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Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro: Which wireless earbuds should you buy?

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. Apple AirPods
(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Recently launched, the Master & Dynamic MW08 is an update to the popular MW07 with notable improvements. It packs hybrid active noise cancellation and top-tier sound into a flashy and premium design. Most importantly, these buds hold some of the best battery life in the category, promising to more than double the playtime of its dangling rival: the AirPods Pro.

But is it better than Apple's earbuds more generally? The AirPods Pro is still considered a category leader that delivers excellent performance across the board. Adaptive sound, customizable fit, great noise cancellation, and a wide range of iOS-friendly features come with the purchase. Apple has also done a fantastic job making these buds future-proof via iOS 14 updates. 

Both of these gems offer unique listening experiences, but only one can claim victory in this battle. After a week of testing, we’ve determined a winner. Read on to see whether the MW08 or AirPods Pro is the better pair of noise-cancelling wireless earbuds.

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. Apple AirPods Pro: Specs compared

Master & Dynamic MW08Apple AirPods Pro
Price$299$249
Wireless Charging CaseNo (USB-C only)Yes
ChipNot statedH1
Battery Life (Rated)10 hours (ANC on), 12 hours (ANC off), 42 hours (with charging case)4.5 hours (ANC on), 5 hours (ANC off), 24 hours (with charging case)
Water ResistanceIPX5IPX4
Case Size2.5 x 1.8 x 1 inches1.8 x 0.9 x 2.4 inches
Case Weight2.9 ounces1.6 ounces
Special featuresHybrid active noise cancellation, two-level ambient listening mode, Bluetooth 5.2, customizable fit, smart controlsActive noise cancellation, transparency mode, adaptive EQ, spatial audio, automatic switching, customizable fit, audio sharing, announced messages with Siri, “Hey Siri” voice-activated assistance, wireless charging

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro: Price

You’re going to spend big no matter which model you choose. The AirPods Pro originally released at $249 and remains at this price point, though there are some retailers currently selling it for as low as $180.

The MW08 just launched for $299. Not only is it more expensive than the AirPods Pro, but it’s also pricier than other luxury models such as the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 ($249) and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds ($279). We don’t expect the MW08 to go on sale anytime soon either. That being said, the AirPods Pro is the more affordable and enticing deal.

We recommend bookmarking our best cheap AirPods deals and best headphones deals pages to stay up on the latest Apple and M&D deals.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro: Design

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

It’s apparent which has the more desirable design: the MW08. M&D’s penchant for craftsmanship is exemplary on these buds, highlighted by the polished ceramic exterior and D-shaped frame with minimalist logo. You have to admit this is a classier look than the tired dangling silhouette that has become synonymous with the AirPods. IPX5 water resistance and the several color options (Black, Blue, Brown, White) only add to the appeal.

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

The AirPods Pro isn’t the eyesore that the standards AirPods design is. Changes were implemented to give these tiny noise-cancellers more distinction, including smaller stems, black vents, and a longer sound port. Apple deserves some credit for taking on a greener manufacturing approach, using eco-friendly materials to create the buds. IPX4 sweat and water resistance also provide the AirPods Pro some protection. Then what’s the problem? The build quality isn’t durable, and the design just isn’t attractive.

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The charging cases are day and night. While the AirPods Pro sticks with the same all-white plastic construction, the MW08 has a sturdier storage unit built from stainless steel. M&D’s magnet is stronger and shuts the MW08’s case with force. Apple’s magnet is weaker and doesn’t lock the case securely. One trait these two units do share is that they take on scuffs and scratches easily.

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

Where Apple gains some ground is in customizable fit. If there was ever a pair of wireless earbuds that benefitted most from ear tips, it’s the AirPods Pro. The tips create a tight seal for enhanced stability, plus Apple developed its own Ear Tip Fit Test that calibrates the buds and determines the best tips for the listener. Most importantly, these buds are ridiculously light and provide great comfort for long-term listening.

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Considering its protruding shape and heavier weight, the MW08 feels light and can be worn for 2 hours before fatigue sets in. I wouldn’t go any longer due to the thickness of the buds, which presses into the ear the longer you sport them. The sound port allows for seamless insertion into the canal and the tips form a decent seal when properly adjusted.

Winner: Master & Dynamic MW08

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro: Controls

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

M&D and Apple opted for physical buttons over touch sensors, and while their respective controls schemes are functional and responsive, the AirPod Pro offers a fresher and more practical take. 

