Montblanc MTB 03 review: divine looking wireless earbuds, marred only by OK ANC

Beautifully bijou, snowcap-finished, supremely pocketable wireless earbuds

Montblanc MTB 03 earbuds and case, held in a hand, on white background
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

OK I'll admit it: I love the classy aesthetic of these petite and very comfortable earbuds emerging demurely from my ears, in the same way I love using a Montblanc fountain pen to sign autographs (what? I've signed those). Sonically they're perfectly musical, if missing an extra inch in the soundscape to allow each audio element to shine. The ANC offers some interesting options but ultimately it's fine rather than excellent and the lack of multipoint connectivity does leave us a little disappointed at this high-end level.


  • +

    Lovely small design; classy finish

  • +

    Lossless audio codec support

  • +

    Supreme pride of ownership


  • -

    No multipoint connectivity

  • -

    A shade off excellent for expanse and detail

  • -

    ANC is only OK

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Aren't they beautiful? Don't you want to produce them from your Aspinal Mini Paris bag, as you sit down to a Café Allongé in Montmartre, where you'll write your memoirs (in German, for now) in a leather-bound notebook using your also Montblanc Meisterstück fountain pen? 

Even next to the very best noise cancelling earbuds in the business, the luxury goods purveyor's inaugural earbuds are easily the prettiest of the lot (for clarity: they supersede the firm's debut Montblanc MB 01 Smart Headphones, an over-ear proposition released in 2020). The new MTB 03 are also gloriously small and comfortable to wear. You get aptX Adaptive support for higher-resolution audio, IPX4 water resistance, plus an app that – while relatively basic (compared to the Sony Headphones Connect app, for example) – still offers a five band EQ tab, interesting noise cancellation and ambient features, auto-off wearer detection and a lovely visual representation of the remaining battery life in each bud.

If you're happy to pay a premium for the quality build, finish and iconic snowcap emblem within earbuds that sound good, I support you – yes, sonically they are very good for depth and neutrality when listening to higher-resolution music files. Even layered, multi-faceted songs within Apple Music's Lossless oeuvre such as Nine Inch Nails' Head Like a Hole are celebrated with energy and alacrity by the MTB 03.

The complicated time signatures, dynamic shifts and delicate acoustic-guitar-meets-in-your-face-yelling within System of a Down's Chop Suey! are also handled with relative ease across the frequencies in a sensibly-refined mix.

Montblanc MTB 03 earbuds in their case, held in a hand on white background

It's not the smallest case on the market, but it's pocketable (Image credit: Future)

Will you need to make compromises to get the Montblanc look? Yes: the active noise cancellation (ANC) can be beaten for efficacy, you don't get multipoint connectivity (if there's also an iPad mini in that Aspinal bag for instance, you won't be able to chop and change between the two source devices with ease), there's no spatial audio processing or fit-fest whistles and bells, and the on-ear controls are not for tailoring – you get what you get. For the most part that's OK because I like what you get here, but it's my job to nitpick and crunch the numbers. 

The thing is, this truly is aspirational territory. At this price, the iconic Hamburg institution (and Axel Grell, the revered audio engineer who put his name to the sound) invites my pickiest criticism and given the premium cost of these high-end earbuds, I have three issues. 

First off, while the sound times very well indeed and is musically cohesive, it can lack the extra im Kopf expanse you'll find in the presentation of the Technics EAH-AZ80 –the kind of super-spacious mix that might allow the leading edges of notes within my reference tracks to reveal themselves anew. 

Don't get me wrong, I like the MTB 03's sound; the presentation is perfectly pleasing when you give them something good to work with. Lossy files will be divulged as such, (Spotify Free or MP3 listener? You won't like these – I found Ogg Vorbis tracks at 256kbps a little tinny) but this is Montblanc, if you're on the market for the opulent brand's earbuds, you'll probably also be able to spring for a paid-for music subscription.

Secondly, regular readers may remember that the aforementioned Technics May 2023 flagship earbuds offer multipoint connectivity to three devices. How many sources can the inaugural Montblanc earbuds connect to simultaneously? Just the one. 

