Featured Review: Master & Dynamic MW60 Bluetooth Headphones

By now, a lot of you should know who Master & Dynamic are. If not, that might be because you're not passionate about sound the way this fairly new, yet quickly established, New York brand is. Master & Dynamic is a brand concerned with creating headphones and earphones that are both luxurious to look at as well as a luxury listen. Their products come with high price tags, but this is down to a mix of those first two attributes as well as the materials their products are made with. The MH40 that we reviewed a year ago were exquisitely-made and they show little to no signs of wear or tear despite the many months of listening they've endured. With metals, genuine leathers and all-replaceable parts the Master & Dynamic headphones are designed to last for decades. With this new product, the MW60, the New York brand wanted to approach convenience with the same attention to detail and luxury as they did with the excellent MH40. Pushing the price up even further and promising one of the best listening experience sans-cord around, can Master & Dynamic make good on this promise?

Specs

  • 45mm Neodymium magnet drivers
  • 32 Ohm impedance
  • 5 to 25,000 Hz frequency response
  • Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX support
  • 16-hours of listening from a single charge
  • 4x "industry average" Bluetooth range
  • Replaceable Lambskin leather ear pads
  • Play/pause, vol up and vol down controls as well as three-way pairing/power switch
  • 1.25m 3.5mm cable included with microUSB charging cable
  • Canvas carrying pouch, canvas cable carrying pouch and Lambskin leather cable storage box included

Design and Build

Before we get into the look of the MW60, we have to tackle the materials used and the overall build quality. These are an exceptionally durable pair of Bluetooth headphones. Despite the fact that they fold in on themselves for storage, they have some heft to them, weighing 345g, but never feel too heavy. The Lambskin leather ear pads aren't too soft nor too hard (to best explain this, they're the sort of ear pads that don't "deflate" in a heartbeat, but don't feel stiff on the ears). The stainless steel fixings and aluminum antenna around the ear cups looks great and feels good to the touch, as does the concentric-circle design on the driver housings found on each ear. The whole headphone is well-built and definitely put together we care and attention to detail. Then again, for this sort of price tag, you would expect them to be.

The MW60 are built to last, and with touches like magnetically attached ear pads for simple replacing and easy servicing, it seems like they are. However, unlike the MH40, I'm not sure how much self-repair can be done on these, after all there's more than just a driver in each of the housings here, there are amps, receivers and all sorts in these ear cups. Attention to detail is prevalent, and removing the ear cups reveals a good-looking driver housing, as if these New Yorkers wanted you to enjoy what you see under hear, something I don't see in a lot of other headphones. Even the Bluetooth antenna is worked in thoughtfully, with only the left ear cup having faint plastic openings to even hint that this is a wireless pair of cans. The same goes for the 3.5mm input jack (which can be used with pretty much any 3.5-to-3.5 cable you have lying around, btw) and the microUSB port.

Where design is concerned, I personally think of these as a breath of fresh air. Compared to the glossy plastics or shiny aluminum designs found elsewhere in this category, the MW60 are all about class. Available in a black and gunmetal gray or brown leather and silver option, the MW60 would look good paired with the majority of outfits and no matter where you are these will good on your head. Comparing them to the MH40, and they definitely have a more modern look and feel to them. The ear cups are slightly more bulbous, there's less overall design and they just look, well, classy. They remind me of a fine pair of leather shoes, but designed for your head, they just look good.

This sort of look might not be for everyone though, but I have a hard time seeing someone they say outright don't like the look of these, "not for me" is absolutely possible, but to dislike the MW60s from an aesthetic point of view is something I haven't experienced.

Comfort

Where Bluetooth headphones are concerned, creating a pair that is comfortable and stay on the head can be a lot more difficult than you'd imagine it to be. The balance between weight and clamping force can either make or break a pair of wireless headphones. With the MW60, I think Master & Dynamic mostly got things right. As far as clamping force goes, I didn't think these pushed too hard on my ears and while I did experience some pain on the top of my head from the thin headband, this was generally after a good four hours or so of continuous use. Around the ears, I did sweat a bit, but anything leather is going to do that, and the fact this is natural material makes a difference as well. Just like with the MH40, I know that I am wearing these, there's some pressure around the ears (probably because my head is so large) but other than that I think these are fairly comfy. The ear pads could be softer however, as well a little wider, but other than that I have no other complaints where comfort is concerned.

Those with smaller heads than my massive bowling ball (shots below) will have little to no issue. My fianc© said they were very comfy and she had no problem wearing them for a few hours at a time. This isn't to say women have small heads of course! Any sort of over-ear design with smaller ear cups than most, which these are, won't suit everyone, but I have to say I had no issue with these for the most part. One thing I will say is that these don't seem to hang around my neck all that much, they're fairly tight, but then again I'm a 6'2" guy who can stand to lose more than a view.

Bluetooth Reception and Calls

Before we even tackle whether these sound good or not, we need to address whether or not a pair that costs this much can actually function. Style aside, which the MW60 have in abundance, there needs to be a lot of substance to go with that $549 price tag. I was genuinely surprised at how well the antenna and microphone performed with the MW60. The New York brand talked a big game with their claim of "up to 4x the industry average" where range was concerned, and they weren't lying. I'm not surprised by much in the tech world these days, but being able to leave my phone on my desk and head to the kitchen while still talking or listening? Surprising. This puts a thick wall and say 12-feet between me and my phone, which isn't much but there was no discernible loss in quality at all. I can also listen to music or take a call and still be connected anywhere in my house, which is no mean feat to say that this is an old, large Victorian building with mediocre at best WiFi performance. There is no inch or corner of my house where these cutout.

To put that into perspective, these will be great around the office, allowing for a phone to be left on a desk, you can head to the printer or whatever without your call or music disappearing. In a lot of ways I think it's overkill, really but considering this doesn't add much to the overall design of the MW60, it's a welcome addition. For the most part, users will have their phone in their pockets or bags and these on their head, in that situation there are zero problems.

As for the microphone, I was impressed with the feedback I was given by my usual callers, friends and family said I sounded good, if not a little echo-ey. The only sort of hiccup I found was that if I was talking at the same time as the caller, their speech might break up a little, something that doesn't happen over the phone. Then there's the sort of clipping I hear in the voice monitoring of my own voice, but I think this is because I absolutely tend to shout when wearing headphones, especially closed-back ones. There's an omnidirectional mic built into these, and speaking at normal volume definitely gets your voice heard, and heard well. The only sort of range issue would be when I was moving, and not if my phone was moving with me - no problems in that case - but when I'd be moving and my phone would be stationary somewhere else a caller's voice would break up a little, stand still again and no problem at all. Oddly enough, this never happened when listening to music.

All of this is to be expected from a set of headphones that cost this much, but for a Bluetooth pair at any price this is impressive. Master & Dynamic clearly wanted a pair of wireless headphones with no ifs or buts, and they seem to have reached that goal effortlessly.

Sound Quality

It all comes down to this. No matter how good the range is, no matter how well they're built or how good they look, if the MW60 don't sound good, then you can forget everything. "Good" is not the word I would use here, but "Great". Considering these are a Bluetooth pair and there will always be trade-offs there, these are only just short of excellent. The whole presentation sounds great across a wide spectrum of different genres and from different sources, regardless of whether you're wired or wireless, the MW60 have a unique sound to them, and it's lovely to listen to. Master & Dynamic don't lie when they market the MW60 as having a warm and rich sound to them. The best way I can describe it without laying it on too thick is that these sound like a vacuum tube HiFi would sound to a lot of people, or a Vinyl setup. Without the crackle.

These are out definitely a warm pair of headphones, and by that we mean that there's some oomph in the low-end where the bass notes are, but the mid-range that holds all the vocals is not lost and the highs are harmonic. Listening to The Weeknd's 'The Hills' gets you all the boomy bass notes nice and tight, but it also exposes all of the "other stuff" in the track, the sort of noises and atmosphere that you just don't pick up with other pairs. I'm a closet 80s and pop nerd, so listening to Carly Rae Jepsen's E-MO-TION end-to-end was a real treat. Carly's voice has that slight texture that helps set her apart from the rest of the charts and the high notes ring out nicely, without ever being too piercing. Rock fans are taken care of as well, I thoroughly enjoyed Royal Blood's debut album with these, and found myself bobbing along like a happy idiot at my desk. 3 Doors Down's 'Away From the Sun' is warm and harmonic while keeping the smooth vocals alive, my favorite band Jimmy Eat World's entire catalogue was a treat to listen to with these, with the strong drum work coming through loud and clear without washing away those twangy guitar riffs.

All of this is not to say the MW60 are perfect. After all, an embellished set of headphones like these will not suit those looking for a flat and neutral representation. Those that are after a more treble-forward signature will need to look elsewhere, but those looking for some serious bass - but don't want all the bass, all the time - will enjoy these. These are not a neutral or 'reference' set of headphones, and they weren't designed to be, and at times the sound does come across as quite "thick". There is good separation between vocals and different instruments but when there's a lot going on it can seem as if everything is tightly packed together and it can become difficult to pick something out. While not perfect, the MW60s are a fun, fun pair of headphones that should suit the modern listener wonderfully. Not too bass heavy, but certainly not bass light, these have a warmth to them that will appeal to the majority of listeners.

Verdict

What can you do with $549? Well, a lot. In terms of tech you could buy yourself a new laptop, a brand new smartphone or a games console with lots of games. You could spend the money on doing up your home, on clothes, on whatever you want and depending on your taste you could end up with a lot of that thing. With the MW60, your $549 gets you one of the best wireless headphones around. Period. They look great, they are built to last and the materials used are chosen for their longevity more than their good looks. With some of the best sound reproduction I've ever heard over Bluetooth these are the pair for the discerning listener that also values convenience. These are pricey, but considering the high fit and finish, the excellent sound delivery and some of the best Bluetooth range and connection around, it's hard to call these 'expensive'. If you're not in the market for a pair of pricey headphones, then these won't be for you, but if you value sound and convenience in near equal measure, the MW60 shall not disappoint. More information as well as the ability to buy can be found at Master & Dynamic's website.

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About the Author
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Tom Dawson

Former Editor-in-Chief
For years now I've had a heavy interest in technology, growing up with 8-bit computers and gaming consoles has fed into an addiction to everything that beeps. Android saved me from the boredom of iOS years ago and I love watching the platform grow. As an avid reader and writer nothing pleases me more than to write about the exciting world of Android, Google and mobile technology as a whole.
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