Master & Dynamic MH40

white headphones

My pair of Philips Cityscape Downtown gave up the ghost earlier this year. After 3.5 years they were falling apart, with the faux leather peeling and headband separating, but I kept pushing them until one of the channels finally failed.

So I started searching for new headphones. I decided to focus on over-ear models, instead of on-ears. Here’s a few notes from a three-month search:

  • Fidelio L2: Nice sound, but too much sound leakage in/out.
  • Master & Dynamic MW60: Bluetooth that works! Beautiful design. Replaceable earpads. But: heavy and uncomfortable with glasses.
  • B&O H7: Bluetooth. Light, reasonably comfortable. Sounds grainy, especially in the upper mids and highs.
  • Sennheiser Momentum 2.0: Good sound. Light, but (surprisingly) not that comfortable with my glasses.
  • B&O H6 (2nd Gen): Sounds good, but the circular earcups mean that with glasses the sound suffers. There’s less padding than the H7, which might explain why that wasn’t as big a problem with the H7s.
  • Oppo PM-3: Great sound. Clamps a bit too tightly (you can stretch the headband). Not that comfortable around the neck.
  • Master & Dynamic MH30: Tried these, but I liked the MH40 better.
  • Master & Dynamic MH40: These are the ones I ended up keeping. They’re heavy, and the look is a bit too fussy for my liking. The in-line remote buttons are hard to use by feel. But they isolate pretty well, are reasonably comfortable with glasses, and the cord jacks on either side are a nice touch.

My main takeaway from this whole circus is: eyeglasses and over-ear headphones are a tough match. If you can, try headphones on like you would a pair of shoes—order a bunch, try them on for sound/fit, and return the ones that you don’t like. I bought the B&O, Oppo, and M&D models direct, and all have 30-day return policies. Also, try each one out for several days. It’s surprising how different a headphone sounds after your brain has gotten used to it.

The curious thing to me was the comfort difference between the MW60 and MH40. They share the same earpads, but I found the MH40 to be much more comfortable than the MW60. It could be the headband design differences—the MH40’s is a bit rounder, so perhaps that reduces the clamping pressure. It’s a pity, because I wouldn’t have minded paying the extra money for a Bluetooth headphone that actually works and sounds just as good as a wired model. (The MW60 can also be used passively-wired, which is nice for hooking up to my desktop amp.)

In the end, my two favorites were the Oppo PM-3 and the M&D MH40. The Oppo sounded a bit better, but the MH40 just worked better as a commuter/desk hybrid, and were a bit more comfortable with glasses.