MG20 Master and Dynamics Review
The word “audiophile” carries a lot of weight when it comes to speakers and headphones. Even for the tech-savvy – or perhaps especially for them – it serves as a warning sign and a window into a highly technical and often ambitious world. It’s a world where it’s not enough for the sound coming out of your speakers to be clear, but where you have to “re-create” the audio with warmth, depth, complexity and power.
In audiophile-grade headsets like Master & Dynamic’s MG20 Wireless Gaming Headsets, the divide between these two worlds has never seemed so sharp. Most gaming headsets, even the best ones, cost less than $250. The MG20 costs $450. And while some other headphones we’ve covered, such as the Audeze Mobius, have special technology to increase the pitch and perceived directionality of sound, the MG20 relies solely on its ability to produce that superior level of audio quality. and the ability to look and feel like something that could do such a thing. The MG20 plays that role to perfection: this headset looks, feels and sounds like a more refined class of device. But in games, in particular, the MG20 can also struggle to appreciate its nuances, raising the question of whether such ambitions aren’t better reserved for music lovers.
The design of the Master & Dynamic MG20
The MG20 is arguably the best looking helmet I have ever seen. All decked out in ‘black onyx’ with dark silver chrome (also available in ‘galactic white’), it exudes luxury and is inspired by the design of the New York-based headphone manufacturer’s award-winning MW65 wireless headphones. I’m wearing them right now and I to feel fancy. Sharp physical design and premium materials play a big part in creating that feeling. The MG20 features soft lambskin ear pads; a Alcantara fabric cover for the padding of the upper band; a matte textured magnesium chassis around the ear cups; and anodized aluminum for the forks and the shiny metal microphone. Even in its most durable and refined form, the molded plastic used to make most gaming headsets doesn’t look and feel as good.
Design also plays a key role. The egg cups create a tight, but not binding, seal around your ears. The top band memory foam padding is light yet effective in supporting the lightweight 11.36 oz frame. The aluminum forks glide, making for a smooth, if slightly imprecise, tuning process. It’s easy to make the headset comfortable to the touch, but you won’t be able to find a “setting” that works and leave it in place. This is one of the rare cases where function gives way to form, but only in a minor way. Oddly enough, I’d expect an audiophile headphone aimed specifically at obsessive calibrators, but it seems determined to make it as easy as possible to go with the flow while still getting the perfect experience.
The features of the Master & Dynamic MG20
The Master & Dynamic MG20 is designed to pair with PCs, PlayStation 5 and mobile devices. Technically, you can connect it to other platforms, including Xbox and Nintendo Switch, through its analog headphone jack. That said, I would recommend it primarily to Windows and PS5 gamers, who will be able to take advantage of the full feature set of the headset.
Ports and Connectivity
The Master & Dynamic MG20 headphones have a decent amount of built-in controls. On the right ear cup you have a volume roller and a multi-function button that can play/pause, skip tracks and activate a voice assistant. On the left earcup, there’s a second volume roller to control the microphone volume, which you can press to mute the sound. There’s a dedicated button for toggling virtual 7.1 surround sound, a Bluetooth pairing button, and a USB-C port for charging and analog connections.
The MG20 offers a good number of wireless and wired connection options, opening the door for easy pairing with multiple devices. The primary connection for gaming is a 2.4 GHz wireless connection via a USB dongle, as has become common practice for wireless headset manufacturers due to reduced latency. You can also simultaneously connect to a second device via Bluetooth 5.0 (with support for SBC, AAC and aptX LL/HD codecs), making it easy to switch between using it for gaming at home and using it with your phone. Assisted by on-head sensing to preserve battery life, the MG20 gets around 22 hours of use per full charge, which is better than most high-end headphones, but only by a small margin.
In addition to wireless connections, you can plug in the MG20 using a USB-C to 3.5mm input cable. Unfortunately, the USB-A to USB-C charging cable does not allow a digital wired connection. That said, you can still charge and play simultaneously using a wireless connection while using the charging cable.
Like many gaming headsets in 2022, the MG20 features a detachable mic on an adjustable metal boom. And, like the main headset, the MG20’s exquisite hardware design shines. The flexible arrow covers the wire with a metal spring and a plastic coating, ensuring high durability and precise adjustment. The microphone, with a built-in pop filter, picks up your voice cleanly and precisely, even when it’s not perfectly aimed in front of your mouth.
