Master & Dynamic MW09
“In both sound quality and design, the MW09 are a truly luxe set of wireless earbuds.”
- Beautiful design and materials
- Excellent sound quality
- Capable noise-canceling
- Huge amounts of battery life
- Bluetooth Multipoint
- Wireless charging
- A bit heavy for workouts
- Long delay between ANC modes
Perhaps more than any other personal audio brand, New York City’s Master & Dynamic (M&D) pays as much attention to how its products look and feel as it does to how they sound. Look no further than the company’s latest wireless earbuds, the MW09, for a perfect example.
Do you need earbuds that are constructed from aluminum and glass? Of course not. But since when do we just focus on what we need?
Fortunately, the MW09’s desirability is more than skin deep. To help justify their $349 starting price, M&D has covered the gamut by adding hi-res audio, wireless charging, Bluetooth Multipoint, a new AI-driven active noise canceling system — and to top it off, an absolutely gigantic amount of battery life. The question is whether the MW09’s combo of beauty and brains seal the deal, or if you should look elsewhere.
I spent the better part of a week with one of the first production MW09 to find out. The earbuds will be available for preorder at masterdynamic.com starting November 14.
I can’t ditch the feeling that if Steve Jobs had been able to design a set of wireless earbuds to accompany the launch of the iPhone 4 in 2010, they would have looked a lot like the MW09. At the time, the iPhone 4’s use of stainless steel-framed glass panels made it by far the sleekest smartphone that had ever been designed, and the MW09’s combination of sapphire crystal and aluminum create the same effect. I think they’re stunning.
The raised, circular section of the earbuds, which bears the M&D logo, looks like it’s a touch control. The sapphire crystal disk fits seamlessly and invisibly into the ringed frame. It’s so smooth that when you run your finger over it, it could provide the perfect surface for taps, swipes, and other gestures. But M&D has always favored physical buttons for its earbuds and headphones, and the MW09 use the same top-mounted controls as the company’s previous models.
When you buy the MW09, you can pick from two kinds of charging case: aluminum or Kevlar. There’s no difference between their battery capacities or their IPX4 water protection, and both support wireless charging (the MW08’s steel case option did not). But the Kevlar case weighs a little less — 1.7 ounces versus 2.2 ounces for the aluminum case — and it might prove more durable. I’m not sure these distinctions are worth paying the extra $50 unless you also really dig the Kevlar’s carbon-fiber-esque look.
The Kevlar model comes in green, blue, and gunmetal, while the aluminum version comes in black, white and silver, and gold — each with a color-matched case.
Regardless of which one you choose, the build quality is superb. Everything about the MW09 communicates luxury and precision, like an expensive Swiss watch or a German sports car.
There’s no getting around the fact that aluminum and glass weigh more than plastic. The MW09 earbuds tip the scales at 8.1 grams (0.28 ounces) each, which doesn’t sound like a lot until you realize that the Apple AirPods Pro are just 0.19 ounces and the Sony WF-1000XM5 are 0.2 ounces.
Adding almost 50% more mass could prove troublesome, but the MW09 have proven very comfortable for me — even for several hours at a time. Not only is their shape very ergonomic, but they also ship with a generous number of eartips: five sizes of silicone and two sizes of foam, which should help most people find a good fit. To help, the M&D Connect app now has a simple fit test that can check for a good seal.
You may notice the extra weight when jogging or working out. The main mass of the earbud sits outside the ear’s concha, so the pounding of high-impact activities can be felt as gravity tugs on the MW09. It’s not a deal breaker, and with an IP54 rating, the earbuds won’t come to any harm if you use them at the gym, as long as you clean them after use. But there are certainly better choices if workouts are a top priority.
As with previous M&D earbuds, the MW09’s controls are easy to use. Between the large multifunction button on the right earbud and the two-way rocker button on the left, all functions are covered, including playback, volume, call management, ANC/transparency modes, and activating your phone’s voice assistant. There’s no way to modify what the buttons control. But it’s such an intuitive setup that I doubt you’ll want to.
Each button provides excellent tactile response, but using them requires a kind of pinching movement in which you grip the earbud between your thumb and forefinger. It’s a cinch with bare hands, but doing it with gloves on could be tricky, especially when trying to locate the front versus the rear rocker. On the plus side, it’s nearly impossible to trigger a command accidentally when inserting or removing them from your ears.
Rounding out the controls are a set of wear sensors. These can be used to pause your tunes when you remove the earbuds, and they can power down the buds if they sense they’ve been out of your ears for longer than 30 minutes, 1 hour, or 3 hours.
Hi-res and lossless audio get a lot of buzz these days, so it’s not surprising that M&D wanted the MW09 to be as leading edge as possible in terms of format support. In addition to the bog-standard SBC and AAC lossy Bluetooth codecs, the earbuds are also Snapdragon Sound compatible, which adds aptX Adaptive for lossy hi-res at up to 24-bit/96kHz, as well as lossless CD quality at up to 16-bit/48kHz — but that last option requires an equally capable Snapdragon Sound phone. There are still precious few of those to be had. And, of course, we’re talking Android.
More relevant for iPhone owners — no Apple devices are compatible with hi-res or lossless audio over Bluetooth. I’ll discuss how all of this affects sound quality in a moment.
