The market for headphones and wireless loudspeakers is almost comically crowded – there are just too many products. Which makes the achievement of Manhattan headphone maker Master & Dynamic all the more remarkable. I have followed the company since it started, and saw the prototype for this stupendous new wireless speaker last year. But when I was writing this column I couldn’t remember how long M&D had been in business; I guessed 10-12 years. In fact it only launched in May 2014.
In three years, its retro-styled headphones have enraptured both audiophiles and fashionistas, something very few of its competitors have done. Founder Jonathan Levine is clearly an entrepreneurial genius, but the intellectual father of this, M&D’s first loudspeaker, is one Drew Stone Briggs – ex-Bose, and incidentally one of the nicest people in technology.
The M&D MA770 is made of poured concrete, or at least a new secret concrete-polymer mix that Briggs developed. Concrete as a speaker cabinet is no gimmick: in the form Briggs has configured, it is five times better at dampening echoes and rattles than wood. And that is core to ensuring superb sound. M&D claims the MA770 can run at full 100-watt power without distorting – and without even disturbing the needle on a record turntable set down on the same surface. I have tested both claims, and they are true. At the same time, its custom-made woven Kevlar long-throw speaker cones ensure a huge, room-filling sound.
The idea of the MA770 may still seem a bit Flintstones-ish, but it gives a powerful yet precise sound – a real ear-opener, you might say. It weighs 22kg, so could stress out a shelf, but works well on the floor. And you can buy two to operate as a more separated stereo system, or have them all over the house in a multi-room setup.
The 41cm x 51cm x 24.5cm geometric concrete case is also quite sculptural, which is not surprising given it was designed by the architect David Adjaye. No surprise then that New York’s Museum of Modern Art design store is stocking the MA770. Its name may look like a flight number, but the only flying this beautiful thing will be doing is off the shelves.