Campfire Audio Dorado 2020 In-Ear Headphones - Official Thread

Definitely on my eventual to try/own list alongside the Ara.

1 Like

I believe @Resolve has sent our demo units to @Precogvision for evaluation. I personally enjoyed the Vega revision more than the Dorado. Since they’re priced the same, I’d recommend the Andro over Dorado in pretty much every case.

2 Likes

The impression I got, briefly, was bass emphasis with a bit less technical prowess than the andro, does that jive with what you found?

1 Like

Dorado 2020 – 2 days in

Preamble: A couple years ago the Atlas was my first Campfire IEM. I really liked it at the time but eventually moved on to the Solaris, which was my reference for the better part of two years. The Atlas was a lot of fun but (for me) was a bit bloomy in the mid-bass and I found the treble a bit peaky/metallic at times. In the time since I’ve gravitated to more balanced/mid-centric IEMs but I can appreciate a good W sig and have craved a worthy followup to the Atlas in the time since. The Solaris wasn’t it as that was more a refinement of the Andro. This is where the Dorado enters in- I was searching for a fun-bombastic sound with good mids and a decent bass emphasis. I was not looking for another Andromeda or Solaris with the Dorado 2020. Also, I don’t listen to a lot of female vocals or music that commands a lot of presence in the upper mids—so when I talk about mids I’m generally biased towards the lower mids. I thought the above was worth pointing out as it informs my impressions that follow.

After one day impressions: I really like them-- they are exactly what I was hoping they would be. If you were at all a fan of the Atlas and were hoping to an upgrade/refinement of that sort of sound from Campfire then these are worth a serious look. Between the cleaner mid-bass that and much more refined less peaky/metallic highs they’ve basically delivered a near-perfected Atlas imho.

Suffice to say I don’t think Campfire tuned these to bring out the best in someone’s perfectly recorded jazz collection—they have a good degree of balance but that is not their primary aim, nor are they trying to be technical virtuosos or detail/resolution/staging monsters. They are meant for the less well recorded pop and rock music that the bulk of us grew up with during the 60s, 70s and 80s, 90s, an on into the present really. Exile on Main Street, James Brown recordings from the 60s, Metallica, Fleetwood Mac, Michae Jackson, Talking Heads…anything with the lable “pop music” that I can think of, sound incredible on these.

First day impressions of the sound-- dominant bass, almost like a more intimate Solaris with its sign reversed, Midrange is (relatively) very present and the texture is top knotch. In terms of timbre and naturalness I would say it equals or surpasses IEMs like the IER Z1R or Solaris OG. Of the Campfire IEMs I’ve owned/heard I would say the midrange timbre on these are my favorite along with the Solaris SE (though for slightly different reasons). Yes they are a bit pushed back at times, but the mids were a lot more forward and present than they often are with bass like this, and instruments are very natural sounding and well textured. The bass grips and captivates but it has that Campfire speed and density that keeps it from overwhelming me or some songs as on the Legend X.

Dynamics are great—as implied above CFA’s 10mm driver produces bass that is every bit as satisfying as that of things like the IER Z1R and UM MEST and a step above (imho) an IEM like the 64 Audi Nio. The Z1R’s more woobly decay gives way for the sake of incredible density and grip put out by Campfire’s driver. Stage is not as vast as as it is on something like the Solaris—in fact it’s a lot more intimate. On the plus side it doesn’t sound stretched out and thin in some sections of the mid-range like it does in the Solaris, even if it does sacrifice a bit of the “wow” factor in the staging. Dorado 2020 won’t give you the air and separation of Andro…but it definitely has its own charms. The highs of the Dorado are really nice the quicker BA treble working on the dynamic mids and lows gives the overall sig a nice natural timbre—guitars and percussion sound wonderful. Technicalities, layering, separation etc. are quite good…better than I was expecting actually. I was worried going in about the 8K treble peak but I think, much like the Dude’s rug, it sort of ties everything together. Sheer detail and resolution get sacrificed a bit on the altar of the thicker bass…but that’s honestly inevitable with this type of signature and sometimes just what the Dr. ordered for me. If Elysium represents the pinnacle of my Audiophile purist sensibilities, and z1R the perfect balance of audiophile and fun, then I would surmise at this point that Dorado 2020 will hold the title of “fun perfected”. In this respect nobody tops CFA at this price tier imho, maybe anywhere. Nicely Done

Comparison with Solaris*

TLDR: Solaris is more of a classical “wife material” tuning, Dorado 2020 will quickly win your heart, but you may wait a bit longer to introduce her to your parents.

