Sunday, June 14, 2015

MrSpeakers' Alpha Dog


Introduction:

This review features only my own honest personal opinion as such should be taken with a grain of salt.

To start off, I'm the proud owner of the following headphones:
  • AKG K240
  • Beats Studio (first gen)
  • Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro (32 ohm)
  • HiFiMAN HE-300
  • JVC HA-MR77XE
  • JVC HA-SZ2000
  • Koss Portapro
  • MrSpeakers Mad Dog 3.2
  • Philips Fidelio X2
  • Sennheiser HD650
  • Sennheiser HD800
  • Xiaomi Pistons V2
  • Xiaomi Pistons V3

And the newest addition, the Mr Speakers Alpha Dog.

A little backstory: In 2014, I went to Canjam Europe. Mr. Speakers was there, showing off his Alpha Dog. I tried it, and didn't like it at all. A long time passed before someone I know sent me an e-mail a few days ago and let me know that he was going to sell his Alpha Dogs for 450 euros (They're 600 euros around here). As I am a huge Mr Speakers Fan, I just went with it and I'm very happy I did, as these might be my new favorite headphones.

On to the real review now.


Design and Build:

The MrSpeakers Alpha Dog is a radical mod engineered around the T50RP VII driver but replacing everything else with custom-designed parts. These are designed very well and I feel like I could drop them from a staircase or throw them against a wall and they'd still work perfectly fine with maybe a minor scratch from the encounter. The earcups are 3D printed which is very cool and come in both black and red colours, but I happen to have the black version which I find to be better looking than the red version. There are two small holes in each earcup which houses an adjustable screw to open and close the driver vents which will result in slightly increased/decreased bass depending on the direction of rotation. The headband is very flexible and conforms to my head rather well. One more thing I noticed is that with the Mad Dogs, there is a single entry cable which means a wire has to go through the headband to the other earcup which means there are visible wires just above the earcups. The Alpha Dogs on the other hand have a dual-entry cable so the headband does not need to house any cables.


Comfort and Isolation:

The comfort on these is really good, although they're quite heavy (440g without cable). The Alpha Pads are great due to being nice and thick as well has having smooth lambskin covering the soft foam but they might get a little bit hot on the inside depending on where you live due to their leather construction not allowing any air to reach the ears. However, the pads combined with the headband and medium clamp gave the feeling of being surrounded by a cushion when I put the Alpha Dogs on which is an interesting but very comforting feeling. The isolation however really surprised me as it's really really good! It isolates better than my mad dogs, and leaks about the same amount of sound (which is next to nothing at average volumes). The only more comfortable headphone I own is the Sennheiser HD800, and that’s saying something.


Sound:


Equipment and Burn-in:

The equipment I used was: Windows laptop > Schiit Modi > Schiit Asgard 2 (High gain). No EQ was used.
These headphones only have a few hours use on them; probably less than 20 if I had to make an estimate.


Bass:

The bass takes centre stage when it comes to this headphone, which should be no surprise as it's a planar. There's a nice quantity of bass, but it's not overbearing. It knows when to give you a nice punch, and when it should be a bit more shy. Compared to other cans that have good bass priority, this one is by far the best (but also the most expensive). My JVC HA-MR77XE packs quite a punch, but is also quite muddy and has next to no texture in the bass. My JVC HA-SZ2000 kicks you in the chest with its bass, and it extends pretty well but not nearly as well as the Alpha Dog. The Alpha Dog seems to extend to the lowest frequencies as well as having a lot of texture which means you can pick up a lot of minor details within the bass. Where my Mad Dog is lacking a punch, this headphone was exactly what I was looking for. Nice, fast, punchy but not overbearing bass.


Midrange:

The midrange on these is very interesting. It sounds top-notch (even when compared to the HD800) but at times there seems to be a small dip in the male vocals. This is only a minor problem though and might go away with some more burn-in or slight tweaking of the bass port. The midrange sounds uncoloured as far as my knowledge and hearing goes.


Treble:

I'm very, very bad at describing treble, but I'll give it a go anyway. The treble sounds pretty smooth to me. The two dots that are in the "Doggie Treats" package have been used by the previous owner (or came pre-installed, I don't exactly know) but the felt discs haven't been used yet. I don't find the treble fatiguing at all and it generally appears to be neutral and well-extended.


Soundstage/Presentation:

The soundstage on these cans is superb, sounding a lot like an open-back headphone which I find very impressive. The instrument separation is also great although my HD800 beats the Alpha Dogs in both of these things (as well as its price tag!). These cans will go with nearly all styles of music although adjusting the bass port might be necessary to account for different genres of music.


Value:




This is a $600 headphone that's able to roll with the big boys. It's up there with the Audeze LCD2/LCD3, Fostex TH600/900, Sennheiser HD800, AKG K812, Beyerdynamic T1, etc. You get the drill. It has unbelievable value but sadly the sound might not be for everyone. I'd strongly recommend at least trying it to see if it's for you or not, as is the case with all audio gear. If you think 600 bucks is a little too much, the Mr Speakers Mad Dog 3.2 is a great headphone for only half the price. I don't think this headphone is twice as good as the Mad Dog, but I still think it's worth the upgrade. If you can find these below 450 USD used, they are an absolute steal. I might end up using these more than my HD800 mainly because they are closed back. I am planning on using them as portables, although I wouldn’t really recommend doing that as they're very bulky unless you're like me being willing to sacrifice getting funny looks and having to carry it around all day just for its great sound.

Final Rating:



Category
Score
Comment
Packaging, accessories        
6.5/10
The packaging looks slightly cheap, but the included headphone stand feels very solid. However, it’s a bit too short to be quite practical as I need to remove the cable or adjust the Alpha Dogs to have it fit.
Design and build
8.5/10
They feel very, very solid and the bass port is a very unique addition. They're very bulky though.
Comfort and Isolation
9/10
They have amazing comfort and the isolation is very good. Of course the isolation could always be better, and due to the alpha pads, they will get hot after a while.
Bass
9.5/10
In my opinion, the bass is near perfect.
Midrange
8/10
The only bad thing I can say is that there's a weird dip in the male vocals at times, but other than that the mids are fantastic.
Treble   
8/10
As I said, I'm bad at describing treble. But this sound very good and smooth to me.
Presentation
8.5/10
The presentation and soundstage are top-notch considering this is a closed back headphone.
Value
9/10
Sure, 600 bucks is a lot of money, but not for this kind of quality.
Total      
8.5/10
This is a very good closed headphone for a very nice price. If you're in the market for headphones of this price, make sure to take a look at this headphone. It’s really something special!


Specs:


Headphone Type:
Closed-back
Driver Type:
Planar magnetic
Frequency Response (+/- 3dB):
(+/- 3dB): 16Hz to 18KHz
Max. Input Power:
3000mW
Sensitivity:
90 dB/mW
Impedance:
50
Cable:  
440g (Without cable)
Connector:        
Dual entry 4-pin to 6.3mm
Accessories:
Metal Headphone Stand
“Doggie Treats” tuning kit
Velvet storage bag
Hex-wrench for bass tuning
Microfiber cleaning cloth

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