Hands on: Marshall Monitor II ANC review - building on history
The amp masters unveil their latest flagship headphone offering
Marshall is a brand with a rich musical past, having been linked to the music industry for close to 70 years. Its amplifiers are adored by musicians the world over, while the new Monitor II ANC noise-cancelling headphones, it hopes, will receive an equally warm reception among musos and music fans alike.
Taking the baton as the brand’s new flagship model, these ANCs cans are a definite step up from their predecessor (2017s Monitor ANCs) more or less across the board and continue the nod towards Marshall’s illustrious musical heritage.
We’re set to continue testing the Monitor IIs out, so rest assured certain details will be expanded upon once we’ve got deeper into trialling them.
So what’s changed? Well, the new Monitor II’s noise-cancellation can pretty much block out the world for starters.
Diving into ANC
We decided to put them through their paces onboard a twin-engine aircraft - after all, a decent pair of headphones has to cater to all manner of conditions.
It’s safe to say the ANC was suitably impressive, muting nearly all engine noise with ease and submerging us in a sweet, sweet bubble of sound.
The ear cups created a clean and comfortable sound seal - which is important for both effective noise-cancellation and top-tier sound quality. The built-in noise-cancellation technology performed well mid-air, as well as during testing on busy main roads and in the midst of some pretty powerful winds (thanks Storm Dennis).
The ANC button sits separately to the main control joystick and activates with a simple three second press. The quick and easy transition from Monitoring Mode to ANC Mode is as smooth as any of the top-tier offerings we’ve tested.
Surpassing the performance of other ANC models like the Skullcandy Crusher ANC model, Marshall’s previous Monitor offering and equalling favourites like the Sony WH-1000XM3, it’s a notable step up for the brand.
Overall Performance and Battery
The Monitor II ANCs are a sure-fire attempt by Marshall to match the impressive audio power of the Sony WH-1000XM3. Not only that, but Marshall is attempting to give Sony a run for their money with 30-hours playback time (similar to Sony’s 30-ish hours of battery life).
Marshall says this is extended to 45 hours with ANC switched off - something we’ll have to continue testing to discover fully.
The bass is deep and heavy with these headphones - but not overpowering like some offerings on the market. The highs are high and the sound quality is rich and indulgent.
Listening to both rock tracks like Foo Fighters’ The Pretender and the brassy tones of Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black was a joyous experience, picking up the raw instrumental flecks many lower quality headphones smooth over.
That being said, there were rare moments when we felt the field of sound could have been slightly greater, as during testing, we occasionally came across a track that felt a little compressed.
It should also be noted that the integrated Bluetooth 5.0 offers seamless connectivity to both mobile and desktop devices - something that adds to their already impressive ease-of-use. Not to mention the integrated USB-C charging port which makes our life easy on the cable front.
Not a massive amount has changed on the design front, with the Monitor IIs flying the flag for rock music with their rugged, chunky exterior.
The all-black design features a comfortable padded headband as seen on its previous incarnation, with a coiled rubberized cable for those wishing to swap bluetooth connectivity for a standard 3.5mm jack.
The golden control joystick sits on one ear, an all-in-one switch controlling everything from track skipping, volume control and call answering. It’s pretty much a one-stop-shop for your listening needs.
Downsides? We did find the joystick design made it a little tricky to turn on at times - primarily due to the sustained five seconds of pressure required to the centre of the control. We found ourselves deviating from a downward press to an angled one (the joystick offers 360 degree movement) which acts as a different command and fails to activate them.
It’s a minor design flaw to say the least, but one worth noting if you’re constantly turning your cans on and off.
There’s no doubt that these headphones are designed for music fans who wish to keep music quality high without compromising on style. Featuring a Marshall contrasting white logo emblazoned across the side of the earcup, there’s no getting away from the brand’s heritage or a logo so deeply intertwined in music history.
The headphones come complete with a small denim carry bag - in all honesty we expected a slightly sturdier case for such a high-price offering to ensure they’re protected from scratches. If, however, you wish to further the cans’ rugged appearance, you should consider ignoring the above.
The all-important Price
With a fairly steep price point of £269, these headphones are definitely better value for money that their predecessor and with the flagship model you do get a lot of bang for your buck.
There’s a notable price increase from Marshall’s latest over-ear headphones - the Marshall Major Voice III which comes in at around £149 - that’s a notable £100 price difference.
As for its competitors, the Sony WH-1000XM3 comes in at £30 more than the Marshall, while the flagship Skullcandy CANC offering which hopes to compete with the likes of Sony comes in at £20 less (although isn’t quite on par sonically).
As for our verdict? These Marshall Monitor II ANCs are packed with power and the ANC is definitely a selling point. They are set to compete with the very best models the mid-range over-ear headphone market has to offer.
As for battery life, only time (and further testing) will tell us whether the extensive and impressive battery life measures up to the brand’s claims.
The Marshall Monitor II ANC headphones are available to pre-order from Marshall today and are on sale from 7 March 2020.
- On the lookout for a new pair of headphones? DIscover our best ANC headphones around.