Comfortable, durable, wireless headphones with long battery life and signature sound
Marshall’s second iteration of its top Monitor wireless headphones add active noise cancellation and up to 45 hours of battery life while keeping their classic looks.
Marshall brand headphones combine powerful, distinctive sound with a classic look reminiscent of the company’s guitar amps. The £280 Monitor II ANC are no exception.
The headphones fully enclose your ear with medium-sized cups, comfortable pads and a firm but evenly distributed grip on your head. The headband is lined with leatherette-covered foam and does a good job of staying put without too much pressure on your skull.
Despite being Marshall’s largest headphones, the Monitor II are comparatively small and discreet with a relatively low profile on your head that’s very welcome. The ear cups are held by sturdy-feeling metal arms with a full range of articulation that slide in and out of the headband, clicking into place for a comfortable fit.
They fold up in a number of different ways, making them some of the most compact and easy to pack full-size headphones for travelling.
Marshall’s best-in-class control joystick returns. Press it in for pause/play, up and down for volume, or left and right for track skip. Why others don’t copy this brilliant method of controls on headphones I have no idea.
Two buttons on the back hinges of the ear cups take care of noise-cancelling modes and switching the equaliser between three user-selectable pre-sets. Press the noise-cancelling button to switch between active noise cancelling (ANC) and ambient sound modes or press and hold to turn it off.
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C charging, 3.5mm headphones socket
Bluetooth codecs: SBC only
Battery life: 30 hours with ANC, 45 hours without
The headphones have a traditional 3.5mm socket and ship with a detachable cable that can be used with or without the power on.
The Bluetooth connection to an iPhone 11 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and OnePlus 7 Pro 5G was strong and skip-free. But Marshall has taken a backward step, only supporting the most basic SBC Bluetooth audio codec.
All Apple, Android and Windows devices support the improved AAC codec, while the latter pair also support aptX: a more advanced codec Marshall used in previous headphones. The better the Bluetooth audio codec, the higher the quality of audio. Thankfully, I saw no lip-sync problems with any of the common video-playing apps across Android, iOS and even YouTube in Microsoft’s Edge browser on Windows 10.
Call quality was good. The recipient’s voice came through clear and loud in the headphones, while my voice was audible with a good amount of sidetone. The other end of the call said my voice was loud, clear and crisp, even if a little background noise seeped in intermittently.
Active noise cancelling
ANC uses inverse sound waves to cancel out unwanted noise before it hits your eardrum and has become bare minimum for high-end wireless headphones.
By default, ANC is turned up to maximum on the headphones but you can turn it down in the Marshall app if you want more awareness of your surroundings. It works fine for cancelling out the rumble of an engine, and fairly well on road noise, but it is not very good at dealing with speech, meaning they are not the best for simply concentrating in an office or blocking out noisy commuters.
The headphones also struggle to deal with wind noise, making listening to music in a gusty environment difficult. Turning off noise cancelling was the best option.
Overall, Bose, B&W and Sony have nothing to fear here, so if super-effective noise cancelling is your primary driver, best to look elsewhere.
Marshall’s headphones have a particular sound that people love. Often they are best suited to rock, with a raw, grungy sound that’s exciting and full of energy. The Monitor II headphones also have that sound but are better at dealing with other genres of music, too, sounding almost as good with driving electronica or background lounge, while giving large orchestral scores a good go.
The “Marshall sound” equaliser is active by default, which produces their best sound with an overall warm tone, fairly controlled bass and full-blooded mids, while highs are a little muted in places. The soundscape is surprisingly wide, giving a good immersive listening experience for big pieces, while there is a good amount of separation between instruments and tones keeping things clear when tracks get a bit intense.
They do not quite rival the very best, such as B&W’s PX7, but if you like Marshall’s warm, rock-focused sound, you will love the Monitor II.
Battery life is so long you may forget you ever have to charge them. The Monitor II headphones are designed to last up to 30 hours with noise cancelling active and 45 hours with it off, which seemed a little conservative in my testing.
That is easily enough to cover any flight or most weekly commutes without needing to charge. They take two hours to fully charge via USB-C but a 15-minute top-up will add about five hours playback if you do happen to forget to charge them.
You cannot use the USB-C port for audio but you can charge them and listen to them at the same time.
It is worth noting that the battery is rated for 500 charge cycles, which Marshall says is about eight years of average use, after which the battery will be limited to below 80%. The battery is not replaceable but the headphones are broadly repairable, with replacement ear cups, cables and filters that can be bought from Marshall.
The headphones are not made from any recycled material but are made from responsibly sourced materials.
The Marshall Monitor II cost £279.99.
For comparison, the Major III Voice cost £149.99, the MID ANC £239.99, the Bose QC 35 II £249.95, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 £349.95, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 £349.99, the Sony WH-1000XM3 £329, and the Beats Studio 3 Wireless £299.95.
The Marshall Monitor II ANC are a set of rocking headphones that look every bit the part.
Despite being full-sized headphones, they are fairly slimline, with classic styling that sets them apart. They are robust, fold up to be much more compact than rivals and are far more comfortable than many – if you want to rock out for hours on end, they have the fit to make sure you can last as long as their 30 to 45-hour battery will.
They have a sound that is slightly more refined than previous Marshall headphones, making them sound good for a wider range of genres, but the warm sound is still best with a trashing guitar packing plenty of punch and raw energy.
They are not perfect, though. The active noise cancellation works for general drone but struggles with voices. They only support the standard SBC Bluetooth audio standard, not higher quality codecs practically every device is capable of using such as AAC or aptX, which is a backward step for the brand.
They are certainly not cheap, and you can get a similar Marshall experience from the brand’s excellent Major III series of headphones for about half the price, but the Monitor II ANC are a warm, inviting listen that’s hard to put down.
Pros: look great, fold down really compact, comfortable for very long listening sessions, long battery life, brilliant controls, great sound, decent noise cancelling, headphone socket, stable Bluetooth connection
Cons: only SBC, expensive, noise cancelling struggles with wind and voices