Master and Dynamic MW65 review

Master and Dynamic’s MW65 sound great, but can't drown out the noise

Master and Dynamic’s MW65 are the audiophile’s wireless headphones of choice.
Master and Dynamic’s MW65 are the audiophile’s wireless headphones of choice.
Master and Dynamic’s MW65 are the audiophile’s wireless headphones of choice.

Highs

  • Top-notch sound
  • Equal parts beautiful and robust design
  • Comfy leather trim
  • Intuitive tactile controls
  • Solid 24 hours of battery

Lows

  • Noise canceling just OK
  • Annoying cancellation hum when earpads are bumped
  • Light on fancy features

To be perfectly frank, $500 is probably too high for a pair of wireless headphones in 2019 — even a pair as lovely as Master and Dynamics’ MW65. The problem is, whenever we muster up the angst to rebuff the cost of one of Master and Dynamic’s glittering creations, such as the MW07 wireless earbuds or the MW50 on-ears before them, we just can’t seem to go through with it.

Sure, other noise cancellers do more for less, but they’re nowhere near as sexy as the MW65. What’s more, if you think these silver-studded cans look gorgeous, just wait till you hear them. The MW65 may not have the features or noise-canceling skills of some of the top wireless cans, but these are a luxurious pair of headphones, through and through. And if you have the cash, you may just want to grab them.

Out of the box

We’ve certainly seen more opulent packaging throughout our years reviewing headphones — a wooden case is always a nice (if not extraneous) touch — but unboxing the M65 is a pretty classy experience in its own right. A stealth-black box opens to reveal the headphones in an earth-friendly paper cradle, their gunmetal frames glinting subtly against black leather accents.

Lifting the top layer reveals an ample collection of accessories separated into paper compartments, including a small leather pouch (no hard case, unfortunately), braided cables for wiring in and charging, a USB-to-USB C power adapter, and for the nostalgic among us, an airplane jack.

Class meets tech

The MW65 come in two colors, including the black-and-flint-gray model we received and a flashier version in copper brown and silver. It’s the kind of stylistic design, one imagines, that would cater to rich people who want one of each to match their wardrobes — a summer and an autumn, if you will. The “M” brand on the exterior of the oval-shaped earcups’ flashes softly in the light, but otherwise it’s all curvy lines of smooth leather and sculpted aluminum.

The metal frame is at once chic and rugged.

Style aside, the headphones feel extremely well-crafted, and the metal frame is at once chic and rugged. The leather earpads are as supple to the touch as you’d expect, while the chassis weighs 250 grams (or just over a half pound) and feels featherlight on your head for impressive comfort even after hours of listening.

You won’t find some of the fancier features from flagship models like Sony’s WH-1000x M3 headphones here. There’s no auto-pause when you take the headphones off, for instance, and no fancy filtering with noise canceling either — Sony’s flagship headphones even adjust noise canceling for cabin pressure when you’re airborne. The headphones also don’t collapse, making them tougher to tote along.

Master and Dynamic MW65 review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Still, there’s some excellent audio tech packed inside the MW65. Under the earpads are 40mm custom beryllium drivers, often reserved for lavish audiophile options like Focal’s absurdly expensive (and incredible) Stellia. As for more modern features, Google Assistant is available by default with a long press of the volume key, or you can sub in other voice assistants by holding down the play/pause and active noise cancellation (ANC) keys together for 5 seconds.

Speaking of controls, the MW65 trade the touch controls of many newer headphones for tactile, beaded silver keys, most of which are aligned on the right earcup. They include a multifunction key in the center for actions like song skip, play/pause, and calling, with volume keys above and below. They’re easy to use and intuitively located. On the exterior of the left earcup is the ANC key, which flips between high, low, and off modes. A power/pairing switch rests on the left cup’s backside.

Like the M50 before them, the M65 also tout an extended Bluetooth range of 65 feet, allowing you to wander far beyond the range of most wireless headphones. Battery life of 24 hours sits right between both Sony’s 1000x M3 and Bose’s QC35 II.

Soft cancellation

The MW65’s noise cancellation relies on dual “beamforming” microphone arrays inside and outside the earcups. The custom system does well to wash out sound around you with music playing, but it can’t compete with the high-tech solutions of Bose or Sony’s respective flagships, or even some cheaper options. With Bose or Sony’s cancellation on, virtually every hum disappears, with or without music, and many other sounds are also greatly reduced. The MW65 do OK cutting some drone, but voices and other ambient sounds easily cut through when music is paused.

The custom cancellation can’t compete with Bose or Sony.

With cancellation on, we also noted some odd humming with music playing when bumping the earpads or moving them on your ears. Seemingly, we were hearing the cancellation reacting to the seal being broken, perhaps a result of the smaller pads that only just encapsulate your ears. It wasn’t an issue in most scenarios, but it became frustrating when walking around.

Gorgeous sound

Where the MW65 really take flight, so to speak, is their absolutely stellar sound performance. In fact, these are perhaps the best-sounding wireless headphones we’ve had the pleasure to evaluate. With clear, sweet, and pure delivery of the upper register matched by brilliantly defined bass and excellent balance, the MW65 rise above the vast majority of contemporaries, from Sony and Bose’s top pairs to Bowers and Wilkins’ lauded PX. Put another way, they’re luxurious arbiters of sheer sonic joy.

Master and Dynamic MW65 review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

There’s something particularly gorgeous about the way the MW65 treat the midrange, which is delivered with a plucky snap that is pleasantly forward, utterly crisp, and yet never approaches sibilance. Percussion is lovingly defined, as are virtually all instruments, from richly sizzled electric guitar and horns to buzzing bass strings that ring so tautly you can almost smell the nickel alloy.

Luxurious arbiters of sonic joy.

You’ll clearly hear previously missed details when playing back old favorites, and the soundstage is wide and relatively open — especially for a pair of closed-back noise cancelers. While bass isn’t massive, it’s deep and bold when it needs to be, carved with remarkable musicality — the stylized beat from The Notorious B.I.G.’s Hypnotize is so tightly rendered, you can almost see it develop before your eyes in a chrome sheen of metallic bump.

While the headphones don’t opt for the higher-quality aptX HD, their aptX-imbued signal assures impressively clean Bluetooth transmission, to the point where we didn’t ever feel the need to plug in. Frankly, perhaps the best compliment we can give is that we were able to switch to the MW65 from our prized Audio-Technica ADX-5000 open-back headphones ($2,000) without experiencing the usual, crushing disappointment.

Our Take

Unlike the more affordable flagships from Bose and Sony, Master and Dynamic’s MW65 don’t offer the kind of noise cancellation that knocks you out of the living world into peaceful serenity. Instead, the MW65’s noise cancellation serves as a clutter-free canvas upon which they paint some of the best sound you can get from headphones at their price point, wireless or otherwise.

Is there a better alternative?

For noise cancellation and travelling, the clear option is (and has been for some time) Sony’s WH-1000x M3, followed by Bose’s QC35 II. However, if you’re judging on sheer sound performance alone, you’ll want the MW65.

How long will it last?

These are a luxury pair of headphones with the build quality to match. What’s more, their 24 hours of battery life is just below most of the top wireless options, and should serve them well for years to come.

Should you buy it?

If you’re looking for the best wireless sound you can get, and noise cancellation is a secondary concern, yes. Otherwise, you’ll probably want to save some cash and pick up Sony’s WH-1000x M3. Based on all-around utility and value, they’re still the wireless headphones to beat.

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