Master & Dynamic MH40 Wireless 2023 review: More expensive, but worth it
“M&D’s unique combination of style and sound doesn’t come cheap, but it does satisfy the senses.”
USB-C digital audio
Good battery life
Might not please bass fans
iPhones lose the best wireless/digital sound quality
Master & Dynamic (M&D) has updated its MH40 wireless earbuds for 2023, but you’d be hard-pressed to tell just by looking at them side-by-side with the 2019 originals. Sure enough, they’re physically identical. And yet the new version sells for $399, $100 more than its predecessors.
So why would you consider upgrading or buying the new MH40W about its many excellent competitors? Let’s take a look at them.
What has changed?
In a hurry? Here is the TL; DR on the new 2023 model:
- Longer battery life (30 hours vs. 18)
- faster charging
- Redesigned Titanium Drivers
- High-Resolution Wireless Audio via Snapdragon Sound (aptX Adaptive)
- Digital audio input via USB-C
- improved microphones
- Bluetooth 5.2 (vs 5.0)
- App-based equalizer, sidetone, firmware updates
A big part of the M&D product experience is design. If you’re happy with the basic black plastic earphones, let me save you some time and money: the MH40 W isn’t the earphone you’re looking for. However, if you think your headphones should help you stand out from the crowd (and not in some sort of neon cat ears), the MH40 W are still one of the most stylish ways to go.
The 2023 model keeps all the original elements intact. The vintage aviator-inspired look is most authentic in the silver/brown look of the tins, as seen in the photos, but you can also choose from bronze/black, black/black, silver/navy, and silver/grey combinations .
The use of leather, metal, and aluminum give the headphones an undeniably luxurious weight and feel, while somehow retaining the spartan, utilitarian vibe of the cabin equipment they emulate.
If you look very closely, you’ll notice the only two visible physical updates: the two microphones on the right ear cup are now located behind the windshields, and the magnetic ear pads are slightly thicker. And if you put both on a scale, he’ll notice that the 2023 model is only slightly heavier (9.95 ounces versus 9.75 ounces).
For me, the wearing experience hasn’t changed despite the thicker pads. The MH40 W’s are very comfortable cans for extended periods, with the same caveats as before: They’ll shift around if you’re doing any real physical activity, and those lambskin-covered ear pads feel good against your skin but aren’t exactly breathable. So again, strenuous exertion is not recommended.
And those with small heads take note: there’s not a lot of adjustment clearance on the slider posts (just 12mm of travel per side compared to nearly 35mm on the Sony WH-1000XM5), and M&D has chosen to err on the side of the biggest ones. heads, so even the smallest setting can place the bottom of the headphones too low for you.
Still missing some features
Unfortunately, despite the price increase, there’s still no active noise cancellation (ANC) on these cans. Not a deal breaker – the ear cushions provide a very good level of passive noise isolation – but something to consider if you like to travel or find yourself trying to work in busy places.
However, I confess to being a bit surprised by the continued lack of a transparency mode. I’m only saying that because the 2023 model has added sidetone, the ability to hear your voice more clearly when you’re on phone calls, which is a nice touch. Usually, when sidetone is offered on headphones, it goes hand-in-hand with some kind of transparency feature, but not on the new MH40 W.
On the plus side, with no ANC or transparency features, the controls are easy to master and use. Two small volume buttons flank a raised multifunction button on the right ear cup, giving you access to all the commands you might need. I’m also going to support M&D for a change that may seem insignificant, but I love it: all it takes to turn the new version on and off is a short press of the power/pairing button. The original model needs long presses for both – yay for the little things!
From a pure usability perspective, the biggest improvement is battery life. The first-gen headphones had a barely acceptable runtime of 18 hours between charges (even on more power-hungry ANC cans, I consider 20 hours to be an absolute minimum), so getting up to 30 hours on the new model is a bit of a chore. welcome change. There’s even been a slight improvement in how quickly they load (6 hours of playback after 15 minutes vs. 9 hours after 30 minutes).
It’s all about the audio
Still, I think the main reason to consider the new MH40 W is M&D’s work on audio performance. There are four technical improvements at play: redesigned drivers, which M&D says deliver “more expansive sound,” better Bluetooth audio through the addition of the aptX Adaptive codec (Android only), four app-based EQ presets, and the ability to to channel digital. audio directly to the headphones via USB-C.
Of these four enhancements, the only one worth paying for is USB-C digital audio. I’m going to assume that if you’re considering spending $400 on a pair of headphones, even remotely, you want to be able to experience the best audio quality those cans can produce, without needing to spend even more money on accessories.
Digital USB-C is the key to making that happen. To be clear, wireless audio quality is really good, with excellent clarity, a very balanced sound signature, and a snappy response that prevents instruments like cymbals and kick drums from muddying the soundstage. Thanks to a switch from aptX to aptX Adaptive, those with compatible Android phones will get a much higher fidelity signal than the original MH40 W. But these cans sound even better when you plug them in.
A direct digital connection means your Android-only smartphone (sorry, iPhone owners) or computer can send a full-quality lossless signal to the MH40 W’s built-in digital-to-analog converter (DAC), which is capable of to generate up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution.
Assuming you have access to a lossless audio source, such as Amazon Music, Apple Music, Tidal, or your own collection of FLAC files, you’ll get better dynamic range, with an added level of precision that lets you hear detail that even the most impressive The aptX Adaptive codec can not fully reveal. As a bonus, you can charge the headphones at the same time when using USB-C digital audio, something the 2019 version couldn’t do.
On the previous model, the only way to get equivalent high-quality sound was by using a third-party DAC/Headphone Amp adapter in conjunction with the analog input. Depending on the DAC/amp, that could easily set you back another $100, so I think it’s arguable that USB-C digital audio alone could justify the higher price of the 2023 model.
If you already own the 2019 model, it’s worth noting that the new drivers (now made of titanium instead of PET) offer a slightly expanded soundstage as promised, but don’t have much of an impact on bass response. I still find the MH40 W to be on the verge of what works for me in terms of low-end. Even with the newly available “bass boost” EQ preset, I don’t think there’s enough oomph to satisfy those who want to feel the bottom end parts of their favorite tracks. If your tastes veer toward classical, folk, jazz with trumpet/piano, acoustic, opera, or synth-pop, I doubt you’ll care at all. Connoisseurs of hip-hop, blues, rap, and EDM may find themselves wanting more.
Call quality can be really good, especially in quiet places, and having the sidetone option is great for reducing the fatigue that can come from being forced to listen to your muffled voice (plus, you tend to yell when that happens). However, there’s little in the way of noise cancellation for disturbing background sounds, which will leave callers grumpily asking you to call back when you’re not standing at a busy intersection.
They’re worth it?
I think M&D has given the MH40 Wireless some significant upgrades for 2023. But as with the originals, my guideline remains the same: you buy these cans for their unique style, craftsmanship, and excellent sound quality, but also knowing that you’re giving up features like ANC, transparency mode, and wear sensors that have become almost ubiquitous in wireless cans half the cost.
For some, that tradeoff will be worth it – no one ever said high-quality style and materials were cheap – but if you’re looking for better wireless headphones for your money, there are several great, more affordable alternatives, including the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless. for $349, the $349 Sony WH-1000XM4, and the $379 Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700.