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Home / Reviews / Audio / Headphones / Marshall Motif II ANC review: throwback style, throwdown sound

Marshall Motif II ANC review: throwback style, throwdown sound

Much easier to fit in your ears than a guitar amplifier

Marshall Motif II ANC lead

Stuff Verdict

These amp-inspired earphones have a suitably slammin’ sound and plenty of built-in features. Noise cancellation is only OK compared to close rivals, though.


  • Punchy and detailed audio
  • Secure, comfortable fit
  • Distinctive styling


  • Very average ANC
  • Touch controls overly sensitive


Marshall has pretty much cornered the market for wireless earphones that wouldn’t look out of place in the ears of Jimi Hendrix or Robert Plant in their heyday. The Motif II ANC are the firm’s latest effort, retaining the signature styling while also boosting battery life over the original model.

The firm is also promising a step up for call quality, and touch controls that are even more comprehensive – so your phone can stay in your pocket for longer. They’re also packing active noise cancellation and are made of splash-proof materials, so should be able to mosh with the best of ’em. At least on paper. Do es the Motif II ANC have the substance to back up all that style?

How we test headphones

Every pair of earphones and headphones reviewed on Stuff is used for a minimum of a week’s worth of daily listening. We use a playlist of test tracks made up of multiple genres to assess sound, and use our years of experience to compare to other models. Manufacturers have no visibility on reviews before they appear online, and we never accept payment to feature products.

Find out more about how we test and rate products.

Design & build: rock that body

Just like Marshall’s extensive Bluetooth speaker line-up, the Motif II ANC really are committed to the bit. The compact flip-top charging case? It’s wrapped in leather-like black plastic that perfectly mimics the firm’s guitar amplifiers. The buds themselves? AirPods-aping steam shape aside, the all-black colour scheme, knurled finish and gold-plated end caps are properly distinctive. The trademark Marshall ‘M’ on each bud is a neat touch.

We like that Marshall has stepped up its use of post-consumer recycled plastic, with up to 70% now used for the case and buds. The rubbery texture on the case gives you plenty to grip on to, and we love how easily it slips into a jeans pocket. Pressing the butto on the front lights up a tiny LED, letting you see how much juice is left at a glance; hold it down and the buds go into pairing mode.

The buds are IPX5 water resistant and the case is IPX4, which isn’t class-leading protection. Both can cope with rain showers and sweaty gym sessions, though.

There haven’t been many concessions made for different ears, with each bud being a uniform shape. The angled ear pieces do at least nestle comfortably in your ear canals, and you get the usual selection of different sized silicone ear tips included in the box to create a strong seal. We found they stayed secure for everything outside of a sprint, so can certainly survive a bit of head-banging without being sent flying.

Features & battery: can’t stop the rock

The Marshall Motif II ANC’s touch-based on-ear controls are a little too sensitive for our liking, pausing our tunes with the lightest of brushes. It was irritating when we just wanted to adjust the fit a bit. The sound cue that plays to indicate a touch is also rather quiet, and easily masked by your music. The companion app can disable the single-tap function, which helps stop accidental activations, but it then also prevents you from skipping tracks without reaching for your phone.

Marshall hasn’t added any sort of spatial sound upscaling, which can now be found on many similarly-priced rivals. We don’t think it’s a great loss; the soundstage is pretty wide for a pair of in-ears already. Head-tracking still feels seriously gimmicky, too, so we didn’t miss it.

More frustrating was the basic SBC and AAC coded support. Marshall has included Bluetooth LE and the higher quality LC3 codec on board for when devices start supporting it in earnest, but we’d still have liked some form of aptX or LDAC to tide us over in the meantime. You do get Multipoint pairing for two devices though, which is handy.

Battery life has been given a big boost over the original Motif. Those in-ears could only manage four and a half hours of listening with ANC enabled, or six without; here we saw six hours with ANC on, and nine with it switch off. That’s the sweet spot for most true wireless headphones right now, as is the quick charge function. A 15 minute stay inside the charging case is usually good for an extra hour of playback.

