Getting right into this review of the Master & Dynamic MW50 review I want to say, straight out the gate, this is one of the most compelling (and actually practical) sets of wireless headphones we have ever featured.
Master and Dynamic in the past have made some stunning headphones and the fit and finish of their end products is very hard to beat. Even by some of the biggest headphone companies would struggle to match this level of quality. Their attention to detail and consistent design language makes us take notice when they release a new product so we were more than happy to get this set of MW50 in for review.
Before we jump into it just know that MW50+ headphones are not just any ordinary set of Bluetooth headphones. Instead are a 2 in 1 style with convertible pad systems that allow you to use them in either an on ear or over ear configuration. Giving you the best of portability and comfort in a single package. We have tried many concept headphones over the years and they all felt kind of half-baked but the MW50 are superbly executed.
Tell me more about the Master & Dynamic MW50 2-in-1 system
Ok, so the MW50 is basically a single set of headphones with a system where you can remove one set of earpads and convert them into a completely different style. In this case, the option is to have them configured as an over the ear (circumaural pads) or one the ear headphone (where the pads sit directly on the ear instead of around it).
We have seen a few takes on this in the past but almost always, they were too impractical to live with and changing the system was just too much effort. With the MW50+ it takes about 2 seconds to switch out each side.
You simply grab the headphones in their current form pull off the earpads which are held in place by magnets and the alternate pads just pull themselves into place. There's no fiddling about with clips or switching out headbands it really is as simple as it should be.
Why would you want to do this? Let's get the obvious out the way and admit that the majority of people will most likely settle on one style and stick with it so yes it is a bit of a gimmick. However, this sort of system does have a few unique advantages over a non-adaptable model.
Firstly, you can you essentially have 2 different styles, it makes them much more versatile as a fashion accessory. Next, when you use them in the on-ear setting they are extremely small and compact making them great for travel. But what about if you get to the office and don't want to have the long-term pressure that direct contact pads give over long listening sessions? well, you can swap into the more airy and open circumaural pads. Really it comes down to how you use your headphones.
Accessories and Packaging
Master & Dynamic has always sat right at the top of the pile when it comes to their overall package and accessories. Its a beautiful unboxing experience with the MW50 just like it was with the MH30 headphones and ME05 earphones. The styling is well thought out, clean, classy and functional with the use of premium materials throughout. The accessories are almost perfect and the quality of them is at the very highest end of the consumer headphone market.
I do want to add this as a side note that Master and Dynamic Headphones make for incredible gifts. They feel really special, scream quality and have a great unboxing experience so this will be one I will recommend come Christmas time.
In the box, you do feel like you are getting value for money. Many companies scrimp on the extras in hopes of saving a few extra bucks but Master & Dynamic have made some additions to the package that really raise it a notch above the majority of their competition.
Whats in the Box?
Master & Dynamic MW50+ Headphone master unit
1 set of small leather on-ear pads
1 set of large over-ear leather ear pads
1 Cable with 3.5mm headphone jack to use the headphones wired
1 Carry pouch with Master & Dynamic branding
Only one thing is missing here and its something that really irks me on any headphone review. There is no included hardshell case so you are forced to use the included pouch, which obviously offers no impact protection. I recommend you buy your own aftermarket case like this one from Cowin to keep your headphones safe when traveling but if you are just using them at home you should be fine without a case.
Style and Build Quality
I think I have been clear enough in the past that Master & Dynamic headphones are right up my street in terms of aesthetics. Its retro-modern all done tastefully and with a high level of finish. The MW50 has 2 different looks to it when using each earcup set but both are equally charming and sit nicely on the head with a low profile.
The entire unit is swathed in cool metal and soft leather and for every bit, they look like a premium headphone feel like one too.
The headband is very sturdy and the slider mechanism is metal so this will provide the long-term durability you want from a portable headphone. The band itself is covered in a thick yet soft grain leather with some memory foam padding underneath. Earpads conversely use a very fine soft lambskin leather with even softer memory foam underneath making them durable, breathable and comfortable.
The earcups articulate fully inward and allow you to lay the headphones flat on a table which I like but you cannot fold the headphones for storage like you can on many of the MW50's competitors. For me, this stands out as a bit of an irritating omission as it makes them more awkward to store in a bag when not in use and also limits the styles of aftermarket cases you can use with them.
The MW50 is available in 3 different colors and each one is so good looking it's going to be hard to pick one. You have the option of a stealthy black, a silver and black combo and the companies iconic silver and brown colorway. I have seen all three sets in person now and each has its own charm and is very tastefully done.
