Master & Dynamic MW65 review: Almost the perfect headphones

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Master & Dynamic has been making some of the world’s best-looking headphones since 2014. The company uses premium materials like leather and anodized aluminum for its high-end products, while the competition settles for cheaper plastic even on flagship models. Despite a lineup that boasts on-ear, over-ear, in-ear, wired, wireless and true-wireless options, M&D still hadn’t entered a key category: active noise-cancellation. With the $499 MW65 introduced earlier this month, the company is making a belated debut, all while maintaining its premium style — and premium price.

Gallery: Master & Dynamic MW65 review | 18 Photos

The first thing that always strikes me when unboxing a piece of Master & Dynamic gear is the product design. As someone with a design background (and who tests a lot of headphones), it’s nice to unwrap audio accessories that aren’t made from plastic and that don’t feel cheaper than they should. The MW65 continues M&D’s heritage of leather and metal that began on the original MH40. Not only do those materials return, but trademark aesthetic details like the metal grilles on the outside of the earcups and other textured surfaces exhibit keen attention to detail.

The MW65 closely resembles its predecessors, the wired MH40, the over-ear MW60 and the convertible MW50+. In fact, the headband is identical to the one on the MW50+, and the panels on the earcups are flat like the MW40 instead of the MW60’s slightly rounded look. Unfortunately, the earpads aren’t magnetic like other M&D headphones. You can remove them, but swapping them out is more cumbersome than before. As was the case on previous models, the onboard controls sit on a ring outside the right earcup. They aren’t on the edge of the earcup itself, but rather on a circular section that sits on top of it. This is also the section where a hinge connects the earcups to the headband.

Master & Dynamic MW65 review

A lot of headphone companies are replacing physical buttons with touch controls, especially on their high-end or flagship wireless models. This is fine when they work well, but based on my experience, touch controls can be frustrating. And when you want to do something simple like adjust the volume or skip tracks, the last thing you need is a struggle. Master & Dynamic kept the physical controls it used on previous models, where a group of three buttons do all the heavy lifting. Volume buttons are on the outside, while the center button handles play/pause with a single click. A double click on that center control skips tracks forward; a triple click skips backward; and a long press activates Google Assistant or another virtual assistant. Although the MW65 is designed for Google Assistant, you can use it with Alexa, Siri and others. Long-press on the volume up button to receive Google Assistant notifications; you can always long-press on the volume-down button to disable it altogether.

M&D has made switching from Google Assistant to another option very easy. Simply holding down both the ANC button and that center play/pause control for five seconds enables a hands-free mode that allows you to use your device’s native assistant. When you want to switch back, repeat the same sequence.

The one difference from those previous models is that the MW65 has a dedicated button for noise cancellation. With a control on the left earcup, you can switch between high (planes, noisy streets), low (quieter or windy environments) or turn it off entirely. There’s also a battery-level indicator on the left side, nestled up against the power and Bluetooth-pairing toggle. It flashes red, orange or green depending on how much juice you have left. A separate light tells you the pairing status (pairing mode vs. paired), so you aren’t left guessing there, either.

Billy Steele/Engadget

Master & Dynamic took a while to release its first headphones with active noise cancellation. The technology can be tricky: You’re trying to block out environmental noise without affecting the overall audio quality inside the headphones. Companies like Bose and Sony take a scorched-earth approach to this, doing whatever it takes to kill all (or very close to all) external sound. Sure, they mostly succeed at that, but the Bose QC35 II and Sony 1000X series also aren’t the best-sounding wireless headphones out there. M&D took a more even-handed approach to ANC, and the overall audio quality on the MW65 is better for it.

The company said “vigorous research” helped it created ANC technology that wouldn’t compromise its “signature acoustics.” The wait was worth it. Master & Dynamic succeeded in keeping its warm- and natural-sounding audio profile, a tuning setting that handles most genres well. Some of the earlier M&D headphones lacked bass and could’ve used more volume, but that’s not the case with the MW65. Electronic tunes like Com Truise’s Persuasion System, hip-hop tracks from Wu-Tang’s Of Mics and Men and the blitzing metal of Oh, Sleeper demand a solid dose of low-end tone. The MW65 accommodates them all without being overpowering. Instruments remain crisp and clear, and there’s a depth to the sound that doesn’t feel overly compressed inside the cans.

Master & Dynamic MW65 review

The audio does change noticeably between noise-canceling modes, especially when you turn off ANC entirely. The best sound is with noise-cancellation on high — that’s when the headphones give the audio the most depth. The low setting is serviceable, but you’ll notice a big difference between high ANC and turning it off. None of this is a bad thing, per se; it’s just something you’ll want to be aware of. Even when set to high, the ANC doesn’t “block out the world,” like my colleague Andrew Tarantola described Sony’s original 1000X. However, since the audio is so much better on the MW65, you probably won’t mind, unless you frequent superloud spots.

It’s impressive that M&D used premium materials and added noise cancellation all while making the MW65 its lightest headphones yet. They weigh in at 245 grams (8.64 ounces). That’s almost 10 grams lighter than the Sony 1000XM3 (254.86 grams/8.99 ounces). Trust me, the difference is noticeable, especially after you’ve been wearing either set for an hour-plus.

The MW65 felt comfy even during my longest listening sessions, which often last up to three hours. The lambskin-wrapped earpads are soft, but they offer the appropriate amount of stability so you can feel the ring of the earcup beneath. The headband isn’t too tight but provides a secure fit without pinching your head.

Billy Steele/Engadget

Master & Dynamic promises up to 24 hours of battery life, significantly less than Sony offers with its 1000XM3. The MW65 does have a quick-charge feature that gives you 12 hours of playback in 15 minutes. I found that I had to plug in these headphones about every third day, after steady use during working hours. I did employ that quick-charge feature more than once, which got me through the end of the day until I could plug the MW65 in overnight. Yes, the MW65 can manage is at least six hours less than some of the competition, but I doubt you’ll need that extra time.

At $499, the MW65 costs $150 more than the list price for both the Bose QC35 II and Sony 1000XM3. Those two models still top my list of the best wireless headphones even though they’ve been out for a while. What’s more, you can typically find them on sale for even less, so you really have to like M&D’s refined design in order to justify the higher price. A lot of the features are similar too, including easy access to a virtual assistant. If your goal is to silence the world around you, the noise cancellation on Sony’s 1000XM3 outperforms the MW65, and I also prefer it to the QC35 II.

After all that, this is another great product from Master & Dynamic where price is my main gripe. Yes, the MW65 looks great, and yes, it sounds really good. Sure, the materials used here are much better than basic plastic. And even though the noise cancellation doesn’t kill all noise, it does its job well without sacrificing great audio in the process. The MW65 are nearly the perfect headphones. It’s a shame most people won’t pay what it costs to find out.

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Sony will keep making smartphones, whatever the cost

Sony’s new CEO has confirmed that the company will keep faith in its mobile division, despite its numerous struggles. Kenichiro Yoshida (pictured), who replaced Kaz Hirai as head of the Japanese giant, told journalists that he wouldn’t walk away from the moribund smartphone biz. Reuters quotes Yoshida, who said “we see smartphones as hardware for entertainment, and a component necessary to make our hardware brand sustainable”

Kaz Hirai was charged with trimming Sony down, killing off or spinning out divisions that made losses in a quest for profitability. Sony Mobile would have been an obvious target, but despite losing money each quarter, it was spared the axe — although there were plenty of layoffs. In 2015, Hirai said that Sony would persist in smartphones just to keep the knowledge inside the company for the “next communications device.”

Yoshida is echoing his former boss’ sentiment, pointing out that “younger generations no longer watch TV,” because their first port of call is the smartphone. It’s likely that more cuts will happen, as investors, itchy that Sony isn’t being more ruthless, demand that something be done. There is logic in keeping mobile around, especially since Sony makes lots of money selling individual components — like camera sensors — to other phone makers. But the accountants may feel like it’s an expensive hobby to have, especially when the division lost $869 million across 2018.

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All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

After training to be an intellectual property lawyer, Dan abandoned a promising career in financial services to sit at home and play with gadgets. He lives in Norwich, U.K., with his wife, his books and far too many opinions on British TV comedy. One day, if he’s very, very lucky, he’ll live out his dream to become the executive producer of Doctor Who before retiring to Radio 4.

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'Beat Saber' VR finally gets a full release on PC

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Beat Games

When Beat Saber became available for the Oculus Quest on Day 1, it also left early access and entered stable release. For some of you, that might not mean anything at all: Its creator, Beat Games, says it’s just a formality and that it released the full version for the PlayStation VR months ago with all the features it wanted in the first place. The full release makes the game identical across platforms, though, unifying all the versions for Steam, the Oculus Store and the PS VR. In fact, version 1.0 has just rolled out for the Steam platform.

In addition to announcing the stable release, Beat Games also rolled out Level Editor at the same time, giving you a way to map levels using your own audio tracks. The bad news is that it won’t be available for the PS VR and the Oculus Quest. All the versions come with more realistic lighting, improved environments and other optimizations, though. Beat Games will also release new free levels and more downloadable Music Packs this year.

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What to expect at Computex 2019

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Computex offers us a chance to check in on the health of the PC market in an era when it was expected to wither on the vine. At last year’s show, the PC industry, either through desperation or a newfound confidence, started to innovate once more. We saw designs with multiple screens, attempts to kill off the keyboard and better ideas around portability. It may have taken far longer than expected, but PC makers have realized they can’t simply expect people to buy their products just because.

So this what we’re expecting, and in some cases hoping, to see this year at Computex when we hit the ground in Taiwan next week.

ASUS

ASUS Screenpad

Last year, ASUS showed off Project Precog, a concept laptop that was two touchscreen PCs laid out in a clamshell. Rather than a keyboard occupying so much space, the idea is that users can simply use one of the halves as a touchscreen. And when you need more screen, you can make those keys go away and fold it in any number of configurations.

Project Precog was ambitious, but the company said that a consumer-ready version would roll out in 2019. Well, it’s 2019, and Computex is a show in ASUS’ back yard — all the more reason for it to wow the world’s press on the ground. We’re hoping to get some concrete details on a finished Precog laptop, or some good reasons why it’s not there.

Similarly, if ASUS is committed to killing off the keyboard, then we’re expecting to see more from its ScreenPad series. Last year, the company showed off 14-and 15-inch laptops that had a touchscreen where the trackpad would normally live. The idea was that you could use it as a trackpad, run basic apps and special contextual shortcuts in the 5-inch display.

Only a handful of other companies have announced support for the secondary pad, including Spotify and Adobe. But if ASUS is hoping to get these second screens on to other machines, it’ll need to get far more big names onside.

And we can’t forget ASUS’ Republic of Gamers (ROG) line of gaming laptops, which will likely see some bumps. Unless, of course, the machines announced at the end of April, including updates to the Strix and Zephyrus ranges, are all we’re going to get. One thing we can hope for, however, is pricing and availability for ASUS’ crazy Mothership, a laptop/desktop hybrid for elite gamers. Similarly, the ZenFone 6 with a flip-up camera was announced before the show starts proper. Is that a hint that ASUS is not going to touch its gaming and mobile lineups during its hometown shindig?

Intel

If there’s a company that needs to be on the offensive right now, it’s Intel, since it finally has a CEO after nearly a year of dithering. (Former) Interim head Bob Swan has inherited a number of problems from his predecessor and has been tasked with fixing Intel’s numerous crises. Like the fact that Intel’s CPUs are (increasingly) full of security holes of varying severity.

Then there’s the issue around Intel’s failure to get its new production processes working well to make new CPUs. The company has held up the entire PC industry after failing to get 10-nanometer chips working properly. In the interim, it’s been gussying up existing chips in the hope that nobody was noticing, but everyone was.

Intel said that its long-awaited 10-nanometer Ice Lake chips will begin shipping in June, at least in mobile variants. That means we might see some early word about which laptops the new silicon will wind up appearing in. And Intel has also promised that Ice Lake’s integrated graphics will get up to a teraflop of power, reducing the need for a dedicated video card. 1 TFLOP won’t beat a dedicated unit, but it might mean you can run some more substantial games on integrated graphics alone.

And, finally, and perhaps more excitingly, the company has also been talking up its project to build its own GPU, putting its tanks on NVIDIA and AMD’s lawn. Still in its infancy in this space, Intel could certainly throw out some more details to help whet our appetites.

Qualcomm (and Microsoft)

Always on PC with SIM Slot

Qualcomm first announced its Windows on Snapdragon platform (with Microsoft) at Computex two years ago. Then, last year, the chipmaker announced the Snapdragon 850, a slice of silicon specifically designed to run Windows on mobile hardware. Since then, Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 8cx and, soon after, followed it up with the Snapdragon 8cx 5G.

The promise of all those announcements was that the chips would run Windows on low-power ARM hardware, offering significantly better battery life than a power-gulping x86. Not to mention that Qualcomm is best placed to integrate these CPUs with its wireless modems, offering always-on cellular connections. An always-on laptop that’s constantly connected to the internet is a gift to workers on the go — as long as those devices are as good as regular laptops.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that Qualcomm will use this year’s show to demonstrate the power of its computing platform on 5G networks. The faster speed of its chips, combined with the far faster speeds promised by 5G, will help offset some of the limitations of the hardware. And, hopefully, we’ll get to spend some time playing with the next generation of 5G WoS laptops at the show.

AMD

AMD has been enjoying its recent rise and can boast its chips aren’t subject to the four new security vulnerabilities recently found affecting Intel chips. Since Intel has had to throttle some of its CPUs to address those flaws, AMD’s rival offerings, while slower overall, now look better by comparison. And, AMD, which will provide the beating heart of the PlayStation 5, is looking to push its advantage over Intel with a new chip process of its own.

The company’s big Computex keynote is likely to focus on the Zen 2, a new 7-nanometer chip with a crazy number of cores. This smaller process will mean that AMD’s silicon — dubbed third-generation Ryzen 3000 — will further close the gap on Intel in IPC (Instructions Per Cycle). Coupled with the high core counts and AMD’s typically aggressive pricing, Ryzen 3000 might make Intel sweat more than it usually does.

And the advent of these chips will see the arrival of a whole raft of new motherboards, and we’re expecting to see these all over Computex this year. If you’re looking to build a new PC from scratch, then waiting around to check out the new motherboards will be worth it.

On the GPU side, we’re expecting to hear more about Navi, AMD’s next-generation graphics hardware. The company released its first 7-nanometer GPU, the Radeon VII, earlier this year, but that was old tech built on a new manufacturing process. Navi represents the first time we’ll truly see what AMD’s next-generation graphics platform can do.

AMD is a little further behind NVIDIA than it is behind Intel, so the company might not try to go toe-to-toe with its rival’s flagship GPUs from the start. Instead, AMD might look to build a mid-range card that gets its tech into more machines while refining the process further. The company has said that it’s expecting Zen 2 and Navi to launch in Q3, meaning July at the earliest. So whatever it shows off at Computex, you’ll have a month or two to wait before you can slam down cash to get one of your own.

NVIDIA

NVIDIA does have a press conference at Computex, but it looks as if the bulk of that event will cover its work in AI hardware. Certainly, given how new its RTX and 1600 series cards are, it would be a shock to see the company announcing even more hardware. It’s plausible that price and power are big selling points this time around, especially with the threat of AMD’s Navi looming on the horizon. The rumors suggest that the GeForce RTX 20 series will get a refresh, with faster memory and a higher clock speed. As WCCFTech says, that would mirror the strategy NVIDIA used with the GTX 1080, increasing the speed a year after its initial launch.

Dell, MSI, Acer, Gigabyte

With all of the exciting chip news filtering out at Computex, we can expect plenty of upgraded laptops to be on show. Back in January, Dell revealed it has a prototype XPS laptop running Intel’s Ice Lake chips, which is due to be ready for the 2019 holidays.

It’s likely that several more companies will have Ice Lake laptops ready to show off, and some new form factors as well. In the same way that ASUS and Lenovo are making strides to eliminate the keyboard, others may embrace novel forms of laptop design. It’s certainly the time to eschew the design conservatism that has defined laptops over the last few years.

Wrap-Up

Computex 2018

At the end of last year’s show, Engadget said that the PC market, after years of stagnation, was starting to become interesting again. And we’re hoping to see the potential uses for all these new, far faster chips, better graphics and innovative designs. Is it time we killed the laptop keyboard forever? Is 5G going to radically alter how we compute? Is Intel going to make a huge stride into the discrete graphics market? Answers to some of those questions next week.

Catch up on all the latest news from Computex 2019 here!

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Tesla brings back free Supercharging for some Model S and X owners

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When Tesla got rid of free Supercharging as a referral reward, it said the perk was “adding too much cost to cars.” Even so, the automaker clearly knows it’s something potential customers would appreciate, because it’s sorta, kinda bringing free Supercharging back. Electrek has discovered that it’s back as a perk again, though only for inventory Model S and X vehicles. In addition, it only applies to the older models that don’t come with the hardware upgrades Tesla announced in April.

Tesla’s Model S and X vehicles got a powertrain refresh that boosts their power and range — in other words, interested buyers will have to choose between the upgrades and the perk. Choosing free Supercharging could still be worth it for those who find a really good deal in the inventory section, though. Especially since Tesla told Electrek that by “free Supercharging,” it truly means unlimited use of its charging facilities for the duration of the buyer’s ownership.

The automaker also brought back free Supercharging as a referral reward in March, but with terms that are more sustainable for the company. Under the new rewards structure, when someone purchases a Tesla using someone else’s referral code, both of them will get 1,000 miles of Supercharging at no cost.

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