Review: Master & Dynamic MH30
It was a balmy day in San Francisco, the weather fulfilling requests of a windy and slightly damp morning.
While I was setting up tables at the latest San Francisco Head-Fi meet at Burlingame’s Doubletree, I noticed a company that I haven’t heard of before. Master & Dynamic. I wondered to myself: “Wow, these headphones look pretty snazzy! How do they sound?” Well, I didn’t get to hear their on-ear MH30 and flagship over-ear MH40 that day, but my fiancée was able to try both out, and she liked how they sounded. I would like to thank Master & Dynamic for sending me a MH30 in exchange for my opinion.
Here is the audio equipment used in the review:
B&O PLAY by Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H6 with DJ Khaled – Black Red: $399
Master & Dynamic MH30: $349
Master & Dynamic MH40: $399
iPhone 6 (Space Gray, 128GB): $849.99 or $399.99 with a 2-Year Contract
Surface Pro 2 64GB: $899.99
Questyle Audio QP1R Golden and Space Gray: $899 USD
CEntrance DACport Slim DAC/Amp Combo: $99 shipped in United States
Software Applications Used
Neutron Music Player – 320kbps
Spotify Premium – Extreme Setting
TIDAL HiFi – Lossless
Who is Master & Dynamic?
Master & Dynamic is a company that is based in New York, as all designs are created there. They pride themselves with creating not only functional, but timeless designs as well. What I thought was a fresh take of most companies' missions is that their mission is a philosophy. Master & Dynamic’s philosophy:
“We believe mastery is a never-ending exploration requiring a dynamic approach. Sound is a catalyst and a powerful creative element.
We see our headphones as modern thinking caps: tools to help focus, inspire and transport your mind. We build sound tools for creative minds.”
If that awe-inspiring quote wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, I was enthralled with this YouTube video of Master & Dynamic describing and demonstrating the design process of their MH40:
Here is their epic brand video:
I wanted to find out even more about the company, and was greeted with open arms when I requested to interview Master & Dynamic. Let’s learn more from the founder of Master & Dynamic.
Jonathon Levine – Founder and CEO of Master & Dynamic:
Jonathan answered these questions:
What gave you the inspiration to create the Master & Dynamic lineup?
While visiting a museum in Washington D.C. with my oldest son I came across a pair of old headphones that had withstood the test of time. The product was both beautiful and durable, and I quickly became a collector of similar models. I knew I wanted to create a range of products that were as timeless and elegant as those museums worthy units, and in 2013 the idea of Master & Dynamic was born. All of our headphones, along with our stands and boom microphones, are built for decades of use, and the marriage of function and form has earned us a loyal following among those that appreciate design, materials, craftsmanship and of course, abundantly great sound quality.
What is your goal for your customers with regards to their experience with Master & Dynamic, and the MH40/MH30 in general?
Each of our products, including our signature MH40 Over Ear Headphone and the MH30 On Ear Headphone, is designed to appeal to the senses. Acoustically, the headphones provide superior performance across a myriad of musical genres. Visually, the headphones convey a level of elegance and style never found before in headphones. They look amazing, whether on the head, or around the neck, as well as when on display in a home, office or studio. In hand, the tactile nature and quality of the materials become apparent instantly. The premium materials come together with superior fit, comfort and balance.
What was your reason(s) to use the somewhat retro design?
As a designer I have always been drawn to industrial elements for inspiration. Designing and building products using premium materials can be challenging but the extra effort is definitely worth it. Timelessness demands superior design and materials. When you see it, feel it, you know it at once. Every aspect of our headphones is considered, both technically and aesthetically. The tactile nature of our products remains very important to us. We are thrilled to have created a suite of products that look as good as they perform.
What are your goals for the future with regards to Master & Dynamic?
We have a very robust product roadmap through 2017 as we continue to redefine what a premium audio company should be. Expect to see continued growth across the board as well as an accelerated push into wireless products as we continue to establish ourselves as a brand that is among the best in high-end audio.