Comfort & Isolation
In both of the respective setups, the MW50 are in the upper levels of comfort when compared to their competition. When used in the on-ear setting the pads you notice just how soft the lambskin leather is and what a difference it makes from other manufacturers who opt to use synthetic protein leather in this area. On-ear headphones, of course, have their drawback when it comes to comfort and the MW50 is no different but I would say on average I lasted about an hour longer than I would with other similar models before experiencing any discomfort.
When used with the over-ear earpads comfort is really stepped up a notch and you will easily be able to wear them for long listening sessions. In this scenario then there is little to no direct contact with the outer ear and the earcups remain very breathable thus preventing sweaty build-up and heat pressure.
Two things that I haven't mentioned yet but that really comes in to play when assessing how comfortable these headphones are is the clamping force and weight. In both setups, the MW50 feel featherlight and don't cause any strain on the neck. The clamping force is also on the light side which lessens isolation in both forms but does make them more comfortable.
Isolation is average in both forms. On-ear obviously offering less isolation than when worn with the over-ear cups. The MW50 will be a solid set of cans for commuting but do not offer the same level of ambient noise reduction as a DJ specific can like the Sennheiser HD25 or a set of dedicated noise-canceling headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM2.
Sound Quality - Clean Warmth
The overall tuning of the Master & Dynamic MW50 is on the warm side of neutral and as such they sound great with a wide variety of genres. These utilize 40mm beryllium drivers and its not just a gimmick as beryllium drivers feature in 2 of my favorite earphones the Campfire Audio Lyra and IMR Acoustics IEM's. Scaling up to a full-size headphone driver seems to also work well and the MW50 are intimate and engaging sound yet at the same time produce a lot of detail.
Highs - The top end of the MW50 comes across smooth and inoffensive. However, that doesn't mean that they have non-existent highs. Most of the time they sit back and perform inoffensively but when we tested them with the Jazz portion of our listening tests they really started to shine and it is down to the detail as in the treble range as opposed to an artificial sounding enhancement. For the most part, the treble is clean and smooth but on some occasions paired with the right source material a crispness and definition comes across.
Mids - Mids are smooth and warm with a good deal of separation amongst instruments. I found that they sounded great with both male and female vocals but they really came into their own with stringed instruments. They have a good amount of decay through the midrange notes and engage you with a sense of intimacy. Detail retrieval from the mids is good but they still lost out to the 1More Triple Driver headphone in out an out clarity. A little bit of bass bleed into the mids was detected on bass heavy tracks but this is only when we really pushed them.
Lows - The lows are the highlight of the MW50. They are composed and clear whilst at the same time managing to deliver solid levels of sub bass. With the full-size earcups on they really shine in this department whilst fully enveloping and engaging you in the track. There is a lovely texture that shows the varying bass frequencies well and whilst they don't have the size to move as much air as a 50mm+ driver headphone we must say that in such a small package we were impressed.
The soundstage will largely come down to what pads we used them with but on a whole, both managed to give an above average level of width and depth when compared to their respective competitors.
Overall the sound is something I really like. They are a well tuned and easy to listen to a headphone that doesn't cause fatigue in any way. Yes, there is more visceral audiophile grade sounding headphones out there with a flat response but while those may be great for analytical listening they are just not practical for use when out and about. The MW50 has a sound that a lot of people will be familiar with but its a good one, and it works with almost every genre we threw at it.
Conclusion - Another Classy and well executed headphone from Master & Dynamic
The Master & Dynamic MW50 is, by all means, a luxury headphone and one of the most stylish portable headphones on the market right now. The option to be able to change out the earpads means that they are inherently versatile yet I suspect that most people will just settle on one variant over time. The styling and build quality of the MW50+ headphones are second to none and aesthetically they are one of my favorite headphones of 2018.
The sound is smooth and detailed and whilst I wouldn't classify this as an audiophile headphone it sits right at the top of the consumer headphone market for Bluetooth headphones. The inclusion of Aptx is very welcome and helps them sound far better than standard Bluetooth 4.0 headphones. Controls are simple and intuitive and comfort and isolation also score highly.
The only downside is the high asking price but in this case, you definitely get what you pay for in terms of build quality and materials alone. Another great headphone from one of the best luxury headphone makers on the market.
Master & Dynamic MW50 Review Updates:
6 month follow up - The headphones have seen a lot of use over the past 6 months both in and out of the office and there are a few things to note.
People love the design of this headphone. We knew it was good looking before but this is one of the most complemented headphones we have ever used in terms of aesthetics.
Build quality is outstanding. These headphones look brand new apart from the beautiful patina developing on the leather. They have been dropped 3 time from considerable height, thrown in a flight case and carry on multiple times but there are zero worries about long term durability.
After the first couple of weeks I settled to just using them in their over ear configuration. This works best for me as I travel a lot internationally and don’t want to carry both sets of pads. If I was just commuting I would likely keep the small pads on the headphones and leave the big pads at my office desk.