Master & Dynamic MW08 true wireless earbuds review: impressing in every way

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 28
The MW08 true wireless earbuds are here, and they excel in every metric, from its impressive 12-hour battery life to its custom 11mm drivers, to its hybrid active noise cancellation.

Master & Dynamic MW08
Master & Dynamic MW08


The MW07 was partially replaced by the MW07 Plus, which made some fairly small improvements but kept many aspects the same. It technically offered active noise cancelation, but it was weak and not very effective, but otherwise was a minor evolution.

MW08, on the other hand, takes a decisive step forward and is nearly the perfect set of true wireless earbuds.



An improved design

Much has changed with the MW08. Master & Dynamic kept the signature "D" shape to the outside of the earbuds, which is unlike any other earbuds.

Master & Dynamic MW08 on their canvas bag
Master & Dynamic MW08 on their canvas bag


Replacing the hand-polished acetate is an all-new ceramic case. Apple fans will likely be familiar with Apple's limited use of ceramic on the high-end Apple Watch Edition. The ceramic looks incredible and is polished to a shine with a simple "M" situated in the center.

We loved the acetate, but the ceramic looks even better and gives off an even more premium feel.

Master & Dynamic MW08 come in four colorways
Master & Dynamic MW08 come in four colorwyas


The ceramic meets the aluminum body, which has a new bonded external antenna to improve signal strength and connectivity. These still have physical, tactile buttons on the top edge to control playback, answer calls, and adjust the volume.

Around the edge of each earbud is a new microphone array and grille. These contribute to wind-blocking, phone calls, and the hybrid ANC.

Master & Dynamic MW08 earbuds
Master & Dynamic MW08 earbuds


Outside of the ceramic, most of the changes have come to the case. The original case design was flat and made of polished stainless steel. For the MW08, Master & Dynamic has once again utilized stainless steel but in new ways.

The case is now a vertical case, very similar to AirPods Pro. But, instead of being entirely rounded, the top and bottom are squared off to allow it to stand on its own. Since it is thinner and taller, it's also easier to open one-handed. This was a constant frustration with the earlier models, and we're delighted it's been improved.

Instead of just polished stainless steel, Master & Dynamic is now offering a matte black finish and a polished graphite grey. The matte black may be our favorite, but all of these look great.

A quick note on the steel case: One thing we heard quite a bit was some people's dismay at the stainless steel scratching so easily. Not only is this commonplace, but we'd say it is preferred. Polished stainless steel is very strong but quickly starts to show minor scratches with use.

If you've used a silver stainless steel Apple Watch or any watch made of steel you'll be familiar with how fast the steel can show wear. But there's nothing wrong with that. It's in line with other premium materials, like leather. As you use it, it develops a finish that is entirely unique to you and reflects its strong durability.

Master & Dynamic MW08 matte black case
Master & Dynamic MW08 matte black case


At the same time, Master & Dynamic understands some may want to keep things as pristine as possible and includes a black canvas bag in the box if you'd prefer to keep your case further protected.

There are three status lights on the case, one in the center to represent the case's battery life and two on the sides to represent each earbud. Also included with the MW08 is a nylon-braided USB-C to USB-C cable and a metal USB-C to USB-A adapter.

Audio quality

Audio is driven via custom 11mm beryllium drivers, 10 percent larger than the prior generation. This pays off with some incredible sound. We loved the sound of the MW07, and the MW07 Plus and the MW08 is even better.



We started streaming from our Apple Music testing playlist and very happy with the audio that pumped out. The soundstage was very large, and, coupled with the ANC, it was an immersive experience. Bass, in particular, was incredible at even 60 percent volume was thunderous and amazing. Listening to the pump-up song What's Up Danger, you could feel the bass resonate throughout.

Simultaneously, Baba O'Riley starts off super light and precise with no heaviness. Just a lot of detail in the instruments can be brought out. We could hear the drum kit coming in with some slight taps that we usually don't ever hear with run-of-the-mill earbuds.

