Do you remember the time when the Andromeda by Campfire Audio was launched? Well, to say it was hyped would have been an understatement. However, it’s a good thing – I always want to praise the thing that deserves it, and the original Andromeda was really something back then. Let me just tell you, that I’ve owned it 4 times in my life…couldn’t have lived without them for a longer while apparently.
It’s not a review of the Andromeda though, so why did I mention it? Well, here’s the thing. After such a successful product you have to think about…its successor. How could you take an IEM that is vastly regarded as one of the very best in the world, and improve it?
That’s how the Solaris has been born. It had its flaws in terms of the big shells etc, but what’s most important – it was indeed sonically better than the Andromeda.
It wasn’t all double rainbow though, as the huge shells were a true deal-breakers for many, even though they loved the way those sound. And they indeed sounded…spectacular, big and bold, like a muscle car, but refined.
Luckily, Campfire Audio has been known for their ability to listen to the community and actually doing something about it – so, it was the time for the Solaris 2020.
From the moment it has been announced, there was a thing that grabbed everyone’s attention. The thing, that was the most important for everybody – Solaris 2020 are 20% smaller than the OG Solaris. At first, I was like – 20%? That’s nothing! Instead of being HUGE, they’ll be just…very big, right? Nope.
The 20% difference is quite big in this situation – while the OG/LE Solaris is huge, but not really uncomfortable for me personally, the 2020 is a joy to use, as it fits my ears perfectly. No issues, no fatigue, I can rock those for hours without a second thought.
The second difference between the two is hard to miss – the design. You could miss this flashy gold from the OG version, but luckily both new iterations of the Solaris are black, with the 2020 version being smooth, and the LE rocking this floral theme on the faceplate. It’s completely up to the subjective taste – I’m digging the 2020, this smooth, black and stealthy faceplate really gets me, and it’s fantastic with the camera. However, both are TOTL in terms of build quality and craftsmanship – give me a single IEM better made on the market, I’ll wait.
There are also some aspects that those two share, for example, the provided cable and the drivers are the same. Basically, Campfire Audio calls the Solaris LE as the “Classic Size + Updated Size”. What does that mean? The internal acoustic chamber is borrowed from the original Solaris, and the drivers themselves are being taken from the 2020 version. This is what Campfire Audio is calling “The best of both worlds”, taking the strongest points (at least technically) from the two, and merging them into the new, extraordinary edition of the Solaris, called the Solaris LE.
Now into the third difference, and the one that’ll probably interest you the most – the sound. I don’t want to make it a super fancy-schmancy 5000 words comparison, since those two are quite similar, but they do differ in some regards.
Let’s start with the emotions – both LE and 2020 are big and open sounding, and the biggest difference is in their timbre. Solaris LE is probably the best Solaris ever done – it offers the biggest sense of resolution, separation and the size of its soundstage is absolutely ridiculous. On the other hand, while the 2020 isn’t far behind when it comes to resolution and soundstage, it offers a much more moist, saturated and lush midrange, that’s full of emotions.
The differences continue to show up the more you listen to both of them side by side. It’s not a huge difference, these two do sound like two iterations of one idea, differently executed. Luckily, it is really hard to choose the winner, as the choice would depend on the personal taste and music choices of the potential customer.
Which one should you choose?
Well, even though both the LE and 2020 are brilliant and the differences between them are not that huge, I believe the choice is quite simple. Nonetheless, I strongly recommend listening to both before making the decision, as I’m just a reviewer and my thoughts may vary from what you’ll hear. Anyway, here’s my point of view:
Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 – Choose them, if you like a midrange that is thick and lush. That’s the biggest and most noticeable difference between the two. 2020’s overall performance is calmer, fuller and more analog than the one you’ll find in the LE. While the separation is weaker in very busy tracks (Sylosis – After Lifeless Years for example) in the 2020, it sounds fuller and dirtier, which may be a good thing in metal tracks. Also, for me the vocals are much more enjoyable on the 2020, providing more body and that beautiful, analog lushness.
Campfire Audio Solaris LE – Choose them, if you’re into a leaner, cleaner, and more accurate sound – simple as that. While not as charming and analog sounding as the 2020, the LE is actually superior in terms of raw technical performance. Slightly better imaging, bigger soundstage and the timbre that is more neutral focused. I’d say that both of them are pretty good when it comes to handling every music genre just about right, but the LE definitely handles classical and electronic music better than the 2020. At the same time, everything with vocal sounds more enjoyable and intimate on the 2020, but I wouldn’t call it “better” in terms of technical performance.
You see, audio is all about preferences and different tastes. This comparison is a great example actually. Campfire Audio Solaris LE is a better sounding IEM of the two, with slightly better detail, soundstage and resolution. So it’s a simple choice, right? Well, not really, as my hand goes for the 2020. Am I a crazy man, choosing an objectively worse sounding IEM? Not really, as it has its own strengths and perks that could have more value for me than just the raw technical aspects.
So, even though I can hear slightly more things with the LE, I prefer to get lost in Mariusz Duda’s or Stevie Nick’s vocals on the Solaris 2020, as this is (IMO) the most important thing in audio – the emotions, you cannot fake them.
To summarize – I recommend both the Solaris 2020 and Solaris LE, and the choice between them should come down to your personal preferences. Regardless of which one you’ll end up getting, one thing is sure – you’re getting a marvellously designed, built, and sounding IEM that’ll make your music come to life. Nicely done.
To sink deeper into the two, I invite you to our reviews of both the Solaris 2020 and Solaris LE here: