Comparing Mr Speaker Mad Dogs to NAD Viso HP50s
Whilst I've read dozens of Head-Fi articles in the past, this is the first time I've dipped my oar in the water and written anything for the site. I've had a passion for audio my whole life, but only recently have I started to get serious about portable audio and the headphones that form a part of that music scene. I recently started with a Hifiman HM-602 and some Monster Turbine Pro Gold IEMs, but now have an Iriver AK100 MK 2 that I use mainly with some Etymotic ER-4s, that are a bit bland, so I was looking for a full sized headphone to pair with my AK100. They had to be a closed design because my wife hates the Grados I have as she hears everything I am listening to (plus my Grados are just a bit uncomfortable for long listening sessions and are a bit bright with a slightly muted bass (to my ears)). I also don't have an unlimited budget and wanted to spend around A$300-400. I listen to a broad range of music but prefer rock and pop and listen to mostly FLAC files ripped from CD. I don't have a headphone amp, but may look at getting a portable one in the future, the extra bulk puts me off though and the AK100 has a reasonable 'in built'amp in my opinion.
After hours of scouring the internet I narrowed my search down to four closed headphones:
1. PSB m4u1,
2. Sennheiser Momentum (over ear),
3. NAD Viso HP50, and
4. Mr Speaker Mad Dog.
After listening to the first three headphones on my list at a local store I narrowed my list down to the NADs. I really wanted to like the Momentum's because I thought I wanted a headphone that had some slightly emphasised bass, but when I compared the Sennheisers with the PSBs I found the bass on the Momentum's to be over done (for my ears) and a bit too muddy and uncontrolled. The PSBs were at the other end of the spectrum, the bass was good and tight but I thought the highs were overdone and shrill after only a short period of listening. The NADs on the other hand seemed to be much more neutral (accurate) sounding but still had a reasonably dynamic, if slightly emphasised, bass to satisfy my needs. I thought the NADs also had a good soundstage with excellent instrument separation. I could go on, but if you want more details on these headphones there are dozens of other reviews out there on the net.
After this first session the NADs were the clear winners for me. Next, I purchased a pair of the Mad Dogs with the comfort strap and the alpha pads from the USA as there were no stockists in my home city and stockists in other cities in Australia do not offer the 15 day return policy that Mr Speakers does. I wanted to compare the NADs with the Mad Dogs with the ability to return the Mad Dogs, if necessary. In isolation, the Mad Dogs sounded very similar to the NADs and, apart from the sound, the immediate differences were that the NADs were much, much more efficient; much lighter weight; perhaps a bit less comfortable; sealed slightly less efficiently around my ears but (IMO) were better looking than the Mad Dogs. When I initially Iistened to the two headphones side by side it was hard for me to pick much difference between them. The soundstage sounded similar and the overall tonal balance sounded much the same. However, after a longer listening session with a wider variety of music it eventually became obvious (to me) that the Mad Dogs were more accurate than the NADs - a snare drum actually sounded like it should with the MDs. With careful listening I also started to notice that the bass on the Mad Dogs seemed clearer: with Daft Punk -Get Lucky the bass riff at the start of the song sounded more detailed than on the NADs which, by comparison, sounded a bit confused in comparison. The thing that eventually sold me on the Mad Dogs was, when I closed my eyes and listened, they made me feel like I was there in the recording studio (or on stage) with the artist. I don't listen to a lot of country music but with Anne Murray's -Snowbird it was like chalk and cheese between the NADs and the Mad Dogs - her voice was just more 'real' with the Mad Dogs. Lastly, the speed and attack on the clapping, synth and drums at the start of Evermore's - Hey Boys and Girls was outstanding; again like you were there in the studio.
So in the end, the sound of the Mad a Dogs won out over the looks, efficiency and lighter weight of the NADs but it was honestly a very close thing. I actually bought the NADs at one point and arranged to send the MDs back, mainly because I thought I would need a separate headphone amp with the Mad Dogs, but I eventually returned the NADs (for store credit only, unfortunately) as I worked out that 99% of the time the AK100 with 3db 'boost' on is loud enough.
Hopefully, this will help anyone else out there that is looking at closed full sized headphones and can't decided between the Visos and the Mad Dogs.