The case supplies as much as four full charges before it needs topping up itself, meaning either 30 hours total using noise cancelling, or more than four hours without it. That’s fantastic, as many rivals can only manage two or three refuels before running out of pep. A full charge takes an hour and a half over USB-C, which is decent enough, or there’s wireless charging for cable-free top-ups.

Interface: rock ‘n’ scroll star

Marshall’s smartphone companion app might try a little too hard to sell you the firm’s other products (seriously, did it need a dedicated section in the navigation bar) but it otherwise does a good job of putting important settings in easy reach. The ANC and transparency toggles are front-and-centre, along with clear battery percentages for the case and each bud.

Scroll down and there’s a five-band equaliser for fine-tuning the sound. There are a bunch of presets to pick from, but no way to create multiple custom tunes for different genres; it’s one and done, with an option to quickly toggle between the Marshall default and your own creation.

Elsewhere you can customise the touch controls, enable Spotify Tap for quickly resuming a recent playlist, and disable in-ear detection if you like. It worked pretty flawlessly for us, so we never felt the need to turn it off. The app can also install firmware updates as and when Marshall pushes them out.

Sound quality and noise cancelling: for those about to rock

Marshall’s noise cancellation tech does its best to silence the outside world, but it can’t compete with more effective systems found on rival earphones. Low-end rumbles and drones are dealt with to a reasonable degree, but not to the extent of the cheaper Nothing Ear 2 or Soundcore Liberty 4.

Mid-range and higher frequency notes seeped in more, and the background hiss is easy to notice when listening to quieter tracks or podcasts. The Marshall Motif II ANC is still a better choice than any pair of earphones with no noise cancellation at all, but you can get better for the cash.

Any speaker firm with its own record label should know a thing or two about good sound, and on that front the Motif II ANC delivers. These are an engaging and well-judged listen, with a concise mid-range and a fair amount of detail in the higher frequencies. Becky Hill’s vocals on Chase & Status’ Disconnect are expansive and sit nicely forward of the crisp hi-hats.

We were a bit surprised there wasn’t an abundance of low-end oomph on display; bass has just the right amount of presence, without intruding on the rest of the frequency range. Even with the custom EQ cranked, these won’t rumble with quite the same force of some rivals. They’re far from an analytical listen, but have more nuance than you might expect given the amplifier-inspired styling.

Marshall Motif II ANC verdict

Marshall Motif II ANC buds in case

If you want bold looks and an equally bold audio, the Motif II ANC is a safe bet. These are pretty comfortable wireless earphones with a decent feature set, which also manage to undercut a few major rivals on price. Battery life is on par with the competition, and the custom EQ gives plenty of control over the sound signature.

The active noise cancellation is only OK for the cash, though, and the touch gestures can be a bit finicky. If you’re not sold by Marshall’s signature styling, alternatives such as the Jabra Elite 8 Active may prove tempting. But for those that like their tech to match their musical taste (and who don’t need the absolute best ANC around), the Motif II is very easy to like.

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

These amp-inspired earphones have a suitably slammin’ sound and plenty of built-in features. Noise cancellation is only OK compared to close rivals, though.


Punchy and detailed audio

Secure, comfortable fit

Distinctive styling


Very average ANC

Touch controls overly sensitive

Marshall Motif II ANC technical specifications

Drivers6mm dynamic
Bluetooth versionBluetooth 5.3
Codecs supportedSBC, AAC (LC3 in future update)
DurabilityIPX5 (buds) IPX4 (case)
Battery life6/24 hours (buds/case, ANC on)
9/34 hours (buds/case, ANC off)
Dimensions4.3g (buds)
Profile image of Tom Morgan-Freelander Tom Morgan-Freelander Deputy Editor


A tech addict from about the age of three (seriously, he's got the VHS tapes to prove it), Tom's been writing about gadgets, games and everything in between for the past decade, with a slight diversion into the world of automotive in between. As Deputy Editor, Tom keeps the website ticking along, jam-packed with the hottest gadget news and reviews.  When he's not on the road attending launch events, you can usually find him scouring the web for the latest news, to feed Stuff readers' insatiable appetite for tech.

Areas of expertise

Smartphones/tablets/computing, cameras, home cinema, automotive, virtual reality, gaming

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