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Head on the Mad Dog proved to be a real plush puppy. Its new wedge-shaped pads—thicker back than front to form a strategic angle with your ear and apparently also deeper than the originals to create a wider headstage—are ultra soft. The leather strap avoids contact with the original plastic-covered metal band. This is one seriously comfy contraption. It's also quite compact coming off the Audez'e gigantors though still large enough to surround the ears.

The second surprise is the twist-lock 3.5-to-6.3mm leash. It looks utterly stock. Usually the first thing headfi modders attack is the cable. Either Dan felt that Fostex scored big with their cord; or his goal of a $299 sticker had already gobbled up the budget. Having a single left-ear connection avoids the usual throat tangle. The dedicated shorter mini-to-mini cord sleeved in a tight weave eliminates a big-to-mini metal adaptor and unnecessary coils from excess length.

The third surprise won't be yours but your mate's. Whilst you rock out, they won't hear a thing at two meters away. At subdued levels, they likewise won't hear a thing standing right next to you. If at that proximity you re-up the juice to regular levels there'll be very faint leakage likely entirely insufficient to interfere with them falling asleep beside you (or waking up if gone already). Despite its name, the Mad Dog doesn't bite strangers. It's pure lap dog and with its new compliant cushions nearly completely sealed.

Because I had Bakoon's current-drive HPA-21 on hand, the Mad Dog connected to the Korean super amp fronted by the equally stellar AURALiC Vega DAC. This was unapologetic doggie heaven. Of course pampering $300 cans with $5.000 worth of electronics is mad. Hence plan B switched to my portable stack of RWA-modded Astell & Kern AK100 hi-rez player and ALO Audio International pocket amp. For my needs and at 65 on its scale of 75, the tiny AK100 produced perfectly stout levels to leave headroom. On raw SPL offboarding to an amp thus was decidedly unnecessary. However not so with my 6th-gen iPod Classic. Here max volume was still too low most of the time. With an iPod I'd need an external amp. But with the Astell & Kern AK100, Fostex's own HP-P1 and Centrance's forthcoming Hifi-M8 the Mad Dog should be a perfectly mobile solution without need for gain assist. Outdoors less boxes tend to be merrier.

This view shows off the narrow end of the wedge at left (front) and thicker rear.

For a Cancan in the ballroom championship leagues, I had my ALO-recabled Audez'e LCD-2 and Fang Bian's HE-500 for comparators. Back on the street of price-matched reality I had the AKG K-702 and Aëdle VK-1. Time for the Mad Dog to fend for itself.