Master & Dynamic are a New-York based premium audio company who have held a strong foothold in the wireless in-ear space since their conception in 2014. Latest from their line-up is the Master & Dynamic MW08 – an all-new reenvisaged True Wireless Earphone which pushes the envelope in both sound and design compared to its predecessors. Priced at $299, the in-ear monitors feature a sleek ceramic and stainless steel design with an external aluminum antenna (and Bluetooth 5.2 technology). Rather impressively, the brand have managed to scale down dimensions and case while still packing in new 11mm custom beryllium drivers and a proprietary new six-microphone system.
As with their previous products, Master & Dynamic have implemented a hybrid Active Noise Cancellation technology where users are able to opt for either the standard active noise reduction mode or an ‘Ambient listening mode’ for an ambient immersive listen. The new M&D Connect App provides both iOS and Android support allowing consumers to further customize the listening experience.
The packaging of the MW08 is overall compact and sharp with a clean-cut logo and graphic print out of the earphones and case. If anything, there may be a bit too much text on the side and rear of the casing which could be resolved with the addition of a leaflet card to keep things more minimalist. The white sleeve insert slides out to reveal an internal cardboard hinged box which houses the MW08, case and other accessory pieces.
Accessory items include a USB type C cable, a USB-A port adapter, a compact charging case, canvas earphone pouch & 5 pairs of ear tips.
The Design & Build
The MW08 is no doubt sleeker and more refined in aesthetics than the MW07 Plus earphones before it. The ceramic casing combines both function and style with its lightweight, scratch-resistant and glossy finish. The MW08 also comes in some other colors including: white, blue and brown ceramic.
The rest of the housings comprise stainless steel and anodized aluminum further enhancing the visual appeal of the product. Master & Dynamic have cleverly incorporated a nano-bonded external antenna providing exceptional connectivity range with Bluetooth 5.2, AAC, aptX and SBC support. Despite shaving a few millimeters from the MW07 Plus, both earphones weigh in at a relatively light 9 grams each.
The right earphone houses a multi-functional button which serves as the following functions: play/pause, skip forward/backward, voice assistant (when held) and pairing mode (when long held). The left earphone houses the volume keys which can also be held to activate ambient listening mode or active noise cancelling (ANC) mode. Both monitors share a pulsing indicating light for pairing mode as well as a mesh opening where the three microphone arrays are situated.
The underside of the housing features connections for the charging port as well as sensors to indicate whether the monitors are secured into the ear or not. Overall, the MW08 is very intuitive to use and is complete with functionality to provide a seamless listening experience. There is a good tactile feedback of the buttons and unlike some other competitors, there is very little latency from button press to function implementation.
The charging case has the same three LED indicator system as the prior version and is also crafted from a stainless steel body. The newer edition, however, is slimmer and more easily pocketable compared to the one included with the MW07 Plus. The opening hatch is also placed near the top of the casing which allows a more naturally-positioned ergonomic opening.
Comfort & Isolation
Unlike the MW07 Plus, the MW08 do not come with stock silicone wing tips. While the silicone wing tips provided a secure fit, the MW08 are decidedly more comfortable and surprisingly secure in their fit. One way of testing is this is through vertical and lateral jaw movements and in the MW08’s case, they capably remain in-situ and no budge.
Isolation levels are beyond average in the standard setting. Ambient listening mode does reduce isolation (through intended effect) whereas active noise cancelling curbs ambient sound.
Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling
With a total of six microphones implemented in the MW08, Master & Dynamic have improved both the noise cancelling and ambient listening mode experience.
ANC implementations have always been very hard to implement in TWS monitors but Master & Dynamic have capitalized on a third microphone within each IEM (a rare feat). The results are that low frequencies sounds are significantly more attenuated compared to previous editions. Compared to other market leaders, the MW08 does not introduce any artefact or coloration to sound but rather a mature implementation of what ANC should be. It is still important to note that improvements could be made and general chatter and noises are not completely reduced.
On the other side of the coin, the ambient noise listening has also improved providing a unique experience for a closed-back IEM. Perceptual awareness of ambient noise is also significantly enhanced allowing users to be more in tune with outside noises. This is perfect for casual strolls in the park and rather emulates the intentions of bone conduction earphones and semi-open in-ear monitors.
In addition, wind reduction and improved call communications are some of MW08’s other notable improvements.
