When you think about the goals of true wireless earphones—portability, solid fit, long battery life, intuitive controls—it’s easy to lose sight of what a marvel they are. Yes, our world is increasingly wireless, and early wireless earphones looked kind of clunky, but Master & Dynamic is combining the world of high tech with cool design. The Master & Dynamic MW08 doesn’t only look good but is intent on refining its winning formula. Let’s see how it does.
Editor’s note: this review was updated on November 24, 2021, to include an updated frequency response chart, microphone poll results, and updated scores.
Who should get the Master & Dynamic MW08?
- Commuters will enjoy the comfort, portability, and adjustable active noise cancellation (ANC) modes onboard the MW08.
- Stylish listeners will appreciate the jewelry-like aesthetic of these earphones.
- Tech-oriented people who are okay with paying a premium for brand recognition, and want decent Bluetooth codec support.
What’s it like to use the Master & Dynamic MW08?
Opening the box, the first thing that catches your eye is the mirror-like sheen of the charging case. It’s really something to behold, which is why M&D includes a fabric pouch for the carrying case. A case for your case like a nesting doll may seem silly, but trust me, you’ll want to use it—the steel exterior is a scratch magnet. The black drawstring pouch feels kind of cheap and pills easily—not what I expect in a premium product. I probably wouldn’t even notice the pouch’s low-grade fabric, if the steel case didn’t look so nice (before I started using it).
Related: What makes a good set of in-ears?
The Master and Dynamic MW08 earbuds feel solid, like precision pieces in a clock. They’re made of ceramic, aluminum, and stainless steel. Our test pair is in the white ceramic colorway, which is a pleasing slightly grey-toned white. It’s different from Apple’s signature stark white, but it will still match your other devices. Other colors include black, blue, and brown, which is a warm coffee shade. You can buy some color variants with either a steel or black case, too. Based on photos by other users and my experience with the steel case, the black one will look nicer for longer.
For an experience void of plastic, the MW08 has the heft of upscale materials like metal and ceramic, suggesting permanence.
Out of the box, the MW08 is fitted with medium rubber ear tips, and comes with sizes extra small through extra large. They’re pretty fiddly, and it’s unusually difficult to stretch them over over the casings, so changing sizes can be a challenge. It almost feels like these buds have the same ear tips as the Master and Dynamic MW07 Plus, despite having larger drivers. The oblong shape doesn’t help either. Thankfully, the earphones themselves easily screw in to fit—I find them reasonably secure, as someone with hard-to-fit ear canals.
IP rated so you can work out without worry
Master & Dynamic ensures that, with an IPX5 rating, you can comfortably workout with the MW08 and kick up a sweat. While I miss the rubber wings from previous models for the secure fit, and the MW08 is a little heavy over a long session, they’re totally fine for the gym. The Awareness function in the ANC also means you can sense your surroundings, should you take your exercise outdoors.
How do you control playback?
The right earbud has one button for controlling playback and voice assistant access. Meanwhile, the left bud has buttons for controlling volume, and holding both will toggle ANC. The buttons feel firm—neither too clicky, nor too mushy—which lends reassuring tactile feedback. Each earphone has a white light that flashes during Bluetooth pairing.
How well does the Master & Dynamic MW08 cancel noise?
Ditching the rubber wings in the previous Master & Dynamic model affects more than just how securely the earbuds stay in your ear. Having a good fit also ensures strong noise isolation. Quieting clangs is isolation’s wheelhouse, and while the MW08 is okay (attenuating between 10-30dB in some treble frequencies), I can’t help but wonder if keeping the rubberized wings would’ve improved it.
On the other hand, the Master & Dynamic MW08 sports a big improvement in ANC over the company’s previous efforts. You won’t be getting Sony WF-1000XM4 level performance, but it’s not bad. It’s enough to decrease the din of construction. Generally speaking, ANC is best for low-frequency noises, and the MW08’s noise cancelling performance is at its best just above 100Hz—where bass sounds live—well up into the mids.
