Master & Dynamic MG20 review: Object D’Audio

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The word “audiophile” carries a lot of weight when writing about speakers and headphones. Even for tech-savvy people—or, perhaps, especially for them—it serves as a warning sign and window into a highly technical, often aspirational world. It’s a world where it is not enough for the sound that comes out of your speakers to sound clear, but must “recreate” audio with warmth and depth and complexity and power.

In audiophile-grade headsets like Master & Dynamic’s MG20 wireless gaming headphones, the divide between those two worlds has never seemed sharper. Most gaming headsets, even the great ones, cost less than $250 dollars. The MG20 costs $450. And while some other headsets we’ve covered—such as the Audeze Mobius—feature special tech to augment the pitch and perceived directionality of sound, the MG20 relies solely on its ability to produce that higher 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 finer class of device. But in games, specifically, the MG20 can also be hard to appreciate its nuances, raising the question of whether such ambitions aren’t best reserved for music lovers.

Master & Dynamic MG20 headphones on a stand

Mike Epstein

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The Master & Dynamic MG20’s design

The MG20 is arguably the nicest-looking headset I’ve ever seen. All decked out in “black onyx” with a dark silver chrome (also available in “galactic white”), it exudes luxury—taking design cues from the boutique New York headphone manufacturer’s award-winning MW65 wireless headphones. I’m wearing them right now and I feel fancy. A sharp physical design and premium materials play a big role in creating that feeling. The MG20 features soft lambskin leather ear cushions; an Alcantara fabric coating for the top band padding; a matte, textured magnesium chassis around the ear cups; and anodized aluminum for the shiny metal forks and microphone. Even at its most durable and refined, the molded plastic used to build most gaming headsets does not look and feel as good.

Design also plays a key role, though. The ovular ear cups create a tight, but not constricting seal around your ears. The top band’s memory foam padding is slight but effective in supporting the light 11.36oz frame. The aluminum forks slide, making for a smooth, if slightly imprecise adjustment process. It is easy to make the headset comfortable by feel, but you won’t be able to find a “setting” that works and leave it in place. It is one of a few cases where function makes way for form, but only in minor ways. Oddly, I would expect an audiophile headset to cater specifically to obsessive calibrators, but it seems determined to make it as easy as possible to go with the flow and still get a perfect experience.

The Master & Dynamic MG20’s features

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 the Nintendo Switch, via its analog headphone jack. That said, I would primarily recommend it for Windows and PS5 players, who will be able to take advantage of the headset’s full feature set.

Ports and connectivity

The Master & Dynamic MG20 headphones have a decent amount of onboard controls. On the right earcup, you have a volume roller and a multifunction button that can play/pause, skip tracks, and activate a voice assistant. On the left ear cup, there’s a second volume roller to control microphone volume, which you can press to mute. There’s a dedicated button for toggling 7.1 virtual surround sound, a Bluetooth pairing button, and a USB-C port for charging and analog connections.

The MG20 offers a fair number of both wireless and wired connection options, opening the door for easy pairing with multiple devices. The primary connection for gaming is a 2.4GHz wireless connection via USB dongle, as has become common practice for wireless headset makers because of the reduced latency. You can also simultaneously connect to a second device via Bluetooth 5.0 (with support for the SBC, AAC, and aptX LL/HD codecs), making it easy to switch between using it for games at home and with your phone. Assisted by on-head detection to preserve battery life, the MG20 gets an estimated 22 hours of use per full charge, which is better than most high-end headsets but only by a small margin.

In addition to wireless connections, you can plug the MG20 in using a USB-C to 3.5mm input cable. Sadly, the USB-A to USB-C charging cable doesn’t allow for a digital wired connection. That said, you can still simultaneously charge and play using a wireless connection while using the charging cable.

Microphones

Like many gaming headsets in 2022, the MG20 features a detachable mic on an adjustable wire boom. And, like the main headset, the exquisite material design of the MG20 shines. The flexible boom coats the wire in a metal spring and plastic coating, ensuring strong durability and precise adjustment. The microphone, with a built-in pop filter, captures your voice cleanly and precisely, even when it isn’t perfectly directed in front of your mouth.

In addition, the MG20 headset features an internal two-piece noise-cancelling microphone array, similar to what you’d find on most Bluetooth headphones. Like many arrays of its type, it produces surprisingly clear voice capture, though it allows more background noise to bleed in than the boom microphone. Still, it’s nice to have if you plan to use the MG20 as an everyday pair of headphones out in the world, as it gives you the ability to take calls on the headset without wearing an awkward boom mic.

