Master & Dynamic MH30 Headphones. Long Live Vinyl tests a pair of on-ear headphones set to compete with those from more established brands…
Launched in 2014, New York-based Master & Dynamic are relative newcomers to the world of personal audio. While competitors such as Sennheiser, AKG and Beyerdynamic can boast decades of innovation in pro-audio design, M&D take their own philosophy of high-quality sound reproduction and present it in an elegantly stylish product.
The MH30s are an on-ear design with a classically timeless look, managing to appear both contemporary and modern while being reminiscent of the types used by RAF radar technicians in the 1940s. Exquisitely built and finished in anodised forged aluminium, with stainless steel components used in all high-strain areas, the MH30s ensure comfortable lengthy listening sessions courtesy of memory-foam earpads covered in soft lambskin. The cowhide leather headband is flexible enough for all head sizes, ensuring a snug fit that provides an excellent defence against extraneous outside noise.
Two detachable lengths of oxygen-free copper cable are provided: a 1.25m length with remote control and microphone and a straight 2m run, which can be plugged into either the left- or right-ear speaker for added convenience. Hi-fi tweakers can play with premium cables to try to upgrade the sound quality. However, replacing the cables with low-quality wire told me the supplied cables are more than adequate for the job.
The drivers – the really important bits – are a 40mm neodymium design, and while no frequency-response stats are reported in the tech specs, it’s clear the MH30s have a smooth, relatively wideband response without obvious roll-off or suck-outs. Master & Dynamic state their philosophy of delivering “a rich, warm sound profile” and I agree completely. In strict audiophile terms, the MH30s lack neutrality, instead offering a cosy, sumptuous sound that attempts to bring out the best in your record collection, be it well-recorded acoustic music, congested modern-pop productions or old, scratchy mono rock ‘n’ roll 45s from the 1950s and 60s.
We listened to a wide range of music, both on the move and at home with our analogue, valve-powered equipment, and it’s a testament to the MH30s flattering approach to sound reproduction that not once did we feel the need to skip a track because the ‘phones flagged up a poor recording. Some ultra-transparent high-end designs sound wonderful with classical and audiophile recordings, but have you reaching for the off switch when tasked with replaying more rustic recordings.
We weren’t initially predisposed to like the Master & Dynamics, seeing them as a lifestyle product that may lack the sound credentials of our beloved AKGs and Sennheisers. Yet the MH30s are a superb listen, providing musical detail and insight without over-exposing flaws in the source material to distract you from the pleasure of listening to your favourite music. A sophisticated design with a sublime signature sound, the MH30s are headphones for music lovers rather than hi-fi nuts.