Reviews

Marshall Motif ANC review: are these buds the business?

Marshall Motif ANC headphones in a hand
Top buds: you'll want to keep hold of the Marshall Motif headphones

Marshall is arguably best known for its amps, so it’s fitting that the Marshall Motif ANC headphones turn up in a little case designed to look like one. But don’t be fooled: these headphones are by no means gimmicky. And nor should they be at £180!

Build quality

I’ve spent a fortnight with these headphones and they’ve fast become my go-to pair of buds. They are superbly designed.

Let’s start with the buds themselves, which resemble Apple AirPods except with a longer stork. They sit in the ear perfectly – three sizes of rubber tips are provided to find the best match for your ear canal. Only once during my fortnight of testing has a bud fallen out of my sizeable lugholes.

Those long storks make them easier to pull out of your ear than most buds, and when you do, the sound is paused, resuming when you put the earbud back in. That process can be a little erratic, but it works around 90% of the time.

As with many buds these days, they come with touch sensitive-controls on each bud, letting you switch off the active noise cancelling (ANC) and put the buds into transparency mode, for example. However, even with those elongated storks, I found it too easy to accidentally activate modes by touching the buds. I quickly turned the touch controls off in the app.

The charge case is a dinky little lozenge. It isn’t quite as compact as the one provided with the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 buds but proved small enough to slip into my jeans pocket without prompting jokes about being pleased to see friends.

The case can be charged wirelessly (I haven’t tested this) or via the supplied USB-C cable. A little LED indicator on the case changes colour to indicate when it needs charging, but there’s little granularity here: it’s either fully charged, OK or needs charging. The Melomania 1 charge case has five lights indicating the charge level, helping you to judge if they need a top up before a long journey, for instance.

Battery life

Marshall Motif ANC headphones

Marshall promises that the buds offer 4.5 hours of battery life with ANC switched on, with a total of 20 hours of charge from the case. That’s proved about right in my tests. I went for a week of regular usage on daily dog walks and other jaunts out before the case’s red light shone.

That’s not the best battery life I’ve seen from wireless buds – the Melomania 1 buds normally last twice as long between charges, but they don’t have the battery-sapping noise cancelling. However, it’s longer than you’ll typically get from Apple’s AirPods.

Sound quality

When I first popped them into my ears, I was way less than whelmed with the sound quality. They sounded flat and, dare I say it, tinny.

However, fiddling around in the app, I soon discovered that was with equaliser settings set to default and ANC switched off. With ANC switched on and the graphic equaliser set to the ‘rock’ preset, the sound instantly became much fuller, with a decent wallop of bass and real clarity in vocals. I’d say the sound quality is slightly better than the standard AirPods and on a par with the excellent Melomania 1 buds.

The noise cancelling is respectable, although don’t expect it to reach the levels of full-sized headphones such as the Sony WH-1000XM3. I’ve been writing this review with Elton John and Leon Russell belting out the tunes (yes, I am that down with the kids) and I can barely hear the mechanical keyboard I’m typing on. When I’m out walking the dog, I’ve never felt the need to switch off ANC to hear traffic, like I do with the XM3s, though. It softens background noise, but doesn’t eliminate it.

Call quality is excellent for a pair of earbuds, too. I often get complaints that people can’t hear me when making phone calls with buds, but the Marshall Motif ANC registered no such complaints, even with my mum, who is the first to moan when she can’t hear. Marshall will doubtless be using this endorsement in marketing materials for years to come.

Marshall Motif ANC review verdict

Marshall Motif ANC buds

What’s not to like about the Marshall Motif ANC buds? They are well designed, the sound quality is up there with the best, and the battery life is decent enough for even the longest of journeys.

Well, the first thing not to like is the price. At £180, you’re almost dead centre between the Melomania 1+ and the AirPods Pro, and a tenner punchier than the standard AirPods.

If I were buying a new pair of buds today, I’d probably just edge towards the sub-£100 Melomanias, but I’d be casting envious glances at anyone walking past with the Marshall Motif ANC buds in.

Marshall Motif ANC headphones
  • Build quality
  • Sound quality
  • Value for money

Marshall Motif ANC Summary

A superb pair of noise-cancelling earbuds, but with a punchy price tag

Overall
4.2

Pros

  • Superb design with a long stork to make them easy to remove
  • Strong sound quality (when you fiddle with settings)
  • Respectable noise-cancelling performance

Cons

  • Battery life could be better
  • Premium price

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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