Master & Dynamic is a primetime player in the luxury audio game. The New York-based company has impressed critics and consumers with its handsomely built headphones and wireless earbuds, packaging rich and clean sound into lavish designs. Now, it is taking the next big step, entertaining the noise-cancelling wireless earbuds market with the all-new Master & Dynamic MW08.
- Our expert picks for the best wireless earbuds, per budget and style
- Check out our Apple AirPods Pro review
- …and our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review
These buds boast the same glossy, well-constructed shell as their older siblings, along with a dynamic sound profile that takes advantage of bigger drivers for better bass presence. Battery life has also received a massive boost from 3.5 hours to 10 hours (equalling the MW07 Plus), providing plenty of playtime for distraction-free listening on the go. However, notable omissions (e.g., extra features, touch controls) and short-range connectivity might have some people questioning whether the $299 MW08 is worth the splurge.
Master & Dynamic MW08: Availability and price
The Master & Dynamic MW08 is available for $299 exclusively from Master & Dynamic. It is sold in four colors: Black Ceramic, Blue Ceramic, Brown Ceramic, and White Ceramic. Bundled with the purchase are a charging case, a canvas pouch, five ear tip sizes, and a USB-C charging case with a USB Adapter.
This model targets high-end audiophiles who want noise cancellation in true wireless form, and it’s listed higher than some of the category’s top performers, including the AirPods Pro ($250), Bose QuietComfort Earbuds ($280), and Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro ($199).
Master & Dynamic MW08: Design and comfort
M&D’s penchant for elite design is on full display. The MW08 has a polished ceramic exterior with a distinctive D-shaped frame and minimalist logo dead center. It’s a classier and more discrete look than both the dangling AirPods Pro and bulging QuietComfort earbuds. In addition, the different colorways add to its appeal.
Build quality is superb too. These buds aren't going to break if you drop them on the concrete, plus they are coated with IPX5 water resistance, a higher protection rating than their biggest competitors. That just means they will survive rain, splash or sweaty workouts, though considering their price tag, you’ll want to do everything possible to keep them looking new. The scratch-resistant finish helps preserve their appearance over time as well.
As a bonus, M&D included a canvas pouch to store the buds, charging case and accessories. It’s the same one bundled with every other MW model, and it still attracts a lot of dirt, so make sure your pockets are lint-free.
While the charging case is ridiculously durable (it’s one solid piece of stainless steel), I’m disappointed with how it looks. Instead of the shiny aluminum exterior with M&D logo laser-etched on the top that was available in older models, this version just has a bland matte finish. Maybe it’s just the black ceramic colorway, which was the review unit I received, but this case has a prototype vibe to it that isn’t exotic. It’s also very heavy and is a fingerprint and scuff magnet. The one thing I do like is that the magnet closing the top lid is powerful and shuts the case closed with force, securing the buds when charging.
The use of premium materials can often negatively affect comfort and fit, but the MW08 doesn’t have that problem. Each bud weighs 0.31 ounces, which is heavier than the AirPods Pro (0.19 ounces) and QuietComfort Earbuds (0.30 ounces), but they still feel light when worn. The cavity is thick, so those with a low pain threshold might experience some fatigue after an hour of use. I was able to use the buds for 2 hours straight on a daily basis before noticing any soreness. Also, the sport port allows for easy insertion and the tips provide a decent seal around the canal for a proper fit.
Master & Dynamic MW08: Controls and digital assistant
I figured this would be the one M&D product that introduced touch controls, but sadly, I was mistaken. That doesn’t take away from how well the physical buttons work – it’s just that touch controls complement the MW08’s contemporary design.
Either way, you can expect responsive input with the buttons producing great tactility to ensure users of intended commands. I’ve always loved the volume rockers on the left earbud since they make lowering and raising sound a breeze. The right bud has a multifunctional button to manage playback (play/pause/skip back/skip forward), calls, and digital assistance; these are activated through single, double, and triple presses. My only issue with the control scheme is that the button placement means pressing the buds further into the concha, causing discomfort.
On-ear detection is OK, allowing you to automatically pause music when removing the buds and resume playback when they’re placed back on the ears. There was some lag at times, but the most important thing is that the feature works.
Speaking of features, let’s discuss the digital assistant. It operates exceptionally well on the MW08. The speech recognition was spot-on, understanding my every command, word for word. In fact, the mics are so powerful that they picked up my wife’s conversations from the opposite side of the room before I could even fire off a request. Google Assistant and Siri fully understood verbal commands and responded to them as quickly as each AI bot interpreted them.
Master & Dynamic MW08: Active noise cancellation
My impression of M&D’s noise-cancelling technology is mostly positive. The MW08 can minimize ambient noise pretty well. It won’t compete with what the QuietComfort Earbuds produce, though it gives the AirPods Pro a run for their money by drowning out common distractions.
M&D developed two different settings for ANC: Max ANC for loud ambient environments and All Day ANC for less noisy environments. Each performs well, though I preferred Max ANC most of the time, as it was better suited for dealing with annoying sounds like the humming from our centralized AC and keyboard clatter.
I wasn’t sold on the MW08’s high frequency neutralization, as my newborn’s cries were audible from the next room, along with bird chirps when sitting on the front porch. A few rumblings caught my attention as well like the jackhammer action that took place next door.