What’s universally useful is the MW09’s Bluetooth Multipoint capability. It lets you connect the earbuds to two devices simultaneously, and the M&D Connect app allows you you manage which two of these devices should be in play at any given time. Switching between active devices is seamless.
With Bluetooth 5.4 compatibility, M&D has prepped the MW09 for the coming wave of Bluetooth LE Audio devices and applications, including Bluetooth Auracast. It’s unlikely your current phone can support these yet, but it’s nice to know that you won’t need to upgrade your earbuds when you upgrade (or simply update) your phone.
When it comes to sound quality, M&D is its own competition. I still consider the company’s MW08 and MW08 Sport some of the best-sounding wireless earbuds you can buy, so my first question was how the MW09 compare.
As expected, they sound fantastic. The MW09 preserve everything I love about the MW08 — the full and rich sound, commanding yet musical bass, detailed midranges, and crystal clear highs — and then they go just a bit further. There’s a slight improvement in detail, with better separation between frequencies. The soundstage also has benefited. It’s wider and yet more precise, giving a greater sense of immersion and realism.
In the app, there’s now a small set of EQ presets, plus a manual five-band equalizer, something M&D has avoided in the past. I said I was OK with this absence on the MW08 given how good they sound right out of the box, but I’m not going to lie, I like that you can tweak the MW09’s sound signature — I just wish there were a way to save manual EQ settings.
And what about the rest of the competition? The MW09 find themselves up against the $280 Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3, $298 Sony WF-1000XM5, $300 Technics EAH-AZ80, and $399 Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) Pi7 S2.
It’s not much of a competition. Sadly for Sennheiser, B&W, and Technics, Sony is the only one of the four that can give M&D buyers a real alternative to the MW09 in terms of sound quality. The MW09 and WF-1000XM5 are well-matched in terms of tone and clarity, but each has its strengths. The MW09 excels at high-frequency clarity like vocals, while the XM5 provides more power to the lower end of the scale. The best one for you will likely come down to personal preference — I think they’re both best in class.
As for the MW09’s hi-res and lossless chops via Snapdragon Sound, I was able to hear a perceptible difference while using a Snapdragon-equipped Motorola ThinkPhone versus lossy audio on the iPhone 14. The ThinkPhone provided more detail, better separation of instruments, and much-improved bass musicality. The usual caveat for hi-res audio remains: You’ll need a compatible phone, a source of hi-res music, and a very quiet space in order to appreciate its benefits.
If you want the best active noise cancellation (ANC) in a set of wireless earbuds, you’re still looking at the AirPods Pro, WF-1000XM5, and Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds. These three are in a class by themselves. The same thing is true of their transparency modes.
However, outside of that holy trinity of silence, the MW09 more than hold their own, providing noise cancellation that I found to be all I needed when riding transit or simply walking busy streets. M&D says that the MW09 improve the ability to cancel low-frequency sounds when compared to the MW08. I wasn’t able to hear that. But with the foam eartips installed, they both performed very well. Transparency (or ambient as M&D calls it) is similarly capable, letting you hear conversations and important announcements, or just giving you better situational awareness. Your voice is the one thing that won’t sound quite as clear as everything else, but again, only Apple, Sony, and Bose do a better job.
The one thing I’d like to see M&D improve is the time it takes to switch between ANC modes. From the moment you press and hold on the rocker buttons, it takes 4 to 5 seconds to go from ANC off to ANC on, or from ANC off to ambient on. I realize it can’t be instant (yet), but since many other companies have managed faster times (typically 2 to 2.5 seconds or less), I think M&D should be able to shorten its time, too.
M&D has made some big strides in call quality on the MW09, which provide noticeably clearer voice transmission than the MW08. The gain on the mics has also been amped up a hair, so your callers won’t have to bump up their volume as much to hear you.
The MW09 still trail the Apple AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM5 when it comes to keeping background sounds from breaking through — if you happen to be in an especially noisy environment, your voice will suffer from a lot of compression — but we’re talking worst-case situations like having a garbage truck roll past you. The rest of the time, they sound great, and it can verge on studio quality when indoors.
New to the MW09 is a sidetone option. Sidetone lets you hear your own voice more clearly when on calls, which not only sounds more natural, but it also reduces fatigue. It does a good job when in ANC mode, but for the most natural sound, you’ll want to have Ambient and sidetone modes enabled.
There’s only one way to say this: The M&D MW09 have more battery life than you’re ever likely to need. At a claimed 12 hours per charge with ANC on and a huge 16 hours with it off, I never came close to exhausting their capacity during testing. Even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could stand to wear any earbuds for 12 hours without pause. When you take into account the case’s capacity (another 32 hours) and a fast-charge system that adds three hours of playtime for just 10 minutes of charging, the MW09 are never going to let you down when you need them.
Though they’re at the pricier end of the wireless earbuds market, the Master & Dynamic MW09 justify every penny with a design and materials that are second to none, sound quality that is arguably the best in their class, and more battery life than most people will ever need.
They may not rank in the top three for ANC, transparency, or call quality, but neither will they disappoint. And with a future-proofed Snapdragon Sound chipset, along with full LE Audio support, there’s a good chance that these earbuds will still be useful and usable long after others have ceased to be.
If you’re a happy MW08 owner — especially if you have the MW08 Sport — I don’t think you need to rush out and buy the MW09. But if you’ve been thinking of giving M&D a try, there’s never been a better time.