Very stylish and well-built
Excellent sound quality
Massive battery life
Subpar noise canceling
Occasional connection issues
Missing some features
The MW08 are the latest evolution of Master & Dynamic’s true wireless earbuds (those without any wires at all), following 2019’s MWO7+. Like most rivals, the premium brand has been refining its pricey but impressive true wireless stable for years now in an effort to keep up with the increasingly cutthroat competition.
To that end, the MW08 keep the best features of their predecessors (most notably, up to 10 hours of playback time per charge), and improve on both the design and the barely there noise cancellation of their siblings. Judging by aesthetics and sound alone the MW08 are among the most exciting and, well, dynamic earbuds in the genre. But luxurious design aside, a field full of high-quality noise cancelers at lower prices makes their $299 price tag a big hill to climb.
About the Master & Dynamic MW08
- Price: $299
- Battery life: ~8 hours with noise canceling, 10+ hours without, 40 hours with case
- Rapid charging: 15 minutes for 50% charge, 45 mins for 100% charge
- Wireless charging: No
- Colors: Black/Matte case, White/Stainless case, Brown/Stainless, Blue/Polished Graphite
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
- Audio codecs: aptX, SBC, AAC
- Water resistance: IPX5 water resistance
- Ear tips: Five sizes
- Weight: 9 grams per bud, 81 gram case
The MW08 come in a simple cardboard box that houses the case with buds inside alongside five eartip sizes, a USB-C charging cable (and a USB-A adapter), and a small carrying pouch. Notably, the MW08 do not include the sports fins you’ll get with the MW07+, likely because the MW08 fit more securely in your ears.
Notable design traits include the right-angled, scratch-resistant ceramic housings with exterior aluminum antennas (much like a mobile phone), and 11mm beryllium drivers inside that are slightly larger than those of their predecessors. The charging case is made of stainless steel and comes in a variety of finishes, while a microphone array rests atop the housings for wind buffering. Also new this year is a simple but useful app, Master & Dynamic Connect.
What we like
Stunning design from any angle
The MW08’s design has been a work in progress across three iterations (not including the sporty MW07 GO), and let me just say that the latest is unequivocally the most attractive I’ve seen in a pair of true wireless earbuds. Looking at the human ear, you wouldn’t think hard-angled housings would be such an excellent fit (literally and otherwise), but it's sharp and striking, without calling too much attention to itself.
The ceramic exterior is lusciously chic, with a piano-gloss gleam that everyone from Apple-heads to home theater nerds should adore. Does it smudge? Sure, but it’s hardly noticeable from a few feet and I’ll take some fingerprints for earbuds this attractive. Even the strips that mark the exterior antenna work in the MW08’s favor, not to mention the ergonomic shape of the interior housing.
The charging case is also a step up, solving nearly every gripe I had about the MW07+’s awkward, scratch-friendly case, especially the matte version (only available with the black model). At 80+ grams it’s a bit of a paperweight in your pocket, but the matte finish is smudge-resistant and less likely to scratch (though it still will if you're not careful). It feels and looks tough, without betraying the overall aesthetic. The USB-C port on the right side makes charging convenient and, most notably, where the MW07+ case involved a wrestling match to get the buds seated, here the earbuds slip onto their magnetic stands with militant obedience, assuring they’re primed to charge each time they retire.
A secure and relatively comfortable fit
Subtle design changes can make a big difference when it comes to fit. M&D has souped-up the fit for the MW08, and while they don’t feel quite as comfy or natural in the long term as the “open-ear” designs of earbuds like the AirPods Pro and our favorites, Jabra’s Elite 85t, they’re also less likely to fall out—a potential issue with many open-ear designs. They stayed snug without the need for any extra fins like the MW07+ utilized, and I was able to wear them for 2-3 hours with no issues, noting only slight discomfort past that mark.