*My Solaris experience is based exclusively on the OG/SE models, and not the current 2020 version.

Dorado

  • more v-shaped than Solaris- W shaped is more accurate really

  • adds more body and weight to older/poorly recorded music than Solaris does

  • more traditionally staged (everything feels like it’s coming at you whereas with Solaris it’s almost wrapped around your head)

  • sacrifices a bit of the vastness in staging/air/separation/detail for the sake of a more robust bass response

  • generally a much more “fun sounding” IEM

  • better bass-- they let their 10mm driver off the hook a bit (and I love it)

  • great mid-range timbre-- I would say it one ups Solaris here even if Solaris’ mids are more present

Solaris

  • almost perfect balance across the FR

  • bass is reigned in/disciplined for the sake of preserving balance

  • holographic stage, layering, seperation etc. better than on Dorado (thought not as much as you might think-- Solaris is nearly peerless in this regard, especially at its price)

  • more present mids, even if not quite as natural as on Dorado

  • more resolving/detail oriented

  • handles super well recorded music a little better I would say

  • possibly a little more versatile than Dorado, but not as fun

  • Treble on the OG is a little better (though possibly not on the SE)

All in all a very dynamic and “in your face” sound that I’m currently finding rather insanely fun to listen to—not since the Atlas have I experienced an IEM so totally devoted to quality fun. At the moment the Dorado 2020 is my favorite Campfire IEM. I love that Campfire plays around with different tuning ideals. I have always been a fan of their more fun and bassy excursions and with the Dorado 2020 I feel they’ve finally reached a laudable level of perfection with that sort of tuning in that they’re allowing me to totally rock out and not feel like I’m missing anything substantial in terms of staging or detail. I’ve had these in my ears for for two straight days and it has not hit a false note for me yet-- in fact I can barely wipe the smile off my face most of the time. Nicely Done Campfire.

At the moment the Dorado 2020 is my favorite Campfire IEM. I love that Campfire plays around with different tuning ideals. I have always been a fan of their more fun and bassy excursions and with the Dorado 2020 I feel they’ve finally reached a laudable level of perfection with that sort of tuning in that they’re allowing me to totally rock out and not feel like I’m missing anything substantial in terms of staging or detail. I’ve had these in my ears for for two straight days and it has not hit a false note for me yet-- in fact I can barely wipe the smile off my face most of the time. Nicely Done Campfire.

5 Likes

Cracking writeup @jrockwell. I really enjoyed reading it.

2 Likes

Thank-you @prfallon69

I can’t get enough of these. They may not be the most sophisticated (indeed that’s part of the charm) but CFA here has taken a really basic tuning and refined to perfection. I’ve followed their releases in this vein as long as I’ve known about the company and while all commendable they all had a few issues here and there, in some cases minor deal breakers, or they were special teams IEMs that had a range of stuff they sounded good with. With Dorado they’ve come across a goldilocks presentation that gives you basshead level bass (I don’t consider IER Z1R, Solaris or even MEST to be basshead IEMs) with a supremely textured and natural midrange that feels open, inviting and veil-free and a sweet natural treble that is sharp but never unpleasant, sibilant or fatiguing. I have a feeling these could eventually overtake Andro as CFA’s most storied release. It’s that good imho.

3 Likes

Pros: + Immediately engaging, fun, natural sound

  • Dominant, dense, disciplined bass
  • Organic, textured, open midrange with great separation
  • Detailed, lush, etched yet non-fatiguing highs
  • Versatile-- works wonders on many lesser recordings
  • Reasonably priced
  • In terms of raw fun factor probably the best IEMs I’ve ever heard

Cons: - Upper mid dip may be problematic for certain sensitivities or types of music (this is a tuning choice more than a true con but it’s worth mentioning off the bat).

  • needs a small 2db bump at 4K to sounds its best
  • I wish they used the white for these ones
  • Drawing blanks…

“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.“ ~ Chopin

Fire on the Mountain - A Review of the Campfire Audio Dorado 2020

IMG_3771.jpg

Instead of sharing manufacturer specs, talking about packaging etc., all of which is information available in any other review (and, for that matter, on the website) I will post some opening caveats/points that will give anyone who reads this a sense of where I’m coming from:

  • My thoughts and rankings are essentially a measure of respective IEM’s capacity to pull me in and make me forget the outside world for a while. This can be accomplished via various means-- through sheer intimacy & connection in the case of Elysium, epic awe inspiring grandeur mixed with playfulness and realism in the case of the IER Z1R, and a combination of precision, style, naturalness and simplicity married to a playful yet raw and primitive bombasity in the case of something like the Dorado 2020 (and limitless other ways no doubt)-- but the net result is the same.

