Review: Marshall’s New Earbuds Offer Robust Sound and a Great Fit (And They’re Finally Back in Stock)

Aesthetically and sonically sound, these noise-cancelling earbuds don’t always connect

The new Marshall Motif ANC earbuds

By Kirk Miller

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Besides the brand’s heritage, Marshall’s biggest strength when it comes to personal audio is their style.

As we’ve noted before, their speakers and headphones are based — both in aesthetics and sound — on the brand’s iconic guitar amps. So their headphones are crafted from black vinyl, solid metal hinges and brass details. Very retro, but also timelessly cool — and the brains and features have stayed in the present.

Things get a little dicier when it comes to earbuds. Obviously, they’re small — while Marshall’s buds feature a similar black/brass colorway and an “M” cursive logo, from a distance you may not notice how these are any different from any other stubby black earbuds.

So we thought they’d have to really make up for their lack of obvious aeshetic appeal via sound. But if you spend a few weeks with the legacy brand’s new Motif ANC earbuds — and some time with the minimalist Minor III buds — you’ll start to notice what connects these small ear speakers to Marshall’s more prominent audio gear. 

The two earbuds were both released in the past few months; we spent some time with both in our office, on a plane, in a subway and even during some workouts. Our thoughts below on the Motif ANC, which is the more premium edition and one most likely to appeal to you sonically and aesthetically. 

Setting up: Don’t do what I did and ignore the Marshall app. Sure, you’ll easily be able to connect to your device via Bluetooth, but your sound options and controls will be severely limited, at least when you first start.

It took a bit to download the recent version of the app and some new firmware, and then get a stable connection to the earbuds (you’ll want to keep the Motif case open and press the Bluetooth button on front until you see a blue light). After a day or so of issues, we had a fairly consistent connection — and that app is going to be important.

The specs:

The Motif arrives with the earbuds, a wireless charging case, three sizes of eartips, a USB-C charging cable and a quick start guide.

What works:

What kind of works:

A close-up look at the Marshall Motif ANC earbuds
Marshall

What needs work:

Note: The Minor III is pretty aesthetically similar to the Motif, but the overall experience is minimalist. No ANC, no app integration. Basically, you’re getting a bare bones set of black earbuds that’ll get you up to 25 hours of listening time (for a more modest price, at $120). If the frustrations we had with the app are making you hesitant, this is a strong earbuds option that requires little thought; it’s a nice grab-and-go option. 

What others are saying:

3.5/5. Marshall’s earbuds have some crucial flaws, in particular on the comfort side of things, that hold them back and make alternative choices a good chunk more attractive at this price. — Pocket-lint

4/5. — The Marshall Motif A.N.C. does a fine job of blending hallmark sound with modern features, granted it could benefit from longer playtimes. — Laptop

Amongst the latest from Klipsch, Anker, and even Apple that I’ve tried this year, there’s nothing that has quite the same balance across the soundstage as the Marshall Motif ANC. — 9to5Toys

What we’re saying: When the app worked and connected properly — and we were listening to music in noise-cancelling mode — the Motif was an excellent-sounding option for both podcasts and music. We do wish both the app and touch controls were more seamless. 

Where to buy: Though it goes in and out of stock quickly, you can find the Motif earbuds for $200 at Marshall’s site.