Pros: Professional looking, excellent sound (clear), good comfort and isolation, very good presentation and accessories, excellent customer support.
Cons: Heavier than Mad Dogs, cable is great but don't particularly like Y-cables, bass impact, still needs ample amplification to sound its best.
First I want to start with an "I'm sorry" because I took so long to write this and to top it off, I feel as if the review was a "waste of time" because, well, I don't see it as very in-depth, my first impressions still stand (mostly), and everything has been mentioned to death but I thought I at least should record it for posterity :p
Anyway I've been a fan of the Mad Dogs since I got them on June/July 2012 and I've definitely been very vocal about them. They just hit all the right buttons I was looking for on a closed-back headphone:
- good comfort
- no leakage
- excellent mids and good bass response
I remember the first time I got the Mad Dogs, I put them up to test and noticed something was "off". Bass response and extension wasn't what I was expecting and indeed the headphones couldn't properly reproduce sound below 40Hz (as far as I remember). Dan noticed my post in the thread, contacted me, requested the headphones back, and after a few days I got the properly tuned headphone (all at his expense of course). So now, not only did I had an excellent sounding headphone in my arsenal, the best thing, it kept getting better with updates. Moved from the Shure pads to the Dog and Alpha's (but did not perform the final 3.2 tuning as I felt they were great as they were.) Then... big news, Jude introduced a video talking in length about these new 3D-printed headphones... MrSpeakers Alpha Dogs.
Now, I didn't have access to the video at work so I didn't even noticed Jude's enthusiasm until later but I went to the order page on the spot and just ordered blindly!
And I'm glad I did! ;-)
- Frequency response (+/- 3dB): 16Hz to 18KHz
- Efficiency: 90dB/mW
- Weight (without cable): 440g
- Cable: Dual entry
- Alpha Dog's black Box (very good looking actually).
- MrSpeakers Stand
- Dual-entry cable
- Black pouch
- 3M Cleaning Cloth
Design, Comfort and Build:
Design-wise, the Alpha Dogs still look like the original T50RP. I guess this is due to the unchanged headband design (although MrSpeakers adds a leather strap just as he did with the Mad Dogs). The new 3d-Printed cups though are a treat. They seem well constructed, and they are definitely well painted. Overall, they look very professional and in fact shares a bit of similarity with Fostex TH900s regarding color choice and form. Just like the original T50RP, I think they could withdstand a bit of abuse but I'm not sure how prone to scratches or marks the paint job is (and I don't want to find out willingly! ;-)) nor how durable the plastic used for the cups is but they feel sturdy enough for usual and even portable use.
Comfort with the Mad Dogs has always been great and when the Alpha Pads were introduced, they were like pillows on your ears. I'm glad to say that this feeling was not lost with the Alpha Dogs. You can put the headphones on your head and the comfort is excellent BUT after a few hours you start noticing the weight the new cups and the cable is exerting, especially if you use lighter headphones as well.
I find the Mad Dogs more comfortable in the end due to the weight factor but if you like the MDs and don't mind the extra weight, then you should be good to go!
Now the most important part. The sound.
As usual, the first time I put the Alpha Dogs over my ears I knew I had to give it a bit of time so my brain
could play "catch-up". For some reason, every time I use any dynamic headphone (be it the Momentum, Signature DJ, Dido D901, etc.) and jump to the Mad Dogs or Alpha Dogs I ALWAYS find the headphones underwhelming!!! I have mentioned this a few times before on the Mad Dog threads and I think this is very important because even though I've had the Mad Dogs for a year plus now, I still experience the same thing (this doesn't really happen when I compare or use other headphones). So I don't think "quick 5 minute impressions" work well with these 2 cans. Anyway, first few times I used the Alpha Dogs the first impressions were:
1) "Oh, they sound very clear..." (i.e. the "warmth" of the Mad Dogs was not as present)
2) "Wait, where is the bass?"
3) Love my girl Sara Bareilles on this!
4) "Amber Rubarth. Are you singing to me?"
5) "but highs sound weird..."
Then I remembered, "let's spend at least 20 minutes with these..." and there it was... Non ear-piercing clear highs, sibilance on bad recordings was not "enhanced" (i.e. like happens on some of my "Studio" headphones), vocals were shining through (male and female), guitar crunch was splendid on some of the metal I listen to, basically the mids were mostly left untouched as-in it is still fairly "neutral", but that added "air", that "clean-up" did make most genres more enjoyable and in fact most instruments sound more "natural" to me. Listening to something like "Basin Street Blues" is a total treat on these. Changing gears, I went through my usual playlist consisting of:
Thrice - Under a Killing Moon
Miguel Bose - Este Mundo Va
Kaskade - Fire in your Shoes
Blink 182 - Kaleidoscope
Jon Cleary - When you Get back
Mima - Oigo Voces
Esperanza Spalding - What a Friend
Sara Bareilles - Vegas
Killswitch Engage - Fixation on the Darkness
Juancho - Pillala
Boston - More than a Feeling
J-King y Maximan - Ella me Pide Something
Calvin Harris - Feel so Close
Three Six Mafia - Late Night Tip
Orquesta Macabeo - Me Repito
Just like the Mad Dogs before it, the Alpha Dogs can play most of these genres without breaking a sweat. But again I noticed something missing. So let's get into a head-to-head comparison.
