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True wireless earphones are a mixed blessing: They liberate you from wires—they’re not even connected to each other—but many expect you to trade comfort and style for that freedom. The integrated radios and amplifiers onboard render many models bulkier and heavier than their wired counterparts, and their size often requires some fussing to work into a comfortable, secure fit.
Master & Dynamic’s first crack at true wireless earbuds—the MW07—are different. They’re pretty, they’re well tooled, and they sound great. A pair arrives in a posh, chromed-up stainless-steel charging case that looks like it came from Tiffany & Co. The sizzle starts with a smart and utilitarian design. Out of the box these things readily adjusted to my atypically shaped ears, without the need to swap out the alternatively sized (S, M, L and XL) rubber ear tips and fit wings (two sizes) included in the kit.
The earphones’ flat-faced, hand-tooled acetate outer enclosure is D-shaped, to follow the ear’s curve. My review pair came in matte black, but you can also choose from tortoise shell, gray terrazzo, or matte steel blue.
Borrowing a trick from time-piece designers, the stainless-steel acoustic enclosure hiding behind that floating face is recessed and masked in black trim to enhance a sense of slenderness. That’s an optical illusion, and these things are not quite as light as they look (or feel), either. Each ear piece weighs in at 9 grams, same as the Bose SoundSport Free, and they’re heavier than the bulbous Jabra Elite 65t and Sennheiser Momentum (those weigh about 6 grams each), as well as the bantamweight Apple AirPods (4 grams each).
The MW07’s acoustic enclosures house large (10mm) beryllium-coated drivers that accurately reproduced the most challenging transient sounds I could throw at them. Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity isn’t the latest iteration, but the MW07 do support the aptX codec, and they let me wander a floor away (30-plus feet) from my music-serving iPhone X without fading or polluting the music stream.
Pairing the MW07 with your smartphone/tablet/computer is a snap. Music paused on your connected device kicks back on whenever the buds are seated in your ears, cued by onboard optical proximity sensors. Genuine metal buttons (not touchpads) start and stop the music, skip a track, take a call, raise and lower volume, and instruct Siri or Google Assistant to listen for your commands. Phone conversations through the onboard microphone were judged “slightly better than average” by listeners on the other end.
Just push ‘em in and twist until the ear tips feel seated and a cleverly designed bump of a silicone flange grabs the inner curve of your ear’s concha. Ribbed for flexibility and ventilation, these M&D fit wings are less trouble than the floppy ear hooks on rival products that require “just so” tucking in place. Those often loosen up from sweat accumulation. The MW07’s seal passively muzzles sonic distractions almost as well as the electronics in active noise cancelling headphones.
Once installed, rotating the MW07 just a tad in my ears let me effectively re-EQ the sound, reducing or boosting bass response without their losing grip. That’s not an intentional design trick, “just a nice/lucky surprise based on how they fit in the ear,” according to Master & Dynamic founder and CEO Jonathan Levine, who responded to my emailed query.
Master & Dynamic MW07 performance
Play some music and these cute things really pour on the charm. The MW07’s sound is clean, precise, nicely balanced and free of coloration at low and moderate listening levels, and they kick up copious bass at elevated volume. Master & Dynamic calls this well-tempered tuning “our natural sound signature.”
Test materials this time ‘round included a splashy, super percussive “Africa in Jazz”” playlist from Amazon Music, and a new high-resolution Deutsche Grammophon recording of Schubert piano quintet pieces fronted by Russian keyboardist Daniil Trifonov and German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. These ear openers also acquitted themselves well with a gauntlet of contemporary pop styles, ranging from thumping hip hop to acoustic singer-songwriters.
Be forewarned, a love affair with MW07s is not free of complications. These cuties have personality quirks. Can you deal?
That hyper-polished metal carry/charge case is both a fingerprint magnet and scratch prone if pocketed with keys and coins. To maintain a “like new” appearance, keep the case tucked inside its own canvas bag (another Tiffany-like packaging ploy.)
Master & Dynamic MW07: Not cheap
One thing the Master & Dynamics MW07 most definitely are not is inexpensive: They run $299.99 a pair, plus an extra $30 if you want the optional case engraving on that fancy charging case. That’s the same basic price Sennheiser demands for its Momentum, it’s nearly twice the going rate for Apple AirPods ($160) and Jabra’s Elite 65t ($170), and it’s a full Benjamin more than the Bose SoundSport Free ($199).
That extra dough doesn’t deliver longer battery life. The MW07 start making nudgy, spiraling-down sounds after just two hours and twenty minutes of playtime. It’s the earphones equivalent of a mate tugging at your sleeve, complaining “I’m tired, can we go home now?” What’s even more annoying is that these power alerts repeat every five minutes and get progressively louder.
The left ear falls out of service first. Right at the three-hour play mark, the MW07s totally shut down, demanding a rejuvenation in that snazzy recharging case. The Jabra Elites delivered about the same useful life, while the Bose and Apple models kept on truckin’ for five hours. The Sennheisers ran a marathon 10 hours.
But honestly, is a pause so bad? After a three-hour listening session, even these well-fitting earphones began to wear out their welcome and started to feel uncomfortable. And you can be back to listening quickly: A 45-minute charge in the case delivers another 1.5 hours of playtime, while a full charge is accomplished in about 90 minutes (faster if the case is plugged into a USB-charger). The battery inside the case will charge the earphones two or three times before it needs a full charge of its own.
If you’re a picky shopper, an iconoclast, or a fashionista, the MW07 check the right boxes for style, comfort, and, sound quality. For sure you won’t see everyone else in town wearing these—or nearly indistinguishable knockoffs thereof either.