Master & Dynamic MW65 Review: An Expensive Noise Canceller with Better Sound than Bose

The Master & Dynamic MW65 produces fantastic sound and prominent noise cancelling, but performance bugs hinder its full potential.

Our Verdict

Buy the Master & Dynamic MW65 if audio and aesthetics take precedence over everything, and money is no object.

For

  • Remarkable audio performance
  • Impressive active noise cancellation
  • Luxe, lightweight designs
  • Better battery life than Bose and many other models
  • Responsive controls

Against

  • Buggy performance
  • Poor call quality
  • Too expensive

The $500 MW65, Master & Dynamic's first-ever active noise-canceling headphones, is an attractive, yet costly investment that blends stellar sonics and strong noise cancellation into a sexy, industrial design. It's also one of many models out there to feature Google Assistant integration.  However, there are performance bugs hidden underneath its gorgeous silhouette, which places these sound-silencers below category leaders such as the Bose QuietComfort II 35 and Sony WH-1000xM3 and in the ANC second tier.

Design

M&D might not receive as much love as Bang & Olufsen or Bowers & Wilkins, but the company knows how to craft a premium pair of cans. Its mantra is "building beautifully crafted, technically sophisticated sound tools," and the MW65 is an embodiment of that.

The frame is constructed from anodized aluminum, which blends perfectly with M&D's trademark metal grilles on the face of each ear cup. All of the buttons are elegantly sculpted from the same material. The ear pads and headband are wrapped in lambskin leather with plush padding as well. Another notable detail most design enthusiasts will appreciate is the fine stitching around the headband.

A suite of accessories comes packaged with the MW65. This includes an aux cable, USB-C charging cable, USB-A adapter, travel adapter and gray soft-fabric/leather carrying pouch. M&D sells the headphones in two colors – Gunmetal/Black Leather and Silver Metal/Brown Leather – the latter serving as the more attractive option.

Comfort and Fit

At 8.8 ounces, the MW65 is a lightweight, plush pair of over-ears that provide ample comfort for long listening sessions. They fall in the same weight class as the QC35 II (8.2 ounces) and the WH-1000xM3 (9 ounces), but the smaller form makes them feel as fluffy as Bose's headphones. I felt relaxed sporting them for 2 to3 hours daily.

When adjusted to the proper length, the MW65 conforms nicely to the head. At the same time, the headband's smooth leathery finish causes some slippage when walking around. I wouldn't advise chasing down a bus or exercising with these. In addition, the leather does warm up in hot conditions and causes ears to perspire, so you'll want to use these cans in cooler environments.

Controls

The control scheme is superbly programmed . Every button is easily identifiable, offers great tactility and manages multiple functions. The left ear cup carries the noise-cancellation button to switch between the different ANC modes, along with a power/pairing toggle with firm recoil and LED indicator that shows the current battery life.

Most of the action takes place on the right ear cup, which houses a three-button control panel. The plus (+) button raises volume (1x press) and shoots out Google Assistant notifications (long press), whereas the minus (-) button decreases volume and stops Google Assistant (long press). Flanked in between is the multifunctional button that operates as follows: Play/pause or answer/end call (1x press), skip forward (2x press), skip back (3x press) and activate Google Assistant (long press). All three buttons functioned precisely and were highly responsive.

Active Noise Cancellation

Does a $500 spend garner better active noise cancellation than Bose or Sony? No. But the MW65 does deliver great noise neutralization that can be enjoyed in two different listening modes, or passively.

M&D borrowed a page from Bose's playbook, developing Low and High modes that analyze and filter out background noises differently to better optimize sound. Low is recommended for low noise or windy environments, while High is suited for airplanes, daily commuting and high-noise settings. Most of my testing was done in Low mode, which presented so-so results. The two beamforming-noise-reduction mics struggled with wind, and the slightest breeze sounded like a gust smacking my ears. Besides that, the mode silenced loud chatter in the streets and on the train.

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High was where I gained a better sense of the MW65’s ANC prowess. Walking past construction sites, it took many power tools in action to gain my attention when blasting music at high volume. In flight, I barely noticed the airplane engine or crying babies. Even in passive mode, the headphones offered acceptable isolation to quiet backgrounds when jamming out to tunes. 

Audio Performance

The MW65s have a high bar to live up to, thanks to  its truly wireless earbuds, the MW07. It did not disappoint. I'm excited to announce that the audio on these cans is much like the design: refined.

