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Review: The Marshall Monitor II ANC headphones raise the bar for design and battery life

Marshall nails on-headphone controls with this offering.

marshall monitor ii headphones
Image: Matt Hughes / KnowTechie

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I’ve reviewed a lot of headphones. If I had to guess, I’d assume that no fewer than 80 pairs of headphones have crossed my desk over the past decade. The Marshall Monitor II ANC is just the latest.

And they are special. That doesn’t mean the best: although they sound great and boast excellent noise-canceling performance, the headphones are easily surpassed by similarly-priced alternatives, like the Sennheiser Momentum 3 and the Sony WH-1000MX3. Despite that, the Monitor II headphones excel where others have failed. I’m talking about controls.

Push my buttons

marshall headphones control knob
Image: Matt Hughes / KnowTechie

Controls are important. Sometimes you’ll want to pause playback or adjust the volume levels on your cans. If you’re going to be away from a power source for an extended period of time, like on a road trip, you’ll want to deactivate active noise canceling (ANC) to save power.

And most headphones get this one thing fundamentally wrong. Some headphones have a capacitive surface on the side of the cans, allowing users to interact with gestures. These are almost always clunky and prone to accidental swipes. Others come with an array of buttons, which are often either too stiff or too spongy. There’s no “Goldilocks” happy medium, I’ve found.

READ MORE: Marshall is releasing some tiny Bluetooth speakers

The Monitor II ANC headphones are different. On the side of the headphones is what could be best described as a small brass joystick. That’s it. And it’s gorgeously simple and responsive.

Hold it down to control the power. Push it up to raise the volume. Hold it down to lower it. It’s a little gimmicky, but god, does it work well. And I genuinely have no idea why other headphone vendors aren’t following suit. This little metal nub makes the Marshall Monitor II ANC easy to adjust without having to take them off, or otherwise flail about ineptly.

Oh, the other stuff

marshall monitor ii headphones
Image: KnowTechie

Yeah, I’ve glossed over a few things here. So, the headphones come with a decent supply of extras, including a soft fabric case, a USB-C charging cable, and a curled 3.5mm headphone jack.

There’s not a lot to complain about here, but given the cost of the Marshall Monitor II ANC, I’d have hoped for something that would provide a bit more protection. This absence feels even more conspicuous, given cheaper headphones from Anker and Taotronics come with hard-shell carry cases, despite costing as little as $50.

The headphones themselves are smaller than others I’ve used, with cups that feel manifestly more narrow than those found on the Momentum 3. That said, they aren’t particularly uncomfortable to wear — even for long periods of time. The Monitor II ANC headphones are wonderfully lightweight and have a headband that offers excellent flex.

Noise-canceling works well — although, again, not nearly as strongly as the aforementioned Sennheiser and Sony models — and is competent enough to dampen the blare of passing traffic and nearby lawnmowers. Meanwhile, battery life is utterly exceptional, with the Monitor II ANC lasting up to 45 hours between charges (or 30 with ANC).

Sadly, the Monitor II loses points for codec compatibility, with just the bog-standard SBC codec in use. That’s shocking, considering these retail at $319, and I’ve seen some headphones under the $80 that support Qualcomm’s AptX.

Call quality can be a bit hit-and-miss, particularly in adverse weather conditions, with the microphone unable to effectively filter wind noise. That said, the sound quality is otherwise impeccable, offering well-balanced and detailed results that lend favorably to elaborate orchestral compositions, as well as when listening to the bands most intimately associated with the Marshall brand, like Led Zeppelin and The Who.

Best of all, there’s no gimmicky over-emphasis of bass to speak of. Meanwhile, you can tweak the equalizer settings fairly easily through the downloadable app, customizing your listening experience to your preferred tunes.

Wrapping up with the Marshall Monitor II ANC headphones

Arguably, the one area where the Marshall Monitor II ANC headphones excel is when it comes to design. The controls are excellent, and the overall package looks incredible. It wins points for battery life and sound quality too, although the lack of codec compatibility is a huge bummer. It’s also not the best for calls.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these headphones, although I’d encourage tempted punters to look closely at other offerings in the same price bracket, including the latest-and-greatest flagship cans from Sennheiser and Sony. At $319, this certainly ain’t cheap.

Editors’ Recommendations:

Just a heads up, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale. It’s one of the ways we keep the lights on here. Click here for more. A sample unit was provided for the purpose of this review.

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Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Past work can be found on The Register, Reason, The Next Web, and Wired.

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