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Master & Dynamic MH40 review: Beautiful-looking headphones, but the sound quality doesn't quite measure up

Jonathan Bray Christopher Minasians
22 Jan 2021
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
319
inc VAT

The MH40 looks great but the sound quality doesn't quite measure up

Pros 
Design and looks
Removable cable design
Cons 
Price
Overall sound quality
Sound leakage and isolation
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Headphones that both look and sound good are somewhat hard to come by – a situation that Master & Dynamic is attempting to rectify with the MH40. The headphones scream beauty, design and build quality, but ultimately it’s the sound quality that makes or breaks a product like this.

At £319, the MH40s aren’t cheap, and with competition from the Bowers & Wilkins P7 at £280, Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 at £200, Sony MDR-1A at £120 and even the likes of the Creative Sound BlasterX H5 at £95, the MH40s have their work cut out.

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Master & Dynamic MH40 review: Accessories and build quality

In the package, you’ll find the headphones, two sets of detachable cables (a 1.25m cable with remote and mic and a 2m standard cable), a leather cable box, a soft carrying pouch and a 6.3mm adapter.

The remote on the 1.25m cable allows you to adjust the headphones’ volume on iOS devices, but they don’t work on Android. You’ll be able to play/pause, answer and receive calls, and skip through tracks by double- or triple-tapping the middle button on both OSes, however.

The headphones’ presentation starts with its accessories, and I’m pleased with the attention to detail here. This level of detail extends to the headphones, too, which have a stunning look and design. The headphones can be found in a variety of colours through the company’s website. I received the silver metal/brown leather model and it looks better in the metal than it does even on the company’s website.

The MH40s have “heavy grain premium cowhide” on the top of the headband and soft lambskin on the ear pads and on the inner part of the headband. Grilles adorn the exterior of each cup to complete the retro ham radio look, but it’s important to note that these aren’t open-back headphones in the technical sense.

The earcups are in fact closed, which is good news if you’re planning on listening to them in the office or on your daily commute, since you can do so without fear of annoying your fellow travellers.

They’re practical in other ways, too. The earcups pivot flat, allowing you to store them with greater ease in the included pouch. The ear pads attach magnetically to the metal housing of each earcup, making it easy to replace them when they wear out. The 3.5mm cable is removable, with a jack on each earcup so you can choose which side to hang the cable and, unusually, there’s a mechanical mute button on the right earcup as well.

However, they’re not the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn. The headband is adjustable, but there isn’t much range to the adjustment – if you have a large head, you might find the MH40’s just don’t fit. I also found the narrow ear pads a touch small for my ears and with the minimal amount of padding on the headband, the headphones’ 360g weight was immediately noticeable. I’m not sure I’d want to wear these for long periods of listening.

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Master & Dynamic MH40 review: Sound quality

The MH40s technical specifications seem to be well up to scratch. In each earcup is a large 45mm neodymium driver, and the overall impedance of the headphones is 32 ohms. This means they’ll need a little more volume over your regular 16-ohm headphones.

As for sound quality, well, let’s just say I’m not convinced, especially with a price tag this high. First up, the bass, which I found to lack extension to the extent that the lowest of low notes lacked rumble. For example, in Usher’s "Yeah!", at each chorus the bass cuts off, leaving you wanting more. Its mid-bass slam was a little uncontrolled but did have plenty of oomph.

On the flip side, they’re not the greatest headphones for listening to classical music either, with an over-warm presentation to the sound that muddles fine details in the mid-range of the sound spectrum. Certainly, compared with the excellent Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 the MH40s just aren’t as forward-sounding or as clear.

And to top it all off, the highs aren’t that impressive either. For example, in the Weeknd’s "Starboy", the recurring electric sound in the background isn’t delivered with quite enough sparkle for me. Everything just sounds a little soft and indistinct.

As for soundstage, that’s not so bad. The MH40s have an intriguing soundstage, with a rather deep, but narrow sound. Instrument separation is acceptable, but again, I would have liked a bit more refinement, as when tested with games the positioning of sounds wasn’t terribly accurate.

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Master & Dynamic MH40 review: Verdict

The Master & Dynamic MH40 is one of the most attractive, beautifully designed pairs of headphones I’ve had the privilege to lay hands on. Constructed entirely from aluminium and leather, they feel like they’ve been built to last.

However, at £320, they simply miss the mark in terms of comfort and, most importantly sound quality. To my mind, you’d be better off considering the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0, and Creative Sound BlasterX H5, both of which offer superior sound quality and are considerably cheaper.

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