MrSpeakers Alpha Dog – The Undisputed King of Bargain
For those unaware, the Mad Dog and Alpha Dog are modified headphones that use recycled Fostex T50RP Planar drivers. Originally priced at $89, the T50RP drivers probably cost less than $10 to produce, yet are able to exude clarity and dynamics on par with some Summit headphone models.
This goes to show you that something is severely wrong with how pricing has been escalating over the past few years in the Hifi world. The simple fact that a $10 driver can output this level of pristine clarity and imaging is mind blowing to me.
The bass on this headphone rivals the Audeze LCD series, absolutely obliterating most other headphones in this report with raw clarity and liquidity, that purity in the bass is absolute sublime in quality on the Alpha Dog, yet this headphone can be easily tailored to meet your standard of quantity via small tuning screws embedded in the cups. With a simple twist, the vents can be opened or closed depending on your preferences. Opening the vents more equates to an airier, more bass heavy signature, closing the vents allows for more intimacy and a much smoother bass response. With vents opened, the Alpha Dog is an entry level basshead headphone and is very responsive to bass boosting, probably more so than any other full size headphone I am aware of. With moderate quantity enhancement, the bass quality remains excellent and rarely ever loses control. This headphone is light years beyond some other headphones in this report on the low end. The texture of bass the Alpha offers is absolutely sublime, offering vividly interesting tone and coloration without appearing overly warm or neutral. Previously, I’d considered the Audeze LCD3 original version to house the best low end tone and coloration, I digress now and wish to swap that sentiment with the Alpha Dog. To me, the Alpha’s tone is absolute perfection on the low end.
The midrange is powerful, exceptionally well formed and actually more clean and clear than the Beyer T1, AKG K812, Hifiman HE-560, Oppo PM-1 and on par with the Hifiman HE-6 in my opinion. Given the headphones eerily large sound stage for a closed back headphone, the midrange is only that much more further accentuated in potential stage depth and realism. Solidity and lack of blurring on the edges is something that is common with most of these flagship headphones in this report, even the HD800 sounds a bit blurry on the edges by comparison and only the Stax 007 and Audeze XC can best the Alpha in this regard, as if the solidity of the sound itself is lacking or overly thin and less focused that it should be. This is not an issue with the Alpha Dog, yet is an issue with the other Planar’s like the HE-6, PM-1 and HE-560. Swapping between all of these headphones makes it very apparent which Planar has the best overall formation and physical body potential in the vocal experience…The Alpha Dog cleaned house in this respect. The Audeze LCD3 is only just comparable, the XC however is a bit superior, the Hifiman HE-6, HE-560 and Oppo PM-1 do not compare with solidity and the physical body the Alpha puts out.
The treble experience is a bit artificial and still inferior to the likes of the HE-6, as well as the XC. Both offer more quantity, more sparkle with a more beautiful appeal. That engaging quality seems a bit lackluster and I find myself scratching my head as to how some want to lessen the treble response of the Alpha with the included felt pads included ( thin pieces of material that cover the inside of the earpads to help reduce treble quantity ). I actually wanted more treble, but who am I to judge others on how they hear things? In terms of raw texture, I find the upper end of the Alpha Dog to be uninteresting and even frustratingly boring. I truly cannot complain due to the price tag of the Alpha Dog at roughly $600, considering it still competes and even exceeds a number of Summit level headphones in many ways. I was first shocked at how well the center imaging experience is when I’d first heard this headphone, while not as spacious as the XC from Audeze, the Alpha retains beyond excellent staging qualities in depth, height, separation, airiness and how well formed the general shape of the stage itself appears to be. The tone of this headphone is unforgettably musical, with just the right amount of coloration on the low end, a gentle warm hue to the tone as a whole.
The Most Interesting Comparisons and Recommendations
Alpha vs Audeze XC
I truly do not find the XC to be vastly superior in clarity nor sound staging potential, I feel the Alpha Dog to certainly be within reach and perhaps a step and a half behind in bass purity and clarity, as well as midrange vocal clarity with vents fully closed on the Alpha. The tone of the upper end and midrange of the XC is more colored than the Alpha to my ears, I’d attribute the tone of the Alpha to the original tone of the Audeze LCD2 rev2: something noticeably naturally colored in the midrange, but also noticeably warm on the low end. Side by side with my LCD2 Rev2, the Alpha has the more clear midrange, I also feel the Alpha to produce a more pristine bass quality. Noticeably so, the Alpha’s most severe weakness is treble, which I find to be superior on most of the headphones in this report outside of the AKG K812. I don’t find the XC to be much of an improvement in stereo imaging size over the Alpha, both retain excellent sound staging properties for a closed back headphone.
Alpha vs AKG K812
Once again, I feel the Alpha to exude significantly superior bass and tone clarity over the K812. The K812 sounds a bit muddy and muffled, as if an omnipresent haze exists over the entire headphone’s presentation. There is a greater sense of space on the AKG of course, but considering the Alpha is a closed headphone I find it unjust to compare without bias. The Alpha’s weak treble by my standards is still more clear and defined than the K812, yet both have a muted effect to them at times. The Alpha’s treble sounds a bit recessed and out of place compared to the plentiful midrange and bass experience, their tone is simply more yummy and musical than the more dry appeal the K812 offers. The K812s background isn’t nearly as natural or absent as the Alpha.
Alpha vs Beyer T1
Immediately, you should notice the T1’s overly bright sound signature by comparison to the more darkened background effect of the Alpha. Tone of the background on the Alpha is almost non existent by comparison. The Alpha also emits a noticeably larger sound stage in every way, most notably in stereo depth and airy qualities over the T1. True that the T1 offers a much brighter and enjoyable treble, as well as softer bass and vocal experience, where as the Alpha offers a more lively and engaging sense to the kick and slam. As with the K812, the T1 seems to exude an ever-present haze over the entire spectrum that becomes vividly noticeable when swapping between it and the more clean presentation of the Alpha Dog. The bass texture on the T1 has extremely blurred and soft edges, where as the Alpha permits a more pristine and pure bass texture, also one of a higher fidelity. The vocal experience on the Alpha is more forward and engaging, the T1 more relaxed. Both headphones are fairly hard to drive and require a fair amount of voltage to really make them shine.
Rig Recommendations: The Alpha Dog is power hungry, so feed it in excess of 2watts to fully satiate that inefficient Planar driver. Stick to amplifiers with exceptional staging qualities like the Burson series, amps and sources known for very airy presentations will pair amazingly well with the Alpha. You will also want to make sure to avoid classic U-shaped sound signatures in your source and amp pairing, as recessed midrange signatures do not at all pair well with this headphone. Avoid neutral or overly natural tone, instead seek amps and sources known to offer a more gently colored or warm approach to the bass to help mirror the mildly warm and hyper pristine bass type the Alpha offers.
Click here for the Oppo PM-1…