Master & Dynamic USB-C headphone cable review: a fix for the dongle problem

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The disappearance of the headphone jack has been a tragedy, and it has not gotten easier. Sure you can buy Bluetooth headphones, but it’s just another device to keep charged. Once it dies, you’re out of luck. Not to mention paying a premium for wireless and having to deal with with limited battery life, extra weight, and the worse audio quality of Bluetooth.

Adapters are no better, since they can easily be lost and even hard to replace. Depending on your phone, adapters may or may not work from other companies. You’re best off getting an original adapter. USB-C headphones are a decent alternative (besides not being compatible with other products) but buying all new headphones is a pain in and of itself.

Master & Dynamic is known for making luxury headphones, both wired and wireless, but the company is taking the high road and not forcing you to buy new headphones. Instead, M&D now sells new cables under the Digital Accessories name. The duo has a 3.5mm jack on one end that plugs into your Master & Dynamic headphones, while the other either has a USB Type-C port or a Lightning port. This allows you to adapt your existing headphones for your new phone. And the best part? It’s not limited to Master & Dynamic headphones. This cable will work with any headphones using a standardized jack.

Overview

The USB-C version has a USB-C jack with a built in digital-to-analog converter (DAC). This works the same way as a headphone adapter (at least on devices that do digital signal over USB like Google and Essential, among others).

On the other side of the 1.2m cable is a standard 4 pole 3.5mm jack. This should be compatible with almost all headphones. I had success with M&D products as well as Bang & Olufsen and even a mini-XLR to 3.5mm adapter I use with my AKG K7XX headphones. However, this cable didn’t work with the V-MODA Crossfade M-100. Only one channel played, meaning V-MODA uses a non-standard jack. A V-MODA rep just cited a lack of compatibility with some cables.

In the middle are two pieces. One is the remote, which hangs satisfyingly low and contains three recessed rubber buttons. Two are volume buttons and one is the play/pause button. It’s nice to have a level of control more advanced than a single button, like most headphones provide for Android users. Higher up is a separate mic module, bringing it closer to your mouth without making the remote annoying to grab. I love that Master & Dynamic always separates the mic and remote into two separate pieces.

Build quality

The build quality is phenomenal, but that’s to be expected from this company. Every material on its headphones is exquisite, with copious use of aluminum, stainless steel, cowhide, and lambskin. This cable is no different, though it’s not quite as nice as the basic 3.5mm cables.

The connectors are both slim and made out of metal with solid rubber strain relief. They look and feel great. The mic module is also encased in metal. The remote however is plastic, though it feels great and has no seams running alongside it. It’s one single tube of plastic, adding to the solid feel.

The braiding itself is ridiculously smooth, unlike most braided cables. It’s soft and very fine. How it holds up in the long term is hard to say but it hasn’t shown appreciable wear while I have used it.

Sound quality

Being a digital cable, it bypasses the built in DAC and does its own audio processing right inside the cable. The sound quality is dependent on the cable, not due to the copper used inside, but the way the chip does the processing.

Compared to the built in headphone jack on the Honor 10, this cable sounds significantly better with headphones like the B&O Play H7. The highs are slightly clearer, the bass is substantially sharper and more accurate, and you can definitely tell the difference. Of course you won’t be using this cable with a device that has a headphone jack, but it was a great chance to compare it to the DAC Honor uses with its popular Kirin 970 processor.

It can also power bigger, more power hungry headphones like the AKG K7XX. Most phones with headphone jacks struggle to provide enough power to get good sound quality (the headphones usually just sound lackluster) but this cable provided enough juice for better bass response and better overall sound. It’s not ideal for such headphones, but it’s an improvement over most phones.

It won’t replace a dedicated DAC like the Dragonfly, and it won’t be driving high impedance headphones at all, but it’s definitely up to the task of most consumer headphones like the 62 ohm AKG K7XX. If you’re a casual listener on the go but you enjoy nice headphones, this cable is a no brainer.

Conclusion

This headphone cable sounds great, feels great, and achieves an important purpose. Many of us no longer have headphone jacks, but we can now use our favorite headphones without worrying about adapters to lose or cheap cables breaking.

Above all, I respect Master & Dynamic for releasing a product that will keep its customers happy and in the modern age with existing products. This isn’t the first time this has happened either. The MW50+ were announced with both on-ear and over-ear cups included in the box, but the over-ear cups could be bought separately and used with the old MW50. These two moves are consumer-friendly and that should be recognized.

This isn’t a cheap cable. But the quality of the cable and its utility are easily worth it, especially looking at how poorly reviewed most aftermarket USB-C headphone adapters are. Many of them fail to work properly, so buying a proper cable is important. And at $49, it’s actually less than half the price of the new V-MODA SpeakEasy DAC/AMP Lightning cable (which unfortunately doesn’t come in a USB-C variant). You can pick this Digital Accessories cable up in either black or silver, and if you’re on the Apple side of things, a Lightning version is available for $69.

Master & Dynamic USB-C to 3.5mm Audio Cable Rating: star_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_50 (4.5 / 5)

The Good

  • Relatively affordable
  • Improves audio quality
  • Reuse your favorite headphones

The Bad

  • Compatibility issues

The Bottom Line

Want to use your older headphones with an aux jack on them? This is the perfect on the go cable replacement.

via Phandroid

December 22, 2018 at 08:55AM