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Master & Dynamic MW08 review: A case of aesthetics over ANC

Andy White
17 Jun 2022
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
279
inc VAT

The Master & Dynamic MW08 look fantastic but don’t have the ANC or audio performance to match

Pros 
Premium looks and build quality
Bumper battery life
Powerful, bassy sound
Cons 
Disappointing ANC
No EQ customisation
App connectivity issues
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Despite being founded less than 10 years ago, Master & Dynamic has established a reputation for producing some of the best-looking headphones the industry has to offer. The Master & Dynamic MW08 certainly don’t disappoint on the aesthetic front, and they’ve got the best battery life of any premium noise-cancelling earbuds we’ve reviewed.

Sound quality is decent, too, but it falls slightly short of the lofty expectations that come with such a high price tag. Active noise cancellation also fails to match that of key competitors, while the absence of audio customisation options leave the MW08 as supremely stylish earbuds lacking a little substance.

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Master & Dynamic MW08 review: What do you get for the money?

Master & Dynamic products don’t come cheap and the MW08 are no exception, with a £279 RRP that positions them among the most expensive wireless earbuds on the market.

The materials used in their construction go a long way to explaining that price. The MW08 are fashioned from ceramic, a material often used in luxury watches, while the accompanying charging case is made from stainless steel. There are six colour combinations available, ranging from blue ceramic/polished graphite to white ceramic/matte black, and there’s no denying their aesthetic appeal.

No matter which combo you go with, you’ll get buds capable of delivering up to ten hours of audio playback with noise cancellation on (12 hours with it off) and a charging case that provides a further 30 hours of use if you’re not using ANC.

The buds charge from empty in 45 minutes, while the case can be topped up in an hour via the supplied USB-C cable - wireless charging is not supported. Also included are a USB-C to USB-A adapter, five sets of silicone eartips and a canvas pouch to slip the case in.

The MW08 are well-equipped on the connectivity front, operating wirelessly over Bluetooth 5.2 with support for the SBC, AAC and aptx Adaptive codecs. The latter codec means those with a compatible Android smartphone can stream Hi-Res audio at 24-bit/96kHz. Multipoint Bluetooth pairing is also supported, enabling the MW08 to be connected to two devices simultaneously and switch seamlessly between them.

Playback commands are executed via physical buttons on top of each earbud rather than touch controls and they’re kept nice and simple. A multifunction button on the right earbud controls playing, pausing, track skipping and hailing your phone’s voice assistant, while the left earbud houses volume controls. These also double up as ways of turning the noise cancelling and ambient listening modes on and off.

There’s no way to customise the control scheme in the M&D Connect companion app but you are able to to change which of the two noise cancelling and ambient modes are active by default. Noise cancelling options amount to “Max” and “All Day”, while “Voice” and “Awareness” are your choices when it comes to pumping in ambient sound. The app also enables you to toggle in-ear detection, which works very well, on or off, and select whether you want the buds to turn off after a certain period of inactivity.

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Master & Dynamic MW08 review: What do we like about them?

The M&D MW08 are beautifully crafted things that look very different to the numerous other true wireless earbuds I’ve tested. The scratch-resistant ceramic surfaces catch light in an attractive manner and the half-square, half-circle design is as striking as it is unusual. I was sent the black ceramic/matte black model and, although not the most eye-catching colour combination in the range, it still looks great.

The charging case isn’t as interesting in appearance as the earbuds but is very well-made, sturdy and the lid has a pleasing snap to it. The stainless steel is at risk of picking up scratch marks if you’re not careful but Master & Dynamic has thoughtfully included a canvas carrying pouch and this did a fine job of protecting its precious cargo.

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I also rather like the inclusion of LEDs on the case to reflect the charge level and that of each earbud. These illuminate green, orange or red based on whether the buds and case are fully charged, have a reasonable amount of juice left or are running close to empty. You’re provided with a percentage charge level for the buds in the M&D Connect app but this takes an average across both buds and requires more effort to access.

Master & Dynamic has also got the fit spot-on. It supplies five pairs of eartips ranging from extra small to extra large and I was able to achieve a comfortable fit that remained stable during gym sessions. An IPX5 rating means the buds are well-equipped for exercise and outdoor use, while the charging case is IPX4-rated, so is protected against the elements, too.

The MW08 are pretty good performers on the audio front, with their 11mm beryllium drivers able to deliver punchy, hard-hitting sound, particularly at the lower end of the frequency spectrum. This slightly bass-heavy presentation makes them an attractive choice for those who listen to a lot of electronic music and hip hop.

They also go louder than a lot of other true wireless earbuds, which is good news if you enjoy recreating that feeling of standing by a speaker at a rave. Those years are long behind me, however, and I’d advise against cranking the MW08 to maximum volume too often if you want to avoid long-term hearing loss.

Microphone quality is another of the MW08’s strong points. There are three mics in each earbud, including what Master & Dynamic describes as a “wind-reducing array” that runs along a rear section of the buds. I found that this did keep the impact of wind on calls in check, with those I spoke to saying they were able to hear me clearly and that environmental conditions weren’t overly noticeable.

This tallied with my experience when recording voice clips. There was decent clarity to my speech, and although some external sound made its way into the recordings, it wasn’t ever to a level that severely hampered what was being said.

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Master & Dynamic MW08 review: What could be improved?

The main area in which the M&D MW08 lag behind their premium-brand rivals is active noise cancellation. It isn’t adaptive, meaning the level of attenuation doesn’t automatically adjust based on your surroundings, nor does it allow you to add noise-cancelling settings for specific locations like the Sony WF-1000XM4 or Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 do.

There’s no way to apply fine adjustments to the level of noise cancellation, either – you simply have a choice between “Max” and “All Day”. Max will cut out a reasonable amount of low-end rumble but does very little in the way of attenuating higher-pitched frequencies. All Day mode implements lighter touch noise cancellation, but I didn’t find myself using it much - either Max or the “Awareness” ambient mode were better suited to my needs in most situations. The Awareness ambient mode actually works pretty well and is useful in various situations but vocal clarity didn’t benefit a huge amount from the “Voice” setting.

And, although I’ve praised the MW08’s powerful delivery, audio isn’t as well-balanced as class-leading rivals such as the aforementioned Sony and Sennheiser buds. The weighty bass response overshadows the mid-range at times and there’s a lack of high-frequency sparkle. In-app EQ options might have helped rectify this but they’re entirely absent on the MW08, which is a shame.

I also found connectivity to the app a little hit and miss. The app would always find the buds, but occasionally timed out when trying to connect to them. This wasn’t a massive deal given the limited options available within the app but was frustrating on the occasions when I wanted to switch the default noise cancelling and ambient settings.

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Master & Dynamic MW08 review: Should you buy them?

The Master & Dynamic MW08 are gorgeous true wireless earbuds with in-ear battery life superior to that of all their premium rivals. They’re very comfortable, too, and deliver a warm, impactful sound signature that will appeal to fans of bass-heavy genres.

But, unless you’re looking to make a stylistic statement, there are a number of better noise-cancelling options. The Sony WF-1000XM4, Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds all reduce environmental noise more effectively, sound better and are cheaper, too.

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