Disclaimer: The Headfonia Store is a Mr. Speaker dealer and we sell the Alpha Dogs. I wish we were not a dealer, since this review came up to be so positive, but I want you guys to know the fact. We are also a Hifiman dealer and an Audez’e distributor.
Some background first. Fostex created the T50RP headphone (review here) some years ago and it has become the most loved headphone for headphone modders in the Head-Fi world. After numerous DIY modifications by enthusiasts, we are starting to see commercial T50RP-mods in the market, each with their own brand name. Mr. Speakers is one of these commercial T50RP-mod producers, along with others like the Paradox, and ZMF (I’m getting one soon). The Alpha Dog is the latest T50RP-mod headphone from Mr. Speakers and it features the world’s first 3D-printed housing.
The Alpha Dog at the Tokyo Headphone Festival
The one headphone that finally replaces my ultimate T50RP-mod, aka the Thunderpants, is here.
Let’s go back a little bit to October of last year during the Fujiya Avic Autumn Headphone Festival in Tokyo, when I first met the Alpha. The day before the festival, I was meeting the Fostex team and among the agenda that day was that I had to return the Thunderpants loaner back. I was sad to see it go, but I had no choice. I have made several offers to buy the headphone from them, but I don’t think Fostex needed my money.
The next day at the Headphone Festival, was sort of a T50RP modding fest. We had the Fostex RP prototype which is a T50RP driver in a complete new open-back housing by Fostex themselves. There was also the latest iteration of the Mad Dog headphone from Mr. Speakers as well as the World’s first 3D printed headphone: the Alpha Dog. Of course Audez’e was also there with the new LCD-X and LCD-XC but I’m going to talk about these later. I got to listen to all of these different Fostexes and that’s when I first met the Alpha.
I got to compare the Fostex RP and the Alpha side by side, and as the Fostex guys asked for my opinion, I told them that aside from the different signature (Fostex RP is softer and smooth, the Alpha Dog more dynamic), overall the Alpha Dog is easier to like with its more dynamic sound, but is also superior in terms of technicalities compared to the RP. In Fostex’s defense, however, the RP is still in prototype stage and would see many future revisions.
I wrote a review of the Mad Dog from Mr. Speakers last year and I was not totally impressed with it. Not long after that review, Dan released the 2nd revision that had a warmer and fuller sound but with a more grainy sound. In Tokyo that day I was able to audition the latest version of the Mad Dog and it was quite a big improvement from the previous Mad Dogs. More spacious soundstage and better top and bottom extension. It sounded like a little brother to the Alpha Dog. More or less a similar voicing but without the depth and the three dimensional soundstage of the Alpha Dog, among other things like Dynamic Range and micro details. The latest Mad Dog, however, is still not quite the level of the Thunderpants.
I thought that the Thunderpants was so ahead beyond the other modded Fostexes and I was sad to hear that you can no longer buy them (I can’t comment on the Paradox headphones since I’ve never heard them. The Paradox review was done by Valentin). While Dan Clark is very passionate about what he does, previous Mr. Speakers headphones have never really attained the level of the Thunderpants, and I expected the Alpha Dog to somehow fall around the same league of the other Mr. Speakers headphones, only better. After all, the only thing I hear about the Alpha Dog is that it’s the world’s first 3D printed headphone. As impressive as it is, I didn’t immediately think that the sound would be improved from the Mad Dogs either.
Of course I was wrong. Here I am now, just like back during the Headphone Festival, blown away with the sonic quality of the Alpha Dog. I think the fact that the Alpha Dog is mostly promoted as World’s 1st 3D printed headphone steals a lot of the attention from the sound aspect. This is the best T50RP-mod headphone I’ve heard to this day. By far ahead of the previous Mr. Speakers and even better than Smeggy’s Thunderpants. I am relieved now that I have found a replacement to the Thunderpants that I could not obtain (Smeggy, the Thunderpants creator has disappeared and is nowhere to be found nowadays).
Let’s start with the best part first. The depth in the sound. The Alpha Dog is superior to every other T50RP-mod I know in terms of depth. Including the original T50RP as well as Fostex’s prototype RP headphone (in its early prototype stage, at least). You get a deep, three dimensional soundstage depth that rivals the Audez’es and better than any Hifiman I know. The background is black though slightly below the level of the Audezes. The soundstage is very wide and through the Studio Six amp sounds wider than even the LCD-3. The Thunderpants in comparison, though just as wide, lack the depth and the black background of the Alpha Dog.
Frequency extension is very good, almost rivalling the levels of modern dynamics like the Hifimans and the Audezes. You can feel that it’s pushing the boundaries of the T50RP driver, but I’m surprised you can achive so much frequency range from these pair of aging drivers. The dynamic range, again though not comparable to the modern orthos, are easily the best I’ve heard from a T50RP mod. The dynamics are good though a bit less explosive than the Thunderpants could be.
Lastly, the frequency balance tuning is easily the best I’ve heard among all headphones. Stock Alpha Dogs are tuned neutral from the factory, and the default factory setting gives you one of the best flat monitoring tuning I’ve heard among any headphones. Extremely flat with amazing clarity. Of course a flat curve is a bit too dry for my HD650 loving ears and so I tuned the adjustable bass ports to produce a fuller bass body which also extends to a fuller sounding lower midrange (The Alpha’s frequency balance can be changed by the adjustable bass port). The treble is a bit too present for my dark loving ears, but I’m far from saying that it has tendencies to sound hot. An easy fix for me is by recabling the Alpha Dogs to using darker sounding Canare cables. Listening to a live recording of Michael Bublé, the entire recording is reproduced without a flaw. The air and the atmosphere is perfect, the vocal sounded so present and real. Simply beautiful without any wrong tones or coloration. It’s jaw-dropping good. The Alpha also scales up beautifully to the Studio Six + Audio Gd Ref7.1 rig.
More on the next page!