Bottom line: It's hard not to like how cool Marshall's Minor III look, but they don't always feel like they fit quite right. In fact, that open-fit design can actually hide the best sound quality that these earbuds are capable of pumping out.
- Bright, crisp sound
- Lightweight build
- Slick design
- Effective touch controls
- Solid call quality
- Open-fit design muffles bass
- No ANC or ambient mode
- Mediocre battery life
- No app support
- Too pricey for what you get
Marshall is a brand known for its longevity and legacy in the music business, and when it launches headphones or speakers, it often tries to harken back to bygone eras as inspiration for a modern twist. As a result, it usually features classic designs and a look that just comes off feeling a bit different than its competitors. The Minor III earbuds are definitely on-brand in that way, bringing a degree of simplicity to go with their promised performance.
These are supposed to be the company's more affordable option as compared to its more feature-rich Motif ANC, and that means it cut a few corners to create a price gap between them. The cuts are one thing, but it's one particular design choice that may have ultimately cut the Minor III down too much.
Marshall Minor III: Price and availability
Marshall launched the Minor III in September 2021, making them available for $129.99. They're supposed to be fairly inexpensive in comparison to other earbuds bearing the brand's logo, but it's hard to say how long they may stay at this price. They're not as widely available as Marshall's other earbuds, though you should find them if you look out for them.
They only come in black, and there are no other variants.
Marshall Minor III: What's good
I've tested a lot of earbuds, and I would count the Minor III as one of my favorite designs thus far. There was just something about the textured finish on both the base and the buds. When closed, the case resembles a miniaturized guitar amp or a Zippo lighter. I only wish Marshall flattened the bottom enough to enable it to stand upright on its own. It does also support wireless charging, which is nice.
The earbuds themselves nestle in nicely into the case, with magnets strong enough to lock them in yet not sticky enough to make removing them feel like a chore. In addition, they sport an open-fit design, which is to say they don't use any separate ear tips. I admit I'm not a fan of this kind of build for a few reasons. First, it limits flexibility in ensuring a better fit. Second, it's harder to create a tighter seal to bring out more of the bass to balance out the audio. And lastly, earbuds with this design don't always feel stable in your ears because there's less friction when they start wiggling around.
Those who own AirPods may feel like the Minor III are little more than cheap AirPods clones. The open-fit design with stems sticking out may give that initial impression, but to my mind, Marshall produces better sound here. The AirPods 2 are pedestrian and routinely sound like it, too. Marshall crammed in 12mm drivers into the Minor III, and the power does come through when you start raising the volume above 50%.
There's a crispness to playback that I think has a lot to do with how Marshall engineered them. Most earbuds will try to boost the highs and lows to get enough bass and treble and balance things out. Listening to the Minor III is kind of like listening to music recorded at a concert. The soundstage is bright, with vocals and mids being more prominent than you might otherwise expect.
I found the most resonant songs came from genres like rock, jazz, blues, and acoustic. Notice the pattern there? They're all guitar or string-heavy in some way. That's great for sticking to Marshall's heritage, but what about everything else? Tracks or genres that need bass will struggle to find enough of it, and I did get annoyed when I pushed the earbuds into my ears and could hear thick bass come through.
Sound quality is critical here because it's really the only feature you get out of the Minor III. You do get supporting things, like auto-pause when you remove either earbud, as well as effective onboard touch controls, but that's about it. The Minor III are all about the music or whatever other audio content you like to listen to.
That includes phone calls, which are superb on these buds. If you're in quieter confines, you will find calls feel loud and clear. Plus, you can also use just one of the buds in mono when you need to. Now, without any active noise cancelation (ANC), results won't be the same when you're outside or with background chatter. Also, the lack of a tighter seal means you may have to push at least one of the earbuds into your ear to hear what they're saying while speaking up for them to hear you.
But be careful how you do that, as you might accidentally trigger one of the touch controls. They are fairly basic, given the absence of additional features, but I was surprised at how good they were. A single tap plays/pauses music and answers incoming phone calls. A double-tap skips a track or rejects the call, while a triple-tap repeats a track. What's absolutely bizarre is that Marshall left out any way to wake up your voice assistant. I had to pull my phone out to call someone instead of simply telling Google Assistant to do it directly from the earbuds.