The MW09 features the latest Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity with aptX, SBC and AAC Support. Connectivity is improved with the new antenna on the outside of the housing and there is little to no drop in latency when 20 meters beyond the Bluetooth source. This is the even the case when there are walls between source and earphones which the previous MW07 Plus did seem to struggle with.
The MW08 favors a mid-bass over sub-bass predisposition which lies in contrast to the MW07 Plus before it which places more enhancement in the sub-bass frequencies. Both earphones render a capable low-end with the MW08 tilting even more towards the warmer side of neutral than the MW07 Plus. Notes are satisfactorily taut and the beryllium dynamic driver does well in preventing bloat and distortion which dynamic drivers can be prone to. Extension is deep and there is more emphasis here on palpability as opposed to sheer authority. The overall timbre is rich and it has become evident that Master & Dynamic are crafters of good quality bass from their wireless in-ear monitor collection.
There is a u-shaped imposition from the bass towards the upper midrange. As a result, the midrange is placed slightly further back in the mix with a good sense of air and space. Again, it is a pleasant and inoffensive tonality which remains cohesive with the well-rounded, rich and warm low-end performance. Compared to the HiFiMAN TWS800, the MW08 does lack a little in true sense of scale and separation even though both share a similar relative positioning of frequencies. Where both monitors share some other similarities in their well-roundedness, musicality and dynamism – they do differ in upper midrange clarity and openness with the TWS800 coming out superior in this case.
Like the TWS800, the MW08 takes a smooth approach with its treble tuning with a small bump in the lower treble frequencies followed by curtailing from mid treble onwards. As a result, there is some lift, sparkle and headroom in tracks without the restrictions of a piercing or hot treble. It is a signature that can be listened for hours on end and an example of good tuning where details are brought into the forefront without the fatiguability. For more ardent treble listeners, the MW07 Plus does produce a more elevated treble (albeit with a thinner sound and tendency towards a brittle texture). Overall, the MW08 treble will satisfy the broad palette with its well placed detailing, uptick of lower treble and smooth overlay.
Soundstage & Imaging
The MW08 has improved on its soundstage compared to the MW07 with sonic cues cast further out in elements of width and depth. Appreciably, TWS do lack in this department compared to their wired cousins but the MW08 does moderately well given its form factor. There is a decent level of instrument separation with fore- and background separation but the rich and larger note size strays away from a monitor with pin-point imaging.
Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus ($299)
The MW07 Plus represented a desire for Master & Dynamic to capitalize on the True Wireless Solution market through incremental development. The MW07 improved on several aspects of the original including design, battery life and implementation of ANC. Their journey did not stop there with the MW08 further refining and developing their flagship wireless monitor lineage.
The MW08 offers a more mature, rich and smooth sound compared to the MW07 Plus before it. Where the MW08 emphasizes mid-bass, the MW07 Plus favors its sub-bass presence. As a result, there is more warmth lent to the lower midrange rounding out notes more in the MW08 next to the MW07 Plus. This carries through until the treble where the MW07 Plus carries more energy compared to the smoother and more restraint MW08.
HiFiMAN TWS800 ($299)
Both the MW08 and TWS800 represent offer audiophile-quality sound in the true wireless monitor form factor. HiFiMAN, however, have pushed the envelope slightly further when it comes to high-fidelity with the use of topology diaphragms and discreet internal amplification. As a result the TWS800 is able to get to louder volumes easily, possesses the better headroom and soundstaging. However, both do go for a similar tonal profile with smooth, rich and dynamic being some key descriptors. Though the TWS800 for me is personally one of the best sounding TWS in the market, the MW08 is one of the most well complete with its numerous features, battery life and functionality.
It is great to see healthy levels of competition within the TWS market at the moment which will not only benefit the end user but drive innovation. The Master & Dynamic MW08, to date, is one of the most complete and well-rounded wireless in-ear monitors in the marketplace. The rich feature list, 12 hour battery life, hybrid ANC mode, light weight, ergonomic design and functionality all stand in good stead for what is currently being offered. Granted, there are still some offerings which best the MW08 in sheer sound fidelity but Master & Dynamic should be proud with the lineage they are continuing. These are therefore a recommended purchase and will be replacing the MW07 Plus in our best IEMs list.
Master & Dynamic MW08 Specifications:
- Dimensions: 21.19mm x 20.22mm x 25.08mm
- Drivers: 11mm Beryllium
- Weight: 9.0g each
- Battery life: Up to 12 hours playtime / 10 hours with ANC