Comprehensive controls, solid features
Anyone who uses true wireless earbuds regularly appreciates good onboard controls. For me, that means quick access to all playback functions and, preferably, hard buttons over touchpads (they’re just more accurate). As with the MW07+, the MW08 have a three-button control system that lets you quickly and efficiently do everything from volume and song skip to calling voice assistants and turning ANC/ambient audio mode on and off. The latter isn’t quite as quick as Jabra’s offering, requiring you hold the volume keys down, but it’s workable.
The MW08 also offer a solid collection of the features you’d expect from premium earbuds, with a few exceptions. The toolkit includes the ability to use more than one earbud at a time (either bud), optional auto pausing when pulling an earbud out, wind-buffering via a three-microphone array, two levels each of ambient audio and active noise canceling, and above-average IPX5 water resistance. Most non-sport competitors, including the Elite 85t, offer just IPX4 (splash resistance).
Surprisingly, the MW08 are the first from M&D to offer a companion app. It’s relatively limited, but appreciated. From the app you can adjust the levels of ANC and ambient audio to filter how much noise you block or bring in respectively, turn off in-ear detection, set the sleep mode, and get over-air updates so the buds can improve over time.
That said, you’re not getting the full gamut that comes with Jabra’s Elite 85t, and even the cheaper Elite 75t. There’s no earbud finder, no multipoint connection (meaning you’ll need to manually re-pair to each device), and no wireless charging for the case. You’ll also have to go without EQ, but for most listeners, that omission won’t matter much.
Excellent sound quality
I’ve been impressed with Master & Dynamic’s sparkly, ultra-detailed sound signature from the days of the company’s first wireless headphones that cost a whopping $500. There are no unpleasant surprises in the MW08’s sound, which is clean and focused up top with expansive detail and impressive instrumental separation that lets you revel in subtle moments. The glossy pop of the "weeh ooh weeh ooh" in R.EM.'s Day Sleeper, for instance, caught me completely by surprise. The soundstage is also quite wide, letting instruments slide and dangle far into the left and right sides of the stereo image.
The new 11mm drivers ramp up bass over the previous model, but retain the familiar zeal in the upper mids I’ve come to expect from M&D. Guitar strings are a shade more steely than you’ll get with the Elite 85t, while jagged synths and drum machines strike with a tight glimmer, cutting through with quick transients. Bass comes down like a sledgehammer, but one that’s wielded with precision. It’s palpable, but tight and punctual enough so that even when it’s got a spotlight it doesn’t mask the other sonic elements.
The MW08 rise above good-sounding buds like the 85t and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro, stepping up another level in detail alongside Klipsch’s T5 II and Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2. Like those buds, the difference is even more notable if you can find a phone with aptX. I still prefer the Sennheiser sound overall for its smokey glow that’s more accessible, and yet still offers detail for days. In any case, apart from some extra bass, there’s very little to complain about in the audio realm even at the MW08's high price point.
I did notice some odd issues with phone calls, including a bit of light distortion (nothing major) and more annoying, a wavering of the stereo image with both earbuds in. They seem to do better with one earbud in my experience and since that’s generally how I take phone calls, they worked fine for me.
Seriously beefy battery
The MW08’s battery is a huge seller here—with ultra-fast charging to match—though I didn’t get playback time quite as high as promised on Master & Dynamic’s website. With full ANC, I clocked right around 8 hours of playtime, which isn’t the 10 I’d hoped for, but still impressive. You can expect a bit more from All Day ANC, and you can likely eke out around 10+ hours without it. That beats out almost everything we've tried that’s comparably priced or appointed, including the Elite 85t (which manage just 5.5 hours with ANC, 7 without), and it mops the floor with Apple’s AirPods Pro.
One notable exception is Sony's SP800N, which offer up to 9 hours with ANC (and 13 without), but its case can't keep up with the forty hours the MW08's manages.
What we don’t like
It’s perhaps telling that the MW08 offer such massive battery life when every other similarly outfitted noise canceller falls short. While I’m no electrical engineer, it may be that the MW08’s lighter touch to ANC helps. It is much improved over the MW07+, and the earbuds do a fine job muffling lower drone sounds (especially on Max ANC) but they still falter in the higher registers when compared to other top picks at or even a fair bit below their price point.
