If you want a pair of headphones that stand apart from the Beats, Sony and Audio Technica cans, it’s hard to think of a better choice than Master & Dynamic. The relatively young audio company, founded in 2013, has made a line of headphones that don’t compromise on materials, build quality, design or sound.
Our first experience with the luxury headphone maker was with the that we lauded for its gorgeous design, build and audio quality. And now we’ve gone back to the plush purveyor to look at the Master & Dynamic MW50, the company’s wireless on-ear headphone.
While the specs of the Master & Dynamic MW50 don’t scream premium high-end headphones, the overall package is so well thought out that it’s impossible not to fall just a little bit in love with them … well, as long as you can afford the eye-watering $449 (£399, about AU$600) price tag.
Master & Dynamic tapped into the design of vintage headphones for its products, which makes its line of headphones stunning and as iconic as Beats. But while Beats are for the guy wearing the new Jordans, Master & Dynamic are for the guy wearing Allen Edmonds.
The MW50 looks much like the rest of the Master & Dynamic line of headphones but with added refinement. Gone are the posts of the MH40 that mated the earcups to the headband, which looked awkward. In its place is a friction-based adjustment system that is a joy to use. Size adjustment is buttery smooth but the arms still have plenty of friction to stay in place. It almost feels as if the headphones were hydraulically damped.
The lambskin earpads and cowhide headband bathe you with a luxurious feel on the head. The MW50 are one of the most comfortable on-ear headphones we’ve ever tried, rivaling the comfort of the .
The leather and aluminum materials continue to the earcups, which feature a faux-grill that makes the MW50 look like open-back headphones but, don’t be fooled, they’re actually closed back. While non-functional, the grills give the MW50 the same visual DNA found across Master & Dynamics headphones.
All of the switches and buttons are located on the outer ring of each earcup. Because of their location, the buttons and switches are quite small, and will therefore require a few days of use for you to remember where each button is. You’ll also find the USB-C charging port, 3.5mm headphone jack and microphones on the bottom of each ear cup as well.
To help with wireless reception, Master & Dynamic utilized an external aluminum antenna that’s built into the left earcup. You can see a gray plastic stripe where the antenna is located, resembling the one found on the .
Thankfully the Master & Dynamic MW50 don’t just look good – they sound great as well. The sound signature of the MW50 is slightly warm but still well balanced. There’s a very slight mid-bass hump that helps make music easy to listen to and also helps to bring vocals forward. There’s also a slight treble boost as well, making string instruments like violins sound energetic and in your face.
While most mainstream headphones are tuned with bloated bass, the MW50’s bass is subtle and refined. Bassheads and EDM-lovers won’t like the sound but balanced bass help make the MW50s sound good with all types of music. If M&D was looking at one place to improve the sound, however, a bit more bass impact would be a good place to start.
That said, stereo imaging is excellent, allowing listeners a sense of space and position of individual instruments. While detail retrieval is good, we felt the headphones could do a better job of isolation each instrumental layer and creating a wider soundstage.
Since the Master & Dynamic MW50 are on-ear headphones, they just can’t isolate as well as over-ear cans. This means you’ll get a bit more sound coming in from the outside world. Problematically, the MW50 doesn’t offer active noise cancellation, which is a tough pill to swallow at this price. For reference, the offers active noise cancellation for $199.
Wireless reception was good, with Master & Dynamic claiming a 30 meter (100ft) range. However, this range only applies for line of sight and we found Plantronics’ headphones did a better job of penetrating walls, which is something to consider if you plan on moving around the house.
Battery life is good, but not class-leading. Master & Dynamic claims around 16 hours of playback and our tests got very close to that number. However, USB-C charging means you can top the headphones up very quickly without having to carry around any special proprietary cables.
If you can afford the steep price, the Master & Dynamic MW50 will not disappoint. These headphones are a simply work of art and feel every bit as expensive as their price commands. They sound great with all types of music and are one of the most comfortable on-ear headphones we’ve ever tested.
Those looking for value, however, will want to look else where.
For less than half the price, you can buy the , which offers active noise cancellation, auto-play/pause and the ability to pipe in external sound. For nearly the same price, the offer great sound, noise cancellation and a long-lasting battery.
But, ultimately, if the design and sound of the Master & Dynamic MW50 appeal to you and you don’t care about getting the best bang for your buck, you’ll be very happy with these headphones.