Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024


Key Takeaways

  • The Marshall Motif II ANC earbuds offer a unique design inspired by the brand’s iconic guitar amps, making them stand out from other wireless earbuds.
  • The earbuds have a distinctive sound signature that focuses slightly on the midrange, which may take some getting used to but ultimately delivers a pleasing listening experience.
  • While the Motif II ANC earbuds’ active noise cancellation and transparency modes work well, they may not be as effective or natural-sounding as those from other brands in the same price range. However, if you value style and a distinct sound, these earbuds are a solid choice.


Whether they come from Bose, Apple, Sony, or another company, most wireless earbuds have a similar aesthetic. If you’re looking for something with a more unique style, look no further than the Marshall Motif II ANC earbuds, which feature a design based on the brand’s iconic guitar amps.

Unlike many other earbuds, but like the amplifiers Marshall is known for, the Motif II ANC feature a distinctive sound signature. This could have been a gamble, but here it works. Alongside the eye-catching design and solid sound profile, the earbuds are also surprisingly comfortable.

The Motif II ANC are certainly a step ahead of their predecessors, but can they go toe to toe with the features and noise cancellation from other brands? They get close, but whether they’re right for you depends on which tradeoffs you’re willing to make.

Marshall Motif II ANC

Marshall Motif II ANC

The Marshall Motif II ANC earbuds keep the iconic style that the brand has used on other speakers and headphones, but improves on the sound and features of the original, making for the company’s best earbuds yet.

Brand
Marshall

Battery Life
6 hours (ANC), 9 hours (no ANC)

Noise Cancellation
Yes

Microphones
Yes

Connectivity
Bluetooth 5.3 LE

IP rating
IPX5 (earbuds), IPX4 (case)

Supported codecs
SBC, AAC, LC3

Weight (earbuds)
0.15oz (4.31g)

Waterproof
Yes

Charging
USB-C, Qi

Driver size
6mm

Price (MSRP)
$200

Color
Black

Spatial Audio
No

Pros

  • Great sound with unique sound signature
  • Both earbuds and case are water resistant
  • Fantastic look and feel
  • Comfortable for hours
Cons

  • ANC isn’t on par with top earbuds
  • Transparency mode works but sounds strange

Marshall Motif II ANC Price and Availability

The Marshall Motif II ANC are a follow-up to the original Marshall Motif earbuds, which are still available. Like the original model and many of the company’s best-known guitar amps, the Motif II ANC earbuds are only available in black. The earbuds retail for $200, but you’ll already see them on sale from time to time.

Design and Fit: Great Look, Better Feel

Person putting Marshall Motif II ANC earbuds in the case
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

It doesn’t take long to see the first influence of Marshall’s guitar amps on the case. Unlike the plain plastic on many wireless earbud cases, this case is covered in a texture that is not unlike the Tolex that covers most Marshall amps. This not only helps keep you from dropping the case but also feels surprisingly close to the real thing.

The earbuds are more rectangular in shape than many of their competitors, but they aren’t as dramatically different as the case is. There is one handy exception: the stems, while plastic, have knurled texture to them resembling the knurled metal used for some guitar knobs. This is a nice aesthetic touch, but like the case, it also helps you hang on to the earbuds.

Despite the metallic feel, the plastic build of the earbuds helps keep them light. I forgot about them in my ears almost immediately. I usually use medium-sized ear tips, and they made for a great fit here. If your ears are larger or smaller, there are also small and large silicone tips included. In my case, I was comfortable wearing the earbuds for hours.

Both the case and earbuds are water-resistant, but to varying degrees. According to the Marshall website, the earbuds themselves are IPX5-rated water-resistant, while the case is slightly less so, with an IPX4 rating.

Sound and Call Quality: Signature Style

 Marshall Motif II ANC case in front of a plant
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

The Motif ANC II earbuds feature 6mm drivers and a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz. At first, they only supported the standard Bluetooth SBC codec and Apple’s AAC codec. They now also support the LC3 codec, part of Bluetooth LE Audio.

Marshall’s guitar amps are known for their prominent midrange, specifically the upper midrange. I mention this because unlike many other earbuds, the Motif II ANC have a similar “signature” midrange sound. Usually, headphones and earbuds try to avoid having their own sound, but here it works better than expected.

One thing I noticed immediately is that compared to the Apple AirPods Pro, the Motif II ANC don’t have quite as much bass out of the box. At first, I was tempted to use the in-app EQ to correct this, but after listening for around an hour, I found I had acclimatized to the headphones and no longer noticed anything lacking in the bottom end.

