From the moment the founder of Master & Dynamic walked into Dijital Fix back in June of 2014, there was a clear sense that this new start-up had a very strong vision for what they were creating. Jonathan walked into the shop for our meeting with a crew looking like the Williamsburg version of "Entourage". Recently transplanted from the NYC myself, I was somewhat comforted by this first impression. They had just come from a meeting that had clearly gone well in Cupertino. I was excited to get my hands on every product from this company, and that was even before they opened the Halliburton case.
Presentation isn't everything, but to Master & Dynamic, it's just as important as the contents of your presentation, and vice versa. I've owned Dijital Fix for 9 years, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've been able to hold a product in my hands and not immediately pick out some cost-cutting measure, shortcut, design mis-step, or some other thing I don't like about it from a personal and professional standpoint. This was one of those times, and I hadn't even tried them on yet. Of course, once I did, I had only amazing things to say.
I'm talking about the MH40 and MH30 headphones above, and today, I was able to experience that same feeling again with the unboxing of the $549 MW60 Bluetooth Headphones, the latest release from Master & Dynamic.
The Outside World
I'm wearing them as I write this. They're blocking out just enough of the "noise" around me, including the constant keyboard clicks, doors opening and closing, sometimes slamming. The person sitting a few desks away from me is talking on the phone, but I can't hear a word. I'm approached from behind and it takes a tap on the shoulder to get my attention. This is of course with the headphones playing as these are not active noise cancelling headphones. Shouts and raised voices make it through to my ears, as do louder sounds like alarms and sirens, as they should. Putting these headphones on feels like I'm turning on my focus.
The Inside World
I started off the journey by playing a song I recently took a liking to by First Aid Kit called "My Silver Lining" which is like a Swedish duo version of Neko Case. Haunting, reverberating violins and strong female vocals in duet along with guitars and drums. I've listened to this on MH40s, Grado SR325s, and KEF LS50 loudspeakers. Compared to the MH40s, it has a much more full reproduction of the sound.
Transitioning over to something more electronic to test the low end, I put on Esquis(e) by Valentin Stip. Very few headphones perform well with this track without obliterating the rest of the sounds due to the the sub-bass frequencies that make reproduction very hard without anything short of a quality external pre-amp.
One of my favorite things about Bluetooth headphones in general is that due to their internally amplified nature, they don't rely on weak and often neglected components in mobile devices: the DAC and headphone amplifier. By listening to music through a pair of self-amplified headphones, you're using the equivalent of a pair of studio monitors that have had their drivers, case, amplifier, and factory EQ tuned together by the engineers. This goes a long way in making them sound fantastic.
Right out of the box without any software EQ adjustments, they sound incredible. Bass is present and with definition, but not overwhelming or over-emphasized. Treble is clear and powerful without sounding shrill or out of balance. The vocals were spot-on and felt like I was standing in a recording session.
The details have always been important to Master & Dynamic. Removable and replaceable earcups and cables. Serialized and engraved. Volume buttons that click with satisfaction and obvious purpose. Earcups that don't suffocate your head while still leaving breathing room for important outside air and necessary intrusions which can be worn for hours without fatigue.
The weight is substantial enough to feel them, but not too heavy that they press on the top of your head and cause discomfort or fall off your head when you tilt your head forward.
They are not small headphones, but their visual footprint is actually smaller than the MH40s due to clever curves and material changes. They don't look like a set of pilot headsets.
Let's be honest, if you're even reading a review on headphones like these, you're not looking for the cheapest Bluetooth headphones you can find, or even the ones with the best value. The Master & Dynamic MW60 is neither of these. These headphones are built for the person with a no-compromise attitude when it comes to design, performance, style, construction, and comfort, all in one. It could be argued that better sound can be had at a better price, but at the time of this writing, I can guarantee that all five of those vectors will not intersect at any other point than the MW60s.
If Apple produced headphones, these are exactly the headphones you'd expect to receive. Down to the details of the machined antenna system and volume buttons. It makes me rather disappointed that instead, Apple is churning out millions of pairs of Beats instead.
There was no doubt in my mind that these headphones would be great. I've known about their existence for nearly a year and couldn't wait for the final product. Despite my overall satisfaction with them in just about every area, I was initially a bit surprised at the price. However, once I experienced them in person, and compared them to the $399 MH40s and other headphones at the $400 price-point, I'm inclined to believe that these are every bit worth the price. At $549, a $150 premium for Bluetooth connectivity is not excessive by any means, especially when considering they've spared no expense in equipping them with the highest-quality codec (aptX), MFi certifications (to show battery level on iOS status bars), and solid engineering and construction. They work without battery power, as any headphone should, and sound great whether powered by their internal components or external ones.
My only wish for these headphones is that they had optional active noise cancelling and multiple microphones for higher quality voice conversations. Though the voice quality is great as it is, in a louder environment it will naturally have trouble distinguishing signal from noise. I generally hate active noise cancelling for the "pressure" it creates and it always destroys the sound quality when it's enabled, but it can be useful at times and I feel they could've included it here as an option at this price point.
We've been proud to offer the Master & Dynamic line at Dijital Fix since launch. You can purchase a pair at their brand page here.