It’s old hat for me to say that I’m behind. And apologies are in order. Firstly, to our awesome readers, who have been waiting yonks; secondly, to the patient, dynamic masters over there, across the pond and a bit of dirt. Hats off to you in New York.
Your 399$ Master & Dynamic MH40 full-size semi-closed headphone both looks, and sounds awesome.
Which is great news. Headfonia reviews reams and reams of new brands. Many of which make pretty cool stuff. However (as we’ll see later in the week), not every one is a deal; nor is every one fun to use, or is comfy, or even good-sounding.
Master & Dynamic dub their stuff: “Sound Tools for Creative Minds”. Haha! Joke’s on them! I’m not creative. Sure, I photograph for a living. Sure, I crunch chocolate corn flakes into my muesli. But my creative muscles are pretty flat.
That said, my wife (who’s developing medicine to quash kidney problems), is. And, she really digs the MH40. Unfortunately, her lab coat hasn’t the space for a music player- which upgrades my position from photo production line to ad-hoc creative.
I hope I’ve put the headphone to good use. Music enjoyment? Sure. And for shutting out the noise whilst recording OHM AIR. And you know what? I’ve been enjoying the experience quite well.
And when I’ve had enough music for a while, I put the MH40 on its awesomely simple, stand. Equally awesome is the literature, and for the most part, the box the MH40 comes with. Print quality, fonts, legibility, and layout, are all great. This company obviously cares about their brand. And that is a wonderful thing for both the fan (a group which I suggest you think about joining), and the long-term investor. I have a feeling that Master & Dynamic are in it for more than making a quick buck.
And that feels great.
The uniquest thing about the MH40 is how it plugs in, and out, and in again. That, and the mute button. Basically, you can daisy chain as many MH40 (and MH30) headphones together as you’ve got power to supply.
Right now, I’ve got a Mezzo Audio AK100 feeding a pair of MH40s, which are feeding another pair of MH40s, which are feeding a prototype MH30. It’s practically an orgy. And excited as I am about that, there’s a lot more to love.
And it’s not that the long cables are resistant to tangling, and easy as hell to use. Nor is it that you can plug them into whichever cup you want, with no channel upside-downing (although that is awesome).
It’s that they work so brilliantly well that I forget I’m even using them. That is, until I change to a different headphone and wonder why it can’t do the same thing. I’d really love to call an MH40-owning mate and go for a foursome.
Back to reality: each MH40 comes with two cables. Both are 4-pole, but only one comes with a remote/mic. To be honest, the remote control, while solid aluminium, isn’t cut all that pretty. It’s got a bit of arts’n crafts to it its aesthetic.
The rest is pretty good. The stress reliefs hold out well, and while the cable can bunch up around the rubber at both ends, the textile sheath is both nice on the skin, and nice to look at. Like all textile-clad cables, it picks up touch noise pretty well.
All of Master & Dynamic’s headphones are solidly made. They make use of lots of metal, of leather, and affix all the important bits with good quality bolts. The main fulcrums swivel on long metal axes that allow the cups to rotate roughly 135º. You can lay the headphones flat and the cups become feet. They rotate perfectly for any shape of head, and can be used DJ-style on one-ear whilst monitoring the club.
Cooler yet is the red-dotted nipple on the right cup, which when pressed, mutes the headphones. Cooler yet is that even when muted, the headphones can still pass signal to a downstream chain of daisyed MH headphones. Hell, you can even plug an earphone into the cup and listen.
The only adverse affect is a slight loss, or gain, of volume on the downstream headphones. (The loss, or gain, depends greatly on the sensitivity of the headphone plugged into the MH40.) Anyway, this functionality is great for parties, read-alongs, and the like, when you aren’t so into what’s being played at the moment, but don’t want to bother the bloke or bloket next to you. I’d reckon it works even better when set up at your creative space for a bit of the ol’ John Denver when your boss, or colleague comes along demanding to be heard. No need to remove the headphones.
It’s a cool feature.
Cooler still is the ease with which you can change ear pads. Just pinch them off. They are attached by magnets. If you’re a modder, you may find the use of a 3-arm bolt will hold you off. Considering that these use pretty easy-to-find cables, upgrading connections should be a breeze.
The only real complaint I have is one I’ve had since the beginning: pressuring the cable grommet at the top of the earphone cup is far too easy. Given a small enough head (see below), and after a lot of off and on, the channel passover cable probably will fray. I’ve been assured that Master & Dynamic are looking into this, but after accepting two production units, I’ve yet to be satisfied.
Apart from this oversight, the MH40 is a solid headphone.
My narrow head has always been a bugger. My doctor assures me it’s not that my brain is that much smaller than that of a normal. My guess (and my wife’s hope) is that it is more packed, and that much more capable of stopping a bullet. It also must be hugged tighter than usual by headphones.
A couple mates of mine here in Japan swear to me that the MH40 is perfect, another swears that he wishes the fulcrums would grow a bit. Overall, it seems the medium-headed person is perfectly happy.
Even at its smallest setting, the MH40 droops slightly on my head, but nothing in comparison to Ultrasone’s Signature series. The top inner edge of the ear pads rubs my ears when I smile. The bottom inner edge is a Swedosj mile away.
Lateral pressure is pretty even, and suitable for a couple of hours’ of your favourite music. Despite being larger and more plush than the MH40’s headband, the DT880’s band is just about as comfy for 2+ hour listens. After a while, the top of my pointy head begins to hurt with every headphone I put on it. After a couple of hours, the MH40 is no different.
As a semi-closed headphone, the MH40 blocks enough sound to be comfortable in reasonably noisy places, but does next to nothing to protect your hearing (or you from being beaten up by angry co-passengers) in loud environments such as the train. When on the Tsukuba Express or JR, I have to crank volume up several large steps to keep my head in sync with what New Order feels is the right amount of volume.
Sound impressions after the jump