MrSpeakers Mad Dog / ZMF Planar (Fostex T50rp mods) Headphones review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Mar 9, 2014.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube (Mad Dog) review: Mr. Speakers Mad Dog (Fostex T50rp mod) Planar Stereo Headphone review by Dale - YouTube

    Youtube (ZMF) review: ZMF Planar (Fostex T50rp Mod) Stereo Headphone review by Dale - YouTube

    Sources: iPhone5, iPhone5 with PA2V2/FiiO E07k/Decware Zen Head amps using the LOD, various computers using the Microstreamer and Beyerdynamic A200p DAC/amps.

    Review note: My first impressions of the sound of the Mad Dog and the ZMF planar headphones are based on direct comparisons to the dozen or so headphones I own. These 2 headphones are on loan and go back to the private owner within 2 days. This is going to be just a summary of the sound of these headphones - when the Alpha Dog headphone that I ordered arrives in 2-3 weeks, I'll do a detailed review of that item then.

    My taste in headphones (assuming I don't find the perfect sound anytime soon), is toward the warmer end, although I can't abide the common 'relaxed' treble variety that some reviewers like. At various times in the past couple of decades I've encountered a headphone that has a very clear and uncolored midrange, but those headphones have been prone to a rolloff on one or both ends, especially on the bass end. The Mad Dog and the ZMF headphones (based on the Fostex T50rp planar headphone) have that very clear and uncolored midrange (especially the Mad Dog, pending any recent upgrades to the ZMF), but don't suffer from rolloff on either end, although the bass response is neutral to lean, at least compared to what I'm used to.

    I didn't compare either of these headphones to the best headphone I have on hand (the Final Audio Pandora VI) since the Pandora has a very different and V-shaped kind of response. Unfortunately the Pandora is probably the only other headphone I have that's competitive with these planars in terms of detail, at least the kind of detail that I'm thinking of. I'm aware that there are 'audiophile' terms which describe that difference in detail, but rather than risk making ambiguous statements, I'll stick to common language that correlates to my impressions, since my impressions aren't scientific or precise anyway.

    After listening to either of these T50rp-based planars for 15 to 30 minutes at a time and then switching to any of my $200-$400 dynamic headphones, it seemed as if the sound lost its musical integrity - as though details were missing, the harmonics were wrong (something...) - as though I had switched to toy headphones that were equalized so their frequency response imitated audiophile headphones. Probably the real difference was more subtle and I'm overstating it, but I got the idea that these planars have an intrinsically higher level of sound quality than comparably-priced dynamic headphones. Of course the dynamic headphones are much more efficient, so that's one important advantage to dynamics, albeit that these 2 planars are usable at moderate volumes with my small portable amps and my Microstreamer thumb-drive-size USB DAC/amp.

    Since I borrowed these 2 planar headphones, I didn't get the official packaging and don't know for certain what options are being provided with current samples. I checked their respective websites to learn what I could, and am satisfied that both the Mad Dog and ZMF are well supported. Based on the sound that I heard and the stability and ubiquity of the T50rp that these 2 headphones evolve from, I'd say that these are real bargains for sound quality, if you have high-quality recordings and a decent amp with enough power to provide the necessary dynamic overhead for those recordings.

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