Review written by Precogvision
There is no greater competition in the IEM world than the so-called “driver wars”. Like so, tribrid setups and driver after driver being crammed for, well, the sake of being crammed have become the new normal. But the Dorado and Vega 2020 are a homage to Campfire Audio’s roots and a much simpler time. Both sport dynamic drivers and, in the Dorado’s case, a single extra BA. Indeed, amidst this war, the dynamic driver has steadfastly remained endgame driver material to many listeners for its natural timbre and coherency. Let’s find out if the Dorado and Vega 2020 have what it takes to play with today’s IEMs in an increasingly competitive market.
Source & Driveability
All critical listening was done off of an iBasso DX160 (volume ~8) and A&K SP1000M with lossless FLAC files, and I stuck with the included Final Audio eartips and stock cables. The low OI (output impedance) of these IEMs will influence the frequency response depending on the source you’re using; however, I do all my critical listening off of the same sources for consistency. Along these lines, these IEMs are very sensitive, enough to give your ears a nasty shocker if you’re not careful! You’re not going to have trouble powering it off anything, but I do recommend picking up something like the iFi iEMatch to match the impedance (and kill any hissing) if this is a concern.
Like all the other Campfire Audio IEMs that I have reviewed, the Dorado and Vega 2020 come in the same, distinctive candy-like boxes. Simple and elegant. The following accessories are included inside:
- Final Audio Tips (xs/s/m/l/xl) – Campfire Audio Earphone Tips(s/m/l) – Silicone Earphone Tips (s/m/l) – Campfire Audio Lapel Pin – Cleaning Tool
- Campfire Audio Litz Cable – Silver Plated Copper Conductors with Beryllium Copper MMCX and 3.5mm Stereo Plug
- Campfire Audio Upcycled Marine Plastic Zipper Case. Made in Portugal.
The Dorado and Vega 2020 sport ceramic shells with stainless steel spouts. Both are very small, of good build quality (they feel quite substantial despite their small size), and I had no trouble getting a good fit with either. You might experience some driver flex, a harmless crinkling of the driver, if you insert them too quickly. No comfort issues, no real complaints from me on this front.
I don’t know if I’m a big fan of the updated case though. The tactility neither seems as pleasant as the previous cork one, nor has the aesthetic appeal of their old leather one. Nonetheless, it’s good to see a manufacturer staying environmentally conscious (these cases are made using plastic, recycled waste products), and I can certainly tip my hat off to that. The cable for the Dorado and Vega 2020 is the same used on the Andromeda 2020. It’s good quality with a nice tactility, although I do find that it can be difficult to untangle sometimes.
Frequency response measured off of an IEC-711 coupler. There is a resonance peak at 8khz and, as such, measurements after this point should not be considered accurate.
Where do I begin? As is always the case with these things, I feel the need to disclaim that tonality is subjective. There are, however, better tunings than others in terms of majority appeal; suffice it to say that neither the Dorado nor the Vega get far in this regard. Still, I will do my best to break down why this is the case exactly.
Strictly speaking, the Dorado and Vega don’t follow any sort of traditional target curve, but they’re most closely what I’d deem “V-shaped” IEMs. They share a heavily-boosted bass profile up until 1kHz and then peak for the ear compensation at around 1.5kHz. From a pure tuning perspective, there are a couple of issues with this:
- The ear compensation should ideally peak somewhere at 2kHz or after.
- Inadequate ear gain, particularly in the Vega’s case.
In practice, these issues translate to a general “muffling” of the midrange with the Dorado exhibiting slightly better clarity than the Vega thanks to the Dorado’s extra BA driver and more pronounced ear compensation. Still, we see some more similarities between the two IEMs in the treble. It looks like Campfire has tried to offset some of that extra bass with a treble peak at around 5kHz. The Vega stays fairly linear after that point up until 10kHz, followed by a prompt roll-off. In the Dorado’s case, though, the resonance peak on the frequency response graph at 8kHz is no illusion. The Dorado peaks strongly with what sounds like no less than +5dB over 7kHz - I verified this using a sine sweep - before rolling off shortly after like its brother.
