Before I begin, I want to thank MrSpeakers
for the loaners! Matt sent me the first MD I reviewed, and Dan (MrSpeakers himself) sent me the 3.2 version (May 2013 re-tuning). The MrSpeakers Mad Dog. A fully modified Fostex T50RP making a huge scene on Head-fi for it's sound quality, price, and comfort. The T50RP is a budget friendly, planar magnetic headphone well known for being extremely mod-friendly. The LFF Paradox and Smeggy Thunderpants are well known modded T50RPs that preceded the Mad Dog. However, the Mad Dog is the first to hit a price point that warranted the attention of the masses, and with good reason.Build Quality
: The Mad Dog isn't cosmetically modified like the Thunderpants, so it is basically a T50RP on the outside, with the exception of a pad swap, an optional comfort strap, and MrSpeakers vinyl stickers on the ear cups. The ear cups are made of some pretty durable plastic. Not the most aesthetically pleasing ear cups, and a bit unassuming, but it has a retro-ish charm to them. The headband is made of a very pliable material that looks extremely durable. Lacks padding underneath, but the optional comfort strap more than makes up for it. Headband discomfort is the last thing you would ever think of when wearing the Mad Dog with the comfort strap. It's that comfortable on the head.
The extension bars are made of a brass/copper metal, and is the strongest part of the headphone. It's of a very, very generous length, which should fit comfortably even on watermelon-sized noggins. I'm a huge fan of headphones that allow that much freedom in terms of head-size. More companies need to follow suit. The two cables supplied are both quite good. The main 10ft cable is of decent thickness terminating in a 1/4" (6.3mm) plug. The shorter 6ft cable is undoubtedly one of the V-moda's 3.5mm to 3.5mm cables with one side ending in a 45 degree angle. Covered in cloth and being a bit more flexible due to it's thinness next to the bigger cable. Both seem very durable, and shouldn't be problematic with normal use. Dan chose well with his cables.
The Mad Dog comes with various pads. Each with their own distinct sound signature and comfort. The Mad Dog being reviewed here came with the Alpha pads, which are the newest, most linear, and most comfortable of the bunch. The Alpha pads are leather, angled, and very soft. While you all probably know how much I don't care for leather pads overall, I have to give credit where credit is due: these pads are VERY comfortable on the head, heat trapping issues aside.Comfort
: As mentioned, the Mad Dog w/alpha pads and comfort strap is a very, very comfortable headphone overall. It's lightweight, would fit on any head, isn't oversized (*cough*LCD2*cough*), and doesn't clamp tightly (clamp can be adjusted by bending the headband, which extremely easy to do). The Mad Dogs I used for this review has some moderate clamp which I didn't wanna mess with, as I feel it's a good middle ground for comfort and sound quality.Accessories
: The Mad Dogs come with: headphone, short cable, long cable, and a very nice velvet carrying pouch. That's all you need. I personally don't care for unnecessary accessories which add to the price, and Dan kept it simple, which I'm quite happy with.Isolation/Leakage
: It's been awhile since I've heard a headphone that seals/isolates as well as the Mad Dog. It's incredibly silent in terms of leaking noise to the outside world, and it does a very good job of keeping external noise from coming in. Very, very good passive noise cancelling. If you need a headphone in the most noise polluted environments or need a headphone that won't ever bother others, the Mad Dog is a very, very safe bet.Sound
: On to the sound. I did my homework on the Mad Dogs on more than one occasion, to the point of being one click away from ordering them prior to receiving these loaners. Basically glowing reviews all around, stating that they came very close to sounding like a closed LCD2, even down to having an incredibly similar frequency response. And all for a fraction of a price. Who wouldn't be interested in trying these out after all that's been written out there? So did the Mad Dog live to the extreme hype out there? Mostly, yes. Do they sound like a closed LCD2? Sort of. They do share similarities, but the Mad Dog is certainly not a closed back LCD2. The Mad Dog is a very balanced headphone, although being decidely on the dark side of neutral. Darker than the LCD2.
