The buzz on Headfi.org regarding the Mad Dog headphones by MrSpeakers prompted me to contact Dan Clark, the company’s CEO, to request a review sample. The first time I listened to the Mad Dogs was at the New York audio show in April. After hearing them and having a discussion with Dan, and being so impressed with the modifications that Dan had made to the Fostex T50 headphone, I knew I just had to listen to the Mad Dogs for a more extended listening session some day.
The Fostex T50RP headphones have had a cult following in the headphone community for the last four years. The T50RP was originally developed by Fostex to be used in the studio for voice-over work. The headphone community discovered this inexpensive planar magnetic ortho-dynamic headphone had the potential to compete with much more expensive planar headphones. Many DIYers began to modify the headphone so as to improve the sound. One of the revisions included the use of wood custom cups instead of the stock plastic cups that Fostex designed on the headphone. Another common change was replacing the ear pads and the stock cable that come with the headphone.
New companies started to emerge and hobbyists became entrepreneurs. The newly formed businesses started offering the Fostex T50RP for sale with modifications. Many of these companies could not keep up with the demand of the headphone community and some failed as a business and disappeared.
MrSpeakers just celebrated its first full year in business. Dan is not your typical headphone hobbyist. Dan’s background is in electrical engineering. He graduated from Swarthmore College and completed his MBA while employed by Apple Computer. His thesis was on amplifier design.
Dan’s time working for Platinum Audio in the later part of the 90’s led to the development of a Platinum monitor speaker. The speaker was highly regarded in the audiophile community. His motivation to start MrSpeakers was dictated by his desire to introduce products designed for either college students, high school students or audiophiles who were looking for products that were affordable and of exceptional quality.
The Mad Dog Fostex T50RP was introduced for a very impressive $299.99. The price includes the hand-tuned modifications, and the new alpha dog lambskin leather pads, and two cables. The first cable is a ¼ inch cable termination that is 10 feet long and the second cable has a 1/8 inch termination for use with portable amplifiers. MrSpeakers offers a one-year warranty on the headphone. There is also a new balanced version of the Mad Dogs offered at $349.
Dan Clark spent the last year experimenting with different modifications. The modification Dan ultimately settle on shapes the frequency response to eliminate the ringing that is common with many closed headphones; the alpha pads are designed to provide more comfort and a better seal, and also improve the bass response. The headband has a leather strap fixed under the plastic stock band making it more comfortable for longer listening sessions. The ear cups have the MrSpeakers name on the top of the cup and Mad Dog on the bottom. The cable can be removed and can also be upgraded with an aftermarket cable. The Mad Dog is not a light headphone. It is similar in weight to the other planar magnetic headphones offered by HiFiman and Audeze. Still, I did not find it uncomfortable in my listening sessions.
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