Review: Campfire Audio Andromeda – Topping The Maker Game

Disclaimer: Campfire Audio supplied this earphone for the purposes of this review. I am told that I can keep it. Many thanks. Andromeda is a five-driver thing of metal. It goes for 1.099$ USD. You can find out all about it here: Campfire Audio Andromeda.

Relevant links:

review: Campfire Audio Jupiter
review: Campfire Audio Lyra
review: Shure SE846
review: Ultrasone IQ
review: Noble Audio K10c
ohm-image: Andromeda – excitement engine
ohm-image: Eyes on Jupiter

Not Sound

Jupiter and Andromeda share the same chassis, the latter of which is augmented in several ways. Jupiter is mottle-finished while Andromeda is smooth. Details like the logo and the L/R channel markers are cut more precisely: details revealed especially well under the macro lens. Bring your eye close enough and you will see faint brushed strokes and fine CNC scores. These details do not affect sound, but speak volumes about Campfire Audio’s manufacturing prowess.

CA Andromeda (4 of 5)

The edges of Andromeda’s fastening hardware are squared, rather than smoothed, and the bolt fittings are jewell-like in their precision. Best bolts in the business? Maybe. However, the sound ports are bored less precisely. There are now three rather than two: one for each frequency-bound speaker group. Three is cooler than two, but Jupiter’s are cleaner, less notched.

Several other things have changed.

Andromeda’s case is painted rather than bare leather, meaning that it won’t age quite as personally. It is still tough and still just as comfortably lined. Gone is the 2,5mm TRRS balanced cable. In its stead is a supple, nearly microphonically immune cable with Campfire Audio now-iconic high-profile L-shaped plug.

Why has much of the rest of the market gone for pocket-unfriendly straight plugs?

CA Andromeda (5 of 5)

If Jupiter fit well, Andromeda will, too. If you’ve not tried Jupiter, conjure up a flusher-fitting FitEar ToGo!334 with edges and metal. I dig that Andromeda fits flush in my ear. What I don’t dig is its short, fat, sound tube, which doesn’t anchor as well in the ear hole. Anecdotes in support or against Andromeda’s ergonomics abound. Overall it is a very well-constructed earphone whose machining is top notch. It is of middling comfort, but overall well thought-out.

And, just like Jupiter, it is sensitive. You won’t need to punch up the volume of your iPhone or player very high to find a comfortable listening level. At the moment, I’ve got my iPhone 4s set to a volume of 3 (out of 16) and am in my quiet office listening to folk music. Move to trance and I’m almost comfortable at a volume of 2. On the train, I’d bump both genres up a notch.

Sound and more after the jump:

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Review: Campfire Audio Andromeda – Topping The Maker Game
4 (80.77%) 52 votes

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

48 Comments

  • Reply May 19, 2016

    Barun C

    Quite like the article Nathan, but this time I like the photos even more. A lot of details in the photos this time, especially the first one where there seems to be some dents in the adjoining MMCX connector piece.

    Couple of questions.
    1. How would you compare Andromeda with regard to the mids and spacial presentation of a Freqphase product or the Velvets? If you can.

    2. How’s the isolation in this one.

    Thanks

    • Reply May 19, 2016

      ohm image

      I forgot isolation. Geez.

      Okay: I’ve not used Freqphase. Velvet is warmer all around, and when you make it more like SM64, its mids tend to stretch out. Andromeda’s mids are sooooo deep and more accented than Velvet’s are.

    • Reply May 20, 2016

      digitldlnkwnt

      +1 on the photos. I have had Lyra for a months now and overtime i look at them i can’t get over their weight, fit and finish. Campfire is top notch for sure.

