Master & Dynamic MW75 Review: Premium Headphones With Impressive Active Noise Cancellation
One of the priciest pairs of noise-canceling headphones we’ve tried are the Master & Dynamic MW75 ($599). They have excellent audio quality, a premium design, and a ton of high-quality accessories, but their active noise cancellation (ANC) performance is just above average, not class-leading. This is an issue because the finest noise-cancelling competitors in the market, like as the Editors’ Choice winner Sony WH-1000XM5 ($399.99), have equally amazing sound quality, are more successful at canceling outside noise, and link with more practical apps. But, if you don’t need the greatest ANC and are more concerned with how your headphones appear than anything else, you might be able to justify the price of Master & Dynamic’s most recent model.
The Master & Dynamic appeal has always included high-quality components, and the MW75 over-ears carry on the heritage. Aluminum and tempered glass with a high degree of reflectivity are used to stylish effect in the earcup panels. With plenty of padding, the earpads and headband are lined with lambskin leather. In addition to silver (with tan or gray leather), the headphones are also offered in black and gunmetal gray (with black leather). Regardless of design, the over-ears fit pleasantly and securely for extended listening sessions.
Inside, 40mm beryllium dynamic drivers control the audio. Along with Bluetooth 5.1, the pair is also compatible with the AAC, AptX Adaptive, and SBC Bluetooth codecs. There is a good selection of support, but the Sony WH-1000XM5 has a tiny edge because it also supports the LDAC codec, which is popular among audiophiles.
You operate all the functions with physical buttons, despite reflecting glass panels on the earpieces that resemble a touch screen on a smartphone. Three buttons are located on the right earcup: Depending on how many times you push it or how long you hold it, a central multifunction button here controls playing, track navigation, call management, and voice assistants, while volume buttons are located on the sides. A USB-C connector is also located on the right earcup and allows for wired digital music playing (up to 24-bit/96kHz) as well as charging. Power/Pairing and ANC buttons are located on the left earcup. The latter toggles between ANC and Ambient Listening modes by default, but you may add a third option via the app that disables both functionalities.
The headphones fold flat to fit into the zip-up hard-shell bag for the set; it has a gray felt interior and space for all the extras. In addition to the USB-C-to-3.5mm audio cable and the USB-C-to-USB-C charging cable, you also receive an airline adapter, a USB-A charging cable converter, and adapters for 1/4-inch headphone jacks. The cables are wrapped around the inside portion of the compartment where the adapters all fit using cable ties. One of the better-designed cases we’ve seen is this one.
According to Master & Dynamic, the headphones can last around 32 hours without ANC and 28 hours with it on. Obviously, depending on your average listening volume and ANC usage, your results will vary. In 40 minutes, the headphones will charge 50%, and in 100 minutes, 100%.
How the App Works
You may cycle between the ANC On, ANC Off, and Ambient modes, as well as execute firmware upgrades, using the M&D Connect app, which is available for iOS and Android. You may choose from a number of settings in ANC mode, including Max, All Day (a battery-saving option), and Adaptive (which adjusts to your surroundings). You may choose between settings in ambient mode that give the environment or speech priority.
The program also allows you to choose between several EQ settings (Bass Boost, Bass Reduce, and Vocal Boost) and turn the feature completely off. It’s disappointing that there are no EQ settings that can be changed when many less priced rival models have applications with five-band presets that can be changed.
If not, the app opens a range of personalization choices. For instance, you may modify the auto-off timer and disable on-head detection. When we switched the headphones off and attempted re-connecting them to our phone, some of the adjustments made in the app (such as putting the Off option for the ANC and Ambient modes to the physical ANC button) did not take effect. Moreover, the over-ears were not recognized by the app during the initial pairing attempt.
ANC Fall Short of Expectations
The noise canceling ability of the MW75 headphones is above average, however given their somewhat higher price, this performance is a little disappointing. It performs roughly as well as the MW65 ($499), although the competition has significantly improved since the introduction of that model.
In tests, the new pair greatly reduces low-frequency rumbling that sounds like it is coming from an airplane, and it brilliantly reduces the lows and mids from a recording of a busy restaurant with clinking plates and loud chatter. Yet what stands out in both instances is the audible hiss that the headphones introduce into the mix. Although the high-frequency hiss isn’t unpleasant, we are unwilling to overlook it at this price because it’s a defining characteristic of less-than-top-tier ANC headphones.
When we compared the M&D headphones to the aforementioned Sony model in a quiet area, the Sony headphones seemed to reduce noise levels while the M&D headphones seemed to increase it. Also, the $329 Bose QuietComfort 45 doesn’t amplify the signal with any detectable ANC hiss.
The Ambient mode of the headphones performs OK, however the non-voice focused option is a little softer than we had anticipated.
High-Quality Audio Performance
We disabled the app’s EQ in order to evaluate the audio quality of the over-ears. For tunes with heavy sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Scream,” the headphones produce a remarkable low-frequency response that tends toward precision without sounding overly clinical. Even in the Bass Boost mode, which amplifies the bass, there is no distortion at the loudest volume levels. The bass still has considerable substance and works nicely with the upper frequencies at moderate volume settings.
The song “Drover” by Bill Callahan, which has far less deep bass in the mix, offers us a clearer idea of the duo’s sound. With bass-forward headphones, the drums on this track can sound unduly thunderous, but on the MW75 over-ears, they just sound full and rich with a natural roundness. The acoustic strums and higher-register percussion strikes have a bright, precise presence, while Callahan’s baritone vocals achieve a wonderful blend of low-mid richness and sharp high-mid presence. There is a lot of low-frequency anchoring, but the emphasis is on clarity and balance.
The kick drum loop on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild” obtains sufficient high-mid presence to maintain the attack’s power (though some might wish for a tad more). This time, the background vinyl hiss and crackle moves a little bit forward. Although not as much as with bass-boosted headphones that attempt to simulate the subwoofer experience, the sub-bass synth hits that break up the beat are audible with good depth. Even so, the headphones provide deep lows that complement the highs effectively. Moreover, the vocals lack any added sibilance and sound clear.
The opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary is a great example of an orchestral track. The track never sounds unduly boosted or thin in the lows, and the higher-frequency parts, such as the higher-register brass, strings, and vocals, acquire an outstanding amount of clarity. The lower-register instrumentation performs an anchoring function in the mix.
We had no trouble comprehending every word in a test recording made with our iPhone, and the mic array sounded good. Although there are some Bluetooth audio distortions, a strong mobile connection shouldn’t interfere with call clarity.
The Master & Dynamic MW75 headphones include a number of features that should be appealing to audiophiles, including huge dynamic drivers, robust Bluetooth codec compatibility, and even a hi-res wired playback option. The over-ears sound excellent, as expected. However their inability to compete with the finest of the best is due to a subpar in-app EQ and an audible hiss in the ANC mode. We also like the Apple AirPods Max ($549), another choice that looks nice but is a bit pricey compared to the aforementioned Sony WH-1000XM5 and Bose QuietComfort 45. All of these pairs have excellent audio quality, but while being among the most fashionable, the Master & Dynamic model simply has the least effective noise-cancelling capabilities of the bunch at a slightly greater price.