An interview with Master & Dynamic – The Price Of 8 Bothans

A little over a week ago, I sat opposite three of the gentlemen behind Master & Dynamic: Matt, Drew, and Scott. They wore plaid and limned cool. Averaging their ages results in the number 30. I wore stripes and fronted a steadily greying buzz cut. Averaging my age results in the number 34.

Here’s what they look like:

MasterDynamic-interview-01

Master & Dynamic’s pre-production MH40 headphones had already captured my attention. I love the super-soft, comfortable pads, the light-footed headband, the strong frames. And, I really dig their intimate and punchy sound.

But my chat with Matt, Drew, and Scott revealed quite a bit more about the company that gels with my better sensibilities.

—-

HFN: Headfonia
M&D: Master & Dynamic

HFN: One of those big tech sites called your headphones ‘retro’. Let’s get it out into the open. Are they ‘retro’? 

M&D: We gave our headphones a timeless, industrial look, and didn’t shoot for ‘retro’ per se.

HFN: Okay, but what if I were to say something like ‘bandwagon’?

MD: Bandwagons are an easy out. We’re into harnessing timelessness, in designing for the future. Bandwagons don’t really look that far ahead. There are a lot of design bandwagons out there. But we just care about creating classic sound tools that get people excited.

HFN: Um, but what if you just had to do a bandwagon- what colour would it be?

M&D: Well, yellow is our only real brand colour, so I guess our bandwagon would be yellow. 

HFN: What’s this emphasis on ‘work’ I keep seeing in your marketing literature?

M&D: We’ve created these phones for the creative class. From techies to artists, musicians, designers. People that would use headphones to help them to create. Not necessarily for the office. For their creative space. Something that puts them into a creative space- or music if you will. Headphones have become a modern office. Put on a pair of headphones and you are transformed into a creative mindset.

HFN: What deficiencies are there in the headphone market?

M&D: Before we even get to audiophile headphones, we have to mention the headphone market in general. Many headphones out there are made poorly. We wanted to make sure our headphones were built from the best possible materials. There is a lot of plastic headphones on the market marketed. Others lack good hardware. We are using the most premium materials and melding them with a sophisticated design. That attention to detail is what we feel is lacking in the market, and what we are bringing to it. It is rare that a brand can tell a unique design story. We want our headphones both to sound and look beautiful. 

If you take most of the headphone’s on the market now and melt down the plastic in them, you will get something about the size of a baseball. If you take the plastic from our headphones and melt it down, you will get something the size of a pea. We want our headphones to last for years. That’s why we used anodised aluminium, PVD coatings, use lambskin instead of synthetic leather, and more. Trust me on the lambskin: it feels great and lasts for ages.

MasterDynamic-interview-02

HFN: And what about sound? 

It continues on the next page!

An interview with Master & Dynamic – The Price Of 8 Bothans
2.6 (52%) 5 votes

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

26 Comments

  • Reply June 17, 2014

    L.

    Nice read. Very informing and interesting. Looking forward to the review

  • Reply June 17, 2014

    George Lai

    M&D should consider earcups in small, medium and large. Adjustable headbands are de rigueur but they assume different sized heads have a certain range of sized ears. Lieven knows it’s my pet peeve.

    • Reply June 18, 2014

      ohm image

      I think different sized earcups is an interesting idea. How to get it right, though, that is a difficult task.

      • Reply June 18, 2014

        George Lai

        Hi Nathan, I think it is quite easy. In the case of IEMs, different sized ear tips slip onto the same sized nozzle. So in this case, different sized ear pads, sharing a common ring, clip onto the same sized driver housing? Just a thought.

        • Reply June 18, 2014

          ohm image

          Thanks George. As headphone cups of leather are quite expensive, it would drive costs up quite a bit. I wonder if this would be a great place for third-parties to get involved, or for manufacturers to offer after-market options.

          The MH40 pads are really easy to change. They pop off and pop back onto small magnets.

