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Montblanc MB01 Headphone Overview: Bathe your ears in luxurious

Montblanc MB01 headphones

“Great sound with the luxurious headphone experience you didn’t know you wanted.”

Beautiful design

Very convenient

Warm, accessible sound

Capable of powerful bass

Excellent call quality

Small, fiddly buttons

Below average battery life

Mediocre functional performance

Expensive

Montblanc isn’t a brand I associate with audio equipment – it’s best known for fountain pens and high-end watches. It wasn’t until I looked at the product range that I realized that the company was expanding beyond these two main pillars. Hence, the luxury headphones aren’t as far from the base as I thought.

Montblanc didn’t just hit her name on a pair of over-ears. You developed it with Audezes founder Alex Rosson. For those in the audio industry, this is a strong name that comes with some serious expectations. With him at the forefront of design and the staggering $ 595 price tag, I had extremely high expectations for the Montblanc MB01 Active Noise Canceling Headphones.

Let’s see if they got hit.

Out of the box

Montblanc is a luxury lifestyle brand. A significant part of the appeal of its products will come from this experience, and that will be an undertone for much of this review.

montblanc mb01 headphones rating 1 Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

montblanc mb01 headphones rating 2 Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

montblanc mb01 headphones rating 3 Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

montblanc mb01 headphones rating 4 Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

Much like opening a new Apple product, taking out the MB01s is a pleasant affair. The box is made of heavy, sturdy cardboard. The headphones are located in an extruded plastic tub that is lined with a soft fabric and covered with foam under a cardboard insert. It’s full of pomp and circumstance.

As beautiful as the packaging is, it is not sustainable. Much of the packaging is not universally recyclable or compostable, which we disapprove of.

Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

The MB01s come with an elegant soft case, a USB-A to USB-C charging cable, a 3.5mm socket to USB-C for listening to music and an airplane audio adapter. Although the travel case is good for a soft suitcase, I wish Montblanc had brought a hard suitcase instead. For headphones that expensive, I would have preferred a bag in which I felt better protected.

I also love that the airplane connector adapter is included, but I would have preferred a 3.5mm bluetooth adapter instead, considering that airplanes these days often use a new entertainment console that doesn’t require that two-prong adapter is. And keeping these headphones wireless as often as possible seems like a better choice overall – especially given their price point.

Radiate luxury

It is clear that Montblanc has spared no expense in terms of construction and materials. The headbands and ear cups are made from the softest, supple leather I have ever touched, and almost every other visible part is made from metal. Despite all the metal and leather, the headphones are surprisingly light both in the hand and when carried.

These headphones are eye-catching in the simple, elegant style of a classic car or a properly fitting suit. They call for attention with their gently flowing lines and bright chrome surfaces. I even like how the cups attach to the headband using a single contoured metal bracket that breaks the traditional half-circle bracket found on pretty much every other headset. The design matches the price.

The outside of the cups is a kind of rubber that is easy to grip in the hand. While it’s not a material I usually associate with high quality, I have to admit that it looks and feels great. The pause / play / skip / skip back button, which Montblanc calls the multifunction button, is located on the right ear cup and pressing this button is extremely satisfying. It’s just the right size, with just the right tactile feedback that makes it easy to use quickly but difficult to hit by mistake. The response time is also immediate.

It is clear that someone who wanted these headphones to work fantastic is responsible for the design.

montblanc mb01 headphones rating 10 Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

montblanc mb01 headphones rating 7 Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

You didn’t get everything right, however. While the left auricle has no buttons, the right cup houses them all and it gets a bit crowded. The top button brings up the Google Assistant (and Google Assistant only), which goes through the three active noise-canceling options below that, including the volume control, and finally the power button is located below, above the charging indicators and the USB. C port.

montblanc mb01 headphones rating 9 Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

montblanc mb01 headphones review 5 Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

The volume buttons are too small for me to use effectively. I reach behind the auricle to use it and run my finger over all of the buttons to make sure I’m touching the right one. The power switch, which also functions as a Bluetooth pair button, is also strangely small and made of plastic – unlike the others, which have a metal cap. This tiny button can be hard to hold if you’re not looking at it, and I have small hands.

Overall, these buttons feel a bit afterthought compared to the multifunction button, but that’s probably because the implementation of the latter is so perfect that it can be difficult for anything else to measure up.

These are some of the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn.

The metal-chrome finish I mentioned earlier can be easily stained by fingerprints. You should therefore have a microfiber cloth on hand (oddly enough, Montblanc did not contain one) in order to shine it regularly.

When I go back to that soft leather and wear these headphones, my high expectations are met: they feel fabulous. While I wouldn’t recommend exercising in these as I don’t want to risk damaging the leather or surfaces, I am confident that if you were inclined to do so, you could. These will not fall off easily.

These are some of the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn. I have often forgotten I was wearing them so I could just enjoy my music and focus on my work. Compared to the Sony WH-1000XM4, the MB01 generates significantly less wear and tear.

