Master & Dynamic MH30 – Goldilocks

Disclaimer: Master & Dynamic supplied the MH30 free of charge for the purposes of this review. It retails for around 350$ USD.

Because Master & Dynamic’s MH series share the same metal upon metal upon leather exterior, and because each one comes in a nice box with great literature, clear typography, and succinct goals, I’ll try to keep this quick.

If you want to know more about the above, read our review of the Master & Dynamic MH40.

The Master & Dynamic MH30 is smaller and more portable than the MH40. Its ears are round, not oblong. Its pads rest on, not around the ears. Its yolks are shorter. It even folds down tight. These are some serious differences. But the bulk of what made the MH40 and MH headphone makes the MH30 an MH headphone.

The leather quick-swap pads made the cut. So did the martian antennae, and the 130º swivelling fulcrums. Ditto the user-replaceable arm bolts, and the strange y-shaped ones hiding the drivers. It is a welcome return to a pretty welcoming series.

Speaking of series: part of what made the MH40 such a delight to use was that it could be daisy-chained to other MH headphones. Providing you’ve got ample voltage and current from an output, an MH30 can join the same party. I’ve daisy chained four MH headphones together to no ill downwind effect. Volume decreases with every extra connection, but you expected that anyway.

Regarding the MH30’s foldability. Its hinges crunch up until the phones kiss leather in the middle. Considering how solid the MH frame is, it is quite a feat. And, thanks to the nicely-tooled aluminium cups, a new fear arises: scratched metal. While the MH30 folds well, I hesitate to fold it. It looks nice as it is. No need to ding it up. I reckon that fold-happy customers will want to invest in a thin textile sheet to slip between left and right cups. That or push one, or both, MH30 cup into Apple iPod Socks. Either way will keep dings at bay.

The final non-cosmetic difference is that the MH30 does without the mute switch of its older, oblong sibling. If you daisy chain, there’s no muting your headphone; it’s pull the plug or pull off the set. Personally, I prefer the simplicity of this system to that of the MH40.

But enough with the stuff I get off on; let’s talk sound.

Sound

Other than trading the oblong for the disc-sahped, this really is the biggest thing between the MH30 and the MH40. The latter is voiced somewhat similarly to Sennheiser’s aswesome HD600, maybe a tad more laid back. Both headphones isolate a great deal more, but the MH40 is much more an all-rounder. There’s not a genre it upsets.

Not that the MH30 upsets anyone, anywhere.

At times, the MH30’s soundstage is pretty wide, at others, it’s stuffy. Well, not stuffy, but upper bass can tend to flab when given the wrong music. That and vocal and surrounding frequencies can, given the wrong music, bunch a bit in the centre. That music? bassy stuff. Trance, some IDM, American popular hip hop. When fed something less contemporary like Dire Straits, you’d swear your ears were fronting 2 speakers with a metre between them. Not bad at all.

Lows are most punchy in the upper and mid bass regions. It makes for foot-tapping classical rock. It’s not the sort of low-end reproduction that brings out really low vibrations.

More sound impressions after the jump:

Master & Dynamic MH30 – Goldilocks
4.5 (90%) 6 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.

14 Comments

  • Reply November 21, 2014

    George Lai

    Apple iPod Socks? That’s a blast from the past!

    • Reply November 22, 2014

      ohm image

      Never left the house without them till recently.

  • Reply November 21, 2014

    dalethorn

    $350 for an on-ear portable headphone puts it at the top of the on-ear price tier I would think. Which means the sound should be exceptional. The Sennheiser Momentum on-ear sells for little more than half of this M&D, and while the physical quality of the Moe Junior is really great, the sound isn’t so great.

    • Reply November 22, 2014

      ohm image

      It’s sound is exceptional, but not for bass-heavy music. It’s twangy and full of verve. Also, it is a little short-sighted to call a headphone’s or a speaker’s or any output device’s sound based on price. Certain companies market cheap stuff with crazy sound quality. Certain companies make upscale stuff that appeals to more than just audiophiles. Some make expensive phones that appeal only to collectors.

      I would imagine that a person in the market for M&D products isn’t the sort of person that buys based solely on price and sound performance. And if that is the product they made, I’d hesitate to review it.

      Those companies are a dime a dozen, and it is tiring to review another product that sounds great but…

      • Reply November 22, 2014

        dalethorn

        There are different kinds of customers. Customers for example who want only one headphone, or one at-home and one portable, to whom a “really good” price saves them precious funds. Then the other type who aren’t limited by budget (not absolutely) to whom price isn’t the biggest factor. For me price is a big factor in determining value, and the other huge factor is “how long will it continue to provide the sound I hear when it’s new?” — I’m not aware of how to rate a headphone’s value besides price and performance, assuming it fits OK etc.

