New York City-based Master and Dynamic first emerged in 2014, making a big entrance into a market already crowded with portable headphones. Despite this, the company rapidly caught ground though their classic luxury designs and unique yet distinguished tuning. The company have since expanded their product line to include wireless and in-ear models, but the MH40 easily remains one of their most popular designs as the headphone that first popularized the company.
And much of the MH40’s appeal stems from its fully-featured design that holds an important place in the $400 over-ear portable headphone category. Of note, the MH40 offers luxury and quality that many competitors either don’t aspire for or fail to quite wholly encapsulate. But that’s not to discount the fierce competition offered by rivals Oppo, B&W, B&O and even Denon that all provide myriad acoustic flavours with strong combinations of build quality and distinct aesthetic design. Let’s see how M&D’s portable headphone stacks up.
I would like to thank Andrew from Master and Dynamic very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the MH40 for the purpose of review. I would also like to thank him for his ongoing support. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the headphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
The MH40 has one of the most lavish unboxings I’ve experienced from a portable headphone and though it has quite a typical accessory set, the presentation is top notch. Master & Dynamic provide buyers with two cables, a 1.25m unit with a 3-button remote and mic and a 2m audio-only cable for use with desktop amplifiers and perhaps electric instruments.
They also include a 1/4′ adapter, a very nice leather cable box and a soft pouch with an internal pocket that carries the cable and a few accessories.
It’s a nicely comprehensive setup overall, I do usually prefer hard cases, but the MH40 is solid enough and the fabric pouch is sturdy and hard-wearing while consuming less bag space.
Master and Dynamic harken back to the classic Grado style aesthetic with a twist of contemporary opulence; the MH40 is an absolutely gorgeous set of headphones with a timeless design realised through meticulous manufacturing. This starts with the forged aluminium earcups coated in a resilient cowhide leather and extends to the super supple lambskin earpads and stainless steel slider mechanisms. The MH40 implements a complex yet thoughtful combination of complementary materials to promote both hard wearing and ergonomic properties.
Master & Dynamic’s particular choice of leather does lack the ultra-supple feel of B&W’s lambskin P7 but the MH40 has worn better over my past months of testing, this is a headphone designed to last well into the future. Moreover, the finish on each element is immaculate and the design is eye-catching in the best possible way. The right cup also has an additional button that mutes the headphones, a practical addition when attempting to hear alerts and co-workers.
The MH40 makes use of a smooth slider with unlimited adjustment points over a traditional stepped mechanism. However, due to their design, they have an especially narrow range of adjustment so I would recommend interested buyers with especially large or small heads to try a set out in person. I usually set my headphones to roughly 2/3 of their maximum length though I had to fully extend the MH40 for a comfortable fit.
Apart from this, the headphones produce a mostly ergonomic experience but run into similar issues as the B&W P7 due to a combination of weight (at an astonishing 360g) and a thin, inadequately padded headband. And though clamp force is well-judged, not too firm but with enough pressure to promote a stable fit, the MH40’s tended to form a mild hotspot at the top of my head after just half an hour of listening. After two hours I was always forced to take a break, the headband is simply too thin to support the weight of their metal housings.
Luckily, the supple, plush and deep earpads delivered outstanding comfort as one of the few models that fully encompass my ears without contact. With dense memory foam innards, they easily conform to produce an incredibly strong seal. Fabric lines the inside of the pads making them a little scratchy at first, but they quickly wear in and are far more breathable than typical leather and especially faux leather competitors. Though my set has hardly worn at all over my 2 months of testing, the pads are also easily removable using a magnetic mounting plate and a replacement pair from M&D are a well-priced $49 USD. Those having issues with the stock pads may also want to look into the MW60 ear pads that are softer and more comfortable at the cost of sounding a little darker.
The headphones are semi-open with rear facing mesh obscured by dampening fabric. This does affect isolation to a degree, but in my uses, their strong seal offsets their semi-open nature, producing similar isolation to certain closed sets like the P7 if not quite as much as the class-leading Oppo PM3 and B&O H6. None of these headphones attenuate nearly as much as a good set of noise cancellers like those from Bose and Sony but they do provide a considerably more engaging sound in low to moderately loud conditions and the MH40’s were sufficient for public transport.
Though the headphones uses a single side entry cable, the bottoms of both earcups contain a 3.5mm jack, enabling users to choose their preferred side and daisy chain several headphones together. Of note, my newer revision unit has recessed plugs so I didn’t run into any of the issues outlined by Nathan or Tyll in their reviews though the stock units are still easily swapped with any case-friendly cable due to a lack keyed housings. The cable itself is also of very pleasing quality, one of the best included units amongst portable headphones. They instantly impress through their supple and flexible nature in addition to their tough fabric sheathing.
The terminations are aluminium with tactile knurling and pleasing strain relief. The 1.25M cable has a clear mic and clicky remote. Interestingly, all 3 buttons functioned on both my Android (Fiio X7 II and HTC U11) and IOS devices.
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