Marshall Monitor II ANC check: rock for hours in full consolation

“These headphones offer high-energy sound and tremendous battery life, Marshall-style.”

  • Signature Marshall style

  • Very convenient

  • Good ANC and transparency

  • Very intuitive controls

  • Excellent battery life

  • Expensive for what you get

  • No wear sensor or multi-service pairing

  • Narrow sound stage

Are you thinking of buying active noise canceling (ANC) headphones? In addition to the many great models you’ll find on our list of the best noise-canceling headphones, we now also recommend the Marshall Monitor II ANC for $ 320.

These ANC cans capture the iconic Marshall design language and add some cool features to create a stylish alternative to the headphones made by Sony, Bose, Apple, and others.

But the competition is tough – does the Marshall Monitor II ANC have what it takes to justify its high price? Let’s take a look.

What’s in the box?

Marshall Monitor II ANCSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

Props go to Marshall to make packaging that at least tries to be sustainable. It’s mostly recyclable cardboard, save for a few pieces of foam that may need to be disposed of in a landfill. Inside, you’ll find the Monitor II ANC, a USB-C charging cable, a 3.5mm coil-style analog cable, a quick start guide, and a soft fabric carrying case.


Marshall Monitor II ANCSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

Whether you love Marshall’s guitar amp-inspired design language or not (I think it looks awesome), you have to admit, the Monitor II is ANC Peak Marshall.

From the textured black plastic on the ear cups to the coil of the included analog cable and of course the distinctive Marshall script logo, these headphones exude a rock music atmosphere that you won’t find in any other can.

And Marshall’s dedication to this look didn’t detract from some extremely practical features. By combining the three sets of hinge and pivot pins, the Monitor II ANC can deform into an incredibly compact shape. I find it hard to think of full size headphones that are more travel-friendly.

While most headphones at this price point (and many that are considerably cheaper) come with a zippered hard shell, the way the Monitor II articulates them makes them beg to be thrown in a pocket. Speaking of the included tote bag, it’s hard to notice how Marshall channeled the Herschel backpack look for his black denim bag. Very cool.

The ear cups are super flat, even with the generous padding of the ear pads, which gives the Monitor II a clean, head-hugging look. And when you peel them off your head and hang around your neck, they fold slightly flat against your collarbones.

The construction is mostly plastic, but Marshall used metal for the auricle forks and headband sliders, which helps make these cans feel sturdy and durable.

Convenience, control and connections

Marshall Monitor II ANC

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Marshall Monitor II ANC

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Marshall Monitor II ANC

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Marshall Monitor II ANC

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

At 11.29 ounces, the Monitor II ANC can’t be considered light when compared to other over-ear headphones, especially the feather-light Sony WH-1000XM4 (8.8 ounces), but they don’t feel particularly heavy to wear . I appreciate the combination of the clamping force, the fit of the ear pad, and the balance for how well they fit.

I’m a huge fan of the Monitor II controls. They’re simple and effective.

Given my Dumbo-like ears, I’d prefer slightly deeper cavities in the ear cups, but overall these headphones are more than comfortable enough for hours of continuous use.

I’m a huge fan of the Monitor II controls. They’re simple and effective. The gold colored button protruding from the bottom of the right ear cup is actually a tiny joystick that you can click to activate power, bluetooth pairing, answer / end calls, and play / pause. You move it up, down, front, or back to perform actions like volume and track controls.

There are two other controls that you would totally miss if you didn’t look carefully. Each is inserted into the hinge point of the auricle forks where they blend seamlessly with the design and are easy to access. The left button is used to switch between ANC and transparency mode, which happens very quickly. The right “M” button, which is user configurable and allows you to choose between EQ mode, activates Siri (iPhone only) or Google Assistant.

You make these and other selections in the Marshall Bluetooth app.

Instead of spreading out and creating a warm thrum that you can feel, the bass stays a little two-dimensional.

The Monitor II’s Bluetooth range is approximately 20 to 30 feet, which should be sufficient for most situations.

Unfortunately, unlike many Bluetooth headphones, you can’t pair these sockets with more than one device at a time, making them less suitable for people who want to switch between their phones and laptops on a regular basis.

