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Marshall Major V wishlist: All the features I want to see

Sometimes, less is... less.
By

Published onMarch 15, 2024

A hand holds the semi folded Marshall Major IV in front of a rattan background.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys

Marshall is a household name among guitar players and avid music fans. However, the company licensed its brand to Zound Industries (the maker of Urbanears) in 2010. Since then, Zound Industries has led the charge in bringing the Marshall brand to the headphones and earbuds market. Its most recent release, the Marshall Major IV, are a simple-to-use and plush set of on-ear headphones. Most notably, they wear more comfortable ear cup padding than their predecessor, the Marshall Major III. Given their popularity among musos, it is little wonder why fans are excited about the possibility of updated Marshall Major V headphones coming to market.

However, neither Zound Industries nor Marshall has made any official announcement about the Marshall Major V. Despite this, I fully expect the next-gen upgrade to land in 2024. When they do, the Major V will need an up-to-date and comprehensive list of high-end features. Here is everything I want to see included in Zound Industries’ next-gen on-ear headphones.

The AAC and aptX Bluetooth codecs

On a light wood surface are the cables and Marshall Major IV headphones.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys
You get a USB-C charging cable plus a hardwired listening option.

What constitutes the best wireless headphones is as subjective as it is divisive. For example, some prefer noise canceling headphones, while others prioritize a comfortable fit. However, a universally advantageous purchasing factor for wireless listeners is headphones with a broad list of Bluetooth codecs. At their most basic, these dictate the speed and quality of data transfers between two wirelessly paired devices. Some, such as the aptX Adaptive codec, use a variable format that dynamically scales the bitrate to adjust its quality. This is useful for maintaining connection stability when moving from uncongested to busy radio environments.

The Marshall Major IV run Bluetooth 5.0. However, the headphones only support the default SBC codec. This reproduces music with up to 345kbps, 48kHz/ 16-bit audio sampling. Unfortunately, SBC is prone to significant data loss and unreliable connection strength. For iPhone owners, AAC provides a much better wireless listening experience. Likewise, those sporting Android smartphones benefit the most from the aptX Bluetooth codec. While the included 1.3m length 3.5mm headphone jack is welcome, most modern smartphones have ditched the aux port. If the Marshall Major V are to compete with other flagship headphones, they must provide a broader list of Bluetooth codecs upon launch. At the very least, I expect them to support the AAC codec.

A flatter frequency response

The Marshall Major IV frequency response as compared to the SoundGuys target frequency response.
Most high frequencies have a roughly 8dB to 10dB exaggeration.

It is increasingly common for consumer headphones to adorn an exaggerated U-shaped frequency curve. In particular, some of the best headphones for bass prioritize volume boosts to bass and sub-bass frequencies below 250Hz. This benefits bass heads who enjoy listening to EDM the most. However, it is also popular among athletes and gym enthusiasts. The accentuated bass provides extra “oomph” for busting through a rigorous workout regimen. It also leads to auditory masking, where the perception of one sound is affected by the presence of another. This helps block out unwanted environmental noises from the headphones’ audio stream.

Unfortunately, too much bass can lead to the masking of fundamental frequencies. For example, the Marshall Major IV boost bass frequencies around 80Hz by roughly 8dB. Similarly, the headphones accentuate high-end frequencies around 5kHz by up to 17dB. This contrasts the approximate 7dB dip in the mids around 600Hz. Wearing a drastic U-shaped curve makes vocals sound substantially subdued against the overly prominent bass and treble frequencies. Another side effect is that cymbals, snares, and hi-hats sound significantly more sibilant than on other flagship headphones. Likewise, kick drums and bass guitars sound comparatively loud. The Marshall Major V could enjoy a more consumer-friendly sound profile if they adopt a flatter frequency response.

A mobile companion app

The Marshall Major IV slung over a rattan screen with blurred books in the background.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys

As stated above, the default sound you get out of the box with the Marshall Major IV is imperfect. While some will admire their plug-and-play simplicity, others will resent the missed opportunity of greater audio customization. This has added weight, given that even some of the best cheap headphones come equipped with a comprehensive companion app. For example, the 1MORE SonoFlow cost $50 less than the Marshall Major IV and include 12 “studio grade” presets and a native graphic EQ. You can also install vital firmware updates through the 1MORE MUSIC App, a feature that is entirely missing with the Marshall Major IV.

The updated Marshall Major V would benefit enormously from having a companion app. In addition to installing firmware updates, the company could include a quick guide for using the headphones. Rather than having to install third-party EQ apps, Zound Industries could provide its users with a built-in custom EQ. A companion app could also help users remap the inverted directional push command orientations of the Major IV. For example, volume adjustments could be remapped from horizontal to vertical pushes. Likewise, track skipping could be remapped from vertical to horizontal pushes. This would fall into line with other major manufacturers like Sony and Google. A companion app could also control more advanced features in the future, such as toggling between listening modes, toggling noise canceling strength, and Bluetooth codec selection.

