I was standing on the PATH train when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned, clicking the mute button on my headphones as I did.
The twenty-something standing behind me smiled and pointed. "Love your headphones," he said. He nodded once. "Good stuff."
I was a little taken aback. If you've seen me you understand why strangers don't normally comment on my fashion sense. I have none.
Maybe you and I have that in common, but probably not.
But you probably do have a lot more in common with me than you do with the average high-end audio equipment reviewer.
I like music, but I don't search for an extra 2% in, say, midrange performance. (I wouldn't even know it if I found it.) I like elegant design, but I don't quibble over the difference between forged aluminum and stainless steel (although these headphones use both.) I don't scour technical reports for relative noise canceling properties. I just want headphones that sound great and are comfortable to wear. And I've found some.
Regular readers know I rarely review products; in nearly four years I think I've recommended two. Master & Dynamic, a New York-based startup, makes the third.
Entrepreneur Jonathan Levine, the company's founder and CEO, has worked to fill the gap between premium headphones that focus on style (think Beats) and those that focus on audio quality; in classic entrepreneurial "and" fashion, he decided to do both.
The MH40 is an over-the-ear headphone that features detachable lambskin ear pads for easy cleaning, stainless steel components, and a forged aluminum body. (In short, there's almost no plastic.) They have a built-in mute button and can accommodate a microphone (either on the cord or by using an external boom mic) so they're perfect for an office environment. They look great, they stand up well to being tossed into a backpack or dropped on the floor (oops), and they sound great.
I wear them to listen to music and podcasts but also when I take calls. They do a nice job of canceling out external noise, and when I use the boom mic they also make the sound of my typing inaudible to callers. That means I can focus and callers aren't distracted: win-win.
Like many entrepreneurs, Levine is also willing to put his money where his mouth is: headphones can be returned within thirty days of purchase if you're not satisfied, and the two-year warranty is double the typical time period for the industry.
A few other notes: you get two different length braided cloth cords, and in a nice touch the cord can be plugged into either earphone. The headpiece can be shaped to fit even the lumpiest head (mine.) The lambskin ear pads are soft and comfortable and don't result in "ear fatigue" caused by other headphones I've worn. If you're into cool packaging, you'll love theirs. (I realize packaging has nothing to do with product performance, but the attention to packaging detail does inspire confidence that the products are just as thoughtfully engineered.)
And where appearance is concerned, if you prefer a trendy look these may not be for you... but for those who appreciate a classic vibe they might be just right.
If you like great products and like supporting other entrepreneurs (and why wouldn't you?)- give the Master & Dynamic MH40 headphones a try. Levine clearly didn't just create a product he could sell -- he spent considerable time and effort creating a product he could love.
All that work paid off. I like mine a lot.
And evidently, so do random people on trains.