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Having previously been impressed with the Marshall Emberton II, and I have recently been checking out their first pair of active noise-cancelling earbuds, the Motif ANC.

These are premium-priced earbuds with the quintessential Marshal design.  

Specification

  • DRIVER SENSITIVITY: 106±2 dB @ 1 mW (0.126Vrms) 1 KHz
  • DRIVER TYPE: Dynamic
  • DRIVER IMPEDANCE: 16 Ω
  • FREQUENCY RANGE: 20-20,000 Hz
  • DRIVERS: 6 mm
  • BLUETOOTH: 5.2
  • CODECS: SBC + MPEG-2 AAC
  • ANC: Yes             
  • PLAYTIME:
    • 4.5 hours in earbuds with ANC (6 hours without)
    • 20 total hours in case with ANC (26 hours without)
  • WIRELESS CHARGING: Yes
  • ECO CHARGING: Optional
  • QUICK CHARGING: 15 minutes gives 1 hour of playtime
  • CHARGING TIME:
    • 3 hours to recharge earbuds
    • 3 hours to recharge case
  • WEIGHT: 4.25 g
  • WATER RESISTANCE
    • IPX5 in earbuds
    • IPX4 in case
  • APP: Yes
  • TOUCH RESPONSE FUNCTIONS:
    • Control your music
    • Activate ANC.
    • Receive and end calls
    • Activate Transparency mode

Design and Fit

There is not really a great deal you can do to make earbuds look good, but Marshal has done their best to apply its distinctive style to these.

The case has a cracked leather look with the iconic logo, it is reminiscent of the amps and speakers they do. I feel like they could have made the case more rectangular and square and have it look a bit like the Emberton, but that might have made the design border on cheesy.

The case has USB-C but can also be charged wirelessly. I am a fan of wireless charging earbuds, it’s just much more convenient to plonk the case down on a charging mat than plug it in.

The earbuds themselves look good as far as these go. They are not quite the generic black design you see all the time. It is a stem design with a textured stem and the Marshal logo on the earbud.

The earbud section is angled and seems to be designed to try and fit as much bulk of the weight inside your concha.

For my ears, the fit is OK. They go in comfortably, and I haven’t had them fall out, even when at the gym, but they don’t feel quite as secure as other earbuds. You only get three sizes for the silicon tips, the largest isn’t very large, and I think this may be why they are not as secure as other buds. At this price point, I like to see a wider range of ear tips, and a foam ear tip is also a welcome addition.

App and pairing problems with Pixel 6 & 7 series

My daily phone is the Pixel 6, and I have had quite a few issues getting the app to worth with this phone. I suspect it is more a Google/Pixel problem than a Marshal problem, but it is not ideal.

Things started well. As soon as I opened the case, the pop-up and pair dialogue appeared. I paired the earbuds, and the dialogue told me to download the app. However, this is where the problems start. The app recognises that I want to pair the Motif ANC, but it stays stuck on the searching for earbuds screen indefinitely.

When it searches for the earbuds, you get another Bluetooth dialogue for Bluetooth LE; this seems to be where the problem lies. The Pixel seems to ignore me agreeing to this connection.

I tried unpairing and repairing it multiple times. I came to the conclusion it was the weird way that there can be different types of Bluetooth connections. You have the pop-up and pair, which names the device, or the old-fashioned way, where you manually pair the device from the Bluetooth menu.

Dismissing the pop-up dialogue and manually pairing it worked. I was then told to update the firmware. I assume this worked, but when I tried to use the app again, I had the same problem. Unfortunately, I found no way to get it to work this time.

I was fairly sure this was Pixel related, so I switched to my Realme GT 3 Neo, and everything worked immediately. Pop-up and pair worked, I downloaded the app, it recognised the earphones, I then had to pair again with Bluetooth LE, a second or so later, the app recognised the earbuds, and I could control them properly.

Once I got the app working, it was quite good, certainly better than average. You have the various ANC controls, an equaliser, you can customise the touch controls and also customise the different ANC levels.

I have looked through the Amazon reviews of these earbuds, and at least one person described the exact same problem as me but with the Pixel 7 Pro. I am confident that this is a Pixel related problem, however, a lot of people seem to dislike the app in general (I found it works well with my Realme).