  • IEMs should be assessed on their own terms and according to their own strengths and aims. I will not criticize an eagle for being unable to swim, and I will not criticize the Dorado 2020 for not trying to be the Andromeda. When reading reviews I am less interested in the routine of “bass, treble, technicalities” and am more interested specifically in the IEM’s own unique identity, how well its executed, and how it is experienced by whoever is doing the review.

  • My guiding maxim in this hobby is that everyone should be free to pursue their “audio bliss” in whatever way is meaningful to them without being judged or held to the artificial and/or limited standards of others. There are certainly objective and subjective elements to this hobby, but it is the subjective elements that determine for us, via our own individual tastes, inclinations, experiences, preferences, biases, sensitivities, life situations etc., what individual path we are to follow to call forth that feeling of joy, bliss, satisfaction from within that is, I think, the root of what many of us are seeking. What works for you may, or may not, work for me.

  • My own investigations have revealed that improved technical performance doesn’t necessarily translate to a more satisfying and enjoyable listening experience for me. Consequently when I read people’s reviews and hear them gush over some manner of analytic perfection of this piece of gear or that-- if I can’t also detect in their writing some sense of their being moved emotionally by the experience of the gear then I tend to dismiss it in my mind (or at least relegate it to a lower tier of interest) and move on as emotional engagement is for me the top priority.

It’s worth pointing out (if this wasn’t obvious) that I’m something of a huge CFA fanboy. Campfire were one of the first companies I encountered in this most recent chapter of my audiophile life, and they’ve been something of a mainstay for me throughout the last couple years. I love Campfire and have no problem admitting that they are among my favourite audio brands. I love their whole design philosophy, aesthetic and sustainable business model. I like Ken Ball a lot-- he’s one of those old hippy types whose outlook and vibe seem informed by a time and place when the idealistic wind of the 60s still at people’s backs. I’m very excited to see how this company and brand move forward in the coming months and years.

Campfire IEMs are not primarily known for their raw technical prowess but what they do better than most other companies is go for that balanced, more holistic “je ne sais quoi” factor that lends their best products a certain quality of fun, engagement and, ultimately, humanity that-- combined with their appealing sustainable asesthetic and peerless build quality-- makes them quite irresistible to me. Campfire, along with Vision Ears (and I would say Empire Ears too) get my respect for taking chances with bold tuning approaches, for thinking outside the box and daring to try new things. I am not affiliated with the company in any way. I purchased the Dorado 2020 on my own over a week ago and am interested in sharing my thoughts on this simple yet remarkable IEM.

All of that said on to the review…

0B33D5FC-D9EA-45EF-BCB8-ECF28B904C47.JPEG

Preamble: A few years ago the Atlas was my first Campfire IEM. I really liked it at the time but eventually moved on to the Solaris, which was my reference for the better part of two years. The Atlas was a lot of fun but (for me) was a bit bloomy in the mid-bass and I found the treble a bit peaky/metallic at times. In the time since I’ve gravitated to more balanced/mid-centric IEMs but I can appreciate a good W sig and have craved a worthy follow-up to the Atlas. The Solaris wasn’t it as that was more a refinement of the Andromeda. This is where the Dorado enters in. Ultimately what I was after was a fun-bombastic sound with good mids and a decent bass emphasis that was decently technical. I was not looking for another Andromeda or Solaris with the Dorado 2020. I realize that any signature attempting the sort of sound I was seeking here needs to make concessions—typically due to a sacrifice in raw technicalities or a dip in the mids somewhere. I will not be criticizing the Dorado for this—instead I will focus the effectiveness of how the signature presents as a unity.

1A361549-C5E7-4526-B7FE-66883D06252A.JPEG

General Observations

To put bluntly (and mildly)-- I really really like them. I’ve loved various IEMs for various reasons over the years but I don’t think I’ve ever heard any that have made me smile as much and as easily as the Dorado 2020 has. They are exactly what I was hoping they would be-- and much that I wasn’t really sure was possible. Anyone who: was at all a fan of the Atlas and was hoping for an upgrade/refinement of that sort of sound from Campfire, who doesn’t mind a polite but definite bass emphasis, who is seeking an IEM that prioritizes fun and engagement above all, and who places a high priority on natural and open mids-- should take a serious look at these. Between the cleaner mid-bass, refined highs, and greatly improved technicalities within a signature that is deceptively simple yet supremely confident in itself I feel they’ve delivered a perfected Atlas and captured lightning in a bottle with these IEMs.

