Marshall is perhaps best known for its iconic guitar amps. Still, it’s also a growing name in the world of headphones – especially for those who don’t want to compromise on modern conveniences such as wireless connectivity and noise cancellation for a retro-cool look. The brand’s latest noise-canceling headphones, Marshall Monitor 2 ANCs, bring these worlds together in a neat over-ear package, in an update to the very first wireless headphones launched of 2020. This is our Marshall Monitor 2 ANC Review.
After spending time getting to know them, we think the Marshall Monitor 2 ANCs’ decent noise cancellation, impressive audio quality, and fresh looks make them a worthy alternative to The Best noise-canceling headphones of 2020, the Sony WH-1000XM3.
Marshall Monitor 2 ANC Review: Design
The new over-ear headphones are very similar to their predecessors, the Marshall Monitor Bluetooth, with oval ear cups and a leather finish that goes back to Marshall’s renowned guitar amps. Like the previous Marshall headphones, the Monitor 2 ANCs are designed for people who want to wear the brand with confidence, with the Marshall logo embossed in white writing on the outer shell of each earcup. On the right earcup is a golden control knob, which enables you to play, shuffle, pause, and adjust the audio volume.
This multi-function button can also be used to answer, reject, and end calls. We love how this little accent of gold contrasts with the practical leather-look housings and exposed coiled cords, giving the headphones a touch of rock n roll elegance. Just above, the re’s the ‘M’ button, which allows you to switch between equalizer presets (more on this one later), or call Google Assistant on your device. On the left earcup, the re’s an ‘ANC’ button, which allows you to switch between regular active noise cancellation, ‘Monitoring Mode,’ and power off.
On the underside of this ear cup is a 3.5 mm audio port in case you want to listen with the in-built coiled wire, as well as a Type-C USB charging port. The Marshall Monitor 2 ANCs are fully collapsible, with a super flexible headband that can take a beating when you want to pack them. Also, they come with a denim carrying case; it doesn’t offer the protection of a hard case, but it should save your cans from scratches, and it looks cool too.
We found the Marshall Monitor 2 ANCs very comfortable, thanks to their soft ear cups and a well-padded headband; they’re not too heavy and don’t clamp too tight around your ears, like some of Marshall’s on-ear headphones.
Pairing the headphones with our smartphone was seamless, thanks to Bluetooth 5.0 support. We didn’t have any annoying dropouts, although we did have trouble connecting to our laptop in a bustling environment – that’s not unique to Marshall’s headphones. The Monitor 2 ANCs work with the Marshall Bluetooth app, which allows you to switch through different noise cancellation settings and try out different EQ presets (more on that later).
Marshall Monitor 2 ANC Review: Noise Cancellation
The noise cancellation offer is not The Best we’ve ever experienced, but it’s still pretty good. You will notice that most of the white background noise is removed, such as wind or the sound of a vacuum cleaner, but you may still be able to hear loud conversations in your immediate vicinity. Using the Marshall app, you can adjust the noise cancellation level, as well as the transparency level (how much noise you let in through the auricles), using sliders that go from 0 to 100%.
This is a feature that we appreciate because it gives you more control than what you get from the on/off button on the headphones themselves, without having to hang a lot of hard to remember controls on them.
Marshall Monitor 2 ANC Review: Performance
Another way the Marshall Monitor 2 ANCs can be adjusted is via the equalizer settings in the Marshall app. When you open the equalizer, you will find it preset to “the original Marshall sound,” which provides a balanced sound, with relative equality over the low, mid, and high frequencies. The app offers several presets based on music genres, including Rock, Metal, Pop, Hip-Hop, Electronic, and Jazz, as well as Flat, which offers a completely flat frequency balance (as you may have guessed).
We don’t hear much difference between the latter and the Marshall preset, except maybe a little more emphasis on the midrange. You can also make a custom EQ setting by adjusting the sliders on several frequencies ranging from 160 Hz to 6.25 kHz. If you don’t want to dive into the app, you can switch between three different presets by tapping the ‘M’ button on the headphones. Marshall has taken great care to achieve a well-balanced sound with the Monitor 2 ANCs, and they are The Best sounding Marshall headphones yet.
To put the bass to the test, we buried a friend of Billie Eilish; the low frequencies felt controlled, even though they were thumbing thick enough to feel in our chest, while the sub-bass drones had a fitting seesaw without overpowering the other frequencies. Meanwhile, background noises such as chattering voices, screaming synths, and the vibration of fingernails on glass came through clearly. We couldn’t test Marshall headphones without treating them to some kind of classic.
We stuck to The Doors’ Touch Me. While the top of those trumpets stood at the edge of the loud, the rest of the instrumentation sounded lush and vibrant – especially Jim Morrssion’s melodious vocals and the beautiful orchestral bloom that pervades the chorus gracefully. We would have liked the soundstage to feel wider – they don’t feel closed off, but some tracks require more space for the instrumentation to breathe. All in all, however, the Marshall Monitor 2 ANCs make for an enjoyable listening experience.
Like their predecessors, the Marshall Monitor 2 ANCs have a battery life of 30 hours, which is equivalent to that of the Sony WH-1000XM3 and far exceeds the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. That’s with enabled with noise-canceling – turn it off, and Marshall says you can play 45 hours wirelessly. A 15-minute charge is enough for five hours of playback while recharging the battery to full power takes about two hours.
The Marshall Monitor 2 ANC’s can now be ordered via the Marshall website, but will not ship until March 17th. At $319, they are about $30 cheaper than our current favorite noise-canceling headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM3. However, they are considerably more expensive than Marshall’s most recent on-ear headphones, the Major III Voice.
Marshall Monitor 2 ANC Review: Conclusion
The Marshall Monitor 2 ANC is undoubtedly The Best headphones of the brand to date; the audio quality offered here far surpasses all previous models, with a balanced presentation, smooth midrange tones, and a generally powerful, rock-solid sound. The y feel comfortable and look more subdued than Marshall’s on-ear headphones, but don’t sacrifice that fresh rock legacy. That, in addition to their excellent noise cancellation, secure handling, and accompanying app, makes Marshall Monitor 2 ANCs a convincing alternative to the Sony WH-1000XM3.
It’s just a pity Marshall couldn’t lower the price below $300 to offer a cheaper solution. We don’t think they’re winning either in terms of audio fidelity or noise cancellation, but the re’s enough to love these rocking over-ears.
If you want a rocking alternative to the Sony WH-1000XM3, the Marshall Monitor II ANCs are a great option. The y sound great, come with good noise cancellation, and they boast tons of cool features.
- Great sound
- Good noise cancelation
- Customizable EQ settings
- Comfortable, cool design
- Soundstage could be wider
- Better-sounding competition