I might have caught Dan Clark of MrSpeakers a bit early Saturday morning (as in, while he was setting up), but he was gracious enough to let me cycle through two of his awesome headphones, the Mad Dog Pro ($449) and the Alpha Dog ($600) on his Cavalli Audio Liquid Glass headphone amplifier ($3k), fed by an Auralic Vega DAC ($3,500).
I’m a fan of Cavalli, but I haven’t had much experience with the tube version of his work. The Vega, on the other hand, I happen to know. It’s a great little DAC, a very competent performer with no obvious sins — which is a backhanded way of saying “one of the best DACs at this price”, which is exactly what it is.
That tiny box up on top of the stack? That’s a $99 Schiit Wyrd! A self-styled “USB decrapifier”, the Wyred essentially provides clean power to the USB DAC downstream. For many DACs, it works an absolute treat — the Vega being one.
Back to the headphones! The Pro may well be the sweet spot in the line. It has quite a bit of the sound of the 3-D printed Alpha, and is a bit more compact. Trying them back-to-back, I will offer that the Alpha does in fact have better resolution for fine detail, and also presents a bit more linearly, while the Pro seems mid-range forward. Neither have any issues with treble or bass, but both share a common richness and tonal density, if that means anything to you. In short, I love ’em. In fact, I own a pair of Alphas and consider them my reference for closed-back designs. I’ve always been very impressed with Dan’s work and have been happy to recommend them to any and all comers — still do, in fact. If you have the opportunity, check ’em out. Especially those Pros. Those are some fun cans.
But that was just the appetizer.
Say hello to the Alpha Dog Prime!
I’d been hearing birds chirping about … things … BIG things … happening at MrSpeakrs, so I was ready for the Cheshire Grin when I asked him about it.
I heard the Pro, the Alpha Dog, and then … he pulled out another pair of Alpha Dogs. The only thing that differentiated this one was a small strip of green tape. Again, the Grin. “Try these.”
Moving from Alpha to Prime, you get space. Its as if the sound stage moved out by an order of magnitude. Detail, tone, bass — all take small steps up the happiness chain. But that space … that was breathtaking.
“I’ll take these,” I said. He laughed.
The final versions will have some slightly different cues to separate them from the “regular” Alphas when they ship in early December, so Dan asked me to refrain from taking much in the way of pics. Price is set at $999. Dan’s “exploring” upgrades — I’m hoping this is do-able, because if so, mine are headed in for the re-working. Absolutely stellar sound.