New: MW75 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones from Master & Dynamic

New: MW75 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones from Master & Dynamic
New headphones from Master & Dynamic - MW75 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones

Master & Dynamic have announced their upcoming MW75 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones priced at $599 and featuring the quality materials, excellent build quality and uncompromising sound that we're used to seeing from this brand.

The new release is a big upgrade from the previous flagship MW65 which we reviewed here. What's improved? The new design has a more refined aesthetics similar to the recent MG20 gaming headset. The company has added a third noise cancelling mode, improved battery life and a hardshell carrying case instead of the MW65's canvas bag.

Two upgrades stand out to me. First, Bluetooth AAC support gets you that little bit of extra sound quality without needing a wired connection. Second, transparency mode, or what the brand calls Ambient Listening, brings in some of the ambient sound from your environment into the audio. It's a really great feature whose presence was missed in the original MW65. It solves the problem of your headphones' sound isolation preventing you from hearing your own voice when you're making a call, which can be a bit disorienting. Beyond that, other welcome additions includes more additional battery life and Bluetooth 5.1 support which increases connection range to 800ft from 200ft.

But is it worth $599? In my opinion, the answer is unquestionably yes. Other reviewers use words like premium and luxury price tag to imply that maybe you're being taken for a ride, but let's look more closely. Compared to Apple's AirPod Max, for the same price you're getting higher quality materials, better sound quality and battery life, and a beautiful hardshell carrying case that you'd pay $40 for if you bought it separately.

As an upgrade from the previous flagship MW65, you get a host of meaningful improvements that I mentioned and, of course, the carrying case. The real disadvantage to the MW75 isn't the higher price—it's the weight increase. At 338 grams, it's a bit lighter than the competing AirPod Max, but it will feel noticeably heavier wearing it than the MW65's 245 grams. It is really a marvel of engineering for how light it is and it makes it very comfortable to wear for long periods. That would be the one factor that I'd want to evaluate before committing to the MW75.

Aesthetically, the MW75 continues the trend that began with the MG20, with Master & Dynamic evolving the rugged, retro design language established in prior models including the MW65. The MG20 was a significant departure towards a slightly more minimalist sci-fi look, but the MW75 finds a middle ground while also pushing towards elegance. Previous models from Master & Dynamic included some sport-inspired colorways that mixed in a bright, contrasting color. For example, grey exterior colors with orange or yellow fabric inside the ear cup. They seemed to have moved away from this approach with the new model MW75, and even the MH20 gaming headphones where it arguably makes sense. For me, it never really worked so I'm glad to see the company move past that.

My point of view on industrial design, is as always, that there's no excuse for poor design. Reviewers and consumers often criticize manufacturers for using poor materials. A reasonable complaint to be sure, but at least we understand that there's a tradeoff between quality and cost. But headphones are tangible, physical objects—not ideas, dreams or abstract concepts—so by necessity, they must extend in physical space. Then why shouldn't they be beautiful?

What do we gain by sacrificing on beauty? What's the tradeoff? No money is saved by making something ugly. A product does not somehow become more functional because it is ugly. People say, “It's ugly, but it works!” But it could be beautiful and work too—and if it's a mass-produced product not made at home, it would cost the same. So an ugly product is a pure cost to you, the consumer. It detracts from your experience and worsens your life, offering no discernible upside to you or even financial gain and profit for the creator. So why do we put up with it?

Master & Dynamic are a brand that doesn't impose an ugliness tax on consumers, and for that we are grateful.