REVIEW: MASTER & DYNAMIC MW60 HEADPHONES
New York based audio company Master & Dynamic are a vision of class, delivering beautiful and well-thought out products in their impressive line-up of headphones and IEMs. Although a newcomer to the world of audio, they have quickly learnt the ropes through releasing precision-designed boutique headphones with a sound to match. Their website, itself, shows off their class and flair in creativity with a clear and ambitious goal; to marry sound with design.
With brand new distribution in Australia, the brand is still finalising retail outlets along with local pricing.
Recently released was the MW60, a gloriously built wireless over ear headphone and successor to the MH40 headphones. Like the MH40, the MW60 is built with premium materials in mind but also with in-built Bluetooth capabilities and a novel design. The MW60 features 45mm neodymium drivers and comes in at a relatively light 345 grams.
The MW60 arrived in a neatly packaged box with the headphone clearly seen on the outer box insert with its key features. Inside, there is a hinged matte-black box where the headphones rest on a foam insert next to a cylindrical leather container.
Within this container is a standard detachable 1.25m cable (when the headphone is used in wire mode). Also included is a micro USB charging cable to power up the headphones to 16 hours of battery in wireless mode.
The Design & Build
Aesthetics are outstanding on the MW60 with them essentially being cut from the same cloth as its predecessor, the MH40.
Unlike the MH40, the MW60 only come in 2 colour schemes for the time being; gunmetal/ black leather and silver metal/brown leather. The headband is constructed from a premium grade cowhide and the ear-pads themselves made from lambskin covered memory foam.
The hinges are made from stainless steel with the ability to easily be retracted and extended. Overall, the design is very sleek with a build that is set to last for an extensive period of time.
Comfort & Isolation
At first, the headband was quite grating in terms of comfort but when the headband was adjusted all the way up, this quickly subsided. To get the best comfort out of these, it is essential to make sure there is no overhang in the stainless steel hinges so as not to put the full weight of the headphone on the small headband alone.
The lambskin treated memory foam ear-pads are amazingly comfortable. While the headphone itself was designed as an on-ear, my ears were able to sit flush inside the pads making for a comfortable listening experience. Like the MH40s, the weight distribution of headphone is good. However, at 345 grams, it is certainly not the lightest headphone I have tried out. Thus during long listening periods, I have found that I needed to take the headphone off and readjust because of pressure from the small headband.
In terms of isolation, these are not the best at closing yourself from the outside world. A moderately high amount of volume is needed to drown out sound from the outside. Some sound does leak out if the volume is too high and thus a balance needs to be obtained where there is ambient noise.
Sound impressions (wired)
Bass extends moderately low with decent decay and slam. However, it should be noted that this is not the headphone for bassheads who require authority and deep reaching lows to satisfy their cravings. Instead, the mid-bass is relatively extensive employing good articulacy and rumble. The sub-bass, however, is not as extensive which was evident in Three 6 Mafia’s “Late Nite Tip” where the sub-bass rumble did not deliver as much presence or heft as the V-Moda Crossfade M100s.
To its credit, however, the bass was neatly kept in check without ever becoming distorted or downright messy. Like the MH40, the MH60 has a respectable decay to its bass. However, it does succumb to both the Fostex TH500RP and HiFiMAN HE-400 in sheer tautness and decay speeds.
Full-bodied and smooth, the midrange of the MW60 delivers in spade with a natural tonality that is neither harsh nor abrasive. Like the MH40 before it, the MW60 can be best compared with the Pendulumic Stance S1 headphones. However, as with the MH40, the MW60 bests the S1 in the aspects of micro-detail retrieval and dynamism retaining a more airy and open sound in the process. The slight bass bleeding into the lower midrange gives this section some warmth and aids in the engaging tonality.
