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Montblanc MB 01 review: The pinnacle of premium ANC headphones

Andy White
26 Mar 2020
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
545
inc VAT

The Montblanc MB 01 are exquisite headphones but brand name and build quality aside, struggle to justify their price tag

Pros 
Beautifully-balanced sound
Impressive ANC and Live Mode
Gorgeous design and comfortable fit
Cons 
Far more expensive than rivals
Currently no app
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When I first saw the Montblanc MB 01 at a Qualcomm briefing in February 2020 I was very impressed. They looked and sounded great and were comfortable as well. Having now spent some time putting them through their paces, it’s fair to say that the esteemed pen and watch manufacturer’s first pair of headphones are a resounding, although admittedly expensive, success.

Montblanc MB 01 review: What you need to know

The Montblanc MB 01 is a pair of wireless, active-noise cancelling, over-ear headphones designed for those living a luxury business lifestyle. They’re Montblanc’s first stab at audio equipment and the luxury Maison teamed up with audio expert Alex Rosson to create what it describes as “a Montblanc signature sound”.

The MB 01 connect to your phone or laptop via Bluetooth 5.0 and are compatible with the aptX HD codec, meaning you’re able to stream high-resolution audio to your heart’s content. They have 20-plus hours of battery life and you can listen to them via 3.5mm connections using the USB-C to 3.5mm cable included in the box.

Montblanc MB 01 headphones review: Price and competition

The Montblanc MB 01 will set you back a cool €590, which at the time of writing translates to £545 – roughly double the price of most of the major players in noise-cancelling over-ear headphones today.

The Sony WH-1000XM3 are our favourite all-round ANC headphones, boasting brilliant sound quality and class-leading noise-cancellation. They won’t break the bank either at £250. Bose’s Quiet Comfort 35 II - still some of the most comfortable ANC headphones on the market - are available for £225, while their successor, the equally impressive Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 can be picked up for £300.

Elsewhere, there are the Bowers & Wilkins PX7, which also have impressive noise-cancelling and can be bought for £270 following a recent price cut. For those on a smaller budget, there are the Philips PH805, which offer exceptional value for money at £160.

Our favourite alternatives and where to buy them:

Buy now from Montblanc


Montblanc MB 01 headphones review: Design, comfort and features

Given Montblanc’s reputation for designing stunning items, you’d expect build quality and aesthetics to be areas in which the MB 01 excel and they don’t disappoint. Made of aluminium, silicone and a liberal helping of leather, the MB 01 are not a vegan-friendly purchase but are lightweight, minimalist in design and oozing with quality.

You have three distinct designs to choose from, all of which exhibit an attractive simplicity: grey leather with polished metal, black leather with chromed metal and brown with gold-coloured metal. I was sent the grey version and they got many an admiring glance as I walked down the street wearing them.

The leather earcups and leather-lined headband aren’t just for show though, they contribute to a very comfortable listening experience. The cups sat snugly over my ears without cramping or crushing them and the headband is easily extendable, so getting a good fit was a piece of cake. I typically prefer in-ear headphones for daily use but I wore the MB 01s for long periods without any major discomfort. I found myself lifting the ear cups off my ears every once in a while to give them a bit of time to breathe but that’s par for the course with a pair of over-ear headphones.

As is now the industry standard for over-ear headphones, everything is controlled via the right earcup. Playing and pausing is done by pushing in the centre of the earcup’s silicone back, while Google Assistant and ANC have designated buttons on the aluminium detailing.

The ANC button is also used to turn on “Live Mode”, which allows through a certain amount of ambient noise. Just below those buttons are physical volume controls, a power/pairing button and a USB-C port. There’s no 3.5mm port but you do get a USB-C to 3.5mm cable included in the box. Also included are an aeroplane adapter, a USB-C charging cable and a soft fabric carrying case, with a separate case set to be made available later this year.

Montblanc MB 01 headphones review: Sound quality, ANC and battery life

While design and build quality were always likely to be top-notch, sound quality from a company with no track record of making headphones was more uncertain. So, it was prudent of Montblanc to enlist the highly regarded sound expert Alex Rosson when creating the MB 01’s sound signature. Rosson, who currently heads up Rosson Audio Design, has ten years experience as a mastering technician for Technicolor under his belt and also co-founded headphones specialist Audeze.

His involvement has certainly paid off: the MB 01 display fantastic balance and poise when playing back music. There’s a real warmth to the sound signature and the bass is full and weighty but the mids and highs don't suffer because of it.

Ed Sheeran’s South of the Border, featuring Camila Cabello and Cardi B, clearly demonstrates the MB 01’s ability to effectively communicate sound across a wide spectrum of frequencies. All three artists’ vocals are crisp and I was able to hear every word, including Cardi B’s rapping section, which given the speed of delivery at times is no mean feat. The bass driving the melodic chorus showed real depth but, at no point, overpowered Sheeran's lyrical overlay. There’s a tiny bit of sound bleed when listening at higher volumes but nowhere near enough to become a nuisance to anyone sitting two metres or more away.

The headphones’ active noise cancelling is also very good. It doesn’t completely eradicate chatter, the rumble of the washing machine or the whistling of a kettle but it cuts out enough to be able to listen to music or podcasts at around half volume without external distractions. I was particularly struck by how well the Live Mode functions. I often feel features that allow in ambient sound are pretty redundant but the Montblanc MB 01 implement it very well.

Call quality on the MB 01 proved to be crystal clear. Everyone I spoke to using the headphones reported supreme clarity with very little background noise, even when moving around in relatively busy environments. Battery life on the MB 01 is another big plus. With ANC turned on you’ll get upwards of 20 hours of play time per charge, which will cover you for even the longest of journeys. You can continue to use the headphones while charging, too, which is a bonus.

Alas, one feature sorely lacking at present is that of a companion application through which other manufacturers offer customisable EQ and ANC tweaks. Despite the MB 01 sounding great out of the box, it’s always nice to be able to tailor your listening experience to your personal taste. Montblanc says an app is in the works but how long that takes to come to fruition remains to be seen.

Buy now from Montblanc


Montblanc MB 01 headphones review: Verdict

Considered in a vacuum, the Montblanc MB 01 are an exceptionally well-crafted pair of noise-cancelling headphones that deliver superb audio quality and comfort. They’re not perfect; there’s no way to adjust either EQ or ANC levels and the carrying pouch is insubstantial – but Montblanc already has plans to remedy both of these issues.

The MB 01’s main issue lies in their price when compared to the competition. For £545, you can buy a pair of Sony’s WH-1000XM3 for you and a pair of Bose’s Quiet Comfort 35 II for your partner and still have money leftover. This won’t bother Montblanc’s target audience – those with an affinity for the brand and cash to burn – however, build quality aside, the MB 01 don’t offer anything unique to justify such a significant outlay for the average consumer.

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