Improved passive isolation and ANC

A chart shows the isolation performance of the Marshall Major IV which is okay for on-ear headphones.
On-ear headphones do not usually block noise well. However, this is an okay result.

Achieving passive isolation capable of blocking intrusive environmental sounds requires a tightly sealed fit. Likewise, noise canceling technologies work best by forming a robust seal between the headphones and the ear. Unfortunately, it is hard to attain a secure fit with on-ear headphones. Unlike over-ears that cup around the outer ear, on-ear headphones press against the outer ear. This can cause discomfort and ear fatigue over long periods. It also makes it much more difficult to form a tight seal between the ear pads and the entrance to the ear canal.

However, some of the best on-ear headphones have excellent noise canceling capabilities. The Beats Solo Pro, for example, attenuate frequencies around 10kHz by as much as 40dB. The clamping force of the headband is also far greater than that of the Marshall Major IV. The latter opts for a looser and more comfortable fit at the expense of a good seal between the ear pads and the outer ear. This causes a significant reduction in passive isolation below 3kHz, allowing low-frequency noises to reach your ears unencumbered. In truth, anything other than high-pitched chatter will circumvent the isolation afforded by the Major IV. If the Marshall Major V are to keep up with current industry trends, they will need better isolation and ANC when they eventually launch.

A protective case

On a light wood surface is a side view of the Marshall Major IV headphones.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys
The right-hand Marshall logo is where you rest the headphones to charge wirelessly.

The price of consumer headphones has been on an upward trajectory for several years. At the same time, once flagship-exclusive features are steadily being bundled into affordable headsets. Zound Industries falls somewhere in the middle. For example, the Marshall Major II, Major III, and Major IV headphones cost $150 at launch. However, aside from swapping cheaper plastic for vinyl and a slightly smaller build, there is very little difference in features. Recycling the iconic Marshall cosmetics will appease some, but the continuation of mediocre sound quality and a sparse feature set will leave audiophiles wanting.

Nevertheless, the Marshall Major IV are remarkably comfortable for on-ear headphones. At 165 grams, they are about 85 grams lighter than the hardly heavy Sony WH-1000XM5. The earcups are also significantly smaller, measuring just 65mm from top to bottom. Mercifully, the Major IV adorn earcups that fold inwards. This allows users to compact the headphones into smaller spaces for travel. However, unlike the Sony WH-1000XM5, the Major IV do not include a carrying case out of the box. This is a misstep, given the headphones will set you back $150. Many music fans take solace in their hard-earned headphones being protected on commutes. Zound Industries would do well to include a protective case when the Marshall Major V come to shelves.

What would you like to see Zound Industries bring to the Marshall Major V?

37 votes

Will there be a Marshall Major V?

A man faces away from the viewer with his right hand using the control on the Marshall Major IV.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys
One button does it all.

The Marshall brand enjoys an electric mix of wireless earbuds and headphones. For example, its up-to-date Marshall Motif II ANC came to market as recently as September 12, 2023. These buds boast valuable improvements on their predecessor and are an excellent alternative to the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation). However, they are prone to signal dropouts, and their noise canceling leaves much to be desired. The Marshall Major IV fair better by sporting a comfortable design and fun aesthetic. They make up for a lack of flagship features with ease of use and simplicity. Unfortunately, Zound Industries and Marshall have remained tight-lipped about the feature-rich Marshall Major V. However, I remain hopeful that the Major V will be released this year despite them gaining no mention at CES 2024.

  • Marshall Major II — February 7, 2015
  • Marshall Major III — April 27, 2018
  • Marshall Major IV — October 14, 2020

Zound Industries favors a two-to-three-year release window when refreshing its Marshall Major headphone brand. For example, the Major III came to shelves three years and two months after the Major II. Similarly, the Major IV followed two years and six months after the Major III. If we apply the average time between these two releases, we should have seen the Marshall Major V come to market in August 2023. However, Zound Industries may bring its flagship headphones to market in early 2024.

The company has a mixed timeline regarding seasonal releases. The Major II, for example, launched at the tail end of winter 2015. The Major III came to market later in the year, during the Spring of 2018. Finally, the Major IV hit shelves in the fall of 2020. This makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly when we should expect the Marshall Major V to come to fruition. However, I suspect the next-gen headphones will retail in the spring of 2024.

Should you wait for the Marshall Major V?

A hand holds up the folded down Marshall Major IV headphones in front of a rattan background.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys
The Major IV folds up in all kinds of ways and angles.

At the time of writing, the Marshall Major IV remain available for purchase from the company’s website and most major retailers. For the price, users gain the basics packaged into a fun and comfortable design. With no current sign of a feature-rich upgrade, it is reasonable to question whether it is worth waiting for the Marshall Major V headphones.

