All products featured are independently chosen by us. However, SoundGuys may receive a commission on orders placed through its retail links. See our ethics statement.
Marshall Monitor II ANC
Marshall has a long legacy as perhaps the most iconic manufacturer of guitar amplifiers, but in recent years it has also made a strong push into consumer audio as well. The company has released Bluetooth speakers and even Bluetooth earbuds in the past, all with the same classic Marshall design language. That said, one thing that’s been missing from the lineup for a long time was a pair of active noise canceling (ANC) headphones. That changed with the Monitor II ANC Bluetooth headphones. Marshall closed the gap on the competition and made a pair of ANC cans that fits perfectly in with its design language.
We tested the Marshall Monitor II ANC for two weeks to see how it performs.
Editor’s note: This post was updated on February 6, 2023, to add an alternatives section, to update the review in relation to the current market, and to match style with SoundGuys’ current standards.
Fans of Marshall design who like the look of its famous amps should find this headset to be right up their alley. Commuters and frequent fliers will appreciate the active noise canceling. Anyone that finds themselves in noisy environments often will find this headset gets the job done nicely.
How is the Marshall Monitor II ANC headphones built?
If you’re familiar with any of the previous products Marshall has released this should look very familiar. It’s unmistakably a pair of Marshall headphones and looks almost exactly like all of the company’s other products. You get the minimal, all-black colorway complete with a gold accent on the control knob and the white logo on the side of each ear cup. The frame is made of a tough metal that gives the headphones a hefty, reassuring weight. It’s not heavy at 320 grams, but it’s also not nearly as light as something like the Bose QC35 II, which weighs in at 235 grams.
Still, I don’t worry about it potentially cracking in my backpack like I do with the Bose headphones. It is built to inspire confidence, and it does. The headband is wrapped in leather and even the exposed coiled cables are thick and feel tough to the touch. In my two weeks of testing I didn’t exactly baby the headset, and it still looks brand new. Of course, it does come with a pretty nice fabric carrying pouch so if you really want to avoid it getting scratched up at all I’d recommend tossing it in the bag before packing it. The plush ear pads are also really comfortable and sat on my ears perfectly with little fatigue. There was some slight pressure on the crown of my head after about two hours of wearing the headphones, but it wasn’t anything that required me to take it off.
My experience using the Monitor II ANC headphones in my daily life is on par with some of the best headsets on the market. This pair of headphones is easy to use thanks to fully rotating ear cups and an adjustable headband that combine to make for a great seal. I found that there was also very little sound leakage with the headset. As long as you’re listening at normal human levels you shouldn’t have too many issues rocking it in the office or at home.
How do you control the Marshall Monitor II ANC?
The playback controls are all found on the golden knob which is surprisingly intuitive and easy to use. At first, I thought that the knob would be a deal breaker for me as I’m so used to just clicking buttons or using a touchpad, but I really enjoyed the tactile feel of the small knob. Clicking it to pause music or moving it around to control playback is just very satisfying.
Besides the golden knob, there are only two buttons on the headphones. One of which is labeled “ANC” and, as you’d expect, controls the active noise canceling. Pressing the button will immediately turn off the noise canceling and pause your music so that you can hear what’s going on around you. It uses the microphones built into the headphones to pick up and slightly amplify your environment, which is helpful if you need to hear announcements while on planes or public transportation. As someone who relies on the New York City subway system for transportation, this feature is super useful as it allows me to know what new misfortune the MTA has in store for me without needing to remove the headphones. If you’ve used the transparency mode on other pairs of headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM4, Apple AirPods Pro, or the Jabra Elite 7 Active, then you know how useful a feature this can be.
How is the connection strength?
Connection strength with these headphones is very good overall. Marshall is one of the most prominent manufacturers of audio equipment in the world, so thankfully just because it made a pair of Bluetooth headphones doesn’t mean it got rid of the headphone jack. Besides Bluetooth 5.0, the headset also has a 3.5mm input on the left ear cup which was nice since I still have plenty of devices that aren’t Bluetooth compatible. As far as connection strength goes, I didn’t have any issues with skips or stutters whether I was connected to my phone in my pocket or even to my computer while in another room. The range maxes out at about 10m though so as long as you keep within that range you shouldn’t have too many issues.
One downside to the Monitor II ANC headphones that’s pretty surprising is the lack of any high quality Bluetooth codecs. It has the standard SBC, and that’s it. So if you were hoping for AAC or aptX you’re out of luck. What this means practically is that you’ll be wasting your time using high-res streaming service like Amazon Music HD, Tidal, or Deezer over Bluetooth. If you tend to watch a lot of videos this can also be a problem since there’s a slight lag between a person’s lips and when you hear what they’re saying. It’s very subtle, but it’s there.
If you want to customize anything about the Marshall II ANC, there’s also an app that you can download to tweak it to your liking. In the app you can control everything from your headphones’ name to your preferred EQ settings. You can also reassign the “M” multifunction button to either access Siri, the Google Assistant, or switch between three EQ presets.
The Marshall Monitor II ANC headphones does have Bluetooth multipoint. Staying connected to two devices is easy and works more or less as advertised. To pair to a new device you have to:
- Power up the headphones by pressing down the gold knob.
- Hold it down until you hear the Bluetooth pairing noise.
- Go into the settings of your second device and choose “Monitor II ANC” headphones.
