Master & Dynamic’s New MW65 Over-the-Ear Headphones with ANC Are a Gear Diary Editor’s Choice

Some months ago, I received a pair of the Master and Dynamic MW60 over-the-ear wireless headphones. Since they arrived, they have become my go-to headphones. Now the company has announced their first headphones with active noise cancellation, the MW65 over-the-ear headphones. What do I think about them? Put simply, we are giving them an Editor’s Choice award.

Let me step back a bit.

At CES four years ago, Greg had one of the first releases from Master and Dynamic. I tried them out and, while they were good, I wasn’t totally wowed by them. Fast forward to last fall when the MW60s arrived. This time I wasn’t just impressed. I was blown away. From the premium materials to the comfort when wearing them for extended periods of time, to the excellent battery life and the beautifully balanced sound, these quickly rose to the top of my list when it comes to wireless over-the-ear headphones; they quickly became my headphones of choice.

So when I was offered a chance to check out a final prototype of their new, at the time unannounced, wireless headphones with ANC, I jumped at the chance. After the headphones arrived and I had spent just a few hours listening to them, I told Raina I was going to have to buy a pair. “You have dozens of headphones already. Why would you go out and buy another pair?” She asked. “Simple,” I said, “I’ve never used a pair quite like these. They are comfortable, the ANC works amazingly well and they sound fantastic. Seriously, Rai, I think these are the best headphones I have ever used.”

Boxing the prototype to send back to the company was a major bummer for me. They are that good.

Why am I so enamored of the brand new MW65 over-the-ear headphones with ANC? Let’s take a closer look.

The Press Release that went out today begins by stating,

Today, Master & Dynamic launches their most technically sophisticated headphones yet, honing their point of view on modern technology and timeless craftsmanship with the introduction of the MW65 Active Noise-Cancelling Wireless Over-Ear Headphones. Master & Dynamic worked tirelessly to perfect an active noise-cancelling technology that would not compromise the signature sound quality the brand has become known and respected for. In addition, great effort was put towards creating lighter headphones in order to maximize comfort during extended playtimes. Completing this elevated listening experience, the MW65 also has Google Assistant built-in, making this sound tool the perfect companion for your daily commute or wherever your travels take you.

Clearly, the company is rather confident with regard to their latest offering. The good news is, they are justified in their confidence. Pulling the MW65 out of the box was a familiar experience to my first encounter with the MW60s. The packaging is elegant but not over the top. Inside the box, I found the MW65 headphones, a soft protective canvas carrying case with a zippered pouch, a flight adaptor, a 3.5mm audio cable for use with the optional wired port, a USB-C charging cable, and a USB adaptor. (Yes! The MW65 move from the microUSB port found on the MW60s to a USB-C charging port!)

I’ll admit to being a bit surprised that headphones with an MSRP of $499 come with a soft case instead of a hard protective one. I raised this when I had a chance to meet with Master & Dynamic’s Founder and CEO Jonathan Levine last week, and he offered a reasonable explanation. He explained that, unlike other company’s who often use a significant amount of plastic in their headphones, Master & Dynamic use only premium materials like metal and lambskin. The headphones are so durable, he said, that they don’t require a hard case to protect them. So, while neither he nor I recommend it, you can sit on the headphones and they will be just fine. Besides, he added at one point, these are excellent headphones for travel, and a flat pouch is easier to stow and access than a thick, bulky one. That actually makes sense to me. These are premium headphones that feel as solid as they look.

The MW65 use the same design language as the MW60. In fact, all of the company’s on-ear and over-the-ear headphones share the same design DNA. The headband is covered premium grade leather, they have the familiar lambskin-wrapped memory foam ear pads and the outer portion of the ear cups, where some companies put huge branding, have a subtle logo that doesn’t call attention to itself. The similarities continue.

While the recent trend has moved toward touch controls, the company has continued to use real, physical metal buttons and toggles. It gives the headphones a classic look and feel, but — more importantly — provides a wonderful tactile experience that lets you easily control your music without needed to remove the headphones.

Even before getting to the addition of ANC in the MW65, there are some significant difference between the two products.

The MW65s have some extra buttons that allow you to control the ANC as well as access to Google Voice Assistant.

Unlike the MW60, the MW65 do not have hinges that let the ear cups fold. I asked Jonathan about this as well, and he told me the MW60 were the first pair with the ability to collapse, and they didn’t feel the need to include the extra stress point in headphones that will likely be thrown into a carry-on for travel. Perhaps most importantly, the MW65 are noticeably lighter than the MW60s. The MW60 weigh 340g, while the new MW65 are just 250g. The MW60s are by no means heavy, but the weight difference is significant. This was, in part, accomplished by using a special, super strong aluminum instead of the steel that was used in the MW60s.

…carefully engineered anodized aluminum keeps the headphones ultra-light at 250g and creates a durable scratch-resistant surface.

The new headphones are just as tough at the MW60s but, by finding a strong aluminum that could replace the steel, the company was able to shave significant weight. That’s a huge deal if you are getting those headphones for travel.

 

Inside the headphones, there are custom 40mm Beryllium drivers. Jonathan explained that an early version used 45mm drivers, but the larger drivers and electronics for the ANC resulted in headphones that were just a bit too big and bulky. Trust me, while the drivers in these headphones are a bit smaller than those used in the MW60, the new offering still sounds great and, as they put it, “preserves Master & Dynamic’s signature rich, warm sound that captures the detail of well-recorded music.”

