Style, build quality, and sound. These are the core essentials in the new MH40, Master and Dynamic’s latest update of a classic that goes back to the New York City-based audio brand’s early days as a market disrupter in 2014.

It’s not a lavish formula for a pair of $400 wireless headphones in 2023, especially compared to models loaded with modern features like Sony’s WH-1000XM5 (9/10, WIRED Recommends). But these aren’t your average pair. With a dead-gorgeous design built from elements like anodized aluminum, lambskin, and titanium, the MH40 look and feel different than the monolithic plastic shells of most rivals. Their obstinate minimalism in the face of the current trend is almost freeing, especially since the trade-off for loads of features is brilliant sound and construction designed to last.

The MH40 skip a lot of extras, but their biggest transgression is a lack of noise canceling or transparency mode, which are all but prerequisites at this price. You can get both features in M&D’s step-up pair, the MW75 (8/10, WIRED Recommends), for $200 more. The price and lack of ANC means that the MH40 wouldn’t be my first choice for most folks, but the headphones’ sterling sound and head-turning style could be hard to pass up for those with style who don’t want noise canceling, or who simply are willing to pay for premium headphones that stand out from the crowd.

Really, Ridiculously Good Looking

Master Dynamic MH40 headphones

Photograph: Master & Dynamic

Pulling the MH40 from the box, you can’t help but smile. They’re just beautiful cans, especially in our review unit’s burnt-brown leather (they’re also available in four other colors, including solid black). The latticed exterior screens reflect the light like ripples on a sunlit lake. The metal chassis feels at once elegant and robust, thanks to solid base materials matched by a speckled aluminum finish.

Polished industrial posts at the sides provide smooth action and numbered settings for the ear cups as you slide them in place. Even the lambskin-cloaked pads feel classy, set on magnets for easy removal and replacement. The pads also offer one of the MH40’s best attributes: good noise isolation that kills a lot of sound around you when you add a bit of music. I can’t hear my keystrokes as I type this review, for instance. That’s a great thing for a pair that lack noise canceling.

The headphones are fairly comfortable, thanks to plenty of memory foam along the ear cups, and with their quality leather skins, they should become softer and more tailored to your head as they wear in. They aren’t as comfy as Sony’s older WH-1000XM4 or new XM5, at least not yet, but few headphones are. My biggest complaint is the dearth of padding on top, which can wear on your head after a few hours. But the MH40’s light weight (around 280 grams) keeps this mostly in check.