Like some of the best founding stories, Master & Dynamic’s includes a good dose of serendipity. While Jonathan Levine was on a college scouting trip with his son, Robert, the two visited a Second World War museum. “I stumbled upon some 1940s headphones made of metal and leather with an amazing industrial feel,” Levine says. An idea then dawned on him. “My oldest son has been deejaying and producing music since he was 13, and I had a music studio in my office that he used. Watching the world gravitate toward plastic and generic design, I was inspired to start a company that would build high-quality, luxurious headphones that would also stand the test of time.”
That was back in 2013 and Master & Dynamic was born the same year. Since then, the New York City-based newcomer has carved a niche for itself in an audio market thronged by giants such as Beats, Bose and Sony. It has achieved this by paying equal attention to design, acoustics and attention to detail. “Our success to date has been based on our ability to design wearables that the luxury consumer wants to wear and engage with,” Levine says. “It seems to be working. Each product we design has contemporary technology throughout, from the materials, the manufacturing process and the functionality to our proprietary acoustics. Yet our products don’t scream technology from the outside.”
Levine didn’t have much experience in acoustics before he built his in-house music studio — primarily as a way of connecting with his children. Yet the entrepreneurial drive that had led him to develop a line of battery-powered LED lights a few years earlier pushed him to get obsessed with all things sound and material. Beyond being a reference to music production terms, the company’s name also encapsulates their design ethos: “Mastery is a never-ending exploration requiring a dynamic approach,” he says. At the centre of this are the materials. “My team and I are obsessed with materials. We like to do what others think impossible — what others think is too difficult or too expensive. This was a huge part of the success of our first product, the MH40 Over-Ear Headphones.” The company has even made a vegan leather version of its signature headphones after creating a special edition for Paul McCartney.
High attention to detail — with metal finishes and elegant leather trim throughout — defines the brand’s aesthetic. Although there is a distinct design DNA woven throughout the products, each one has a clear identity. “I believe each product should stand on its own and demonstrate the effort put into the design process,” Levine says. As a car lover and avid collector of objects — a habit he picked up from his father — it’s clear to see where Levine’s passion for craftsmanship and industrial themes comes from. “Much of what I collect has a common theme of industrial heritage and a heavy dose of mechanical excellence. The more detail and elements of discovery and surprise, the better.” The design is considered down to the level of interaction and great care was put into creating a product that was well-balanced in every sense of the term. “I appreciate a sense of heft and tactility in objects. The proper weight of a product — not too heavy yet not too light — is magical when achieved.”
The more detail and elements of discovery and surprise, the better
At the end of the day, even the best design wouldn’t go too far if it didn’t pass the audiophile’s test. Master & Dynamic headphones are known for the depth and quality of their sound. Its MW60 wireless headphones are thought to have set a new standard for bluetooth audio technology; given the premium price tag of these products, the widespread praise was probably not easy to come by. And as the market evolves, Master & Dynamic is keeping pace. “We’re ready to meet the growing demand for wireless products, but we believe there will always be consumers who value the tactility as well as the ‘old-school vibe’ of wired products,” says Levine. “To ensure all Master & Dynamic users’ needs are met, we’ll always include a cable that allows listening even when the product is out of battery,”