More subjectively? Yikes. You may have noticed that I neglected to cover the bass responses closely up above. That’s because you can definitely boost bass to this extent - something like the venerable Empire Ears Legend X comes to mind - and it really only becomes a problem when there is a lack of intangible control. As for whether the Dorado and Vega actually have said control, truthfully, I’m inclined to say no. Transient attack on both is heavily lacking, delving into bloat; furthermore, perplexingly, neither IEM has much dynamic slam or texture to make up for it. Frankly, I cannot listen to the Dorado for prolonged periods of time due to the overly sibilant treble. In this respect, I find myself reaching for the Vega more often; however, the inadequate ear gain and lack of treble presence aren’t enough to offset the gobs of bass. Perhaps it would be more apt, then, to simply call the Vega an L-shaped IEM. It’s dark and bassy, largely devoid of macro detail, and manages to squeak by as “listenable”.
Neither IEMs exhibit good timbre nor have technical traits that I would consider noteworthy. This is a prime example of tonality likely neutering any such qualities if they were present in isolation. The Vega, in particular, sounds overly-dampened due to the more subdued (by comparison) treble, caved ear compensation, and inherent dynamic driver transient behavior.
The Campfire IEM Shoot-Out
Now that I’ve been able to listen to all of Campfire Audio’s 2020 releases, it’s only fitting that I do a mini-shootout of sorts to round it off. It’s worth pointing out that most of their 2020 line-up seems to hover a little over the kilobuck price point, something I’m happy to see given the crazy price creep we’ve seen with most flagship IEMs over the last couple years.
The Andromeda 2020 follows a neutral-warm, more relaxed tuning. The tuning nails my preferences a good deal; the only real issue I would point out is the contrast between the more bloated lower-midrange and dipped upper-midrange. This probably also isn’t the IEM to buy if you’re looking for good dynamics. Outside of this, the Andromeda 2020 is a highly technical monitor; it’s one of the few, truly holographic IEMs and with ample layering chops to boot. Treble is smooth and superbly extended; indeed, this might be one of the most well-extended IEMs I’ve heard. I’m critical, but not unfair: This is my favorite kilobuck IEM, and you won’t hear me saying the Andromeda 2020 is anything short of excellent.
The Ara is Campfire’s interpretation of a neutral-reference tuned monitor. As for whether they’ve succeeded, well, I’m not so sure about that. There are small issues here and there throughout the Ara’s tuning like the precipitate 1.5kHz ear gain, humpty-dumpty upper-midrange, and borderline sibilant treble. I’m also not a fan of this IEM’s macrodynamic ability, the Ara sounds downwards compressed in a disconcerting manner. It’s still highly resolving, a small step ahead of the Andromeda 2020, although I do think you lose some of the Andromeda 2020’s stellar imaging chops. This IEM seems to have been tuned to appeal to a different demographic than my younger ears, and needless to say I’ll be the first to admit that the Ara has its niche.
The Solaris 2020 is a more V-shaped IEM, sporting good amounts of mid-bass and lively, well-extended treble. Again, there are some tuning quirks - mainly the bloated, sibilant upper-midrange - although they’re not dealbreaking like the Ara’s are to my ears. Imaging is holographic and the Solaris 2020 has very good soundstage height, more than the Andromeda 2020, although the Andromeda 2020 definitely layers better and is more coherent. Overall, the Solaris 2020 possesses a bodied, warm, colored sound. Yeah, it’s kind of messy, but if you like this type of presentation, I don’t think you’ll find many IEMs out there that are comparable.
Something that I might not always stress in my reviews - that I’d hope is more tacit - is the following: Please do not let me solely dictate your opinion of an IEM. Especially with these types of more negative reviews. Ultimately, caveat emptor, there is no substitute for actually going out and hearing an IEM for yourself to make a purchase decision. Recognizing that this is not always possible, you should then extrapolate from multiple reviews, and ideally, find reviewers whose tastes align with your own.
But if it wasn’t already clear, I cannot recommend either the Vega or the Dorado 2020 in good faith. And please don’t get me wrong. The Andromeda 2020? I love it to death. The Solaris 2020 and Ara? They have their niche. By contrast, in this reviewer’s opinion, the Dorado and Vega 2020 are simply too far lost in the pursuit of flavor. It’s always tough having to come to a conclusion like this because this is a brand that I really want to see succeed, and that said, if Campfire Audio ever takes into account some of the issues I’ve outlined for future iterations of these IEMs, rest assured I am open to giving them a second chance.
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