The last time I reviewed a Master & Dynamic headphones was the MW60 in 2016. I was very impressed with the overall craftsmanship of the product, while the sound quality is smooth though not exciting. The latest release MW65 is, in short, miles better in audio quality while retaining the supreme finishing. They retail for S$759 in Singapore.
Since launching in 2014, New York City-based Master & Dynamic has kept to its vision of building premium quality, durable, timeless audio products. Inspired by WWII aviator headsets, they have retained the design DNA throughout the headphones product line, improving each new release with new technology and materials. The latest MW65 which weighs only 245g is the lightest and most technically sophisticated headphones made by Master & Dynamic. Featuring dual-mic active noise cancelling technology, it is covered with leather, lambskin ear pads and anodised aluminium. In comparison, the similarly elegant Beoplay H9i weighs 285g, while the mostly-plastic Sony WH-1000XM3 weighs 250g.
Compared to the earlier models, the MW65 reveals more aluminium, skewing towards a more industrial feel yet retaining the earthy luxurious air. The meticulous details in both ends are exceptional: the double stitching towards the upper headband, the rear cup grille pattern, the hidden wires running within the adjustable metal headband, the embossed buttons. Despite appearing identical in colour tone, your hands would feel that the leather materials between the exterior and interior headband is different.
The tiny switches and buttons are designed to be inconspicuously small yet practical enough for the fingers to get it right. Even the ANC button is purposefully prominent with a design intent. All the accompanying accessories like the cables and adapters are also branded with metal accents.
Other than the design, the electronics are similarly premium. The headphones are driven by 40mm Beryllium drivers, there are 2 beam-forming noise-reduction mics, and it supports aptX HD. The headphones deliver 24 hours of continuous music enjoyment and up to 12 hours with a 15-minute quick charge. They are also optimised for Google Assistant, not just for triggering commands, but also to receive Google notifications and to read out messages.
As earlier mentioned, the MW65 sounds better than MW60 I reviewed 3 years ago. In ANC modes, it delivers the impactful bass feel but not too boomy, and achieves the treble clarity and sparkle without too harsh. At loud volumes, the energy and intensity gets my feet tapping while I enjoy the clarity without sounding too noisy. In ANC mode, the MW65 are not clean enough for reference: the audio is slightly compressed, the details are not as resolving. At low volumes, the sound is slightly laid back, but thanks to ANC, I still enjoy adequately.
Under passive audio mode, which is when playing audio through the 3.5mm audio plug, the MW65 produces an impressive sound tuning. With the bass less pumped up compared to the ANC mode, the treble reveals more details and a little cleaner. The direct wire audio also delivers lossless signal, translating into better sound resolution. Midrange is clean, instrumental layering is impressive. The tuning is similar under active wireless mode with ANC off.
I compared the MW65 favourably to Sennheiser HD650, where MW65 delivers a more intimate direct stage for the main melody (vocals or instrument lead). Being a closed back headphones, the MW65 has more tightness in the sound, more directional when it comes to instrumental positioning. The HD650 achieves more roomy staging, delivers warmer tonality, treble is less forward.
Overall, the noise cancelling is above average. No, it could not match the industry leaders, Sony and Bose, and higher-frequency environmental hiss can still be heard in a shopping mall when no music is being played. The MW65 is less aggressive in eliminating the upper frequency, but the low and mid range is suppressed sufficiently well. I compared closely with the Jabra Elite 85h and find that the MW65 removes low frequencies better than upper frequency, while the Elite 85h lets in the midrange.
There are a few areas that would make the MW65 an even better headphones. First, I find the ear cups are too small. They are just nice, touching my ears when worn. I would prefer them to be a little larger so that my ears can get some room. Second, in ANC mode, I could hear occasional thumping sounds as the ear cups flex when moving around. Finally, they are not ideal for high volume listening as the closed-back design results in pressure build-up.
The Master & Dynamic MW65 is a special breed of headphones. It looks good, feels good, and most importantly, sounds good. I enjoy the audiophile-grade tuning when listening through passive audio wires, and the flexibility of eliminating ambient noise outdoors so that I can immerse better in high-res wireless audio over aptX HD. The ANC is not spectacular, but it works good enough for me to indulge in my music better than other non-ANC over-ear premium headphones.
Among the ANC headphones, the Master & Dynamic MW65 wins hands down in design, style and build quality. It will delight owners who appreciate both premium product design and balanced sound quality. For consumers looking for practical ANC, it would still be a choice of Sony WH-1000XM3, but for sound quality, I would go for MW65.
At a price of S$759, the MW65 is not for the masses, but they exude style and quality for an uncompromising indulgence. Available in Singapore at TANGS, Robinsons, Isetan, Takashimaya, Analogue+, Musica Boutique, Stereo, Zeppelin & Co., Challenger @ Bugis, Courts Orchard, Sprint-Cass, headphones.sg, TREOO.com and shopee.sg.
- Beautifully crafted, premium materials
- Exceptional sound quality
- ANC does not work as well as lower-priced competitors