Unlike the less expensive HE-400S however, the MW60’s vocals are much more upfront and dynamic. This could be regarded as a positive for those wishing for attack and energy. However, it could be considered a downside for those wishing for a more laidback and darker tuned sound signature. Nevertheless, I am still impressed at how the MW60 manages to deliver vocals in a spacious soundstage for a closed-back headphone.
Upper mids are slightly accentuated resulting in some pace and clarity in this region. The treble, on top of this, extends nicely with no pertinent stridencies or peaks that would detract from the otherwise smooth presentation.
Compared to the HE-400S, the MW60 has less air to its treble but the two share similar levels of extension. Next to the V-Moda M100s though, the MW60 wins out on perceived extension compared to the relatively more laidback treble on the former.
Featuring Bluetooth 4.1 with AptX high quality audio, I am impressed at how these sound without wires. They take me back to the same feeling that the Pendulumic Stance S1 had inspired when first tried with a Bluetooth connection. Both retain most, if not all, of the sound fidelity when compared with a wired connection which is an impressive feat in and of itself. It is a trait that will only grow within this particular industry as time progresses.
Minor drawbacks, however, was that when compared with the S1, the wireless feature was not as seamless with audio dropping out and skipping from time to time. Though this did substantially improve when the headphones were positioned closer to the Bluetooth source. Access to the Bluetooth pairing buttons was convenient with a neat on/off and pairing toggle. Volume up and down keys as well as play/pause were equally accessible.
The Master & Dynamic MW60 headphones have an impedance rating of 32 Ohms which mean that they are moderately easy to drive. As a frame of reference, the V-Moda M100s and the Pendulumic Stance S1 are easier to driver with the HE-400S being harder to. Thus, the MW60s require no amps to be driven to sufficient volume and head-stage levels.
ALO Audio Continental Dual Mono
Pairing this with the MW60, the resulting sound becomes more airy and expansive with a sweeter tonality to the mid-section. Bass overtones become more filled out with more impact and heft than otherwise previously noted. It certainly is a compelling combination which is not without its price.
Schiit Magni & Modi 2U Stack
With this more affordable combination, the MW60 picks up on soundstage (in the dimensions of height and width) with an elevated bass response that is tighter rather than more fleshed out as above. Detail levels are slightly better with the Schiit stack and treble is better defined. Besides the soundstage though, these are subtle differences which would otherwise be quite hard to discern.
The Soundstage & Imaging
As with the MH40s, the soundstage is respectable for a closed-back headphone with decent space to allow for an out of head feeling. This does improve with an amp however as explained above.
Instrument separation is great and the center-staging is excellent. However, there is room for improvement as details up top can get layered closely together.
The MW60 is an adept beast with many specialities including its brilliant throwback design, premium build and sound fidelity. At times I have often found myself trying to feel for a wire in wireless mode and for that reason it is one of the best wireless headphones I have come across.
Is it worth the additional money over the original MH40s? Well, in my opinion, that depends on what you need this headphone for. If you just need a wired connection then it's probably not justified as the MH40 shares a very similar sound to the MW60. If however there is a need for Bluetooth, then the MW60’s price is justified.
While there are still minor glitches and lags experienced when the headphones are not near its Bluetooth source, the sound itself is great with easily accessible buttons on the housings of the ear-pad.
Again, I would highly recommend these to anyone looking for a portable and wireless solution to their audiophilic requirements.
Master & Dynamic products will be available in Australia shortly. Local pricing is not yet confirmed, but expected to be around $799 - $899 RRP.
For more information visit the Master & Dynamic brand page.
- Drivers: 45mm Neodymium
- Rated Impedance: 32 Ω
- Weight: 345 grams
- Plug: 3.5mm Gold Plated
- Bluetooth: 4.1 with Aptx™ high quality audio
A dual balanced-armature earphone called Rock-it Sounds R50 ignited my interest for all things audio. Since then, I have been enthralled with psycho-acoustic impressions ranging from gear such as IEMs to DAPs and eventually full-sized headphones.