Inside the MH30 box
-Master & Dynamic MH30 box
-Master & Dynamic MH30
-Cable and Connector Case
-1/8 inch to 1/4 inch adapter
The MH30 box invites you with its side profiles on the front for visual stimulation, and the back shows entire headphone with enticing text. What grabbed me was: "At Master & Dynamic, we are obsessed with the interaction between sound and creativity. Our passion is building beautifully designed, technically sophisticated sound tools for creative minds." That alone sounds mighty interesting, doesn't it? Let's see if they live up to the quote, mainly beautifully designed, and technically sophisticated sound tools.
Beauty in a box
The headphone case is small and elegant, letting the headphone display when the flap is opened, yet can stay safe for transport as its own headphone case. I feel it is so beautifully constructed, that I would only use it as a case at home, and use a soft/hard headphone case for outside excursions.
Here are the contents of the user’s manual (click on pictures for larger view)
The little things make it worthwhile
The headphone bag is simple, yet tasteful. It has a velvet look and feels velvety-soft to the touch. The magnets and inside pocket to carry cables instead of the cables moving around everywhere in the bag are thoughtful touches.
...with a little pouch inside for cables/accessories
The cable and connector case is stitched on top with a simple, yet effective close top that is affixed to the case, so you will never lose the close top!
Cable and connector case
Cable and connector case - opened
The cables and connector are top notch. The silver sheathed/threaded cables feel and look high-quality. The main cable (measures 79 inches tip to tip) is a length that is easily manageable. It's better to have longer than shorter cables, as you can always wrap up what you don't need. With a shorter cable, you cannot. The remote cable (measures 49 inches tip to tip) is a good short length cable for those that do not want the long cable when walking around with an iDevice. The remote cable caters to those that want to use it with their iDevice, which is great for people that want to have various controls at their cable.
Sidenote: Make sure that the remote cable is not plugged in upside down, as the remote will not work if it is plugged upside down. Meaning, make sure the cable is plugged in so the remote is closest to your face/head, so the remote will be able to function correctly.
The MH30 and MH40's input connectors allows the use of third party elemental material cables if one so chooses.
The 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch adapter is also thoughtful because the actual silver housing of the adapter is super slim, so it can fit in virtually all DAC/amp 1/4 inch ports.
An ingenious feature that the MH30 and MH40 offers are magnetic earpads. This means changing earpads is quite possibly the easiest task that one can do compared to other headphones that do not have the magnetic earpads feature.
It's awesome that both MH30 and MH40 can have the cable going on the left side or right side, which caters to both left handed and right handed individuals.
M&D embossed on cable jack
There's more to love
Master & Dynamic embodies masterful construction, but is still able to create a light weight over-ear MH30 that feels very comfortable, encompassing a warm and musical sound. Using cowhide, lambskin and stainless steel will allow the product to literally grow and mature like a fine wine, becoming even more like an heirloom as time goes on. The solid construction of the MH30 might very well make it worth more than the price it's asking in 20 years’ time.
You can also choose from marked telescoping mechanism "0" up to "4" with regards to headband height position, which makes setting both sides the same exact height very easy.
Height adjustment, made easy
Also, I did not know that the MH30 and MH40 offered this feature until opening up the boxes, but the "tandem" headphone sharing is a very smart decision, and coupled with the long headphone cables, two people can stand a few feet away from each other while both listen to the same song at the exact same point on the same source. “Simply brilliant” is what I think of the feature. Note that the tethered headphone will not have 100% the volume or fidelity as the main headphone connected to the source, but it is still a great way to share your favorite tunes with anyone you choose!
Tandem action of MH40 (main headphone) and MH30 (tandem headphone)
Closer shot of tandem action of MH40 and MH30
How does the MH30 sound?
My friend who is used to listening to Bose headphones had his jaw dropped as I played different remastered Michael Jackson's songs via iPhone 6’s Tidal HiFi – Lossless and MH30. He was also amazed that the MH30 and MH40 (and any other headphone with same connector for that matter) could be played in tandem, with two headphones listening to one iPhone 6! It was so nice tandem smiling, moving our heads in unison and listening to the same song as well as the same beat! It was like our own mini concert, and I was the conductor of the orchestra - in this case, the orchestra was all in my iPhone 6, playing Tidal.
In the end of listening to both he told me that the MH40 sounded very open, and thought that there are sounds coming from different areas of the backyard where we were listening. He also told me that they were the best headphones that he ever listened to. He let his wife, two daughters and son listen to both. They were all blown away. His wife told me the MH30 had a “more bassier” sound, and preferred the MH40 that had more treble in the music than the MH30. He loved how the MH30 sounded, and could only muster one word when listening: “Wow!”
