The design is retro perfection, but do these lavish lambskin headphones sound as good as they look? Find out in our Master & Dynamic MH40 review
Thanks to Dr Dre, headphones are now as much a part of our wardrobe as shoes and here at T3 we now have fashion 'phones coming out of our ears. Master & Dynamic is only the latest in a line of designer headphones priced roughly in line with the popular Beats Studio (opens in new tab) and each pair looks more stylish than the last.
The Nocs NS900 Live (opens in new tab), Sennheiser Momentum (opens in new tab) and Ted Baker Rockall (opens in new tab) all promise studio sound from headphones you want to be seen in. But even as you lift them from their padded box, the retro-radical Master & Dynamic MH40 look as though they might just set a new benchmark…
Master & Dynamic MH40: Size and build
The functional, yet sophisticated design with swivelling ear cups on an aluminium frame is timeless and there's more plush leather on show than a Chippendale sofa. It's a look that's more study than subway and considerably less street than Dre's Beats Studio, but from the gold-plated plug adapter to their steel fittings, these cans simply ooze quality. We chose the tan and silver option, but the all-black MH40s look just as good.
For over-ear headphones, they're not overly large (200mm x 185mm x 50mm) and the cups fold so they pack fairly flat into their canvas carry case. The spare cable gets its own leather case to travel in.
Master & Dynamic MH40: Comfort
All those metal components add up to a weighty 360g, which could be a burden, but luckily the soft lambskin ear pads and adjustable leather band conspire to make them surprisingly comfortable.
Master & Dynamic MH40: Features
These over-ear headphones employ a closed-cup design with 45mm neodymium drivers with an impressive frequency range of 3hz - 65,000hz.
The Made for iPhone/iPad badge refers to the inline mic and remote control that's also made from metal parts. There's also a metal mute button on the headphones themselves.
Master & Dynamic MH40: Sound quality
At this price, headphones need to also sound good and thankfully, the MH40 are a delight to listen to. The tonal balance leans toward a warm sound with tight basslines and punchy percussion, while at the other end a snappy treble response ensures a crisp performance. But while the Beats Studio take this approach further with purely beat-driven music in mind, the MH40 are more neutral with a more expressive mid-range, so they suit a broader range of genres. Accoustic and jazz sound right at home here for example.
They're also quite sensitive, so make sure you don't have the volume all the way up when you first put them on. The cups fit snugly offering good isolation too and they sound just as detailed with the level very low.
What they don't quite manage is the wide-open out-of-your-head experience that you can expect from professional open-back headphones like the AKG 712. With classical music in particular, the soundstage feels smaller and the treble lacks the high frequency finesse to really open up the orchestra in the same way.
So they're not quite reference-level headphones, but they do compare favourably with their peers, offering a better bass response and superior build quality to the similarly styled Ted Baker Rockall for example and a more neutral balance than the Beats Studio.
Master & Dynamic MH40: Verdict
Headphones are a very personal purchase and the use of premium materials like the anodised aluminium and lambskin make these headphones desirable even before you plug them in. Their superior build quality and timeless style will ensure they stick around long after the last Beats Studio has made its inevitable journey into landfill. With a sonic performance as solid as their aluminium parts, these classy cans are much more than a fashion statement.
Master & Dynamic MH40 release date: Out now (in the US)
Master & Dynamic MH40 price: $399