Master & Dynamic MW07 review: Premium sound, premium price

The company’s first true wireless earbuds impress, but you’ll pay for the privilege.

Billy Steele/Engadget

For about a year now, the true wireless earbud craze has been in full swing. Even the holdouts introduced sets this month. At IFA, both Audio-Technica and Sennheiser debuted their belated entries in this audio arms race. Now there's another company entering the fray: Master & Dynamic. The company revealed its $299 MW07 true wireless earphones today — a set that exhibits the company's affinity for premium materials and stellar sound. In fact, these may be the best-sounding wireless earbuds I've tested, but crafting the perfect pair takes more than audio prowess.

For its MW07, Master & Dynamic used metal once more, opting for stainless steel enclosures and buttons. Instead of leather for the face of each earbud, the company chose acetate, giving prospective buyers four color/pattern options to select from. If you're familiar with M&D, you've likely noticed the company typically blends leather and metal on its headphones to create a more sophisticated look. There are no plastic parts or cheap-looking designs. Of course, when it comes to something you stick in your ear, leather probably isn't the best choice.

In addition to five sets of silicone tips to help you find the perfect fit, the MW07 also features two sizes of removable fit wings to secure each earbud in place.

A charging case is an essential piece of kit when it comes to true wireless earphones, and there's one here to keep you topped up. Forged out of shiny stainless steel, it's a fingerprint magnet, but at least it's small enough to fit your pocket. And indicator lights on the outside let you know the battery and charging status at a glance. There are separate lights for each earbud and the case itself, rather than just one that offers some vague idea of your actual charging levels. Expect 3.5 hours of playback on these with the case completely charge the buds three times. And, if you're in a hurry, A 15-minute charge will get you up to 50 percent. Thankfully, M&D heard my cry and made the switch to USB-C for charging the case itself. Let's never speak of micro-USB on headphones again.

Like nearly every other true wireless model, the MW07 also offers onboard controls so you don't have to reach for your phone to adjust volume or skip songs. The volume controls reside on the top edge of the left earbud while a single multi-function button sits atop the right. This button handles play/pause, skipping tracks and activating voice control (Siri, etc...). It will also enable pairing mode, so long as the earbud isn't in use. When the MW07 is ready to pair, an indicator light on the device itself will being to pulse.

Once connected, I didn't once encounter an instance where the two buds weren't in sync, nor did I experience any unexpected dropouts. I still encounter syncing issues on new true wireless earphones from time to time, thankfully it's a problem Master & Dynamic solved. I did notice that the MW07s don't have quite the range of Jabra's Elite 65t — a set I've been using daily for months. When I left my phone or laptop to walk into the next room or down the hall, the distance was noticeably less with the MW07, and the Bluetooth version could be a likely cause.

While most people probably won't notice any huge difference, it's worth noting the MW07 uses Bluetooth 4.2 rather than Bluetooth 5.0 that's on a lot of newer models — like Jabra's Elite 65t and others. While the latest version of the standard does offer improvements in range and energy use, Bluetooth 4.2 is quite capable of steady connectivity and great sound quality.

Speaking of sound quality, I'm not going to mince words here: The MW07 are the best-sounding true wireless earbuds I've tested. Sure, others might be offer a compelling package at nearly half the price, but strictly in terms of audio, these are at the top of my chart. The company has consistently offered crisp clarity across its headphones, and the MW07 is no exception. M&D typically opts for a more balance tuning — what it describes as a "natural" sound — but at times, a subtle approach to bass impacts audio quality. I'm happy to report that's not the case with the MW07 which have a noticeably more punchy low-end for a fuller, more robust sound.

You get a sense of the clarity and detail in the sound with genres like bluegrass and jazz. Styles with delicate instrumentation really show what the MW07 can do. I could tell a big difference when streaming Punch Brothers' All Ashore or The Earls of Leicester's Rattle & Roar. There's better detail than a lot of over-ear headphones I've used. The booming low end makes songs like TesseracT's "King" and Pusha T's "If You Know You Know" soar. It's not over powering, but the level of bass here creates a full soundscape that lets metal, rock and hip hop shine. True wireless earbuds can sometimes show a little too much restraint here, which makes some genres suffer. The MW07 is not on that list.

There's also noticeably more volume here than many of the other true wireless devices I've tested. Unlike a lot of these earbuds, and a few sets of Master & Dynamic headphones, the MW07 is plenty loud. I rarely found myself needing the maximum level to find the oomph I was looking for.

Comfort is always a top consideration when it comes to buying new headphones. However, when you're talking about something you're going to be cramming inside your ear canal, there's only so much comfort you can expect. Finding the correct size silicone tips helps, and foam is often a better alternative. For me, any true wireless product I wear for hours at a time will eventually start to drive me nuts. It's just part of life. This isn't a knock against the MW07 per se, none of the options I've test are really that comfortable after hours of use. At least this pair doesn't stick too far out of your ear (like the Bose SoundSport Free) so you can add not looking silly as a plus in the emotional comfort department at least.

With a $299 price tag, Master & Dynamic is comfortably situated in the premium tier. If you don't mind shelling out a few hundred dollars, Bang & Olufsen's Beoplay E8 is another option at the same price. Sennheiser and Audio-Technica announced true wireless earbuds for $300 and $249, respectively, back at IFA. Those aren't out yet, so I can't offer any impressions, but they are two more high-end selections to consider in the months to come.

If you don't want to pay that much, there are some more affordable options that won't leave you disappointed with your choice. For me, the Jabra Elite 65t and Elite Active 65t are the best value right now. At $170, they offer a great mix of solid audio, features, and reliable connectivity. I've been using the Elite 65t at home and the Active version at the gym for a few months and I've yet to encounter any major issues. If the main thing you're after is superb audio quality though, you'll likely have to pay a considerable amount to obtain it.

Given Master & Dynamics knack for solid design and great audio, it's no surprise the MW07 is a great all-around set of true wireless earphones. Like B&O and others, the company's products are in the premium tier, with a price to match. The reality is that if aesthetics and audio aren't too high on your list of priorities, and you just want a set of capable earbuds, these probably aren't for you. If you can't stand the over-the-top bass of Beats, or refuse make sacrifices in sound quality, give the MW07 a look. $299 is at the top of what you should be willing to pay, but it's not astronomical. Especially when you judge all of its merits.

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