Wireless headphones are great: they're convenient, freeing, and often sound fantastic. They really make you feel like you're living in the future, pumping tunes into your ears with no wires getting in the way. But most wireless headphones are utilitarian, plasticky, and just downright ugly.
Two new headphones released this fall buck that trend. I've been testing the new Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H7 and the Master & Dynamic MW60 for the past few weeks, both of which offer wireless convenience and technology with premium materials, such as leather and metal, and fashionable design. Neither set comes cheap: at $449 for the H7 and $549 for the MW60, you're paying a hefty premium for their design and materials. But if you're willing to pay the cost of entry, you're rewarded with great-sounding wireless headphones that aren't saddled with cheap plastic, blinking lights, or garish designs.
Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H7
Between the two, I prefer the BeoPlay H7. An over-ear design, the H7s are supremely comfortable and shockingly lightweight. The lambskin-covered ear cushions are pillowy soft and fully encapsulate your ears, effectively blocking noise from the outside.
The sound on the H7s isn't overbearing or overly bassy — some might say it's even a little flat — but I found it to be pleasant and easy to listen to for hours on end. The H7s are based on the wired H6, which have been praised for their sound quality and comfort for years, and carry over many of the same attributes.
The H7s are supremely comfortable and lightweight
Battery life is also very impressive on the H7. Bang & Olufsen claims that the rechargeable battery (which can be swapped, a rarity among wireless headphones) lasts up to 20 hours between charges, and I've only had to charge them once or twice in the weeks I've been wearing them on my commute. Few other wireless headphones offer as much stamina, and it makes them much easier to live with than other models. The wireless performance of the H7s is very good, as well, as I experienced few if any Bluetooth dropouts.
There are a couple of things I don't like about the H7s: they don't have active noise cancelation (you'll have to pony up another $50 for the H8 on-ear model if you want that) and the touch controls on the right earcup are clumsy and difficult to use. Most wireless headphones in this price range offer noise cancelation, which is a must have if you want to drown out the drone of an airplane for five hours.
Master & Dynamic MW60
Master & Dynamic's MW60 couldn't be more different from the Bang & Olufsen model. While the B&O's have a clean, futuristic, Scandinavian aesthetic, the MW60s are retro-inspired and classic looking. They wouldn't look out of place in the cockpit of an airplane 60 years ago.
Underneath that retro design is thoroughly modern technology, and Master & Dynamic claim the MW60 have four times the Bluetooth performance of other wireless headphones. The Bluetooth antenna itself is cleverly integrated into the outside of the earcup, similar to how a smartphone might have its wireless antennas on the outside. In practice, the MW60s work very well, much like the H7s, I experienced very few Bluetooth issues with them.
The MW60's retro design wouldn't look out of place in a fighter cockpit 60 years ago
The MW60s have memory foam earpads wrapped in lambskin, and heavy-duty leather top band. The hinges for the earcups (the MW60s can fold up to a remarkably small size for travel, which is awesome) is made of heavy-duty stainless steel. All of that leather and steel makes for a really solid headphone, but it also makes the MW60s considerably heavier than the B&O's and not as easy to wear for long stretches. The MW60 also didn't fit my head as well as the H7s.
The sound of the MW60s isn't as flat as the H7s, and there's definitely some enhancement happening here. The bass isn't as pronounced as you might hear in Beats or Bose headphones, but the MW60s offer a full, well-rounded sound. Like the H7s, they don't have active noise cancelation (which is an even bigger bummer at the MW60s' higher price), but the over-ear cups do seal well against my ears.
An all wireless future is becoming even more real
There are few controls on the MW60 — just volume up / down and a mute button — and the 16-hour battery isn't replaceable. But they do last a long time between charges, so it wasn't much of a problem for me.
Now that we have wireless headphones that look as good as they sound, the reasons to stick with clunky old wired models are becoming even slimmer. I'm a firm believer that wireless headphones are the future for everyone, and with these new models from Bang & Olufsen and Master & Dynamic, that future is getting even more real.
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