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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Sources: 2TB iMac 27" quad-core with 16GB of RAM (AIFF) running OSX 10.8.2 and PureMusic 1.94h in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM, Audirvana 1.5.5 in direct/integer mode, Metrum Hex, SOtM dX-USB HD with Super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2s, AURALiC Vega, AIFF-loaded iPod Classic 160GB, ALAC-loaded Astell & Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio
Headphone amps:
Bakoon AMP-12R, Burson Conductor, April Music Eximus DP1, ALO Audio International, April Music Stello HP100MkII [on review], Asus Xonar Essence STU [on review], AMI Musik DS5 [on review]
Headphones: Audeze LCD-2 & LCD-3, Sennheiser HD-800, AKG K702, Beyerdynamic T1 and T5p (all rewired by ALO Audio), HifiMan HE-500 & HE6, Focal Spirit One, Aëdle VK-1, Mad Dog
Headphone stands: Klutz Design CanCan, Sieveking Sound Omega, ALO Audio T
Cables: Light Harmonic LightSpeed USB, Tombo Tron S/PDIF, AudioQuest Diamond Toslink
Review component retail: $599

After the runaway success of orthodynamic cans
from Audeze and HifiMan, this vintage breed has enjoyed a brilliant renaissance. Developing and making such drivers can get costly though. The Audeze LCD-3 built in the US commands $1.995. The best HifiMan HE-6 done up in China still wants a solid $1.299. When Joe Skubinski of cable brand JPS Labs wanted into this game, his American Abyss AB-1266 weighed in at $5.495. Dan Clark of MrSpeakers™ instead did what a lot of sci-fi flicks and TV shows like Defiance envision for our post-apocalyptic future. Go scavenge. Why design your own planarmagnetic driver when mega Japanese corporation Fostex—whose engineering resources far exceed what any solo entrepreneur could ever muster—make a perfectly good one in their very affordable T50rp already? (With universal digital decks it's usually Oppo who get scavenged.)

After two years of experimentation with the semi-open T50rp, Dan ended up rebuilding its drivers whilst dumping the original ear pads in favor of custom angled lambskin versions with a new leather head strap beneath the stock plastic bridge. G'day Mad Dog. By sticking with the injection-molded stock enclosures and supports, their development and production costs went straight into the 'delete' folder. All of $300 set you up for the whole deal. I reviewed it but couldn't compare a stock Fostex. Plenty of forum documentation however is adamant. Dan's sonic improvements are far from subtle. For plan B and the next level up, he since decided to toss the stock enclosures too. G'day Alpha Dog. To understand its genesis, most panel speakers and planar headphones are open to not damp their ultra-lightweight membranes with compressing air around the back. That's true also for the Abyss, Audeze and HifiMans. Place your hands over them whilst listening. It demonstrates immediate dulling and compression.

There's loss of air, energy, transparency and space. But obviously open cans leak sound. That's not always appropriate or desirable. Here the sealed Mad Dog worked hard to regain some of the spaciousness its unleashed brethren are known for whilst offering privacy-concerned headfi citizens an affordable planar they could use right next to someone sleeping.

With the Alpha Dog Dan challenged himself to redesign the original injection-molded Fostex cup. Called the Super-Cup™—cue up Madonna's stage braziers—it's created with 3D printing to enable a double wall with internal lattice work. The result is a lighter larger more rigid and even better isolated enclosure with integral <150Hz bass-tuning screw. This affair gets finished off in clear-coat automotive paint, then suspended in the still stock Fostex frame from before. The promise is more open-backed sound quality from a sealed can: bigger staging, more sparkle and speed, less darkness. Dan also revisited the attachment of his ultra-plush ear pads. Those now twist on to lock. The former left-entry cable scheme has gone snap-lock bi but with another twist. Reversed channels won't produce sound so you'll never have your double basses to the left. If you're into classical that is.
For a mini primer on just a few possible variants, 3D printing is an additive technology which builds up objects in many very thin layers down to 0.06mm thick. Stereolithographic 3D printers position a perforated platform just below the surface of a vat of liquid photopolymer. A UV laser beam traces the first slice of an object on the surface of this liquid. This causes a very thin layer of photopolymer to harden. The perforated platform is next lowered slightly and another slice gets laser traced and hardened until a complete object is printed, removed from the photopolymer vat and cured. DLP printers use a projector to solidify object layers one complete cross section at a time. Polyjet matrix printers like the Objet above emit liquid photopolymers from a multi-nozzle inkjet head and can mix various materials in a single process.

Since 3D printing isn't yet classical manufacture and mostly used for prototyping, this commercial Youtube video of the Objet 3D printer helps to visualize it better. Perhaps more exciting to us is that the finished Alpha Dog retails for just twice what the Mad Dog wants. And you get to pick whether it's 6.3mm or 4-pin XLR terminated. At $600 either way it's still only 60% of the Audeze LCD-2. Having one of those I can tell you how close this gets.