Playing music on the Master & Dynamic MW08
Playing music on the Master & Dynamic MW08


Stripped down songs, such as the a cappella version of Tom's Diner, lets you hear every breath Suzanne Vega takes and even the very slightest bit of resonance in the recording studio when the singing ends.

Overall, they are a well-balanced set of earbuds, playing favorites with no specific music genre but fitting well with electronic dance, classic rock, instrumental, and more.

And yes -- they do sound better than Apple's AirPods Pro. But more on that coming in our dedicated comparison.

Another nice touch is that you can use both earbuds on their own. There will be a "master" earbud and a "slave" earbud with some cheaper earbuds where only the master can be used on its own. AirPods could always use either bud solo, and the MW08 works just the same. It's a small thing but something we do pretty often.

When used with supported devices, these support SBC, AAC, and aptX audio.

Call quality is quite good with the MW08, and we were able to take a phone call in the middle of a grocery store while wearing a mask with a filter, and the recipient could hear us just fine. Outside in moderate wind, calls were clear as well with no adverse effects.

ANC

Nearly as crucial as audio quality is the ANC. With the MW08, the ANC is coupled with the new M&D Connet app, which is available as a free download from the App Store.

Cumulatively, there are five total settings for ANC divided into distinct categories, all of which are controllable from within the app.

Master & Dynamic M&D Connect app
M&D Connect app settings


First, you can completely disable ANC. You don't have to use it at all. If you want it on, your next step up is ambient mode. Ambient allows you to have on "Voice" mode, which is tailored for conversations, or you can use "Awareness" mode, which highlights your surroundings as a whole. The former is great for in the office while the latter is better for walking down the street.

Then there's full ANC. To preserver battery life is the "All-Day ANC" setting, which lets you listen all day on a single charge, versus "Max ANC" which is the strongest possible noise canceling, perhaps for a loud environment or on a plane.

We didn't hop on a plane or a bus to test these out, but in our in-studio testing, we were beyond impressed with various noises played through our speaker array, especially after the poor ANC found on the MW07+.

It cut out nearly all external noise and had a great seal in our ears. Part of that seal is from the granular five sizes of ear tips that M&D includes. Most others have three sizes, but the additional sizes help get the absolute best fit possible.

We only heard the faintest bit of water sitting next to a babbling water display in our home. That is high praise for us as ANC usually does its best with uniform noise and hums, not fluctuating noises, as it isn't as easily able to counteract the noise with anti-noise.

Master & Dynamic MW08 and the app
Master & Dynamic MW08 and the app


The Bose earbuds may be slightly better with the ANC, but this is by far some of the best we've tried in a set of true wireless earbuds.

The app shows you the battery life, configure the auto-off sleep feature, and toggle the ear detection on or off.

Should you buy the MW08?

We've thrown a ton of tests at the MW08, and they surpass our expectations in each one. Even the battery life was a shock. The MW07+ had a solid ten hours of playback time, and yet the MW08 somehow managed to fit 12 hours of battery life into a single charge. The case also provides 30 hours of additional battery life for a combined battery life of 42 hours.

After using the MW08 for a couple of weeks, we're still blown away by how impressive these are. Master & Dynamic has nailed nearly every aspect of these earbuds. The design is spectacular, the fit is precise, the ANC is industry-leading, the battery life is fantastic, and the audio is clear and powerful. There's nearly nothing to criticize about these in-ear drivers.

Master & Dynamic MW08 in their case
Master & Dynamic MW08 in their case


It's impressive how M&D was able to improve on the MW07+ in every single way. Battery, ANC, design, materials, audio quality are all notably better than the preceding version.

We use AirPods or AirPods Pro daily, but when it came to audio, they still lacked. We still turned to other headphones for actually listening to music versus YouTube videos and phone calls. The MW08 will now be our earbuds of choice for listening nine times out of ten.