Apple’s force sensor system, located on the bottom of each stem, is hands down the best input method for wireless earbuds. Every press produces nice tactility that assures you every intended command is met. My only gripe is that you’re limited by the number of controls that can be assigned to each bud.

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

M&D left its button layout untouched, placing volume rockers on the left bud and one multifunctional button on the right bud that handles playback, call management, and digital assistance through single and multi-press gestures. Unfortunately, you can’t customize the control scheme, nor can you cycle through the listening modes; this can only be done through the companion app. On top of that, the button layout isn’t ear-friendly, as it requires pressing down on the buds from the top, applying unwanted pressure to the concha.   

As for digital assistance, nothing can compete with Apple’s “Hey Siri” hands-free voice activation, which recognizes commands as quickly as it responds to them. Apple’s mics demonstrate excellent speech recognition and don’t miss a syllable spoken. You can trigger Siri on Android devices, though it requires a third-party app like Assistant Trigger, and “Hey Siri” isn’t compatible with it.   

Siri and Google Assistant are available on the MW08 and work well with the buds. M&D’s mic array is just as powerful as Apple’s and picks up vocals with precision. Every command or inquiry you fire off will be executed in a timely manner.  

Winner: AirPods Pro

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro: Sound quality

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The MW08 is the superior-sounding model. M&D increased the driver size from 10mm to 11mm, which gives the low end some extra oomph and enlivens the buds neutral-like soundstage. Contemporary music genres sound compelling, as percussive elements have an impactful resonance, while vocals are beautifully reproduced. Where you really get a feel for the MW08’s frequency range is on tracks with intricate arrangements. Jazz classics are a must-listen with highs and subtle nuances sounding crystal-clear and distinct.

I’m very fond of the AirPods Pro’s audio quality, and like many critics, believe it’s a substantial upgrade over the previous AirPods. Bass is still emphasized, but better balanced, giving vocals room to shine for clean, warm sound. These buds don’t have the sonic depth or tonality of the MW08, but the results are mostly satisfying. The AirPods Pro does have something going for it that the MW08 doesn’t: spatial audio. That’s right, Apple’s latest sound feature produces theater-quality 3D audio to make video content more immersive, and it’s a game-changer in the video content that supports it.

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

Some have complained about the lack of an EQ or music presets, but Apple does let you modify sound via your iPhone settings; 20 presets are available to play with. The MW08 offers zero sound personalization, but, realistically, it doesn’t need to.

Winner: Master & Dynamic MW08

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro: Active noise cancellation

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

ANC is equally great on the MW08 and AirPods Pro. Neither will outperform the class-leading QuietComfort Earbuds, but you’ll get some solid noise neutralization to enjoy music peacefully.

M&D created two different ANC settings: Max ANC for loud ambient environments and All Day ANC for less noisy settings. All Day ANC was effective when working in my home office, blocking out the humming from our centralized AC and my mother-in-law’s speakerphone conversations. However, Max ANC is the way to go for optimal ANC, as it’s more powerful and minimizes high-frequency noises better. Notice I said minimize because the MW08 won’t completely silence them; I could still hear bird chips and my newborn’s cries very clearly.

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

The AirPods Pro only has one mode, but Apple’s two-mic noise-cancelling array is capable of quieting close to 85% of external sounds. Typical disturbances like smartphone alarms and loud TVs will go unnoticed. I’ve also found the technology to reduce the hum of a jet engine when traveling pre-pandemic. Like the MW08, the AirPods Pro does struggle with high-frequency noises. Baby cries, car alarms, and whistles will be audible. The good news is that unless these sounds are occurring right in front of you, they aren’t distracting enough to pull you away from whatever is playing on your buds, and that goes for either model.

A transparency mode is available on the MW08 and AirPods Pro as well, and both versions come in handy for piping in ambient noises to increase environmental awareness. The AirPods Pro lets you hear voices clearly when partaking in brief conversations. The feature works even better outdoors, making traffic noises distinguishable during daily walks and nightly runs. Much of the same can be said about the MW08’s transparency mode, which has two settings that are self-explanatory, Awareness and Voice, though the praise I give it solely applies to Awareness because Voice is poorly engineered.