        • Reply November 24, 2014

          ohm image

          I think that is the primary area I least understand. A company that prides itself on making cheap stuff that competes on price is in dire straits when another company comes along and does what it has done good, only better.

          It is a far better thing to make a brand, a good brand, a trustworthy brand. If you can, make a lust-worthy brand. Leica, not Samsung. Porsche not Ford or Toyota.

          The car doesn’t go any faster, but it is iterative, and stands upon a name that people love and sing the praises of. You don’t have to compete based on price. You compete because people want you.

          M&H are not making an everyday cheap-but-best-performance product. And thank god they are not. I’m sure a 250$ headphone with the same sound could come along. I’m absolutely convinced that headphone would come from a company that cares not a whit about where their brand is in 5 years, or ten years, and will give the guarantees, the attention to polish, and detail (manufacture and ease of use), that a brand like M&H have put to it.

          If sound quality was the only thing that matters, we’d all be using one headphone from one brand, and it would be made of recycled rice paper and dead cigarettes.

          It’s the same thing in shoes, in clothes, in cars, in houses, in pens and pencils, in cameras, in lenses… some companies choose to sell massively to the mass market, or massively to the geek market. And some design and build their products for a certain type of person, a targeted market that they believe in.

          Brands that do that well and follow through last the ages and garner success by way of performance as a brand, as a model, and more. And they don’t have to look out for cheap-as-chips competitors.

          And personally, I very much dislike companies that do their best only to perform well based on dollar amounts. There’s nothing in there.

          • Reply November 24, 2014

            dalethorn

            I have (and had) a pretty good selection of Beyer headphones, and anyone can see that while the T1, T90, DT770, Custom One Pro, and half a dozen others use that same ‘T’ yoke on the headband/earcups, only the $1400 T1 is really good physical quality. The rest of them are pretty sloppy, albeit somewhat functional, and it’s *very* obvious that Beyer is squeezing every last drop of economy into those headphones so they can continue to assemble them in Germany. So does that mean they won’t last in the business? Hardly. Real companies in the real world cut every corner possible. What companies don’t cut quality much (if at all)? Louis Vuitton, Rolex, Leica …..

            • Reply November 24, 2014

              ohm image

              I think Beyer have fallen for the lure of the mass market. They are very different because they make for consumers/high-end geeks, rather than connoisseurs. Most headphone companies fall into the same group.

              And that is fine.

              By the way, I’ve owned a number of DT series and never had the t-junction fail, nor met anyone but you that has had that happen. I never baby my stuff. Still, Beyer are a mass market hifi brand. I don’t get the vibe that MH are going for the same thing. They are targeting specific users with needs that extend beyond just sound quality and geek street cred.

              • Reply November 24, 2014

                dalethorn

                Beyer are a highly professional company who distribute to pro users mainly. Their headphones are not found in any of the big-name stores like Best Buy, Apple, Walmart etc. Mass market brands include Sennheiser and Beats, which are typically found at all of those stores. MH, from what I gather of your explanation, are a ‘botique’ brand.

  • Reply November 22, 2014

    digitldlnkwnt

    That was very “glass half-full” review. I dig how you kept it positive and objective. Personally i will still with my Sen. Amperiors with PlusSound Apollonian Cable.

    • Reply November 22, 2014

      ohm image

      I think MH’s design came through perfectly with the MH40. The MH30 is a nicer headphone for out and about, but the MH40 is a replacement for a lot of staple headphones.

      I can’t say that I prefer the MH40 absolutely. I love that the MH30 wakes with certain music, and puts certain music away. It is superbly made, and beautiful (more so than the MH40). It folds well and is easy to clean and use.

      But if you fold it too much you will nail the paint.

      I wish more companies attacked mid-high-end headphones with the same attention to usability that MH do. And, that they worked on image. I love Senn, but only certain products. I think MH have a good future ahead.

  • This is really good, thank for sharing it!!

  • Reply December 1, 2018

    Mark Chan

    Great review… tangential yet to the point
    I’m sitting here listening to some new flamenco artists and then some Ravel and then now Jennifer Warnes (!) on my MH40s and was wondering if I should spring for the MH30 for a change…
    Yeah, I’m a serious composer but I’m also a child of the times and I sample every blooming thing in this garden of weird flowers that our world has become…
    The MH30 is intriguingly attractive all of a sudden.
    Thanks for this review
    Mark Chan
    http://www.markchan.com

    • Reply December 2, 2018

      Mark Chan

      OK, precisely because I do sample every blooming thing in this garden of weird flowers in the world’s music… I sprang for the MH 30 … a half price deal on Amazon… couldn’t resist.
      Let’s see how it goes when it arrives in 5 days.

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