Class-leading construction quality, Immensely comfortable, Effective yet unobtrusive ANC, Natural sound, Scales well from a quality wired connection
ANC isn’t as effective as class-leaders, Doesn’t fold for storage, Price prohibitive
M&D’s latest headphone is immensely versatile with effective ANC and class-leading sound quality that scales well with high-quality home equipment.
Forged in the bustling streets of New York, Master & Dynamic have made a name for themselves with their timeless styling mated to rich sound tuning. Their identity is equal parts tradition and innovation, pioneering new form factors without the awkward design usually associated with new technology. The MW65 represents the latest evolution of their portable headphone line-up, combining all of the technologies introduced prior into one coherent package. This is the most feature-rich Master & Dynamic headphone yet, introducing a new construction, ANC and a new sound tuning to match. Implementing beryllium drivers and a new lightweight aluminium frame, the MW65 is also M&D’s most comfortable, portable and balanced headphones. The MW65 is Master & Dynamics vision for a world where traditional, non-frills engineering meets cutting edge technology sans superfluous gimmick. This is a focussed and refined product with a higher $499 USD price tag to match. You can read more about the MW65 here.
I would like to thank Master & Dynamic very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the MW65 for the purpose of review. 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.
As usual for Master and Dynamic, the MW65 is accompanied by a wide assortment of supporting accessories. Of note is the leather/canvas carrying pouch that will be colour matched to the colour of the headphone itself in addition to very svelte nylon sheathed USB-C cable and 3.5mm aux cable. M&D also includes a USBC to USB-A adapter for older chargers.
Take one look at Master & Dynamic’s lavish Instagram feed and it’s apparent that buyers can expect flawless industrial design, premium materials and masterfully curated colourways. The company has never ceased to amaze with their build quality and design, and, especially in comparison to the portable ANC headphone market, the MW65 is no exception. That said, this headphone doesn’t present the same impression of flawless quality as their former offerings on behalf of a new focus on portability; being substantially lighter than previous headphones through its adoption of aluminium over stainless steel.
The MW65 still feels like a very premium product in isolation, possessing an all-metal design without a hint of plastic. Premium grain leather adorns its outer surfaces, all hard-wearing and immaculately finished. These weight savings have transformed the fit of the headphone. It hugs the head and stays put like no M&D headphone has before and it feels substantially less cumbersome when on the go. Combined with a wider headband, hotspots are a non-issue during extended listening, an issue that affected prior M&D headphones. It also sports a sleek, lower-profile fit though the hangers do still protrude slightly from the head.
Master and Dynamic’s smooth headband sliders make a return, offering fine adjustment for any head size. The new oval leather earpads remain removable though no longer sporting the magnetic attachment system of the MH40 and MW60. They are also shallower with soft foam internals that hug the ear similar to the Oppo PM3. The lambskin pads are very plush, with memory foam cushion and soft foam on the internal faces, so the headphone doesn’t wear on the outer ear over time. The ANC toggle button lies on the outer face of the left earcup with the power/pairing slider and 3.5mm jack below, while the playback controls are on the right in addition to the USB-C charging port which is a great addition in 2019.
Usability & ANC Performance –
The headphones operate similarly to the MW60 before it, and most other wireless headphones for that matter. The sliding power button is accompanied by a musical chime to denote power, while pushing and holding the slider enters pairing mode. The headphones quickly auto-connect to previously paired devices over a BT4.2 connection with Apt-X for higher quality audio on supported sources. The headphones feature dual microphones for calls, enabling cancellation of ambient noise for the recipient. In use, calls were clear and my voice easily distinguished during calls, however, callers did note that I sounded slightly more muffled than my dedicated Jabra headset.
Master & Dynamic claim 24 hours of battery life with quick charge enabling users to replenish 12 hrs of playback time with just 15 minutes of charge. Even with ANC on high, at low-medium volumes (and the headphones offer excellent maximum volume), the MW65 rewarded me with just over 21hrs of playback time, a great result in my books and plenty for any flight. I am a big fan of the headphone’s traditional control scheme, with 3 standard hardware buttons as opposed to touch/gesture. They simply work better for me and are easier to use when on the go. The play/pause button is also raised higher than the volume buttons, so it is easy to distinguish between them in a hurry.
The headphone’s ANC is fairly non-frills, and is very simple to operate as a result. Perhaps one feature I would like to have seen would be aware mode, perhaps through a long press of the ANC button, however. The MW65 offers three ANC modes, high, low and off, and the user can cycle through using the aforementioned ANC button. All modes affect the sound quality, with ANC high compromising the sound the most and ANC off showcasing the full capability of the driver. Regardless, ANC is effective and, importantly for some, impressively unobtrusive. It doesn’t block as much noise as market leaders from Bose or Sony, especially higher up in the midrange such as voices, however, the headphones cancel the low-frequency drone of commute very effectively, permitting the headphone’s punchy bass notes to shine through.
Furthermore, there is no sense of pressure with ANC on either mode and the sound signature and volume remains the same through all modes so there isn’t any unnatural DSP here as on many wireless headphones. I also noted that there are no loud pops with closing train doors and sudden ambient noises as can be experienced on the more aggressive ANC on Bose’s headphones, however, they do struggle with wind noise. M&D have implemented the ANC low mode for these circumstances specifically, however, I noted the issue on both modes, it is just less apparent on ANC low. With ANC off, the headphones isolate as well as the vast majority of closed-back portable headphones so the addition of a medium strength ANC is an effective addition; producing a headphone that seals users off from their surroundings if not placing them in a vacuum-like void. However, it does so while remaining completely non-fatiguing during long listening sessions.
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