Campfire Audio Dorado 2020: Bombastic

Greetings!

Today we’re checking out the heavily refreshed Dorado 2020 from Campfire Audio.

Hailing from Portland, Oregon where their products are designed and hand-assembled, Campfire Audio has been bringing high end in-ear-monitors to the public since 2015. It all started with the Jupiter, Orion, and Lyra. Since then their lineup has been expanded and refined with popular releases like the Andromeda and Atlas. The Andromeda in particular has become a staple recommendation to audiophiles looking to step up into the realm of TOTL (top-of-the-line) gear thanks to a balanced and technically proficient yet entertaining sound. It looks pretty cool too.

The original Dorado was released in 2016 when hybrids were still relatively scarce and relegated mostly to premium products. The 2020 revision retains a hybrid design, however this time it has been simplified. No crossovers and a 1+1 configuration vs. the 2+1 configuration of the original. Like the Vega 2020, the new Dorado revives Campfire’s use of ceramic for the main body of each shell. The new nozzle design shared with the Vega is machined brass instead of steel. Visible through the grills is the extremely compact balanced armature, nestled dead centre.

The Dorado 2020 has been part of my regular rotation over the last few months and has proven it is deserving of a place in every v-shaped lovers stable. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

What I Hear

Tips: Of the included tips, the Final Audio Type E are my favourite. They provide a stellar fit and slightly tame the treble. The included single flange wide bore tips are alright, but the reduced bass leaves the Dorado sounding just a little brighter than I’d prefer it to be. The stock Mushroom foams provide a similar experience to the Final tips, but with everything smoothed out a bit. Quite pleasant. Dipping into third party options, I like the Spinfit CP100 which again sounded similar to the Final tips. Unfortunately they lengthened the nozzle a bit too much making them less ideal. The CP145 had the same length issue while bumping up treble presence. Not bad, but again, not ideal. Lastly, Sony hybrids are a nice pairing. The soft silicone really bumps up comfort and the small bore helps tame treble, similar to the Final tips. Thanks to the slender nozzles, there weren’t many other tips that worked, and nothing worth mentioning.

The Dorado 2020 isn’t shy about it’s hybrid status with exaggerated bass fighting a brilliant treble region for attention. Like the Vega 2020 in which it shares a dynamic driver, the Dorado 2020 provides outstanding sub-bass extension that handles the thundering opening of Kavinski’s “ Solli” with aplomb. Mid-bass is punchy and clean with good control and next to no bloom that can cut into the lower mid-range to hinder clarity and coherence. This driver isn’t super speedy, but it’s certainly quick enough to handle rapid transitions without any loss of note definition. Texturing is also pretty good, though like the Vega 2020 you’re in for a warm, smooth experience more than a hyper analytic one.

The midrange steps back in emphasis when compared to surrounding frequencies but is in no way overshadowed. Vocal coherence, clarity, and detail are all positives thanks to a fairly neutrally weighted presentation (ie. neither thick nor thin) that fits in well with the animated, sprightly experience the Dorado provides. Timbre is reasonably accurate, free of the dry edge I heard in the Vega. Instruments in King Crimson’s live rendition of “Cat Food” sound nearly as correct here as they do through HiFiman’s ex-halo product, the Susvara. I have no qualms with what Campfire Audio has achieved with the Dorado 2020’s midrange considering the strong v-shaped tune.

Treble is just as exciting as the bass on the Dorado 2020. That tiny balanced armature certainly does a good job of bringing the heat, likely helped out by it’s forward positioning right behind the nozzle grill. Don’t think this results in a harsh sound. It’s surprisingly refined and free of the glare and sizzle that you get from cheaper products with a similar driver placement. Attack and decay is also quite rapid which shouldn’t be a surprise given the use of an armature. My main complaint with the treble is that is isn’t quite as tight as I prefer. The bit of splash present slightly detracts from what is otherwise pretty outstanding detail and clarity.