Sound Quality

When I used these earbuds with the Pixel and with the app non-functional, I felt underwhelmed by the sound quality. They seemed very flat. I wouldn’t say they sound way bad; in fact, some people would likely argue the lack of bass emphasis is good. But for me, I like some bass.

With the Realme GT 3 Neo, I realised the ANC was not enabled by default and with this switched on, the sound profile completely changed (a common quirk with ANC earbuds). The bass lifts substantially, and you get a much richer, warm sound profile that will suit most mainstream consumer tastes.

Within the app, you can tweak the equaliser, and you can set up three presets. The first is the signature Marshal sound, but you can then tap on the second preset and select hip-hop, rock, spoken, electronic and more.

Oddly, they show the bars which indicate which frequencies get enhanced or recessed, but there is no way to manually adjust these. The drop-down menu lacks a custom preset option. Personally, I liked the preset and I never really know what I am doing with manual adjustments, but it would be good to have.

Thanks to the equaliser and with the ANC on, I find the overall sound quality to be excellent, and for me, I’d say this is the main selling point of these earbuds.

Active Noise Cancelling

The performance of the active noise cancelling is often the thing that really differentiates a premium pair of earbuds from affordable ones.

I’d say the performance is only average. When using my normal airplane cabin noise test, they were able to eliminate a good amount of the low end, but they left a lot of the mid to high-end frequencies. I had the FreeBuds Pro 2 to hand when I reviewed this, and they perform quite a lot better.

I suspect that part of the issue is that the eartips don’t feel like they have the same seal and fit as other earbuds with larger silicon tips. If you don’t have big ears like myself, you may have better results.

Battery

The quoted battery life is 4.5 hours with the ANC on and 6 with it off. This used to be your average battery life for a lot of earbuds, but in recent years it has improved significantly, and I would now regard it as quite poor.  

The last two generations of the Sony ANC earbuds have increased the battery life, with the  WF-1000xm4 now at 8 hours with ANC on. Even the AirPods Pro can do 5.5 hours with spacial audio enabled.

The FreeBuds Pro 2, which are a similar price to these, have a battery life of just 4 hours, and I have regularly found that they die towards the end of my gym sessions (they don’t last 4 hours with ANC on). I haven’t experienced this with the Marshal earbuds yet, but I’d think twice about wearing them for any long sessions.

Price and Alternative Options

The Marshall Motif ANC are priced at £180 RRP, which puts them well into the premium category. Looking at Amazon, there has not been a significant price reduction during this time, typically varying between £170 and £180.

That puts them against some big hitters.

You have Jabra with either the Elite 85t, which regularly drops down to around £150 or the newer Elite 7 Pro, which often gets discounted to around £130.

The Sony WF-1000XM4 is pretty much the gold standard for ANC earbuds, and they have been £160 since mid-November.

I think one of the problems many of these premium earbuds have is that affordable earbuds are getting increasingly good. The Soundcore by Anker Liberty 3 Pro are currently just £90. They are not quite as good, but they are around half the price!

Overall

The Marshall Motif ANC are an attractive and excellent pair of earbuds. They are best suited for people who value sound quality above all else.

I think they fall a bit short elsewhere. The ANC and battery performance could certainly be better.

My experience with them has been a bit tarnished by the issues with my Pixel 6, and this is something that’s worth considering if you have a Pixel phone (it may not affect all Pixel phones though).

I think the pricing is a bit high for my liking, but I guess you are paying a premium for the Marshal name and design.

Marshall Motif ANC Earbuds Review Rating

Summary

The Marshall Motif ANC are an attractive and excellent pair of earbuds. They are best suited for people who value sound quality above all else. They fall short in a couple of areas which makes them difficult to stand out in a competitive premium market.

Overall
75%
75%
  • Overall - 75%
    75%

Pros

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Preset profiles are superb, even though you can’t personalise them
  • Attractive design

Cons

  • Battery life should be better
  • ANC is OK (likely a fit issue)
  • Potential problems with the App and Pixel phones

Last update on 2024-04-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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