Master & Dynamic MH40: Boxing Your HD600s

The Sound

I reckon that medium-large headed people will get more low-frequency sound pressure from the MH40 than will narrow-headed people. When I move the cups up so that my lobes touch the bottom edge of the pads, bass pressure gets a little bit meatier. Either way, I doubt duffy duff bass heads will be really into the MH40.

And that is perfectly okay. These ‘phones sound great- if you’re a normal Tom.

I think it would be fare to call the MH40 chatty; although on second thought, friendly may be a better term. They’ve got the right amount of bass, mids, and treble to keep your music enjoyable. Contrast collects mainly between high bass/low mids, and mid treble/high treble. Essentially, you get seamless transitions and never have to bother with fuss.

Bass is fast, reasonably full of slam, and full. But it isn’t duffy. Textured it may be, but overly organic it isn’t. Which means that it never sounds too throaty. Mids aren’t crunched, and highs are pretty detailed and reasonably extended.

If it weren’t for the feel of leather on my heads, I’d swear the MH40 was a semi-closed version of the Sennheiser HD600. The major difference is that low-mid mids are lusher than the ones in the HD600, and highs are not quite as dry. That, or something bastardly close. Naturally, it isn’t as open-sounding, nor does it get away with much upper bass aggression. But, in the main, it follows the same vein. And that means that it sounds great with every genre you throw at it.

Male vocals are edgy and authoritative. Female vocals lusty. There’s enough air between them and the surrounds to get really into the lyric. But most addictive are guitar solos and percussion. Percussion has forward edge, but not too much sound pressure. You won’t get achey-ear even after serving up young Lars Ulrich. Naturally his older self gets on well with any album from the MH40.

While it’s personal, I’m most attracted to Interpol, to Dire Straits, to Broken Social scene when I’ve got the MH40 on. Jazz is pretty awesome, but borders the pat. It sounds good. Good enough that you’ll come back time and time again. But, those the crazy dynamics and edge that you have grown used to with your K701 and DT880 will not be present in the MH40.

I have a feeling that transitional Grado users will dig the sound. Beyerdynamic users will likely pass over. The cleanliness of percussions, and edgy vocals, not to mention a foot-tapping, but none-too-big bass, are key elements that make the MH40 sound freaking awesome. There is just no effluvium up top to ruin anything. That said, I’ve heard that some users feel there is sibilance up top.

To them I say: you should have quit your Beats a long time ago.

The MH40 is a well-balanced, if not fully neutral headphone. It sounds good. As it pertains to balance and emotion, it may well be benchmark-worthy. And that is its key weakness. It doesn’t stick its neck out anywhere. There’s nothing to fault, but also, nothing to fall completely in love with.

Part of me wishes it was sibilant, or that its bass did duff out. I’d have a reason to choose it over a HD600 whilst at home. Often, I do, but it comes down to the following:

Am I in need of a semi-sealed headphone?
Am I tired of massive headphones?
Am I in need of easy-on-easy-off music?

Am I plugged into an amp?

If the answer to the first three is yes, then I head to MH40. If not, it’s a trade off. The MH40 isn’t overly sensitive, and isn’t hard to drive. I get great volume from a Mezzi Hifi AK100 at volume levels from 30-50% and on an iPhone at slightly lower volume settings. The MH40 doesn’t pick out too much hiss in bad sources, and doesn’t really sound ‘way better’ with high-end amps.

It pairs well with most equipment it’s come across, but, depending on mood, may pair best with brighter sources. On the other hand, it does great with darker sources, too.

It’s precisely this tendency to sound good with anything and to present no faults that may fail to endear it to some listeners. To others, it will be a staple. I’ve not yet decided.

The Meh

I’ve got no complaints about MH40’s sound. It’s got enough energy to keep me listening. It’s not fatiguing. Its extension both below and above, is good. And as long as you’re in for a friendly listen, it is lots of fun. I do wish Master & Dynamic had put a bit more effort into protecting their awesome cable system. Maybe further versions could make use of countersunk cable channels on the top of each ear cup. I also wish it would scrunch a bit to fit narrower heads better.

But let’s be honest: MH40 is a fun-to-use headphone. It sounds good, looks great, and does what it’s supposed to.

The Conclusion

I’m just not convinced that a headphone that affords this much musical enjoyment is good for the creative mind. It is distracting. I mean, hell: it’s taken me like three months to write this review. My feet just can’t stop tapping. My shoulders keep doing what my wife calls a ‘love-the-music-shrug’. I’m loving my music more, and reaching less and less for my staple headphones. If you’re an audiophile worried that a fashion-conscious brand won’t ‘get’ you, don’t. Master & Dynamic have your needs well tended to.

And, with their first product, they have skunked my expectations.

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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.

65 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.

  • 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!!

          • Reply October 25, 2017

            Jochem Goldenbeld

            Im confused- This review says they sound excellent. But you say they dont hold up against competitors. I guess its just opinion in the end?

            • Reply October 25, 2017

              ohm image

              Absolutely it is opinion in the end.

            • Reply October 26, 2017

              dale thorn

              The MH40 is a good deal if you can get one for ~$200 USD, but today there are much better options for their listed retail price.

  • Reply October 25, 2017

    Jochem Goldenbeld

    How’s the soundstage?

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