Sound stage is where the Dorado 2020 impresses me least as it doesn’t quite live up to the standards set by other products in Campfire Audio’s lineup. I found it to be well-balanced in terms of width and depth, but overall fairly average in size. I suspect this is due to the vocals which are set fairly close to the ear resulting in a relatively intimate presentation. Thankfully the Dorado 2020 works with this adequate spacing well with nuanced imaging that allows you to easily track movement from channel-to-channel. It was particularly entertaining with psy-trance tracks from Infected Mushroom, and effectively allowed me to tracks sounds when gaming. Track layering and instrument separation were also not an issue with the dual driver setup keeping busy tracks from smearing or becoming congested. This was especially handy on one of my favorites, that being King Crimson’s “Starless and Bible Black” which is pure chaos in the closing minutes.

Compared To A Peer (volumes matched with Dayton i MM-6)

Campfire Audio Vega 2020 (899.00 USD): The Vega and Dorado are certainly cut from the same cloth sharing their shell design and dynamic driver (updated for the Dorado since it no longer has to function as a full-range unit). The Dorado is it’s own beast thanks to the addition of a compact balanced armature tucked snug-as-a-bug into a brass nozzle instead of the stainless steel nozzle used for the Vega. For the most part the two share their low end performance with the Dorado coming across slightly less bassy. I found this slight reduction to sound more extreme than it is thanks to the improvement in midrange and treble presence enabled by the inclusion of the balanced armature. Compared to the Vega, the Dorado’s mids sound leaner, more forward, and notably more detailed. Their default vocal positioning is also slightly deeper in the ear which adds additional intimacy. I prefer the tonality of the Vega which to me comes across more natural. The treble presentation on the two is completely different. The Dorado is quite a bit brighter with a snappier attack and quicker decay. It does a better job layering and separating individual track elements, with the leaner presentation also helping in imaging accuracy. Where the Vega struggles on highly congested tracks, the Dorado has no problems. This may also be due to a mildly wider and deeper stage on which music and effects play.

Overall I enjoy both quite a lot, but the way the Vega leans completely into a bass-heavy signature really sings to me. While it lacks the detail and technical competency of the Dorado, I can’t help but smile and laugh at the low end which just doesn’t shine the same way on the Dorado thanks to sharing the spotlight with other aspects of the signature. I’m sure most listeners will prefer the Dorado, but I’m smitten with the Vega.

Campfire Audio Atlas (1,299.00 USD): Note the Atlas was on sale for 899.00 USD at the time of writing. I’d almost call the Dorado 2020 the spiritual successor to the single dynamic Atlas thanks to both having energetic, unabashedly v-shaped signatures. There are some significant differences though. The first is in the treble where the Dorado’s balanced armature has a notable brilliance region bias. The Atlas’ upper range presentation is more balanced with the presence region seeing only a slight skew in emphasis. While notes from the Atlas are better controlled without the hint of splash heard in the Dorado, the newer 2020 model is less fatiguing thanks to a smoother, more refined sound. Airiness, detail, and clarity are similarly good with the Vega having an edge to my ears. Dipping into the midrange the two are similar until around 2k where the Dorado tapers off and the Atlas picks up quite a bit more emphasis. This gives vocals on the Atlas a more defined role at the expense of timbre quality which I found more natural and accurate on the Dorado 2020. The midrange out of the Dorado loses out slightly on detail and clarity, but adds warmth which really helps with female vocalists. The cooler tonality for the Atlas is better suited to male vocalists to my ear. Dipping into the low end neither shies away from a providing a bombastic experience. Bass digs deep into sub-bass regions with good control and speed. I’ll give a very slight edge to the Atlas when it comes to texture, though this is at the expense of refinement and dynamism which the Dorado 2020 has the edge in. Bass performance is more similar than not, and I’d be happy with either. The Atlas has a wider and deeper stage than the Dorado 2020 with vocals being placed further from the inner ear. Although the Atlas offers more space between track elements, the Dorado 2020 is notably more nuanced with channel-to-channel transitions. The layering of individual effects and sounds is also more impressive through the Dorado.

