I have had my Master & Dynamic MW08s for over a week now. I have had the opportunity to travel with them on an airplane, use them in crowded places, and enjoy them in the comfort of my own home office.
What I Look For
As a self-professed true wireless earbud tester, there are a variety of boxes that I look to check off in an earbud. This list includes:
- Comfort & Style
- Sound quality & modes
- Tech Specs & Water resistance Battery Life & Charging
Comfort & Style – 9/10
The most important part of any earbud is the the way they fit & how long they are comfortable. Let’s face it: if you try a pair of earbuds, and they don’t stay in your ears despite trying multiple tips, the buck stops there.
My personal preference when it comes to earbuds is a model that is stemless, as opposed to having stems that drop down like on the AirPods & AirPods Pro. Something about stemless models seem to just fatigue my ears less long-term, as well as tend to stay in my ear better than ones I have tried that have stems. In that regard, the MW08s check that box.
Going along with the body style of the buds, another big plus for me is the fact that they have physical buttons vs. touch controls. I find touch controls sometimes can be finicky. You can control the volume and mode with the left bud, and play/pause & pairing with the right.
Style-wise, these buds are definitely making a statement in both design and materials. From their iconic D-shaped appearance to the ceramic materials used, I am hard-pressed to think of different ways to stand out in a positive way. They also do not stick out too from your head, giving that “Frankenstein’s Monster bolted look.”
My MW08 Rating for this category: 9/10.
They’re perhaps not the absolute most snug earbuds I have ever tried, but they are darn-near close. They are also probably the most objectively beautiful mainstream buds on the market.
Sound Quality & Modes – 7/10
Before diving into this part, I will freely admit that not only do I not claim to be an “audiophile.” In fact, I actually suffer from high-frequency hearing loss, causing me to wear hearing aids on a regular bases (when I am not wearing my buds). This fact will also come into play later in the review.
Once you have determined if a certain earbud feels good and stays in without causing your ear to ache after a short period, the next most important thing is: how do they sound?
That being said, I believe that Master & Dynamic has hit the sound quality out of the park with these custom, 11mm Beryllium drivers. They absolutely pack a well-balanced bass punch, but not in such a way that it distracts from the mids and highs.
In fact, these are probably the best buds I have tried as it pertains to mids. When I go back and listen to songs I am familiar with, I sometimes can hear parts of the songs in the mid-range that I had not been aware of before.
Something that is important to me in 2021 when it comes to earbuds are their ANC and Ambient modes. I have mixed feelings when it comes to this for these buds.
Firstly, the ANC is the best of any earbud predecessor that I have tried bar-none. Yes – better than AirPods Pro. Better than Sony’s, Samsung’s, and even Bose – but probably only by a hair. I tested the ANC on a plane: almost complete silence. In a crowded mall (masked & vaccinated here): almost complete silence. In a normal room: complete silence. These bad boys are GOOD at ANC.
One of the interesting things about these buds is the fact that ANC actually has two modes – a first (if I recall correctly). One is “All-Day ANC” and one is “Max ANC.” It’s basically a better / best scenario. I keep mine on Max, but you can stretch your battery a tad farther on All-Day.
The downside, however, comes in when utilizing the buds’ Ambient modes. Once again, there are two modes – one mode that focuses more on voices and conversations, and one that is more environmental, letting more of the outside in. Comparing the two, I would say that the environmental mode essentially just expands the amount of noise coming in, including the benefits of the voice-only mode.
Each mode, to me, though, is not loud enough. Even at its highest level, I am hard-pressed to know if it is activated or not as opposed to no mode on. I want to say that this is definitely in contrast to the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro and the AirPods Pro, both of which have excellent Ambient modes. The upside to this downside, though, is that M&D has some control over this post-manufacturing with a potential firmware update that boosts the quality.
My MW08 Rating for this category: 7/10.
Near-perfect ANC is weighed down by mediocre Ambient modes.