Noise cancellation can sometimes wane the soundstage; the Jabra Elite 85h experiences bass distortion when in ANC mode. Thankfully, the MW65 doesn't have this issue. Listening in either ANC mode kept lows thumping without compromising vocals or noise cancellation. Standard mode was just as rewarding, with the default profile balancing frequencies incredibly well.

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The custom 40mm beryllium drivers pumped out rich, warm sound that was welcomed across all music genres. Records with a booming bass, such as Cypress Hill's "Insane in the Brain" and Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive," were compelling to hear. Melodic selections like The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" sounded serene, with the MW65 capturing the song's layered harmonies beautifully toward the end.

I loved the percussion on these headphones most. The bongo/conga drums and piano on Eddie Palmieri's "Pa Huele" were reproduced very well, instantly triggering rhythmic stimulation when listening in the privacy of my living room. Each instrument on the record was given a spotlight – the trumpet solo near the finale shot a jolt of energy through my body.

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While the instrumental separation of the QC35 II is solid, the MW65 proves it's better engineered to handle multiple instruments. It also boasts deep bass across all listening modes – just not as deep or impactful as the WH-1000xM3. 

Since the headphones sound so clear in wireless mode, only very selective listeners will pick up on the tiny sonic differences when in passive mode. Using the aux cable improves vocal clarity and volume, which are most noticeable on live recordings. I recommend checking out Nirvana's "Unplugged in New York"to get a better feel. 

Digital Assistant

The MW65 comes with Google Assistant integration, but the feature is buggy and doesn't work as well as on other headphones. I had to go through the setup process on my Pixel 3 XL several times to get it up and running. There were moments when Google Assistant registered my first vocal command and ignored all others that followed. When fully functional, the mics did a good job with speech recognition. However, the voice prompts sounded very low and were difficult to hear in noisy crowds. Google Assistant does work on iPhones via the Google Assistant app, but not on MacOS.

Battery Life

Battery life on the MW65 might not rival goliaths like the Jabra Elite 85h (36 hours), but it offers plenty of playtime in ANC mode: 24 hours. It's closer to 22 hours when streaming and volume are taken into account, but that's still higher than the QC35 II (20 hours) and just enough for commuters to enjoy music the entire the work week. Thanks to QuickCharge technology, you can get up to 12 hours of juice on a 15-minute charge.

Connectivity and Setup

Bluetooth 4.2 affords the MW65 a decent range for wireless listening. I screened calls and streamed music from about 30 feet away before noticing any dropout. The initial process for setting up the headphones is standard: enable pairing mode, search for "M&D MW65" on the available devices list and select it.

Unfortunately, I experienced technical difficulties when pairing the cans to my MacBook Pro. My first attempt resulted in some stuttering on the audio end. I tried disconnecting and reconnecting the headphones, but they weren't showing up on the list of available devices. Restarting my laptop fixed this. My pairing attempts were also rejected several times on my Pixel 3 XL – powering off and on the MW65 seemed to be a quick fix.

Call Quality

I was very disappointed with the MW65's call quality. Most calls sounded low and unclear, even at max volume. The mics did little to block out environmental noises, as my girlfriend and several others could barely make out what I was saying when I was outside. Also, the MW65 seemed to work only as a calling headset when enabling the call function via MF button, which let me make calls based solely on the last call made or received on my phone.

Conclusion

Aesthetically and sonically, the Master & Dynamic MW65 cans are a stunning piece of audio hardware. The headphones deliver sound that matches up well against Sony's flagship cans, along with effective noise cancelling that filters out excessive noise better than most other models in the category. Regarding design, it's impossible not to admire the meticulousconstruction of these cans right out of the box.

Battery life is steady, but still falls several hours short against in-class beasts like the Elite 85h and WH-1000xM3. The bigger issue holding back the MW65 from receiving a higher score is its buggy performance. The digital assistant is unreliable, and not functional on MacOS, while the pairing process is frustrating and requires several attempts to properly connect to an audio source.

Is it worth the steep asking price of $500? If you're someone who values top-of-the-line audio and craftsmanship, then, yes, absolutely. Otherwise, you can save over $150 on the QC35 II or WH-1000xM3, both offering great sound and better noise cancellation. 

Credit: Tom's Guide