- The headphones should stay connected to your primary and secondary device now.
I can connect to both my iPhone 11 Pro and my Huawei Matebook X Pro at the same time and the Marshall Monitor II ANC headphones has no problems switching between them depending on which one was playing audio. The process of switching between them isn’t perfect and there is a slight delay in audio, but it still works consistently.
What’s the battery life like?
Marshall claims that the Monitor II ANC headphones will give you up to 30 hours of constant playback wirelessly with active noise canceling turned on. For our battery tests, we make sure to keep the headphones at a constant output of 75dB and then leave music playing constantly on loop until the headphones eventually die. Doing this, we managed to squeeze out 28 hours and 11 minutes. That’s just under the 30 hours that Marshall claims, but still impressive. If you opt to turn off active noise canceling you can squeeze another 15 hours out of these if you need it. It also charges via USB-C.
Hold up! Something’s different:
This article’s frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We have since purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this review (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements, isolation performance plots, and standardized microphone demos. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white). Each new mic sample begins with the phrase, “This is a SoundGuys standardized microphone demonstration …”
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
How does the Monitor II ANC cancel noise?
One of the biggest factors when it comes to how your music is going to sound is how good the headphones are at blocking out noise. The Monitor II ANC is good at this with high pitched noises. While it’s far from taking the crown away from the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM5 or the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700, it is fine. Upon its release the Marshall Monitor II ANC filtered noise relatively well for ANC available at the time, however, technology has truly advanced beyond its capabilities.
It does a good job at blocking out sounds in the higher frequencies, but it’s the slight bump between 100Hz to 1000Hz that you should take notice of. This is where the most disruptive sounds usually are (like the rumble of a jet engine or low humming of a train) so being able to make those sounds less intrusive is a big deal.
How does the Monitor II ANC headphones sound?
Sound quality is good, at least to me. I’m not a huge fan of big thumping bass in my headphones, and the Marshall Monitor II ANC headphones toes that line masterfully providing just enough bump to keep me entertained without overdoing it. The bass kicks in the song GOD. by Kendrick Lamar still sounds strong without making the rest of the song dip in volume whenever they hit.
The sound signature of these headphones is not perfect, but if you like subtle bass and are willing to compromise on weak-sounding highs, it sounds pretty good.
The sub-bass that comes into the song at 0:58 is also clearly distinct from the bass kicks and just sounds great. By default, the mids are also nicely emphasized and I have no problem listening to Lost in Yesterday by Tame Impala even with all of the other instrumentation going on around him. On the downside, I find the highs aren’t great and this is reflected in the frequency response graph. These are a little too quiet, resulting in the rhythmic hi-hats sounding far away. On the bright side, this is fixed somewhat by switching to a different EQ profile in the app, but for the purposes of the review I left everything on the “Marshall” sound profile which is turned on by default.
Is the microphone any good?
The microphone is not very good. If you happen to have a deep voice the headset’s mic is going to cut off a big portion of the lower notes so that your voice will just sound slightly higher than usual. Sure, this isn’t a big deal if you don’t take calls often but if you do then it’s something you may want to take into consideration.
Marshall Monitor II ANC microphone demo:
How does it sound to you?
Should you buy the Marshall Monitor II ANC?
Whether or not you should buy the Marshall Monitor II ANC headphones really comes down to how much you like the design. True, it has some active noise canceling, but so do some of the other top active noise canceling headphones, and those do a better job of filtering noise. Plus, it will run you a chunk of change, so it does not undercut the competition.
While there are reasons to like the Marshall Monitor II ANC headphones, it lacks some truly premium features that other top headphones have such as support for high quality Bluetooth codecs. And while the Monitor II ANC does have a great battery life of about 30 hours, it’s not enough to set it apart. Basically, the biggest problem with the Monitor II ANC headphones is that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it’s not the newest headset on the block any longer.
What the Marshall Monitor II ANC headphones has going for it is its truly superior build and design. Plastic is definitely lighter and easier to wear, but there’s something inspiring about cold metal and leather. The comfortable ear cups, tough build, gold playback control knob, and the ease of use all make it a really strong contender. However, it has fallen behind on the noise canceling front.
What should you get instead of the Marshall Monitor II ANC?
Since the inception of the Marshall Monitor II ANC, the noise canceling headphones market has blossomed, so unsurprisingly, you have more options. If you want some of the premium feel of the Monitor II ANC, but with better ANC and codecs, check out the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless. This headset has vastly better noise canceling and connects over SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, or aptX Adaptive codecs, or a 3.5mm headphone jack. That it combines a nice frequency response, feature set, and build ought to satisfy most folks for $289.23 at Amazon.
Folks looking for something that folds down may be interested in the Sony WH-1000XM4, which isn’t the new kid on the block, but still cancels noise better than the Marshall headphones. It also dropped in price since the WH-1000XM5 came out to $348 at Amazon. The feature full headphones sport spatial audio, which is absent from the Monitor II ANC, and AAC and LDAC Bluetooth codecs.
Finally, we’d be remiss to not mention the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700. It has a premium build with an unusual IPX4 rating—a rarity on over-ear headphones—and very good ANC. It has a pleasant tuning, and uses SBC, AAC, or a wired connection. If you use an iPhone, AAC will be your main priority with regards to Bluetooth. Android owners may prefer the other codec options above when spending that much money.