Suffice to say I don’t think Campfire tuned these to bring out all the detail and nuance in someone’s perfectly recorded jazz collection, with an aim of neutrality. or to be mind-blowingly technical or detail oriented. They have a good degree of balance but that is not their primary aim, nor are they trying to be technical virtuosos or detail/resolution/staging monsters-- even though from a technical standpoint they are, in fact, very very good. There is an effortless quality to the Dorado’s technical ability. It doesn’t jump out at you right away-- rather it emerges as the inevitable result of numerous factors working together in perfect harmony. There is no fanfare or pyrotechnics or overeagerness-- the Dorado has such a natural sound that its power is deceptive, at first seeming merely playful. But there is a depth, precision and power below the surface.

The Dorado 2020 are incredibly versatile—I have not found anything that sounds bad on them. I can listen to a very varied playlist all day without feeling the need to skip or coming across music that sounds off. In areas where more vocal presence is needed a slight bump at 4K should do the trick. I will say though that Dorado 2020 excel with (often less well recorded) pop and rock music that the bulk of us grew up with during the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, an on into the present really-- specifically anything defined to some extent by a driving low end. Exile on Main Street, James Brown recordings from the 60s, Metallica, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads, Dire Straits and so on, sound incredible on these. All in all a very dynamic and “in your face” sound that I’m currently finding rather insanely fun to listen to—not since the Atlas have I experienced an IEM that was this much fun.

A Note on Packaging

I love Campfire’s packaging— the art direction, the minimalism, the design. In a world were packaging can be quite ostentatious and overboard Campfire’s is a breath of fresh air. Alone of all the gear I’ve purchased, my Campfire IEM boxes always go on display in my living room as I love the way they look.

164340170_10165236831655654_5586698225509175430_o.jpg

Sound Impressions

The sound of the Dorado 2020 can be characterized by: 1) dominant but disciplined bass, 2) open mids and an endearing natural timbre, 3) a notable authority and clarity across the spectrum that becomes more and more apparent with time. The layering and separation on the Dorado 2020 is surprisingly great-- nothing gets muddied up in busy passages. The bass is clean, present, tight and just disciplined enough. In terms of staging they’re like a more intimate Solaris with its sign reversed—less width but decent depth. The midrange is very present, though there is a bit of a recession in the upper half of the mids relative to the bass-- but the profound discipline of the whole FR combined with the natural timbre greatly negates any issues one may have with this. Highs are clear, sweet and detailed-- never harsh, tizzy, metallic or piercing.

From a purely technical standpoint (clarity, resolution, separation etc.) there are clearly superior IEMs out there than the Dorado if what you are mainly after is to put your music under some kind of analytic microscope. Where the Dorado knocks it out of the park is with its natural timbre and voicing-- vocals, strings, horns, percussion-- all have a depth, density, realism and, fundamentally, a deceptive naturalism that, to my ears is, utterly compelling. The Dorado hooks me in with what is ultimately a sense of playfulness-- I just want to tap my feet, bop my head, sing, dance, express myself in some way when I listen to these. Putting them on is a passport to a musical Disneyland.

In terms of timbre and naturalness in the midrange I would say it trails behind something like the Vision Ears Elysium (though not as much as you might think) but surpasses other hybrid IEMs like the IER Z1R, Solaris OG, 64 Nio and UM MEST. The naturalness of Dorado’s mids make the sound easier to embrace emotionally than is the case with IEMs that are more technically focused. Yes the mids are a bit pushed back at times, but they never feel disconnected, distant or muddied. The bass grips and captivates and it has that Campfire speed and density that keeps it from overwhelming me or craving air after a time as I do with something like the Legend X.

I think the Dorado’s capacity for realism and engagement has one of its roots in the fact that the mids are done by the DD (the other significant factor imho is the ceramic shell). Most hybrid IEMs in my experience (Z1R, Nio, Solaris, MEST, LX etc. etc.) have mids done by the BA. BAs are better from a “technical” standpoint (clarity, detail, speed) but I have learned that DD is much much better from an emotional engagement standpoint (timbre, naturalness). BA mids are easier to place under a technical microscope, but DD mids are generally much more “lifelike”. The Vision Ears Elysium has DD mids and there also is the source of a good deal of its magic. I was curious about the Dorado as soon as it was announced but once I experienced Elysium, and the magic of the fast e-stat treble working on the DD mids I became extra curious about Dorado and its fast BA treble working on Dynamic mids. It is said that the great Pyramids of Egypt used to have an outer layer and shimmering capstone of gold…this must have been a thing to behold. This effect, the shimmering flourish atop a mountain of solidity and power…is similar in character to what I experience in IEMs with quick and clear highs over a dynamic lower end (Ely, Dorado and, for that matter, the IER Z1R). The summative effect is magical.

