REVIEW – Over the last nine years, I’ve reviewed a lot of Master & Dynamic’s audio headphones, earphones, and even a concrete Bluetooth speaker! With each (almost yearly) iteration, M&D has made improvements in both sound and features. Some have been substantial, and some have been incremental. Their new MW09 earphones are more in the substantial camp but still hold onto what has made the MW series so popular over the years.
What is it?
The Master & Dynamic MW09 Active Noise Cancelling True Wireless Earphones (say that fast five times) are the newest of the MW line of earphones. Their unusual—but surprisingly comfortable—shape hides a large 11mm beryllium driver and lots of tech goodies.
The MW09 earphones keep their iconic “D” shaped aluminum shape but have added a sapphire glass circle in the center of the D. M&D claim their new patented antenna is improved and I assume the circular ring around the sapphire glass center may have something to do with it, but I’m not sure.
The MW09 is the first audio device I’ve seen with Bluetooth 5.4. Even more interesting is AuraCast, which the MW09s are ready to implement once available. AuraCast is a broadcast audio Bluetooth. For instance, if you are in a sports bar with a TV playing a game with closed captioning turned on, you can insert earphones like the MW09 and hear the broadcast. AuraCast opens up personal audio possibilities in public places, and those possibilities seem endless.
M&D has added what they call “Adaptive Noise Cancelling”. The MW09’s A.I.-assisted 6-microphone array adjusts the amount of active noise canceling (ANC) depending on surrounding conditions. The noisier the environment, the more noise is canceled. That’s a simplified explanation, but you get the picture.
Noise-canceling and other settings can be controlled within the M&D Connect app. More on that later in the review.
Battery life is improved—and not. The earphones can last up to 16 hours (up from 10 on the previous MW08 earphones), but the case provides 32 hours of charge time (down from 40 in the MW08). However, total charge time is a net gain. Note that volume, ANC, and other factors can affect battery run time.
The earphone fit has been slightly revised to work with a wider range of ear shapes and sizes.
- Dimensions: Case: 1.8 x 2.5 x 1 inch; Earphones: .7 x .8 x .8 inch
- 20.3 x 21.5 x 21 mm
- 5.4 Bluetooth
- Speakers: 11 mm Beryllium
- Weight: Aluminum Case: 2.2 oz.; Kevlar case: 1.8 oz.; Earphones: .28 oz.
- AptX Adaptive, AptX Lossless, AAC, LC3, and SBC
Design and features
When I first unboxed the Master & Dynamic MW09 earphones, I noticed that M&D added a choice of foam ear tips to the silicone ones but also removed the nice canvas pouch that’s been included with each previous MW version of earphones. While I liked adding foam tips, they were too short for my ears—much shorter than most Comply brand foam ear tips. So, I stuck with the X-large silicone tips that have always worked best for me.
I also noticed that M&D added a circular sapphire glass design to the outer earphone shell. It looks good (and I assume it’s functional), but I still prefer the simplicity of the flat surface of the MW07 and MW08 earphones.
M&W has an app that works with many of their headphone and earphones. The MW09 earphones have the added convenience of an “Acoustical Seal Test” that measures if either the Left or Right (or both) ear tips provide a proper seal. Keep in mind that if an earphone doesn’t have a good seal, it won’t sound good, no matter its price or quality. I’m sure this test will help many who want to achieve the best possible audio from their earphones, it just didn’t work for me. The only result I achieved were a “Poor Seal” regardless of the ear tip I used. I knew I was inserting the earphones correctly, so I ignored the test results and went with what I knew sounded right. Then, a couple of days later, the app told me the left and right seals were good with the same ear tips I had been using. Go figure.
Enough nit-picking. The Master & Dynamic MW09 earphones remain as well constructed and sound as good as any M&D earphone ever has—and that’s saying something. While I’ve always liked the warmer sound of the MW series, the MW09 earphones lean more toward an “audiophile” sound. There seems to be a bit more clarity to the audio, although it’s a subtle difference from previous versions. And if you do prefer a warmer sound, the app has a useful equalizer that has 4 presets and a custom EQ setting. My recommendation is to either leave EQ off or make your own custom EQ. The app will not save your custom EQ, but it will remember the previous setting.
Listening to my favorite music on the MW09 earphones is a pleasant experience. As I said, there’s clarity as well as a fun factor to music. I find the MW09 earphones comfortable over longer listening times with little to no ear fatigue.
The 11mm beryllium drivers pack a punch when called for. Plus the added audio quality of AptX Adaptive, AptX Lossless, AAC, LC3, and SBC codecs ensures that you’ll get the best possible Bluetooth audio. Note that Apple only supports AAC or SBC—AAC is much better than SBC.
The earphone housing retains its unique “D” shape with physical buttons on the top of each earpiece. The left earpiece button controls volume and the right earpiece has a multi-function button that can play/pause answer a call or prompt a voice assistant. Note that the button’s functions are not customizable.
Charging the case is done either by USB-C (cable included) or wirelessly. I’m not a fan of wireless charging, but it’s nice that M&D included it for those who do like it.
There are three types of ANC: Max, All Day, and Adaptive—a new setting to the MW09. Adaptive means that the earphones can use the built-in mics to measure outside noise to determine how much ANC is necessary. All Day is made for quieter environments giving you less of an isolated feeling. MAX is just that—maximum noise canceling. While I could tell a slight difference between Max and ALL Day ANC settings, Adaptive seemed to perform more like MAX than the All Day setting—at least in my home, which isn’t that noisy. None of the ANC settings seemed to affect how the music sounded—a good thing!
Ambient is like an anti-ANC setting. It lets in all surrounding noise which provides a safer feeling in an environment where awareness of your surroundings is important. There are 3 Ambient settings: Voice, Natural, and Awareness. Voice accentuates human voices. This is a good setting if you need to speak to someone while wearing the MW09s. I think it looks rude to speak while wearing them. I just remove one if I need to talk. Natural sounds about as close to well, natural while Awareness amplifies background noise a bit over natural hearing. With Awareness, surroundings are louder than normal.
The Sidetone setting is interesting. It allows you to hear your own voice in your ears while on a call. You would think this would be a given with all earphones, but nope. I was able to hear my voice better with Sidetone while on a call, but there was added bass to my voice. People I spoke with said I sounded fine and not distant or artificial, so the mics work well.
It didn’t seem to matter what kind of music I was listening to using the MW09 earphones. My tastes are eclectic. I can go from the underrated 80s band Talk Talk to Sinatra to the long and repetitive drone music of Steve Roach—all in a single listening session. The MW09 earphones don’t care. They give me what I want—my music, my way.
What I like
- Well made
- The typical M&D look
- Sound great
- A slightly more audiophile sound—if that’s what you want
- Useful app
What I’d change
- I still prefer the simplicity of the original design
Master & Dynamic has done it again with the MW09 earphones. While they’ve subtly improved on the MW08, the changes that were made are solid and welcome. Are these improvements worth the money for owners of the MW08? I would say no—especially since they are $100 more expensive. The MW08 earphones continue to be a good choice since M&D (at the time of this review) still sells them. But if you want to see what Master & Dynamic is all about, now is a good time and the MW09 earphones are a good start.