Master & Dynamic makes some of the most stylish, luxurious headphones on the market. Not surprisingly, it also makes some of the most expensive, so the uninitiated might balk at the asking price for the company’s MW65 noise-cancelling headphones. At $499, they cost $100 more than our Editors’ Choice, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, which offer the best active noise cancellation (ANC) on the market. That said, the Bose sound signature can be too sculpted, bass-boosted, and unrealistic for some listeners, while here Master & Dynamic delivers rich, full-sounding bass and ideal clarity across the mids and highs. The noise cancellation is quite good as well, though it isn’t up to the high bar set by Bose.
Available in all black, black-and-metal, brown, or silver models, the MW65’s circumaural (over-ear) design consists of luxurious leathers, including lambskin earpads, and anodized aluminum. The earcups are on the small side, but still manage to feel quite comfortable. They also passively block a fair swath of ambient surrounding noise.
Internally, 40mm beryllium drivers deliver a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz. The headphones connect via Bluetooth 4.2 and supports AptX and SBC codecs, but not AAC.
The left earcup’s outer panel houses a power and pairing switch, as well as a dedicated ANC button. The right earcup’s side panel is home to a central multifunction button that handles playback, track navigation, and voice assistants, surrounded by plus and minus buttons for volume. A long press on either volume button will trigger your voice assistant notifications.
In addition to a charging cable and adapter, the headphones ship with an audio cable for wired, passive listening. The audio cable connects to a port on the left earcup, while the charging cable connects to a USB-C port on the right. (The audio cable can also be used for active, wired listening.) Master & Dynamic also includes an airplane jack adapter and a leather-and-canvas travel pouch with a handy side zipper compartment to house the accessories. The headphones fold down flat to fit inside the pouch.
Google Assistant support is built in. When you pair an Android device, the setup will begin automatically, while on an iOS device, you need to use the Google Assistant app. A long press on the right earcup’s multifunction button will summon Google Assistant, so it’s not hands-free, but it didn’t have trouble understanding our commands. You can also use your mobile device’s built-in voice assistant—pressing the ANC button and the play/pause button will switch this to the default, and doing so again will return to Google Assistant.
Master & Dynamic estimates battery life to be roughly 24 hours, but your results will vary with your volume levels and your ANC usage.
The earpads already do a decent job of passively tamping down surrounding noise, and the ANC, when in high mode, not only helps dial back lower-frequency sounds like airplane or train rumble, but also manages to take some of the bite out of office noises like nearby chatter and loud typing. The ANC adds some high-frequency hiss to the equation, but this is fairly common, and the hiss isn’t unpleasant (think white noise or tape hiss) and also very faint.
The ANC seems to have very little influence over the audio performance, which is a good thing. In ANC high mode, there’s perhaps a touch of added bass depth, but the sound signature is very close to how things sound with it off.
Ultimately, this is very good noise cancellation, but not quite strong enough for us to recommend these headphones over models from Bose is ANC is your top priority.
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For audio, on tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the headphones deliver powerful low-frequency depth that doesn’t distort at top listening levels and still sounds full at more moderate volumes. The bass doesn’t overwhelm the mix, and is fairly balanced with the highs on this track.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the MW65’s general sound signature. The drums here receive an ideal bass presence—they are full and round without sounding overly thunderous. Callahan’s baritone vocals are delivered with some added low-mid richness, but the high-mids are also very much a part of the picture, lending treble edge and contour to the vocals and the mix as a whole. The acoustic strums and higher-register percussive hits benefit from the overall presence of the high-mids and highs, so the sound signature is never muddy, nor does it sound particularly scooped. While things sound a little too sculpted for us to call this flat response, the sound signature here is more concerned with accuracy than dialed-up bass depth.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives an ideal high-mid presence, allowing its attack to retain its punchiness in the mix. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with solid depth, but not the overwhelming, PA-style depth that some bass-forward headphones pump out. The lows here are never ignored, but they aren’t exaggerated, either.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, are delivered with an excellent balance between the crispness of the higher-register brass, strings, and vocals, and the lower-register instrumentation.
The mic offers decent intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 8, we could understand every word we recorded quite clearly, but the mic’s signal was notably faint, and we had to speak loudly to be heard. Speaking loudly did nothing to diminish the mic’s clarity, however.
Master & Dynamic makes luxury headphones that don’t skimp on design materials or sound quality. That said, the price for the MW65 feels a little high. If your priority is top-notch ANC, you can get better performance for less money with the $400 Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and the $350 Sony WH-1000XM3. If your focus is on audio clarity and a luxurious design, however, you might just find the MW65 to be a worthwhile splurge.
Master & Dynamic MW65 Specs
|Connection Type||Bluetooth, Stereo 3.5mm|
|Active Noise Cancellation||Yes|