Listening to “Love is a Bull Market” by Nation of Ulysses, that midrange focus perfectly highlighted the angular guitars, but there was an ever so slight overemphasis on the cymbals. The recording here is rather harsh sounding no matter what you use to listen to it, so I didn’t consider this as much of an issue. If it isn’t for you, lowering the treble via the Marshall app’s EQ will fix it.

Person holding a Marshall Motif II ANC earbud
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

With Fleetwood Mac’s “Walk a Thin Line,” the Motif II ANC earbuds did a fantastic job with the transients from the drums and Lindsay Buckingham’s picking on the acoustic guitar. High notes and even the sibilance on vocals translated well, without being overbearing. This was also on the default EQ.

That signature midrange sound has one problem area: the spoken word. Podcasts and audiobooks sounded slightly harsh on the default “Marshall” EQ setting, but engaging the Bass Boost EQ preset easily took care of any issues here.

The onboard microphone is about what you’d expect from most wireless earbuds. It picked up my voice fine both indoors and outdoors, but I also don’t feel like I need to rave about the quality of the microphone here.

The active noise cancellation on the Motif II ANC works but isn’t anything special. Plenty of noise gets through if you have nothing playing while listening to music will add extra cancellation. The Transparency mode can be quite effective, but also not very natural sounding. You can hear everything around you, but it may almost sounds artificial.

Marshall Motif II ANC Microphone Audio Sample: Indoors

Marshall Motif II ANC Microphone Audio Sample: Outdoors

Software and Controls: Everything You Need

The Marshall Motif II ANC earbuds and case
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

While pairing the Marshall Motif II ANC earbuds with my iPhone, I was prompted to install the Marshall Bluetooth app, available for iPhone and Android devices. You don’t need to install the app to use the earbuds, but it’s worth it, especially for the EQ options.

Without the app, you can still control quite a bit. A single tap on either earbud pauses and resumes playback, while two and three taps skip forward and backward, respectively. By default, a long press on either side cycles through ANC and Transparency modes. You can customize some of the controls in the app, but not all of them.

One handy feature is a slider for both the ANC and Transparency modes that lets you dial in how much of a certain feature you hear. This is especially handy for the Transparency mode, as it lets you dial in as much or as little of the outside world as you like.

Equalization is the most useful feature of the app, with several preset options alongside the default Marshall EQ preset. If you prefer more control, you can create custom EQ curves across the five bands that range from 160Hz to 6.25kHz.

Battery Life: Nothing Groundbreaking, But Solid

A Marshall Motif II ANC case in a How to Geek backpack
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

Many wireless earbuds still max out at around four to six hours of listening time, but the Marshall Motif II ANC earbuds get up to six hours with ANC, and up to nine hours with ANC turned off. Throw in the case, and you get up to 30 total hours of listening time with ANC, or up to 43 hours without.

When it comes to charging, the case takes roughly 1.5 hours to charge when plugged in, and the earbuds also charge in the same amount of time in the case. If you’re in a hurry, a 15-minute charge gets you an hour of play time.

While a USB-C cable is the fastest way to charge the case, it isn’t the only way, as the case also features wireless Qi charging.

Competition: How Do The Motif II ANC Stack Up?

The box for The Marshall Motif II ANC 2
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

Marshall is eyeing up some fairly big competition with the Motif II ANC. The closest competitor for iPhone users is likely the second-generation AirPods Pro. Those feature better ANC and the current best out of all Transparency modes, but they have a much plainer design.

If you’re an Android user, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are one of the main competitors. Again, that pair of earbuds is superior when it comes to integration with Samsung phones, but they don’t share the same style or signature sound as the Motif II ANC.

Should You Buy the Marshall Motif II ANC?

There is plenty to like about the Marshall Motif II ANC earbuds, starting with the sound signature. While at first, the midrange-pushed sound was slightly awkward compared to the AirPods Pro, I got used to it within an hour and it really grew on me from there. The look and feel of both the case and the earbuds was also a pleasant surprise and helped the earbuds make a unique impression.

When it comes down to comparing the Motif II ANC to the front-runners in this price range, it’s mainly about the ANC and Transparency. Both work well enough, but not as effectively as the other brands already mentioned. The odd sound of the Transparency mode was especially noticeable, even if it didn’t affect how well I could actually hear the sounds around me.

If you’re looking for flagship-level earbuds with a stylish look and distinct sound signature, the Motif II ANC are a great option, as long as you’re willing to work with the quirky ANC and Transparency modes.

Marshall Motif II ANC

Marshall Motif II ANC

The Marshall Motif II ANC earbuds keep the iconic style that the brand has used on other speakers and headphones, but improves on the sound and features of the original, making for the company’s best earbuds yet.



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