CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Christmas Gift Guide
Headphones

Spectacular headphones from a company called MrSpeakers

MrSpeakers' new Alpha Prime boasts 3D-printed earcups, radical driver technology and gorgeous sound quality.

alpha-view-2-e1414128256541.jpg
MrSpeakers Alpha Prime headphones MrSpeakers

MrSpeakers' Dan Clark started out as a speaker designer, but he switched over to headphones a few years ago. Clark loves his work; every time I see him demonstrating his headphones he's always smiling, happy to answer any and all questions. MrSpeakers will celebrate its third year as a headphone manufacturer in April, 2015.

Clark personally checks out each pair of his new, top-of-the-line Alpha Prime headphones before it leaves the factory, that's one key difference between mass-market and high-end manufacturers. The designer takes real pride in his products, and every Alpha Prime has to pass muster with the owner of the company.

I've written about Clark's headphones before, but this new model is clearly his best. The Alpha Prime uses planar magnetic drivers and 3D-printed earcups, which are chemically polished, hand-sanded, sealed, primed and finished with automotive grade paint in your choice of claret (deep red) or gloss black. The Alpha Prime's deliciously thick earpads are unusually soft and comfortable, and as someone who wears glasses I noted that I could keep them on and still achieve an optimum earpad seal. That's not always the case with some full-size headphones.

The Alpha Prime can be ordered with cables terminated in your choice of XLR or 6.3mm plugs. Impedance is rated at 50 ohms. I used two headphone amplifiers for these listening tests, the Oppo HA-1 and Schiit Lyr 2 (review to come).

The Alpha Prime really came to life when I played the "Birdman" movie soundtrack, populated with a series of Antonio Sanchez' drum solos. The Alpha Prime let me feel more of the kick drum and floor toms, the drum heads' attack and decay, and cymbal crashes. The palpable textures and contrasts Sanchez produces from his drum kit are simply astonishing, or they will be when you listen on a headphone as accomplished as the Alpha Prime. You'll feel the beat.

The lowest deep bass tremors lurking on "The Knick" soundtrack were viscerally felt over the Alpha Primes. Their tight-fisted control of the bass, no matter how deep, only adds to the Alpha Prime's allure.

To put some perspective on the sound I compared the Alpha Prime with two outstanding pairs of planar magnetic headphones, the newly revised Audeze LCD-2 and the HifiMan HE-560. The LCD-2 is more transparent and open-sounding; the Alpha Prime is less spacious, but it has more body and a richer tone. The Hifiman HE-560 headphone's sound is sweeter and more forgiving than the Alpha Prime's, which is definitely more detailed-sounding. The LCD-2 and HE-560 are open-back designs, so they provide minimal isolation from external noise. If you want to hush the din and still hear great, audiophile sound quality, MrSpeakers' closed-back headphones are the way to go.

The Alpha Prime is the company's top-of-the-line headphone model. It sells for $999.99 direct from the MrSpeakers' Web site in the US, with a 15 day no-questions return policy and a two-year warranty. The UK price is £900; in Australia it's AU$1,375 including GST.