The only real elephant in the room with respect to tuning is an upper midrange dip created largely by the elevated bass. This region is seemingly one of the most controversial and hard-to-get-right areas of the whole FR for many people. Too much in this area to some sounds shouty to some, too little makes the sound muddy to others. It seems to me most IEMs tend to be biased more towards the upper mids or lower. The IER Z1R is an example of a great IEM with an upper mid bias and weaker lower mids. With the Dorado 2020 we see the reverse-- a lower mid bias with a dip in the upper mids. What this means is that sometimes female vocals or instrumental sounds in this range sometimes sound a bit pushed back or lacking in closeness. Depending on what you listen to and what your sensitivities are this may or may not be an issue-- YMMV etc. Dorado’s ace in the hole is its rich natural timbre combined with the sure footed sound made possible by the ceramic housings (more on that later). The combined result is that even when the mids are pushed back they still feel well bodied and have a solid presence.

Dynamics are great— on both highs and lows. CFA’s 10mm driver produces bass that is every bit as satisfying as bass titans like the IER Z1R and UM MEST and a step above an IEM like the 64 Audi Nio. The Z1R’s more woobly decay gives way for the sake of incredible density and grip put out by Campfire’s driver. Dorado 2020 won’t give you all the air and separation of Andro…but it does go some way there. The highs of the Dorado are really nice. The quicker BA treble working on the dynamic mids and lows balances out the thickness of the latter with a welcome dose of air and space. The net result is a pleasing balance and sense of naturalness.-- guitars, horns, strings and percussion sound natural, bodied, airy and real. Treble and upper mids have a nice etched-ness to them but they never feel harsh or fatiguing and never cross over into sibilance or graininess and there is no sign whatsoever of a metallic timbre. I was worried going in about the 8K treble peak but I think, much like the Dude’s rug, it sort of ties everything together. Sheer detail and resolution get sacrificed a bit on the altar of the thicker bass…but that’s honestly inevitable with this type of signature and sometimes just what the Dr. ordered for me. If I had to place the Dorado 2020 in the general pantheon IEMs I would describe it as “fun perfected”. In this respect nobody tops CFA at this price tier imho, maybe anywhere. Nicely Done.

IMG_3675.jpg

Ceramic Shell

After my days and hours on the Dorado 2020 really started to add up (and also having owned the ceramic-tuning-chamber-laden SE Solaris for a year) I started to appreciate the value of the ceramic shells Ken has been advocating and trying to perfect for years. The Dorado doesn’t wow you with techicalities at first, and it’s technical skill probably won’t become apparent during a short or superficial listening session. But the more I listen to them, the more my brain wraps itself around the signature I realize how strikingly and deceptively good the detail retrieval, clarity, layering, separation is on them. There is an almost fathomless clarity to the sound-- no matter where or how deep you look you will not find any smearing, over-vibrance, graininess, harshness, metallic timber or things blending together that shouldn’t. Everything has its own sense of space and nothing really gets too much in the way of everything else. The clincher is that it does all this with a robust and authoritative bass response that acts as a gravitational centre to a signature that still has quite a bit of air, and where everything has its own space to breathe.

I am starting to suspect that a good deal of this has to do with the density of the ceramic shell that is used in the Dorado. Because of its hardness it doesn’t allow for any interference or muddling with the sound-- all the frequencies just sort of stay in there respective lanes and the whole signature has this notable coherence, clarity and, to use @Tristy 's phrase “sure footedness”. There was a bit of this quality in the lower vocal mid-range of the Solaris SE but with the Dorado 2020 it’s across the board. It’s quite remarkable and it might be what gives this IEM its true staying power for me. I really look forward to seeing how Campfire uses this tech in future IEMs. Could there be a future Solaris with more ceramic inside? I’m starting to hope so. Again, nicely done.

QTAJ5021.JPEG

Point form Comparison with Solaris

TLDR: Solaris is more of a classical “wife material” tuning, Dorado 2020 will quickly win your heart, but you may wait a bit longer/be more reluctant to introduce her to your parents at first.

