It was over 5 years ago when Master & Dynamic released their MH40 headphones. The goal was to create something with a premium, timeless design and great sound. Not only did they achieve that goal but they exceeded it and created something that became an iconic classic. In today’s review, I’m looking at the Master & Dynamic MW65 ANC headphones.
The MW65 inherit the familiar classic design but in addition, they add Active Noise-Cancelling (ANC) and wireless functionality with incredible battery life. But are they worth the premium $499 price tag? Let’s find out.
Disclaimer:This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Master & Dynamic MW65 ANC Review
Exquisite build and style
Great audio quality
Good ANC performance
Intuitive, tactile controls
Package and Accessories
The MW65 comes in a classy, black box with a white outer sheath. There is a clear image of the headphones and a description of some of the features on the front. Over on the back is a colour image of the box contents and a brief description in multiple languages. Inside, you find the headphones seated in a high-quality fibre insert, under which are all the accessories. Here’s what you get in the box:
Master & Dynamic MW65 ANC headphones
Fabric carrying pouch
3.5mm audio cable
USB Type-C charging cable
USB Type-C to Type-A adapter
I was a little disappointed to see a carrying pouch instead of a proper storage case but it makes sense, since the MW65 were designed with portability in mind. As for the rest of the accessories, they’re all practical and make a nice overall bundle.
Build Quality and Design
It’s evident the moment you lay your eyes on the MW65 that this is a premium product. You won’t find any plastic or flaking protein leather here. Instead, you get an anodized aluminium frame fleshed-out with genuine leather trim. To make things even sweeter, MW65 comes in 5 different colourways, each one as appealing as the next.
The headband is bound in leather with Master & Dynamic branding embossed on the underside. As you would expect (or at least hope at this price point), the stitching on the leather headband is precise and tidy. The memory foam earpads are covered with plush lambskin leather.
The earcups have a stylish metal grille that matches the colour of the aluminium yoke and outer earcups which are also accented with more leather. Overall, the build quality and appearance of the MW65 personify distinction and make one heck of a statement.
The included cable has a braided fabric sheath. It’s extremely lightweight and you hardly notice it’s even there at all. Handling is very good: the cable is exceptionally supple and has no microphonics at all. Both ends terminate with identical 3.5mm plugs so it doesn’t matter which end you plug into the headphones or source.
Comfort and Passive Noise Isolation
I’d say that most people will probably find MW65 very comfortable. Weighing in at just 245g, the headphones rely on their medium clamping force more than the headband for support. The earpads are thick and supple with good depth. However, they are fairly narrow, so if you have large ears like me, you could experience some discomfort after an hour or so.
The earcups swivel 90 degrees inwards so you can wear them flat around your neck on place them flat on a surface. They also pivot up and down to fit naturally on your head.
Passive noise isolation is pretty good since the metal grilles on the earcups are only decorative, meaning these are a closed-back headphone. Even if you’re just using the headphones wired without ANC, you still get pretty good passive noise isolation.
Controls and Functionality
On the left earcup is the multi-function power switch. This is used to power the headphones on and off, in addition to enabling pairing mode. There’s a small LED indicator here too, which displays the current battery life.
The other button on the left earcup is the ANC mode button. It lets you switch between the 3 available ANC modes (High, Low and Off). It has a nice tactile click and the MW65 gives you an audible voice prompt, telling you which ANC mode is enabled.
The rest of the controls reside on the right earcup and consist of 3 multi-function buttons. The plus (+) button increases the volume and a long press will playback your Google Assistant notifications.
Next is the middle button which is for music playback controls: play/pause, skip forward/skip backwards. It’s also used to answer or end phone calls and a long press activates Google Assistant. Lastly, the minus (-) button that reduces volume and a long press stops the Google Assistant.
At first, I thought that Google Assistant was something I’d never use but it’s actually a really handy tool. I like being able to get notifications from my phone while I’m listening to music. And remember you can turn it off at any time if you don’t want any interruptions. You can actually ask the Google assistant what the current battery level is. When I asked, the answer was: “Your battery is completely full”. How cool is that?
I found the overall functionality of the MW65 to work really well. Furthermore, the buttons have a reassuring tactile click and feel responsive in use. The layout feels logical and it takes next to no time to learn the button locations and functions. I for one still prefer to have physical buttons over touch controls as it feels more intuitive and less prone to accidental presses.
