A stylish pair of true wireless, but the noise cancellation, feature set and sound quality don’t live up to its premium billing.
- Great looks
- Powerful sound
- Long battery life
- Unremarkable ANC
- Too heavily weighted towards bass
- Better-sounding alternatives
- UKRRP: £279
- USARRP: $299
- EuropeRRP: €299
- CanadaRRP: CA$299
Ceramic finishGlossy, scratch-resistant finish
Charging caseMade out of stainless steel with 30 hours of charge
aptX Adaptive BluetoothAdjusts bit-rate of audio to maintain a strong connection
It’s been a while since we’ve reviewed a Master & Dynamic product. The brand produces stylish audio products aimed squarely at the audiophile market, and the MW08 are its first pair of true wireless earbuds we’ve reviewed.
With a premium price tag that puts them in the company of Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, Bang & Olufsen and Sony, M&D appears confident of holding its own. So just how do the MW08 fare?
- Very stylish appearance
- Physical, not touch controls
- Not the tightest of fits
When it comes to style, there aren’t many true wireless sets that could put the MW08 to shame. If this was about looks alone, these earbuds would be a handsome winner.
The design is slightly untraditional, but reaps stylish results. The earbuds are almost designed in the shape of a ‘V’, the glossy outer surface utilising ceramic material that M&D says is lightweight and scratch-resistant (although, unfortunately, not resistant to my fingerprints). While they’re not a piece of dress wear, these earbuds exude sartorial elegance.
The ceramic surface isn’t a touch control area, with the MW08 relying on tried-and-trusted physical controls instead. The positives here are the feedback and precision that physical controls provide. The negative being the instances where adjusting the fit can result in an accidental press of the controls, changing the volume (left earbud) or playback (right earbud).
Other controls amount to a hold on the multi-function button that brings up a smartphone’s voice assistant, while a hold on either of the volume buttons switches on Ambient listening and noise cancellation modes.
Master & Dynamic supplies a generous number of ear-tip sizes in the box that range from extra small to extra large, so there are options for the best fit.
However, even with the large ear tip in place, the buds still felt loose. There’s no sense they’d slip out with a sudden shake of the head, but I wouldn’t use them for vigorous athletic activities, even in the acknowledgement of the IPX5 resistance rating that protects them against sweat and water.
But back to how they look. They’re available in a range of tremendously stylish variants that includes Black Ceramic/Matte Black case (this review sample), as well as Blue, White and Brown Ceramic versions that mix and match with the case for further variation.
The stainless steel case is slightly bigger and heavier than most but not unduly so. It will fit into a pocket and features a three-light LED system that smartly shows charge for both the earbuds and the case. There’s also a canvas pouch to protect from scratches and marks.
- Underwhelming ANC performance
- Long battery life
- Stripped-down feature set
While there’s plenty to say about their looks, the MW08’s aren’t stuffed to the gills with features.
Coming with Bluetooth 5.2 support, the earbuds offer a reliable connection in busy areas with nary a hint of dropouts or connection instability. That’s aided by the presence of the aptX Adaptive codec that adjusts the bit-rate of audio to maintain a strong connection. SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs are also supported.
The M&D MW08 pack noise cancellation, but performance is underpowered and requires nudging the volume up to provide better isolation. That, however, brings drawbacks for the audio.
At normal listening levels, the active noise cancellation isn’t the most effective screen door against intrusive noises. It works well enough on transport to curb the low- and mid-bass frequencies from becoming an irritation, as well as dimming some everyday ambient noise. But it struggles with traffic, crowds of people and voices, and at times I often wondered whether I’d turned the ANC off.
Head to the M&D Connect app and the feature count is low. There’s a choice of two noise cancelling options: ‘Max’, which is full power; and ‘All Day’, which is more for general hubbub. The Ambient mode works fine to let sounds pass-through with a choice of ‘Voice’ (for conversations) and ‘Awareness’ (for surroundings). You can also switch ANC to off, if need be.
The app is simple to use but can be unresponsive when switching between the noise cancelling/ambient modes, necessitating a restart. Other in-app features include toggling wear detection on and off and setting a timer for standby mode.
Stamina is impressive at 12 hours per earbud (10 with ANC on) and 42 hours in total. Since 42 is neither divisible by 12 nor 10, you’re looking at the case holding 2.5 more charges, which puts total ANC battery life at around 35 hours. Fast charging is supported, but wireless charging isn’t.
- Warm, weighty presentation
- Not the most dynamic or detailed at this price
- ANC hardens bass output, especially at higher volumes
Master & Dynamic mentions it’s approached the MW08 with a rich and warm presentation in mind, and while there’s plenty of that, the buds don’t display a great sense of even-handed tonality about them.
What the MW08 boast is a sound that’s big in size and power, especially at higher volumes, but they aren’t the most revealing nor insightful. The bass-heavy signature is a characteristic to which some may respond favourably, but I found the Master & Dynamic overly bassy, especially in ANC mode.
A Tidal stream of Tyler the Creator’s Corso delivers explosive bass that’s also defined with a hardness with ANC on. Played again in Ambient mode or with ANC off resulted in softer, less crunchy bass frequencies, suggesting the ANC mode is too forceful.
The weightiness of the MW08’s sound doesn’t help in the dynamics department either. While there’s movement between quiet and loud, at lower volumes this is modestly showcased. In Hans Zimmer’s Mountains, there’s a sense of rise as the track builds; but for tracks where more urgency is required, the MW08 aren’t the quickest.
They have a solid grasp of vocals, which are presented smoothly and with clarity, mostly evading sibilant tones. But regardless of the genre played, music sounds very similar; the warmth of the MW08’s tone doesn’t allow for much variation.
In addition, playing around with the volume results in a mixed experience. At standard volumes they sound small and subdued, and at higher volumes I find clarity and separation are fuzzily defined. Music is presented as if it were one whole ra