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Golden Ears: Campfire Audio - Andromeda Emerald Sea Review

Christopher Coke Updated: Posted:
Hardware Reviews 0

Over the years, we’ve explored many different audio brands in this column. They’ve come from all around the world, including many from China where the personal audio market is exploding. But one place we haven’t yet examined closely is right here at home in the United States. That’s changing this year with our proverbial home-town hero: Campfire Audio.

Campfire Audio is one of the most well-known and well-respected audiophile brands operating out of the United States today. Based in Portland, Oregan, it has developed a number of highly acclaimed in-ear monitors (IEMs) — including the Cascara which I personally acclaimed only two weeks past — but perhaps none more-so than the Andromeda. Iterated on since its original release more than five years ago, it has undergone a number of changes, refinements, and offshoots. Through all of this, it has remained a staple recommendation among audiophile’s in the know. 

Today, we’re looking at Campfire’s embarkment on this auditory odyssey with the Andromeda Emerald Sea. It’s a warmer, bassier take on the standard Andromeda, which I’ve also been testing (thanks to friend and PopSci Editor, Tony Ware). Much has changed and much remains, so let’s dive in and explore just what the Emerald Sea has to offer.  


  • Current Price: $1,399 (Amazon, Campfire Audio
  • Frequency Response = 5Hz - 20kHz
  • Sensitivity = 11.84  mVrms to reach 94db
  • Impedance = 6.375 Ohm at 1 kHz
  • THD < 0.5%

A Quick Introduction to Golden Ears… 

Welcome back to Golden Ears! This is our semi-regular column dedicated to the world of high-end audio. In this series, we look at premium audio products that all promise a next-level listening experience. But what exactly do you get when you spend a little, or sometimes a lot, more? That’s what we aim to discover, helping you to find out just what’s worth investing in to upgrade your listening experience for music and gaming alike. 

For this article in particular, we’re looking at the Campfire Audio Andromeda Emerald Sea, an offshoot of the Andromeda, one of the most well-known and well-regarded IEMs in the audiophile space. At this price, it exists in the upper-range of the personal audio market, beyond typical consumer pricing and well into enthusiast territory. As such, discussions of value are more subjective than ever. For many listeners, that pricing is simply out of reach, and no matter how good they are, they will seem like a terrible value. For others, passionate audiophiles with plentiful expendable income who consider audio their primary hobby, may have a different opinion.For products like this, ideas of value are very subjective; one person’s steal might be another’s exorbitance, so we’ll largely be leaving that to the side today.

On the topic of scoring, it’s important to note a couple of things. First, while we wish we didn’t have to do it, it’s a reality in today’s search-driven publication space. Second, when dealing with “golden ears” caliber products that often cost great deals of money, we expect these products to be at least Good (7) but hopefully Great (8), Amazing (9), or even Masterpiece (10) level. Though there are certainly products tha aren’t very good at every price range, a quick review of web publications shows that the score range is usually a bit tighter with these next-level listening products. Fittingly so — they should sound great! 

Given that expectedly tighter score range, it’s more important than ever to explore the nuances of what sets these products apart. What is their goal? Who are they for? How are they built? What are the intricacies of their listening experience? All of these things matter more and the number matters less. We are always going to be honest and forthright in all of our content, but take the time to hear the story each product is trying to tell, and you’ll understand it that much better. 

Thanks for joining us again, and enjoy the article!

Campfire Audio - Andromeda Emerald Sea - First Impressions and Key Features 

The Andromeda series is no stranger to reworks, but as Campfire explained to me in an email, the Emerald See is a “top-to-bottom re-engineering” of the Andromeda. There are few aspects of it that haven’t been touched, including its tuning, and what we have is an earphone that feels at once familiar yet fresh and different. 

One thing you can’t deny about Campfire Audio: it has a unique sense of style. That begins with the packaging, which was originally a wooden box with a stand including a little hand to hold your IEMs. Today, it is much closer to the Cascara with a personality-filled cardboard box. It’s green with a backdrop of ocean waves — a literal emerald sea, if you will. The presentation is unique, fanciful, and eco-friendly, which I appreciate. It eschews the generic “me too” slip cover boxes you’ll find on the shelves of big box stores for something filled with character and personality, and I’m here for it.

Inside, you’ll find two different cases holding the IEMs and accessories. The first is a handmade leather folding case that holds the IEMs themselves and a single cable. It fastens with a magnetic clasp that holds it tight. Inside, the earphones themselves have a smaller mesh pouch with pockets for each earpiece to keep it safe in transit. A second bag made of soft stitched fabric holds the two alternate cables. You’ll also receive a selection of silicone and memory foam tips, a polishing cloth, cleaning brush, and a commemorative pin. 

