Review: Master & Dynamic’s MW08 Makes a Strong Case for Spending $300 on Earbuds
These wireless ANC buds offer premium sound and aesthetics at an admittedly premium price
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I have a few pet peeves with earbuds: Bad fit, obviously. Overly sensitive touch controls. Some even require the use of an app to get the full experience.
I’m probably a minority with that last one, but I’m all about limiting the number of controls I have to futz with on my phone just to listen to music or a podcast. So while there was a lot to excite me about Master & Dynamic’s just-launched MW08 True Wireless Earphones, fiddling with an app (a first time for this brand) wasn’t high on my list.
We’ll get to my thoughts on this later. What I can say is that I actually put in the earbuds and enjoyed them for a few days without ever downloading anything. If you truly want to set and forget — and learn to work the different sound modes via the (thankfully tactile) earbud controls — you can ignore the app.
The real question here is, did we need the MW08? Last year’s MW07 Plus added active noise-canceling and more than tripled the charging power of the MW07, the sleek ‘buds that won a Red Dot Award for design in 2019. If the Plus’s sound wasn’t quite as “bright” as the original M&D buds, they otherwise had achieved aesthetic perfection with some great-fitting earbuds in a compact case that could keep the music going for days.
The MW08s are an improvement. This time out, the earbuds are built from ceramic/stainless steel (in lieu of handcrafted acetate and stainless steel). Both the ‘buds and the case are smaller and weigh less, although the differences are almost imperciptable. M&D has added multiple ambient and ANC listening modes, and there are now six microphones total. And the case design has changed significantly.
Does this make it worth the upgrade? We spent a week with the MW08 to find out.
Setting up the MW08
I took the earbuds and immediately heard a sound (like radar) and connected it with one tap to my iPhone. I downloaded the app and paired that almost instantly as well. All in, I was unpacked and listening to music in about the time it took to get halfway through a song. I then charged the case overnight and listened again over the next several days without plugging the earbuds back in (although I did put them back in the case between uses).
- 11mm Beryllium drivers
- Earbud weight: 9g each
- IPX5 water-resistance rating
- Up to 12 hours playtime/10 hours with ANC
- 50% charge in 15 minutes, 100% charge in 45 minutes
- Charging case: 30 additional hours of charge, up to 42 hours total playtime
- 6-microphone talk solution (three in each earbud)
- Two active noise-canceling and two ambient listening modes (via app)
- Comes with five ear tip sizes, USB adapter, USB-C charging cable and a canvas pouch
- Bluetooth 5.2
- Without ANC on, I was able to charge once and then pretty much not think about plugging them in again. After a week of daily use, my charge was still at 100%.
- The case is a bit smaller, but the earbuds now rest and charge along the narrow top. Essentially, it’s gone from a horizontal case to a vertical one, and the earbuds magnetically snap into their charging nodes easily.
- The All Day ANC and Max ANC offered just enough difference to make it worthwhile to play with the settings. The “Max” setting definitely shut out all sound in my home office and most of the outside world when I was walking on a busy street … enough that a car almost dinged me on a crosswalk. The All Day setting let in just enough noise that I’d suggest keeping this on during your outdoor ventures. For science, I also stood next to a garbage truck that was backing up. Here, I could definitely tell a noticeable difference between all the modes, although even with the ANC turned off, the truck beep wasn’t very piercing.
What kind of works
- If you’re in a quiet room, the two ambient settings (and even turning all modes off) still provide enough muffling of environmental noises that you may consider making this your default mode.
- In a problem I’ve encountered with all other ANC earbuds, I could sometimes hear the wind whistling in my ear while I was in noise-canceling mode and walking outside. Otherwise, these definitely shut out the outside world to the degree that I needed.
- The bass seemed to kick up a notch from prior MW releases, though not in an obnoxious way. That said, I could feel the new Royal Blood single working the pit of my stomach.
What needs work
- Still waiting on a wireless charging case.
- You can only select the default active or ambient noise-canceling mode through the app, though you can turn them on/off via the earbuds.
- Oddly, I found the MW07 Plus to be a slightly cleaner listening experience. I could get more variance via the app and the different modes on the 08, but there was a faint muffling (even with ANC off) on the new version when directly compared to the prior version.
That said, I initially found the older, non-ANC MW07 to have more of a sonic “oomph” than the 07 Plus, so it may be that we’re literally sacrificing 5% of the clear, punchy sound of first-gen earbuds in order to quadruple listening time and gain good noise cancellation. (Conversely, I could definitely discern more of the individual elements of any song through the 08 earbuds — if that’s more important to you, these serve as an upgrade.)
What others are saying
“87/100. When you combine the design updates with more robust active noise cancellation, ambient sound modes, stellar audio and extended battery life, it’s not hard to argue these are Master & Dynamic’s best earbuds yet.” –Engadget
“4/5. Master & Dynamic’s true wireless MW08 earphones deliver accurate audio performance and good active noise cancellation for a high price.” – PC Mag
“When compared to the $249 Apple AirPods Pro, the MW08s genuinely deliver a better $300-worthy wireless earbud experience.” – Gizmodo
Our final verdict
The MW08 presents modest upgrades (and an app, which wasn’t annoying!) that are probably enough to consider this over the MW07 Plus, which is only $50 cheaper right now anyway. The improved charging case was the tipping point; it’s a serious design upgrade. Now, if you’re simply comparing this to all ANC wireless earbuds? If the $300 price tag isn’t out of reach — an admittedly big if — these are the best you can do.
Where to buy the MW08
The MW08 True Wireless Earphones are $299.99 and available here.
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