Montblanc MTB 03 companion app, three screens showing the ANC and Live profiles

The immersive audio and modes are great fun to experiment with, but note that not all can't be used at the same time, in some Modes (Image credit: Future)

Finally, the noise cancellation profiles are fine rather than fantastic. Deploy ANC within the Sound Mode tab and you can pick from Sports, Office or Travel profiles. In the office (here, I select Office – well, you would), I find the audio playback is amplified somewhat, but the low-level background chat behind me still creeps in more so than with my reference Technics earbuds or the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds (although admittedly those are best-in-class, where noise-nixing is concerned). 

The 'Live Mode' tab below it offers Environment, Voice Focus or Attention options, all of which Montblanc suggests are useful in situations such as airports or listening for train announcements. My favourite of these is Voice Focus, which uses the MTB 03's three mics per bud to do what the profile promises without coloring or sweetening your music. Call quality is also good and the case can charge wirelessly as well as via USB-C. 

The true wireless earbuds market is full to bursting and the Montblanc MTB 03's USP is bijou beauty, rather than spatial audio wizardry, supremely tailored audio or bubble-of-silence noise cancellation. That said, to assume it's a case of style over substance would be wrong; the sound is better than that. 

What makes most sense to you when selecting a set of earbuds is of course a deeply personal matter. Yet Montblanc's proposition is at the very top end of the market and it would be wrong of me not to mention that for similar money you can buy extra features and marginally better sound, if you want that. 

Montblanc MTB 03 review: Price & release date

  • Officially priced $395 / £345 / AU$640
  • Launched July 1, 2023

At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, by pricing them at $395 / £345 / AU$640, Montblanc expects you to pay a $95 / £45 premium over most of the MTB 03's direct rivals. 

Want to compare by way of a quick rundown of top-tier options from the heavy-hitters? Of course: Bose's QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds will set you back $299 / £299 / AU$449, Sony's 2023 flagship WF-1000XM5 are around $299.99 / £259 / AU$499 and the excellent Technics EAH-AZ80 (which boast triple-device connectivity and some of the best call quality I've ever experienced), also come in at $299 / £259 / AU$499). 

See what I mean? Then again, it has ever been thus in the designer fashion industry. Want the label? You have to pay for it. But hold on! That's not all you're paying for here. The build quality – simply cradle the small metallic case in your palm to feel it – does feel that little bit, well… more expensive. 

Montblanc MTB 03 earbud held in a hand

(Image credit: Future)

Montblanc MTB 03 review: Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Drivers7mm Beryllium
Active noise cancellationYes
Battery life6hrs (earbuds) 18hrs (case)
Weight6g per earbud
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.2, USB-C, aptX Adaptive
Frequency range20Hz - 20kHz
Other featuresSound tuned by Axel Grell; Qi wireless charging

Should you buy the Montblanc MTB 03?

Swipe to scroll horizontally
FeaturesANC is fine rather than excellent, good EQ, app and on-ear controls4 / 5
Sound qualityMusically cohesive and neutral, just beaten for detail and expanse4 / 5
DesignStunning build and finish; no notes5 / 5
ValueHow to put this? They're expensive against the competition3.5 / 5

Buy them if...

You want the look – and the feel
I mean, just look at them. Also that case is metal, not plastic, and the feel is cool and oh-so expensive. 

Your ears are on the delicately small side
The Montblanc MTB 03 are some of the smallest and most comfortable earbuds I've worn – and the little depression on each bud to show you where to tap is a lovely touch.

You pay for a top-tier music subscription
With aptX Adaptive onboard, you're going to want to make use of it with a Tidal, Qobuz or Apple Music subscription. The Montblanc MTB 03 don't take kindly to your lowlier Ogg Vorbis 256kbps files. 

Don't buy them if...

You like fit tests and otoacoustic listening profiles
There's a lovely five-band EQ tab and options for ANC, but if you want to undergo the pips and pops of hearing-test software, you need to look to something like the Denon PerL Pro or even the Nothing Ear (2)

You love multipoint connectivity
No dice here, friend

You need buubble-of-silence ANC
Montblanc's noise-nixing profiles do help to quash extraneous noise, but for this money you can do better –look to the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds. 

