Marshall may be best known for its iconic guitar amplifiers, but it’s a growing name in the world of headphones, too – particularly for those who don’t want to sacrifice modern conveniences like wireless connectivity and noise cancellation for retro-cool looks.
We had the chance to briefly test the rock-inspired headphones, and so far, we’re impressed by these Sony WH-1000XM3 alternatives.
Price and availability
The Marshall Monitor II ANCs are available to preorder now from the Marshall website, but won’t actually be available until March 17.
At $319 / £269 (roughly AU$475), they’re about $30 / £30 cheaper than our current favorite noise-cancelling headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM3, although they’re significantly more expensive than Marshall’s most recent on-ear headphones, the Major Voice III.
The new over-ear headphones look very similar to their predecessors, the Marshall Monitor Bluetooth, with oval-shaped earcups and a leather-effect finish that harks back to Marshall’s renowned guitar amplifiers.
Like the Marshall’s other headphones, the Monitor II ANCs are designed for those who want to wear the brand with pride, with the Marshall logo embossed in white script on the outer housing of each ear cup.
On the right earcup you’ll find a gold control knob, which allows you to play, pause, shuffle, and adjust the volume of your music, as well as turn the Major III Voice on and off. This multi-functional button can also be used to answer, reject, and end calls.
Just above this, there’s the ‘M’ button, which lets you switch between equalizer presets (more on these later), or summon Google Assistant on your device.
On the left earcup, there’s an ‘ANC’ button that lets you toggle between regular active noise-cancelling, ‘Monitoring Mode’, and turning it off altogether. At the bottom of this earcup is a 3.5mm audio port should you want to listen with the included coiled wire, as well as a USB-C charging port.
The Marshall Monitor II ANCs are fully collapsible, with a super-flexible headband that can withstand a little twisting if you want to pack them away. For extra peace of mind, they come with a denim carrying pouch; it won’t offer the protection of a hard case but it should save your cans from scratches.
We found them to be pretty comfortable in the brief time we spent testing them, thanks to their soft ear cups and well-padded headband – we’ll need to spend a little longer with them to see how the Monitor II ANCs fare during extended listening sessions, though.
Features and performance
Like their predecessors, the Marshall Monitor II ANCs come with a 30-hour battery life, matching that of the Sony WH-1000XM3 and easily surpassing the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
That’s with noise cancellation switched on, too – turn it off and Marshall says you’ll get 45 hours of wireless playback. We haven’t spent enough time with them to verify this, but we’ll be sure to put the Monitor II ANCs through their paces when we carry out our full review.
Pairing the headphones with our smartphone was seamless, thanks to their support for Bluetooth 5.0. The Monitor II ANCs work with the Marshall Bluetooth app – we tested a beta version of the app, which allowed us to toggle through the different noise cancellation settings and switch through EQ presets.
The noise cancellation on offer seems pretty effective at blocking out environmental sounds, although we’d like to test it in a variety of settings to see how the headphones cope with factors like wind and traffic.
Listening to Wildfire by SBTRKT (feat Little Dragon), the subby bass sounds punchy and tight, while lush vocals are clear and rich; meanwhile, whining synths oscillate as trap drums stipple and scatter in the background.
Generally, the Monitor II ANCs sound quite well-balanced, though at first listen they don’t seem to boast the wide soundstage or the dexterity of the Sony WH-1000XM3s and other class-leading over-ear headphones.
After spending a little time with them, the Marshall Monitor II ANCs seem to be a capable pair of noise-cancelling headphones, with a well-balanced soundstage and a cool design.
They feel comfortable enough, and if their battery life is as good as Marshall, they could be a decent – and slightly cheaper – alternative to the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Headphones, especially for those who want to stand out from the sea of minimalist over-ear headphones out there.
We’ll need to spend some more time with the Monitor II ANCs before we can be sure though – stay tuned for our full review in the coming weeks.