  • Reply May 20, 2016

    RGiskard

    This is not a knock on you, Nathan, but I am very concerned about any company that gives $1100 gifts to reviewers. The fact that you either receive an expensive toy or can resell the gear for hundreds of dollars makes it hard to be totally impartial. Humans just aren’t able to totally forget an inducement like that, even if there are no obvious strings attached. I applaud you for disclosing this situation (which is much better than many others!), but wish the press as a whole didn’t permit the industry to do this…

    • Reply May 20, 2016

      dalethorn

      I’d be concerned on the one hand about big-time reviewers like innerfidelity, and on the other hand the ‘house’ reviewers at CNET, WhatHiFi, and a dozen others. There’s little danger that the independent reviewers here are going to be unduly influenced by any one product, unless of course one company starts squeezing out their competition by sending product after product and hogging the reviewer’s time.

      • Reply May 20, 2016

        Barun C

        Disclosure of information about financial interest, strategic interest, gift, loan should be done by everyone and I am glad it is done for every review here at HFN. You and Nathan had an insightful discussion about it in the “The Responsibility of the Privileged” Ohm-Air podcast. I just remembered your comment about the Head-fi Vmoda video, I watched it again and found it hilarious.

        • Reply May 20, 2016

          Headfonia_L.

          I have always made it clear that any review on my site has to mention that. There are no secrets.

          • Reply May 21, 2016

            Dave Ulrich

            The thing I have never understood is why I would write a fake good review because I get to keep a product. Why would I care about keeping something I didn’t like?

            • Reply October 21, 2017

              Chris O'Brien

              Because you can sell it…

        • Reply May 20, 2016

          dalethorn

          Great to hear – thanks!

      • Reply May 20, 2016

        Headfonia_L.

        Dale is right in the way that we LOVE our jobs. It’s not the standard mumble jumble like wgar WhatHifi and a dozen others do. I wouldn’t say that about IF though, but that’s me.

        • Reply May 20, 2016

          dalethorn

          Funny story about IF – when I started my headphone adventure in Feb 2011, IF had just opened, and I sent them 2 headphones including the new Beyer DT1350 for testing. I started publishing my reviews on their site. After a few months, Tyll complained that my reviews were getting more reads than his, on his own site. Eventually I was banned from IF. So I started publishing those reviews on IF’s parent site, Stereophile. After accumulating nearly a million views, Stereophile demanded that those reviews be condensed into a blog, which (for technical reasons) would have made them nearly useless. So that was the end of the Stereophile reviews. IF’s test results have been pretty much the standard of the industry for some time now, which is a good thing, but what is sorely needed there is a response curve that “normalizes” the highs, so they can be evaluated at a glance. Currently, they are nearly useless for evaluating treble, compared to known references, because of the squiggly lines caused by the dummy heads. I’ve been in that argument 1000 times, so no need to redo that – the responses still need to be normalized (as I describe it) or averaged out, to make them readable and comparable to known references.

          • Reply May 22, 2016

            TheIEM coll.

            no way 🙂

            • Reply May 22, 2016

              dalethorn

              You don’t say what you mean, so I assume you agree.

              • Reply May 22, 2016

                TheIEM coll.

                yup ,I believe you.

                But tyll ,he should kept you

                • Reply May 22, 2016

                  dalethorn

                  There’s no loss actually – I refer much to his site, and his followers check my postings, especially the response graphs etc. And Headfonia here references innerfidelity too, so it’s like one big family, even if the references are not direct. All trusted resources are good resources.

        • Reply May 21, 2016

          dalethorn

          IF is definitely in the top class of audiophile reviewers. I wouldn’t put them into the class of ‘house’ reviewers, even though they draw from the same pool of product in most cases. IF does have an advantage though compared to most independent review sites in that they’re part of the Stereophile media group, so they can share resources including reviewers with their sister sites.

    • Reply May 20, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      1. It doesn’t cost $1100 to make, it’s not a $1100 “gift” as you call it
      2. After a few years of reviewing you have so many gear you don’t even care about it anymore. It’s not because you get to keep something that you will not say anything bad about it
      3. Do you ever work for free (unless it’s for a good cause)?

      We always share this info, unlike others who only review gear they get to keep

      • Reply May 21, 2016

        RGiskard

        I’m a bit confused by these responses. I am not being sarcastic, I really want to understand.