Dorado

  • more v-shaped than Solaris- though like the Atlas the Dorado 2020 is more W shaped than V
  • adds more body and weight to older/poorly recorded music than Solaris does
  • more traditionally staged (everything feels like it’s coming at you whereas with Solaris it’s almost wrapped around your head), and also a lot more intimate
  • sacrifices a bit of the vastness in staging/air/separation/detail for the sake of a more robust bass response
  • generally a much more “fun sounding” IEM, meaning it’s not afraid to sacrifice a bit of detail/resolution/technicality for the sake of a thicker more bass driven sound.
  • better bass-- they let their 10mm driver off the hook a bit (and I love it), but just as well controlled (relative to quantity)
  • great mid-range timbre-- I would say it one ups Solaris here even if Solaris’ mids are more present. The mid-range texture/naturalness is really really good on the Dorado-- along with the clarity and openness of the mids (W is much more to my liking than V) as well as superb imaging and separation the Dorado 2020 is imho saved from the clutches of many common criticisms of IEMs tuned like this.

Solaris

  • almost perfect balance across the FR
  • bass is reigned in/disciplined for the sake of preserving balance resulting in a cleaner more BA-like speed and sound overall
  • holographic stage, layering, seperation etc. better than on Dorado (though not as much as you might think-- Solaris is nearly peerless in this regard, especially at its price)
  • more present mids, especially on the SE, even if not quite as natural sounding as on Dorado
  • more resolving/detail oriented
  • handles super well recorded music a little better I would say
  • possibly a little more versatile than Dorado, but not as fun
  • Treble on the OG is a little better (though possibly not on the SE)

Other Comparisons

FE654BAC-8349-491D-9D02-4EEDBA96BC53.JPEG

Vs. Elysium

It’s honestly hard to compare these two as they’re so fundamentally different in their tuning and ideals.

Listening to music on the Elysium is almost a transcendent experience-- with Dorado it’s totally the opposite, instead of becoming totally absorbed within you just want to move, to bop your head, tap your feet, sing, dance, whatever the moment calls for. Elysium is masterful at subtlety and nuance and facilitating a real sense of intimacy. Listening to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue I can hear the “tsss” sound as he starts to blow on his trumpet, or in Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy I can almost make out the sound of John Paul Jones’ fingers on his bass strings as he plucks them. It’s really quite a profound effect and feeling overall and imho is what places Elysium in a class above much else I have heard when it comes to basically immersing yourself in your music.

The Dorado is more emotional in the sense that the sound is a big, bold, impactful, wall of sound presentation that really gets your head bobbing and feet tapping. Although there is plenty of detail if you look for it, the Dorados not about being perfectly accurate or calling attention to every little detail.

Instead there is a stark simplicity to Dorado’s whole presentation-- but everything fits together so perfectly that it’s profoundly effective. When I first got into this hobby as an adult (2 years ago) I gravitated immediately to the sort of sound I’d been seeking my whole life (bass heavy, sparkly, impactful) and went right for the Atlas. That wasn’t as perfect as I’d hoped and I branched off, experienced the Solaris, and fell in love with the more mature, technical and balanced presentation. That byway reached its penultimate conclusion for me with Elysium, which is the epitome of my “audiophile purist” sensibilities. But when I heard the Dorado 2020 a few days ago it wasn’t long before I realized that I was hearing, finally, a masterclass presentation of the sort of sound I’d been looking for originally. I will not rank one over the other as they both give me a similar amount and degree of satisfaction-- just at different times. Sometimes I want to watch the Shawshank Redemption and be moved to the core of my being, other times I want to watch Pulp Fiction and just have fun…both are masterpieces of their respective genres. So it is with Elysium and Dorado 2020 imho.

040A4A7E-D9B3-4437-9286-ED631A9CCB06.JPEG

Vs IER Z1R

This is possibly the most interesting comparison I will do today as of all the IEMs I can think of the Z1R is the closest to the Dorado in terms of overall gestalt, despite quite different approaches. In some sense the Dorado is a scaled down, streamlined Z1R with a more “western” audio tuning. The Z1R offers a much grander, larger sound. In a sense the Z1R is an IEM that takes much of the fun factor of the Dorado 2020 and adds a hefty dose of staging and technicalities. In a sense the Z1R is the inverse of the Dorado as it has an upper mid-emphasis, whereas Dorado is more prominent in the lower mids. Z1R has a sub-bass emphasis with mid-bass punch and oomph being absent sometimes, Dorado has a bass emphasis a little further up with more mid-bass prominence and not as much subterranean sub-bass as the Z1R offers. Both have a very nice natural timbre, though the mid-range timbre of the Dorado is superior. Both IEMs are insanely fun to listen to but the FR of the Dorado 2020 plays nicer with more of the music I listen to. The Z1R has more grandeur, but Dorado has the kind of effortless natural sound rooted its aesthetic of simplicity. I had always thought the Z1R would have been better if they dropped the BA, let the DD to the mids and lows and the super tweeter do the highs—listening to the Dorado has cinched that thought for me.

