The Dorado is rated at 15 ohms and 107dB so it’s fairly easy IEM to drive without reverting to Vega levels of power. It is also more efficient than the Lyra MK2 but not as resolving and dynamic sounding as the Vega so there will be less voltage demand.
It does, however, benefit from a quality signal particularly in terms of dynamics and low-end ‘snap’ so good sources and possibly very resolving portable IEM amps could be considered to get the most out of the Dorado.
Right across the board, on all DAPs we tested, the Dorado reached similar levels of volume to the Lyra around 5 steps lower. It also maxed out at roughly the same percentage levels below the Lyra II’s highest volume setting.
The additional dual BA driver system is a bit more energetic sounding than the single DD of the Lyra and Vega so voltage-wise the Dorado can seem a touch louder and more immediate than either on similar volume settings.
In comparison to the Vega, purely in volume terms, the Dorado also has an edge in efficiency. However, all three pale in comparison to Andromeda’s level of efficiency which is the most sensitive IEM I have encountered in recent years.
Noise-wise, it is an excellent performer with zero background hiss detected on the 5 DAPs tested and great performance with 2 portable amps known to throw out a bit of noise with sensitive IEMs.
There is a tiny bit of noise on the ALO Audio V5 but it is very minimal and not something I would consider distracting. Otherwise, the V5 provides plenty of microvolume control on low gain with the Dorado as well as quick channel balancing and no audible signal from DAP line-outs at zero volume.
Yes, you can get volume (voltage), the Dorado will go plenty loud on a decent smartphone such as the Axon 7 which is a nice AK4490 fueled smartphone, and my old BB Passport but the amp is not as resolving and dynamics fall a bit short.
Bass gets a touch loose and lacking in definition so you get the warmth but not as much snap.
Staging also becomes a little less precise which is not where you want the Dorado to be given the weight and energy it can offer on a good source. The Axon 7 does resolve better than the Passport but is still a little soft and smoothed over for my liking in comparison to dedicated DAPs.
Across a range of DAPs tested the Dorado held its own signature really well with only minor differences in tonal reproduction in terms of treble response among 3 of the DAPs. It was the 4th DAP, the AK240, which produced the sharpest deviation in the Dorado signature but it was perhaps my favorite in terms of tonal preference.
Of the 3 closer to each other, these were the X7/Am3 combo, the Cayin i5, and AK380. All three faithfully produced a solid black background, low noise floors, zero background hiss, and could easily drive the Dorado in low gain.
Dynamics were excellent on all 3 with perhaps the X7 Sabre DAC producing the brightest tonal quality and really moving the treble that bit more than the other two. The Cayin i5 produced a lovely aggressive snap to its low end but lost out to the X7 pairing for top-end detail and the AK380 for refinement and detail.
The AK380 had less of a snap to its sound with the Dorado than the i5 but sounded more refined with a better grip on the treble control on the Dorado’s dual BA system and a little smoother up top than the X7/Dorado pairing.
AK240 – The Personal Preference
The AK240, on the other hand, gave me control and definition and dialed back the weight of the bass response of the Dorado just a tiny bit in the process. Suddenly I had a tactile well-defined bass response that really gelled with my own personal preferences. It won’t go heavy and aggressive like the i5, perhaps not even the X7 but it felt tight and very coherent.
I also loved the treble extension and articulation with the Dorado/AK240 combo. The X7 hinted that a cleaner brighter DAC might just bring that TAEC tech to the fore but it is the AK240 that pushes it hardest in terms of detail and extension which I just love.
Consequently, this is not the DAP for the hard-hitting EDM on the Dorado but certainly fits right in with light and breezy pop such as Katy Perry where midrange female vocals and good treble articulation are required.
Efficiency and Noise
We tested 4 portable amps in total, the RHA Dacamp L1, The Lear FSM-02 V2, and ALO Audio’s RX and V5. Out of those 4, only the V5 had an audibly higher noise floor and some background hiss but it was fairly minimal and not terribly distracting on the Dorado.
All four amps have a reasonable amount of voltage control using the Dorado with the Dacamp having the least at around 2/5 and the V5 the most with about 40% of the pot usable before maxing out and the RX and Lear somewhere in between with around 25%-30% usable pot.
All 4 have tiny amounts of channel imbalance heard on the Dorado with the V5 and Dacamp the best behaved of the four.
ALO Audio V5
If you want the elevated midrange vocal pitch of the Dorado to be at its smoothest and sweetest and a little edge of the bass impact then the V5 is an excellent choice though bass is not quite as impactful as the other amps. Out of the 4 tested only the Class A section of the Lear came close to that tube sound the V5 can produce.
ALO Audio RX
If you want the best extension and really work the low-end and treble performance of the Dorado, two of its standout aspects then the RX’s more dynamic impactful solid-state sound will be the best choice here. I didn’t get as much pot control but the sound was electric and very expansive.
Lear FSM-02 V2
The Lear, on the other hand, is warm to neutral with a nice low-end emphasis and less top-end sparkle on its normal output and a much richer and more dynamic experience with the Dorado on it’s Class A output. I still prefer the V5 as it is slightly more spacious and open-sounding but props to the Lear for working the low end really hard.
Out of the 4, my least favorite tonally with the Dorado was the Dacamp L1. It came across as much brighter, more solid state, and slightly harsher in the upper mids and treble than the other 3 which had a smoother sound.
You do get excellent clarity and a cleaner edge but it didn’t work for me on a personal level. You might find this brighter tone to your preference, particularly on acoustics where you might want an edge to your notes but you lose a little in those smooth-sounding vocal performances that the others can give.
