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

M&D: Naturally, we gave our headphones a specific sound profile. We gathered tons of amps and headphones and loaded up our favourite music. Our first job was to pinpoint the sound we wanted. Then we could define what we didn’t want. Like, we didn’t want a sound that was too close like your ears were being smothered. When those two things were done, we went out to create the sound we wanted. 

We spent hours upon hours upon hours tweaking this, and modifying that; we don’t want our headphones to be defined as genre headphones. What we do want is a warm rich sound that makes music feel live and alive. I think we achieved that.

HFN: What other unique things have you brought to the market?

M&D: We are obsessed the interaction between sound and creativity. We want to help people be creative. No one else positions themselves this way. We focus on timelessness and the interaction between the human and the hardware he or she is hooked up to. Our headphones help create a creative space and that, in turn, helps people to unleash creativity. 

I guess you could say that we want to aid the connection people feel between their music and what they do and make. That is one of the reasons our headphones isolate well. People need to be able to tune out the sound around them out so they can do the best work possible. 

HFN: How many Bothans died in the procuring of the strange three-pronged screw heads under the leather ear pads?

M&D: 8 Bothans died- a number which gets no such pleasure from us. But on a ratio per headset, we feel it was worth the sacrifice.

HFN: Okay, this is a question directed at each of you. What is the most important thing in a headphone for you? 

Scott: Definitely how a headphone feels when they first go on. 

Drew: Holistic design. A lot of stuff out there focuses on one thing and one thing only. Very technical but no flare, no time spent on detail. I think a headphone should punch all the necessary buttons.

Matt: Definitely how they sound? Music is such a huge part of my life. I listen to it all the time: on the subway, when walking, studying, and working, I’m always listening to it. I’m one of those vinyl guys. I track various parts of my life to the music I was listening at the time. Music really moves me.

HFN: I just thought of this: if you had to listen to one album forever, until you died, what would it be?

Scott: LCD Soundsystem “This Is Happening”

Drew: Andrew Byrd “Break It Yourself”

Matt: B.B. King & Kings of Electric Blues “Live at the Regal”

HFN: Do you think MH40/30 should meet the standards of the most finicky heads out there?

M&D: We are shortening the headband so that the MH40 should fit even the smallest heads comfortably. That done, our headphones will be really comfortable on any head out there.

HFN: Why are you so concentrated on creatives?

M&D: As we move into a society where work spaces open up, we think that creative people will most enjoy our stuff. Our headphones help them tune out sundry conversations in collaborative work spaces around them and tune into their work. We designed our headphones to meet our needs. We are creating something for people like us. We are our demographic. And we think that everyone wants to be creative. And we want our phones to be part of the toolset that enables their creativity. 

The other thing is that focus is paramount. If you start with intent, you can focus. By targeting a demographic, we were able to storyboard what we want, and sift out the stuff that we didn’t. We could really hone in on the problems we wanted to solve. And we want to make stuff that really connects to our customers. We want customers to return. It is kind of a Leica approach, where relationship and focusing on the long-term trumps a lot of other stuff.

—-

After thanking the lads, I signed off, poured myself a vodka, and tuned into some of my favourite tunes. Indeed, the MH40 do give off a warm, live sound; it is nuanced, smooth, and punchy where needed. Stay tuned for HFN’s full review. 

An interview with Master & Dynamic – The Price Of 8 Bothans
3.3 (65.71%) 7 vote[s]

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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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