Master & Dynamic has a cult following and it’s easy to see why. The New York-based audio company creates some of the most beautiful and well-built headphones at any price. Sure, Master & Dynamic’s headphones are expensive, but you get lambskin leather and metal everywhere. You won’t find cheap-feeling plastic anywhere.
The Master & Dynamic MH30 brings the company’s obsessive attention to detail to an on-ear offering. This allows the MH30 to be more portable than its big brother, the Master & Dynamic MH40, as it can be folded up for easy transport.
Pricey though they may be, you get a well-built headphone that feels every bit of its $300 (£279, about AU$497) asking price. Ultimately, while audiophiles won’t like its bass-heavy sound and should undoubtedly look at the MH40, MW50 and MW60, mainstream listeners will be wowed by the MH30's wide soundstage and energy.
The Master & Dynamic MH30 are an undeniably gorgeous headphone, even in all black like our review unit, which tends to hide lines and features. The design reminds us a lot of the retro aesthetic of Grado but with a more modern touch.
As we stated above, there's no plastic to be had anywhere on the MH30; instead, you’ll find gobs of metal and leather throughout: The headband itself is made of premium cowhide on the outside and supple lambskin on the inside, the MH30’s bridge is made out of steel and the rest of the headphone is made of anodized aluminum. Master & Dynamic’s headphone build quality puts other headphones luxury brands like B&W and B&O to shame.
Since the on-ear design of the Master & Dynamic MH30 is more compact, they’re more suitable for travel than its bigger brother, the MH40 – while the MH40 folds flat, the MH30 folds flat and up to easily fit in a bag. Master & Dynamic includes a nice cloth pouch that’s way too large for the MH30. (In fact, the bag is the same size as the MH40’s and offers scratch but not crush protection.) For this price, Master & Dynamic should include a hard case with its headphones for the commuting crowd, but putting them in the soft pouch isn't a deal-breaker.
On the bottom of the MH30’s ear cups you’ll find 3.5mm headphone jacks, plural. This means you can plug in the included cable into either side and also have the ability to daisy chain other headphones so you can share a single source with your friends in a pinch.
The included cable is nicely braided, yet soft as to not create cable noise. There’s an inline mic and remote for adjust volume and controlling playback. The cable is terminated in a knurled aluminum straight plug, which is a nice touch.
The Master & Dynamic MH30 feature the company’s house sound signature, which is to say exciting and warm. One of the most impressive qualities of any M&D headphone is just how impactful and exciting music sounds across the frequency range. Bass slams hard, mids are warm and lush, and highs are never fatiguing.
To our ears, the MH30 are Master & Dynamic’s most bass-heavy headphone yet. If you love bass, you’ll love these headphones. However, we wished for a more neutral tuning that’s closer to its MH40 big brother. To put a finer point on it, bass slam is excellent, but the only downside is that the bass bleeds slightly into the mids at times, leading to a slightly smeared presentation for some tracks. Mids are good, with vocals sounding natural and slightly warm due to the mid-bass bump. Highs are never fatiguing as they’re rolled off, but the result is less-than-sparkling treble.
Soundstage width is quite good and imaging allows you to hear where individual instruments are coming from. Detail retrieval is average but the MH30 was never meant to be a studio monitor. Noise isolation is good for an on-ear, but can’t match active noise cancellation for a noisy commute.
Comfort will depend on your head shape and tolerance for on-ear headphones. We found the MH30 to be comfortable for a couple of hours before the pressure from the earpads and the top of the headband became uncomfortable.
Admittedly, $300 (£279, about AU$497) is a ton of money to spend of a wired on-ear pair of headphones. For slightly more money, you can buy a pair of Bose QuietComfort 35 II, which is wireless and features excellent active noise cancellation.
But the Master & Dynamic MH30 are not meant to compete with wireless or noise cancelling headphones – they’re meant to appeal to those who care about how a headphone looks and feels as much as how it sounds. If you’re judging the MH30 purely by its design, we can't think of a better built headphone in this class.
In terms of sound, the Master & Dynamic MH30 are all about the bass and having fun. Bass kicks harder than any on-ear headphone we’ve heard, but can be overbearing at times. While we wished for a slightly more neutral tonal balance, the bassy sound was undeniably fun for hip hop and electronic music. Those looking for more neutral tuning should check out the Master & Dynamic MH40.