If you want that premium audio experience and a product that just feels like a premium product, then we highly recommend checking out the MW08.

Pros
  • Fantastic audio quality

  • Great hybrid active noise cancellation

  • Premium fit and finish with steel, aluminum, and ceramic

  • New case design is smaller, easier to hold, and has new finishes

  • Long, all-day battery life

  • New app makes it easy to control ANC and settings

  • Bluetooth 5.2 gives stronger connection

  • Largest audio drivers on a set of true wireless earbuds

  • Awareness modes allow you to hear your surroundings
Cons
  • No spatial audio or direct iOS integration like AirPods

  • Connection isn't as strong as AirPods

  • Expensive

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy

You can pick up the new MW08 true wireless earbuds from Master & Dynamic for $299. They come in black ceramic with a matte black stainless steel case, white ceramic with a polished stainless steel case, brown ceramic with a polished steel case, and blue ceramic with a graphite grey stainless steel case.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    When you wrote expensive, I was expecting a lot, but $299 is close to where the Beats Wireless Pro debuted at. 

    I was thinking expensive like Audeze's EUCLID (at $1299) or their LCDi4 (at $2495). Now that is crazy prices.......
    edited March 23
  • Reply 2 of 16
    neilmneilm Posts: 903member
    Should we assume that, as with most earbuds, there’s no way to replace the battery? If so, that should be mentioned under the cons heading.
  • Reply 3 of 16
    In the Cons, what is meant by this?:

    "Connection isn't as strong as AirPods"

    Is it the BT connection reliability or range, or perhaps general iPhone integration? Or...?
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 4 of 16
    jad66jad66 Posts: 1member
    The only thing I dislike about my MW07+ is the flaky BT connection. It frequently drops and has trouble reconnecting, I have to juggle various settings to get the phone to recognize them again (on both an iPhone X and iPhone 12 Pro). It was worse in cluttered environments like the gym (back when we did that sort of thing). The sound quality is fantastic though, and that outweighed the pain factor for me. If this has been cleaned up I'd consider switching to the MW08.
    taylorwilsdon
  • Reply 5 of 16
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,532member
    Saw the thumbnail on my iPhone 6s and thought these were black AirPods Pro.

    Once again Apple is designing for the entire industry. Pathetic. 
  • Reply 6 of 16
    I wonder how it compares to the Sony WF-1000XM3, which I just got. 

    I think the Sony is more match to compete with the MD MW08.
  • Reply 7 of 16
    At close to $300, you can buy Sony’s or Boses top of the line wireless earbuds!
  • Reply 8 of 16
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,396member
    In the Cons, what is meant by this?:

    "Connection isn't as strong as AirPods"

    Is it the BT connection reliability or range, or perhaps general iPhone integration? Or...?
    I can't speak for Andrew, but I assume he's referring to the fact that these don't have something similar to the H1 chip, which ensures a rock-solid connection up to 100 feet. Bluetooth 4.x and 5.x works very well IME, but just can't be as rock-solid as the H1.
  • Reply 9 of 16
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,396member
    Speaking of cons, "does not have native voice assistant integration" should be considered one. Unless I missed it in the review, there's no way to summon a voice assistant through one of the buttons on the headset, meaning that you have to dig your iPhone or Android phone out of your pocket. For me that would definitely be a dealbreaker on what sounds otherwise like a great product.
    roundaboutnow
  • Reply 10 of 16
    charlesncharlesn Posts: 179member
    I had (and still have) the first release MW05 earbuds--the design remains the best, IMO, of any earbud out there, and it's good to see the MW08 retain it. But I moved on because I was never satisfied with a sound signature that was overly warm and a little bass heavy, which I've been told is the Master and Dynamic "house sound," but it's just not my cup of sonic tea. If the MW08 are more neutral out of the box, I'd give these another try. 
  • Reply 11 of 16
    chasm said:
    In the Cons, what is meant by this?:

    "Connection isn't as strong as AirPods"

    Is it the BT connection reliability or range, or perhaps general iPhone integration? Or...?
    I can't speak for Andrew, but I assume he's referring to the fact that these don't have something similar to the H1 chip, which ensures a rock-solid connection up to 100 feet. Bluetooth 4.x and 5.x works very well IME, but just can't be as rock-solid as the H1.
    I was thinking the same, but didn't want to assume (there's that word!).

