Fashion headphones have a bit of a bad rap. Often associated with over-priced plastic cans and celebrity endorsements, fashion-centric headphones are frequently derided by critics for poor audio performance and shoddy build quality. Master & Dynamic, a relatively new company started in 2012, is trying to flip that paradigm with stylish-looking headphones that don't compromise on either build quality or audio performance.
Master & Dynamic has offered a range of headphones, from over-ear models to in-ear and on-ear versions since 2014. Today it's launching its newest headphone: the ME05, an in-ear model machined from solid brass. The $199 headphones are available for purchase from Master & Dynamic's website starting today.
Two hundred dollars is a princely sum for what are largely basic, wired headphones with an inline remote. Master & Dynamic contends that the materials used, plus the custom 8mm neodymium drivers, justify the premium cost. The cable is also designed to be tangle-free, and the headphones come with a nice case that provides storage for extra ear tips (four pairs of tips are included).
I've had a chance to test the ME05 ahead of launch, and much of what Master & Dynamic claims about them is true. The brass finish is distinct and premium feeling, and the headphones have a weight that lesser models lack. That weight helps keep them lodged in your ear canals, though these are clearly not designed for use while running or intense physical activity. The cable doesn't get tangled in my pocket, but I wish it was longer. (It's the same length as the cable on Apple's EarPods, which I find to be too short and constrictive.) Sound quality is better than most headphones I've tested that are priced under $100, but they are not designed to be reference monitors.
Most of the appeal with the ME05 is in how they look, and in that aspect, I think they look pretty cool. Whether or not their style is worth nearly $200, or even to your taste, is something that you'll have to judge on your own.