Montblanc MTB 03 on white background, held in a hand

(Image credit: Future)

Montblanc MTB 03 review: Also consider

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Montblanc MTB 03Bose QuietComfort Earbuds UltraTechnics EAH-AZ80Sony WF-1000XM5
Price$395 / £345 / AU$640$299 / £299 / AU$449$299; £259; AU$499$299.99 / £259 / AU$499
Drivers7mm Beryllium9.3mm10mm 8.4mm
Active noise cancellationYesYesYesYes
Quoted battery life(Up to) 6h (buds); (up to) 18h (case)(Up to) 6h (buds); (up to) 24h (case inclusive)(Up to) 7h (earbuds); (up to) 25h (charging case)8 hours (buds); 24hrs total with case
Weight6g per earpiece6.24g per earpiece7g per earpiece4.2g per earpiece
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.2, aptX Adaptive, USB-C and Qi wireless chargingBluetooth 5.3, aptX AdaptiveBluetooth 5.3, LDACBluetooth 5.3, LDAC
Frequency range20Hz - 20kHz Not stated20Hz - 40kHzNot specified
WaterproofingYes, IPX4Yes, IPX4Yes, IPX4Yes, IPX4
Other featuresN/AImmersive Audio Dirac VirtuoSony 360 Reality Audio

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
They're bigger and not quite as comfortable as the Montblanc proposition (plus the case won't charge wirelessly unless you buy a separate cover for it) but Bose's facility with active noise-cancellation and ambient aware features is some of the best in the business – and more importantly you now get Bose's proprietary Immersive Audio feature, which represents good value depending on your priorities. Undecided? Our Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review can help. 


Technics EAH-AZ80
As with the Montblanc MTB 03 there's no spatial audio upmixing here and the earpieces are a little deeper (they're actually a gram heavier per bud), but they're comfortable and the premium build quality is here again. The thing is, you get multipoint to three devices, which is two more than Montblanc offers and sonically the Technics product also edges it – as you can read about in our full Technics EAH-AZ80 review


Sony WF-1000XM5
A similarly small earpiece, 360 Reality Audio and a case that fits comfortably in your pocket (albeit a little basic-looking next to the Montblanc MTB 03's snowcap-adorned box), with all of Sony's flagship upscaling tech – and LDAC for higher-resolution audio. That said, we don't think the adaptive noise cancellation in this particular iteration is much better than the Montblanc MTB 03. Read more on this in our full Sony WF-1000XM5 review.

Montblanc MTB 03 earbuds worn by TechRadar's Becky Scarrott

(Image credit: Future)

How I tested the Montblanc MTB 03

  • Tested for 10 days, listened against the Technics EAH-AZ80, Sony WF-1000XM5 and Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
  • Used at work (train commute; in the office; walking through London) and on the wild Dorset coast
  • Listened to Tidal Masters, Apple Music Lossless tracks and Spotify on an iPhone 12 Pro, Sony Xperia 1 IV and a MacBook Pro

When testing earbuds or headphones, time and attention is key – as is switching off and letting them surprize you. The Montblanc MTB 03 have been my musical companions for nine days solid – after a thorough 48-hour run-in period. 

And I've certainly felt pride of ownership during this time. To wear a designer earbud is to receive compliments and nods of approval, but it is made all the easier when they're as comfortable and easy to fit as these. 

To better test those comfort levels (and battery life claims), I wore them throughout the working day in a busy office and on the noisy London Underground network. I also wore them while pole training, to check the fit and security. They fared well.

The Montblanc MTB 03 accompanied me to work on weekdays (walking brusquely to the station; boarding a train and the London Underground; at the office) and on a particularly stormy day stomping on a secret Dorset beach – a great way to test any wind-interference from mics during calls. 

When testing the audio quality across the frequencies, I listen to myriad playlists (spanning everything from traditional Celtic songs to thrash metal and on to shoegaze) on Apple Music and Tidal, but also to podcasts and albums on Spotify – and TikTok videos on my MacBook Pro. 

I’ve been testing audio products for five years now. As a classical dancer, aerialist, and musical theater performer in another life, sound quality, fit, and user experience have always taken priority for me personally – and having heard how wonderful ANC can sound when done well, I know where the bar is there.

Becky Scarrott
Senior Audio Staff Writer

Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.