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With many of the name's possible puns chewed to bits by now, lets talk sonics. On sheer comfort this one scored highest of all my cans. What if the competition had similar pads? I compared the T50rp to Aëdle's like-priced VK-1. That's a sleek design exercise in industrial chic. It's a manicured French poodle to our wilder dog. And the Valkyrie is an on-ear design. Its actual diaphragm opening is sized like a silver dollar to the far juicier lemon sliver of the Fostex. There's far less radiating area. Aëdle's luxo lamb-skin pads are shallower too. Those shrink the room they play to before your ears. Dan Clark's venue was the deeper and wider. Sonically Aëdle is a speaker hybrid of Triangle Electroacoustique and Burmester. The Fostex is a vintage Quad. On the highly resolving RWA-modified Astell & Kern AK100, I could stomach the VK-1 for short stretches before its overall brightness and peaky transients shut down my pleasure centers. My 160GB Classic iPod tapped via 30-pin socket to bypass Apple's 3.5mm socket next ran into ALO Audio's International to mellow the Aëdle out. Compared to the T50rp it simply still played it Teutonically sharp and brisk. The Fostex was considerably darker, gentler, softer, lusher, more fluid and far more agreeable to long sessions. This held when I replaced Ken Ball's portable with AMI's Musik DDH-1 and tapped the iPod digitally from a Cambridge Audio iD100. For my ears the Aëdle was acceptable only when plugged in directly to the iPod's sub-standard 3.5mm port. Here Aëdle's very high sensitivity turned the iPod into a power house. The overall dulling and hooding of this connection then shaved off sufficient edge and irritation to make my new VK-1 a credible long-term companion for a solo iPod. The Aëdle does score a 100 on pure fashion but only half that on sound. Looks ain't everything.

Planar to planar. How far would the modified T50rp follow Audeze's ALO-leashed LCD-2 which I elsewhere had called succulent, moist, chocolaty, dark and more bass extended than any other in my acquaintance? In my usual bedside rig, Bakoon's brilliant two-box AMP-11R gilds the lily of Burson's Conductor. A mighty fine headphone amp all by itself, I'm using the Aussie's fixed outputs to feed the Bakoon so the Conductor only works as Sabre 9018-based converter off a digitally tapped 160GB iPod Classic on a Pure i20 dock. Amping offboard ups overall performance (some) and cost (lots). Cables are Frankfurter Hörgesellschaft's Western Electric wires for analog and a Chris Sommovigo S/PDIF wire for digital. Rather than mess with success—this is my take on an 'ultimate' headfi system without computer front end—I exploited familiar context for a highly revealing A/B before going dunderheads with Bakoon's HPA-21 and Metrum's Hex downstairs.

The dawg definitely belonged to the pack led by the Audez'e LCD-2. Where the thrice-plus costlier can went further was in three key areas. First, bass power, reach and weight were clearly superior. This caused more profound grounding of the tunes and a related sense of overall gravitas and dynamics. Second, textures were glossier and wetter. By comparison the modded Fostex played it drier, more damped and less gushy. Third, the Audez'e was more resolved. But considering price discrepancy, I didn't for a moment feel like younger brother perennially stuck with elder brother's hand-me-downs. This was an unexpectedly large slice off the LCD-2 pie. It wasn't as refined, clear or big but made of the same stuff. Same flavor, just less of it and at that less sophisticated.

For a brush against regular dynamic sound I next compared the AKG K-702 which costs about the same as the MD. The main sonic distinctions were the top end—the Austrian was more lit up—and relatedly subjective recovery of fine detail across the band where the famous studio headphone clearly outdid the planar too. The AKG thus came closer to the hear-everything ideal of sound engineers whilst if it were a microscope the Fostex paid for its warmer darker less articulated presentation with locking down access to music's subcutaneous layers sooner. I couldn't penetrate into the sonic fabric as deeply. Still this very hifi realization didn't bother me. Though clearly no ultimate resolution transducer, there was something about the Fostex which like a pair of well-worn hush puppies felt supremely comfortable. This went well beyond physical wear where AKG's ear fit was downright primitive by comparison. Though I knew the K-702 to be more truthful, my emotional response was higher with the T50rp.