Category: Music

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Master & Dynamic MW50 Review

Headphone manufacturers must make deliberate audio signature decisions when crafting cans. Some shops, like GradoLabs, adopt a house sound. Relative newcomer Master & Dynamic‘s design ethic seeks to equally please eyes and ears. As such, its flagship wired headphones (MH40) and wireless (MW60) share similar industrial design. Aluminum, lambskin, leather, and stainless steel combine in rugged style that evokes aviators of a bygone era. The newer MW50 Bluetooth headphones strongly resemble the other two, but they’re tuned for younger listeners on the move.

M&D’s earlier cans are over-ear—meaning they cover the lobes, while the MW50 rest on them. The headphones are smaller and lighter than either the MH40 or MW60, but with most of the overall benefits of the latter, including excellent wireless reception. On-ear headphones can be uncomfortable to wear and leak in too much ambient noise. The MW50 push past both typical limitations, which, honestly, surprises me. I personally don’t find the design to be as attractive as the over-the-ear cans. It’s about the earcups, which function matters more, however. The lambskin-covered ear pads are immensely comfortable, and the MW50 arguably are better all-around-wear than their siblings. I would take them outdoors on a walk, for example.  

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Tidal Masters Wow

That didn’t last long. My cancelled Tidal account was set to end January 11th, but late this afternoon, I reactivated, giving the streaming service more time to keep—and even increase—my affections. During Consumer Electronics Show 2017 today, in licensing partnership with MQA, Tidal announced the new audio-fidelity tier “Masters”, which is available for free to existing HiFi subscribers. Early album selection is extremely limited as is access option: macOS or Windows application. Both will expand in time.

But wow! I tested skeptically, wiring up my studio cans—Audio-Technica ATH-R70x—to 15.4-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar to hear the difference. Hehe, if any. I deliberately started with Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” from album “Rumors“, which released 40 years ago on February 4th. Tidal claims that Masters recordings deliver “an audio experience exactly as the artist intended”. The band spent nearly a year painstakingly recording and engineering the disc, making any, or all, the songs great test cases. 

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A Matched Set

I would never guess that the grey metal Master & Dynamic MW60 headphones purchased in December 2015 would match my new 15.4-inch MacBook Pro a year later. But here they are, together, shot on Dec. 30, 2016, using Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF35mmF2 R WR lens. Vitals: f/4, ISO 400, 1/60 sec, 35mm. The Featured Image is cropped but otherwise is as captured. Broad bokeh is deliberate, with focus on the Apple logo, as are the dark hues.

The MW60 make me think about Apple Music, which begrudgingly replaces Tidal as 2017 begins. The HiFi streaming service delights with fantastic audio fidelity—difference I can hear, starting with vocals. But Apple Music’s catalog is broader, and the curated playlists are superior, for my tastes. Consider “Best of 2016: Alternative“. I couldn’t have picked better, and I was a radio deejay in my college-age years. 

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Master & Dynamic Unleashes MW50 Wireless Cans

I am a big fan of on-ear headphones, which attitude bucks the noise-cancellation trend. The design is a nice compromise between over-ear and open-back styles—the latter of which can present the best soundstage. Cans that rest on the ears, rather than cover them, tend to be lighter and confer airier, more natural sound. However, they also leak noise both ways, which makes them less appealing for commuter trains or air travel.

Since I reviewed MW60 Wireless last week, I simply must point out that Master & Dynamic launched MW50 on-ear Bluetooth headphones today. Yes, I plan to review them in the near future. The company says the Fifty is one-third lighter than the Sixty, while adhering to the same, retro-design ethic and modern materials—aluminum, lambskin, leather, and stainless steel. 

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Tidal My Apple Music

As a Tidal subscriber. I welcome Apple acquisition—asssuming lossless tracks are made available through the fruit-logo company’s music services. Not that anyone should seriously believe the rumors. But one can hope.

Merger talks are typically silent affairs. When they’re serious, you don’t hear about them until there is a deal. Reasons are many, with regulatory being among them when public companies are involved. Acquisition rumors often mean something else: Principal party leaks information about preliminary or ongoing discussions to gauge customer and shareholder reaction; one side or the other is dissatisfied with progress/terms and seeks to apply pressure. 

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Noon is What You’re Waiting For

For reasons even I can’t explain, I’ve slowly started to complete a number of lyrics with melodies written decades ago. The verse below is among them. I banged out the first draft, through to the chorus, during my senior year of high school. Today, I added two additional stanzas to finish the song, barring any future revisions.