Andromeda 2016 (left) compared to the Andromeda Emerald Sea (right)

Like previous Andromeda models, the Emerald Sea features machined aluminum shells, anodized in green. The shell has been reworked from earlier versions, removing the visible screws, adding more angles, and slightly modifying the profile. The outer edge is more rounded, especially around the bottom where it touches your ear. It’s also a bit smaller to support a better fit. 

The Andromeda Emerald Sea (top) is more rounded with a flatter inner face

The changes continue on the inner portion which presses against your ear. This inner face is now flat and the outer bevels have been made shallower. The nozzle is also reworked and no longer has the visible three port design for the sound tubes (though this may still be the case under the cap). More important for comfort, the nozzle is slightly smaller for an easier fit in small ears. 

Internally, the Emerald Sea continues the 5-driver all-balanced armature design of past models. The arrangement includes two BAs for the lows, one for the mids, and another two for the highs. These drivers are some of the latest from Knowles and feature a two-diaphragm design for increased sound output, as well as low distortion and increased sensitivity so they’re easy to drive. 

Multi-driver designs are popular in high-end IEMs for a number of reasons. The fundamentals are sound: split the frequency range into select areas and designate each to a particular driver that specializes in that range. Not only does this stave off distortion or reduced audio quality from pushing drivers outside of their ideal range, it also gives the sound engineers a greater ability to the overall sound. More drivers doesn’t always mean better, but it does mean that there are more levers to fine-tune the overall experience. 

This tuning process involves every part of the design and is an approach Campfire calls Phase Harmony Engineering. It encapsulates that frequency division, as well as selecting the drivers in the first place, but also how the drivers interact with one another. This latter is especially important and a key aspect to how the company derives its sonic signature

The other key feature of its internal structure is the physical chamber the balanced armatures are housed in. Campfire refers to this as its Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber (T.A.E.C.). It doesn’t reveal many details about this but states that it’s custom designed to emphasize and de-emphasize certain frequency bands.

Whether you care about all of these engineering aspects to its design or not, the important thing to know is this: the Emerald Sea is the product of revision and iteration, custom-made for exceptionally discerning listeners. The attention to detail and promised innovations are exceptional, exactly as you would expect from a premium pair of IEMs priced in line with a month’s rent. 

The final piece of the package is the trio of cables that come with the IEMs. It’s the same type we saw on the Cascara: Campfire’s Timestream cable, except where the Cascara gave you one, the Emerald Sea gives you the full set of three. These cables are flat, almost like a ribbon cable, and have four silver cores that run parallel to each other. They’re gorgeous, and with proper winding when you’re done, aren’t prone to tangling. 

The only difference between the three is the termination. All three major connections are supported: 3.5mm single-ended, 2.5mm balanced, and 4.4mm balanced. Rather than use modular ends like we’re seeing in many Chinese cables, you physically swap the whole cable. 

In truth, I’m a bit mixed on this. While having three separate cables does make you feel like you’re getting more for the money, detaching the MMCX connections is never as easy as it seems like it should be. According to Wikipedia, these connections are rated for up to 500 mating cycles, so damage shouldn’t really be an issue, but modular ends are just a bit easier to work with. 

Campfire Audio - Andromeda Emerald Sea - Listening Impressions 

The Emerald Sea is a joyful listen. I’m pleased that it was my first experience with the Andromeda series… and equally as grateful that I was able to compare them side by side with the 2016 version and its “classic” tuning. Make no mistake, while this new version certainly steps forward in comfort and the seamlessness of its design, sonically, these are still an Andromeda through and through. 

The Andromeda series has a reputation for being incredibly detailed and revealing. That’s not lost here. These are still detail powerhouses that hide little from the listening experiences. Whether it’s the vibrating bass in Dead Eyes by Promoting Sounds immediately bringing to mind a quaking sub-woofer or the synth I’ve never heard as clearly in Angel Vivaldi’s Dopamine or the way you can clearly pick out the layers of pitch-perfect harmonics in Chronologist’s Pioneer, the Emerald Sea renders music with exceptional precision.

Just be careful what you run it on. The new dual diaphragm drivers are exceptionally sensitive. They’ll run on just about anything but will absolutely pick up noise from higher-powered sources. My iFi xDSD Gryphon had to use its IEMatch feature to eliminate it. Even something like the RODE PROCaster Duo had a small amount of hiss. Be sure to start with your volume on zero to protect your hearing.

Bass: Throughout the lead-up to this review, I’ve heard from multiple sources that the Emerald Sea is a warmer take on the Andromeda. After listening to both back-to-back, it’s clear what listeners are talking about. The bass reaches slightly lower and hits harder than the older Andromeda. It does not completely change its sonic identity but instead flavors it with more body and power. 

