by Alex Saltz for ProAudio Times
Campfire Audio’s Solstice custom-in-ear-monitor expands on the success of the Andromeda by using its 5-balanced armature driver configuration in a solid body design. Customized to each person’s ears (from impressions), each shell is handmade. Interior acoustic chambers are set in the optimal position for each unique mold.
There are two fits available; “audiophile fit” (shallower depth) and “artist fit” (deeper depth with more isolation). The model reviewed for Pro Audio Times is the audiophile option and though the nozzle doesn’t go as deep as the artist fit, it still provides notable isolation. Campfire’s care and attention to detail in shaping and polishing the body is evident in its superb fit and seal. This is the most comfortable IEM I have ever used. While some universal fit IEMs can cause ear canal soreness after 30-60 minutes, the custom-molded Solstice can be worn for several hours without a hint of discomfort.
Solstice offers reference-grade sonics suitable for the purist audiophile, discerning musician, or technically focused engineer. Its overall fidelity is deep and resolved with notable detail retrieval and spatial characteristics.
Sub-bass is not quite as punchy and extended as that on a dynamic driver earphone, but a track like Hans Zimmer’s “Time” (known for its deep bass notes) is still weighty and authoritative.
Lows are dense and palpable. Responsiveness is more like a well-mannered Bentley than an agile Ferarri. On Hayley Willams “Leave It Alone” and “Simmer”, the thick, tube-like tone of the drums and bass is stunningly visceral.
Lower mids are dimensional and satisfying in scope. Baritone instruments and vocals are well represented. If the recording is too cluttered or expressive in this range, the Solstice’s tonal and dynamic separation can sound a little cloudy. But for the engineer, this is a good indicator of excessive lower-mid energy, and for the general listener, an acceptable trade-off, as most IEM’s are recessed in this frequency range. Campfire’s Andromeda and Solaris (universal fit IEMs) are leaner in this area, which helps with articulation but misses some of the rich, earthy hues of the Solstice; exemplified on Viking Moses’ “Jahiliyah”.
Mids are strikingly rendered, with no incongruent peaks or dips. Issac Gillespie’s “Tony Soprano” is a wide and fluid landscape where vocal harmonies and guitars come through with incandescent warmth.
Upper mids are lush and textured without sounding sibilant. Working on long sessions with Solstice never leaves my ears feeling fatigued.
Highs are many things at once–clear, open, airy and organic. On Bill Stewart’s “Think Before You Think”, Solstice reveals the subtleties of cymbal timbres and overtones. For the engineer, it’s an accurate treble that will inform if a recording is too dull or too bright.
The sum of its spectral balance is a cohesive, unified whole–never sloppy or disjunct. On a quality production like Fiona Apple’s album, “When The Pawn“, Solstice lays out the instruments and vocals with such elegance and nuance, you feel like you’re in the recording session.
Imaging and depth is expansive. Music sounds like it’s in an actual dimensional environment. With Radiohead’s “Subterranean Homesick Alien“, Solstice is a gateway into its vast soundscape. For mixing music, this allows for unique insight into panning, reverbs and delays.
At $1500, this isn’t the cheapest point of entry for a CIEM, but if apex-level build quality, ergonomics and performance is what you’re after, you might find yourself falling in love with Solstice.
The fact that these IEMS were customized for my ears makes me sad, as I want others to experience this level of enjoyment and connection with their music.
Alex Saltz • APS Mastering