A price tag of $449 (£429, around AU$625) is almost unheard of for a gaming headset, but Master & Dynamic - or M&D to its friends - is a well-known name in Hi-Fi circles, where that sort of price is actually quite commonplace.
Like a number of traditional Hi-Fi specialists, M&D has decided that the fast-growing gaming market is now too big to ignore, and has released the new MG20 Wireless Gaming Headphones in order to get in on the gaming action.
But, rather than trying to compete with mass-market brands such as Corsair or Razer, M&D is unashamedly describing the MG20 as “the first true luxury gaming headphones”.
The price is certainly luxurious, of course, but the MG20 works hard to earn its keep, with high-quality sound and design, and versatile connectivity features that work well for both gaming and listening to music.
The design of the headphones is certainly impressive. Available in either ‘black onyx’ or ‘galactic white’, the MG20 is built with a combination of aluminum and magnesium that is light and comfortable to wear for long gaming sessions.
The large earpieces are padded with memory foam for extra comfort - although the lambskin leather covering is a detail that may not appeal to some people. The earpieces also house large 50mm drivers constructed of beryllium - a highly rigid metal used in audiophile headphones to reduce vibration and distortion that might affect the sound quality.
Master & Dynamic hasn’t overlooked the gaming side of things, though. The headphones use Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless audio, with support for Apple’s AAC codec and AptX HD for music streaming, as well as AptX Low Latency for gaming.
There’s also an additional Low Latency USB adaptor (with USB-A connector), which can be plugged into a PC or console to help reduce audio delays while gaming. The headphones support virtualized 7.1 surround sound effects, although there’s no support for Dolby Atmos, which is beginning to become more common in some other gaming headsets.
The MG20 includes a removable boom microphone for shouting at your team-mates online, and the boom is flexible so that you can easily adjust it if you need to. There’s good attention to detail too, with volume dials on the left and right earpieces that allow you to separately adjust the volume for the mic and headphones as required.
You can also mute the mic with a quick tap on the volume dial, and there’s a ‘pop’ filter on the end of the boom that reduces noise from having the mic so close to your mouth. And, just for good measure, there’s an additional mic built into the left earpiece - just above the boom connector - so that you can remove the boom and still take calls when you’re simply wandering around and listening to some music.
Battery life is around 22 hours when using Bluetooth, but I’m pleased to find that you can also use the MG20 as a conventional set of wired headphones, with the USB-C port on the headphones doubling up for the power supply and USB-Audio input. There’s a good set of accessories provided as well, including a carrying pouch, USB-C cables for charging and USB-Audio, and the USB Low Latency adaptor.
It may call itself a gaming headset, but the MG20 can sit right alongside M&D’s existing range of audiophile headphones for musical precision.
There’s a wonderful clarity and warmth to the sound, whether listening to the delicate acoustic strumming of Damien Rice on The Blower’s Daughter, or Muse’s dense wall of sound on Knights Of Cydonia.
The headphones have what M&D refers to as ‘semi-open acoustics’ - which means that they leak a lot of sound, so people around you can hear what you’re listening to. However, that semi-open design also creates a relaxed, open soundstage that really makes The Blower’s Daughter sound like a live performance in my living room, catching Rice’s whispery vocal, and every little finger scratch as he strums away on the guitar.
We’re here for some gaming action, though, so we also tried the Low Latency USB adaptor connected to a PC for some gaming action in Amazon’s New World.
The game’s endless fetch quests aren’t exactly thrilling, but the open world setting provides a good soundstage for the MG20. There’s a satisfyingly gritty crunch to our footsteps as we run along the road to my next quest destination - no mounts means that there’s a lot of running in New World - and pressing the 7.1 button on the left earpiece opens up the sound and allows the lush orchestral soundtrack and ambient background noises to swirl all around us.
The MG20 produces a dramatic bass rumble as my fledgling wizard calls down a meteor storm upon a field full of zombies - there’s a lot of zombie-killing quests in New World too - and we enjoy hearing their guttural murmurings following behind me as I turn and run away.
The sense of directional movement could, perhaps, be a little more pronounced, especially for team games where you need to be very aware of the precise location of other players, but the MG20 does a good job of immersing me in the game’s open world setting.
Even so, the high price of the MG20 means that it’s catering to a fairly narrow niche market.
Gamers who want to focus primarily on their online manoeuvres will find similar surround sound features in less expensive headsets. But, if you’re a Hi-Fi buff who also likes to indulge in some online mayhem in your off-duty hours, then the MG20’s combination of atmospheric surround sound and high-quality music streaming make it a terrific set of headphones for all-round entertainment.
Buy it if...
You’re feeling flush
The high-quality design and rich, warm sound of the MG20 are certainly impressive - but they come at a price and, at almost $450, this is one of the most expensive gaming headsets currently available.
You’re an audiophile
Gaming aside, the MG20 provides excellent sound quality for listening to music. It supports both AAC and AptX HD for Bluetooth streaming, and can also be used as wired headphones for maximum audio quality.
You’re a movie buff
The 7.1 surround sound effects provided by the MG20 work well for gaming, but they’re also really effective for watching movies, with imposing sound and good low-frequency response.
Don't buy it if...
You’re on a budget
The sound quality of the MG20 is great, but if you’re just after surround sound for gaming then there are plenty of cheaper options.
You live in a small flat
You’ll need a bit of privacy when you let loose with these headphones. They sound great, but the ‘semi-open acoustics’ of the MG20 mean that everyone around you can hear them too.
You’re a Dolby Atmos fan
The MG20’s surround sound effects are nicely immersive - but Dolby Atmos is the current trend in surround sound tech for headphones, and a number of gaming headsets already offer Atmos at lower prices.
- These are the best PC gaming headsets