I was expecting this review because I am a huge fan of Marshall’s Major IV on-ear headphones. The $ 320 Monitor II ANC (Active Noise Canceling) headphones reviewed here are an over-ear type with more weight and larger drivers than the Major IVs.
The ANC Monitor II’s audio and noise-canceling performance rewarded my anticipation; however, I did not find them particularly comfortable for prolonged listening.
Look and features
Being a musician of a certain era, I love the look of the ANC Marshall Monitor II. They have the fake Tolex that dates back to Marshall amps. However, the tribute is not so notable as to put off users who are not familiar. Basically these are your typical dark headphones with a golden touch in the form of a joystick controller.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best noise-canceling headphones, where you will find reviews of competing offerings, as well as a buyer’s guide on the features to consider when purchasing this type of product.
Said four-way button / rocker is a joy (yes, a pun) because it puts all the most common functions (next track, previous track, volume up / down, pair and power) in one place. There is no need to have separate controls and memorize where they are.
However, there are two other buttons, cleverly and strategically placed on the back of the pivot joints for the cups: the ANC on / off and the M button, the latter of which can be configured to cycle through all three. adaptable 5 bands. EQ or activate your phone’s digital assistant.
There’s also a Marshall Bluetooth app, which sadly required me to sign up for access. This is clumsy, Marshall, and clumsy wasn’t really the word I wanted to use. Regardless, it’s a useful app that makes it easy to configure the M button; set the interval for the sleep timer and ANC strength; turn on and off the startup and shutdown sounds; and activate the ANC Monitor mode (that is, amplify outside noise).
I can’t tell you why this last feature is not available via the ANC button. The M button handles three EQ modes, so … It was probably an oversight.
The Monitor II ANC features 40mm drivers and a 32 ohm impedance, so almost any mobile device should be capable of handling them. Bluetooth is 5.0 and there is a microphone to use with your phone. There is a 3.5mm jack on board for wired use, and Marshall provides a cable. Of course, there is a USB-C port for charging and the whole thing is neatly wrapped in a Marshall gig bag. I added the “concert”; Marshall just calls it a carry bag.
Sound, drums, comfort
The sound of the Monitor II ANC is clear, accurate, and can be tailored to the occasion through the app. It’s fantastic in my book and pretty well balanced across all frequencies when the setup is flat. There is enough bass for most users, although there is nothing to rival Sony’s Extra Bass and its like.
The three default EQ modes were flat, mid-scoop, and mid-scoop with added bass / treble for vocals. There are several others. If you don’t like them, design your own.
The best part of the deal is that active noise cancellation doesn’t affect the sound to any great extent. There may have been a little dip at the top end, but I couldn’t really identify it or convince myself that it was actually there. Bottom line: Marshall’s ANC ranks among the best I’ve ever experienced.
Yes you hear a difference, load the app, and make the ANC less aggressive than the default 100 percent. Or slightly adjust the equalizer to compensate.
Battery life was decent at around 20 hours, slightly less than the 30 hours Marshall claims. Close enough.
As for that comforting thing. While I can’t play them for short listening sessions, I did mention that I didn’t find the ANC Monitor II physically kind to my ears in the long run. It’s not a big deal, but the lightly padded ear cups are under a fair amount of pressure and aren’t deep enough to keep my ear from touching the speaker grills. That, coupled with the somewhat hefty 12-ounce weight of the earbuds, made them irritating to wear over time.
Important warning here: I find many long-distance headsets uncomfortable for one or more of those same reasons.
I love everything the Monitor II ANC brings, especially the sound. If they were a little more comfortable, I would call them the best in class. I’m tempted to say that anyway, as most users probably won’t be as picky about the setting. I still recommend them over many others, including some that cost considerably more. Another Marshall winner.