Master & Dynamic MG20 review: elegance is not enough

Tech

Master & Dynamic has released a wireless gaming headset that can easily be mistaken for a set of luxury headphones. It’s called the MG20, and compared to Sony’s 1000XM4 and Bose’s QC45s, it aims for a higher build quality, using materials such as steel and leather rather than plastic and leatherette.

This is Master & Dynamic’s first dive into the already overcrowded gaming headset pool, and it’s a big one, albeit mainly because of the high price. This company isn’t known for making affordable audio gear, and this headset is no exception, costing $449, right between the price for a PS5 digital edition console and an Xbox Series X. Soft design and good build materials don’t usually come. cheap, I know, and the MG20 looks great and stays close (but not exactly) to the look of the company’s $499 MW65 noise-cancelling headphones.

The MG20 includes a USB Type-A wireless audio transmitter, making it compatible with PCs, with PlayStation 4 and 5 consoles, and with the Nintendo Switch via the dock. It can also be used as a Bluetooth headset, paired with your phone or tablet simultaneously.

Master & Dynamic MG20

The MG20 comes with a USB-C to 3.5mm cable for wired listening, which is useful for console controllers or other devices.

It has a number of other benefits that prove that Master & Dynamic has done something homework before jumping into this category. For example, the headphones have a detachable boom mic with a pop filter, a mic gain knob on the back of the left earcup, and a USB-C to 3.5mm cable for wired listening, with devices or via a controller (the headset charges from the same USB-C port). The ear pads on this model attach magnetically to the cup housing, making them easy to replace if needed.

However, I’m too versed in gaming headsets to get carried away by the MG20’s luxurious design and these few basic features. Most of the features offered here are included in cheaper headsets made by other established game companies. In fact, given its price point, the MG20 lacks a few must-haves if it wants a spot in the premium category, such as a game and chat audio balance button, simultaneous playback of both Bluetooth audio, noise cancellation and better sound quality.

You don’t have to use an app to get started with the MG20; just connect the included 2.4GHz dongle to your PC or console, then press and hold the Bluetooth button to turn it on. To pair it via Bluetooth, simply hold down that same button longer when you turn on the MG20.

However, downloading the M&D Connect app for Android or iOS is a necessity for adjusting the equalizer, which – come on – should be possible without an app. Not to mention that the app allows you to switch between just two EQ settings: “esport”, which removes heat and bass from the sound, leaving behind shrill highs and “bass boost”. Unfortunately, there is no option to adjust your own EQ settings. And out of the box, the MG20’s sound profile is set to “no EQ” mode, which sounds terribly dull. I hope anyone who buys this one knows that an app exists or else they’ll probably wonder why these defaults sound so flat. The app also handles firmware updates, along with a setting that lets you choose how long you want the headset to stay on after you remove them.

Master & Dynamic MG20

The volume button next to the multifunction button that can be used to answer calls or pause music, among other things.

Like many gaming headsets, the MG20 has a button that toggles a virtual 7.1 surround sound mode. And as in most of those other models, it’s not great at what it intends to do – enable better directional audio than normally provided in standard mode by virtually broadening the soundstage. It massively boosts the attack of the mids and highs at the cost of a reverb-heavy sound that, for me, is a little too loud to listen to comfortably for an extended period of time.

It’s hard to see the MG20’s dual connectivity modes as anything but good, although this feature wasn’t as comprehensive as I’d hoped given its $449 price point. While they support multipoint connectivity to say a phone and a console at the same time, the headset cannot play audio streams from both at the same time. So if you want to listen to a podcast while playing a game, trying it will result in a jumble of audio. And sometimes only one of the connections works, requiring a reboot of the headset to get audio through the source you want to listen to.

However, the MG20 headset works as intended when I am wirelessly connected to a source via USB and a call comes in via Bluetooth. With a single tap of the multi-function button (located next to the volume wheel on the back of the right earcup) you can answer or hang up calls. That button can also be used to play and pause music or to summon a smart assistant. And assuming you don’t want to be seen on your commute with a boom mic plugged in, the MG20 has built-in mics that deliver good voice quality during calls.

Master & Dynamic MG20

The ear pads are replaceable, but Master & Dynamic does not yet sell replacement ear pads for the MG20.

Each of the MG20’s ear cups has large, rounded bulges on their outer shells, and I immediately hoped that these would swivel for adjusting volume and game or chat audio, like Microsoft’s $99 Xbox Wireless headset. smart is designed to do. But here they are just cosmetic, much to my disappointment.

To compare the audio quality, I alternated between using the MG20, Sony’s $99 Pulse 3D headset, and the $99 Razer Kaira for PlayStation. While the country mile MG20 has a better build quality, I preferred how the competing headsets sounded in general, and they didn’t show the very slight audio lag I encountered with the MG20 when tethered wirelessly to my PS5 and PC. Nintendo Switch dock. Also, the voice quality from the MG20’s detachable microphone wasn’t great, considering the price of the headset. I’d rather use a dedicated desktop microphone than this one. This is another area where some cheaper headsets outperform Master & Dynamic.

I also preferred how those other headsets felt over the course of a few hours. While the MG20’s lambskin-wrapped earcups rested comfortably on my ears, the Alcantara-lined headband pressed a little too much on my head. The fit is similar to other Master & Dynamic over-ear headphones I’ve tested in the past – fine for short sessions, but uncomfortable for much more than that.

Master & Dynamic MG20

The MG20 is undoubtedly a very attractive headset.

The beauty of the gaming headset market right now is that it doesn’t take brands like Master & Dynamic, Bose or Bang & Olufsen to raise the bar. As with the mid-range phone renaissance a few years ago, buying a headset with a comprehensive set of features, good performance and solid comfort doesn’t have to cost much more than $200 in most cases. buying guides, which contain the best options and cover multiple price ranges, will suit you better.

If you really want active noise cancellation you’ll probably spend closer to $250 or $300 (the excellent Epos H3Pro Hybrid falls in this price range). But the MG20 headset is a prime example of a company that doesn’t read the room properly before trying to make a big leap into a new category. It would be great to see Master & Dynamic take a stand against a cheaper option, ditching premium build materials for more features.

Photography by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge

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