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Master & Dynamic MH40 review: Beautifully crafted, rock-solid headphones that also sound excellent

The over-the-ear MH40 from headphone newcomer Master and Dynamic has impressive build quality and excellent sound.

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy

Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

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Master and Dynamic is a newcomer to the headphone game, but it's come out the gate with a line of distinctly designed models, headed by its flagship MH40, which retails for $399 in the US, £319 in the UK and AU$499 in Australia.

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Master & Dynamic MH40

The Good

The Master and Dynamic MH40 headphones are constructed out of premium materials and have excellent build quality along with excellent sound. The headphones come with a decent carrying case and two cables (one has an inline mic/remote for smartphone use) and have an integrated mute button.

The Bad

While they're comfortable, the headphones are heavy -- maybe too heavy for some people.

The Bottom Line

Not everybody will love the fit of Master and Dynamic's over-the-ear MH40 headphones, but they are very well-built and sound excellent.

This closed-back, over-the-ear headphone is beautifully crafted from forged aluminum, stainless steel and real lambskin leather, and its sound is competitive with that of comparably priced models from established brands like AKG, Beyerdynamic, Bowers & Wilkins, Grado and Sennheiser. The MH40 was designed and developed in New York City over two years and is now manufactured in China.

Inside you'll find 45mm drivers -- this is a mobile-device-friendly headphone, with 32-ohm-rated impedance. Weighing 12.7 ounces (360 grams), it's definitely heavier than most over-the-ear headphones. The upside is the MH40's build quality feels super-solid, and the supple leather adds a sensual side to the design. The downside is that while this is a very comfortable headphone, its weightiness may leave you wanting to take a listening break after 45 minutes or an hour.

The Master and Dynamic MH40, which comes in three color options, features excellent build quality. Sarah Tew/CNET

We received a silver and tan review model to sample, but it's also available in black or gunmetal gray with black leather.

In terms of accessories, you get a simple but nice canvas carrying bag that has an integrated magnetic clasp and a small case for the two included cloth-covered, tangle-resistant cables. One is a 1.25-meter cable with a remote/mic for iOS devices (the microphone will work with Android and Windows phones but the remote may not be full functional), the other a 2-meter "plain" cable for audio purists.

This a passive headphone, and noise isolation from external noise is good; we liked how the the right ear cup has a metal mute button that makes a satisfying click when you mute or unmute the music. The headband isn't hinged, but the earcups do fold flat for storage in their case.

It's also worth mentioning that warranty coverage is 2 years, or double what most headphone brands offer. And finally, if you order directly through Master and Dynamic's website, you can return the headphones within 30 days and get your money back if you don't like them.

What you get in the box (the second headphone cord is in the cylindrical case). Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance

The MH40's sound is highly detailed, yet never harsh, and the bass is deep, without any boom or bloat. It's not quite as strong in the midrange -- vocals could be a little richer -- but overall this is an excellent sounding headphone that stacks up well against other audiophile headphones in the $300-$400 price range.

NAD's Viso HP50 quickly established itself as the $300 audiophile headphone to beat, and it didn't take long for the MH40 to prove itself a worthy adversary. While the HP50 sounded a touch richer on vocals and made more bass, the MH40 was more transparent and spacious. Really deep bass coursing through the "Gravity" soundtrack was taut and precise on the MH40. Both headphones have beautifully detailed treble, but the M40 is a little clearer. There's no definitive winner here; they're both excellent headphones.

We've seen some complaints about the headphone leaking some sound, but it seemed about on par with other closed-back headphones and didn't disturb our coworkers in an open office environment.

Conclusion

Clearly a lot of thought and talented engineering and design went into the MH40. From a fledgling headphone like Master and Dynamic, this is an impressive debut effort. While the headphone is a little heavy, it's very sturdily built and sounds excellent. Yes, it's somewhat pricey at $400, but at least it looks and feels like a $400 headphone should.

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Master & Dynamic MH40

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Sound 8Value 8
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