In the world of wireless headphones with noise-canceling, Bose and Sony tend to be the go-to options. Time and time again, both companies have proven that they create some of the very best audio gear in this department. However, if you aren't a fan of what either one is offering, what's a person to do?
One alternative you may want to consider comes from Marshall. The company's Monitor II ANC headphones are the first noise-canceling cans the company has ever created, and they're clearly gunning for that Bose and Sony market with a very similar (albeit slightly lower) price.
Marshall hasn't completely dethroned the likes of the WH1000XM3, but the Marshall II ANC are an excellent attempt that get more right than wrong.
At a glance
Bottom line: The Marshall Monitor II ANC are a fantastic alternative to the Bose and Sony's high-end wireless headphones. From a striking design, great sound, and effective noise-canceling, the Monitor II nail all of the basics. I also really love the control knob for managing playback, not to mention the passthrough button to quickly hear the world around you without taking the headphones off. If you can get over the high price and the lack of an aptX audio codec, the Monitor II ANC are well worth the investment.
- Great, well-balanced sound
- Leather design looks outstanding
- Very effective noise-canceling
- Passthrough mode is handy
- Excellent playback knob and buttons
- No aptX codec
- Fierce competition
- High price
Marshall Monitor II ANC What's hot
If there's one thing the Marshall Monitor II ANC do definitively better than Bose and Sony's latest headphones, it's the design. This is a pretty subjective thing depending on your own personal taste, but I absolutely love the way the Monitor II ANC look.
The leather headband and accented stitching look gorgeous, the soft and spacious leather earcups feel outstanding, and a faux leather texture on the outside of the cups ties the whole aesthetic together. I also really like the white Marshall logo on either side and the gold control knob, adding a little bit of pop to the otherwise black paint job.
Personally, this design is much warmer and more inviting than a lot of other headphones I've used. Especially coming from the cold metal/plastic body of the QC35 II, I really dig what Marshall did with the Monitor II.
Going back to that control knob, it's simply excellent. All of your playback is controlled through this single button, which works as follows:
- Press to play/pause
- Move up/down to adjust volume
- Move left/right to switch between songs
Cramming so much functionality into a single area might sound daunting on paper, but in reality, it's my favorite control method out there. Rather than having to hunt for a bunch of different buttons, everything is in that one spot and easy to access. Pair that together with wonderful tactility when using the knob, and I'll take this any day over more traditional playback controls.
Speaking of buttons, you'll find two other ones on the Monitor II ANC — an "M" button and a noise-canceling button. The M button is essentially a multi-function button that you can customize, and it can be used to trigger the Google Assistant, Marshall's own voice assistant, or cycle between your three pre-made equalizer modes. I have mine set to trigger the Google Assistant, and it works just as you'd expect. Press the button, ask a question, and the Assistant is right there to lend a hand.
As for the noise-canceling button, this cycles you between ANC and a passthrough mode that allows you to hear the world around you even with the headphones on. The passthrough mode is super effective, and I like that it'll automatically pause whatever you're listening to when you enable it and then resume it when you disable the feature. Alternatively, holding the button down will shut off ANC altogether so you can save on battery life if you're running low on juice.
Noise cancellation on the Monitor II is extremely effective.
On the note of noise cancellation, I've been very happy with its performance on the Monitor II. The low rumble of a dishwasher or dryer is blocked out completely, and even the clickety-clack of my mechanical keyboard is diminished to a subtle thud when ANC is enabled. I like that Marshall allows you to adjust the intensity of the noise cancellation through the companion app, done simply with a slider that can go from 0-100%.
The noise-canceling here is ideal for helping you focus on the song or podcast you're listening to, and in these regards, I'm happy to report that audio quality on the Monitor II ANC is really, really good.
To my ears, music is nicely balanced and clear without going too high or low. Bass certainly comes in with a nice thump with a song that calls for it (Wow by Beck stands out), but it never overpowers a tune or overstays its welcome.
I've been perfectly happy with the default "Marshall" EQ setting that you get out of the box, but you can change this to another preset if you'd like or create your own (there are toggles between 160 Hz and 6.25 Hz).
Rounding out the experience of using the Marshall Monitor II ANC, there are a few final things that stand out:
- Battery life is rated for up to 30 hours per use. In other words, it's excellent. Depending on how often you're using the headphones, you can easily go through a week or two without needing to charge them.
- When it does come time to charge, it's done via USB-C 🙌.
- The Bluetooth 5.0 wireless connection has been extremely solid and reliable. I've yet to experience any interference and there's very minimal audio delay when watching videos.
Marshall Monitor II ANC What's not
In a bubble, the Marshall Monitor II ANC are darn near perfect. However, live in a bubble the Monitor II do not. For just a few dollars more, you could step up to the Bose 700 or Sony WH1000XM3 — the former offers some of the very best noise canceling in the business while the latter offers higher-quality audio. Speaking of which, the Monitor II strangely don't have an aptX or AAC audio codecs despite being top-of-the-line wireless headphones.
That's not to say the Monitor II ANC are bad by any stretch of the imagination, but before you spend over $300 of your hard-earned money, it's important to understand that there are other options out there that do certain things better.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you could spend considerably less money for something like the Panasonic RP-HD605N and get a very similar experience.
Marshall Monitor II ANC Should you buy them?
Being my first-ever pair of Marshall headphones, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect with the Monitor II ANC. Thankfully, my time with them has been thoroughly enjoyable. If you're in the market for wireless noise-canceling headphones, I think these are well worth your consideration.
Although audio quality and noise cancellation isn't quite as good as other options out there, it's good enough on the Monitor II that I think most people will have a hard time telling the difference. Pair that with the downright stunning design, excellent playback controls, long battery life, and reliable Bluetooth connection, and there's not too much to complain about.
You'll need to decide for yourself whether it's worth a few extra dollars to go with a pair of Bose or Sony headphones instead, but if you're searching for premium wireless headphones that do just about everything right, the Monitor II ANC should be on that shortlist of yours.
The Marshall Monitor II ANC are a fantastic alternative to the Bose and Sony's high-end wireless headphones. From a striking design, great sound, and effective noise-canceling, the Monitor II nail all of the basics. I also really love the control knob for managing playback, not to mention the passthrough button to quickly hear the world around you without taking the headphones off. If you can get over the high price and the lack of an aptX audio codec, the Monitor II ANC are well worth the investment.
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