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Montblanc MTB 03 review: The whole point of exclusivity is that it doesn’t come cheap

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £345
inc VAT

They’re not perfect, but the Montblanc MTB 03 true wireless earbuds are no dilettantes either


  • Sound can be full of insight and impact
  • Beautifully built and finished
  • Comfortable


  • No fans of cheaper or rougher recordings
  • ANC is nothing special
  • Very expensive

The Montblanc MTB 03 true wireless earbuds have no more right to work than the Montblanc MB 01 wireless over-ear headphones the company launched in 2020. But by involving acknowledged experts from the outset in order to achieve competitive sound quality, and by sticking to its long-established principles as regards materials, construction, pride of ownership and eye-watering prices, Montblanc has delivered a product that can justify itself. Just about.

There are accommodations to be made, of course. The active noise cancellation falls some way short of the best noise-cancelling earbuds around and battery life is bang average. The MTB 03 simply don’t understand compressed files or cheaper, aggressive recordings – and, what’s more, they don’t want to understand.

Get beyond these drawbacks, though, and there’s lots to like – admire, even – in the way the Montblanc MTB 03 deliver music. They’re a detailed, expressive and full-range listen, and can communicate eloquently when given appropriate content to work with. In terms of sheer fidelity, their best is as good as anyone’s.

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Montblanc MTB 03 review: What do you get for the money?

£345 put Montblanc’s way for a pair of MTB 03 buys you some thoroughly engineered true wireless earbuds courtesy, in large part, of renowned in-ear monitor savant Axel Grell. It buys you as great a sensation of premium and exclusive as the company has been able to cram into a product that needs, by necessity, to be as small and light as possible.

The 85g charging case, for instance, is made of anodised black aluminium and has Montblanc’s recognisable to those who recognise it white six-pointed star logo on its lid. It almost goes without saying that it closes with a very satisfying click. Inside, there are a couple of earbuds, each toting the company logo and each made in significant part from the glossy black resin Montblanc uses for its famous fountain pens. Their shape is ergonomic and the joint holding together the two pieces that make up each earbud is of shiny stainless steel.

The MTB 03 connect wirelessly over Bluetooth 5.2 and support the SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive codecs. Each earbud is fitted with a 7mm beryllium full-range dynamic driver, delivering a claimed frequency response of 20Hz – 20kHz. And those full-spectrum sounds can be enjoyed for around six hours at a time because that’s how much power the earbuds hold – the charging case includes a further three full charges. There’s no wireless charging option here, so topping up occurs using the case’s USB-C socket.

Each earbud is IPX4-rated, so those six hours can happily be spent in most reasonable environments. And each features three mics, which cover active noise cancellation, voice-assistant interaction and telephony. Voice control is via your source player’s native assistant, of course.

There is also a control app – MB Sound, which is available on both iOS and Android – and this is useful up to a point. It allows you to switch ANC on or off – when it’s on, there’s a choice of three settings: Sport, Travel and Office. Select transparency (which Montblanc calls ‘Live mode’) and you can choose between Attention, Environment or Voice Focus options. There are 12 EQ presets plus a five-band equaliser for tuning the sound yourself, which is particularly helpful.

The six-pointed star on each earbud sits on top of a capacitive touch surface, and from here you power the buds on and off, play and pause audio, skip forwards and backwards a track, put the buds into Bluetooth pairing mode, answer, end and reject calls, and cycle through the various ANC options. Commands are reasonably responsive and reliable but the omission of volume adjustment from the suite of touch controls is both surprising and disappointing.

READ NEXT: Best cheap noise-cancelling headphones

Montblanc MTB 03 review: What did we like about them?

As far as functionality is concerned, the MTB 03 are pretty well sorted. The app doesn’t do a lot, but it’s stable and logical, and it certainly looks the part – if there’s a glossier, more up-market control app around, I’m yet to see it. The touch controls do what you ask, and interaction with voice assistants is reliable too – and, by the same token, calls are rendered quite crisply and intelligibly.

And you can elevate your MTB 03 from exclusive to unique by taking advantage of Montblanc’s offer of free charging case engraving. You can have as many as 13 characters on there, in one of three fonts.

This is all well and good, of course, but like every other pair of true wireless earbuds, it’s sound quality by which the MTB 03 live or die. And in the right circumstances, these earbuds are little short of an enthralling listen.

The right circumstances in this instance mean well-recorded music rendered as large, information-rich digital audio files. Pander to your Montblanc in this regard and there’s plenty to admire. A 24bit/96kHz file of Weyes Blood’s Grapevine sent via aptX Adaptive makes the point in unequivocal terms.

The entire frequency range is reproduced with the emphasis slightly, but undoubtedly, on the warm side of neutral – the MTB 03 are a rich listen, sure, but not as rich as their owners. Integration of the frequency range is clean and consistent, and so there’s a nice evenness of presentation that helps recordings sound unified and of a whole.

Low-frequency extension is considerable, and as well as digging deep the MTB 03 are able to load bass sounds with detail at the same time as keeping control of attack and decay. As a result, there’s good momentum to recordings and very agreeable expression of rhythms. It’s a similar story at the opposite end, inasmuch as treble sounds have sufficient body to balance their brightness – and they’re just as informative and detailed as the low end.

Between them, the midrange is reproduced with deft attention to detail and enough insight to make a singer sound like a characterful individual. The ability the Montblanc have with soundstaging means there’s always a little area of space in which a vocalist can operate, sufficient elbow-room for a singer to stretch out a little – but it’s never at the expense of the unity or singularity of the presentation.

Dynamic headroom is considerable, so those recordings that demand it can have quite a distance put between their quietest and loudest moments. Harmonic variation is considerable too, the MTB 03 are able to make the differences between individual keystrokes of a piano, for example, entirely apparent. This sort of low-level dynamic ability is by no means a given in wireless earbuds of any price, from any brand.

READ NEXT: The best wireless earbuds under £100

Montblanc MTB 03 review: What could be improved?

There are no two ways about it: the MTB 03 are picky. If you decide to listen to inappropriate content, either in terms of its bit rate or the quality of the recording in the first place, the Montblanc will let you know it’s a bit beneath them.

It follows that a 320kbps file of Container Drivers by The Fall is treated with something approaching contempt. The relative warmth of the tonality is no help, and the earbuds’ attempts to smooth off the recording’s rough edges are doomed to failure – the result is a compromise that will satisfy nobody. Little of the recording’s ramshackle aggression makes it out in one piece.

The active noise cancellation available here is differently, but equally, problematic. All of the sound quality positives mentioned in the previous section assume ANC is switched off. Switch it on and the MTB 03 become a little duller at the top of the frequency range – it’s noticeable, but hardly a deal-breaker. What is even more noticeable is the effect switching on ANC has on external sounds: they’re reduced, but not by as much as a) you were hoping, and b) many competitors can manage. If you’re expecting to be completely isolated from the drone of the aircraft (or the drone of its passengers), you’ll be a little disappointed.

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Montblanc MTB 03 review: Should you buy them?

A pair of MTB 03 is no more of a hard-nosed, dispassionate decision than buying any other item in the Montblanc catalogue – you want them because, outside of the business class lounge, no one has a pair.

You want them because they look pretty anonymous to most people, but will impress those in the know. But having said that, the MTB 03 are better, in pure performance terms, than they probably needed to be.

In absolute terms, you’re better off with a pair of Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2, Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 or Sony WF-1000XM5 – but let’s face it: you see those everywhere, don’t you?

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