Pros: Build quality is sturdy and feels dependable, removable cable, soft leather pads, solid clamp, isolation is above average, forgiving yet detailed sound, excellent instrument separation, excellent clarity.
Cons: The DIY approach lends to quality consistency issues, imaging is average, sub-bass is there but leaves me wanting more, musicality leaves something to be desired.
Style: Full-sized, circumaural.
Tonal Balance: The most neutral headphones that I’ve heard.
Preferred Genres: I have most music that isn’t danceable, jazz and well-recorded albums from the 60’s and 70’s. Albums with a lot of texture have sounded excellent also.
Listening Set-Up: Musicbee -> Schiit Modi/Asgard 2
Design and Build Quality
The Mad Dogs are modded Fostex T50rp. From a visual standpoint they have a classic feel to them, though Mr. Speakers has added large leather pads, a comfort strap and lettering on the side of the cans. I feel the mods add a bit to the aesthetics, giving it a more refined feel to the T50rp.
Again, the Mad Dogs are modded T50rp which I feel have a very well built feel to them. There are no creeks or noises when placed on my head. Everything feels solid and inspires long-term confidence when treated properly. The pads seem well built as well, though the stitching could be a bit tighter. I feel as though I would really have to use these a lot for them to wear out though. The comfort strap is safely secured to where the original strap is located and seems like it will hold up through lots of use. These are made to last.
The fit of the Mad Dogs is pretty great, the pads are soft and comfortable while the comfort strap reduces the pressure on top of the head. I could easily wear these for hours with no comfort issues. The clamp is enough to keep the headphones in place while moving, but the soft leather pads alleviate any any pressure on the side of the head. One thing that really impresses me is how well these isolate, despite being semi-open. These isolate better than most full-closed headphones.
With my glasses on I feel that the headphones don’t seal as well as without them, but I feel no added pressure. The comfort is still great even with my glasses on.
Amping and Burn-In
I have not found any signs of audible burn-in through my time with the Mad Dogs. I do feel that they need an amp though and a clean one at that. Straight from my headphone jack I find the volume to be lacking and I feel that the headphones certainly show the cleanness of the source much more than others.
The Mad Dogs are a headphone that accurately reproduces every frequency that I’ve heard in stunning clarity. The Mad Dogs stunningly represent the bass with astonishing accuracy while being extremely forgiving of poor recordings. That isn’t to say that the Mad Dogs don’t show distortion due to poor recording equipment or techniques, but the pain is softened. At the same time I find that the lows are textured extremely well with great detail. The lows are opened instead of congested, allowing each note room to grow and breath showing their textures fully. In addition to the clarity and detail, the Mad Dogs also amply reproduce quickly quavering sub-bass notes like those found in Jame Blake’s Limit to Your Love.
The mid-bass isn’t accentuated, it reproduces the kick drums and bass very accurately and in-line with how the person in charge of mastering wanted. I find myself very satisfied with the mid-bass in many tracks, notably well-recorded classics from jazz to psychedelic pop. Unfortunately I never developed a love for modern music on these. I find that the music is too dependant on carrying the energy and the low-end here doesn’t carry the energy well. I find that bass is too clean and too controlled, if there ever was such a thing.
Perhaps the lack of energy is due to the lack of weight in the sub-bass regions? I find that in music with a punchy and weighty thumping bass line that the music doesn’t seem danceable. The Mad Dogs reach down to the lowest depths, but they don’t have the weight to back them. The lows may be textured well but if they can’t deliver the slam I need then they are just a tease.
The mids are so incredibly well done here that I find nothing to fault them for. Every instrument has its own space, despite how congested the song. The clarity is stunning, while being incredibly forgiving of poor recordings. Lastly every instrument is textured perfectly, from cello to acoustic piano. There is nothing that the mids do wrong here. The mids have a touch of warmth, a great sense of positioning and excellent depth. I have been enamoured with every instrument from the cello and the violin to the guitar and synth. The mids are full and satisfying in every test that I’ve put them through. I don’t find the mids as engaging and lively as my Audio Technica Ad2000, but they are much more refined and textured. I could wax poetic about each instrument one by one, but the Mad Dogs do the mids near perfectly. If they had the energy of the Ad2000 these would be my end-game headphone.
The highs aren’t as fully satisfying, but they might be why the mids are such a joy. I find that the highs roll off a bit early without the vigor that I find in my Audio Technica Ad line. There is no sparkle and the highs never seem forward. They certainly aren’t lacking, I would not want anyone to get that impression, but coming from the Ad900 some users might feel that the Mad Dogs are lacking in the highs. When listening to tracks that prominently feature horns or shrill guitars, such as Pink Floyd’s Money, I find that the saxophone or guitar doesn’t resonate with me as they do with other headphones. There is no sparkle. The highs are clean and textured, but there is no bright edge to these. That doesn’t mean these are dark, they aren’t by any means, but I feel they could use a bit more prominence. At the same time I don’t think anyone would find these fatiguing or complaining about sibilance.
I find that the Mad Dogs have good depth and intimacy to their soundstage, all while providing the best instrument separation that I’ve heard in a headphone to this date. The width is good for a headphone that isolates this well, but it doesn’t confuse people into thinking it’s open. The soundstage is intimate with decent positioning, but I don’t feel that it’s entirely perfect in it’s imaging qualities. I am satisfied with the soundstage though, it’s more than acceptable.
I can fully understand the love for the Mad Dogs after spending a few weeks with them. They are one of the most complete headphones that I’ve ever heard and the flaws that I mention are stuff that most people wouldn’t ever think of. I love the neutrality, the instrument separation and I love how beautifully mastered and recorded tracks sing through these. I love how forgiving these are and I love the aesthetics and comfort. My biggest complaint with these is the lack of musical enjoyment I get, I rarely want to nod my head, then again I’m comparing the musicality to the Audio Technica Ad2000 which may be the most musical headphones available.
I find myself listening to the Mad Dogs and thinking of who would enjoy these. I find that these would make an excellent present for those who enjoy old records, for those that want to hear their music in it’s fullest, and for those who want one of the best all-around headphones that you can buy for $300. If I had to buy one headphone for $300 or less for everyday use, I would be hard pressed to find a headphone that I would pick over the Mad Dogs.