Additionally, the MG20 headphones feature a two-piece internal noise-canceling microphone array, similar to what you’ll find on most Bluetooth headphones. Like many arrays of its type, it produces surprisingly clear vocal pickup, although it does allow more background noise to spill through than the boom microphone. Still, it’s nice to have if you plan on using the MG20 as an everyday pair of headphones around the world, as it gives you the ability to take calls on the headset without wearing a boom mic. annoying.
The sound of Beryllium
Inside the enclosures, the Master & Dynamic MG20 headphones feature custom angled 50mm beryllium-coated dynamic drivers, a less common and more expensive choice for audiophile headsets and even more distinctive among gaming headsets. Personally, I have virtually no experience with beryllium speakers, but resident PopSci audiophile Tony Ware declared himself a fan and described them as “lightweight yet stiff”. [with] low distortion.
For those of us who don’t easily recognize how these nuances translate to sound, I found the MG20 headset to sound airy but accurate in games and when listening to music. Like other high-end headphones, there’s a strong separation between different elements of a song or audio moment in a game, making it easier to appreciate the imaging of each part, as well as the setting. in the global scene. The bass hits, creating a visceral thump without overwhelming your ear. In fact, it feels like there’s a little distance between you and the audio, making for a cleaner listening experience overall, even if it doesn’t always draw you in so deeply.
How They Sound, Part 2: Music vs Games
While the MG20 generally looks amazing, it doesn’t quite tell the story. While the drivers sound loud and precise in games, music, podcasts, and video, there are some major differences in how its unique soundscape comes across in games compared to other media.
When you listen to songs like “Happiness is a hot gunby the Beatles and Queen’s “Killer Queen”, you can very easily hear the transients of the instruments and get the most out of every part of the songs. When you play games like Call of Duty: Vanguard, Infinite Haloand Ghost of Tsushima, among other things, the separation is much more subtle. You may notice this if you listen very carefully to a specific sound, such as footsteps, but it takes concentration to “find” the apparent level of separation in the music.
To be clear, I’m not sure this is a flaw of the headset as much as a reality of how game audio is designed. Individual sounds move in and out of focus with volume, but most games offer a single audio world, and dissecting it often feels more like an academic pursuit than a pleasure. Compared to the average headphone, you get all the attack and decay that comes with every sound, all the little edge detail… when such detail is present. Much like the idea that you wouldn’t buy a high-end pair of headphones if you only listened to podcasts, not all games take full advantage of this level of audio precision.
This realization raises the question of whether this level of audio precision is necessary for a gaming headset. There are substantial differences between what you hear from the MG20 and what you’ll get from the best headsets from conventional manufacturers like the Corsair. HS75 XB or the SteelSeries Arctis 9, but it’s not night and day unless you have an impeccably trained ear.
The M&D Connect app
For a high-end helmet, the MG20 offers very little configuration and customization. The only options you’ll find are via the M&D Connect mobile app (available for iOS and Android), which provides a battery life indicator and a very small number of configuration options when the headset is connected to a device smart via Bluetooth. Rather than a full EQ suite, Connect barely offers three EQ profile options. You can also adjust how long the headphones stay on when worn before turning off (the headphones automatically turn off when you take them off and put them on). Overall it’s a meager offering compared to other gaming headsets, although it’s again indicative of the headset’s “effortlessly perfect” vibe. I confess that I didn’t really miss the lack of EQ controls, even though it seems like an odd omission for a device of this caliber.
So who should buy the Master & Dynamic MG20?
The Master & Dynamic MG20 is an incredible set of wireless gaming headphones. The luxuriously designed headset offers a much more detailed and full soundstage compared to the best gaming headsets from most major manufacturers. At the same time, it has some minor flaws and omissions that you’ll never find from a traditional headset manufacturer. More importantly, it’s much harder to hear the difference in sound quality from the headset in games than it is in music. Last but not least, it costs $450, which is almost the same price as the PS5 you’d pair it with.
So you have to be a bit crazy to make the MG20 your everyday helmet. Really, you have to be an audiophile, someone willing to pay a premium for sound whose luxurious detail lives and breathes in the space between instruments and effects. You must also like games. Many. As in, enough that you’re willing to spend more than you need to get the best audio experience out of headphones. If you’re both of those things – if you think even the best gaming headsets sound like garbage – then the Master & Dynamic MG20 headphones won’t disappoint. For everyone else, the increased physical and sonic quality offers diminishing returns.