        First, it seems irrelevant what it costs Campfire to make the headphones. The issue is what the reviewer can get by selling them. Even if they are “only” $800 on the used market, that is a pretty big gift to the reviewer. My bigger point is that such a gift is completely unnecessary. If Campfire and other companies weren’t trying to garner favor, why wouldn’t they require the review sample to be returned? Does return shipping cost more than the resale value of a review unit? I think not…

        Second, I don’t generally work for free (volunteering aside). But review sites shouldn’t be making their money by getting it from the manufacturers in the form of free product. Sites sell ads, magazines sell ads and copies, some sites have subscriptions, etc. Saying that someone should get “paid” a set of expensive IEMs just to do the review is fine, except when you are trying to do impartial journalism. Again, i really appreciate that Headfonia discloses the financial arrangement, but it seems like this situation could bias the reviewer. Seriously, if someone off the street hands me $1000, I’m probably a bit more positively predisposed to whatever they do next. That’s human nature, and reviewers are human, too.

        Finally, to respond to Dale and Dave’s points, my concern isn’t that you are going to give a lousy headphone a great review just because you might profit from it, personally. My point is that reviews are subjective, especially in the audio world, and the bias that is introduced by the financial side is very hard to eliminate. I appreciate knowing that there was free product involved, but that makes me have to question whether the product was being compared on a totally level playing field. I also disagree that an independent reviewer is harder to sway. Look at all the independent reviewers that are gifted product to do Amazon reviews. They have very, very high average ratings. Is that because every product they receive is great? I doubt it. Either they simply love everything they touch (cough CNET cough), or they know that the gravy train continues if they give praise. A pro reviewer working for a publication that prohibits personal resale of review samples is LESS likely to be biased, in my opinion.

        I heard some talk about Gallo a bunch of years back, when their funky-looking $3000 speaker was getting good reviews. I learned that pretty much every reviewer got free sets of Gallo gear, and that people were encouraged to resell and pocket the cash, with some kind of suggestion that positive reviews would encourage future offers. That is hearsay, but it did get me thinking.

        Anyway, thanks for responding to my post and for engaging in a positive discussion. I really enjoy the site and look forward to your work in the future.

        • Reply May 21, 2016

          ohm image

          Robot Giskard, I am sorry that I’ve offended your better judgement. You can click any of our names at the top of the page to get a feel of how/what we review to better understand in the larger context.

          • Reply May 21, 2016

            RGiskard

            Dude, no one offended me. I was hoping only to get some feedback on how the financial practices may or may not impact the reviews.

            I’ll go away now, but I am sad to hear that folks acknowledge that manufacturers are enriching the reviewers and that either 1) no one sees a problem with that or 2) they believe that they are beyond influence or 3) no one is concerned about it. I wish the manufacturers would not do this, but change is going to have to be driven by the reviewers or the readers. It may be meaningless, but I’m voicing my concern and voting with my clicks. Thank you for your hard work and I wish you all the best of luck in the future.

            • Reply May 21, 2016

              dalethorn

              “Manufacturers are enriching the reviewers”.

              Speaking of ‘sad’, I’m sad to read this, which appears to be a troll comment. Nobody is being enriched here. If there were a review of key valuable product here each and every day, you still couldn’t get rich from it.

              If you want to get rich, you need to get into something profitable, like real estate or pharmaceuticals. Independent audiophile reviewing is the *last* thing you’d want to pursue to make money.

              I’ve had the Sennheiser HD800 and nearly every Sennheiser product below that. Ditto with the top-end Beyer headphones. And a few choice amps. These other guys have or had them too. What are you going to impress them with? Good performance and nothing else.

              Since you haven’t mentioned specifics, your complaints look more like a competitor’s than a customer’s.

              • Reply May 21, 2016

                RGiskard

                Dale, you have moved into straw man arguments to attack my questions. Do you agree that “enrich” and “make wealthy” are different? I never said reviewers were going to be the next Trumps. What I said was that manufacturers are paying for reviews, and I am concerned about he influence that creates. As Headfonia_L indicated, no one works “for free” and it appears that getting to keep or sell review samples is just part of the reviewer’s compensation.