The ear cups of the Montblanc MB01 are noticeably softer than those of the WH-1000XM4, which are by no means uncomfortable headphones. When I get the perfect fit for the XM4 it will have a looser headband. Over time, these slip off a bit and press the headband onto my crown, which I notice and find uncomfortable – most of the weight of the XM4 is held in one place on top of my head.

In contrast, the MB01s have a tighter grip on the sides of my head. I know the headband is there, but I don’t feel it. I think this can be attributed to the fact that the pressure on the MB01s is well balanced and they stay attached to the sides of my head without putting too much pressure on my crown. The headband is also well padded and cushions very nicely against my head.

Functions in the middle of the road

The Montblanc MB01s offer three main functions outside of audio playback: Active Noise Cancellation, Smart Play / Pause and Google Assistant support. The MB01s only support Google Assistant. So, if you’re a fan of Apple Siri or Amazon Alexa, you’re out of luck. For me it is a waste to assign a whole button to a smart assistant like Montblanc did here since I don’t use one. However, if you are particularly attached to yours and it is not Google, this can be a huge disappointment.

Active noise cancellation is supported by the solid passive noise isolation of the MB01. However, the active noise cancellation feature is just fine.

Many high-end headphones can detect when you take them off and automatically pause them (or automatically play music when you put them on). This is a feature I’m used to in earphones that was recently added to the Sony WH-1000XM4. Unfortunately, the MB01 version of this feature is disappointingly inconsistent and frustratingly unintelligent. Montblanc ships the MB01s with this feature as standard, and that was probably a smart idea. Often times the music was not interrupted when I took off the headphones, but when I put them back on. It got so frustrating that I turned it off again.

Active noise cancellation is supported by the solid passive noise isolation of the MB01. However, the active noise cancellation feature is just fine. When playing music, you definitely won’t notice any interloping noise as the interior volume and noise cancellation work well together. But alone I could still clearly hear my air conditioning next to me or the dump truck pulling over on the next street. It’s good enough for most, but doesn’t match the industry-leading performance of the Sony WH-1000XM4 or the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700.

Ambient sound mode is a decent experience, although the isolation the cups provide will make your voice sound a bit muffled when you are on the phone. However, you can hear everything around you clearly without it sounding artificially amplified.

The battery life is 20 hours with the ANC switched on. The MB01s have a fast charge which gives you 3 hours of listening time after 10 minutes of charging. Again, this is mediocre as far as the quick charge features go – but it’s better than nothing.

At the start, the Montblanc MB01 had no app support, but from the beginning of September 2020 they received it together with a firmware update. I was really excited about the app that allows you to set a custom EQ. It’s not a perfect app and it’s still a bit buggy, but I’m glad it’s available. You can’t adjust the amount of noise cancellation, but you can’t set the EQ to the default setting I recommend.

Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

Sound quality

After unpacking, I found that these headphones can sound amazing. The sound profile of the MB01s is warm, accessible and pleasant, but a bit weak in the lows. It got better with app support: increasing those lows had an immediate impact on how good the MB01s sound.

The standard audio profile is very center driven. This narrow audio profile gives music a pleasant, warm sound that is easy to hear. The bass won’t overwhelm your senses with too much boom, and those higher frequencies will never pull your heart at a painfully high pitch. It’s comfortable enough, but not emotionally stimulating.

The MB01s ensure a fantastic listening experience.

They sound a lot richer when you hit the bass, but the highs get out of control when you change the equalizer. If you barely move the EQ up, the sound will be too sharp. In the end, I just adjusted the lows and left the highs at near default values. This mix was my favorite.

Taylor Swift’s entire folklore album sounds very good through the MB01s, albeit a little tighter than other sources I’ve heard. Hans Zimmer’s No Time for Caution comes through powerful and booming with the bass turned up and reflects the first time I heard it in the theater. With the bass raised, I can feel the headphones rumble on the side of my head as the air moves. As a bass player, I loved that.

The soundstage is a bit small and they are not very detailed, but the MB01s make for a fantastic listening experience.

Our opinion

If I had the MB01s, Sony WH-1000XM4s, and Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 on the table and told I could only get one, I have to admit that I would probably grab the Montblanc MB01s. For me, I can see myself traveling with these headphones on and never taking them off for a full 15 hour day. They don’t sound quite as good as the XM4s (but are close), and they don’t suppress noise nearly as well as the Bose, but they are so darn pleasant to use that I get interested in them day in and day out and day trip.

Is there a better alternative?

If your budget for over-ear headphones is $ 600, the world is your oyster. The Sony WH-1000XM4 are the industry standard for sound quality, while the Bose Heaphones 700 are the best for noise cancellation. Both are available much cheaper. However, if you are particularly impressed with the design and comfort of the Montblanc MB01, you may have a harder time finding something that suits your needs.

How long will they last?

As I have hopefully made clear, these are very well built. Not only are they robust, but they are also made of excellent materials. The ear cups are also interchangeable, which extends their lifespan. You should easily expect several years of use.

Should you buy it?

If you have the coin, yes. They sound pleasant and offer a level of comfort that I have never found in any other headphones. Other headphones offer better functionality and value, but the Montblanc MB01 is a wonderful luxury alternative.

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