In just a few short years, wireless earbuds have gone from being a luxury accessory to a mainstream one that you can find for even cheaper than a pair of wired buds. A lot has changed in the three years since Master & Dynamic released its excellent MW07 wireless earbuds. The company’s long-awaited follow-up, the new MW08, are quite simply the most convincing reason to splurge on wireless earbuds.
I’ve reviewed many sets of wireless earbuds over the past few years, and it’s become apparent that most companies are trying to find the perfect balance of features. But that approach means there are always trade-offs between sound quality, size, call quality, how well the active noise cancellation works, battery life, and the price tag. However, as soon as I put the the MW08 wireless earbuds in my ears and hit play, it was immediately obvious that Master & Dynamic has instead focused its efforts on making the entire experience as good as it can possibly be and delivering almost every feature a user could want—assuming they’re not on a tight budget.
Is $300 expensive for a pair of wireless earbuds? Yes, absolutely. They’re not the most obscenely priced buds you can find—if you’re into diamond bedazzling, for instance, you can drop thousands on a pair of buds—but when compared to the $249 Apple AirPods Pro, the MW08s genuinely deliver a better $300-worthy wireless earbud experience.
That experience starts with a stainless steel charging case (I tested a version with a matte black finish) that feels substantial and weighty in the hand. It’s a bit larger than the AirPods Pro charging case, which is the gold standard for pocketability, but whereas Apple promises “more than 24 hours of listening time” and five hours with the buds alone, Master & Dynamic is promising a staggering 42 hours of playtime with the charging case, and 12 hours with the MW08 earbuds alone. That’s more than enough justification for the larger case.
The MW08's charging case also features a very useful set of three LEDs on the outside that indicate the charge level of the case itself and each bud, an included canvas carrying case because anything painted matte black excels at collecting greasy fingerprints, and charging through a USB-C port on the side. Unfortunately, as wonderful as the use of stainless steel feels, metal and wireless charging don’t mix, so you can’t plop the MW08s down on a wireless charger to top them off, which feels like one of the most useful features missing from this upgrade.
Until recently I’ve never been the biggest fan of the design of the Master & Dynamics MW07s, which has been carried over to the new MW08s, but I’ll admit that I’ve grown to really like them over the past couple of weeks. The use of polished ceramic with a minimal logo treatment is nice and subdued.
I also like that instead of touch controls that require users to tap on their earbuds to access playback and other controls, the MW08s use physical buttons. More often than not I find that tapping an earbud serves to dislodge it from my ear, but with the MW08s you can use a squeeze-to-press approach which keeps everything securely in place. It’s also easier to distinguish what the buttons do because they’re different sizes on each earbud, saving you from having to memorize a pattern of taps. To recap: Buttons good, tapping bad.
Earbuds that deliver big sound always rely on large drivers and even larger batteries, and that often poses a challenge for wearability. The added weight makes it easier for earbuds to occasionally fall out, and long periods of use can lead to discomfort. But even after a couple weeks of use, I’m still surprised at how comfortable the MW08s are, and how well they stay in my ears. They include five sets of silicone ear tips to help you find the best fit, but the earbuds are also designed to nestle into the folds of your ears to help them stay securely in place.
Despite being larger, I find the MW08s just as comfortable as the Apple AirPods Pro, and I’ve had no issue keeping them in my ears, even during light exercise. Master & Dynamic has also bumped the water resistance rating of these wireless earbuds from IPX4 to IPX5, so they should be fine for use in the rain, or during an especially sweaty workout, but they probably won’t survive a dunking.
Before I got my hands on the Master & Dynamic MW08s, the Klipsch T5 II True Wireless Earbuds were my go-to buds when I really wanted to enjoy my music—but not any longer. It was a very close call, and while I think the Klipsch T5 II True Wireless maybe thump a little harder than the new MW08s do, the overall sound quality of Master & Dynamics’ latest is just unmatched, thanks to a bump in the size of its Beryllium drivers from 10 to 11 millimeters.
My go-to track for testing wireless earbuds as of late has been the Tropic Remix of Surf Mesa’s “ily” and when the beat drops at around the 30-second mark the bass performance of the MW08s is incredibly satisfying, and it’s possibly even better than on some wireless headphones I’ve tested. But the bass doesn’t come at the cost of crisp and clear highs, which is where many bass-heavy headphones and earbuds underperform. The MW08s deliver fantastic sound across the board, which is good because even though it works with a free accompanying Android and iOS app, there’s no adjustable EQ to tweak the sound balance—but it’s doubtful you’d ever want to.
The Master & Dynamic MW08 wireless earbuds also finally come with active noise cancellation, and it’s probably one of the best implementations of ANC available to consumers. Testing them against the AirPods Pro with simulated sounds of crowded subways and the interior of a passenger plane, using six mics spread across both earbuds, the ANC on the MW08s managed to eliminate a wider frequency range, although, as I’ve pointed out in the past, don’t expect them to drop you into a world of perfect silence. The ambient sound boosting was also stellar and crystal clear, with two modes including ‘Ambient’ that boosts all frequencies so you can better hear everything going on around you and “Voice” that instead focuses on boosting only mid-range to higher frequencies so the voices of people talking come across more clear.
Aside from the lack of wireless charging, my only other complaint with the MW08s is the same I have for almost every non-Apple pair of wireless earbuds I’ve tested. They’re still dependent on Bluetooth and occasionally I experienced weird connectivity issues with the MW08s where sound would drop out on one side, or seem like it was ping-ponging back and forth between each bud. They were issues easily fixed by disconnecting and reconnecting the buds, and issues that can presumably be improved through future firmware updates, but they were also connectivity issues that Apple has all but eliminated with its W1 Bluetooth chip.
Are the new Master & Dynamic MW08s $50 better than the AirPods Pro? Even with occasional Bluetooth hiccups, they are absolutely the best wireless earbuds you can spend $300 on. They sound amazing, they fit incredibly well, they can run for up to 42 hours before the charging case needs a top-up, and they deliver about as good a noise-cancelling experience as you could hope for. If you’re going to splurge on wireless buds, these are what you should splurge on.