REVIEW: MITCHELL & JOHNSON MJ2 – FULCRUM
Disclaimer: Mitchell & Johnson sent the MJ2 my way for the purposes of this review. In the upcoming months will be reviewing most of the M&J headphone lineup. The Mitchell & Johnson MJ2 goes for 499,99£ or 499$ USD, in its respective markets. You can find out more about them here: MJ2 audiophile headphones.
MJ2 audiophile headphones
Real cherry wood enclosure
Detachable Cable included
High quality woven cloth Y cable with 3.5mm plug for portable player
Naturally tuned response
Frequency Response: 6 to 50,000Hz
Sound Pressure level: 120dB
Impedance: 32 ohms
Acoustic System: Closed back
Total harmonic Distortion: <=0.1%
Includes protective carry case and ¼” to 3.5mm adaptor
Right off the bat, I’ve got to say that, as it regards the MJ2, I have a strong preference for the Mitchell & Johnson MJ1’s styling. The MJ1’s skeletal lines and rectangular cups are unique. They catch the eye. The MJ2 may sound better, be more comfy, and go balanced in a jiffy. But apart from its cups being bigger on the up rather than the down side, it’s design is pedestrian.
Of course, sometimes, high end is pedestrian.
Leica’s latest M lost the movie button, the ability to take videos, and about three buttons. It no longer sports a garish M across its front. The Similarly, the Mitchell & Johnson MJ2 ’s metal is matte and seen-it-before grey. Its pads flex and fold in gentle convolutions like something in Ultrasone’s DJ line, also typical. Its cherry wood is lighter, and more upbeat. Still, it occupies an upscale niche compared to the MJ1.
While still too large for my head, and even when set as compact as possible, the MJ1’s cups rest on the elf edges of my ears. But just barely. The Mitchell & Johnson MJ2 is another thing. Without supporting its headband with a box of playing cards, folded sock, or something similar, it slides farther down my face, pressing on the tops of my ears against sweaty pleather. This affects both comfort and sound. If you’ve got a medium to wide face, bingo: MJ2 will fit you fine. If you’re like me and have a sail for a face, expect fit issues.
Thanks to clever hinges just above its speaker yokes the MJ2 folds up small, and comes with a handy, if not pretty, zippered carrying case. It vertically tilts about 60º, which helps it fit faces both triangular and square. It is a good design. Unfortunately, the pleather pads and headband sweat a lot, and are less comfy than high quality velour, fuede, or other semi-porous material. Still, the Mitchell & Johnson MJ2 is much, much for comfortable than the MJ1. I can wear it for up to three hours before the top of my head gets sore. If only its headband tightened further.
A strange design misstep is the MJ2’s cable. It is solid, the perfect length, and avoids the worst microphonic touch noises. But, neither its left nor its right connectors is labelled. If you’re an audiophile, stereo music to panning correctly from side to side, following the design of its producers, should be important. This seems like a large oversight. I identified left from right channels using a test file I drummed up in Audacity, and then labelled the left channel. At least it can easily be balanced.
Let’s get back to good. Because its cups fall more naturally against the skin than the MJ1, it isolates better. And, apart from the ear/pleather positional thing, it is more comfortable. Neither it nor the MJ1’s fulcrums can’t be adjusted laterally. If your ears angle forward toward your nose, the Mitchell & Johnson MJ2 might open too much air to the outside world. My narrow face finds no problem here.
Getting energetic, hard-edged bass from the MJ1 requires squeezing the pads against the skull. Even then, that bass is firmest post-100Hz. Out of the box the MJ2 goes deeper, and is harder edged further down, with or without the squeeze. Perhaps because it uses the a similar driver set, its signature is similar to MJ1, but not that similar.
it is harder edged down below, and up above, sometimes brighter, and all of it pulled together into a more confined sound space.
Mitchell & Johnson’s headphone is absent a true bass monster. Still, coming from the MJ1, the Mitchell & Johnson MJ2 gives impresses itself as creature-esque, if only just. High bass thrums against the temples, and lower bass thrums agains the jaw. That lower bass doesn’t go deep enough to render the sub bass in the opening seconds of Markus Schulz’s Mainstage. Rather, it rat-a-tat-tat’s a detailed mid and upper bass against a slowly building melody. It is less bass pressure than you get from a DT880, and slightly less than from MyST’s OrotoPhones, but more than escapes the MJ1.
It certainly can’t replicate the club feeling. And yet, it isn’t bass shy. It’s got that Audio Technica CK10 detailed-but-cautious thing going on that drags you in for love of stereo detail and midrange tension. Positionally, the Mitchell & Johnson MJ2 draws instruments and environments closer than MJ1, and grounds each with a more centrally anchored bass. This effects a Grado-style sense of speed and stage intimacy. Unlike my favourite Grado headphones, MJ2 builds its medium-wide stage laterally rather than vertically. Vertical spread of instruments stands in the middle. Z-axis depth is medium-deep, moving about half a step in front of the head and about a quarter step behind it. MJ1 goes farther in both directions.
I love super-wide stages. I also love close stages. Medium-depth stages are things I’ve found pleasurable in the last year or two. This medium-depth stage sits between a Grado PS1000 and a Beyerdynamic DT880/600, but cleaves closer to the latter. As does its bright, energetic, and percussion-loving upper midrange. Its vocal region isn’t as warm as the MJ1’s, but percussion, high-pitched strings, and atmospheric chimes, are more controlled and better cleaved to their lower pitched edges. They are easier to listen to. It isn’t sibilant in the least, and its transition between upper mids is – at least among brightish headphones – one of the best I’ve heard at any price. I avoid raucous live music when using the MJ1. The MJ2 is easily more adaptable to a greater variety of musical genres. And similar to the MJ1, it won’t do it for duff duff-style bass heavy music. That is, no Ice Cube. It gets on with fast-paced hip hop: the streets, MC Solaar, and goes well with fusion hip hop from King Britt. It shimmers a bit more than neutral right above higher pitched male vocals. I think it’s great.
Make no mistake: the Mitchell & Johnson MJ2 is brighter than it is warm, or liquidy. It’s just not peaky, or sibilant. its upper range is more controlled sounding than the one in the MJ1, and less grainy than a Grado GH-2.
At the end, I wish low bass sound pressure was higher. Apart from that, the MJ2 nails most of what Iwant and how I want to hear it from a headphone.
I went back and forth and back and forth between the MJ1 and MJ2. One fits and isolates better. One looks cooler and has richer wood hues. The other connects to balanced sources, lickety split. Both sound good, but each splits off in the mids. After many hours, I’m ready to say that I prefer the Mitchell & Johnson MJ2, and not by a small margin. Its tighter sound stage and warmer bass-through-mids anchors a clean, bright upper midrange.