The LCD2 is still more neutral sounding, more spacious, more dimensional, and more refined. However, the Mad Dog has it's own personality and character, and I admire it's own strengths. The first pair I received on loan were from another head-fier (again, thank you, MattTCG), and didn't fit me quite so properly. I feel that my original review was premature, as I couldn't get it to sit perfectly on my head, possibly making it lose some fidelity. The latest Mad Dog (3.2) came fresh from MrSpeakers, and fit me like a glove. Also, most of my complaints with the original pair reviewed were quickly dismissed. The Mad Dog (3.2) was almost everything I hoped for them to be.Bass
: The Mad Dog has a very balanced, very slightly romanticized bass. It sounds very well textured, and unlike the first pair, immediately engaging. In comparison to the LCD2, the bass did have a similar feel, impact, and presence. The LCD2's bass is still more refined and textured, but the Mad Dog's bass (being in a closed back design), resonated a little more, giving them a longer, and (IMHO) more enjoyable decay. Unlike the original pair I reviewed, the bass on the Mad Dogs not only sounds organic and correct, but has an amazing sense of body, emotion, and presence without ever becoming overwhelming. It's an AMAZINGLY balanced, and full bodied bass, that just fits right in with the rest of the sound. In the original pair, I felt the bass to be the most disappointing aspect of sound in the MD. With the MD 3.2, the bass has quickly become my FAVORITE aspect of it's sound. The bass on the Mad Dogs add a great layer of immersion. It's the near perfect blend of fullness and balance which translates incredibly well for movies and fun games in particular.Mids
: Originally the biggest area of strength in the Mad Dogs, the 3.2 pushes the mids back slightly. The mids sound rich, warm, organic, and intimate, but aren't as forward as the previous version reviewed. They never come off as shouty or fatiguing, nor do they sound distant or lost in the mix. Most vocals come off quite naturally. They aren't 'special' in the sense that they aren't as immediately engaging as the LCD2's or HD650's mids, but they are still quite good and even great at times. It's biggest weakness is in the extreme upper mids to lower treble where some 'S' sound come off a little artificial and sizzly.Treble
: The treble will be either love/hate for everyone. The Mad Dog is a bit dark, making the treble quite non-fatiguing, but not the clearest I've heard. Due to the closed nature of the Mad Dog, the treble is hampered by it's lack of air. I personally don't mind the treble presentation of the Mad Dog at all. I feel they have enough presence to be considered natural, but I can see it being a concern for those who prefer a bit more sparkle/clarity. The treble is a hint more clearer in the 3.2 than the previous version reviewed, so the Mad Dog doesn't sound as closed and congested as before.Soundstage
: This is an area I can't seem to agree with quite a few people in on the main Mad Dog thread. Personally, I feel the Mad Dog lacks quite a bit in air overall, and it's size is decent at best for a closed headphone. That's the nature of closed headphones. Very few exceptions (i.e. D7000, DT770 Pro 80), and the Mad Dog is somewhere in the middle. It sounds decidedly closed in comparison to the more recent open headphones I've compared them to, including the LCD2 which isn't exactly the most open sounding headphone itself. The 3.2 does breathe just a hint more than the previous version reviewed. Another change is in it's depth. I previously didn't think it had a very good sense of depth. I don't know how, but the soundstage depth is one of the areas that noticeably improved for me. The Mad Dog isn't AMAZING in it's width, however, it's depth is pretty good.Positioning
: I'm not going to lie when I say that as enthusiastic as I was about the Mad Dog, none of that enthusiasm was for it's potential to be good for gaming. Prior to hearing the Mad Dog, I expected it to not be amazing for gaming. I expected something like the M50 in that it would make a much better headphone for music and stereo gaming than virtual surround/Dolby Headphone gaming. The Mad Dog (3.2) actually does quite well for gaming for a closed headphone. The depth of the Mad Dog's soundstage helped it's positional accuracy. Despite it's closed back characteristics, the Mad Dogs do good for competitive gaming, and are EXCEPTIONAL for non-competitive gaming. Positional cues were good overall. The depth of the placement was pretty impressive which aided in pinpointing sounds quite a bit better in comparison to the more closed sounding headphones (i.e. Audio Technica M50).Clarity
: The clarity for gaming is actually quite excellent. The Mad Dog benefits greatly from it's linear frequency response. Bass never creeps up and masks details, so all manner of sounds are heard quite easily. Clarity is a strength for the Mad Dogs, despite it's darker than neutral tonality. It shares this with both the LCD2 and HD650: Dark, but still plenty clear.Amping
: Although I no longer have the Mixamp to truly test whether the Mad Dog needs additional amping for gaming purposes, I believe it does, as it requires more off my Marantz receiver and Compass 2 than the LCD2. It also gained a better sense of space and separation off my Compass 2 than off my Marantz alone. Ultimately, you will wanna invest in a good amp to bring out the Mad Dog's potential, though they are enjoyable with lesser equipment.Value
: At $300, The Mad Dog represents an AMAZING value. It is easily my favorite closed headphone outside of the elusive Denon D7000. They are truly a great pair of music, movie and immersive gaming headphones. At $300, the Mad Dogs deliver an exceptional sound. Although I certainly don't put it in the same class as the LCD2 (which people loved to compare it to), I would say that it is clearly the best CLOSED alternative. That alone makes them quite a necessity for those who want planar goodness in a closed back design. It is a stellar performer for it's price, and I'm not usually a fan of closed headphones. For their low price of admission, these are truly a master of the price to performance ratio.Comparisons
: I know this will be asked often, so let me nip this in the bud: How does the Mad Dog compare to some of my other faves?
