Master & Dynamic MH40 Wireless (2023) review: Finally worth the price
Master & Dynamic has released a rebooted version of its MH40 Wireless headphones for 2023, promising improved sound quality thanks to new custom titanium drivers along with a healthy boost in battery life, new mics, and a few other small but useful improvements like AAC support and removable ear pads.
The new MH40 Wireless still feature the same iconic design that M&D has become known for, making for some of the most stylish over-ear headphones in this price range, but is style alone enough to justify the higher asking price? That’s open for debate, but thankfully this year’s upgrades round out the package to deliver enough that these could be an ideal set of wireless headphones, at least for some folks.
Master & Dynamic MH40 Wireless (V2)
Master & Dynamic’s second-generation MH40 Wireless headphones breathe new life into the elegant design with finely-tuned 40mm titanium drivers and 30-hour battery life. The lightweight aluminum construction combined with lambskin leather removable ear pads make them comfortable to wear for extended periods, and they support both aptX HD and AAC for wide compatibility.
- Battery Life
- 30 hours
- Master & Dynamic
- Transducer Size
- Connection Type
- Bluetooth / USB-C
- 32 ohms
- 280 grams
- 205mm x 202mm x 71mm
- Noise Cancellation
- Bluetooth 5.2
- Cool retro design with a comfortable fit
- Great balanced sound
- 30 hours of battery life
- Lack Active Noise Cancellation
- A bit pricey
Price and availability
The latest 2023 edition of Master & Dynamic’s MH40 Wireless, also known as the “Gen II” version, retail for $399 and can be purchased directly from Master & Dynamic or other online retailers such as Amazon.
The new MH40 are available in five color schemes, adding blue leather/silver and gray/silver to the mix, although the full selection may not be available everywhere. Ordering directly from M&D also provides the option to have the headphones engraved for an additional $30.
A word of caution, though. Since the new MH40 are nearly identical to the 2019 model in appearance, be sure to check carefully that you’re buying the latest 2023 or “Gen II” version. That shouldn’t be a problem if you’re ordering directly from M&D or Amazon, as the older model has been taken off the market, but your mileage may vary at other retailers.
Design and fit
When it comes to something you’ll be wearing on your head for extended periods, style and comfort matter, and it’s clear the folks at M&D agree. Among the relatively pedestrian designs of most premium headphones, the MH40 are a breath of fresh air — a $400 set of headphones that actually look the part.
The 2023 version of MH40 Wireless follow the same style as their predecessors, which were cast in the mold of the original MH40 wired version. The aluminum body combined with leather accents and ear cups gives the MH40 a classic retro-style aviator look that’s especially apparent in the silver and brown leather version.
If that’s not your cup of tea, though, there are four other colors available, including silver with navy leather and a gunmetal and black leather combo that looks very classy. You can also opt for basic black or silver/gray finishes for a more understated look.
The lightweight aluminum construction and lambskin leather earcups also deliver a remarkably comfortable fit. The design is considerably less bulky than many other over-ear headphones. However, the MH40 still pleasantly cupped my ears with no discomfort or fatigue — even after a couple of four-hour listening sessions.
The MH40 are a snugger fit for me than others like Sony’s WH-1000XM4 or Apple’s AirPods Max, but I also have a larger head than most — and ears to match. The earpads also attach magnetically and can be removed for cleaning or replacement; M&D sells them separately in all the available colors for $49 a pair.
All the controls are on the right side, including the two microphones, the power/pairing button, volume and playback controls, and a USB-C port for charging and wired audio input.
M&D helpfully includes everything you need in the box, including a USB-C to 3.5mm headphone cable for analog audio, a USB-C to USB-C cable for charging and hi-res digital audio, and even USB-C to USB-A and 3.5mm airplane adapters. There’s also a canvas pouch to store the headphones with a zippered pocket for the cables and adapters.
Sound and call quality
One of the most significant improvements in the 2023 model are new custom titanium drivers that M&D has carefully tuned to deliver much better sound quality — and the difference is readily apparent.
I spent a bit of time with the original MH40 Wireless in 2019, and while I don’t have a pair on hand for comparative tests, I remember the earlier model being somewhat underwhelming for a set of headphones in this price range. The sound quality was good, but not what I would have called great, and it didn’t seem to hold a candle to similarly-priced competitors of that era, such as Beats’ Solo Pro or Sony’s WH-1000XM3. Oddly, they didn’t even measure up to the sound quality of the wired version of MH40.
With its 2023 headphones, it’s clear that M&D has taken that feedback to heart. While the new 40mm drivers are still smaller than the 45mm version found on their wired counterpart, whatever M&D has done with the new design makes a huge difference. You get the same balanced sound that M&D has become known for on its other headphones, but it feels more precisely tuned for an even richer sound stage. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that M&D has nailed it this time around.
To be clear, these aren’t a set of headphones for the booming bass-heavy crowd, although I think that feels obvious by their design. There are custom EQs that can give you more bass, which I’ll talk about shortly, but if that’s your primary listening style, you’re probably better off looking at another brand like Sony or V-Moda. The MH40 are about sound accuracy; bass is clear and present, but it’s delivered more in line with what the audio engineers’ intended without needlessly overpowering the mids and highs.
The overall sound signature of the MH40 is also quite warm without affecting the sound clarity. Some of my go-to tracks for testing headphones are Rush’s YYZ and Tom Sawyer, as they cover a wide range of frequencies that can easily get lost on poorly-tuned drivers. The MH40 rendered everything remarkably well, without the muddying up of Neil Peart’s drumming that’s often heard on many bassier headphones, and I experienced no listening fatigue.