Winner: Tie

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro: Special features and apps

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

At launch, the AirPods Pro received a ton of flack for not having a companion app, nor the vast number of features found on competitors. Well, Apple’s vision of enhancing functionality through firmware updates has paid off tremendously, extending the AirPods Pro’s shelf life and introducing creative features that other companies are trying to replicate as we speak.

The H1 processor is what gives Apple’s buds their superpowers, offering flawless iOS integration (e.g., instant connectivity to iDevices, “Hey Siri” voice activation) and numerous other software perks. This includes audio sharing between two pairs of Apple or Beats headphones, automatic switching, and the aforementioned spatial audio, just to name a few. There are many more hidden AirPods Pro tricks worth checking out.

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Other than selection options for both listening modes (ANC and Ambient), the M&D Connect app provides very little extended functionality. There is an auto-off timer, toggle control for in-ear detection, a battery level indicator, and a Quickstart menu that breaks down how to operate the buds in 9 slides. That’s it. The app does support firmware updates, but it seems like you can only push them through by updating the app in either the App Store or Google Play.

The MW08 is one of very few pairs of wireless earbuds to support Bluetooth 5.2, and while it makes pairing to devices fast and simple, I found its range very poor, range is very with audio stuttering past the 15-foot mark. Audio Editor James didn't have the same problem with his MW08 pair, but given the AirPod Pro's complete lack of connection problems it wins on reliability.

Multipoint technology, which allows you to connect a pair of wireless earbuds to two devices simultaneously, isn’t available on either product.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro: Call quality

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

It’s difficult for any pair of wireless earbuds to compete with Apple’s call quality. The AirPods Pro’s mic system does an exceptional job of picking up vocals to enjoy clear-sounding calls. They block a good amount of ambient noise from entering chats and exercise strong wind resistance, limiting the painful whooshing effect most common on cheap wireless earbuds. The H1 chip also increases talk time by 50%, a clutch feature that comes in handy since battery life on the AirPods Pro isn’t lengthy.

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The MW08 is serviceable as a calling headset and performs best indoors. Vocals are transparent, though several people claimed that I sounded muffled at times, while also hearing noises in the background. Being outdoors only invited more environmental fracas into my conversations, as the mics picked up every bit of noise around me, which made it tougher to communicate.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro: Battery life

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

M&D has set a new standard for battery life on luxury wireless earbuds, granting listeners 10 hours of use with ANC on, and extending playtimes to 12 hours with ANC off. Realistically, these numbers will drop when factoring in volume, streaming, and other features, but even with ANC engaged you can expect several days' worth of listening.

The AirPods Pro barely achieves half of what the MW08 generates: 4.5 hours with ANC on and 5 hours with ANC off. If there is one silver lining, it is Apple’s battery management, which squeezes every minute out of every charge for longer use. Rarely will you see battery levels drop drastically, unless you have numerous features running all at the same time.

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

There is also a massive difference in playtimes with the charging cases, as the MW08’s case holds up to 42 hours fully charged, while the AirPods Pro’s case maxes out at 24 hours. Apple’s case does support wireless charging, a feature that M&D chose to omit on its newest model. On the flip side, the MW08 seems to have stronger quick charging and can generate 50% of playtime on a 15-minute charge versus the AirPods Pro’s 1 hour of use on a 5-minute charge.


Winner: Master & Dynamic MW08

Master & Dynamic MW08 vs. AirPods Pro: Overall winner

Narrowly, the AirPods Pro is the wiser investment, and not just because it's more affordable. Choosing it will reward you with great sound, call quality, and controls, along with a feature set that continues to grow with almost every new iOS 14 update. The ergonomic design allows for a more secure fit that can be personalized through the Ear Fit Test setting as well, which also helps maximize noise cancellation. Battery life and design are areas that require major improvements, but those are the only two legitimate complaints that can be said about Apple’s flagship buds.

Master & Dynamic MW08AirPods Pro
Price and value (5)24
Design (15)1311
Controls (10)79
Audio quality (20)1817
Active noise cancellation(20)1717
Special features and apps (15)812
Call quality (5)35
Battery life (10)107
Total score (100)7882

The MW08 is an impressive release that carries over many of its predecessor’s hallmarks, including sleek aesthetics and stellar sound, while adding noise cancellation into the mix. These buds lend themselves well to all music genres and media content, thanks to powerful drivers that deliver neutral sound with some extra punch. Battery life is also some of the longest in the category. However, a price tag of $299 should arguably grant you more features and better wireless range.

Alex Bracetti

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.