The Marshall Major IV ($116 at Amazon) continue the familiar Marshall aesthetic of their predecessors. While not much has changed under the hood from the Major III, the updated Major IV enjoy more comfortable earcup padding and a looser headband. The brass-colored tactile button is fun and easy to use, even if the control orientation contrasts with industry trends. While the sound profile is unlikely to appease audiophiles, the 3.5mm headphone jack is a welcome addition for those wishing to avoid lossy audio and battery drain. However, those who enjoy listening wirelessly gain an impressive 80 hours of estimated playtime. The headphones also support fast charging, profiting 15 hours of playback time from a 15-minute top-up. Boosting up on the fly is easy by resting the right earcup on a Qi wireless charging pad. However, the high price point is questionable, given the lack of high-end features.

Tangle-free music fans looking for a bargain will enjoy the Sennheiser HD 350BT ($86 at Amazon.) While getting on in years, these headphones offer a broad list of Bluetooth codecs. For example, the cans run Bluetooth 5.0 and connect via the SBC, AAC, aptX, and aptX Low Latency codecs. The latter supports a latency of fewer than 40 milliseconds, enhancing the mobile gaming and movie-watching experience. Unfortunately, the HD 350BT nixed the headphone port. However, the headphones sport a pleasing frequency response that dips slightly in the bass at roughly 200Hz. Unlike the Marshall Major IV, users can adjust the sound profile of the HD 350BT in the Sennheiser Smart Control app. Here, fans gain an easy-to-use custom EQ module, a transparency mode toggle, voice prompt configuration, and access to firmware updates. It is hard to go wrong for $30 less than the Major IV at launch.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20XBT ($79 at Amazon) are an excellent pair of no-nonsense headphones. At $30 less than the Marshall Major IV, users gain up to 60 hours of playback time and a choice of wired or wireless listening. Those who choose the latter can select from either SBC or AAC connectivity. Controlling the headphones is easy thanks to dedicated tactile buttons on the underside of the left earcup. The default sound profile is pleasing, with a slight roll-off in sub-bass frequencies around 70Hz. Unfortunately, the headphones are not supported by the Audio-Technica Connect app. With no companion app, users cannot download firmware updates or use high-end features such as a native custom EQ. Instead, fans are forced to download a third-party EQ to hone their sound. However, the headphones own better passive isolation than the Marshall Major IV.

For the best possible feature set at this price point, grab the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 ($99.99 at Amazon.) These headphones cost the same as the Marshall Major IV but deliver many more features. For example, the Soundcore Space Q45 connect wirelessly with Bluetooth 5.3 via the SBC, AAC, and LDAC codecs. Bluetooth Multipoint is also supported, allowing multi-device connectivity. Those who prefer analog audio can connect via the 3.5mm headphone port. Most enticingly, the headphones provide excellent noise canceling and isolation. With ANC enabled, high-end sounds are quelled by nearly 38dB. The noise canceling also performs well at blocking bass frequencies, significantly attenuating low-pitched drones from cars and trains. The headphones profit 50 hours of ANC-enabled listening time, with a five-minute charge yielding four hours of playback. The Soundcore app is a little clunky, but at least it has one.

FAQs

If you want a pair of comfortable, no-frills on-ear headphones, the Marshall Major IV ($116 at Amazon) are worth it. For the price, users receive an easy-to-use and attractive pair of headphones. However, the cans have no companion app or noise canceling and can only connect wirelessly via the SBC Bluetooth codec. For the same price, the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 ($99.99 at Amazon) provide a broad list of Bluetooth codecs, excellent noise canceling, and Bluetooth Multipoint.

Both Marshall and Beats are lauded for their fashionable branding. However, they make very different products. For example, the Marshall Major IV do not support the AAC Bluetooth codec and have no companion app. On the other hand, the Beats Solo Pro sport Apple’s H1 chip, and anyone running iOS 10.3 or later will receive automatic firmware updates. Some would argue that Beats has a prouder history of producing some of the best headphones on the market. Ultimately, this is subjective based on your preferences.

This is subjective. For example, some music fans will enjoy the simplicity and iconic aesthetic of the Marshall Major IV. However, these headphones lack many high-end features offered by other similarly-priced headphones. For example, the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 cost the same price as the Major IV and provide a broader list of Bluetooth codecs, excellent noise canceling, and 60 hours of ANC-enabled playtime. It may be worth looking outside the Marshall brand if you desire the best value for your money.

If you own a smartphone that hosts an aux input, you can make use of the Marshall Major IV’s headphone jack for seamless mobile gaming. However, if your smartphone only connects wirelessly, you are better off purchasing a pair of headphones with the aptX Low Latency codec. The Sennheiser HD 350BT ($86 at Amazon) are an excellent choice at a similar price point.