Probably better known for guitar amps, Marshall has been in the headphones realm for a while now.
Its latest wireless over-ear flagship, the Monitor II Active Noise Cancelling (ANC), features custom-tuned 40mm dynamic drivers said to deliver great sound quality.
But what catches my eye first is its good looks – its minimalist all-black design, metal frame, coiled cables and leather-clad oval ear cups easily make it stand out from the crowd.
There is also the white Marshall logo embossed on each ear cup and a tiny golden control knob on the right ear cup, reminiscent of Marshall’s guitar amps’ design.
Press and hold this knob to switch the headphones on or off. Push it up or down to increase or decrease volume and push it front or back to go to the next or previous track. It all feels so intuitive, with no touch gestures to remember, that I wonder why no other headphones maker has thought of doing the same.
A button each on the right and left ear cup hinge lets you switch equaliser presets and toggle the ANC (through the on, monitoring and off modes) respectively.
There is a 3.5mm jack and a USB-C charging port at the bottom of the left ear cup.
To pair the headphones with your smartphone, you need the Marshall Bluetooth app (available on Android and iOS), which allows you to select or customise the equaliser presets, adjust the amount of ANC in the monitoring mode and change the right hinge button assignment from controlling the equaliser presets to activating the voice assistant of your smartphone.
In terms of sound quality, I hear bright and crisp highs, clear mids and punchy but not overbearing bass. Vocals sound sharp and details are retained even when volume is dialled up high.
The headphones are very comfortable. I wear them all day without feeling that the headband is pressing on my head. The ear cups might look small but are able to cover my ears and create a nice seal from the environment.
The ANC is pretty good and able to cut out most of the ambient noise. But it is probably a notch down from the Bose QuietComfort 25 or Sony’s critically acclaimed WH-1000XM3.
• Comfortable to wear
• Great audio quality
• Intuitive control knob
• Long battery life
• Active Noise Cancelling not as good as market leaders’
• Slightly expensive
DRIVERS: Custom-tuned dynamic 40mm
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth 5.0
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3.5/5
BATTERY LIFE: 5/5
I like that it has a 3.5mm jack. It even comes with a coiled 3.5mm audio cable for you to plug into your laptop or smartphone. Furthermore, while some ANC headphones need to be powered on to be used with a 3.5mm jack, the Monitor II does not.
Battery life is rated at 30 hours with ANC turned on. I find this to be true, given the review unit’s battery life goes down to 50 per cent from a full charge when I leave it to play for 14 hours with the ANC turned on.
Unfortunately for the Monitor II, which costs $549, the WH-1000XM3 (launched two years ago) now costs $389. Thus, the new set might not seem that attractive in terms of price.
But apart from its price, which is slightly high, and its ANC performance being a notch below that of the market leaders, the Marshall Monitor II ANC offers a great package in terms of looks, audio quality and ANC capability.
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