This is the V1 which came out originally in 2011/2012 and there has been a re-tune v2 out just last year in the universal version also.
It is a bit long in the tooth but it is one of the pioneers in the hybrid design either at a custom level or universal and was widely regarded as one of the best hybrids out at the time for its fun, relaxed slightly warm presentation.
Its big calling card was the depth and sub-bass presence combined with a pretty large staging quality and a smooth and natural-sounding mid and high quad BA signature.
Compared to the Dorado the bass on the Merlin now sounds quite behaved and not as thick or heavy sounding. It still extends deep and if anything sounds more spacious than the Dorado but it simply can’t compete in terms in terms of impact and low-end power. We have come a long way since 2011 when it comes to hybrid bass performance.
The Merlins do sound more open though than the Dorado in the mids range. It doesn’t display the same level of lower midrange dip and upper midrange drop from the vocal staging.
You get great vocals on both but on the Merlin, those quad BAs kick in offering a more complex staging presentation and better instrumental presence. In some ways, it makes the Dorado sound that bit darker in the mids.
Treble performance on both is excellent though again you just have a slight edge to Merlin’s quad-BA design in terms of air. I do have to insert a caveat at this stage, it will only sound open and clean if you use a better cable than the stock Plastics One cable.
Otherwise, the Dorado stock cable produces better clarity and articulation. With a good silver cable, the Merlin can compete though the very top end belongs to the Dorado in terms of refinement.
The Martian is a dual DD and dual BA configuration which is a bit unique in some ways for UM and priced very competitively indeed. Efficiency-wise, it is very similar to the Dorado at 110dB but voltage-wise both have very close volume levels on similar DAPs and amps.
The Martian, despite its DD design, is actually not as bass-heavy as the Dorado, carrying neither the same thickness nor weight but it still has decent impact and sub-bass depth. It is an incredibly likable bass response with an elevated sub-bass tuning rather than a curt mid-bass slam so you never feel it dominating or bleeding into the midrange.
The Dorado is a bit warmer and more boosted sounding with both an elevated sub-bass and mid-bass tuning that thunders past the Martian for EDM and R’n’B though I do prefer that weight with some good articulation hence my preference for the AK240 pairing.
Mids on the Martian are actually fairly balanced with a slightly forward vocal presence. It doesn’t have the same dips as the Dorado and is not quite as thick sounding but it is clean and clear all the same. The vocals on the Dorado are thicker and warmer sounding with better texture.
Instrumental separation is actually pretty good with decent imaging but with that forward vocal presence and thinner instrumental quality just behind the vocals both the Martian and the Dorado present a more intimate-sounding midrange than say the A91 or Merlin.
Treble on the Martian is lively with very good detail and pleasingly sibilant-free but lacks a bit of body compared to the superior performance of the Dorado which has a better extension, brilliance response, and final octave articulation.
The Dorado, despite its darker-sounding midrange, has an airier top-end than the Martian which works better for the likes of modern trance and chill.
The A91 is a single DD and quad BA universal hybrid design and one of my favorite IEMs of last year. It is rated at 20 ohms and 113dB and though seemingly slightly more sensitive than the Dorado which is 107dB and 15 ohms the voltage levels on both on DAP volume levels are also very similar.
Neither show any noise or background hiss across a wide variety of DAPs such as the iBasso DX200, Cayin i5, AK240, and AK380.
Both have fantastic bass responses from their respective bass drivers but they differ in their emphasis. The A91 puts all its eggs in an elevated sub-bass response and relatively linear drop from 150 Hz whereas the Dorado is thicker, warmer, and more sustained in its mid-bass signature.
Thus you will hear the rumble of the A91 but it’s not as impactful and hard-hitting as the Dorado’s meaty bass response.
Mids and treble on the A91 are actually quite neutral in areas and a bit brighter compared to the darker mid-tones of the Dorado. Mids on the A91 are perhaps its strong point outside of that sub-bass presence.
The Dorado’s elevated vocal presence though is more endearing and vivid sounding than the A91 which tends to be more subtle and neutral sounding in comparison. Instrumental work is not as far back on the A91 as the Dorado with slightly superior clarity due to the additional BA driver focusing on the mids.
Lower treble on the A91 is a bit more forward-sounding than the Dorado but it is not as smooth sounding and a little leaner. Despite the fact the A91 doubles down on the BA count I think Dorado’s TAEC tech does a fine job of keeping the brilliance region smooth, clean, and articulate.
The Dorado is unique in the line-up from Campfire Audio being the only hybrid IEM on offer. It represents a convergence of thinking in terms of their dynamic driver performance and the TAEC technology they first introduced in the Andromeda and Jupiter and as such it can offer a bit of both in a rich and musical style.
Despite having only 2 BA the Dorado punches way above a typical dual BA performance for me sounding smoother, less dry, and certainly a lot more refined in its treble. The warmth of the beryllium driver still shines through but clearly amps for impact, verve, and plenty of PRaT.
It is an ideal IEM for modern genres such as EDM and RnB where heavy-hitting bass lines are needed as well as top-end performance. It has just enough of the physicality of the Vega but a hint of that Lyra II laid-back signature making it a forgiving but no less exciting presentation.
It will be interesting to see if Campfire Audio builds on the Dorado foundation, there is a lot of room I suspect for multi-BA/DD designs to take this signature even further in terms of detail and spaciousness.
Certainly, in terms of blending and crossover, it is one of the tightest I have heard yet and hardly an IEM you could associate with a freshman debut.