They’re obviously no match for Bose’s QuietComfort Buds, the best we’ve tested yet in this department, but also couldn’t match up to the Elite 85t or Apple’s AirPods Pro in upper register cancellation. I might call less attention to this issue if not for the fact that all of these buds are priced below the MW08. In addition, Max ANC creates an odd, low-rumble ticking sound, though it’s only noticeable with music paused.
I pitted the buds against the above rivals in multiple settings, including controlled tests with an Airplane flight simulator and pink noise generator using studio monitors, as well as out and about in the neighborhood and doing household chores. In all instances, I noted more upper-frequency noise getting through with the MW08 than our favorite noise cancelers.
Even beyond more pointed tests, I noticed the little things, like hearing my wife’s voice clearly in the next room with music paused or keystrokes even with low music playing. This means you’ll be able to cut some of the buzz on your next flight, but kids screaming or announcement chimes will be more apparent. To the MW08’s credit, I didn’t have to ramp up the volume on my podcasts when vacuuming or leaf blowing, but the activities were simply louder and, therefore, less enjoyable than with the Elite 85t, QuietComfort, AirPods Pro, and others.
Occasional connection issues
The MW08 promise up to 100 feet of wireless range, but I actually found them to be less able to hold connection than most earbuds that promise less. In fact, over the week or so I tested the earbuds, I began to run into an annoying issue with the left earbud crackling out and disconnecting, only to reconnect a few seconds later, sometimes at random.
The MW07+ had their own connection issues, especially with LG phones, but I was able to make them work relatively reliably with other phones. However, as I continued to test the MW08, the glitch raised its head multiple times (5-6), including once when I put my phone in my back pocket on a walk. Switching from my Galaxy S20 to an LG G8 seemed to make things worse, as the connection cut out with the phone directly in front of me on my desk.
Connection woes are not wholly uncommon in true wireless earbuds—It was their biggest hurdle in the early days—but it’s becoming much less of a problem in 2021, and it’s not something we expect in a $300 pair. It may have been an anomaly in my pair, but at least one other reviewer noted connection issues as well. Here’s hoping a firmware update can fix it.
Should you buy it?
Maybe, if you’re willing to take a chance on some connection glitches
There’s no doubt that the MW08 are utterly enticing. They’re gorgeous to look at and listen to, and feel extremely well built. They offer the majority of features you want from a premium pair of earbuds, from ANC to an absolute glut of battery life, all in a micro-sized form factor that’s comfortable and easy to take along. That’s a lot of wins.
Though it’s not a full-on deal-breaker, the occasional connection glitches are the biggest hold-up for me. The sub-par active noise canceling also makes it tougher to justify the $299 price point unless that’s just not a concern in your daily use. For that kind of cash, I want a pair of earbuds that rise to almost any occasion, like Jabra’s Elite 85t. While the build quality isn’t as high and you’ll get less battery life, you get a bigger suite of features and still-good sound—and you won’t be wearing earbuds for 8-10 hours straight anyway.
Apple’s AirPods Pro can't keep up in sound quality, but they still bring better ANC, and for iPhone users, they’re incredibly easy to assimilate into your setup. And frankly, there’s no shortage of cheaper options with good sound and ANC these days, from Panasonic’s RZ-S500W to Sony’s WF-1000XM3 and the Galaxy Buds Pro. Even Jabra’s Elite Active 75t hold their own here, in a more sport-friendly package. That said, none of them look as good as the MW08, and few options outside Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2 can keep up in sound quality, either.
The MW08 are made with premium materials you can see and feel, and pack battery life that outdoes nearly anything on the market. If you fall as hard for the design as I did, and you don’t mind the possibility of an occasional connection glitch, it may well be worth giving them a shot.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Managing Editor - Electronics@ryanwaniata
Hailing originally from Montana, Ryan parlayed his time working as a musician and audio engineer into a career in digital media in 2012. Since then he's had extensive experience as a writer and editor, including everything from op-eds and features to reviews on TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more.
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