Easy, like Sunday morning
The MH30 has a natural radiance
The MH30 is sensitive and very easy to drive, about the level as most of the IEMs that I have listened to or own. There is not caveat that I have experienced regarding hiss because of the sensitivity, as the MH30 sounded great with no perceived hiss on various types of sources such as my iPhone 6, Questyle QP1R, Surface Pro 2 and Surface Pro 2 + CEntrance DACport USB DAC/amp combination!
The MH30 is scalable, meaning as you feed it higher quality amplification and/or a higher quality DAC and/or digital audio player, you will be rewarded with even more crisp clarity, even harder-hitting midbass and subbass.
The MH30's midbass and subbass most notably shines with higher quality DAC/Amps, and the overall frequency spectrum shines with feeding the MH30 higher quality components.
The MH30’s midrange is thick and slightly raspy, and the treble is light on its feet, rolled off, but almost infinitely easy to listen because of these inherent qualities.
The MH30's spatial capabilities are more apparent with mastered, high quality tracks, and comparatively the MH40's spatial capabilities broaden with greater finesse and panache when higher quality components are utilized.
Using the MH30 with higher-fidelity sources and applications such as Tidal HiFi – Lossless and Questyle’s QP1R resulted in head-bopping and finger-snapping. Not just Sunday morning, but any day is a great day to listen to the MH30!
Here is my brief review of the MH30 and comparison with the B&O PLAY by Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H6 with DJ Khaled – Black Red and MH40 in my QP1R review:
“The QP1R powers the MH30 to very loud levels. The MH30 is made for iPhone and comes with a remote cable. As a result of being created for the iPhone, the headphones are sensitive and easy to drive. The QP1R is overkill power-wise, but it is great that there is so much headroom. The headphone is light on the head, but the sturdy steel and leather construction makes it a quality created headphone. The MH30’s earpads are attached by magnets and are easy to pull off to clean or replace. The MH30 has more bass slam and midbass presentation than the H6 DJ Khaled and MH40, but the overall presentation is more resolving on the H6 DJ Khaled and MH40. The overall sound is simply fun and engaging, causing you to bop your head or smile from ear to ear when you listen to the lower midrange, bass and subbass. The treble has a non-fatiguing presentation, but you can hear remnants of it if you focus on it, which may be a little difficult because of the enthralling subbass that may reel you in. For those who want a methodically created and recreational sounding on-ear headphone for a price that will not elicit groans from your wallet, the MH30 is a clever choice.”
MH30, MH40 and HIFIMAN HE1000 (for size reference)
When all things regarding competing companies are equal or close to, usually service is the area where companies can make or break their name and legacy. Master & Dynamic’s PR Coordinator Andrew Gretchko, was professional and responded to my inquiries quickly. Overall customer service is exemplary, and could not ask for anything more. Master & Dynamic gets my wholehearted vote as a company to do business with!
In the end, or the beginning, I feel the MH30 is not just beautifully designed, but elegantly created as well. The MH30 is easily one of the most thought out and exemplification of the marriage of form, function, and enthralling sound. Happy listening, everyone!
Master & Dynamic MH30 Specifications
- Model: MH30
- Dimensions: 195mm x 190mm x 40mm
- Drivers: 40mm Neodymium
- Impedance: 32 ohms
- Weight: 260g
- Materials: Cowhide x lambskin leather, stainless steel, aluminum, detachable woven cable
- Cable: Detachable 1.25m cable with remote and mic and 2.00m standard cable
- Cable Material: Oxygen Free Copper Conductors (OFC)
- Headphone Connection: Dual 3.5mm standard jack
- Ear Coupling: Supra-aural
- Microphone Type: Omni-directional
- Ear Pads: Detachable lambskin memory foam
- Apple Compatibility: The remote and mic are supported only by iPhone 3GS or later, iPad, iPod Touch (2nd generation or later), iPod Classic (120GB, 160GB), and iPod Nano (4th generation or later). The remote is supported by iPod Shuffle (3rd generation or later). Audio is supported by all iPad and iPod models.