Vs. HE-4: The HE-4 is slightly v-shaped, similar to a DT880 in planar magnetic form. More open, clearer, and more detailed than the Mad Dog. Also, quite a bit more refined than the MD. However, it's one of the the hardest headphones to drive outside of electrostats, and the majority of people will no doubt hook the HE-4 up to amps that can't power them anywhere near to their potential. However, the Mad Dog sounds fuller, and more musical than the HE-4, with more engaging bass, and more natural voicing. I think they're quite complimentary to one another, and due to that, I wouldn't say one is a clear winner, though the HE-4 is undoubtedly superior, technically.
Vs. K702 Anniversary: The Annie is more open, with a much bigger sense of space, superior soundstage, positional cues, and clarity. The K702 Annie is the only headphone I have reviewed that I honestly can't find one flaw in whatsoever. Not the best at any one thing, but great at basically everything. The Mad Dogs aren't as well rounded as the Annie, but I do find them more enjoyable for my preferred genres of music. I do think the K702 Anniversary is a better headphone overall, however if you favor a bit more bass and don't mind a closed presentation, the Mad Dogs make quite a viable alternative.
Vs. HE-400: The HE-400 is clearer, faster, more aggressive, fun, and livelier than the Mad Dog. I must say I slightly prefer the tonality of the Mad Dogs (less problematic and polarizing). The HE-400 has an issue with the treble being overly emphasized, which may put off some people. Also, some vocals will sound pushed back quite a bit next to the Mad Dog's vocals. Ultimately, the HE-400 sounds a bit more refined despite it's inconsistent tonality/voicing.
Vs. HD650: The HD650 is more open/airy, and more neutral sounding than the Mad Dog as well, though I feel the HD650 is slower and more relaxed in the upper range. The bass is a clear win for the Mad Dogs, and the mids are a definite win for the HD650. I think they are comparable overall, though it's open vs closed, and sound signatures aren't exactly alike. They are quite complimentary in a sense that if you like one, you'll probably like the other.
Vs. LCD2: The LCD2 and Mad Dogs do share similarities in tonality, but the LCD2 is quite a bit more dimensional, clearer, and spacious. The Mad Dogs are perhaps a poor man's closed LCD2, but not quite. Still, I believe this is the best alternative to the LCD2 if you desire a closed back headphone. Like the HD650, if you like one, you'll like the other. You can consider the LCD2 to be the open, more refined, and evolved form of the Mad Dogs. Again, the Mad Dog is not a closed LCD2, but it's the closest thing to one.Final Impressions:
Not much else to say. The Mad Dog is a true wonder of the modding community. Transforming a $100 headphone into a $300 headphone that competes incredibly well in it's price range, despite it's closed back design. I have mentioned this already: If you need a closed headphone that isolates well...look no further. The Mad Dog is more than likely what you want. Well balanced (though on the dark side), very organic/natural with full, immersive bass, very good mids, and good treble (with a few rough edges). The total package is very, very impressive. One of the very best 'fun' gaming and movie headphones, and one of my personal faves for my heavy music genres like Trap, D&B, Trip Hop, and Chillstep.
Fun: 8.75 (Greatness. Natural, full-bodied bass that greatly enhances immersion in games and movies. One of my absolute favorites for fun despite it not being heavily colored, nor it having the biggest soundstage.)
Competitive: 7 (Good. Clear and balanced sound, Good depth for a closed headphone aids in positional cues, despite the Mad Dog not being among the best in soundstage size or width for gaming.)
Comfort: 8.5/10 (Great. The Mad Dog is the most comfortable leather padded closed headphone I've heard outside of the post-stretched M50s. If leather isn't an issue for you, the Mad Dog should bring little to no discomfort.)