Master & Dynamic MW65 review

The premium audio brand adds active noise cancelling and Google Assistant to its portfolio

What happens when you pair one of the best headphones in its class with the leading digital assistant? You end up with something like the Master & Dynamic MW65 headphones.

Having had the chance to review multiple models in its portfolio over the years, we’ve really come to appreciate what Master & Dynamic puts forth. It’s not cheap stuff by any means, but it’s built with quality materials and attention to detail. And, of course, the headphones sound tremendous.

The MW65 are the latest in the line of headphones and arrive as the first since the launch of the MW50/MW50+ in late 2016. As the first pair to feature active noise cancelling (ANC), they also boast built-in support for Google Assistant.

We were fortunate enough to have received a demo pair of the MW65 a few weeks ahead of their formal debut. These were the last pre-mass production build and should largely be what consumers see when they ultimately go on sale.

Build

The MW65 comes with a soft protective canvas carrying case with zippered pouch, a flight
adaptor, 3.5mm audio cable for optional wired connection, and both a USB-C charging cable and USB adaptor.

The first thing we noticed about the MW65 was just how similar they looked to other models in the Master & Dynamic line. The color we received, silver and brown, was the exact same configuration as the MW60’s and MW50’s we tested. To us, this was a good sign.

These are the sort of headphones that beg to be looked at before putting them on. The small details are worth looking at, including the stitching, aluminum frame, and the overall textures. They’re nothing like the standard plastic and foam you would see in a cheaply made or lower-end pair of headphones.

The lambskin ear cups are present yet again, making for an incredibly comfortable wearing experience. It didn’t matter if we had these on for 20 minutes or two hours, they always felt good going on. More importantly, they never get to the point where you are essentially anxious about taking them off.

Some headphones, particularly over-ear, can lead to a fatigue of sorts. If you’ve ever had a pair that feels like it’s squeezing your head and pushing on your temples, you know how aggravating and distracting it can be. That doesn’t happen here. As for the ear cups themselves, they can be replaced without any fuss whatsoever. They literally snap on and off inside of seconds.

Google Assistant

Having Google Assistant built directly into your headphones is an interesting experience. Of all the ways we interact with it, this is perhaps the one where you have to “think” about it. On phones, and with smart speakers, it’s often as easy as speaking and/or asking. For headphones like these, you must hold a button down to activate.

It sounds trivial, but there’s something about it that makes it feel more intentional. Does that mean we use it less? At first, yes. There’s a bit of a learning curve in feeling for buttons without looking. Trying to identify the right button is a smidge awkward for the first few times.

Experience

The MW65 can’t necessarily be faulted for employing this tactic to activate Google Assistant. There’s not really any other way to go about it. To that end, you’ll use your volume buttons and music control buttons to manage Google Assistant. The buttons have excellent feedback and travel.

The same can be said of the power, Bluetooth, and ANC buttons. Each has a distinct feel to it and they have very noticeable movement. There’s no accidental pressing here.

We appreciate being able to quickly look at a device to see if it’s charging and that’s possible with the MW65. Moreover, you can also check a light to see the battery level, too. Using green, yellow, and red, one can easily identify where it is in terms of remaining battery.

The MW65 headphones promise 24 hours of playtime but that will vary based on whether you’re using active noise cancelling and how loud you like your music.

Did we ever get to 24 hours? No, but we weren’t trying too hard. Once we got to where it was red we plugged in the headphones overnight and awoke to a full charge. Speaking of battery, the USB Type C charging port lets us charge up around 50% in just 15 minutes.

Sound

The ANC feature is a nice one to have, especially in those times where you really want to dissolve into the music. Listening to podcasts or audiobooks often sounds pretty much the same across over-ear headphones. What’s more, we’re often able to put up with ambient and environmental noises.

When you want warm, rich audio, though, you don’t want to be distracted by chatter on the metro or people and cars at the park. Heck, sitting poolside or at the beach, there are times where we just want to go off the grid and fully immerse ourselves. The MW65 provides just that.

Taking calls on headphones, earbuds, or earphones, is often a weird experience, too. Having audio on both sides of your head can be awkward as we are used to callers coming from one speaker in one ear. The MW65, for its part, doesn’t do anything to change that other than provide a deep, full sound.

For a pair of Bluetooth headphones, the MW65s sound every bit as good as wired models. Further, we suspect that most readers and listeners couldn’t tell the difference between these and other, more expensive wired pairs.

Bass is rich and low but never comes over as heavy or damp. Mids and highs are also very pronounced and the separation between levels is excellent. When you have music that is mastered, or remastered, with attention to fine detail you want headphones that can discern and deliver. These do just that.

Layered and nuanced music really shines with the MW65s. Picking up minor guitar strums, bass pedal squeaks, vocal imperfections, and ambient sounds is really easy when you have a nice pair of headphones.

There’s a reason why The Wall stands the test of time – it’s damn good music. No cover band can do Pink Floyd justice as the band’s warmth and enveloping sound cannot be replicated. When you have the right headphones you can dive right in and find yourself surrounded in that welcoming, atmospheric sound. The MW65 allow us to get comfortably numb.

Conclusion

Given that the Master & Dynamic MW65 cost $499 they’re obviously not for everybody. The price point puts them outside of the area of impulse and “on a whim” buying.

As we pointed out earlier, it’s possible that the average reader couldn’t discern these from other, pricier headphones. The same goes for the other way around, sadly. We imagine there are plenty who wouldn’t pick up subtle differences between the MW65 and something a hundred dollars, or two, cheaper.

We’re not audiophiles and we don’t pretend to be heavy into headphones, drivers, and specifications. That’s just not who we are and we suspect it’s not who our target audience is, either. With that said, we’ve done our fair share of reading up on the Master & Dynamic brand over the years. Everything we’ve ever seen tells us this is a brand to consider.

What we do care about are things like everyday usage, wear and tear, battery, and features like Google Assistant. To that end, the MW65 are built with precision and care and we’ve truly enjoyed our time with them.

A quality pair of headphones is an investment. The right pair will last you years. There’s something to be said about getting what you pay for or cheapening out. These will easily outlast four sets of $150 headphones that you’d buy over the next decade.

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