Thinking of the Marshall brand tends to evoke images of guitar amps stacked to the rafters, which the company is world famous for, having powered many bands rocking around the globe up to stadium filling levels. So hearing that this British born business (founded by Jim Marshall in 1962 from a shop in West London) has broadened out into other music related hardware, from Bluetooth speakers to earbuds, really whetted my audio appetite.
The Marshall Motif A.N.C. (active noise cancelling) buds under review here continue the company mantra by claiming to let you carry the big stage around in your pocket, which sounds pure rock ‘n roll.
Opening the sleek packaging reveals a lozenge-sized charging case, embossed with the instantly recognisable Marshall logo, with its ‘M‘ resplendent on each bud.
Feeling light, the case is sturdy and small, fitting easily in the pocket. In the ear, the buds offer a sealed-fit, thanks to a choice of three different sized rubber tips (s/m/l) making it easy to find a set that strikes the right balance of feeling comfortable, without being too intrusive.
The Motif A.N.C. are true wireless earbuds boasting 26 hours of run time (20 hours in ANC mode) from their charging case, with each bud holding 4.5 hours of charge in ANC mode and 6 hours without, meaning despite many hours of headbanging, running and relaxing, I have only had to charge the case a few times since putting them into regular service. I used the accompanying charging cable, but you can also charge them wirelessly via pads too.
For those about to rock…
Pairing them with my iPhone 11 Pro via Bluetooth is quick and easy. And keen to see if they live up to their promise of thunderous sound in a neat package I kick-off with a big stadium band that has a big stadium sound via AC/DC’s Shot In The Dark. The Marshall’s react with ease, as the driving bass kicks, the drums roll and the guitars bite, it’s clear that their 6mm drivers (with a 20Hz–20kHz claimed range) sound powerful and dynamic with enough depth and clarity to induce wild head bobbing and moshing around the room.
Controlling the Motifs is fuss free, with intuitive touch to take calls, control your music, activate the audio modes including ANC and transparency (with the latter acting as ANC in reverse, by letting in outside noise, such as traffic and conversation). One touch on either bud lets you play, pause or receive and end calls, two touches skips forward or rejects a call and three touches skips back a track. Lastly, a long touch toggles between noise cancelling, transparency and ANC off.
Operating them via Marshall’s Bluetooth on your phone is even better as it brings with it options to see battery levels for each bud, audio modes, volume, power, eco charging and interactive sounds when you select a command.
To understand how they perform day to day, I tested the Motifs in a range of real life situations, including commuting. The ANC feature comes in handy when on the move, ensuring I can hear everything from delicate orchestras via Radio 3 to tense episodes of Ken Bruce’s Popmaster on BBC Sounds without interruption. They do not cancel all external noise though in this mode, but I found it enough to limit distractions. An overseas trip proved them dependable travel companions, from serving up audiobooks and music on the flight, to relaxing on the beach with Pip Blom’s Boat streamed via Tidal. The earbuds are IPX5 water resistant rated as well, which brings some reassurance when by the sea or pool side.
Music for grown ups
Wearing them while running is where earbuds really earn their stripes for me, as this is the harshest environment I use them the most in, and having transparency mode selected means I can be much more alert to traffic and people, while still enjoying the music. On the practical side, the Motifs’ secure fit and light weight ensures they remain comfortable and secure while my feet are pounding the paths, which is a huge bonus for runners that enjoy their music as much as their exercise.
From Spotify’s lower bitrate to Tidal at hifi quality, the Marshalls always offer a favourable and sympathetic presentation, especially with poorer quality material. Kamasi Washington’s The Epic for example sounds almost equally crystal clear via both platforms with levels of depth that other earbuds at this price point lack. Overall the sound quality can be summarised as balanced between being dynamic while having a maturity that makes them less fatiguing than many rivals, meaning you wont want the music to stop. Add to this the effortless app experience which really does put you in control of the listening experience and there’s little not to like.
These are some of the best budget to mid price true wireless buds on the market today, with a sound that’s powerful and full of energy to keep you coming back for more. Add to this a quality build and healthy dose of brand kudos from a company that knows more about delivering live music than most, and you have a clear winner.