You probably already know that Dan Clark’s MrSpeakers offers one of the highest value propositions in personal audio with his 3D-printed, modded-Fostex Alpha Dog headphone (US$599). You didn’t? Shame on you. Get up to speed here.
Clark is a man clearly on his own path. I ask him how much attention he pays to the competition. He says he doesn’t. “I’m just doing my own thing”, Clark says flatly.
Did you know that everyone he employs to work on headphone production is either a musician or a DJ. I didn’t – and now you do.
Exhibitors are tightly squeezed into the Headzones area of the New York Audio Show. At Clark’s table it looks like the same old: Alpha Dogs, the cheaper but equally high value Mad Dog, each demo-able with amplifiers from Cavalli and Schiit plus DACs from AURALiC and (again) Schiit. There’s even an original AK100 feeding the stupendous Chord Hugo.
Clark teases me about being confused about what I’m listening to. I blame the jetlag. See – there’s a new model joining the MrSpeakers line-up this weekend: The Alpha Prime (US$999) which, headband aside, looks identical to the standard edition. And you’d be forgiven for thinking that those additional four hundred clams only nets a few minor tweaks. And you’d be wrong…
The changes go deep into the interior. Clark disassembles the Fostex driver, modifies it and then rebuilds it. Specifics are understandably kept under wraps.
The result? I didn’t expect the delta between standard and Prime to be as large as it is. The Prime is a significantly superior sounding beast to its forerunner: MUCH larger soundstage and an airier treble extension that throws more daylight on textures, most noticeable on the horn blurt and rasp of Talking Heads’ “Big Daddy”. The lead-in guitar plucks of Joy Division’s “Twenty Four Hours” stand up and say hello, Ian Curtis’ dark lyrical enunciation is crisper, more cleanly defined at the mouth’s edge. Lastly, dynamics punch harder.
My advice: if you can’t afford the Prime, don’t audition them. You won’t want the original Alpha Dog once you hear ‘em. If you already have a pair of the latter, get ready to pony up US$400 to have your pair upgraded.
Further information: MrSpeakers