12CE0657-D247-4639-ABFE-3A18C4D0C17C.JPEG

Vs. UM MEST

If bass, treble, staging, technicalities etc. are your priorities then the MEST may be the IEM for you. There is a lot of overlap between the Dorado 2020 and the MEST. The MEST has superior technicalities (like insane technicalities—I have never experienced in an IEM a stage like the MEST offers…I think my bones like being conducted), more detailed treble etc. Where the Dorado wipes the floor with MEST is in mid-range texture, timbre, naturalness, presence etc. Since these latter are what I’m really after lately it’s an easy victory for the Dorado here…but YMMV.

Vs. 64 Audio Nio

Not much to say here really. The Nio is in some ways the Dorado’s more polite, mature and technically accomplished (and a lot less fun) older brother. There is a definite emphasis on technicalities, the bass is more polite (but still present) and the treble is a lot smoother. In addition you get more presence in the midrange (but inferior timbre) and a lot better layering and separation. I’m generally not a fan of 64 Audio IEMs as I find their house sound to be too thin for my tastes and their IEMs are often technical to the point of lacking enough emotional engagement to keep me interested. The Nio is the first IEM I’ve tried of theirs that bucks that trend a wee bit, though for my own needs right now it trails considerably behind the Dorado 2020 in terms of raw engagement and enjoyability. If you want an IEM that’s technically accomplished, reasonably bassy with layered and detailed mids and that is basically fatigue free then the Nio may be a great choice.

A/B/C single track comparison with Elysium, Nio and Dorado and Zep’s Whole Lotta Love

I took some time to compare the Elysium, Dorado and Nio in depth with Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love

Elysium —Bang on the money. Everything is perfectly balanced and the texture & timbre is off the charts. Vocals are right in the middle, crystal clear, well bodied and seductive. Guitars have crunch, bite and body with zero veil behind the bass. Bass is thumping, detailed, crunchy, impactful.

Dorado 2020 – Vocals and guitars are pushed behind the bass. It does seem like a dash of the FR is pushed completely behind the bass. Vocals are present, have great texture, despite being pushed a bit in the background. Guitars have great texture and body but lack crunch and bite-- a touch of info here and there does seem nearly totally eclipsed by the bass at times. Bass texture, timbre, impact, is off the charts good.

Nio – This one was interesting. The Nio has more of the forwardness, detail and clarity of the Elysium, but it lacks the body, texture and natural timbre of the Dorado. Guitars have crunch and bite but they lack body and texture-- at times the sound of the Nio sounds like a 2-d image atop a 3-d surface of bass.

Conclusion – the Elysium is the closest thing to a total package IEM for me right now and this comparison illustrated precisely why. The most remarkable thing about it is that I never find myself missing the DD on the low end when I’m listening to them. Between the Dorado and Nio it’s a “choose your poison” kind of situation. For those who prefer detail and clarity over naturalness and timbre then the Nio may be the way to go.

For me, as I’ve indicated, it’s the bass response combined with the natural timbre of the mid-range that has won the day for me here with the Dorado. When seeking an IEM that has a forward and dominant bass response I went into it knowing there’d be a sacrifice in the mids somewhere. Thus, when listening to the Dorado I take it as almost axiomatic that there will be times when I hear part of the midrange lose some of its dynamics by being pushed behind the bass a bit. Regarding the bit that seems to be completely behind the bass the bright side of this situation is that it’s not a super wide range of the FR that is missing information. As I noted in my full review of the Dorado, a slight bump to 4K on EQ should open up the most recessed area of the lower treble enough reasonably mitigate the issue and remove any sense that anything is “missing”. I have been using the Dorados for the last day or so with +2db @4k EQ applied and it seems to be doing the trick rather well. FR can be EQ’d in but no amount of EQ can produce the seductive rich natural timbre of the Dorado 2020.

Wrapup

In summary-- I can’t get enough of the Dorado 2020. They may not be the most sophisticated or complicated (indeed that’s part of the charm) but CFA here has taken a really basic tuning and refined to absolute perfection. I’ve followed Campfire’s releases in this vein as long as I’ve known about the company and while they’ve all been commendable some way, they all had a few issues here and there–in some cases minor deal breakers, or they were special teams IEMs that had a range of stuff they sounded good with. With Dorado they’ve come across a goldilocks presentation that gives you modestly basshead level bass (I don’t consider IER Z1R, Solaris or even MEST to be basshead IEMs) with a supremely textured and natural midrange that feels open, inviting and veil-free and a sweet natural treble that is sharp but never unpleasant, sibilant or fatiguing. Couple all that with an instantly accessible, insanely engaging versatile tuning I have a feeling these could eventually overtake, or at least equal the Andromeda as CFA’s most storied release. They are that good in my opinion.

