When the Master & Dynamic MW08 first revealed itself, it was hard not to get drawn in by the aesthetic. Even some of the best wireless earbuds are merely good at hiding the fact that they’re mostly plastic, but here was a genuinely eye-catching alternative, clad in polished ceramic and crisp steel.
Colors: White, black, brown, blue
Battery life (rated): 10 hours with ANC, 12 hours without (plus 30 without ANC in charging case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
Processor: Unspecified Qualcomm chip
Size: 0.8 x 0.8 x 1 inches (per bud); 2.5 x 1.9 x 1 inches (charging case)
Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud); 2.9 ounces (charging case)
Now, having had the chance to spend some time with the MW08 in the flesh, I have more good news: it’s not just a looker. In fact, it’s a serious contender for the podium places in our best noise-cancelling earbuds rankings; keep reading this Master & Dynamic MW08 review to find out why.
Master & Dynamic MW08 review: Price and competition
The MW08 is no set of budget buds: it costs $299, and is currently only available from Master & Dynamic itself.
Still, you do have a few different colors to choose from, with the earbuds coming in white, black and brown and blue. The white and brown models come with a shiny stainless steel case, while the black buds get a matching matte black case. The blue variant has a “polished graphite” case, though this is just a slightly darker take on the “stainless steel” version — they’re all made from identical materials.
Master & Dynamic MW08 review: Design
The previous MW07, MW07 Go and MW07 Plus earbuds all had good genes when it came to looks, and the MW08 is Master & Dynamic’s most overtly premium design yet. The only plastic on these buds is hidden behind the signature D-shape outer housing, which this time is built from a suitably expensive-feeling combination of polished ceramic, stainless steel and aluminum.
To my eyes, the white and blue models look best; the black version I received is more understated, but for once this is a pair of headphones you’ll want to show off. That said, the black model’s matching matte-finish charging case looks the best of the bunch. This case, which charges via USB-C and includes a trio of helpful status LEDs on the front, is prone to attracting fingerprints, but that’s the only bad thing I can say about it.
There are more practical considerations, too. Just like the MW07 Plus, the MW08 is water-resistant to the IPX5 standard. While not full waterproofing, that’s enough for sweat-proofing and splash resistance, and makes the MW08 a little tougher than the AirPods Pro.
Master & Dynamic MW08 review: Comfort and fit
In addition to being one of the most handsome pairs of true wireless buds, the MW08 is among the most comfortable. With five pairs of silicone tip sizes to choose from, it’s easy to find one that fits, and the inner housing’s contours evenly distribute the weight in each ear, so I could easily wear them for well over two hours without a hint of discomfort.
The catch is that while the fit is secure enough for simple strolling, it is possible to shake the MW08 earbuds loose with strenuous movement. As such, it’s unlikely to trouble the best running headphones as a fitness aid.
Master & Dynamic MW08 review: Controls and digital assistant
Master & Dynamic’s true wireless buds have been unusual in providing physical buttons on each earpiece instead of relying on touch controls. In the MW08’s case, it uses the same control scheme as its immediate predecessors, with a volume rocker on the left bud and a single multifunction button on the right. The latter can pause or play music, or summon your phone’s digital assistant (Google Assistant on Android, Siri on iOS).
I personally prefer the more tactile feel of a button press, and the MW08’s volume rocker in particular felt more responsive than a lot of tap-based systems I’ve used – especially those that make you wait for the volume to raise or lower one level before you can tap to adjust it further. You do need to brace the underside of the earbud when pressing down on a button, lest you push the whole thing loose, but it’s still a one-handed gesture.
I didn’t have any trouble with Google Assistant either. Holding down the multifunctional brought it up dutifully on my phone, and the microphones accurately parsed my voice commands.
Master & Dynamic MW08 review: Sound quality
You can and should expect top-quality audio for $299, and the MW08 delivers. It’s been freshly updated with 11mm beryllium drivers, bigger than the 10mm drivers of the MW07, and they comfortably deliver deep, punchy bass and a wide soundstage.
The MW08 also produces a high level of detail, most noticeably in complicated arrangements. The space-opera drama of Muse’s “Knights of Cydonia,” for instance, came through in full force, thanks to clean separation of the many instrumental and vocal tracks.
The powerful low-end never threatens to overpower the rest of the mix, either. Kero Kero Bonito’s “Flamingo,” which combines prominent bass synth with soft, relaxed vocals, floated along beautifully — the two elements were never at odds.
