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.
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.
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.