In a video review on Youtube by Audiolevels he remarks that the Dorado 2020 is an earphone that allows you to just sit back and enjoy your music like you did when you were younger—this is absolutely true and I think is part of their deceptively simple yet remarkable appeal. So ultimately who are they for? The Dorado 2020 are not the best IEM for someone who wants to place their music under a microscope, or marvel in its analytic perfection. But for someone who just wants to listen to music for the sheer joy and love of it, with no pretense or other agenda-- the Dorado 2020 is a solid rec. I don’t know how else to say it, and the cliché will have to be forgiven-- but these IEMs make me feel like a kid again. It’s a totally different sort of engagement than with something like the Elysium, but it’s ultimately no less satisfying. Elysium is a romantic trip to Florence Italy with someone you love, Dorado is a day at Disneyland with that same person-- variety, after all, is the spice of life.

At the moment the Dorado 2020 is my favorite Campfire IEM. I love that Campfire plays around with different tuning ideals. I have always been a fan of their more fun and bassy excursions and with the Dorado 2020 I feel they’ve finally reached a laudable level of perfection with that sort of tuning in that they’re allowing me to totally rock out and not feel like I’m missing anything substantial in terms of staging or details. I’ve had these in my ears for days straight and they have not hit a false note for me yet-- in fact I can barely wipe the smile off my face most of the time.

Lastly, I am aware that this IEM has received some mixed reviews. It’s tempting to be troubled by these sorts of contradictions-- but then I remember that we’re all only human. Once upon a time Rolling Stone Magazine trashed all Zeppelin’s early albums upon initial release. Those classics eventually got the credit they deserve but this story goes to show that even good sources of information are capable of being totally wrong, or so caught up in their own meme that they don’t recognize greatness when they see it. As is often said in this hobby let it be said again: trust your own ears above all.

2485A46D-BA26-437D-87B0-3C7142BD5F1C.JPEG

5 Likes

Really fantastic review and comparison piece @jrockwell. You’ve really got quite the collection there. We shall have to open an iem exhibition together. Lol.

2 Likes

The Nio is on loan from a friend but the other two are mine. It seems crazy to think that once upon a time we could have these things called meets where people gathered from all over and you got to demo all sorts of great gear. I hope we get days like that again soon-- I want to hit up a CanJam.

3 Likes

I think that everyone wants to get back to some kind of normality. For Audiophiles this is meets, canjams and perusing Audio shops for demos of the latest and greatest of gear.

3 Likes

Yeah I really miss the shops too. I live (relatively) close to the only CFA distributor in Canada and I used to be able to pilgrimage out to the shop to demo the whole lineup. Miss those days.

2 Likes

My new favourite Campfires…

3 Likes

Nice stuff Rock. Getting the Vega 2020s in today for myself and look forward to the low end fun!

I haven’t heard the Vega but from one Solaris fan to another-- you need to hear the Dorado 2020. It’s the most satisfying and accomplished CFA IEM to date imho.

Definitely on the to try list. Won’t be missing out on them.

Vega 2020 in the house! Thanks to headphone dot com for the fantastic service as always.

Can compare them to the Solaris 2020 if you’d like @jrockwell!

4 Likes

Always down for some fresh Vega impressions. I’d be curious for your general impressions of the 2020 Solaris too.

Sorry to hear the Vega didn’t work out for you. I hope you get to try the Dorado at some point-- it’s the new king of Campfire’s lineup imho.

1 Like

I hope I do too! It may be more my thing vs the Vega.

The Vegas…I do enjoy bass, but this is a little too much even for me. I think it’s because the sound comes of as more of an L shape vs a true V shape akin to the Andromeda Gold, which I loved.

That said, if you’re a basshead through and through you will love the Vega 2020.

1 Like

Dorado 2020 with Shanling M3X

2 Likes

Needless to say, I am not a big fan of these. I posted my impressions on my blog, wont bother copy and pasting them here. It’s not my thing. Also gave me ringing in my ears after listening.

@jrockwell i like the M3X thus far though, love the case. I am a little sad ROON doesnt work with the player’s buttons though.

2 Likes