Campfire Audio Dorado 2020 Review – Changes
Testing Methodology: Measured using Arta via IEC 711 coupler to Startech external sound card. 7-9KHz peaks may be artefacts/emphasized due to coupler resonance. Measurements besides channel balance are volume matched at 1KHz. Fit depth normalized to my best abilities between earphones. Due to these factors, my measurements may not accurately reflect the earphone or measurements taken by others. I gave the Dorado 2020 100hrs of burn-in prior to final evaluation to ensure maximum performance.
I always have a fun time breaking down CFA IEMs as they are tuned like few others. They don’t trace any conventional curve and combine many characteristics into a musical whole. The Dorado 2020 follows suite, clearly a deviation from the original Dorado and, for that matter, much else. It’s not as smooth but maintains a fairly even-handed approach above the bass and warmer tonality. It’s a roughly W-shaped monitor, bass stands out as big and bold while mids and highs sit in relative parity a touch behind. It has higher tri-frequency separation than the Vega 2020, from which I derive its W characteristics. Of course, though not bass dominant, it remains a bassy earphone and lows are clearly more prominent, the tonality also more coloured than the more reference-leaning Solaris 2020. This means the Dorado specialises in engagement and dynamics with a few dips and bumps that restore some balance and cleanliness overall.
Campfire Audio are a bass-loving company and have invested heavily in maximising the performance of their dynamic drivers. The Vega 2020 is such a creation, exemplifying the best characteristics of the Atlas and Vega but with even higher dynamics and cleaner, more balanced overall tuning. In turn, it commands attention but never overwhelms nor overly colours the sound to my ears. There’s a mild sub-bass focus but with emphasis sustaining into the mid-bass too. It falls off steeply after into a recessed lower-midrange to reduce midrange midrange colouration. Extension is superb, reaching deep into the perceptual and delivering gargantuan yet tight slam and thick, physical rumble and pressure. Notes are lush, bold and large, a little bloated simply due to the level of emphasis, but not tubby or overly off-timbre due to the more even boost to both sub and mid-bass. Similarly, the driver quality equates to greater cleanliness and detail retrieval than one would expect from such a tuning.
The Dorado 2020’s bass is noticeably quicker and more aggressive in terms of note attack and decay than either the Vega 2020 or Atlas. It has excellent control and the best separation and definition of the three; if still not being outstanding relative to quicker and usually more balanced BA competitors. Still, this is a highly engaging, toe-tapping DD experience, benefitting from huge dynamics reined in by strong definition and heaps of mid-bass texture. The Dorado 2020 is abound with thump and rumble, being authoritarian yet impressively tight and discerning of nuance. Furthermore, as it has more midrange and treble presence than CFA’s other DD models, it does sound cleaner and less low dominant. Subjectively, I feel this widens its appeal whilst maximising the same guilty charm. This is a hugely expansive and fun low-end tuning realised through superb quality.
Much like the Vega 2020, the sheer level of bass mitigates any issues with thinness despite the relatively large lower-midrange trough though at the cost of some colouration. That said, it appears in especially tasteful moderation here and lifted clarity and openness up top reciprocate for an enjoyable and engaging experience. The tone is moderately warm and body is lifted, however, not to the extent of muffle or veil even on poorly mastered tracks. With a moderate push through the centre and upper-midrange, vocals are only a touch laid-back despite the big bass and the higher contrast permits enhanced definition and clarity that draw a little more attention. They are presented with high intelligibility as a result and are impressively natural in voicing too; nothing stands out as off-timbre despite no overt focus on accuracy and linearity.
There is a hint of over-articulation up top, but no sharpness or rasp nor over-forwardness in the upper-midrange. This quality is subjectively musical rather than detrimental to the listening experience as it further enhances vocal definition and focus. A small 4k dip acts to counterbalance, so vocals aren’t too sharp nor ever sibilant despite the small lower-treble peak. In addition, vocals are well-balanced between male and female and separation and layering in the midrange are impressive due to the uptick of contrast and clear top-end tuning. The ability of Campfire Audio to achieve a natural voicing whilst retaining such an engaging bass tuning is an admirable feat. It isn’t a vocal specialist but presents a euphonic tonality and engaging clarity whilst retaining inviting coherence – an excellent balance act between versatility and engagement from CFA.
