One of the unexpected hits of this (quickly ending) year, Master & Dynamic’s MH40 has managed to capture the attention of both the popular and audiophile markets through a winning combination of aesthetics and sound quality –a feat accomplished by few. Following a creative philosophy that combines “disciplined routine and a perpetually dynamic approach”, Master and Dynamic seems to have a solid understanding of what it takes to produce good products in general, and it is no wonder that the company is already making rounds in the headphone market.
DISCLAIMER: This unit was provided by Master & Dynamic for the purposes of the review. We are neither affiliates nor employees of Master & Dynamic. All media rights are reserved.
The MH40 comes in a very nice box with a high-quality matte image of the headphones printed on its front. Pulling the tab uncovers a black cardboard box, which opens to reveal a foam cutout with the headphones inside. A nice leather cylinder in the middle of the foam cutout contains the two included cables. Such a nice case for the cables is slightly unnecessary in light of the fact that it is neither particularly portable nor particularly practical. Its large size really is never utilized fully considering that it only actually needs to store one cable once the headphones are in use. Hefty literature is available for those who enjoy reading. Overall, the MH40 comes in a solid package. If there were one change I’d make, it would be to perhaps include a headphone stand instead of the leather cylinder.
Arguably one of the nicest looking pairs of headphones that I’ve ever seen to date (in the conventional sense), the MH40 combines excellent functionality with beautiful aesthetics. The attention to detail that Master & Dynamic has paid to the design of the headphones is simply impressive. The headband is made of leather, and has a very pleasant clamping force. It’s got enough pinch to make sure that the headphone won’t be sliding off your head during active use, but it is still much more comfortable than something like the VModa M100. It might be interesting to note that the outer part of the headband is made of a durable cowhide, while an incredibly soft lambskin covers the inside. It’s a small insight that nonetheless serves as a reminder of Master and Dynamic’s extremely thorough design process.
Joints are made of steel, and feel rugged. The diamond bevel on parts of the headphone and cable are just a few of the little touches that help to enhance the premium feel of the MH40. Moving to the earcups, it’s reassuring to note that they feature aluminum housings that store two 45 mm Neodymium drivers. To help enhance portability, the earcups do swivel flat, and work very well in an around-neck position. The depth of the earcups is moderate, though those of you with bigger (or flappier) ears will definitely be able to feel the metal grill that shields the driver. In addition, the earcups aren’t particularly wide, so this may pose a challenge for some. The lambskin earpads are fantastically comfortable though and can easily be replaced as they are magnetically attached to the headphones. Isolation is solid, and with music playing at low-moderate levels, very little environmental sound will be getting into the earphones. Do note that there is a slight bit of leak though (that’s right Madonna fans…turn that stuff down).
Both cables are made of braided cloth, and unlike some of their counterparts out on the market, did not exhibit any immediate signs of fraying. The cable with the inline remote features a smart feature where the mic is separated from the remote itself. It is located further “upstream” and nearer to the user’s head, a logical design choice that we’re now starting to see with increasing frequency. The 3.5 mm jack plug is straight and made of metal.
Overall, the build quality on these headphones is simply excellent. The design quality, I’m glad to say, is similarly good. The overall aesthetic of the MH40 is incredibly coherent, and the many well thought out design features work together to create a great portable headphone.
The MH40 is without a doubt a headphone with a strong emphasis on bass. However, unlike the Beats line of headphones, the MH40 features a refinement in the lower frequencies that makes it significantly more pleasant to listen to. There’s weightiness to the MH40’s mid-bass that makes for a rather unique listening experience as well. It’s not a boomy, smothering sound that plagues many a bass heavy headphone, but instead a weighty and relatively quick (not fast) one. Extension is good, but I wish there was just slightly more sub-bass. Given the quantity, I’d say that the MH40 boasts pretty good bass quality as well. However, it isn’t exactly what I would describe as resolving, and at times there was just a slight hint of bleed into the mids. That said, the way the MH40’s bass is set up does make for a very fun overall listening experience, and how can one fault fun?
The mids are lush and intimate, providing for an incredibly rich listening experience. Smooth (oh so little sibilance!) and easily likable, it’s a sound that really comes down to personal preference. Those who prefer neutrality and accuracy won’t be making a 180 turn because the MH40, but those who already enjoy this kind of SQ will find the headphones very appealing. When gauged against the bass, it’s not that the MH40’s mids have been tuned specifically to be laid back or particularly recessed, but that the bass is quite powerful in comparison. If you found the VModa M100 to be your cup of tea, then the MH40 won’t be far off either.
Highs are clear, and provided sparkle when needed. They aren’t screechy, and provide solid clarity and detail retrieval. Soundstage is slightly smaller than what I would consider moderate due to nature of the warm SQ, and do leave more airiness to be desired at times. That said, the good instrument separation and general imaging prevent the MH40 from becoming claustrophobic. For portable users, the MH40 will perform well out of a computer/ iDevice.
Master and Dynamic’s dramatic entrance into the audio world is not without merit. The MH40 combines great aesthetics, build quality, and sound quality into a headphone that is wonderful for portable daily use. If you’re looking for a warmer pair of headphones with a rich, lush sound, then I’d happily recommend the MH40. It definitely won’t disappoint.