Once again, I enjoy both quite a bit but the Dorado 2020 gets the nod from me for a couple reasons. I prefer it’s smoother, less fatiguing sound but more importantly, the vastly improved fit and comfort. I can use the Dorado for fairly long periods without having to reseat them or fiddle with the fit. It is very easy to slot it into an ideal listening position. The Atlas, on the other hand, requires regular adjustments and ideal tips for me to get a decently reliable fit. I also have to wear it cable up to aid with the weight. Lastly, with the wrong tips drive flex can mute the sound output, though this has improved considerably with use and isn’t nearly as much of an issue now as it was when I first reviewed it.

In The Ear The Dorado 2020 is styled the same as the Vega 2020 with a ceramic shell, though the stainless steel nozzle has been swapped out for a machined brass unit. Ceramic is an excellent material to use for this purpose as it helps control unwanted vibrations, and unlike steel or aluminum, is highly resistant to scratching and blemishes. Don’t think these will be delicate either. The Dorado’s shells go through the same rigorous sintering process as their Vega sibling, where the material is heated to 600 degrees for two days, and then for another three days at 1,200 degrees. This fuses the ceramic powders into a very dense shell with limited porosity. Once this is complete, they are polished for three days in a tumbler with small alumina stones and water. This results in their gleaming, high gloss finish. Along with the premium shell material, the Dorado utilizes Campfire’s uber-reliable Beryllium Copper MMCX ports. The original Polaris I reviewed back in 2017 uses a less refined version of this same technology. Despite removing and plugging cables in dozens of times, the connection still feels just as good now as it did four years ago. I am pretty confident the Dorado will be exceptionally durable and will last a long, long time.

If the cable looks familiar I’m not surprised as it can be found included with a number of different Campfire Audio models. The 90 degree angled jack is smartly designed with an extension to permit compatibility with a wide variety of device cases, though strain relief is still stiffer than I find ideal. That said, I still have yet to experience any issues with it on the numerous cables I’ve used with it. My experiences with Campfire’s cables have shown them to be plenty durable. Within the small, reliefless aluminum y-split, the cable divides sending two strands on each side to the ear pieces. Slotting into the top of the split is a small plastic chin cinch. It moves much more smoothly here than on earlier Campfire cables and as a result is much more useful. Also useful are the preformed ear guides that seem to now be the standard on Campfire’s cables. While the memory wire used on earlier cables worked, I found the “memory” aspect of that title limited at best which led to the wire straightening out over time. Ditching it entirely and sticking with preformed guides has resulted in a much more pleasant experience since I’m not constantly rebending the wire to ensure it stays behind my ear. I am glad Campfire Audio has stuck with this cable and is using it with numerous models in their lineup. That said, since the Dorado 2020 bridges a 1,000 USD price tag, the beefier cable from the Solaris 2020 would have been a welcome inclusion instead.

When it comes to fitment the smooth, well-rounded Dorado 2020 should highlight the term ‘universal’ better than Campfire’s larger, more angular housings. Even though it is quite small, the Dorado is fairly heavy. It has a long, brass nozzle which combined with the low-profile, over-ear design helps spread that weight evenly through the outer ear. As a result, it’s a really comfortable earphone to wear for long periods. The long nozzle isn’t ideal for me personally as I can’t insert them deeply enough to make use of the design, but I know I’m in the minority when it comes to stuff like this. I suspect this shape and design will be a big win for the majority of users.

In addition to fitting well, the Dorado has pretty impressive passive isolation. The single vent to the rear of the housing doesn’t let in much noise, nor does much bleed through the dense ceramic shells. I’m sure the nozzle-mounted armature also helps block its fair share of noise. I have had no issues using these in loud areas with no need to increase the volume to counter the surrounding activities. Tossing Campfire’s included Mushroom foams tips and the isolation shames most other vented, hybrid iems.

