M&D MW08 ($299): The original launch this cycle, the MW08 lacks the shatter-resistant faceplates, foam tips and lightweight case but is, otherwise, identical and slightly cheaper. Sonically, the MW08 is slightly more balanced and refined, but upholds a similar warm, organic and mid-bass focused tonality. It is a little more defined through the bass with slightly better separation and a smidge less emphasis. The midrange benefits from this most, as it is slightly less tonally coloured, the MW08 sounds less congested and more articulate. The treble also is slightly more present and open, it has similar quality and a similar note presentation, but simply sits more forward. This better balances out its big bass. The MW08S has more power and bass focus, however, I wasn’t a fan of the additional thickness added to the midrange which harms separation and clarity.
Lypertek Z7 ($199): The Z7 offers a 3-driver hybrid configuration and far more flexible app with full eQ. It does, however, lack ANC but has a well-isolating design all the same. The fit is slightly less stable and the build quality and haptics aren’t as nice. The Z7 is a similar style of tuning with a warm, thick low-end. However, it has a bigger bump to its midrange frequencies too making it a lot more balanced overall. The Z7 has more sub-bass weight and a slightly cleaner mid-bass. Despite this, it doesn’t have quite the same extension and dynamics as the MW08S, but it does have a cleaner tone and retrieves fine textures better. The Z7 has a full-bodied midrange but a lot more presence and clarity than the MW08S with a larger upper-mid bump.
It sounds more balanced here and more defined, the MW08S is clear but has more congestion due to greater bass spill. The Z7 has a smoother treble but a slightly cleaner transient response that gives its notes more bite. The MW08S has a bit more crispness here and sounds similarly well-detailed in turn. The Z7 does extend a bit better but both have similar soundstage expansion overall. The main benefit to the Z7 is its eQ support meaning you can easily adjust the sound to your liking. With its dual-BA tweeters, you can get a very impressive detail retrieval from the Z7 that exceeds all competitors I’ve yet tried.
Sony WF-1000XM4 ($280): The reigning ANC champ, the Sony is slightly cheaper, more stable fitting and cancels noise more effectively and over a wider range of frequencies. However, the shells are much larger and may not be comfortable for all, I found the MW08S more comfortable for my ears if worn for over an hour. The Sony also has more smart features plus eQ support in its app. In listening, the Sony is warm and L-shaped but far less bass biased than the MW08S. The M&D extends better in the bass, it has greater slam, rumble and texture. The Sony is warmer and smoother, its notes are nicely defined but more rounded and less aggressive. As it has less bass emphasis, it sounds a bit more separated but not as dynamic.
The Sony has a more present, less coloured midrange. While it is also laid-back and on the warm and smooth side, it is far less so than the MW08S. As it has less bass too, it has better separation which aids clarity and balance overall. Treble has similar quantity on both, the Sony is a bit more linear and airy, the MW08S is crisper and more energetic. The MW08S has a sharper attack, having a more defined note presentation. It also has a wider soundstage. While I do think the driver quality is better on the MW08S, delivering more raw detail, the Sony has a better tonal balance and eQ support means you can adjust this to your liking as well. Given the Sony now has an IP-rating, it is a far more versatile buy.
I lauded the MW08 for providing market-leading build quality and design whilst almost matching leaders in all other aspects. The MW08S takes a few steps forward and several back making it difficult to position as an all-around upgrade from the MW08. While one could rationalise that the sound tuning is better suited towards loud environments, the more isolating tips and effective ANC are already sufficient for these use cases. I would argue that there is a very small niche looking to spend this kind of money on an earphone purely for fitness, so I find the MW08 to offer the more versatile package overall. The shatter-resistant faceplates and lighter, Qi-enabled charging case are both very meaningful upgrades that aid convenience during daily use. However, the drop in sonic balance and finesse does make this a far more situational purchase than the MW08 and most competitors for that matter. Still, if you have the luxury of spending this sum on a TWS earphone purely for exercise, then the MW08S’ powerful sound, stable fit and effective ANC make it a good contender, especially alongside a slew of luxuries you won’t find elsewhere.
The MW08 is available from Master & Dynamic (International) for €349 at the time of writing. I am not affiliated with Master & Dynamic and receive no earnings from purchases made through these links.