Master & Dynamic’s current top-of-the-line wired over-ear headphone is called the MH40. It has been out for a couple years, and is now available in more colors. Although the brand is only a few years old, they appear ready and able to take on the established audio brands including Bowers & Wilkins and Bang & Olufsen. The good news for headphone buyers is they live up to expectations. There’s a new company with an ampersand in the name to be aware of.
The MH40 are well designed and constructed of high quality materials. They look and feel high-end and are meticulously packaged in the box. The headband is made of premium leather and the earpads of supple lambskin, which saw imperceptible wear during my two months of use. I don’t believe you’ll find a plastic piece anywhere. The headphone frame is made of steel and the earpieces encased in brushed aluminum. Even the headphone drivers are protected behind a metal grill. Most surprising is that each ear pad magnetically attaches. That means they’re replaceable and will ensure the MH40 is a better long term investment than their competition.
The downside of using metals as opposed to plastic, is that they weigh a little more. A few ounces extra might not seem like much at first, but it could be problematic for some. I could wear them on-and-off during a 4 hour flight, but not continuously. Ear pressure discomfort set in for me after one hour, but that could be because my ears didn’t fit perfectly inside the ear cups. A person with smaller ears may not have the same issue. On the plus side, the headphones hold their position precisely after adjustment and they breathe well, which means my ears never got sweaty.
The MH40’s offer a very pleasing, well detailed sound. They excel in the mid to high range, while offering ample low-end punch. Across the audio spectrum music sounded well balanced, and only the most critical of audiophile could find much to nit pick. Singers were clear and instrumental notes were distinguishable. Voices came through without getting drowned out by over emphasized bass. There is a lot to like regarding sound quality, but if you truly want head pounding bass, these are not it. For me, that’s a good thing as you’ll begin to realize just how much musical detail can be revealed.
Mostly likely one of the main reasons, after sound quality, you’d want these headphones is because of the way they look. They have a retro style that resembles open-back headphones, but rest assured the outer mesh grill is for cosmetics only. The MH40 headphones are completely sealed — meaning they don’t leak sound — so they can be used on an airplane or private listening sessions. Getting back to their looks, they will definitely impress, as they look as good as they sound.
The MH40 fold-flat for easy travel and come with a couple unique features. There is an almost hidden tactile mute button on one side. Although it’s pictured left, it could be on the other side depending which one of the dual headphone input jacks you use when you wear them. The mute button offers a quick way to turn-off volume, but not actually pause music. My feelings about it were mixed, because if you forget it’s pressed you’ll swear your music player is broken. I ended up rebooting my iPhone only to realize I had forgotten I had mute pressed. Nevertheless, the mute button did come in handy when I used them during a gym workout and had them plugged into exercise equipment. I could easily toggle sound-off during commercials.
The MH40 comes with a standard click/volume controller, but the microphone is separated, so it’s closer to your mouth. That makes voice calls clearer than it otherwise might. The inline click controller on the cable works as expected, but I would have preferred it be a easier to detect which buttons were being pressed without looking. The controller cable with the Oppo PM-3 headphones, which are priced the same, offers the best example of a very ergonomic controller cable. However, the cable itself was very nice. It never tangled and didn’t create any noise if rubbed against clothes.
At $400, the MH40’s are by no means cheap, but they are priced near their over-ear wired competitors released around the same time, mainly the Bowers & Wilkins P7 or Bang & Olufsen H6. Also worthy of mention is the Oppo PM-3 I reviewed last year.
Master & Dynamic has established themselves as serious contender in the high-end luxury headphone market. The MH40 over-ear wired headphones should appeal to anyone who wants to make a statement with their audio gear. They look good, sound good, and are well made, which makes them easy to recommend.
Exceptional build quality
Superior look and design
Replaceable ear pads
Discomfort after 1 hour
Click-controller could be more ergonomic
by Brian Mitchell
Founder & CEO, ecoustics.com