(Pocket-lint) - In the world of wire-free earphones most manufacturers release products with little to distinguish them from their competitors, including price point. But with Master & Dynamic's MW07 earphones, that's never going to be an issue. Because these in-ears are among the most expensive wire-frees we've tested.
Tortoiseshell to match your sunnies
- Handcrafted acetate
- IPX4 splash proof
- Stainless steel charging case
Master & Dynamic clearly focused heavily on design and appearance of these wire-free earphones. Attention to looks is evident in both the ear buds themselves and the charging case provided to carry them in, plus the little pouch for carrying the carrying case.
Starting with the most important element: the earphones. We're quite fond of the hand-finished acetate used for the exterior. The semi-square/semi-circular housing is unlike anything else we've seen in this market before and it comes in four different finishes which, except from the standard black, are also very different to most others out there.
There's the brown Tortoiseshell colour, that would totally match a pair of tortoiseshell Ray-Ban sunnies. There's the Grey Terazzo with its grey camo vibe. Or the Steel Blue, which has a cloudy, almost vapour-like appearance. Of course, these options won't be for everyone, hence the safer matte black option.
In a similar ethos to the exterior design, the in-ear fins (if you can even call them that) are vastly different to anything else we've seen. Rather than big fin-shaped silicone tips that hug the inside of your ear, the MW07 features a series of miniature protruding tips built into a sleeve that fits over the earbuds. The end result is a pair of earphones that feels comfortable in the ear. The fit is secure too, offering ample grip without the uncomfortable stretching sensation you sometimes feel with these kinds of earphones.
What's more, if the regular sized grippy sleeve doesn't fit well, there are two different sizes, along with different sized ear tips, which can be used in any combination until you find one that works best.
It's not unlike Master & Dynamic to ship earphones and headphones with attractive cases. But the MW07's charging case isn't like any other we've seen in the wire-free market so far. Rather than give you a variation on the theme of plastic tubes or charging cradles, the MW07 earphones come in a stainless steel case, not too dissimilar to something you might expect to hold jewellery.
The entire case is covered in a polished stainless steel, and has a simple flip-open lid. It is something of a fingerprint (and scratch) magnet, but there's a handy pouch to slip the case into when you're on the move, to save it from being roughed up in your pocket. It's like Russian Dolls storage.
With the lid closed and earphones snugly held inside, three individual LED lights on the front indicate the battery levels of both individual earphones and the battery within the case itself. They show green when fully charged, amber when not, and red when battery is low.
These aren't earphones designed for workouts or exercise, but with the snug fit and basic IPX4 splash-resistant rating, you needn't fret if you get caught in a rain storm.
Solid connection, middling battery
- Bluetooth 4.2, aptX
- Quick-pairing/20m+ range
- 3.5 hours playback between charges
- 14 hours total use (inc. battery case charging)
Design and comfort is one important element in earphone manufacturing, but more so is performance. It's no good having a great looking, easy to wear pair of earphones if the connection drops all the time, or the battery doesn't last.
With the MW07 there are no such problems. Using a combination of Bluetooth 4.2 (for connecting to your phone) and NFMI (for connecting the individual earbuds to each other), the Master & Dynamic wire-frees are reliable and consistent in daily life, remaining connected to our test iPhone XS Max even when walking into a neighbouring room at home.
As a bonus, for phones that support it, there's Qualcomm's aptX connection technology. That means if you have a modern phone with a Snapdragon processor, there's a good chance you'll get really a consistent connection. We noticed no cut-outs or glitches when listening to music. Not once.
It's in battery life where the MW07 doesn't quite live up to some of its big-name competitors. Master & Dynamic promises up to three and a half hours of playback out of the charging case. After testing, we think around three hours is more accurate, meaning that the three additional charges supplied by the case should mean 12 hours of realistic use before you need to find a power supply. That's still long enough for an entire working week of commutes.
Other competitors are more impressive when it comes to stamina. Samsung's Gear Icon X, as one example, lasted us a solid four hours outside of its charging case, while the Bose SoundSport Free were able to last five hours or more.
Still, there are a couple of useful and convenient features in the M&D that might make that a worthwhile compromise. Apart from the design, which we prefer to most other wire-frees, there's the fact that the earphones know when they're in your ears and auto-pause when you take them out. Similarly, the small clicky buttons on the exterior are easy to find. Lastly, the case uses a Type-C port, not a micro-USB port, so can be charged using the same cable you use with your modern Android smartphone.
Blown away by bass
- Custom 10mm Beryllium drivers
- No EQ customisation
There's no other way to say this: we've never heard anything in the wire-free market quite like the MW07. That will be amazing for some, and not for others.
To explain: there's the default sound profile, but that's your lot. There's no downloadable app for adjusting the equalisation or creating your own sound profiles like you might get with the likes of the BeoPlay E8.
When we first started listening to the MW07, it was almost as if we felt a subwoofer had been implanted into our skull. That's how impressive the presence of bass is - you can feel it. And it's not dull, woolly bass either. This is in no doubt thanks to the 10mm Beryllium drivers, which are larger than the norm (as point of reference, the aforementioned Beoplay E8 earphones use a 5.7mm driver). Despite this heddy bass, there's an impressive mid-range to cut through, while treble has enough sparkle too.
The one missing feature is any sort of active noise-cancelling (ANC) or ambient noise pass-through. It's a feature we find in an increasing number of in-ears, but given its lack of effectiveness in small, in-ear audio products, we're not surprised to see it absent. Passive isolation is good enough that you should still be able to enjoy your music on a busy train.
There's no doubt about it: the M&D MW07 are great for people who don't want plain-looking in-ears and love their music to be loud and full.
Although not the cheapest around by any strecth of the imagination, these earphones' unique combination of full sound and grand design makes them among our favourite wire-free in-ears ever.
Perfection isn't quite achieved though. Battery life isn't as good as the best performing wire-frees out there, while the lack of equalisation customisation will be frustrating for some.
Still, they look cool and the stainless steel case is awesome. So we're forgiving of any shortcomings.
BeoPlay E8 wire free
Similar in a lot of ways to the MW07, BeoPlay's offering has similar battery life performance. You don't quite get the same full bass of the M&D, but that might be to your preference, plus the app does allow you create a tailored sound profile.
Bose Soundsport Free
For the more sporty (and those who want to spend a lot less than £280) there's the fantastic Bose Soundsport Free.