The MW08’s sound quality is easily a match for that of the AirPods Pro, and even rivals the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, another high-end pair of true wireless buds. If anything, the MW08 sounds even better: the more prevalent bottom-end gives rock and electronic music a bigger kick, while jazz and classical recordings have more of a soulful warmth.
It can get boomy at maximum volume, but if you care about your hearing you wouldn’t leave it at such a high level anyway.
Master & Dynamic MW08 review: Active noise cancellation
ANC on the MW08 comes in two levels: Max ANC and All Day ANC. Max ANC is the more intensive, at the cost of sucking up more of the battery life.
To use the standard ANC earbud yardstick, the MW08’s noise cancellation — even in Max ANC mode — is not as effective as that of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. It still works well enough, though. The milder All Day ANC made a spirited effort at quieting the sound of nearby traffic, and with some music playing I couldn’t hear my washing machine spinning just a few feet from my desk. Max ANC silences low-frequency droning sounds even more effectively, though the difference is only noticeable in very loud areas.
By contrast, the two Ambient mode variants – Voice and Awareness – sound very distinct. The Voice profile is, unsurprisingly, mainly geared towards letting speech through the headphones while leaving other kinds of background noise unaffected. Awareness mode is more of an all-round Ambient mode, so is much better for listening out for approaching cars, and it actually seems better at picking up speech from further away too.
When shopping, I definitely preferred the general-purpose approach of Awareness mode. Unlike the pass-through implementation on some cheaper ANC headphones, the microphones also refrain from amplifying outside noise more than they need to, so walking through the fresh food aisles at the supermarket didn’t deafen me with fridge sounds.
Master & Dynamic MW08 review: App and special features
The MW08’s launch is accompanied by the new M&D Connect app. It’s missing EQ adjustment, which is a shame, but I was always happy with how the buds sound as-is.
The app also makes switching between ANC and Ambient modes easy, and I like how it lets you set how long the buds should wait before entering sleep mode due to inactivity. You can also toggle in-ear detection on or off, though since it worked reliably enough – pausing music when I took out an earbud and resuming when it was back in – I left it on.
Master & Dynamic MW08 review: Battery life
Officially, the MW08 lasts for up to 10 hours with ANC or 12 hours without. If that sounds too good to be true, you’re right: with All Day ANC switched on and volume set to 50%, my pair lasted for almost dead-on 7 hours.
Still, that’s not half bad by ANC earbud standards. The AirPods Pro lasts a paltry 4.5 hours with noise cancellation enabled, and the Momentum True Wireless 2 manages even less than that. You should be able to comfortably get several days of normal use out of the MW08.
The charging case also provides a little under three full recharges’ worth of juice, so depending on volume you could get about 24 hours of ANC uptime in total. The AirPods Pro charging case helps Apple’s buds close the gap here, though the MW08 again hammers the Sennheiser buds on total battery life.
The only real downside here is that the buds’ remaining charge reporting seems wildly off. One on occasion I’d been listening for about 2.5 hours, most of that with Max ANC on, and both Android and M&D Connect reported I had 92% charge remaining. That would have been nice, but was clearly an error.
Master & Dynamic MW08 review: Call quality and connectivity
The MW08 connects over Bluetooth 5.2, and improves on previous Master & Dynamic earbuds by offering support for both the aptX and AAC codecs. Our freelance headphones expert Alex Bracetti reported that his pair suffered poor connectivity when more than 15 feet away from the source device, but my pair performed fine at several times this distance — even with several walls in the way.
Call quality is good too. My friend reported some nearby car engines bleeding through when I spoke to him outside, and I apparently sounded quieter than when I used my Google Pixel 4a microphone, but I was still clear and comprehensible both indoors and out.
Master & Dynamic MW08 review: Verdict
Come for the looks, stay for the sound. The Master & Dynamic MW08 excels at the fundamentals: this is a pair of wireless earbuds that’s not just stylish and comfortable, but powerful and refined in its audio output. Battery life and call quality are good as well, and its noise cancellation is effective and flexible even if it’s not the absolute best in the business.
It might be fair to argue that for $299, you should be getting even more; one reason the MW08 doesn’t entirely surpass the cheaper AirPods Pro is the latter’s much wider array of features, like spatial audio and adaptive EQ. Comparatively the MW08 is short on tricks, beyond ANC and the minor tweaks offered in the app.
Even so, it can be worth paying more just for simply superior sound, and that’s something the MW08 delivers with style.