In The Box The Dorado 2020 continues on with the same outstanding unboxing experience introduced with their 2019 models. The front of the exterior sheath has a geometric theme going on with a number of circles, rectangles, and a grid laying the backdrop for a high quality image of the Dorado’s reflective black shells. On the back a lovely foil sticker holds things together. Removing the sticker allows you to unfurl the sheath like a blossoming flower revealing another box within, one that is printed with the more traditional evening scene that has adorned their packaging in the past. Lifting the lid you’re greeted with “Nicely Done” printed on the front flap. Inside, the pale orange moon-shaped case immediately draws your attention, while a smaller, elongated box containing most of the accessories fills in the remaining space. In all you get:

  • Campfire Audio Dorado 2020 earphones
  • ‘Diver Orange’ upcycled marine plastic case
  • Smoky Jacket Silver Plated Copper Litz Cable
  • Final Audio tips (xs/s/m/l/xl)
  • Campfire Audio Marshmallow tips (s/m/l)
  • Wide bore single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
  • Campfire Audio lapel pin
  • Cleaning tool
  • Mesh accessory case (x3)

This is an unboxing experience befitting the premium products Campfire is known for. You feel like you’re getting some special, a feeling helped along by the wealth of useful extras, like a compact, usable carrying case and various tips of different styles which helps avoid the need to turn to a third party. I also appreciate the Campfire has kept their unboxings relatively straightforward, avoiding the temptation to micro-package every individual element. Yet another big plus is that they’ve kept their materials recyclable so as to limit waste. This goes double for the new case which drops the sustainably sourced cork material for upcycled marine plastics. Sure, it doesn’t feel quite as premium as cork, or the leather used in the past, but it doesn’t feel cheap and it’ll be plenty durable all while helping the environment. I don’t really see any downsides.

Final Thoughts The Dorado 2020 fits well into Campfire Audio’s high end lineup. The Ara is their analytic masterpiece, the Andromeda 2020 an all-round workhorse with an addictive sound stage, and the Solaris 2020 a mix of the two but with the impactful bass of a dynamic driver. The Dorado 2020 fills in the remaining gap as the v-shaped entertainer that just so happens to be technically quite good, though admittedly its average sound stage isn’t anything to brag about. The addition of the Dorado 2020 ensures that Campfire Audio offers something for pretty much anyone wanting to step up into the world of top-of-the-line (TOTL) earphones, and/or those wanting to move up from the Polaris II while sticking within the Campfire family.

For genres of music that typically rely heavily on a strong bassline to carry the beat, like EDM, hip hop, and pop, the Dorado 2020 is a fantastic fit. It has a musical, bold sound that can match the energy of the tunes you’re listening to. On top of sounding good, you get premium materials that feel every bit the part of a TOTL earphone, solid comfort, excellent passive isolation, and a flushed out accessory kit that includes everything most buyers will need. As is common for the brand, you get a complete package out of the gate without the need to spend even more replacing useless or low quality add-ins.

Overall I find the Dorado 2020 to be a very entertaining earphone and well worth checking out if you’re in the market for something with thundering bass and scintillating treble.

Thanks for reading!

– B9

Disclaimer A huge thanks to Caleb at Campfire Audio for reaching out to see if I would be interested in covering the Dorado, and for arranging a sample for review. The thoughts within this review are my subjective opinions and do not represent Campfire Audio or any other entity. At the time of writing the Dorado 2020 retailed for 1,099.00 USD: https://campfireaudio.com/shop/dorado-2020/

Specifications

  • Frequency Response: 5Hz – 22kHz
  • Sensitivity: 94dB SPL @ 1kHz 18.52 mVrs
  • Impedance: 10ohms @ 1kHz

Gear Used For Testing LG Q70, Earstudio HUD100, Earmen TR-Amp, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501

Some Test Tunes

Supertramp – Crime of the Century

Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid

King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic

King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black

Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma

The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy

Steely Dan – The Royal Scam

Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams

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