CanJam at RMAF 2014: Mr. Speakers Alpha Prime

I had barely arrived at the hotel Thursday when I ran into Dan Clark, Mr. Speakers himself. Well aware of the fact that he'd be bringing his brand new new $999 Alpha Prime to the show, I asked how he felt about his newest addition to the line. Really good, he said, but since he has to voice each by ear he complained that his ears were pretty worn out from getting the batch of Alpha Primes ready for the show, and he was headed to his room to double check them all.

"Say, Tyll, would you like to come up for a listen and to help me double check the tunings, I'd value your opinion."

Well, who can resist a private session with brand new product. The Alpha Prime is the latest MR. Speakers effort to elevate the Fostex T50RP driver to higher levels. I don't know if you've ever heard a bone-stock T50RP, but it's not particularly impressive. Good for it's time, sure, but a long, long way from a modern reference level headphone. Headphone enthusiast know well the stock T50RP can be improved quite a bit with some modding, and that's how Dan started his journey, but he's taken his pursuit to professional and extraordinary levels. First with his Mad Dog and Mad Dog Pro headphones, then with the first commercially available 3D printed headphone, the Alpha Dog, and now with the Alpha Prime. One heck of an effort.

My time in his room checking out the cans was certainly ear opening. Any sonic resemblance to the old T50RP seems remarkable distant, these are very nice sounding headphones. The bass-mids-treble balanced seemed quite good; the treble seems significantly better behaved than any T50RP variant I've heard; and then there's the ability to do some fine tuning for your personal taste with the adjustable bass port and "Doggie Treat" felt damper inserts to adjust aspects of the treble and damping.

I really never thought a T50RP driver would ever sound this good.

(Ed Note: Another of the "camera ate my video" casualties. So I'll just leave you with a pretty picture.)


QuartBernstein's picture

As others have said before me. I wish and hope Mr. Clark is incorporating measuring into the sound signature of the Alpha Prime, as he did with the Mad Dog's.
For good (slow starting) and bad (more products down the line), i'm sure he's preparing to use a different driver at some point in the near future.

It'll be curious to see where all these official T50RP modders will be in five, ten years.

Mr. Clark reminds me of a grown up Tim Murphy from Jurassic Park.

mrspeakers's picture

Still laughing over that one! Alas, usually it's David Copperfield. :-)

Yes, we do plenty of measurements. I posted a few on head-fi, they're slightly pre-production but pretty close.

We do myriad single-variable test measurements during development, and we also test and listen to every unit we build.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I know for a fact he does quite a bit of measuring. And yeah, it does seem to me he's wrung out about all you can from those Fostex drivers. Further steps forward Mr. Speakers would likely require a new driver, it seems to me.

We'll see.

QuartBernstein's picture

Thanks (Mr. Hertsens, Mr. Clark) for the said measurement's. I clearly missed them.

mrspeakers's picture

Too bad the video got munged by the RMAF video gremlins, but thanks for stopping by, that was fun!

tony's picture

You've seen this product 4-Ever , haven't you ? , can you share what you estimate to be the Amp requirements for these things , I presume all the Dogs are about the same db per milliwatt efficiency .

I have the concept that Ortho Planer types of transducers need a "Proper" healthy Amp to make them perform well , this includes the big Magneplaners , the Soundlabs , the now gone Acoustats and the Ribbon EMIM/EMIT based Infinitys and the Active Monitors that use the Heil tweeter systems ( Emotiva , Adam , etc…)

I'm led to understand that : Studios that use the Foxtex original have capable headphone amps and can EQ the Cans to match the Monitors . Plus , the Studio people have different needs for musician worn headphones , ruggedness and low cost being just two .

Tony in Michigan

mrspeakers's picture

Our phones require more power than the stock Fostex; our modification reduce the efficiency. We recommend at least 200mW @ 50ohms, as we generally find amps with more headroom deliver the best results. I generally find the desktop amps I like most have at least 1W, though I've heard some quality lower power units the delivered...

tony's picture

Thank you ,
I think I get the picture here and kinda understand . I don't quite see your demo equipment in Tyll's coverage . I'd expect to see a SPL or some other Professional piece sitting there as your drivers seem to be part of the Pro compliment of equipment rather than the Consumers stuff that Audiophiles would have to drive their many headphone collections .
I , once , owned a pair of stock Fostex but could't make them work with any Consumer type Amps I own , I didn't think to bring out the Electrocompainet Amp , so , I went with the Sennheiser/Schiit combination that Tyll and Steve G. recommended , I've been quite happy , thank you Tyll and Steve G.
Now , today , I'm following the RMAF to see if any developments in the DAC area are coming forth in the Consumer Segment : it seems there is something from Schiit about to be released . My theory is that a proper DAC with MSB type performance levels will reveal many hidden things in the Consumer Music Reproduction Industry ; solid performing Amps and Headphones will rise up and the lesser products will fade away . We will probably see another set of Wall of Fame products .
Thank you for writing back on my question , I'll be happy to listen to your workings and I wish you well with your improved designs . This seems to be an ideal place for a clever person to strike out with a useful device/product , you're up against Sennheiser and some other Powerhouse outfits , if you can stand against these guys you're a winner .

Tony in Michigan

tony's picture

I forgot to ask you : Can your design reproduce crashing symbols ( drum kit ) ? It's probably a difficult thing to reproduce , in fact , I can't think of any reproduction equipment that do justice to splashing symbols but maybe you can and that would make it worth checking out , I know it takes plenty of real amp power and one great transducer system . Top Pro Stuff comes close and it's a great reason to buy .
Tony in Michigan

andrews013's picture

Cool that Tyll double checked the tonal balance, but... someone forgot to double check the spelling on the banner! ;)

mikemercer's picture

SO glad you dug em Tyll!
I was lucky enough to get to review the Prime for Headphone.Guru right before Canjam and I was really impressed by it! I liked the Alpha Dogs - but as I said in my review - I always felt like I had to say "these are great headphones for $____" but with the Prime, I can just say its a great headphone!

I had a great time talking with you as ALWAYS.
I am honored to call you my friend, and I cherish EVERYTHING I learn from you every time I see you.

You and George Cardas are so alike: I ALWAYS learn something new when I speak with either one of you!

MattTCG's picture

I was fortunate enough to get to hear the Prime just about two weeks ago and was really impressed with the improvement and evolution of Dan's best offering. I like the direction his sound is headed in and just loved listening to the Prime.

halcyon's picture

... tired old driver. No amount of excellence in housing will change that.

Also, it's still a $999 resin-plastic-printed cup.

For $999 I expect hand-painted Japanese cherrywood or something more than 3D-printed plastic.

Sorry, Mr. Clark. I'm sure your heart is in the right place, but the economics of pricing and the contents of the product don't quite match.

YMMV, of course.