Published on October 7th, 2014 | by Greg0
Master And Dynamic MH40: Making ‘Em Like They Used To
The premium headphone market in the United States accounts for over $1 billion, and grew last year by about 21% (NPD). That’s part of the reason why Beats is now owned by Apple, and it’s an exciting space to be in, with new models appearing seemingly every day. For every company that leaps in, though, the competition grows more fierce- and it’s critical that a firm be able to differentiate itself from the rest. Luckily, today’s piece of audio gear has no trouble doing so.
The flagship Master and Dynamic MH40 over-ear headphones have been called the “anti-Beats”, and notes on their design frequently refer to classic aviator style. The company itself bills them as “a modern thinking cap” and brags about the forged aluminum body, steel components, and lambskin earpads. We received them and immediately noticed the difference, even before taking the MH40s out of the packaging- this was a heavy-duty pair, built for serious use. We couldn’t help but have high expectations.
Thankfully, we weren’t let down. Quite the contrary- the MH40s compete in some rarefied air, among our favorite sets for fireside listening to classics or when testing out amplifiers or DACs. They envelop and never stifle, enrich without changing the character of what you’re listening to, and offer a fairly level EQ curve. While the trend has been towards boosted bass, most music calls for a natural frequency response, though monitors can be a bit sterile. And while rap and hip-hop didn’t rattle eardrums through the Master and Dynamic models, they never felt flat either, nor did we lose the lyrics in a haze of bass beats.
Plus, with the vast majority of other tracks, the MH40s were on par with other stellar sets- think the smaller and lighter beyerdynamic T51ps, which felt comparable in range and dynamics. After burning them in, we set them next to the Focal Spirits as well, another set that has earned huge acclaim from audiophiles, and the Mh40s felt richer, a bit more open, and just all-around more capable. Crisp without being harsh, the only thing we noticed was that they could feel a little shaky on audiobooks, where a single, solitary voice track felt a little too intense. They don’t have the sparkle or piercing highs of the Sennheiser Momentums or the recently-reviewed ZMF’s, but will rock, roll, and twang even the most demanding lows and mids.
We enjoyed the conspicuous absence of plastic, the woven cables, and the very old-school look that Master and Dynamic brought to bear. Though they may look like open-back cans, the MH40s are actually very well-sealed, and we were impressed by the lack of leakage and excellent isolation. Those around you won’t have a clue that you’re really enjoying the new Taylor Swift song. Plus, despite their weight, they are balanced and non-fatiguing, we never grew tired of wearing them. The earpads are perhaps the most comfortable that we’ve ever used, though they are clearly built for larger heads. Two cable options allow you to choose either straight music listening or smartphone compatibility with a microphone and remote. And a stand is available separately. Ours were solid black, which felt a little too staid (a metal accent would have been nice), but they also come in a lovely brown and silver version. Available now, online directly and in stores, the Master and Dynamic MH40s run $400, and are a lightning bolt from a new brand, one we’ll be paying careful attention to in the future.