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Master and Dynamic MW08 Review

Verdict

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A stylish pair of true wireless, but the noise cancellation, feature set and sound quality don’t live up to its premium billing.

Pros

  • Great looks
  • Powerful sound
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Unremarkable ANC
  • Too heavily weighted towards bass
  • Better-sounding alternatives

Availability

  • UKRRP: £279
  • USARRP: $299
  • EuropeRRP: €299
  • CanadaRRP: CA$299
  • Australiaunavailable

Key Features

  • 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

Introduction

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?

Design

  • 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.

Master and Dynamic MW08 reflection

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 and Dynamic MW08 buttons

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.

Master and Dynamic MW08 charging case

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.

Features

  • 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.

Master and Dynamic MW08 open case

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.

Master and Dynamic MW08 on top of case

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.

Sound quality

  • 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.

Master and Dynamic MW08 on top of case

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.

Master and Dynamic MW08 earbuds

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 rather than individual strands brought together.

Just to add to the list, stereo imaging is lacking, as is the earbuds’ sense of width. Like the Devialet Gemini, they play in a soundstage that feels taller than it is wide.

Master and Dynamic MW08 on side

All that said, the M&D MW08 aren’t a bad listen. They’re more rewarding with slower-paced music or tracks that focus on fewer elements. It’s here where the MW08 feel like they’re best suited.

The mid-range is fine, but could benefit from a crisper sense of detail and sharpness. Treble notes offer decent sparkle and definition in a Tidal stream of Helene Grimaud’s Water album if the volume is nudged up, but compared to Sony’s latest true wireless, they’re short in terms of organisation, definition and dynamism.

If you like a big, broad sound with plenty of bass then the Master & Dynamic MW08 are perfectly ok. Anything more and you’ll be minded to know there are better performing alternatives that don’t cost as much.

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Should you buy it?

If you like style The MW08 cost a pretty penny, and when it comes to style they certainly live up to the price. These are some of nicest-looking true wireless on the market

If you’re after better ANC sound The MW08 lack refinement, and while some may like their approach, I find they fall short for versatility. The ANC is rather disappointing considering the price.

Final Thoughts

The MW08 are a pair of true wireless that don’t live up to their premium billing. The stylish looks are seductive, but they’re light on features, the noise cancellation is unremarkable and the sound too bass heavy – particularly in ANC mode – to challenge class-leading efforts.

If you’d like a pair of true wireless earbuds that exude style, then the MW08 might be worth a look. But it’s a lot of money to fork out for their admittedly impressive looks.

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How we test

We test every headphone we review thoroughly. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly and we use the tablet as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.

Tested for more than a week

Tested with real world use

Tested with various streaming services

FAQs

Do the Master & Dynamic MW08 support wireless charging?

No, the case doesn’t support wireless charging

What Bluetooth codecs does the MW08 support?

SBC, AAC and aptX Bluetooth

Full specs

UK RRP
USA RRP
EU RRP
CA RRP
AUD RRP
Manufacturer
IP rating
Battery Hours
Fast Charging
Weight
ASIN
Release Date
Model Number
Driver (s)
Noise Cancellation?
Connectivity
Colours
Frequency Range
Headphone Type
Voice Assistant

Jargon buster

Midrange

Midrange refers to the part of the frequency range that sits between the bass and treble. The midrange is the area that handles vocals and most of the instruments heard in a track. It can also be in reference to midrange loudspeaker drivers that replicate this area of the frequency range.

aptX

Qualcomm’s aptX codec can support higher quality audio than Bluetooth alone.

ANC

ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) uses an array of microphones in a headphone to detect the frequency of the sound coming at the listener, with the ANC chip creating an inverse wave (i.e. opposing sound) to suppress any unwanted external noises.

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