Sub-bass frequencies see a sporadic drop off in attenuation. On balance, because the MW08 has a significant bump in sub-bass in its frequency response, it might do a good enough job of masking external low rumbling noises by being louder. In the interest of preserving your hearing, it’s too bad the MW08 doesn’t cancel those sub-bass frequencies better.
How’s the connection on the Master & Dynamic MW08?
Equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, the MW08 could be among the first true wireless earbuds to support LE Audio. It pairs like any average Bluetooth device, not completely seamless like Apple AirPods Pro. After the first pairing, my Android device has no trouble locating the MW08. There is no Bluetooth multipoint, but that could come in a future firmware update according to Master & Dynamic.
The left earbud occasionally drops connection, especially when you’re pushing the connection range. The connection gets spotty around 6 meters, which is a far cry from the 30 meters Master & Dynamic claims you get on the MW08. The same earbud also occasionally drops connection when it’s much closer, too—it happened to me when my phone was my chest pocket, mere inches away. It reconnects quickly and automatically whenever this happens, but at this price it’s definitely worth noting.
How do you connect the Master & Dynamic MW08?
When you first open the charging case and pluck the earbuds out, they automatically enter pairing mode. The white lights flash on the earphones to let you know. Enable Bluetooth on your device, select the MW08, and you’re set.
Bluetooth multipoint isn't available today, but could be in the cards for the MW08.
For mono listening, with in-ear detection off, you can simply pop an earphone in the case after pairing, and keep listening with the other one. ANC does not work in mono mode, but that’s to be expected.
These earbuds occasionally fail to pair, but this seems to vary from device to device. Our review unit won’t connect to a MacBook Pro, and we had to try with two different Huawei P30 smartphones before finding a stable connection. Connecting to the office PC is breezy, on the other hand. Pressing the volume down and the multifunction buttons simultaneously will reset the pairing mode to try again.
Codecs on the Master & Dynamic MW08
Available Bluetooth codecs with the MW08 include the standard fare AAC and SBC, as well as the better quality aptX codec. AAC is the go-to for Apple users, but Android users gain the improved performance of aptX. No Bluetooth codec is perfect, because that’s the present nature of the wireless medium, but audio-visual lag isn’t a problem with YouTube video over aptX using the MW08.
How long does the battery last on the Master & Dynamic MW08?
Landing squarely in the arena of average, the Master & Dynamic MW08 lasted 6 hours, 44 minutes with ANC on, at a consistent output of 75dB. According to Master & Dynamic, the MW08 should last 10 hours with ANC enabled.
Related: How we test
Master & Dynamic says the case provides an extra 30 hours of charge (if you never use noise cancelling), but let’s take that figure with a grain of salt. Considering the battery life of the MW08 in our testing is quite different, temper your expectations of the USB-C case’s capabilities. The bright side is that 15 minutes will do a 50% quick charge and 45 minutes fully charges the earphones.
Should you get the Master & Dynamic app?
You will want the Master & Dynamic Connect app for firmware updates and more. It’s supposed to take about 20 minutes to update the MW08 firmware, though that will increase if the attempt fails (ours failed twice, so around 60 minutes). Once everything is up to date, the app has a nice technical illustration of your MW08, and tapping the cog icon is where all functions can be customized.
You can name your M&D earphones, like a pet. The app also lets you change your ANC settings. Holding the volume button is the only way to toggle it on, but in the app, you can choose between Max ANC and All Day ANC settings. The former is self explanatory, and the latter is like a medium-high setting. There are also options for the Ambient sound mode, with a Voice preset for tuning into conversations nearby, and Awareness, which is akin to a safety mode if you’re running outdoors, for instance. These settings are the main reason to get the app.
Related: Best Google Assistant headphones
Besides ANC, the app has an auto-off timer to preserve the battery, and you can choose whether you want to activate in-ear detection. This allows you to pause by removing the earbuds. The in-ear detection works quite well.
How does the Master & Dynamic MW08 sound?
