Earlier this year, I had the chance to review the Master & Dynamic MH40, one of the best-looking and best-sounding set of headphones I'd ever spent time with. For $399 this wasn't so surprising, after all the New York based company made no qualms about offering a rich, warm sound in a pair of cans built to last 'decades'. For a product of such magnitude, it's hardly surprising they sounded excellent. Where earphones are concerned though, the market is a little bit different, and people aren't as willing to spend quite as much as that. Instead, earphones are things people often just settle on with a cheaper pair and listen to them until they stop working and just repeat the process. So, for $159, can Master & Dynamic capture even a little bit of the same sound and looks that make their flagship MH40 so special? The ME03 hope to do just that.
Design and Fit
No doubt about it, these are a good-looking pair of earphones; they're classy without looking boring and they're understated enough to wear with a suit, or whatever the hell you want. They're available in either gunmetal grey (which is the set I'm reviewing here) or black metal. The cable is a tangle-resistant flat cable that is a traditional Y-split and it terminates in a right-angle connector. There's little to write home about when talking about the cable really, but the M&D logo on the left cable is a very nice touch, as is splitting the control box (which only answers and ends a call, or pauses music on Android). The earbuds themselves feel well-made and they're not very heavy, either.
In the box, you get a nice canvas pouch which is easy to open and close, very pocket friendly and you also get a case to store them in on a desk, or a nightstand which is handy. However, this sort of pales in comparison to the measley 3 earbud sizes you get in the box and nothing else. For this sort of money, I would have liked to see a good helping of earbud sizes, but luckily the smallest ones included are good for me, but that won't be the case for everyone.
As for fit, these stay in my ear very well, the cable is light (which sadly means a good amount of cable noise when walking or running) and they never feel like they're dragging me down or anything. Noise isolation is fairly good when listening to music, although they do pick up a lot of wind noise when out and about, so perhaps not the best sort of choice for sporty types and those looking for a pair when jogging. In an office environment, or on a train or bus on your daily commute though - which is where I feel these are best suited - enough background noise is let in so you don't feel cut off from the world, but not too much to ruin your music.
These cost $159, which is not exactly cheap, but it's also about the going rate for a quality pair of earbuds. So, how do they sound? They sound very good, but not great. I'll explain further; vocals are very forward, I can hear vocals in every track very clearly which and bass is fairly warm, but it's not a full sound. I can hear pretty much everything in a track fairly well, and instruments don't get lost amongst each other. Having said that, separation here isn't exactly excellent, and the soundscape is fairly narrow. For $159 I would have expected a little more, but these aren't bad by any means. In fact, I would rather keep these in a jacket or bag over many other higher-end pairs of earbuds. Why? Well, for one they look the part and for another I'm guaranteed a decent listening experience each and every time.
If the MH40 is the pair of headphones to wow you, then these are the pair of earbuds you want with you at all times. I don't want to call these 'old faithful', but it's a phrase that keeps on coming to mind. The soundscape is a little narrow for my taste, and it's not as "full" a sound as I'd like, but they sound good overall and vocals are easy to pick out. A "go to" pair if you want decent results without any hassle at all, these get the job done with good clarity and a decent amount of warmth, but they won't blow you away.
Earlier in this review, I wondered if Master & Dynamic could capture even a tiny bit of the magic present in the flagship MH40. I think they have done, and for $159 these aren't perhaps the best value out there, but from a manufacturer looking to strike a balance between looks and performance, these sound really quite good. I'm not quite as confident that these will last too long in the hands of some listeners, but these reproduce pretty much everything with good results, and they're the pair I'd keep in a jacket or bag simply because I'm guaranteed a good listening experience every time. Sure, they're not amazing, and I'm sure that there are Sennheiser or Sony buds out there that sound much better than these, but for a plug-in, listen and forget pair of earbuds these are some of the classiest around.
For more information, you can head on over to the Master & Dynamic website here.