And that’s fine, because the quality of the bass wasn’t really a problem. Between the OG and the Emerald Sea, both have tight, fast, detailed low-ends. They’re punchy enough for kick drums, even in heavy metal, and don’t bleed into the mids. What the Emerald Sea offers is more of a good thing but doesn’t overdo it. Six by Angel Vivaldi is a great example of where it shines, filling out the sound while the resolution highlights the intricate guitar work and excellent percussion elements. 

What we have here, though, is a tuning that leans into these qualities more than the last version. Music no longer sounds perfectly balanced but it’s also not dramatically skewed so that it will sound unnatural. There’s a thickness to the Emerald Sea that’s not present in older version, and while some people may not like it, many certainly will.

Mids: The mids are smooth and enjoyable. Vocalists sound clear and natural, cutting through the mix well. The detail in this range is also fantastic and really brings instruments to life. There’s an ease to the listening experience that when paired with this detail makes acoustic tracks like Gratitude by Brandon Lake or Heading South by Zach Bryan sound so true to life that the acoustic guitar steals the show. 

As a musician, I’m a sucker for detailed mids. I love hearing the nuances in instruments. Real texture and effective layering makes music so much more immersive. The Emerald Sea does a great job here and matched my eclectic library well.

Compared to the older Andromeda, things aren’t so cut and dry. That model arguably does mids “better” for tastes like mine. Its mids are brighter and more forward. They’re not as smooth but it’s a trade-off I don’t personally mind for the slight amount of extra clarity they offer. Even more than the bass, this is really a matter of flavor. They’re different but not game-changingly so.

Treble: Just because Campfire Audio boosted the bass, that doesn’t mean it lacks crisp and airy highs. In fact, the Emerald Sea is what I would consider treble-forward, though to a lesser degree than the standard. Hi-hats and other percussion step noticeably ahead and are very forward. The tuning here highlights the capability of the two high-end drivers at play. Cymbal strikes have natural attack and decay, making that forward percussion sound sizzly and realistic. 

The high-end has another strength: an emphasis in the upper harmonics of the instruments highlighted by its mid-range. Proper treble tuning removes a veil from the instruments, allows their higher frequencies to come forth and sound true to life and Campfire has absolutely nailed it. 

Both Andromedas offer great treble performance. You’re really not going to go wrong with either set in that regard but the Emerald Sea has a bit less bite that the treble-sensitive may appreciate. 

Technical Performance, Soundstage, and Imaging: While both sets offer outstanding detail, the Emerald Sea is the clear winner in soundstage. It’s surprisingly spacious with good width and better depth. Within that space, they deliver effective imaging, as if the instruments are spread out around you. The vanilla Andromeda is no slouch here either but Campfire has made some definite advancements in staging with this release.

Where the original wins is layering. Despite being more spacious overall, the space between individual instruments is lessened on the Emerald Sea. It’s not congested but it's clear that we’ve traded soundstage for depth in layering.  

Gaming: For gaming, the Emerald Sea is very good. Their spaciousness enhances immersion and the sense of realism to the game world, whether that’s Call of Duty: Warzone or Baldur’s Gate 3. It’s especially well-suited to competitive games where picking up on tiny details and hearing footsteps can make the difference between a loss and a win. You’ll absolutely hear the enemy before you see them with this set, but just as importantly, their detail retrieval means that you won’t miss those footsteps even when there’s an active gunfight taking place at the same time. 

Overall Impressions and Final Thoughts

The Andromeda Emerald Sea is an interesting pair of earphones. Having listened to both side by side, neither lacks in detail or air. One is bassier than the other and offers more body. The other has slightly less of that body but offers a crisper sound with better layering. They share clear DNA in how they sound and Campfire Audio has done a good job of keeping that fundamental aural identity intact. 

So it’s a matter of taste, not of the Emerald Sea totally throwing the old sound out the window. A different flavor, not a completely different dessert.

And with that in mind, I can confidently say that the Emerald Sea is great. My personal tastes lean more toward the older version, but I still enjoy the heck out of it. It’s detail rich, and while not as crisp, is still a very sparkly set. In short, I can see why so many people fell in love with the original Andromeda and can see many people equally falling in love with the Emerald Sea in turn. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. Articles may include affiliate links from which we may earn a small commission to help support the site. Authors do not earn affiliate revenue or commissions.           

9.0 Amazing
  • Enhanced comfort, fit, and style
  • Warmer sound signature with clear mids and airy treble
  • Wide, spacious listening experience
  • Very detail rich
  • Great pick for gaming
  • Lacks some crispness compared to Andromeda 2020
  • Swapping entire cables can be a bit cumbersome
  • May be too bright for some


Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight