Through the lens of an audiophile.

Portable Setup - Master & Dynamic MH40 + iFi xDSD Impression

The Master & Dynamic MH40 is a high stylized headphone in both look and sound. I get a lot of requests for my thoughts on these simply because they look gimmicky, so the sound always comes into question. I’ve decided to make this about my portable setup, since I wouldn’t really use these at home.

Gear used for impressions: Master & Dynamic MH40, iFi xDSD

Build & Comfort – There’s a lot to unpack here. Styling aside, you are greeted with metal, leather, and an overall sense of quality. The leather feels great. The headband isn’t very padded, so I can see it getting uncomfortable to someone with a larger head, but I did not have this problem. The earcups are slim, but rather deep. The pads are a lambskin/fabric hybrid. If you have large ears, the pads will probably make contact. They touch my ears a bit but are not uncomfortable due to the soft fabric. The friction-based headband adjustment stays in place very well. The MH40 comes with 2 single sided cables. One with a mic and controls and one without. You can plug the cable in on whatever side is more convenient. A nice touch for a portable setup. I say portable because I wouldn’t really use these for critical listening, but I will go over that in the sound section. The only drawback to their portability comes in the form factor. The cups swivel flat, so I don’t have issues storing them in a messenger bag, but they do not collapse in any way. This could be a bit annoying if you needed to put them in a small compartment. I just lay them flat in between my laptop divider.

Sound – This is not a balanced sounding headphone. As I said in the intro, the sound is as stylized as the aesthetics. The MH40 is bassy and laid back. The bass is energetic and punchy. This really works out well for me when I’m on the go as they’re fun and keep me going. I spent a short amount of time with my MH40s hooked up to my main stack (RME ADI-2 DAC, iFi Pro iCan) and did some critical listening. I’ll be brief here, because they aren’t technical headphones. The mids are reminiscent of the AKG K712 Pro. It is warm and colored in the same manner. There’s more treble than my measurements will show, but this has to do with these headphones being difficult to seal on the E.A.R.S. Treble shares similar accuracy issues, you know it isn’t perfect, but it is by no means unpleasant. The MH40 isolates very well and does not leak sound very much. If you’re not cranking them at max volume on public transit, they won’t disturb anyone.

iFi xDSD – I’ve been using this DAC/AMP combo for a while now. Build-wise, it’s small and lightweight. It’s a nice-looking unit for about 30 seconds. Once you touch it though, it’s fingerprint city. The chrome finish will always be covered in smudges. You’ll just have to surrender to that fact. The controls are frustrating to get used to if you switch between wired and wireless a lot. That said, I’ve adjusted over time. I don’t use Bluetooth that often, but for my Spotify and Tidal streaming experiences, sound quality was excellent. I mainly use the wired mode since I keep the whole setup in my bag anyway. I didn’t come across a headphone in my collection that these weren’t able to drive. Listening volume exceeded what I would call normal for me. Sound quality wise, the xDSD has a very clean, clear sound throughout the treble, mids, and bass. I tried it with My Utopia just to see if there was any harshness to the treble, but I did not find any. The bass boost function affects sub bass and lower mids. I don’t need to use it with my MH40s, but I tried it with the HD 650 and it was a pleasant bump. The 3D mode does… something, but my ears are a little too inexperienced to pick up exactly what it is. I didn’t care much for it though. The xDSD has some features I don’t use like toslink and a measuring mode. Battery life is very good, though I wish it charged via USB-C as opposed to micro.

Conclusion – This is my actual daily driver portable setup. I recently got the Sony WH-1000XM3. Not sure if that will become my new daily, but if they do, I will write a follow up piece.


Additional Photos:

Master & Dynamic MH40Other gear: Azio Corp Retro Classic, Ti2 Design x CWF Pele Flashlight, CMF Metal Works Crusader V2 Knife, High Caliber Craftsman Twist Pens and ExtremAddiction Bolt Action Pen.
iFi xDSD & Master & Dynamic MH40