          • Reply June 18, 2014

            George Lai

            Indeed, Nathan, popping off and on is simple. M&H need not provide all 3 sizes in one pack. Like most things in life, I think the majority will want Medium. Third parties won’t get involved unless there are substantial numbers involved. If M&H factor in three sizes but only provide one per headphone, the cost impact is so minimal. Re your later posting on engineering pads and sound, I agree yet disagree because the mere fact that all our head and ear sizes are different already impacts a headphone’s sound to some degree. Designers design with Mr. Medium in mind. It’s already different when Mr. Small and Mr. Large use the headphones.

            • Reply June 18, 2014

              ohm image

              So, um… are you a Magnum, then?

              • Reply June 18, 2014

                George Lai

                😉

        • Reply June 18, 2014

          ohm image

          I also must add: pads change sound quite a bit. Not just size, but also materials. Engineering pads to keep the same sound could be quite an undertaking. But I think you are right, it has merit.

  • Reply June 17, 2014

    Creator Viktor

    Nice interview… They somehow really don’t sell them to me though. They sound like every other company thats turning up lately, and have the same design philosophies, and by the sounds of it more or less the same end result…

    I mean they look awesome, but timeless? Not so much. I just hope they sound good, but their description made me lose faith in the them somehow…

    Well, I hope they are good anyway :p

    • Reply June 17, 2014

      L.

      I admit i am missing the passion too

    • Reply June 18, 2014

      ohm image

      The real key is having them in the hand. The first thing I wanted to do was take a VW to them and my Beyerdynamic headphones… but realised that wouldn’t be good in the long run.

      Personally, I find the design ‘timeless’. The frames really harken back to early microphone-crossover headphone designs from WWII and earlier, but only in a general sense.

      You will see when I finish the review. These are very nice phones and should appeal to a greater audience.

      • Reply June 18, 2014

        dalethorn

        I still have doubts about that built-in circuit board to control muting.

  • Reply July 9, 2014

    Carl A

    @ohm_image:disqus
    How long do you think it might be before your review is up?
    I for one am very interested in reading extended thoughts on the ‘phones as I personally love the designs, DO get their ‘vision’, and also find them very responsive to questions.
    Review!

    • Reply July 9, 2014

      L.

      Nathan?

    • Reply July 29, 2014

      ohm image

      Hello Carl, sorry for the late late late reply. I am hoping to get started on a production unit in the next week or so. As so, I hope to get a review up at the end of August if possible. I’m very sorry for this late reply.

      • Reply September 5, 2014

        Daphen

        End of august is here man. 🙁

        • Reply September 5, 2014

          ohm image

          … hope has moved to mid September.

          • Reply September 5, 2014

            Daphen

            Damn, I’m eager anyways. 🙂 Still waiting on some answers over at reddit by the way, if you’re the same guy. 🙂
            I have literally been sitting with my finger on the check out button on Amazon for the past five days. The bummer is customs when shipping to Sweden, especially when buying a headphone that I can’t even audition first.

            • Reply September 5, 2014

              ohm image

              I am the same guy on Reddit. I am not clever enough to keep up with new posts, though. Let me do my best to improve. And… are you not up really late?

              • Reply September 5, 2014

                Daphen

                It’s okay, I bet you try really hard as it is. I heard your podcast by the way, great stuff.
                Well, I’m a webdeveloper so I do most of my work at home and I find my creativity at night so it tends to get that way sometimes. 2:40 am. 🙂

                • Reply October 14, 2014

                  ohm image

                  Check the homepage. MH40 is up today. MH30 in a little while. The short: love for the MH40. To be honest, I think MH30 won’t wow the audiophile nearly as much.

                  I’m sorry for the long wait. But I thank you for your patience.

                  • Reply October 14, 2014

                    Daphen

                    Cool! Thanks for the alert. 🙂

          • Reply October 6, 2014

            Daphen

            Soo, what happened? 😀

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