Master & Dynamic MG20 headphones boom mic close-up
The detachable boom mic on the MG20 headphones has a look as clean as its sound. Mike Epstein

The sound of Beryllium

Inside the cans, the Master & Dynamic MG20 headphones feature custom angled 50mm Beryllium-coated dynamic drivers—a less common, more costly choice for audiophile headsets and even more distinctive among gaming headsets. I personally have next to no experience with Beryllium drivers, but PopSci’s resident audiophile Tony Ware declared himself a fan and described them as “light while rigid [with] low distortion.” 

For those of us who may not easily recognize how those nuances translate into sound, I found the MG20 headset produced an airy, but precise audio in games and when listening to music. Like other top-of-the-line headphones, there’s strong separation between the different elements of a song or audio moment in a game, which makes it easier to appreciate the imaging of each part, as well as the overall staging. The bass punches, creating a visceral thump without overwhelming your ear. In fact, it feels like there’s a little distance between you and audio, which makes for a cleaner listening experience overall, though it doesn’t always draw you in quite as deeply.

How they sound part II: Music vs. games

While the MG20 generally sounds incredible, that doesn’t quite tell the full story. Though the drivers sound strong and accurate across games, music, podcasts, and video, there are major differences in how its unique soundscape comes across in games versus other mediums. 

When listening to songs such as “Happiness is a Warm Gun” by The Beatles and “Killer Queen” by Queen, you can very easily hear the transients of instruments and get the most out of every part of the songs. When playing games like Call of Duty: Vanguard, Halo Infinite, and Ghost of Tsushima, among others, the separation is much more subtle. You may notice it if you listen very closely for a specific sound, like footsteps, but it takes concentration to “find” the level of separation apparent in music. 

To be clear, I’m not sure that it’s a flaw in the headset so much as a reality of the way game audio is designed. Individual sounds come in and out of focus with volume, but most games offer up a single audio world, and dissecting it often feels more like an academic pursuit than a pleasure. Compared to the average headset, you get all the attack and decay that accompanies each sound, all the little details around the edges … when such detail is present. Just like the notion that you wouldn’t buy a high-end pair of headphones if you only listen to podcasts, not every game takes full advantage of this level of audio precision.

This realization begs the question of whether this level of audio precision is necessary for a gaming headset. There are substantial differences in what you hear out of the MG20 and what you’ll get with top headsets from conventional manufacturers like the Corsair HS75 XB or the SteelSeries Arctis 9, but it isn’t night and day unless you have an impeccably trained ear.

The M&D Connect app

For a high-end headset, the MG20 offers very little in the way of configuration and customization. The only options you have come through 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 smart device via Bluetooth. Rather than a full EQ suite, Connect offers a scant three EQ profile options. You can also adjust how long the headset will stay on when worn before shutting down (the headset automatically shuts off when you take it off and set it down). All in all, it’s a meager offering compared to other gaming headsets, though it is again indicative of the headset’s “effortlessly perfect” vibe. I will admit, I didn’t really miss the lack of EQ controls, even if it feels like an odd omission for a device of this caliber.

Master & Dynamic MG20 headphones on a stand at an angle
The MG20 headphones are crazy good, but the cost means that buying these is a little crazy, too. Mike Epstein

So, who should buy the Master & Dynamic MG20?

The Master & Dynamic MG20 is an incredible set of wireless gaming headphones. The luxuriously crafted headset offers a much more detailed and complete soundstage compared to the best gaming headsets by most major manufacturers. At the same time, it features a few minor flaws and omissions you’d never find from a traditional headset maker. More importantly, it is much harder to really hear the difference in the headset’s sound quality in games than it is in music. Last and certainly not least, it costs $450—almost the same price as the PS5 you’d pair it with.

So, you must be a little bit crazy to make the MG20 your everyday headset. Really, you must be an audiophile—someone willing to pay a higher price for a sound whose luxurious detailing lives and breathes in the space between instruments and effects. You also must love games. A lot. As in, enough that you’re willing to spend more than you have to get the best possible audio experience with headphones. If you are both of those things—if you think that even the best gaming headsets sound like trash—then the Master & Dynamic MG20 headphones will not disappoint. For everybody else, the increased physical and sound quality offers diminishing returns.

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