Headphones are one of the most competitive categories of tech accessories. You'll find everything from tiny earbuds to big heavy over-ear cans and every pair is fighting for your attention and your dollars. That means it's a buyer's market if you know what you're looking for.
It's a great time to buy headphones.
Here's where Marshall comes in. Now you might know Marshall as the company that makes the loudest and badass-est guitar amp on the whole planet but the company has also been making quality headphones and Bluetooth speakers for quite a while. The company makes its mark by giving you a product that sounds a lot better than the price tag would suggest.
The newest headphones to come from Marshall follows the same trend. They're not what you would call audiophile-grade equipment, but they aren't intended to be. They deliver plenty of volume and are tuned just the way most people listen to music. They also check in a whole lot cheaper than comparable models.
At a glance
Marshall Major IV
Bottom line: Marshall makes high-quality headphones and speakers, too, and the Major IV delivers the same great sound we're used to seeing from the company along with all-day comfort and a great price. If you want a great set of on-ear headphones that are both Bluetooth and wired these definitely fit the bill.
- Great sound profile
- Plenty of volume
- Up to 80-hours of battery life
- Wireless charging
- USB C charging
- Wireless charging is finicky
- Vinyl earcups can get a little sweaty
- The small size could be an issue
- No noise cancellation for folks who need it
Marshall Major IV What I like
I've been told that I can be fairly snobbish when it comes to headphones and I'll admit that I do have an unhealthy obsession with finding the perfect pair. While the Marshall Major IVs aren't perfect for me there is a lot to like here.
You can start with how they look because that can be important. The first thing you'll see is the iconic Marshall logo that you've seen in countless music videos or concerts. The black plastic and vinyl that surrounds that logo also carry some Marshall DNA and while the headphones are in no way large, they have the aggressive look fans of the brand will love.
Next, you'll see how small they are. The Major IVs are on-ear headphones so they will be smaller than larger over-ear designs, but the small square body of the 'phones just seems tiny. Don't let that fool you though, because they are comfortable on both my big ol' head and my wife's smaller noggin.
Comfort is the keyword here. After extras like noise cancellation, comfort should be very high on your list. Once you move beyond a certain price point — in my opinion, that's somewhere around $100 — most quality headphones will sound good enough for almost everyone. I've spent more than one entire workday with these perched up on my head and there is no clamping or slipping. The only headache you'll ever get from these is if you take the volume to 11.
I thought I would hate the new control knob joystick. I don't.
They're also easy to use, thanks to Marshall's new four-way joystick-style control knob. What looks like an oddly placed brass fitting is actually a very functional way to do everything you want a pair of Bluetooth headphones to do.
Phone controls like answer, reject, or end call, as well as audio controls, quickly become second nature when there's a knob you can easily find and just as easily use. After a few weeks with these, I never want to go back to touchpads or tiny buttons again.
Finally, there is the sound. These are not flat, audiophile-grade equipment but for most people, that's a very good thing. The 40 mm internal drivers have 32-Ohm impedance so they will get plenty loud with your phone over a wired connection if you're lucky enough to still have one, and the frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz covers every sound you'll actually want to hear.
The drivers are tuned with a slightly modified take on the typical "Rock" equalizer setting where both the low end and the high end is boosted and the middle isn't. That means low sounds like bass or drums stand out without being overwhelming and the high tones like piano or guitar leads sound bright and clear. This is probably how you would end up tuning a pair of flat headphones so it works.
Last but not least, I love the battery life. Marshall says you can expect up to 80 hours from a single charge, but I found that depends a lot on your volume levels. At the highest ear-piercing level (these do get lovingly loud) I got somewhere closer to 50 hours. That's still plenty, based on how I abused them and it's a lot more than most of my other wireless headphones can ever hope to achieve. As a plus, they recharge using USB C or Qi wireless. Yes, these biggish on-ear headphones wirelessly charge.
Marshall Major IV What I don't like
There are really only two things I don't love about these headphones: the vinyl earcups and how fiddly wireless charging can be.
Almost every set of on or over-ear headphones you'll see under $250 have a vinyl headband and vinyl earcups. Leather is usually reserved for brands that are overpriced or are built for people who really like headphones. That's not a problem most of the time.
The difference is that these on-ear cups are on the smaller side. that makes them easy to carry and means they will fit more people, but it also means they touch more ear and less hair than a larger cup would. Since you can wear these forever without feeling like they are trying to squeeze your brains out through your eyeballs, it means you might get a little sweaty.
It's easy enough to pop 'em off and wipe down the pads, it's just not something I'm used to doing.
About that wireless charging. It works as well as you would expect it to; trying to balance a set of folding headphones on one earcup and keep them in just the right place isn't difficult, it's just not easy. I was really looking forward to having a sort of headphone tower on top of a wireless charging pad but instead, I felt like I was playing Jenga more often than not. Thankfully, popping a USB-C cord into them charges them right up. I'm going to try a few other types of chargers to see if something out there works better because I really want to wirelessly charge a real set of headphones just because I can.
If you want or need ANC, look elsewhere.
That's what I don't like, but there is another thing you might not like: The Major IVs don't have any sort of active noise cancellation.
I hate active noise cancellation because I'm unlucky enough to be one of the few people who notice the hiss even when music is playing. But I also know that sometimes, having a good seal around the earcup just isn't enough. You might not want to take these on your next long flight or to use in the backseat on a cross-country drive.
Marshall Major IV Competition
There are plenty of full-sized, Bluetooth on-ear headphones available but the actual pickings when it comes to high-quality gear are mighty slim. Most headphones past a certain price-point are more about the extras like ANC or special designated Assistant buttons than the actual sound and comfort, which narrows the field even more.
I think a great pair of headphones to compare these to are the Jabra Elite 45h. These are a good bit cheaper (retailing for just $79 when this review was written) but they also aren't quite as good when it comes to sound quality and comfort.
You will find ANC and a special app for your phone that lets you tweak sound settings, but I've never been able to get them dialed in how I like them. Maybe a closer comparison can be made with the Sennheiser Consumer Audio HD 450BT, a set of over-ear headphones with comparable price and comfort, as well as ANC.
Marshall Major IV Should you buy them?
Who they're for
- If you want great sound and all-day comfort.
- If you like balanced audio without boomy bass or shrill highs.
- If you want amazing battery life.
Who they aren't for
- If you want ANC.
- If you want a flat reference sound.
- If you just don't want a set of full-sized headphones.
$150 sounds like a lot of money for headphones to some people, but it's really not. Especially when you consider the great sound and high-comfort wearability of the Marshall Major IV set. You won't have any Bluetooth issues, you'll end up loving the control knob, and you'll be able to spend more time listening between charges.
These headphones fill a need I didn't even know I had — they're light and easy to wear while sounding almost as good as a pair of headphones that cost hundreds more. I'd spend my own money on a pair and can recommend them to anyone looking for a great set of headphones with a focus on the music, not the extras.
Look and sound great
Marshall Major IV headphones
Sit back and relax
You'll love the look of the new Marshall Major IV headphones and once you try them on you'll love them even more. Add in extras like USB C charging, great audio fidelty, and easy to operate controls and this is a set of headphones we can recommend with ease.
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