Perusing my measurements, I can see some clear characteristics that reflect CFA’s BA earphones given the adoption of a BA tweeter in this design. We observe a small 5kHz bump, about on par with the midrange but appearing slightly forward due to the way the human ear perceives volume across the frequency range. This grants a crisp, clear foreground detail presentation but without becoming too aggressive or forward. Transient response is noticeably cleaner than CFA’s pure DD models too, and fine detail retrieval is perceptibly higher as a result. In fact, this is a specialty of the Dorado 2020, providing a highly focused and resolving foreground. As treble emphasis drops off into a middle-treble trough, the Dorado 2020 mitigates excessive brightness, delivering a clean, black background with strong contrast to its engaging foreground.
A subsequent upper-treble lift means the micro and background details remain copious yet without any brightness or glare. The Dorado 2020 sounds focused and composed in its portrayal. Instruments are somewhat thin in body, but there’s a natural decay and hint of additional smoothness due to the 6k drop that redeems some texture. Top-end extension is strong if less overtly so as on CFA’s Solaris and high-end BA models but like those models, and there is a nice but not especially forward sparkle at the very top. Still, CFA have managed to extract impressive, well above average headroom from a simple single BA tweeter setup. As with my impression of Lime Ear’s models that pursue a similar style of sound, I enjoy the balance between composure and clarity on the Dorado 2020. When paired with technical ability that may not be outstanding in class, but not the least bit unimpressive, it makes for a detailed and engaging yet entirely non-fatiguing listen.
The Dorado 2020 offers a similar soundstage to the Vega 2020 meaning it is a spacious IEM but not quite so ethereal as the T.A.E.C touting Andromeda and Solaris. Still, width stretches frequently out of the head and depth is strong with the robust low-end tuning. The stage is well-rounded and benefits also from an immersive imaging performance. I have heard sharper imaging, but the Dorado 2020 is a stronger performer in this regard. It offers a stable centre-image alongside accurate lateral positioning. Layers are well-defined and nicely separated, with slightly hazy coronal projection. Still, this is not common among all IEMs, most of which only spread laterally. Directional cues are sharp and quick, it isn’t quite holographic but due to the aforementioned qualities, achieves a pleasing immersion and multi-dimensionality. Separation is actually quite good despite the bass tuning thanks to the higher contrast tuning and well-defined midrange and treble. Even within the bass, notes are well-defined due to the strong driver control. It isn’t a hyper-separated sound but separation never negatively affects detail portrayal all the while upholding sound coherence.
Campfire Audio’s IEMs are notoriously source sensitive and the Dorado 2020 is no different with its exceptionally low 10-ohm impedance and 94dB sensitivity. This means it does need a little more volume than most high-end IEMs but isn’t especially hard to drive from a power output point of view. Similarly, it isn’t too sensitive as to become overly prone to source noise. Still, users will want to keep the output impedance of their source in mind before purchasing this earphone or invest in a gadget like the iFi IEMatch.
Output Impedance Sensitivity
The Dorado 2020 is relatively sensitive to output impedance, however, due to the simpler driver setup employed here, the changes are not too destructive. Switching between the Hiby R6 (10-ohm) and Shanling M2X (1-ohm) reveals that treble becomes noticeably more prominent from a high output impedance source. Volume matching by treble creates a diminished bass and midrange with less body and power than the Shanling. There isn’t too much change in the signature of bass/mids and treble themselves, but the balance between them is compromised. As such, the Dorado 2020 is best enjoyed from a lower OI source.
The Dorado takes full advantage of a powerful source and scales up very well. Switching between my THX789 and Shanling M2X revealed a more powerful and dynamic bass on the desktop amp. It reached deeper and sub-bass hit with more authority. The sound had more body and coherence on the desktop source and treble was slightly smoother with more texture. The Shanling had noticeably less sub-bass which does grant a little more separation, but you do not get the full experience as on a powerful desktop source due to the loss of dynamics.
Suggested Pair Ups
I most preferred the Dorado 2020 from more neutral sources with a slightly more aggressive note presentation like the THX789. I find the earphone to best pair with a low OI and higher driving power which permits higher dynamics and slam in addition to better separation. As it is already a fairly full and rich sound, additional warmth from the source may overly colour the sound for most listeners. Only a very faint hiss was audible on the Shanling M2X at 0 volume, but this was not apparent when music was playing, even on very low volumes. I would not consider the Dorado 2020 especially hiss sensitive; it is also not nearly as sensitive as the Andromeda, Ara and Solaris.
Another great review, Ryan. Keep it up, but get your sleep! A lot to digest … I have become a CA fan and am thinking to add the Dorado as a change of pace to my Andromeda 2020.
Thank you as always for your kind words Tom, means a lot to me!
Hope you’re enjoying your Andro, I’m sure you’ll find one of CFA’s DD or hybrids to provide a good change of pace. Dorado 2020 is a goodie.
Take care and happy listening!