Master & Dynamic
MH40 Headphones

By Jorge Figueiredo - September 30th, 2014


If I had to choose between the different types of headphones (to wear or recommend to others to use), I would select over-ear headphones every time. And in a market dominated by Beats (due more to marketing than the actual quality of the product) there are a number of different models to choose from. Master & Dynamic is a relative newcomer to the fray, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at their own entry to the over-ear headphone market, the MH40. This high-quality product, dubbed “the modern thinking cap”, sounds as good as it looks, and if you’re looking for a premium product that is durable and effective, this should be one of your first choices.

It is clear that Master & Dynamic is committed to a great user experience when you look at their packaging. Within the shell, the black dual-layered cut foam both displays the product well (it is stored in the box with the earcups rotated so that the unit sits flat) and protects it from shipping and handling damage. The top layer houses the headphones themselves, as well as a rigid, cylindrical case made out of leather housing the two cables and a gold-plated connection adapter for 1/4 inch stereo jacks. The bottom layer, which is thinner than the top layer, can be easily accessed and reveals a high-quality carrying pouch and the user manual. Like the packaging, the headphones are a work of art, both for the eyes and the ears.

The goods.

The MH40 is a gorgeous set of ear cans. The headband is constructed with a slightly flexible metal core, shored up along the outside to keep it rigid and padded on the inside. Cowhide leather covers the exterior surface of the headband, and lambskin covers the interior padding, creating a nice, soft surface to rest against the top of the head – which is important considering this pair of headphones weighs about 360 grams. The headband is firmly attached to earcups with steel anchors. The pads on the earcups are constructed of memory foam, and are also covered with soft lambskin, ensuring a comfortable fit around the ear. These pads are held in place with powerful magnets, and can be detached and reattached if something needs to be replaced. The exterior of the earcups is mix of metal and cowhide, with subtle details on the fasteners and in the center of the grille pattern. In my opinion. The mixture between the meshed metal and the smooth wrappings make for an industrial look -almost Steam Punk in nature- and look like they would not feel out of place on the head of Tony Stark or a character in a Jules Verne story.

But what about function? Master & Dynamic seem to have that under control as well. As I stated earlier, the earcups rotate so that the headset can be stored flat (or in the included canvas pouch, which has a very creative fastening mechanism that stays closed with pressure, rather than anything else). Each earcup can be raised and lowered thanks to the piston-like posts on each side; not to mention that these adjusting posts have a scale etched onto them, so you can remember your own settings if you want to let someone else borrow them (and they come back feeling slightly different). A metallic mute switch is positioned on the outside of the right earcup, making it very easy to take care of any pesky and unwanted microphone input – just give the mechanism a mechanical click and you’re good to vent about whomever you’re talking about.

Comfortable. Durable.

The cables seem to have received a fair amount of attention as well. Each flexible cable is wrapped in braided cloth, making them essentially tangle-free, and they each end in rugged-looking connectors. The cables are also light, and each one serves a slightly different purpose. The first one, which is about 2 meters long, is a standard cable ending in the typical 3.5mm 4-pole plugs that everyone is used to. The second cable, which is about 1.25 meters long, also has 4-pole connectors; but this one includes an inline microphone and an inline remote. The microphone and remote are separate entities (which is very different from most headphones, and ensures minimal noise interference from button-pressing), and are both solidly constructed out of metal. The inline remote control has 3 buttons (volume up, control and volume down), which work with all apple products.

When I first picked these headphones up, I was immediately struck by the weight, and worried how this would affect my experience. Sliding them onto my head, my worries vanished – they felt very comfortable, and in my many tests I wore them for well over an hour without really feeling uncomfortable. The oblong earcups fit nicely over my ears; the headband, with its padded inlay and slightly flexible structure, created a nice fit on either side of my head without making it feel like I was being squeezed. All of these factors combined to set the stage for the real test: sound quality.

The MH40 has so many nice touches – like this mute button.

If I was to compare these headphones to another pair that I have reviewed, it would surely be the Parrot Zik, which is a fantastic compliment to the MH40s (even more amazing when you consider that there is no active noise cancellation used in these headphones – and it is not required, either). According to the literature, Master & Dynamic has tuned their headphones to deliver warm, rich sound – and they are definitely on the mark. The powerful 45mm drivers hammer the bass home, but this is not done at expense of any other range. In fact, the MH40s deliver rich, dynamic sound across the entire range – deep lows to crispy, crunchy highs. Nothing is overpowering, and there is very little distortion even when the volume is cranked up pretty high (though, I wouldn’t recommend it, as these will probably emulsify your brain due to the sound volume that they could deliver).

Everything sounds great – regardless of genre; you simply hear everything. Listening to a jazz trio? Be prepared to hear the bass player’s fingers sliding on the strings (which I think adds to the music). Want to hear some great electornica? You’ll definitely appreciate how crisp and sharp the sound is when it comes through the MH40. Regardless of what I threw at them, or the source (be it my computer, an iPod Touch, or my home theater receiver), the MH40s were up to the challenge. What’s even better is that thanks to the solid construction of the headphones coupled with the comfort factor, the earcups form a nice seal around your ears, minimizing environmental noise quite effectively, which allows you to listen to whatever you like at a lower volume without damaging your ears. When I tested this on my PC, I actually had to turn down the volume. The right earcup also has a jack so that you can connect another set of headphones into this one, so that you can share whatever you are listening to with someone else (the quality was not diminished, for the record).

So much attention to detail…

Overall, my experience with the Master & Dynamic MH40 was an excellent one. I can’t help but gush over a product that has such a symbiosis between form and function. These headphones look great, feel comfortable, and sound great. Designed in New York, the MH40 are backed by a 2 year warranty, which just goes to show how much Master & Dynamic believe in their product (they state on their website that they designed these to last for decades). At $399, these are not your run-of-the-mill cheapie headphones – nor are they overpriced posers. They are the real deal; no additives or preservatives – just solid technology and great design.

Click here to see a few more photos of the MH40. ยป

You can check out Master & Dynamic’s website here.

1 – Master & Dynamic also carry an all-black version. It does everything this one does. If only it could do the Haka…

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