Master & Dynamic MH40 review: expensive but worth it

With the Master & Dynamic MH40, luxury never sounded so good

Master & Dynamic MH40 review
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The Master & Dynamic MH40 is a luxurious pair of headphones with a price tag that might question your sanity for a product without active noise-cancelling. However, once you hear and see the build quality for yourself, you’ll get it.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Fantastic sound quality with lots of headroom

  • +

    Comes with plane-friendly accessories

  • +

    Premium design and construction

  • +

    Solid battery life

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Limited features

  • -

    No vegan version

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The Master & Dynamic MH40 are expensive and stripped down, but they sound good. If you’re looking at these and comparing them to similarly-priced options from Sony, Bose, or Bang & Olufsen, they might seem like a pair of headphones that's hard to recommend.

But I don’t really care. Just spending some time listening to music, whether it’s country, metal, EDM, or something in between, will make a convert out of you thanks to the expansive and airy sound. They’re pretty comfy, too.

It helps that these cans are comfortable and made out of very premium and durable materials (but it's lambskin only, no vegan leather option). They do miss out on some of what we expect in the best wireless headphones, yet still do enough right to be part of the conversation.

But if you don’t necessarily care about active noise-cancelling (ANC) or transparency mode and have the money to spend, it's the listening experience on these headphones that's transportive. So let's get to it in this MH40 review...

Master & Dynamic MH40 review: price & availability  

If you’ve ever picked up a pair of Master & Dynamic headphones or read a review of one, you’ll know that there’s nothing cheap about them. And, if you haven’t, then you should know that there’s nothing cheap about them.

At $399/£399, the Master & Dynamic MH40 goes for the same price or more than the flagship offerings of most audio brands outside of the audiophile market. The Sony WH-1000XM5, for example, goes for $399/£419, while the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 go for $379/£349. And both those models come with features that the MH40 lack, most notably ANC.

The Master & Dynamic MH40 are terrific headphones, though, just with a price tag that’s hard to stomach, especially considering the mid-tier features. Of course, that’s offset by the premium construction and sound quality.

Master & Dynamic MH40 review: design & features 

Master & Dynamic MH40 review

(Image credit: Future)

One of the things I appreciate about the Master & Dynamic MH40 is the fact that they look gorgeous. Outside of having the basic layout, these otherwise don’t look like the vast majority of headphones out there. 

Instead, it looks like a premium take on the kind of ear protection a helicopter pilot might wear. And, some of the colourways – there are five: silver metal and brown leather, black metal and black leather (reviewed here), gunmetal and black leather, silver metal and grey leather, and silver metal and navy leather – lean into that.

The MH40 isn't quite as premium as the Master & Dynamic MW75, skipping the tempered glass inserts those have on the earcups. Still, the MH40, with its anodised aluminium body and lambskin leather covering, is clearly made of top-quality materials. I would hazard a guess that the price somewhat reflects the materials used.

The on-unit controls are pretty minimal, consisting of four buttons. There’s a power/pairing button positioned near the USB-C charging port underneath the right ear cup. Then, there are three buttons on the extended portion of the ear cup: two volume and a multifunction button where different presses will help navigate a playlist (play/pause, forward, back), call up a voice assistant, or accept/reject a call. Master & Dynamic has done a pretty good job of making them discreet. The only issue is that it takes a little getting used to finding them while using the headphones.

The comfort here is very good. It’s not quite divine – I’ve tested some of the best gaming headsets that prioritise memory foam the way Tempur-Pedic does – but its relatively light weight of 280g / 9.9oz doesn’t put too much pressure on the head, nor does its just-firm-enough clamping force. The amount of foam in the removable earpads and across the headband is just right as well, though I wouldn’t complain if the headband had a little more. And, though they’re all covered with that lambskin leather, which is very smooth to the touch, I never felt like the Master & Dynamic MH40 got too hot or made my ears sweat.

Lastly, while the Master & Dynamic MH40 doesn’t come with a ton of accessories, there are some useful ones. Namely, these headphones come with a canvas pouch for protection, a USB-C charging cable as well as a USB adapter for anyone who doesn’t have a USB-C port on their computer or power source, a USB-C-to-3.5mm cable to use with analogue devices, and an adapter for the plane so you can use these instead of whatever crappy free option your airline of choice hands out at takeoff and expects back when you deplane.

Master & Dynamic MH40 review: performance 

Master & Dynamic MH40 review

(Image credit: Future)

Since the Master & Dynamic MH40 seem to employ a semi-open back design, there’s a certain airy quality to the listening experience. In fact, I was very pleasantly surprised by how good they sound when I first put the MH40 on.

