The most premium noise cancelling headphones don’t come cheap

With a clean sound, a premium look and feel and some great tech inside, Master & Dynamic's MW65 wants to be the upmarket choice when it comes to noise cancelling over-ear headphones. But high-end materials only go so far when you're asking $850.

Offering a high-end, precision made alternative to the most popular audio products is M&D's thing, whether it's a brass and titanium set of corded earphones or true wireless buds encased in handcrafted acetate. For the MW65 the New York company has paired cold, beautifully textured anodised aluminium with warm lambskin over memory foam cups and band. While I'm not a big fan of leather personally, the material is certainly much nicer to the touch than the couch-cushion synthetic you find on many headphones.

The MW65 offers noise cancelling and a metal-and-leather construction.

The rounded shapes of the cups, joints and grille, along with the glossy linear rails, give the headphones an old-school audio vibe that helps them stand out from the pack. The cups themselves are quite small, which could be a problem for those with big ears, but I found them comfortable for listening sessions of up to a few hours.

Adding to the overall premium sense of the package, the MW65 comes with a lovely soft canvas travel bag and braided cables for 3.5mm connections and USB-C to USB-C charging. There's also unusually solid-feeling adapters for charging using a standard USB-A port and for plugging into a two prong flight socket.

In wireless mode the headphones pair fast and maintain a great connection, although the low quality sound samples used to indicate this are a strange choice to introduce you to the experience. There's support for AptX if your device supports it, but nothing fancier than that. Battery life is great at a bit more than 20 hours.

As expected the cans sound great, with a clean and neutral profile and impressive imaging. I found they were at their best during acoustic and vocal led tracks, although they tended to be a bit bright and unexciting when the occasion called for something heavier or a bit of bass.

In addition to black leather and gunmetal, the MW65 also comes in brown leather and silver.

Surprisingly for a high-end set there is no app, no equalisers, no customisable touch panels with these headphones. That might sound great to some, but I would have liked a way to tweak the sound profile directly. As it stands you get a power switch, buttons for play/pause and volume and another button for noise cancelling.

The noise cancelling is probably the weakest aspect of the headphones overall, and would more accurately be called noise quietening. It can dull the roar of an aeroplane or city train, but it doesn't silence it so you can still catch every word of a podcast at low volume like the Sony does. It's not at all bad, but it's far from the best.

You can set the NC to "high", "low" or "off" by pressing the button, which is appreciated, because by using "low" you can get around the city without wind feedback noise or the risk of being hit by quietened traffic.

By pressing and holding the play button you can get direct access to Google Assistant. For iPhone users this is a great way to talk to Google without having to unlock your device, but if you like you can disable the functionality so the button summons Siri instead.

I found calls sounded great using the headphones, but those on the other end complained that the mics weren't doing a very good job at simmering down background noise.

Overall these are excellent headphones. The MW65 has a more solid construction and premium look compared to the top commuter-class headphones from Sony and Bose, which are both plastic. Battery life is similar, sound quality is arguably better (depending on your tastes) and they're comfy to wear.

But if noise cancelling is the most important thing to you, or if you like to have an app where you can set your cans to change NC modes on the fly or fiddle with the equaliser, you can get a set of headphones for hundreds less that sound just as good most of the time.

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