How do the Alpha Dogs compare to the Mad Dogs? As mentioned their sound is different and it is actually quite surprising how the drivers can behave with different enclosure and/or tuning. The Alpha Dogs added that something the Mad Dogs really lacked and that's a bit more treble energy, a bit more "air" in the upper-mids and highs. Not only that, but the Bass bump of the Mad Dogs was tamed a bit and it is more refined and faster. What this does is give the illusion that there is less bass presence and elevated mids/highs. And this is basically my main "nitpick". For genres that rely on bass SLAM and presence (sub-bass), the clean sound of the Alpha Dogs and tamed lower-end is not the best match (my preference though). So while the bass indeed goes low, the lack of impact extracts a bit of the "fun" factor in songs like Kaskade's "Fire in your New Shoes"/"One Heart"/"Room for Happiness" or even Jon Cleary's "When You get Back". On the other hand, all of these sound very good with their forward mids and controlled highs (something a couple of headphones cannot do either!). Oh my! ...
Soundstage is actually one of those topics that were discussed a few months ago in detail and quite frankly I don't find it as a huge upgrade to the Mad Dogs, but again, the "clearer" sound make it sound like it is a bit wider. Imaging though is actually improved and it's probably one of the upgrades I like the most! This is what I liked the most from the open-back Shure SRH1840s and now I can get it on a closed-back headphone! Yay! In the months that followed, I acquired a few other headphones and, what the heck, decided to compare them as well.
First the Shure SRH1540s. I've been a fan of Shure for a few years now and have had in my posession the 440s, 840s, 940s, 1840s and now 1540s. I was surprised at their departure for their sound on this new flagship. Surprisingly these are almost borderline basshead. After coming from the 940s (bright, boosted highs, cold-ish sounding) and the 1840s (warm, laid back mids and highs with good bass presence, similar to HD600s by Sennheiser) these sound weird, but in a good way. Compared directly to the Alpha Dogs, 1540s offer more bass, a bit boomy, mids not as forward but clear and good sounding, non-offensive highs, excellent imaging (similar to the 1840s and ADs), wider sounding. These Shure actually leak a bit of sound though and they are more comfortable (lighter as well) than the ADs.
Also got some Beyerdynamic T5p with Blue Dragon cables, bought used. The only other Beyer I had was the DT770 Pro 80s which are basshead preferred and they don't sound anything alike. Anyway, I have to say that the T5p's are "Ok". Their highlight is definitely their mids, very clear, forward and just excellent. Soundstage and imaging are very good as well but their highs are a bit too much sometimes (maybe too revealing to my tastes or maybe they are too peaky?). Bass is actually quite anemic (surprising since the DT770s were so powerful) but what it shows it's good quality. These are very comfortable as well, good isolation and no leakage.
Bass quantity: SRH1540 --> Alpha Dogs --> Beyer T5p
Bass quality: Alpha Dogs --> Beyer T5p --> SRH1540
Mids presentation: Beyer T5p --> Alpha Dogs --> SRH1540
Soundstage/imaging: Beyer T5p --> Alpha Dogs == SRH1540
Highs: Alpha Dogs --> SRH1540 --> Beyer T5p
Sound Isolation/Leakage: Alpha Dogs --> Beyer T5p --> SRH1540
Fun Factor: SRH1540 --> Alpha Dogs --> Beyer T5p
Price: Alpha Dogs == SRH1540 --> Beyer T5p
In case you were wondering, one of the features of the Alpha Dogs is the inclusion of a feature called "Very-Bass" tuning which as it's name implies it can modify bass output on the headphones. So, (copy+paste from an earlier post) I followed Dan's instructions in order to perform them tuning changes correctly (and to get back to "standard tuning" after I played with the settings) and I have to say, I did NOT like it. It seems to adjust the mid-bass quite a bit (not sub-bass) and I felt the mids being a bit muddied as well. Listened to about 4 hours straight with tracks I know by heart or that I play on the guitar, etc. etc. and, well, went back to original settings. Still, the added "weight" to the mid-bass didn't come as "slam" or "impact", it was just that, weight... as in coloring the sound with a sucky EQ app (I don't like EQ'ing) so I really didn't like it as much. Maybe it was my ears, or maybe changes on the tuning indeed affect it as I heard it but since there doesn't seem to be many people that have tried this, I guess I wont know unless Dan himself tells us and/or maybe provide updated charts with the "normal tuned" frequency of one of his Alphas and comparisons against their "tuned" selves! Love the natural tone and response at it's default setting, and if I really want bass impact/slam/basshead-worthy, I think I'll just switch headphones! ;-)
Finally, just wanted to mention that I tested these guys with my usual setup:
Cowon C2 --> Schiit Magni
FiiO X3 --> Schiit Magni
PC --> NuForce Icon HDP --> Lehman BCL
Straight from the FiiO X3 (and yes, the Alpha Dogs sound good from the X3)
So, if I were to choose a favorite from these three overall, I would pick the Alpha Dogs based on their excellent mids, good imaging, Ok bass presence, excellent isolation and leakage control, and very good price/performance. Let's not forget about Dan's customer service as well. Now, does this automatically says the other two are bad?
Not at all. I've had fun every time I listen ot the Shure's and actually enjoy some Radiohead and acoustic performances on the T5p's but I don't feel these two particularly blast away the ADs.
I also would like to mention, I wouldn't spend $1300 on the Beyer's. ;-)
So after writing all of this and taking my sweet time I can finally say that I'm definitely a fan of the Alpha Dogs.
Sadly I haven't compared it to other orthodynamics or flagships, but I'm only limited to closed-back headphones since I mostly use them in my workplace. Now, are the Alpha Dogs the BEST closed-back headphone I have ever tried soundwise? No, I actually prefer Ultrasone Signature DJs/Pros over them... ;-) but let's re-phrase the question.
Are the Alpha Dogs one of the most comfortable, very good sounding closed-back headphone I've tried? As of today, yes they are. Couple that with excellent customer support, excellent perks (removable pads, cables, etc.) and excellent price and you definitely have a winner!!
So all in all, unless you are a basshead or just want more slam, the Alpha Dogs are an EXCELLENT buy. Just be sure of what you really want and make your selection based on your tastes and gear.