                How is expressing my concern about impartiality a “troll comment?”

                I think we all agree that manufacturers could either gift the review sample to the reviewer, or demand them back. If the company decides to gift the product, why do you think they do that? I’m not being rhetorical, I mean that sincerely. Why do companies give thousands of dollars to reviewers? Because they are kind and generous? If manufacturers think that gifting the product might result in better reviews, and readers (at least this one) think that is what happen, how long will the reviewers be the only camp that maintains that gifted product has absolutely no impact whatsoever on reviews.

                Again, I appreciate your view and that you are taking your time to show me your perspective.

                • Reply May 21, 2016

                  dalethorn

                  I checked your Disqus profile, to see what your track record is. Smartphones, watches, etc. Then a sudden rash of complaints here. That bit of research clarified it for me.

                  • Reply May 21, 2016

                    RGiskard

                    Straw man and now ad hominem? whatever you do, Dale, make sure to shoot the messenger if you don’t like the message.

                    So I read both Engadget and Headfonia? What’s your point? My opinion is automatically invalid because I also am interested in consumer electronics? Would you take me more seriously if you verify my Head-Fi account was started in early 2008? Or that I have many thousands of posts on various audio forums? Do I have to pass a purity test before I can be taken seriously?

                    If the tone of this discussion proves anything, it is that my concerns have hit a bit close to home. Feel free to have the last word, I can tell when a discussion is no longer constructive.

                    • May 21, 2016

                      dalethorn

                      Now I’m laughing. Sorry. You needn’t worry about me from this point on. I welcome other readers to check you out, to see if they want to join any of your discussions. And by all means, discuss things.

                    • May 21, 2016

                      Headfonia_L.

                      Keep it cool guys. Different opinion are free to be shared but let’s not get into personal attacks. Enjoy 🙂

                    • May 22, 2016

                      TheIEM coll.

                      This is not meant to you ,I’m asking myself the same questions ,,if they get them free, the review
                      has to be very positive and that’s the problem .. But in general I’m
                      still happy about your style , Thanks .

                    • May 22, 2016

                      dalethorn

                      I got the Flare Audio R1 for free – I tried to be positive, but in the end I said the same thing as Headfonia – heavy blanket over the sound, insane amount of clamping force, etc. So no, you can’t get a review that lies about the product because it’s free. The reputation of the site is worth a thousand times (maybe 20 thousand times) what any “free” product is worth.

                    • May 22, 2016

                      TheIEM coll.

                      Will you review Astell&Kern AK T8iE , I bet they won’t send it for free ..XD
                      we talk before about flare r2 pro , these sound amazing ,this thing is tiny and it sound amazing ,,, .

                    • May 22, 2016

                      dalethorn

                      I will not, but AK does *loan* those items when they can’t send free, so someone here will probably get a sample eventually.

                    • May 22, 2016

                      Headfonia_L.

                      Nathan was supposed to yes

        • Reply May 21, 2016

          dalethorn

          You could buy my review, for example, but it would cost you $4800, or $200/hr for 24 hours work. Seriously. But why would these people review what they review and why would they not buy out of pocket? Let’s examine that.

          The reason they don’t buy out of pocket with most items is because they’re not sponsored on that model, as Consumer Reports and very few others are. Wealthy people for example have lots of money, but they almost never review things, because they specialize in investing, not reviewing.

          The reason they review what they review is because of reader interest. Every item that generates (or fulfills) reader interest is good for the business – i.e. the raison d’etre of the site. If there were a high percentage of misses, the site would suffer.

          Another thing about influence, and this has been covered extensively in Stereophile, is that undue influence is extremely easy to spot. If you could spot examples that pass a statistical litmus test, you’d have an interesting point.

          And lastly, about selling off review samples: It’s not a profitable business even when you can do it, unless the traffic were high (i.e. Stereophile and their tentacles), but if the traffic were high enough in sellable review items, you and everyone else would know that too.