The headphones have Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity. That gives them a range of up to 65 feet or 20m. That’s significantly less than we have seen with headphones employing Bluetooth 5.0 that can get three times the wireless range. Still, unless you’re using these headphones to wander around an open office, you won’t really notice the difference. Considering the fact that these are, first and foremost, intended for travel, I don’t think the shorter range is an issue.

One might expect the inclusion of active noise cancellation would have a negative impact on battery life. The good news here is that isn’t the case. In fact, while the MW60 get 16 hours of listening time, this new offering increases that to an impressive 24-hours when they start off fully charged. In addition, the headphones have a quick-charging capability that delivers a 50% charge in just 15 minutes. That is yet another great feature considering these will be used for travel. I could, in fact, use them to travel to and from Israel without needing to recharge. That’s pretty amazing.

I previously mentioned that there is a physical button for activating Google Assistant. That’s also new with the MW65 and the company has this to say about it:

The MW65 is also optimized for Google Assistant, making it the perfect companion for getting things done during your travels or commute. Continue your conversations while on the go and easily access the best of Google, from Google Play Music to Google Maps. You can quickly enjoy entertainment, stay connected to friends, get information, and manage your day—all without glancing at your phone. The beamforming noise-reduction microphones also help to filter out external noise and focus on the sound of your voice at every command regardless of location or environmental noise.

I have a few pair of headphones that have either Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa built in. And while I haven’t found myself using voice services with my headphones that frequently, it’s always nice to know the capability is there.

Of course, the feature that most excited me when I first head about the new offering is the inclusion of ANC. This is a first for Master & Dynamic, and they have done themselves proud right out of the gate. The ANC works amazingly well and features two active noise-canceling modes. There is a high setting that blocks out a huge amount of noise and a low setting that is good for reducing ambient sounds without completely shutting you off from the world. Some headphones are trying to implement an automatic mode that adjusts the ANC to your environment without the need to do anything; I haven’t tried them but have read reports that this approach can be “finicky.” I much prefer the implementation here that lets you have the option to manually control how much ANC is active.

Utilizing best-in-class feed-forward and feed-back hybrid active noise-cancelling technology, the two beamforming noise-reduction mic arrays analyze and cancel the combination of unwanted outside environmental noise and user-heard ambient noise to provide the purest undistorted sound quality.

Master & Dynamic did some sort of magic here since the noise cancellation on the MW65 works quite well while avoiding the ANC buzz that is often present in such headphones. Moreover, they were able to avoid the audio degradation that many people using ANC headphones have just learned to tolerate. There’s no ANC buzz here and, as we will discuss in a bit more depth shortly, I actually think the MW65 sound better WITH the ANC turned on. Don’t get me wrong, they sound great without the ANC active but I prefer them with it operational.

Every aspect of the MW65 reflects the care, attention to detail, commitment to quality materials and craftsmanship, and the dedication to a great audio experience that Master & Dynamic are known for. That is, in fact, why the company is a bit “late to the game” releasing an ANC product. Levine explains waiting until now this way:

We never rush our products. We waited until we could launch an ANC product that was acoustically stunning. Through vigorous research we were able to develop an amazing ANC technology that did not compromise our signature acoustics, which is a commonly known issue with ANC. As a result of patience and discipline we are also delivering our lightest weight headphones ever. This is quite an accomplishment considering we still use all metal and premium leathers.

Of course, when considering headphones the most important thing is sound. The MW65 deliver. Whether the ANC is active or not, the headphones deliver a full, rich sound that is true audio bliss. There is enough bass but not too much. There is plenty of treble but not so much the sound thins out. And the mids are full and deliver an experience that impressed me no matter what type of music I listened to. This last point is worth exploring a bit further.

During my meeting with Jonathan, I asked him to speak a bit about how they tune their headphones. “What genre or type of listener are you targeting?” I asked.

“Funny you should ask,” he replied.

He went on to explain that when they were first developing their signature sound, he gathered a number of people together including his DJ-aspiring son who, at the time, was in his late teens. Each person was invited to add their choice of songs to a “tuning playlist.” The result was a list that ranged from classic rock to classical, to rap and jazz. They tireless tuned the headphones until they found the sweet spot where all of the songs, regardless of genre, sounded as good as possible. The result was an approach to tuning headphones that is, as he put it, “genre agnostic.”

That sounds like quite an achievement and to be honest if I wasn’t already a fan of their products, and if I hadn’t spent some serious time using the MW65s I would have thought this was marketing-speak. But I am a fan of Master & Dynamic, and I did spend some quality time with the headphones, and I can tell you this is no hyperbole. I don’t know how they did it, but I listened to a wide variety of music genres while testing the headphones and it all sounded great.

 

The new MW65 over-the-ear headphones with Active Noise Cancellation are amazing. They are made from premium materials and are among the sturdiest headphones you can find. Yet despite their impressive build quality, they are shockingly light and comfortable. They have Master & Dynamic’s iconic style that both understated and distinct. They get great battery life and can be recharged to 50% in fifteen minutes. They have ANC that not only works well but gives you the ability to choose between two levels of noise cancellation. Most importantly, they sound fantastic. That’s why we have given the Master & Dynamic MW65 an Editor’s Choice distinction. We don’t do so with many products, but there was no question this latest offering from the company deserves it!

The headphones are available now in your choice of brown leather with silver metal and black leather with gun-metal for $499. Check them out here.

Source: Loaner review (a final prototype) of the MW65

What I Like: Amazing build-quality; Clean, iconic styling; Light and comfortable; ANC works well and has two settings; Tactile controls are easy to use; Superb battery life; Quick-charge to 50% in 15 minutes; Sound fantastic

What Needs Improvement: Expensive; Bluetooth 4.2 gets lets wireless range than some available wireless headphones


About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.