There’s also no wear sensor, so removing the headphones from your ears won’t automatically pause your music.

Sound quality

Marshall Monitor II ANCSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

Overall, the Monitor II ANC sounds very good. In the factory EQ setting (known as a “Marshall” sound), the sound shifts to higher frequencies. However, the Marshall app lets you choose from six more EQ presets and create your own custom balance.

These adjustments help the Monitor II deliver more bass when you want it, and I’ve been able to find settings that work with a variety of genres from rock to classical.

Throw in a track like Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz ‘On To The Next One, and the intensity hits you like an electric shock.

The soundstage isn’t as wide or as detailed as the Sony WH-1000XM4, but what the Monitor II lacks in openness it makes up for in energy.

The acoustics are precise, bright and powerful, with a sharp focus on snare drums, cymbals, vocals and higher-frequency woodwinds such as the clarinet.

Throw in a track like Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz ‘On To The Next One, and the intensity hits you like an electric shock.

Deeper, more resonant sounds like jazz bass that rely on the mid-to-low frequencies don’t do quite as well. Instead of spreading out and creating a warm thrum that you can feel, they stay a little two-dimensional.

All of this results in headphones that are clearly tuned for energetic rock, pop, and hip-hop music.

Noise cancellation and transparency

Marshall Monitor II ANCSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

Some headphones with active noise cancellation try to block out as much background noise as possible. The Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are the flagship for this approach. Marshall’s Monitor II ANC isn’t as aggressive – you don’t quite get that silent cone effect – but they do reduce the low to mid frequencies significantly when ANC is on.

I found it worked best when listening to podcasts, which were very effective in muting sounds that would otherwise make it difficult to hear spoken words. As an aid to silencing a noisy environment, they were not that helpful due to a small noticeable hiss that I found annoying after a while.

The transparency mode, on the other hand, is excellent. One press of the special ANC button and the world was suddenly very audible.

You can tweak both ANC and transparency modes in the Marshall app, but I found that the 100% levels are best in both modes.

Battery life

The Monitor II ANC’s battery life is among the best for premium ANC headphones. Marshall claims 30 hours with bluetooth and ANC on and up to 45 hours with bluetooth only. That beats the $ 400 Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 (up to 20 hours), Apple’s $ 549 AirPods Max (up to 20 hours), and even the $ 280 Sony WH-1000XM4 ( 30 hours with the ANC switched on, 38 hours with the device switched off).

They also have a respectable quick charge feature that gives you five hours of playtime after 15 minutes of charging.

As far as I know, these numbers are correct and, unlike some wireless sockets, you can use the Monitor II ANC with its analog cable even while charging, so you can never go without music.

Call quality

Marshall Monitor II ANCSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

Calls on the Monitor II ANC are generally good. You can block out most of the background noise when talking on the phone outdoors while keeping your voice reasonably clear. It’s not the high fidelity you get from the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700, but it’s perfectly fine for most calls and they work very well indoors.

For some reason, you can’t choose how much sidetone you get during a call (this is equivalent to calling transparency mode). The headphones switch to about 50% transparency – enough to hear your own voice a little more clearly, but not quite as clearly as if the transparency were at 100%.

Our opinion

As with most Marshall products, the Monitor II ANC offers a price premium that is difficult to justify based on performance alone. But if you like the retro-cool guitar amp style only Marshall can offer, then these cans make a fun set of full-featured wireless companions.

Is there a better alternative?

If you don’t mind the relatively conservative appearance, then the $ 280 Sony WH-1000XM4 are an excellent alternative. They’re cheaper (around $ 40), lighter, more comfortable, have better sound quality and ANC, and have more features like wear sensors and Bluetooth multipoint.

But there’s no denying that the Marshalls really are in a class of their own when it comes to style.

How long will they last?

The Marshall Monitor II ANC appears to be very well built from high quality materials. The ear pads can be easily removed and replaced when they are worn out. Marshall grants a one-year warranty on these headphones. I suspect they will last for many years if taken care of, although the lack of a hard case means you should be careful with how they are packaged.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you want a set of high quality ANC wireless headphones with a unique style and sound signature that favors high energy music, this is the Monitor II ANC will make you very happy.

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