    Andrew, can you clarify?
  • Reply 12 of 16
    Glad to know that it sounds good, but on the looks department, it has all the elan of a pair of cufflinks.
  • Reply 13 of 16
    After two pairs of the MW07 and one of the MW07 Plus, I'm never buying another true wireless from Master & Dynamic - they hide it well, but while the "warranty" claims to be 2 years, the warranty on the battery is actually 90 days. The battery is all but failed on my wife's pair of MW07, at the time I reached out for support they were about 10 months old and lasted roughly 5 minutes on a full charge (confirmed all green lights on the case and 100% in iOS battery center view). Support told me to kick rocks, it's outside the 90 day and they won't offer to fix them even for a price - a roundabout way of saying you've now got a $300 paperweight if your issue occurs outside the first 3 months... The battery is the most likely point of failure on any tiny technology item, so they essentially throw up their hands and say tough luck after that point. My last pair was the MW07 Plus, which had a litany of connectivity issues (mainly crackling and one ear disconnecting and failing to reconnect), to the point that I eventually gave up, sold them on eBay and reluctantly made the switch to Airpods Pro. It's a shame because the M&D sets offer some of the best bass performance in the true wireless space, but the terrible company support and frequent bugs make it not worth considering.

    For doubters, this quote is from their own site as of today (3/25/21): "If your battery has a manufacturing defect that occurs within 90 days, we will service it at no additional cost."
    viclauyyc
  • Reply 14 of 16
    jad66 said:
    The only thing I dislike about my MW07+ is the flaky BT connection. It frequently drops and has trouble reconnecting, I have to juggle various settings to get the phone to recognize them again (on both an iPhone X and iPhone 12 Pro). It was worse in cluttered environments like the gym (back when we did that sort of thing). The sound quality is fantastic though, and that outweighed the pain factor for me. If this has been cleaned up I'd consider switching to the MW08.
    This is dead on IMO - the Bluetooth implementation on the MW07+ was atrocious, and persisted between an iPhone 11 Pro Max and 12 Pro Max, both of which worked perfectly with all other Bluetooth devices (so nothing specific to my device - read the Amazon reviews, everyone has something similar to say). I'd be cautiously optimistic that they've done anything about it, they seemed unwilling to even acknowledge the issue last I heard.
  • Reply 15 of 16
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,185member
    Beats said:
    Saw the thumbnail on my iPhone 6s and thought these were black AirPods Pro.

    Once again Apple is designing for the entire industry. Pathetic. 
    It was the almost identical straw stems that gave it away wasn't itt? Gosh you are so right as always. So obvious, and right down to the exact same case designs. 
     Damn copycats.  (*eyeroll*)
    edited March 25 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 16 of 16
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,185member
    jad66 said:
    The only thing I dislike about my MW07+ is the flaky BT connection. It frequently drops and has trouble reconnecting, I have to juggle various settings to get the phone to recognize them again (on both an iPhone X and iPhone 12 Pro). It was worse in cluttered environments like the gym (back when we did that sort of thing). The sound quality is fantastic though, and that outweighed the pain factor for me. If this has been cleaned up I'd consider switching to the MW08.
    This is dead on IMO - the Bluetooth implementation on the MW07+ was atrocious...  I'd be cautiously optimistic that they've done anything about it, they seemed unwilling to even acknowledge the issue last I heard.
    Bluetooth 5.2, a new external antenna to improve range and connection, and supports AAC.
    edited March 25
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