Metal and leather: aluminium and stainless steel; cowhide and lambskin. These are the core materials used by Master & Dynamic to carve out their own space in the prosumer headphone market. The Manhattan-based company consistently lavish as much attention on their headphones’ look and feel as they do on sound quality. Their recent collaboration with Leica resulted in a particularly striking colour coding of their first headphone, the MH40, that we reviewed in 2015. Style and substance.
Three years down the line, selling headphones to quality-conscious mainstreamers is a different ball game. Apple’s removal of the 3.5mm headphone socket from the iPhone to press harder on Bluetooth connectivity has seen some flagship Android smartphone manufacturers follow suit. Smartphones that hold tight to a headphone socket rarely deliver the goods when it comes to audiophile-approved sound quality.
What to do?
Master & Dynamic have this week announced digital cables for MH40 over-ear and the MH30 on-ear. Each cable extracts digital audio from the host device’s digital port for hand-off to in-line DAC and amplifier.
The potential advantages are two-fold:
1) For the manufacturer, a chance to voice the in-line DAC and amplifier’s output according to their preference; not that of the smartphone manufacturer. Here Master & Dynamic have gone with their “signature soundstage: a rich, warm sound that perfectly captures the exceptional detail of well-recorded music” — so says the press release.
2) For consumers, an opportunity to realise better sound quality than any 3.5mm adaptor without resorting to Bluetooth headphones or a DAP – a second device.
Diverging from Audeze’s approach to Lightning-powered headphone cables, Master & Dynamic have opted not to use DSP inside the DAC/amp module:
“We achieve our sound through exceptional acoustic design in the headphones and our high-end drivers. The DAC only improves the fidelity of the audio signal that reaches the headphone itself.”
Master & Dynamic also catering to Android users with a USB-C version.
The new digital cables will ship in two colours – silver or black – and feature the same heavy-duty woven fabric found on Master & Dynamic’s original analogue cables.
The Lightning version will sell for US$69 and the Android-compatible USB-C version for US$49. The latter may even talk to USB-C-equipped Macbooks.
Further information: Master & Dynamic