          All that aside, if Sennheiser would give me a new Orpheus, or at least let me have one at home for 6 months or better, I’d write the best review you ever read. Would the Orpheus review reflect a degree of influence? Certainly. But it would also, somewhere in the text, tell you exactly what it sounds like compared to the next best items. It has to be that way. You can’t buy a good reputation for only 55 thousand dollars. Now if you’re talking a million dollars post-tax, that’s different.

    • Reply May 29, 2016

      canali

      I have to agree…I work in the telco industry and our company has a very clear and detailed ethics policy on not accepting any gifts or freebies from our clients as they’re considered unethical conflicts of interests. And such exists in many industries too.

      • Reply May 29, 2016

        dalethorn

        It doesn’t work that way. The really good stuff is loaned for reviewing, not given. And a $500-$1000 “gift” for a $5000 review is not compensation, nor is selling it for $250-$500, if that’s even possible. You really should look at the statistics on this, for the big sites that do heavy advertising, because that’s where the money is.

    • Reply May 30, 2016

      Koyote

      I think the term that RGiskard is looking for is “conflict of interest.” Though perhaps the term was introduced and I just missed the post.

      A conflict of interest does not require that a person act on an inducement; it is merely a situation in which a person’s self-interest may compete against a more professional interest. For example, if a person is being compensated by a manufacturer for reviewing a product, perhaps by being allowed to keep the product. This does create an appearance of impropriety. The product’s market value is irrelevant to the existence of a conflict of interest.

      Many professions, such as accounting, have explicit rules to prevent such conflicts from arising. Even the president of United States has to put his personal assets in a blind trust before inauguration… Even though I doubt that any president would use the Oval Office to inflate the value of his own portfolio.

      • Reply May 30, 2016

        dalethorn

        You’re missing the point almost entirely. Mfrs need a qualified opinion review, not a review by someone who has no range of experience comparing products. The “free” product is NOT free because it’s worth far less than an expert reviewer’s time. When those rules are made for corporate employees, for example me in a purchasing dept., it’s because I don’t have to do the hard work of reviewing and testing, all I have to do is make the deal and accept the gift.

        The real reason the current system works is because the mfrs are providing the reviewer the opportunity to enhance his resume with additional reviews via the new product. The product itself has little or no value, again unless we’re talking a Senn HD800s, a LCD4, or Orpheus etc.

        I’ve purchased nearly all of my headphones, and *every* headphone $300 and over, and I’ve sold only a handful, because it’s not worth the hassle for most items. I’ve purchased and donated 4 v-moda M100’s for example. Very few serious reviewers have time to sell the things they review – those items that they’re allowed to keep. The reason reviewers are *more* eager to take items on loan than freebies is simple: the on-loan items are more valuable and better enhance the reviewer’s status.

        • Reply May 30, 2016

          Headfonia_L.

          good one Dale.

        • Reply May 30, 2016

          Koyote

          Dale, your three paragraphs barely even touch on the conflict of interest issue. But I will address your points.

          If the “free” product is worth so much less than the reviewer’s time, and is not much inducement to the reviewer, and is of such trivial value as to be a nonissue (all your points), then by your logic the review process should still function smoothly if the manufacturer includes a prepaid return package and the reviewer sends the product back after evaluation. Then there would be no appearance of impropriety or bias. In fact, if the reviewer gets so many other benefits from the review – – resume enhancement, as you mentioned – – then, arguably, the reviewer should be willing to pay the return postage. For a reviewer, integrity might be a valuable commodity.

          The gift of an $1100 product, especially to a person with a demonstrated interest in such products, definitely raises the possibility of conflict of interest for most people. I appreciate that the current reviewer disclosed this conflict, but it is a conflict nonetheless. You can disagree until the cows come home, but you’ve not offered a coherent argument for that disagreement.

          • Reply May 30, 2016

            dalethorn

            Speaking of “barely touches”, your reply. Try addressing these:

            1) I’ve known a few people who solicited items for review, none of those items very valuable, who would then do videos and occasionally a puff piece in writing. Those people don’t run serious review sites. But perhaps you have someone specific in mind, since there are a LOT of those folks.

