound that can be exciting, though it’s not the most relaxing of listens.
Fender’s Thirteen 6 manage to fit even more drivers into their small form and they, too, offer plenty of power, as well as great levels of detail. They’re even more expensive though, and aren’t particularly aimed at the consumer market either.
The Andromeda certainly look as though they belong among premium in-ear options, but the sound is not quite a match for the best performing efforts.