The MW08 has two self-explanatory Ambient settings called Awareness and Voice. Awareness opens up the soundscape to increase the number of external sounds you can hear in rowdy settings, while Voice emphasizes vocals to communicate clearly with others. While the former was adequate for environmental awareness during nightly walks, I found little use for the latter because it barely allowed me to hear my wife during a face-to-face conversation.
Master & Dynamic MW08: Audio quality
My listening experience on the MW07 was fantastic and the MW08 left me feeling the same. M&D increased the size of its beryllium drivers from 10 millimeters to 11 millimeters, which adds more punch to their neutral soundstage, giving you well-balanced frequency across the board.
Jazz classics like Sonny Rollins’ “God Bless the Child” were symphonically soothing to my ears. The reverberation from the double bass was deep and comforting and had a lasting effect throughout the recording, while the saxophone play was strikingly pleasant. I was most impressed with the sound reproduction, as the gentle hi-hats — an element that is veiled and usually goes unnoticed when listening on many wireless earbuds — were crisp and transparent.
Transitioning into contemporary selections, Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” fed my appetite for impactful lows. The soul-rattling 808s pounded my eardrums, stimulating neck-breaking head-nods in the process. However, it’s on this record where the MW08’s soundstage flexes versatility, emphasizing other percussive elements (e.g., congas, tambourines) with precision.
Vocals are another highlight that you’ll feel most on ballads. Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” sent chills down my spine, as the singer’s compelling crescendo dominated the soundscape and gave her performance just due. Many of her live performances sounded just as compelling, showing the MW08 could also handle audio on the video end.
Noise isolation wasn’t the best. Small noises didn’t pull me away from whatever music I was playing, but louder noises were distracting, forcing me to increase volume to phase them out. You’ll want to keep ANC on for optimal performance, especially since it gives the bass a noticeable boost.
Master & Dynamic MW08: App and special features
While it’s nice to see M&D offer app support for these tiny noise-cancellers, the software is plain in both appearance and extended functionality, offering very few features to play with. Don’t expect extras like an EQ, Find My Buds mode or even control customization.
What you’re given is a World Volume feature that hosts the ANC and Ambient modes. As previously mentioned, each mode has two different settings you can select based on your preference. Personally, I would have preferred a slider to adjust the ANC or ambient listening levels. Also, it’s a shame that the app is the only way to switch between modes.
Other than that, the app has an auto-off timer, toggle control for in-ear detection, a battery level indicator for the buds, and a Quickstart menu that breaks down how to use the MW08 in nine slides. Firmware updates are available, though it seems like you can only receive them by updating the app via App Store or Google Play. In any case, I hope M&D has more features coming down the pipeline.
Master & Dynamic MW08: Battery life and charging case
Aside from audio quality, the MW08’s next big selling point is battery life. Not only do these buds get you 10 hours of use with ANC on, but you can extend playtimes to 12 hours when disabling the feature. Factor high volume, streaming, and both listening modes into the equation, those numbers drop anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Still, that is practically double what Apple and Bose’s models give you on a single charge. I was fine using the MW08 moderately (2.5 hours daily) for an entire workweek before recharging. Quick charging generates 50% of playtime on a 15-minute charge as well.
More impressive is the charging case, holding an additional 30 hours of playtime, and up to 42 hours when fully charged. Again, almost double the playtime of the AirPods Pro case (24 hours) and triple the QuietComfort Earbuds case (18 hours). Why wireless charging is missing from the spec sheet remains a mystery, but its inclusion would have only boosted the MW08’s stock.
Master & Dynamic MW08: Call quality and connectivity
The MW08 is a serviceable calling headset. When taking my wife’s calls from inside the house, she noticed some muffling and could hear me typing, but said my voice was transparent enough to make out sentences. Outside was a little different. Practically every sound around me entered our chats, though she managed to hear me for the most part. It didn’t help that I was going over a bridge during rush hour, but once walking down a quiet street, we communicated clearly.
Any pair of earbuds programmed with Bluetooth 5.2 should offer unbeatable wireless performance. The MW08 does not, mainly due to its poor range. When going past the 15-foot mark, audio stuttered terribly, which meant I had to keep my smartphone on me all the time to stream Spotify smoothly. At least the MW08 made pairing super quick, instantly showing up on the available devices list when removed from the charging case. Re-pairing was even quicker and connected the buds to the last recognized device when awoken.
I thought the MW08 supported multipoint technology to connect it to two devices simultaneously, as I saw the model pop up on my available devices list via Pixel 3XL, while already connected to my MacBook Pro. Upon trying to pair them with my smartphone, I realized the feature wasn’t available.
Master & Dynamic MW08: Verdict
The Master & Dynamic MW08 can best be summed up as the MW07 but with noise cancellation and stronger specs. Many of the brand’s signature strengths continue to shine, from the gorgeous craftsmanship to the remarkable sound quality, which hits that sweet spot of bright and warm. ANC gets the job done in most environments and M&D did a wonderful job increasing battery life to get multiple days of use on a single charge.
Not everything about these buds is beautiful. First, the wireless range is horrible for a model running Bluetooth 5.2. The lack of extra features in the app might have you leaning towards a model that offers more functionality. Then there is the price, which at $299, isn’t cheap (and we thought Bose’s earbuds were expensive).
All in all, the MW08 is a notable entry for the brand in the ANC wireless earbuds category that serves as a steppingstone for its next great true wireless model.