Mad Dog 3.2 Final Impressions
For the past few weeks I've been spending most of my listening time with the Mad Dog on my reference setup - amped by the HeadAmp GS-X MK2, sourced by the Plinius CD-101. I also very recently bought the KEF M500, another closed headphone that's incidentally the same price as the Mad Dog.
I still think the Mad Dog is a very good headphone, and way better than its price would indicate, but my impression of it has been tempered by the KEF M500. I'll explain: the Mad Dog, along with every other orthodynamic headphone that I've heard (LCD-2, LCD-3, HE-400, HE-500, and the HE-6 very briefly) has a certain fatal flaw to me. Regardless of the amps that I've used (which has been the GS-X MK1 or MK2 in most cases, but also the Burson Soloist, plus a wide array with particularly the Audeze models), none of the orthos have had a convincingly physically direct sound (though the LCD-3 did get pretty close) and didn't sound "musical" to me either. "Musical" is a nebulous word but there are only a few headphones that I reserve it for - like the Stax OII MKI and Grado HP1000. I've also since determined that the planar magnetic sound just isn't for me - the headphones I've liked the most have been either dynamic or electrostatic.
The Mad Dog is what I'd call a technically amazing headphone. It delivers clarity (way more than typical of $300 headphones, and it beats more expensive ones too, up until the HD800), a clean separated/diffuse sound, strong bass & treble, and dynamics. It easily handled the range of genres I threw at it - metal (power, prog, symphonic, death, thrash), electronica (trip-hop, techno, IDM, ambient), bluegrass/folk, classical, rock (prog & alt), pop, et al. There was nothing it didn't "sound good" with. However, the moment I had the KEF M500, it was clear that the Mad Dog missed the most important goal: it didn't sound "musical" to me. It had all these technically amazing qualities, but it never made me feel anything, or moved me, or told me the story of the music. The KEF M500, on the other hand, did all of that for me. Case in point: I didn't realize until recently that I hadn't yet bothered to listen to "sad female vocal"-type music on the Mad Dog, like certain Eva Cassidy and Alison Krauss songs (like Eva's "Autumn Leaves" or Alison's "A Living Prayer"). When I finally tried it on the Mad Dog, I found that the "sad" aspect was sorely lacking (but not on the KEF M500).
The Mad Dog is certainly a great headphone too, but in the end the KEF M500 reminded me of why I listen to music. For those who can afford both, I highly recommend buying both. They were like two sides of a coin. The Mad Dog, like the other orthos I've heard, had its technical abilities, but the M500 simply made music come alive more.
I also ended up having two non-sound-related issues with the Mad Dog: (1) The clamping of pleather became uncomfortable on recent hot summer nights, and (2) I ended up deciding that I wanted a headphone with much higher sensitivity to better pair with my Audio-Technica AD2K/X.
Edited by Asr - 7/22/13 at 1:31am