While I struggled to decide about whether to purchase a Mad Dog Pro (MDP) or not, I couldn't find any solid, comprehensive reviews that outlined its sound. So I decided to do one myself! I have been a longtime reader of reviews here, but this is my first review. If you have any aspects you would like to add or have me reconsider, I am truly more than happy to work with input and learn. Ultimately, my experience with full-size cans is more limited in comparison to many of you on here and I hope this can be a collaborative process.
Mad Dog Pro, purchased from a Headfier April 2014
--should be noted this phone has dual exit with an Alpha Dog cable, as purchased from seller
--Doggie treats not applied unless mentioned
ALO Audio The International DAC/Amp
Troubles Will Be Gone - The Tallest Man on Earth (FLAC, 16 bit, 44.1 kHz)
Reunion - M83 (FLAC, 24 bit, 96 kHz)
Lonely Boy - Black Keys (FLAC, 24 bit, 96 kHz)
So What - Miles Davis (FLAC, 24 bit, 96 kHz)
Reckoner - Radiohead (FLAC, 16 bit, 44.1 kHz)
Quick summary (tl;dr)
1. Brilliant mids, slight V-shape signature.
2. Bass can feel flubby and leak into the mids.
3. Treble can be sibilant but is much improved with the doggie treats.
4. Imaging is great, soundstage is good. Neither are excellent.
5. A killer, fun phone for the price. Dan has done a fantastic job.
Comfort and Build (9/10)
No doubt these are well made/modified and have a comfy fit. They are a bit large and somewhat heavy (especially for someone used to more portable dynamic phones), but the alpha pads make for a nice fit. They clamp well too, which makes my head ask for a little break sometimes. I expect this to get better with time.
Solid build. Overall quality of Dan's mods is top-notch and the MDP feels sturdy. Alpha dog cable is nice, thick, and doesn't feel like it'll break anytime soon. Really impressed here.
Hearing the world
Without music playing, the phones do a pretty good job of muffling outside noise. With music playing, not much sound is leaking into the phones. The do a great job of sealing off noise outside the phones, but can't match a Bose Q10 or other top notch noise canceling phones. A good cough or a knock of a drawer next to you will be noticed.
The world hearing you
For an airplane or library setting, these are actually pretty quiet. They are definitely not silent, but my girlfriend swears they are less bothersome than my ultrasone ED8s, which surprised me. I'd say the MDP would be perfectly appropriate for a cafe setting and most likely for an airplane as well. For a quiet library where creaks of chairs are noticed, might want to stick with IEMs anyways.
As someone who prefers a warm, perhaps slightly neutral signature, the MDPs shine. I could go on and on about whether the bass could be a little more or a little less prominent based on the type of music, but it's really a nice signature. There's a good deal of sub bass that pulls through, adding to the depth of the sound and extending the reach of the song. The low bass is a little soft for me and sounds like it lacks impact and drive. When listening to M83, especially during the choruses, the bass filled the song well, not overpowering the mids, which is key for me.
Here's where I personally run into a little issue. Perhaps I am used to dynamic phones, but I find the overall bass quality lacking definition and speed. At times, when there is lot going on, especially for the Black Keys for instance, the bass can sound flubby to me, especially in the lower end of the bass. I think the other problem I have is that it blends into the mids a little bit. Combined with a slight V signature, it can get muddy.
In some ways, however, this sound is brilliant because it's more realistic IMHO. From a critical/detail standpoint, this bass quality clutters the mix. From a pure entertainment standpoint, the MDP does something unique. The bass is actually fairly easy to EQ out, if you want less bass. This helps for me.
When a phone reproduces mids in a way that sound brilliant but are hard to describe because of their seamless blend into the mix, I'm sold. In terms to the overall mix, I'd the say the bass volume exceeds the mids slightly, lending a deep sound but muddying the definition of the mids. Here's where the Alpha Dog would probably come in, giving a little flatter/neutral signature that lets the mids shine. I'd say the signature is a slight V. Mids have an emphasis in particular on the upper and lower mids. Cymbals, guitar solos, and snares have a purely wonderful tone. Acoustic guitars rock. Brass and wind solos in So What are just spectacular.
The midrange is just great. The upper mids are my favorite because they blend so well into the overall mix and provide such great definition. Keep in mind I also love vocals, guitar solos, and everything in that range. There's detail, warmth, and just a sweet sound. I love the mids on the MDP.
Treble (6.5/10 or 8/10)
Treble presence is no problem for the MDP. In fact, without any doggie treats, I found it on the harsh side. Especially with a poorly mixed track or a particularly sibilant track, the treble was too much for me. In no way would I call the treble poorly engineered or considered. It merely has great presence and is perhaps a little too loud for me. Cymbals can be a little harsh. The user I bought the MDP from included the Doggie Treats and I found that these helped a lot. They definitely impact the sound based on placement and the number of pads or dots placed. I added one dot right in the center and it helped reduce the peak that was bothering me. This modification is thus why I include the 8/10 because for me, it drastically improves the listenability and flexibility of the phone on a variety of tracks.
The treble on the MDP is overall nice. It has great definition and only in the higher treble do I feel like it gets too loud. Depending on what you listen to, the treble presence can be either unnoticeable and blend perfectly, or it can be tough to get access to the midrange with such sibilant peaks. I think the Doggie Treats really improve the treble sound and I'd recommend them for the MDP if you are not a treble freak.
Soundstage and Imaging (7/10)
I am used to dynamic, closed headphones. Venturing to the MDP was thus a new experience for me and my opinion of the soundstage and imaging capabilities is evolving.
MDP does a great job of imaging. Vocals feel forward and image well. Cymbals in the first part of So What sound really sweet and isolated from L while not feeling strictly L/R that it becomes sterile. It is definitely above average, especially for a phone in this price range.
Soundstage on the MDP is nice, but lacking for me. The mids feel right down the middle of my head for me and everything else is panned to the R and L. This does not mean that there isn't depth, but I can't create an image of where everything would be located in a mix like I can with the Ultrasone ED8. Part of this again, for me, has to do with the bass. It lacks separation from the mids and can easily dominate the mix.
Instrument separation still stands out on the MDP. Again, not top of the pack, but a really nice job for this price range. I think it especially does well for songs where bass is not largely present, like So What.
I was one of the many people who have written Dan asking about amping. Yes, the phones work without an amp. If you are on this forum, enjoy music, and recognize the potential of these phones with an amp, you'd be silly not to use them with an amp.
Thanks for reading!