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Master & Dynamic MW65 review: A high-end wireless noise-canceling headphone with a distinct design and smooth sound

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New York-based Master & Dynamic made a name for itself by making distinctly styled headphones that featured premium materials and very good sound. The company's latest wireless model, the MW65 ANC, is its first to feature active noise-canceling, and it's arguably its best headphone to date. However, at $499 it costs more than other excellent -- and already pretty expensive -- noise-canceling headphones such as the Sony WH-1000XM3 and the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. And there's just not a really compelling reason to buy it versus those models.

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7.9

Master & Dynamic MW65

Pricing Not Available

The Good

Built with anodized aluminum instead of stainless steel, the Master and Dynamic MW65 is lighter than the company's previous full-size models and more comfortable to wear. It delivers rich, smooth sound and features active noise-cancelling technology that works well. It supports one-button access to Google Assistant and comes with a nice carrying pouch.

The Bad

It's expensive and may not fit people with smaller heads. While it works well as a headset for making calls, there's not sidetone feature to let you hear your voice inside the headphones.

The Bottom Line

While it's a little overpriced at $500, the Master & Dynamic MW65 is a mostly excellent noise-cancelling headphone.

But let's forget about the price for a minute and talk about what's good about the headphone. For starters, they definitely look and feel like a premium headphone, with leather trim, folding hinges and nicely padded swanky lambskin covered earcups. And thanks to the use of anodized aluminum instead of stainless steel, the 250-gram MW65 is significantly lighter than the 351-gram MW60 and more comfortable to wear as result.

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What you get in the box.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Like the MW60, I found this headphone a touch too large and it barely fit my head, so this may not work for people with smaller heads. But they were an excellent fit for my colleague Ty Pendelbury, who has a more sizable skull (he also commented that they felt lighter than previous Master & Dynamic headphones he'd tried).

I would have preferred if it had Bluetooth 5.0 instead of Bluetooth 4.2, but I didn't have any issues with wireless connectivity. Walking the streets of New York, I experienced minimal Bluetooth hiccups or interference -- the connection was mostly rock solid with an iPhone X and a Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus.

Master & Dynamic MW65 ANC

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I also didn't have any issues making calls. There's no sidetone feature, which allows you to hear your voice in the headphones so you don't end up talking too loud (a $500 headphone should have this feature), but callers said they could hear me well, and the headphone is equipped with two beamforming noise-reduction mic arrays that are used for muffling ambient sound while listening to music and reducing background noise when making calls.   

Master & Dynamic describes its sound signature as "rich, warm sound that captures the detail of well-recorded music." I think that's actually a very accurate description of the sound. The MW65 is a very pleasant headphone to listen to. Not necessarily incredibly exciting or dynamic, but it's well-balanced and smooth. It's a headphone you can listen to for a while without getting listening fatigue.

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Pressing this button allows you to toggle between 'high," and 'low' noise-cancelling or turn it off completely.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Sony WH-1000XM3 has more energy in the bass and a little more pizzazz to it, which makes it better for hip hop and EDM (electronic dance music). I also thought the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9i, which also lists for $500 but can be had for less online, had more powerful bass and more sizzle to its sound. But the H9i has some presence boost in the treble that makes it sound a little bright. While you can adjust the EQ with that headphone via a companion app there's no Master & Dynamic companion app. That's not necessarily a bad thing -- companion apps can often complicate matters.

There are two levels of noise-canceling. At the highest level, it's not quite as strong as Sony's or Bose's noise-canceling, but I thought it worked well and was closer than I thought it would me. I was walking on the subway platform listening to music and barely heard the train pull up on the track alongside me (I was a bit surprised to see it there).

The only small issue I had with the headphone was that it seemed a little more susceptible to wind than other premium noise-canceling headphones I've tested. I'd be walking along and even a light breeze seemed amplified -- I could clearly hear it. It was almost as if the headphones didn't see aerodynamic enough, but I'm not sure that was it.

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They are comfortable.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Battery life seemed good. They're rated at 24 hours of battery life at moderate volume levels, and I used them for four days without having to recharge. It's also worth noting that they charge via USB-C -- that's good -- and have a quick-charge feature that gives you several hours of juice with just 15 minutes of charging (we're still confirming quick-charge numbers).

I liked the included canvas carrying pouch, which is swankier than I'm making it sound, and I'd be remiss not to note that like the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II, there's a dedicated button to launch Google Assistant for all your voice-assistant needs.

In the end, the MW65 is a challenge to rate. It's an excellent headphone, I'm just not sure it's worth $500. It sounds quite good -- very smooth, as I said -- but it's not so exceptional that I can say that it's superior to something like the Sony WH-1000MX3, which arguably sounds a little better.

Ultimately what you're paying the extra money for is the design and it's certainly a differentiation, particularly now that the headphone is lighter. For those who've followed Master & Dynamic and maybe already own a pair of their headphones, the MW65 is a nice upgrade. I just wish it cost a little less. 

08-master-dynamic-mw65-anc
7.9

Master & Dynamic MW65

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Sound 8Value 7