If the Master & Dynamic MH40s were Hollywood superstars they’d be George Clooney or Julia Roberts. These over-ear headphones have style that oozes class, sophistication and a certain amount of Tinseltown glamour. But do they sound as good as they look? Rory Fish finds out…
I can’t deny the Master & Dynamic MH40 headphones look great. They really do. I had the luxury of trying the “gunmetal with black leather” variant in the series which currently boasts five different colours. These premium over-ear, closed back headphones have a striking appearance that makes them easily lovable (and perhaps a bit addictive). The retro design of all the MH40s in the series will complement the style-conscious and provide a winning combination of aesthetic quality and premium audio.
What’s under the hood?
The MH40 features pioneering use of the highest performance 45mm neodymium drivers with additional features including dual audio ports, mute button, removable ear pads, inline microphone and fold-flat design. The highest quality luxury materials including premium leather, stainless steel, and aluminium have gone into creating an iconic, durable and timeless look. Key components, including lambskin ear pads and woven cables, are designed to be replaceable to ensure longevity.
Also, the remote and microphone are supported by iPhone 3GS or later, iPad, iPod touch (2nd generation or later), iPod classic (120GB, 160GB), and iPod nano (4th generation or later). The remote is supported by iPod shuffle (3rd generation or later). Audio is supported by all iPad and iPod models.
Impendance is 32 ohms, weight is 360g, and the microphone type is omni-directional. The ear pads possess detachable lambskin memory foam, the dual audio jacks provide shared listening, and the ear coupling is circum-aural.
Very comfortable when they’re on, the MH40 headphones have soft breathable lambskin pads (which you can remove to clean and/or replace when necessary) and which shut out most external noise even without engaging the audio. Some have complained about the adjustable headband not being suitable for big heads but I didn’t find any issue with it. That’s not to say others will have trouble but I can’t see how the Master & Dynamic MH40s won’t be adaptable to most head sizes and shapes.
I found them to be really comfortable and to provide awesome sound. With the headphones’ good looks, there’s not a lot the MH40s don’t do exceptionally well. When you first open the box you’ll be staggered by how well-built these headphones are. They are a bit weighty, which perhaps causes some people’s gripe about the comfort of them but I think you’ll get used to it.
Inside the box is two sets of detachable cables (one featuring a seamlessly built-in remote and mic measuring 1.25m and another, a standard 2m cable) alongside a neat leather box to keep your cables, a snazzy carrying pouch and a 6.3mm adaptor. For those generally connecting to iPhones, iPads and devices like that, you have the cables to do just that but for more serious audiophiles, rest assured you have access to a gold-plated adaptor that can attach to its thinner 3.5mm copper plug.
One thing that I was impressed by was the tangle-free nature of the cables. The MH40s have a metallic-look woven fabric cable with seamlessly built-in anodised aluminium controls and mic. This not only adds to the MH40s terrific look but ensures they’re pretty much tangle free.
Why Master & Dynamic?
Master and Dynamic first emerged in 2014, eager to make a big entrance into a crowded portable headphones market. Despite the challenges, the company saw rapid growth thanks to its the personality of its products; their classic luxury designs and distinct tuning. The company has expanded its product line to meet demand and trends with wireless and in-ear models now available. But the MH40s remain its flagship and one of its most popular designs. It’s what the company can rightly be proud of.
The New York City-based premium audio brand is still underrated in the UK. The company’s passion for “building beautifully crafted, richly appointed, technically sophisticated sound tools” is obvious when you pick up the MH40s. Designed for long-term use, Master & Dynamic make headphones that’ll last for years. The company has spread its wings since beginning in 2014 and now boasts over 500 partner stores around the world. The brainchild of Jonathan Levine, the entrepreneur was drawn to the audio market as a result of the products his then teenage sons were using. Levine wanted to bring a product to market that would be “iconic, durable, and timeless”.
A Listening Delight & Bringing Out the Best of the Movies
The Master & Dynamic MH40s are fantastic for watching movies. Because they’re a little weightier than some of their counterparts, they’re ideal for use at home, in a comfortable seating position, watching a movie (or listening to music). I tried them with David Fincher’s Zodiac and felt the soundstage was incredibly good.
They’re a closed-back headphone so you might assume they would struggle to really provide the positioning afforded to open-back headphones. But that’s not the case. The level of detail was incredible (using an extended gold-plated cable and seated three metres from the TV) with individual characteristics afforded to dialogue, sound effects, music and other more subtle elements of the soundstage. Indeed, the headphones provided the sort of sound quality I want, where the potential of a professionally tuned 5.1 theatre soundstage is reproduced across two speakers sat on both ears.
The Master & Dynamic MH40s were brilliant at achieving that theatre-like sound. I’d go as far to say the MH40s compare well to headphones costing ten times as much money! You might look at the price of the MH40s and think that’s a lot of money but the quality of sound you get, the price not only presents good value but has no comparison.
One of the big things about watching movies on headphones is having clarity when the soundstage is big and the low-end is being tasked to make itself known. The Master & Dynamic MH40s once again proved to have a winning combination of clarity and bass. There’s a weighty, fullness to the sound that never feels overbearing or cluttered. The company might be known for its aesthetic triumphs but its engineers have got so much out of the 45mm neodymium drivers that other headphone companies might be knocking on the door to ask how they did it.
There’s nothing average about this bass. Some have pointed to the bass being overpowering when listening to music. Not so when watching Fincher’s Zodiac. It was big, bold and very pleasing. That’s not to say the treble gets short shrift as it maintains its detail even when the low-end is kicking in. The’re a lovely balance between it all.
The focus on rumble and slam might be an unorthodox presentation, but it’s one boasting plenty of appeal. Like I’ve said previously, we get an idea of what high-end open-back headphones can accomplish here. It’s the sort of soundstaging that feels like its coming from further away with bass that feels tangible. Tonal weightings offer a tight yet physical rumble with sub-bass elevated above competing units. For the hyper critical, the bass notes might not be absolutely organic but the sub-bass compensates with definition and pleasing separation.
The isolation of the sound is another plus. Okay, so you’re at home and don’t need to shut out an otherwise silent living room. But at least you’ve got the Master & Dynamic MH40s for that commute in the morning. As for shutting out the world at home, there’s nothing like getting completely engrossed inside a movie and the MH40s do just that (with the comfort of the lambskin leather cups).
Are the Master & Dynmaic MH40 Headphones for me?
Simply, yes they are. That is if you budget can reach the $400 (£330+) these headphones retail for. They look great. They feel great. They sound great. For those that love a retro design, the MH40s will complement the style-conscious and provide a winning combination of aesthetic quality and premium audio. But they’ll also bring a winning combination of comfort and audio performance for those wanting to truly immerse themselves in the movie. For the price, the Master & Dynamic MH40s provide a theatre-like sound like no other closed-back headphones at the same price point.