            2) I’ve been in *many* corporate offices where I could purchase goods or influence purchases. In those situations I *did* consider the conflicts of interest, for good reasons. a) Loss of my well-paying job. b) Prosecution. c) Customer complaints. d) Competitor complaints.

            3) The objective is to build the site, the reputation, the business, the advertising draw. If you don’t do the hard work, your competition will eat you alive, and this business is *extremely* competitive. Perhaps you have specific examples of “free” product that would influence a review, to basically lie about the product saying that it’s better than it is. Better yet, examples of users who bought valuable product from known reviewers, thus enriching those reviewers.

            4) Your complaint, and similar complaints from others, lack specifics. One specfic you could add, in addition to what I’ve already mentioned, is a valuable free product, and wording in the review that goes above and beyond what the rest of the industry (credible reviewers) have said about the product.

            • Reply May 31, 2016

              Koyote

              Dale, I responded to your points, and demonstrated that they all support the conclusion that the products could be reviewed and returned to the manufacturers — which would add integrity to the process — with no loss of the incentive to produce the reviews. You have offered a series of non-responses. I can see where this is going, so I will drop out.

              It won’t surprise me if you reply with an ad hominem attack, and also another appeal to your tremendous authority as a reviewer — both classic logical fallacies. Have at it.

              • Reply May 31, 2016

                dalethorn

                Ad hominem attack? No – I merely ask for examples to do further research on. Getting mad and attacking would turn away readers here, but those readers would be *very* interested in anything they could pursue or investigate that wouldn’t cost them days of wasted time on a wild goose chase. It’s up to you to serve the readers here by helping them to uncover whatever the conspiracy might be.

                • Reply May 31, 2016

                  Koyote

                  “BTW – Koyote is yet another new account created just for this. Typical.”

                  And there is the ad hominem attack, in the very post in which he claims he will not use that particular logical fallacy! Hilarious!

                  • Reply May 31, 2016

                    dalethorn

                    Yes – you are paranoid as well as a troll.

  • Reply August 31, 2016

    Michael

    Late to the discussion, but I’m going to try to break it down for easy understanding.

    Even if YOU don’t believe a reviewer may give a better review due to getting a free item, other people might think he might. And it might not be a day and night difference in how the reviewer rates it, but he may decide, consciously or unconsciously, to say more positive things or overlook negative things because the manufacturer was so generous to them. No matter how much you tell us about how your reviews can’t be altered by freebies, we can’t read your mind and know for certain your judgment wasn’t in the slightest affected by it being free. Lets say YOU are impossible to be influenced by freebies, can’t you acknowledge that OTHERS might be, or that the readers might think it possible?

    So the real issue is why didn’t the manufacturer include a return shipping label? And why didn’t the reviewer send the item back even if not required to do so by the manufacturer?

    Returning the item, especially if done without being required by the manufacturer, would make people reading the reviews more likely to believe that the review is unbiased than if the items are free.

    If what you want is to build up your reputation, why not send it back? Instead, I see a wall of excuses, which, IMO, speaks volumes, and has made me decide very quickly to keep a salt shaker on hand when viewing this website.

    • Reply August 31, 2016

      ohm image

      And I’ll respond simply: why is it only about Andromeda that this has become a thing? We’ve posted the same dislcaimers on all of our reviews since forever. If you didn’t this before now, you’ve failed as a reader, and I’ll take liberty in ignoring commentary from you, or anyone else that gets behind the idea that Campfire Audio, or Headfonia, is acting in bad faith.

      By all means, post the same ignorant comment on every review we’ve done since 2009. By all means, make the effort in shaking salt, but do it equally, across the web.

      I would be most happy if you stopped reading HFN, though I doubt that it’s ever been high on your reading list.

      • Reply September 1, 2016

        Dave

        Also, I have to add, people often ask us, “how does IEMa compare with IEMb?” Being able to hold on to gear allows us to offer better feedback and comparisons.

        • Reply June 22, 2017

          KI Unlimited

          Possibility of conflict of interest aside, Dave does make a point.

          (And then there will be people who complain their comparisons might be inaccurate because “we don’t own the gear anymore. What do?

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