More significantly, the sound signature of the MH40 makes them a great choice for folks like me with more eclectic musical tastes. My listening runs the gamut from progressive rock and pop to classical and jazz, and the MH40 handled all those with aplomb. The latter two genres came through particularly well compared to many other wireless headphones in this class, on par with studio reference monitors I’ve used, like Audio-Techica’s ATH-M50, but noticeably warmer and richer.
The overall sound signature of the MH40 is also quite warm without affecting the sound clarity.
The MH40 also pack in some nice improvements to call audio, with a dual-mic array that’s tuned for canceling out wind and other similar background noise. It worked well in my testing, delivering clear sound without distortion on cellular and VoIP calls, online meetings, and voice recordings. Don’t expect it to work miracles, though; more variable background noises like a TV program or a barking dog will come through just as clearly as your voice, although depending on your phone, you’re better off tuning those out on the Android side anyway.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that the MH40 don’t provide any active noise cancelation (ANC) or a transparency mode, although the leather earcups do a great job handling passive noise isolation. In fact, they’re so good that you may find them awkward for longer phone calls unless you uncover one ear. M&D offers a “sidetone” setting that can be enabled in its companion app to help you hear your own voice, but it didn’t appear to do anything for me.
Software and features
The MH40 Wireless support M&D’s Connect app, which is available for Android and iPhone devices. You can use this to enable one of four EQ presets, the aforementioned sidetone setting, or choose an auto-off interval. However, that’s about the limit of its capabilities; there are no custom EQ settings, and the auto-off time options are limited to 30 minutes, one hour, three hours, or never.
The four EQ presets are bass boost and bass cut, which are self-explanatory, along with “Podcast,” which emphasizes vocals and other mid-range frequencies, and “Audiophile,” which puts more emphasis on the mids and highs. While these work how you’d expect, I preferred to leave them off for music listening. The changes made by “Audiophile” are subtle at best, and the standard sound signature does a good job on its own. However, I could see using “Podcast” when listening to spoken word tracks, movies, or TV shows where you want to hear voices more clearly.
Under the hood, the MH40 support the Qualcomm aptX and aptX HD codecs, plus AAC and, of course, SBC. AAC is a new addition for the 2023 model, and will make a huge difference for those who listen on an iPhone, iPad, or other Apple device. However, aptX HD is the codec of choice here if your Android phone supports it, with standard aptX as a fallback. As a rule, AAC should be avoided at all costs on most Android phones as the implementation isn’t quite up to snuff; on my Pixel 6, even the baseline SBC sounds better than AAC through most headphones — including the MH40.
The aptX HD support provides a great listening experience when working with high-quality audio. You probably won’t hear much difference with Spotify or YouTube Music, but it’s noticeable with services like Apple Music and Tidal HiFi. Ironically, Apple Music sounds better using the MH40 with my Pixel 6 than on my iPhone 14 Pro Max, thanks to the aptX HD codec.
You probably won’t hear much difference with Spotify or YouTube Music, but it’s noticeable with services like Apple Music and Tidal HiFi.
For an even higher-quality listening experience, the MH40 allow you to jack into your phone using the included USB-C cable to get full hi-res lossless audio — up to 24-bit/96kHz. The quality improvement is readily apparent when listening to lossless music, and it’s another weird scenario where Apple Music delivers better quality on Android since you can’t get hi-res digital audio out of the iPhone’s Lightning port without resorting to an external DAC.
The MH40 also support Google’s Fast Pair feature for quick and easy pairing, along with multipoint Bluetooth that lets you easily switch between multiple devices without needing to dive into your Bluetooth settings.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment with M&D’s prior MH40 wireless was the lackluster battery life. Coming in at only 16 hours, they were outclassed by just about every other set of wireless headphones in the same price range. The only upside was that they charged pretty quickly.
M&D has overhauled its battery and power management for the 2023 model, finally delivering a full 30 hours of listening time and a fast charge feature that will give you six more hours after a 15-minute charge. That’s on par with just about every other pair of premium wireless headphones, and since there’s no ANC, you won’t have to worry about choosing between noise cancellation and longer battery life.
While I didn’t do extensive testing on the MH40 battery, it does appear to live up to M&D’s promises. I’ve been evaluating these headphones for nearly two weeks, listening for about two hours per day on average. They report remaining battery life of 15% without being charged beyond drawing power from my Pixel 6 during the 2–3 hours I’ve done wired listening tests over USB-C.
Should you buy the MH40 Wireless?
Like their predecessors, the 2023 MH40 Wireless remain an opinionated set of headphones designed for folks with very specific tastes in style and music. There’s little doubt here that the elegant design is a big part of the premium price tag, but you’re making more than a few tradeoffs to get there.
Perhaps chief among these is the lack of ANC, which other highly-rated headphones like Sony’s WH-1000XM4 offer at a lower price tag, among other features. Still, few would use words like “elegant” or “classy” to describe the plasticky design of Sony’s headphones.
As I noted earlier, the MH40 also shouldn’t be your first choice if you’re a fan of extra-heavy bass. The bass boost EQ option will help you get there, but it pales in comparison to most other premium headphones, which are tuned for bass emphasis out of the gate. However, if you like accuracy in your music — and bass that sounds like it should rather than being overpowering — the MH40 will be a delight to your ears, with a warm sound that brings out the best in your music, even across multiple genres.
Master & Dynamic MH40 Wireless (V2)
The new 2023 Master & Dynamic MH40 Wireless headphones combine a classy retro design style with great, balanced sound and much longer battery life than their predecessors while remaining lightweight and comfortable enough for all-day use.