Master & Dynamic MH40: Boxing Your HD600s

Disclaimers: Master & Dynamic sent both prototypes, and final production units of the MH40. I briefly covered the former here. I also did an interview with the lads behind the MH40 here.

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.

The Marque

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 Cable

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.

The Chassis

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.

The Fit

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

Master & Dynamic MH40: Boxing Your HD600s
4 (80%) 13 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.

61 Comments

  • Reply October 14, 2014

    Marc

    I can’t wait for the local stores to get these. I need a nice musical closed back to pair with my DX90.

    • Reply October 15, 2014

      ohm image

      I checked online and it seems the MH40 currently is out of stock. I have no idea of production capacity, but I do know that these are pretty nice phones to use for months on end, and would probably do well in the right retail space.

      Remember, MH40 isn’t fully closed. Or if it is, it has leaks. It blocks about 12-15 decibels of noise. As long as you don’t plan on using them in very loud places, they should work well.

  • Reply October 15, 2014

    Eyal1983

    I didn’t quite understand…
    does it has less bass, or does it has more bass, in comparison to the HD600 ?

    • Reply October 15, 2014

      ohm image

      Without measuring I can’t say which for sure. The way it hits is different, mostly due to being semi-closed, rather than wide open. The HD600 bass seems more spatially detailed, and diffuse, where the MH40 is more direct.

      I’m not sure which will translate to ‘more’ for you as I’ve met people that feel that diffuse bass is gives more feel, while others feel differently. Both are foot-tapping headphones.

      • Reply October 15, 2014

        Eyal1983

        I had a problem with the HD600’s –
        it’s combination of warmth and mid-bass made me “hear” too much mid-bass. and it was annoying for me.
        Question is – might the same occur with the MH40’s ?

        • Reply October 15, 2014

          ohm image

          Midbass isn’t a problem with the MH40, although I never found it a problem with the HD600, either. That said, transitional frequencies are smoother via the MH40 and shouldn’t therefore pose problems with overly warm character.

          • Reply October 15, 2014

            Eyal1983

            So which is brighter – between the HD600 and the MH40 ?

            • Reply October 15, 2014

              Eyal1983

              just realized this isn’t for me

              http://www.soundandvision.com/content/meet-master-and-dynamics-mh40-high-end-headphones-styling-match

              “The MH40 are tuned for folks who like pop, hip-hop, and dance. They have a distinct bass bump…”

              • Reply October 16, 2014

                ohm image

                I love when websites/people that obviously don’t listen to dance music, or to hip-hop lump the two together. And pop? What does that mean? The MH40 is fast enough for hard trance, but doesn’t quite have the edge for it, and may not quite have the super-hard, but fast-hitting bass necessary for certain types of house.

                Pop? Anything can sound good for pop. But what in the hell does ‘pop’ even mean? Popular jazz? Popular top-40? Popular rock? Popular folk? Does it mean j-pop, or a-pop?

                And headphones that sound good for hip-hop rarely sound great for dance.

                The above was written by a ridiculous person.

                • Reply October 16, 2014

                  dalethorn

                  When someone has to have an exact balance of bass, mids, treble, impact, warmth, speed, and everything else, and any of those that’s off a little bit will kill the deal, what can you do? I used to sell computers, and I thought that was difficult. Selling headphones in a store would be much harder.

                  • Reply October 16, 2014

                    ohm image

                    I would imagine so. I’ve never heard a perfectly balanced earphone/headphone, and not sure I’d want to. It’s one of the great things about speakers/headphones: making your own sound is what you have to do, what you exist to do.

                    Some aim at perfect balance, others at feeling, still others aim for contrast, or the powering through of extremities over the mids, or to strike a psychoacoustic balance.

                    Still, I’d imagine that there are jerks in the audio sales departments that just say: this is the best phone for your money… and answer all your questions with a ‘yes’.

                    • March 9, 2015

                      Shoghi Sadeghi Afshar

                      Can you please direct me to the best open back cans for trance/house? Price and amping not an issue.

                      As you say, I want clean fast hitting, yet hard hitting bass, and either neutral everything else, or maybe a hump in upper mids and treble for some energy.

                    • March 9, 2015

                      Headfonia_L.

                      First headphone that comes in mind is the DT990/600

                    • March 13, 2015

                      Shoghi Sadeghi Afshar

                      I used to own the DT990 /600, a bit too extreme in its bass and treble V shape, but it was definitely one of my favorite cans.

                      Any suggestions for something slightly more balanced than DT990, still open back, still big quick bass and quick transient response?

                    • March 13, 2015

                      dalethorn

                      Open headphones that fit that description must be pretty rare. The Philips X2 – isn’t that semi-open? Maybe that would do.

                    • March 13, 2015

                      Headfonia_L.

                      or the HD600?

                    • March 16, 2015

                      Shoghi Sadeghi Afshar

                      Yeah I’ve been considering all of X2, K712, HD600, but they are all so different and none of them seems to be exactly what I want. Oh well.

                    • April 22, 2015

                      ohm image

                      You know, believe it or not, Grado 325s, DT880/600/300, are very good: lots of space, not too much mids, no v-shape.

                    • April 22, 2015

                      ohm image

                      The X2 is a bit too warm. I’m a trance head and find it, while great for everything else, way too thick for trance.

                    • March 13, 2015

                      socks mk2

                      AKG K712 Pro might be good alternative to what you’re looking for. I love my Fidelio X2’s over my DT990/600 for everything. The K712 has more detail/clarity than the X2. The X2 might have more sub-bass. I can’t recall from memory. I enjoy my X2 compared to my HD600 as well. The HD600 sounds too laid-back, lifeless and boring. No fun! The X2 has a little more sub-bass extension and noticeable volume in the bass over the HD600. Mids aren’t recessed either. There isn’t a treble emphasis on the X2 either. I’d say they’re balanced with a slight boost in the bass preventing me from deeming them neutral. Definitely not V-shaped though.