Unlike some true wireless earphones, you only get one frequency response with the MW08—there’s no way to tweak EQ. Audio tinkerers out there will find this disappointing, because in certain contexts you want different kinds of EQ. If you’re exercising or in a noisy environment, extra bass emphasis can be helpful. If you’re at home writing an article for SoundGuys without noise, you don’t need to compensate for auditory masking in the same way. With that said, some music genres excel on the MW08.
Lows, mids, and highs
On the MW08 Shirley Bassey’s Jezahel translates well. Bassey’s voice is reproduced faithfully, while the horns and the hard, right-panned lead guitar never get masked by louder, lower instrumental notes. The bass bobs in and out, without making it hard to hear other musical accompaniment during the crux of the song. If anything is amiss, the cymbals are quieter than expected and so is the piano, due to the MW08’s lowered volume in those high frequencies, compared to the bass volume.
Related: How to equalize
Take My Hand by Matt Berry, conversely, suffers from an over-emphasis on bass, and while it’s a very catchy bass line, it makes it hard to hear the track’s musical detail on the MW08. The piano and glockenspiel sound too quiet for the entire song—I crank the volume to better hear it, which of course just makes louder bass. Meanwhile, the boisterous horn and string sections pan pleasantly wide. This kind of experience isn’t great for close listening, but that extra dose of bass could work for exercising.
How is the Master & Dynamic MW08 Microphone?
The Master & Dynamic MW08 houses three microphones in each earbud. The mics do a pretty good job of reproducing and isolating voices, while rejecting external and off-axis noise. As of November 24, 2021, 60% percent of voters describe the microphone as “good”. This mic is definitely one of the standout features of the MW08. It can make some voices sound too loud, but it’s generally clear sounding. Folks with higher voices are more likely to suffer from a slightly “muffled” sound with these earbuds. Mid-range and deep voices may sound somewhat “congested” at worst, as there is a perceivable high-end cut on the mic.
Master & Dynamic MW08 microphone demo
Should you buy the Master & Dynamic MW08?
For those who prize the cachet of high-end tech accessories with solid audio quality, the Master & Dynamic MW08 is a good choice. It’s not exactly the best at anything, but it provides most of what people want in true wireless earbuds: comfort, style, ANC, good build quality, sound quality, and a pretty decent microphone. There are cheaper earbuds out there that can do basically all the same things as the MW08, but that’s not the reason you buy these earphones.
M&D is upgrading what we desire in our technology. The MW08 signals that earbud manufacturers are at a point where aesthetics and tactile feel are just as important in the integration of technology into life as the technical capabilities of a product. It’s like buying a new car: you can buy the cheapest car that will get you to where you need to go, but you might prefer the better looking one with quicker acceleration so you can enjoy the drive more.
Like a luxury car, the Master & Dynamic MW08 aims to do more than just the basics, by upgrading your experience through attractive design and features.
Does the MW08 tick all the boxes? Not exactly. Like with a car, buying the more niche car sometimes comes with issues, and you sort of have to accept all the quirks to really understand the car. The MW08 is the earbud equivalent to a luxury car; if you want it, you have to accept the single frequency response, the charging case that is so high maintenance it has its own carrying pouch, and spotty connectivity. The upshot is that it might brighten your day and most people will probably like the sound enough not to complain.
How does the Master & Dynamic MW08 compare to other true wireless earbuds?
Interestingly, you can save a few dollars and check out one of Master & Dynamic’s other earbuds. If you don’t care about ANC, the MW07 Go retains the same ceramic style, same button layout, and a similar fit as the MW08 for nearly half the price. The case is covered in a gray fabric and lacks the mirrored sheen of the MW08 case, but at least it won’t scratch just because you breathed near it.
If ANC is what you need, look no further than the Sony WF-1000XM4. It has some of the best ANC of any true wireless earphone. You still get the premium feeling (and price) of the MW08 (albeit with less exotic materials), and with better connective reliability. Plus, you can customize the EQ of its frequency response. Want to save a bit of money, look into the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen), these compare favorably to the Apple AirPods Pro.