Bluetooth Connection and Battery Life
Throughout testing, I found the Bluetooth 4.2 provided a rock-steady connection. In addition, the MW65 supports aptX for high-quality audio and reduced latency. The signal range is said to be up to 20 meters and in my experience, it holds up well without any cutting out or signal loss. It was quick and easy to pair with all the sources I tried, including my Android smartphone, Shanling M5s DAP and laptop.
One of the MW65’s standout features is its generous battery life. It can last up to 24 hours on a full charge. While this isn’t quite best-in-class performance it is still very good indeed. Moreover, just like the Master & Dynamic MW05 Plus TWS earphones, MW65 supports fast charging. It charges for up to 12 hours of playback time in just 15 minutes.
Active Noise Cancellation
The active noise-cancellation works surprisingly well. There are 2 different ANC modes: Low and High that give you control over how much of the world you want to disappear from your ears. While it doesn’t beat the reigning champs (Sony and Bose) in noise-cancellation, it still works really well. It’s especially effective for blocking out droning engine and machinery noise. The best part though is that it has little effect on the quality of the audio so your music will still sound great.
The Master & Dynamic MW65 has a clean, balanced sound that works well with a wide variety of music genres. It’s noticeably closer to neutral than previous M&D headphones but still has a nice touch of warmth for smoothness and naturalness.
The effect of ANC on the sound is fairly minimal. This is a good thing because the quality of the sound is sensational. Turning on the ANC bolsters the sound a little, particularly in the bass and adds some fullness across the spectrum without adding muddiness or any artificial hues.
The MW65 bass is full-bodied and warm but fairly balanced in terms of quantity. It’s a very natural sounding bass that sits somewhere between speed and impact. It has no trouble keeping up with The Hirsch Effekt’s “Xenophotopia” while at the same time maintaining a natural fullness and decay.
A lot of ANC headphones tend to overemphasize the bass which in turn makes the audio turbid. MW65 has a more mature sound and thus avoids that pitfall. Instead, it feels punchy but clear yet can still dig out a stouthearted rumble when you need some sub-bass.
One of the things I loved about the MW07 Plus was its vocal clarity. So I was delighted to discover that the MW65 also excels in midrange clarity and delivers clean, uncoloured audio. It’s a fairly close to neutral presentation with a little warmth added for musicality.
MW65 does a good job with instrument separation in its midrange giving it an open and uncluttered feel. Vocals both male and female are vibrant and articulated with a natural tone and weight. In Gazpacho’s “Tick Tock (Part II)”, the vocals and guitars sound engaging and full of texture. The piano is clear but not peaky and the mids sit nicely in line with the bass and slightly ahead of the treble.
A well-extended but slightly warm treble keeps the MW65’s sound light and provides ample clarity. This is a treble you can listen to for hours on end as it deftly dips through the hot zones to prevent sibilance and aggression.
There is a good deal of detail and energy delivered by the lower treble. A gentle fall off adds an airiness without becoming too bright. This is an area that M&D headphones tend to do better than competing ANC headphones and the MW65 treble achieves plentiful refulgence without fatigue.
The MW65 has a reasonably open soundstage thanks largely to its airy treble and instrument separation. Sounds project to just outside of the headspace and reach forward equally well in depth. With a strong centre image and vocal density, the MW65 makes it easy to envisage the position of various instruments on the stage. In addition, the controlled bass prevents undue smearing which aids the overall resolution and stage neatness.
The MW65 is not just about a pretty appearance and a big price tag: there is a lot of substance here as well. The Master & Dynamic MW65 makes a statement with its impeccable style and premium materials. You can rest assured knowing that they not only look and feel amazing but they sound fantastic as well. Pair that with some competent noise isolation and you have one heck of a good set of cans.
I don’t think of these as an expensive pair of ANC headphones. I consider them a premium set of headphones that also happen to be wireless and have ANC. Sure the price is high but if you can manage it you won’t be disappointed.
ACTIVE NOISE-CANCELLING: Feed-forward and feed-back (hybrid) active noise-cancelling technology
MATERIALS: Leather, Anodized Aluminum
DIMENSIONS: 165mm x 190mm x 66mm
CABLES: 1.5m Standard 3.5mm Audio Cable, USB-C to USB-C Charging Cable (with USB-A Adapter)