                    • March 13, 2015

                      dalethorn

                      The K712 bass would not fit the description that the OP gave.

                    • March 13, 2015

                      socks mk2

                      I have to disagree based on how I interpreted their description of what they want.

                      Less extreme, less v shaped, more balanced, neutral OR with a treble hump and great with trance/house in an open back design.

                      Now since everything is personal preference, the DT990 is awful to my ears. The K712 did everything better to my ears and was easily more enjoyable for the exact same music. It all depends on how you want to hear the music.

                      L threw the HD600 into the mix and I described why I wouldn’t consider it for his desires either based on what I have heard with my own ears.

                      I do think they can’t go wrong with the X2. I’m selling or have already sold all of my other pairs of headphones because the X2 does everything better for my personal preference and musical taste.

                    • March 13, 2015

                      dalethorn

                      “….hard hitting bass, and either neutral everything else, or maybe a hump in upper mids and treble for some energy.”

                      Hard hitting bass is not the K712 – neutral is for “everything else”.

                    • April 22, 2015

                      Devon Day

                      I personally don’t think one will ever exist. In terms of stereo imagining, soundstage, and detail, I believe the Audeze LCD-2 is as close as you can get. However, its brightness in the upper midrange turns out to be its greatest issue.

  • Reply October 20, 2014

    harmolodics

    The sound description seems similar to the HE300. How do they compare?

    • Reply October 22, 2014

      ohm image

      I’m sorry I don’t have the HE300.

  • Reply October 20, 2014

    Geet

    comparison with he-400/he-400i ?

    • Reply October 22, 2014

      ohm image

      Again, I’m sorry but I don’t have this headphone.

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  • Reply December 18, 2014

    Warren Nguyen

    Well I have both 600 and 650 and I love the fact that these 2 headphones have such a huge headroom for amplification. Just wonder how well does MH40 scale with amplification.
    Thanks

    • Reply December 29, 2014

      ohm image

      It isn’t a hard-to-drive headphone, but I think you will find that the MH40 yields better results with better output equipment.

  • Reply January 10, 2015

    Dan

    I can hear you gushing all the way here!

    • Reply March 13, 2015

      ohm image

      I’ve been pretty damn excited by the MH40. I’m waiting to hear what Sean Chan thinks of them.

      • Reply April 22, 2015

        Devon Day

        As am I. Just brought the VMODA M100 with the XL earpads. Does help the bass beast in rounding out soundstage and tonal balance. Cannot wait to pit these two head to head.

  • Reply April 22, 2015

    Devon Day

    Excellent review! I appreciate how well you added humor into your piece. As a fellow audiophile, I have to say I am quite pleased with your work; as for Master and Dynamic. Here’s hoping they can give us a larger padding option down the road.

    • Reply September 21, 2015

      ohm image

      Late as usual. Thank you for the comment. I’m still quite happy with the padding. But my head may just be made for them.

      • Reply September 21, 2015

        Headfonia_L.

        Are you already convinced to let me send you comments to your mailbox automatically or not?

  • Reply July 3, 2015

    michael gomez

    Hey I hope some one responds to me I really like these heads phone but I recently am looking up reviews for music that’s my kinda taste so could someone who knows what there talking about help me my favorite music styles are rock alternative rock metal alternative metal punk metal core and reggae to give you example of bands rise-against incubus foo fighters chevelle god-smack slipknot chevelle the killers advenged-sevenfold and sublime…any ways I’m asking if these head phones would fit my needs of my music taste. And if not please recommend me some good ones my price range is about 400$ thanks in advance

    • Reply July 3, 2015

      dalethorn

      I wanted so much to justify getting one of these, since I have so many other headphones from $400 and above. But based on everything I’ve read so far, it doesn’t look distinctly better than a NAD Viso HP50, Philips X2, MrSpeakers Mad Dog, Oppo PM3, B&O H6, several others….

      • Reply July 3, 2015

        Headfonia_L.

        That’s my impression too, Dale

      • Reply March 10, 2016

        ohm image

        I’d say it is in the same league.

        • Reply March 10, 2016

          dalethorn

          I wanted to promote it, assuming it was a good quality can, but M&D wouldn’t loan me one, saying I was “not a good fit” for their headphone.

  • Reply April 15, 2016

    Tegar M K P

    In terms of SQ, how it compares with HD600 and AKG K550?

    • Reply April 15, 2016

      dalethorn

      I only heard the MH40 at the Apple store. I own the MH30 now, but I decided against the MH40 for the same reason – dull sound. The HD600 and K550 are different, but both are good examples of hi-fi sound. M&D just aren’t competing in that arena.

      • Reply April 16, 2016

        Tegar M K P

        How about Philips X2 compared to HD600 and K550?

        • Reply April 17, 2016

          dalethorn

          HD600 – classic neutral. If the K550 is the same as the K553, then it’s similar to the HD600 except better bass. Similar could mean a lot of things, but I speak of neutrality, more or less. The X2 goes darker and less neutral than the K553, but is a great sound for those who like darker.

          • Reply April 17, 2016

            Tegar M K P

            How about soundstage?

            • Reply April 18, 2016

              dalethorn

              Soundstage of either is good, but less colorations always means better soundstage, unless a fakey soundstage is created with big echo-ey earcups and other sonic treatments.

              • Reply April 18, 2016

                Tegar M K P

                Thank You!!

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