“Noon is What You’re Waiting For” derives from two inspirations: My then, strong anti-religious sentiments and something discussed during literature class: Cycle of life as morning, noon, and evening (or is that twilight). Meaning: Noon doesn’t refer to time of day when the protagonist sneaks out to meet boys but to her coming of age and freedom from Catholic colloquial confines. 

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MH40 Exhibitionism Edition

If you’re headed to London, or live there, the Rolling Stones have a new exhibit (opened last week) at the Saatchi Gallery. Exhibitionism will be there until early September. After which, the gala moves on to 11 other cities, including New York and Paris. Adults can expect to pay £22 (more than US $30, depending on exchange rate that day). VIP tix are £60.

The memorabilia-filled exhibit is meant to be a nostalgic look at the iconic, aging rock band, which youngest member is (cough, cough) 66. But Exhibitionism is as much about selling collectibles, one of which I can’t resist calling attention to: “special edition” MH40 headphones. I reviewed the standard set, which sound exactly the same, on March 29th. 

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Tidal Teen Angst

Hashtag “perfect playlist” is my new thing—whenever I find a worthy collection. Today’s #perfectplaylist is “Sick of Myself: Teen Angst“, created by Tidal. The mix of alternative and pop punk ballads punctuates one of the reasons I stick with the music streaming service, despite the $19.99 monthly fee (that’s twice Apple Music and Google Music): Fantastic fidelity.

I am familiar with most of the 40 songs in the collection—from before subscribing to Tidal 12 months ago. The majority of the tracks sound so much better, I feel like a partially blind man gaining eyesight. (Apologies for mixing metaphor with real sense, but hey.) Some instruments I hear for the first time, booming sense of virgin listening to something thought to be known and familiar. 

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My Crushing Coachella Concession

This afternoon I sold my Coachella 2016 Weekend 1 Pass to a young woman from Texas who relocated to San Diego about a year ago. Earlier in the day, she spontaneously decided to attend the music festival, responding to my Craigslist post about 10 minutes after I placed it. Disappointment goes with the pass, which I purchased during presales last June. The photo is the only shot of the kit—to accompany the ad.

The Weekend Oner was an unexpected extra. During presales, I bought a pair of Weekend Two passes for my daughter and companion, after being informed the other likely wouldn’t be available. While purchasing, I left the other browser tab open and unexpectedly got pushed through to sales with a single option: Weekend 1 with Shuttle Pass. I grabbed it, thinking to go myself. 

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I’m No Fool About Tidal

Today is my first-year anniversary subscribing to Tidal, which relaunched April 1, 2015, under new ownership of Jay Z. I love and loathe the music streaming service, which I cancelled at least five times and always renewed—typically before the billing cycle ticked over. But checking archived emails, I see that my sub completely expired thrice but not since July.

Gotta ask: What fool starts a business on April Fools, and what does the day foreshadow; if anything? Apple did it, 40 years ago today. Many commentators have called Jay Z the fool for buying Tidal, which competes against established players like Spotify and newcomer Apple Music. The service claimed to have 540,000 subscribers when acquired last year. This week, Tidal revealed globally there are now 3 million subscribers. Someone correct my math—456 percent increase, right? If Jay Z’s the fool, gimme some of that foolishness. 

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Look What Happened to My Grados

My beloved wired headphones quite literally fell apart the other day. I’m aghast, because these cans are treated lovingly; never rough-housed. I don’t exaggerate explaining that the left earcup fell off the the headband’s metal strip. I couldn’t understand what happened, initially. I can slip the thing back together, but the fit’s imperfect.

I used my birthday money and sales of some other gear to buy the Grado Labs RS1e in July 2014. The open-air design and 50mm driver deliver fantastic soundstage that is best of class at almost any price. They look good, too, or mine did until the earcup separation maneuver. I still use them but will contact Grado about a fix. Replacement? Absolutely not! They’re broken in, and I am accustomed to their sound. Repair is good.

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Master & Dynamic MH40 are Great Cans

Newcomer is the only way to describe Master & Dynamic, which on Dec. 31, 2015 completed its first full year of revenue. Young or not, its audio gear is vintage and refined. Wanna see? You can find the MH40 headphones, which look like something World War II bomber pilots would wear, inside any Apple Store. Distribution partnership of that caliber from a near start-up says much about M&D earphones and headphones—design, price, and sound.

The signature sound is full, which is atypical in a market where booming bass ranks among headphone buyers’ top priorities. But for those listeners who delight in the faintest tap of the symbol, warmest treble, and deep lows that reveal details rather than thump, thump, Master & Dynamic delivers. For Christmas I bought the company’s MW60 wireless headphones, which I will review soon. Today’s topic is the MH40, which are wired.