The highs are detailed and bright without being painful. The low-end has plenty of punch while sitting right in the mix. These are not in-your-face the way a basshead might like – check out the V-Moda Crossfade 3 Wireless for something more bass heavy. The mid-range is a little more polite, giving everything I listen to a bit more clarity, sacrificing some of the richness that warmer headphones have. However, there’s more than enough mid-level output to still rock out.

What really impressed though was the wide soundstage and large amount of headroom. I think there’s some interplay between the two but let’s talk about them one at a time, starting with the soundstage. Instead of feeling like I’m listening to an intimate show, the Master & Dynamic MH40 make me feel like I’m experiencing whatever I’m listening to in a concert hall. Not only is everything wide but the image placement is precise so I can tell where everything sits in the mix.

When discussing headroom, think of it as the amount of space above the audio. Headphones and speakers without a lot of headroom will start to distort and get blown out the closer you get to their max volume. That’s not the case here. Not only do the MH40 stay clear all the way up (and these suckers get loud) but I can feel the space around the music, letting it breathe.

Really, if it weren’t for those last two factors and how well implemented they are, the frequency range wouldn’t sell me on an almost $/£400 pair of headphones, especially considering that you’re limited on features. 

Having multipoint connectivity through the MH40’s speedy Bluetooth 5.2 is nice, as is voice assistant support, but they don’t quite make up for the lack of ANC. And, considering that almost every pair of wireless headphones have built-in mics to make calls, that’s not really a huge selling point either. Yes, the mic sounds good though you’ll still come across as a little farther away than if you talked directly into your phone. 

The saving grace for these exorbitantly priced and somewhat stripped-down headphones then is the expansive, airy, and immersive audio.

Master & Dynamic MH40 review: Battery

Master & Dynamic MH40 review

(Image credit: Future)

The most useful part of the M&D Connect app with the MH40 for me is being able to check the battery life. There really isn’t that much customisation available. If you use the “Sound Profile” aka EQ settings, there are four EQ presets available: bass boost, bass cut, podcast, and audiophile. There’s no customisable EQ and each preset is tasteful, bordering on subtle. I preferred to just keep the “Sound Profile” off and bypass the EQ altogether.

Getting 30 hours of battery life with a current-generation pair of headphones is not necessarily impressive, but it’s on par with many flagship offerings. In fact, you’ll only find better battery life on very stripped-down headphones that make a long battery life a major selling point.

Regardless, I spent a good 10 hours using the Master & Dynamic MH40 before charging them up. They were at 64% when I did so. So the 30-plus hours available is going to be more than enough for just about everybody who doesn’t plan on spending two weeks or more in the wilderness.

Since this is equipped with a USB-C port, fast-charging is on hand to the tune of 15 minutes plugged into the wall will net you six hours of use.

Master & Dynamic MH40 review: verdict 

Master & Dynamic MH40 review

(Image credit: Future)

The Master & Dynamic MH40, like the rest of the brand’s offerings, is mostly hampered by its price. These headphones are more expensive than most of the flagship offerings from Sony and Bose. And M&D comes with that exorbitant price tag without many of the features that make something like the similarly priced Sony WH-1000XM5 so special (namely, active noise-cancellation).

Spending $/£399 on a pair of headphones that is very stripped down is a hard ask. True, there are some features like voice assistant support, built-in mics for calls, and multipoint connectivity, but the list mostly ends there. Even the app is pretty barebones.

Yet, as you may have noticed by the score I’ve attached to the Master & Dynamic MH40, I don’t really begrudge those issues, even if I wish the company charged half the price for these headphones. Its premium construction probably plays a part in its cost. 

But, at the end of the day, the Master & Dynamic MH40 are a pleasure to listen to, offering an immersive aural experience that you generally won’t find in headphones below $/£300. They're also plenty comfortable and come with the kind of battery life and accessories to make long-haul trips just a little better.

Also consider 

If you don’t mind splurging on your audio and want to go all the way, then consider the Master & Dynamic MW75. The MH40 reviewed here should really be considered the company’s mid-tier option. Why? It’s not just because the MW75 is pricier at $599/£549, it’s because for that extra cost you get those features you would miss out on with the MH40, like adjustable ANC and ambient modes (though the EQ options are still limited).

If you want the whole kit-and-kaboodle, you can get the Sony WH-1000XM5 for the same price as the MH40. These are not only one of the most popular wireless headphones available right now, but they’re one of the best with excellent sound and have possibly the best active noise-cancellation available. You just won’t get the same luxurious design and construction that you get with the Master & Dynamic MH40.

James Holland

James is an avid follower of the latest trends happening around tech, particularly when it comes to headphones or anything music-related, gaming, and exercise gadgets. He’s also active in the music industry and has been for the last 10 years. When not writing for T3, he likes to travel, try new foods, and find quirky attractions nearby.