Throughout it all, the Bluetooth 5.2 connection was stable and steady during my testing. As a result, I could walk around on a call or listening to a podcast streaming from my phone without any real hassles or hiccups.
Marshall Minor III: What's not good
Despite Marshall's emphasis on audio clarity, it made some questionable choices along the way to achieve this feature. I already noted the open-fit design's shortcomings, but the additional consequence of building the Minor III this way is the almost complete lack of passive noise isolation. Walk in a crowded place or take public transit wearing these, and you have no real recourse for blocking out at least some of that noise around you. I could understand and rationalize such a design choice if they were more ruggedized earbuds aimed at active users, but that's not the case here.
Not only that, but Marshall also saw to it that the Minor III got no app support. Marshall's app offers an equalizer to customize the sound yet limits it to only a select few devices — two of which are the Motif ANC and Mode II, the company's more premium options. It's becoming a whole lot easier to find earbuds, even in the sub-$100 category that offer both noise cancelation and app support. When looking at the price range the Minor III are in, the alternatives only grow.
This is a real shame because, at the very least, making these earbuds with ear tips, plus giving them app support, would have very much heightened their capabilities. Of course, that's even without ANC, though at what these cost, that feature should be included, too.
The focus here is on audio performance, and almost unapologetically so. The Minor III have an IPX4 rating for water resistance, so they're not exactly made for sweaty runners to perspire all over them. Marshall tried to thread a needle by making the earbuds smaller (hence, no ear tips) and packing in bigger custom drivers, yet offering virtually nothing on customizing the sound to get more out of those drivers.
Then there's the battery life. Remember when I noted how the Minor III could be perceived as AirPods clones? Well, Marshall managed to mirror the battery situation to a tee. These earbuds last up to five hours per charge, with another four charges in the case for a total of 25 hours. Those aren't great numbers when considering all the omissions.
Marshall Minor III: Competition
Marshall may have been thinking something budget-friendly with the Minor III, but so are many other brands. When you look at the best wireless earbuds, some of the pairs in that category are in a similar price range. Go down the list of the best cheap wireless earbuds, and you see there are more affordable pairs that offer more features and can compete with much better (and more expensive) options.
One pair that came to my mind right away was the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro for the simple fact that they are loaded with ANC, ambient mode, excellent app support, and a comfortable fit that also features a stem design. The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless don't have stems but are just as focused on audio quality, yet also come with ANC, ambient mode, and solid app support. And while they don't have all the features, the Jabra Elite 3 come off as a bargain for what they can do.
Marshall Minor III Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You hate dangling cables
- You care about audio fidelity for specific genres
- You don't care for ear tips
- You don't need active noise cancelation
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You want ear tips to determine fit and comfort better
- You want active noise cancelation
- You want more features
- You can get more for less money
Marshall got the look, but not the intricacies of the design right. It's not just the missing ear tips but also the mediocre battery life and lack of control over how they fit and sound. These are standard elements for most earbuds these days, so their absence only stands out more when looking at the price tag. Had they been cheaper, it would be easier to justify the good things over the bad, but as is, it's hard to view them in the same positive light.
3 out of 5
There is better value out there, and perhaps spending more on Marshall's Motif ANC or Mode II would also make more sense because they aren't as limited in what they can do. Those may be the better way to go if you're into the brand, assuming you're okay with what they each cost.
Marshall Minor III
Minor-ing in detail
Marshall gives its more budget-focused earbuds the right look on the outside, but you do sacrifice some things to get there on the inside. They're capable of good sound, especially if you're into string-heavy musical genres, and calls sound great, but you'll have to contend with background noise and shorter battery life.
Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.
My take on these is still that thye just exist for people that like Marshall, but don't have enough to spend on their higher-end Motif ANC's. But in reality, you're better off going with the on-ear Major IV's. They have WAY longer battery life, lack the annoying fit and (even though these already look amazing) look better. All of that for only €10 extra is a good deal in my book.
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