Master & Dynamic MW08, my new favorite inear headphones

The Master & Dynamic MW08 are the latest version of the first-ever true wireless in-ear headphones to win me over – and they continue to impress.

I’d always been an on-ear/over-ear headphone guy, even when mobile. To me, the sound quality outweighed the inconvenience of the bulk and weight. That changed with the launch of the MW07 in 2018…

It’s not that they matched the quality of proper headphones – simple physics rules that out – but rather that they tipped the balance far enough for me to make the switch.

I don’t think it’s physically possible for in-ear headphones to create the same level of immersive sound you get from on-ear or over-ear ones. Driver size is far from the only thing that matters with headphones, but it is one factor. Even when you place a tiny driver right inside your ear, there’s only so much air it can push […]

But while no in-ear headphone can match the performance from their larger brethren, the MW07 come closer than any others I’ve yet tried. The sound is simply stunning for the size […]

For the first time with in-ear headphones, they’ve hit the sweet spot. Previously I’ve had to significantly compromise on audio quality if I want the freedom achievable with in-ear headphones – there when you want them, unnoticeable in a pocket when you don’t. But with the MW07, I feel like the compromise in audio quality is so small that the trade-off works.

MW08 versus MW07/Plus

The MW07 Plus in 2019 added ANC and a significant boost in battery life, and the MW08 offers further improvements:

  • Larger drivers (11mm against 10mm)
  • Improved ANC (extra mics, and different modes)
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • Significant size reduction
  • New design of case

MW08 vs. AirPods Pro

Compared to Apple’s AirPods Pro, there are a couple of drawbacks. First, you of course don’t get the super-sleek pairing that is the hallmark of the H1 chip. Second, MW08 cost $50 more, at $299 rather than $249.

But the MW08 win on battery life. AirPods give you 4.5 hours on a single charge, and a total of 24 hours when recharging in the case. MW08 give you 10 hours from a single charge, and a total of 42 hours when recharging in the case. The material is also ceramic rather than plastic, and really feels like much higher quality.

Most importantly, MW08 are in a completely different league to AirPods when it comes to sound quality. I’ve always said that I consider myself lucky to have mid-range ears. That means that I don’t have to spend huge sums on full-on audiophile gear, but at the same time I can appreciate the difference between OK sound and really good sound – and that’s what you get with any of the Master & Dynamic MW range versus AirPods.

Look and feel

I loved the polished stainless steel case you got with the MW07 and Plus models. The MW08 is still available with a new vertical version of that, but you also get two new options: polished graphite and matte black. I tried out the matte black this time. It’s honestly hard to choose between them – they both look great – but I think on balance I still prefer the stainless steel.

However, the choice is complicated by your preference for the color of the earphones themselves, as there are four combinations:

  • White in a polished stainless steel case
  • Brown in a polished stainless steel case
  • Blue in a polished graphite case
  • Black in a matte black case

I think it’s a shame you can’t order black in the polished stainless steel case, as that would be the winning combo for me.

The ceramic earphones feel comfy in the ear, and in my experience remain solidly in place. I have standard-sized ears, so have never needed to mess around with tips on any in-ear headphones I’ve used, but you do get five different size tips with them.

Sound quality

There’s not much to add here to what I’ve previously said about the MW07.

The audio is beautifully neutral, especially noticeable in live performances where you can really feel you are there in the room.

Both treble and mid-tones are clear and detailed, and the bass is really impressive. But while the bass has real presence, it doesn’t feel in any way artificial – the balance is spot-on.

There’s also plenty of volume. Even on public transit, I never use them at maximum volume, which I think is another impressive achievement from in-ear units. But if you do crank them up to the max, there’s no distortion.

For pure audio quality, these are hands down the best in-ear headphones I’ve ever used – and that includes B&O H5s.

Listening back-to-back with the MW07 Plus, the difference is, to my ears, not really detectable. But that’s fine with me, as I love the sound. Frankly, to have achieved indistinguishable sound is pretty amazing, given how much the company has shrunk the size.

The extra ANC modes work well, especially the one that allows transparency for voice. But in truth, for me ANC is all or nothing: When I want it, I prefer to block out as much ambient sound as possible, so I’m always going to use the full-fat version.

Price and conclusions

Apple’s H1 chip means that AirPods are always going to give you the slickest experience when used with Apple kit – though some find the auto-switching is an irritation rather than a benefit! But the Bluetooth 5.2 connection on these is rock-solid, and pairing with the same device is pretty instant.

As always with audio gear, the right choice for you will come down to your ears. If you can’t hear any difference between these and AirPods Pro, save yourself $50 (or more) and get those. Conversely, audiophiles would never sacrifice ultimate audio quality for in-ear headphones of any kind.

But if, like me, you sit between the two, the Master & Dynamic MW08 is a fantastic treat for your mid-range ears – and worth every penny of the $299 price.

Master & Dynamic MW08 are available from the company’s own website, priced at $299. The original MW07 and MW07 Plus models are available from the company’s Amazon store.

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