Tech Specs & Water Resistance – 8.5/10
At this point in 2021, having amassed quite the experience in wireless earbud technology, I’ve come come up with a few baseline tech specs that I hope to see:
- Latest Bluetooth specs – check: these buds are rocking Bluetooth 5.2 – the absolute latest spec on the market
- Bluetooth range – check: because of the elegance of combining the latest standards technology-wise with the beautiful, yet super functional ceramic materials, these boast a whopping 100ft range – on par with real-world tests for Apple’s W1 chip found in their headphones and buds.
- aptXTM – check: they have aptXTM technology, as well as AAC & SBC. aptX TM is important because it “combines robust premium audio quality, low-bit rate audio transmission, scalability and the opportunity for low-latency to create the ultimate seamless wireless listening experience, even in the most challenging of radio frequency (RF) environments.” (source).
In layman’s terms, it means less lag and higher fidelity.
- Water resistence – while I love to see as high of an IPX rating as possible, such as the IPX8 on the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, the MW08s sport an IPX rating of 5 – which is still respectable. This means that they can withstand some sustained, low-pressure water sprays. While not the highest rating, they definitely are a notch ahead of most of their competition, which tend to fall between IPX2 – IPX4 (AirPods Pro are IPX4).
My MW08 Rating for this category: 9/10.
I have had strong connectivity most of the time. The only thing that would have made it higher would be if the buds were IPX8.
Battery Life & Charging – 8/10
Let’s get one thing clear – these are the absolute champions by a country mile when it comes to battery life for buds that offer ANC. At 10 hours with Max ANC on, they beat the AirPods Pro’s quoted 4.5hr battery life by over double. I also will say that, for the most part, other buds tend to stick around that 4.5-5hr mark. So, yeah – these are a huge leap forward in that regard.
Now, let’s talk about the case. Here’s where I am deducting points out of sheer expectation these days in 2021. While a very classy and elegant case, I have a little beef with it:
- With the exception of the black models, the other 3 schemes all come with a “shiny” (read: very scratchable and fingerprint-prone) style case. I can see this easily and quickly becoming scratched, although I am trying to be careful with mine. I wish they were all matte like the black.
- Where I really have more of an issue, though, is the case’s lack of wireless charging. I don’t know the logistics of being able to pull this off for the pricepoint M&D was looking to achieve, but it’s a bummer that it does not have it. Granted, if it was a factor in cost, I can understand it being something M&D was willing to cut out.
My MW08 Rating for this category: 8/10.
The amazing battery life makes it a lot easier to forgive the lack of wireless charging. At least it has USB-C.
I want to acknowledge a few things that have been less than stellar:
One issue I have consistently had with a few devices that I have connected is some static in the right earbud if I move a certain way. I am guessing this can and will be easily fixed in a future firmware update.
Speaking of firmware – it would be nice for them to boost the volume just a smidge past where the max is for them right now via an update. Most of the time, I am able to hear just fine; however, a couple of devices come through lower than others.
Another issue is pairing between devices. Other than my iPhone, it seems as though I have to put the buds in pairing mode each time I want to use a new device or switch devices. It would be more convenient if I was at least able to pick it from the remembered devices list on the device I was using in the moment.
This is not really a concern for these buds in particular, but one that I have to consider each time I try a new pair: the ear tips. Like all my past buds, I do not enjoy standard silicone tips that come with the device. I typically opt for foam tips, most of the time Comply’s foam.
I really, really love these buds. Just ask my wife, and she can tell you how I am constantly on the lookout for the latest in truly wireless earbud models.
I feel like the MW08s have the least amount of trade-offs mixed with important benefits of any earbuds I have come across thus far.
The comfort mixed with tech is just a pure delight. I actually look forward to excuses to wear these gorgeous devices in different situations and environments.
They are a great companion to my Oculus Quest 2 for non-distracting media watching, and the case even has the advantage (albeit a niche one) of being able to contain my hearing aids when I have to swap them out.
I think these will be my daily drivers for the forseeable future when it comes to mobile / compact listening.