Marshall Motif II ANC: Unashamedly punchy listening — but not for all music fans

Marshall’s updated in-ears are by no means subtle, with a brash, heavy sound.

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Marshall Motif II ANC

Marshall Motif II ANC

Review Overview

Our rating


Our verdict

Lively, punchy sound
Solid noise cancelling
Heritage Marshall look and feel
Secure fit

Middling battery life when using ANC
Basic codec support
Not optimised for all genres of music


Marshall’s move into the world of wireless speakers in 2016 was unsurprising, given the company’s legendary position in the history of guitar amps. More recently, it’s entered the wireless earbud market, first with the passable Motif ANC and now with a new and updated model, the Motif II ANC.

Priced at £180, they’re priced similarly to Apple’s third-generation AirPods but significantly less than the acclaimed Bose QuietComfort Ultra and Sony WF-1000XM5.

In these buds, Marshall explicitly leans on its iconic branding and design — which isn’t a criticism; many companies would kill for the recognition it has. This starts with the case and its faux-crocodile-skin style finish, the name emblazoned across the front in that classic font (almost like it’s cloned from a Marshall stack). The earbuds share this feel, their stems finished in cross-hatched metal and the ends in the same copper of an amp head’s dials. Crucially, none of this comes off as gimmicky — the various pieces all have a high-end and professional aura about them.

Marshall Motif II ANC earbuds in their case
Marshall Motif II ANC earbuds in their case

How good is the battery life of the Marshall Motif II ANC?

The case charges over USB-C or wirelessly and battery life has been improved over the originals, with regular listening providing nine hours of playback in the buds and 43 hours in the case. This drops quite a bit when you activate the ANC, however, to just six hours in the buds and 30 in the case. That’s actually comparable with Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 but significantly less than Soundcore’s Liberty 4 NC, which cost a little less.

To be clear, the battery life isn’t bad, but it’s mid-range if, as many people do, you mostly use them with ANC on. It’s a shame the battery life hasn’t been vastly improved since the first version of Motif where it was similarly average, as we pointed out. Still, both the case and buds fully recharge in 90 minutes and a quick, 15-minute charge will give you up to an hour of playback. There’s an interesting battery preservation option available where you can prevent charging to 100 per cent to extend battery life, as many smartphones now do.

The Motif II ANC earbuds in use
The Motif II ANC earbuds in use

How do you connect the Marshall Motif II ANC?

You can pair the Motif II to your devices with a simple button press. Multipoint connectivity is supported so you can flip between devices easily. Though they don’t technically require it, you’ll want to download the Marshall mobile app to do some setup.

The buds have touch surfaces that can be customised to perform actions like volume, playback, answering calls and so on. They’re quite sensitive, which means they work well unless you’re the kind of person who finds it all too easy to trigger them while adjusting a bud in your ear accidentally — but they can be deactivated entirely. One option that catches the eye is support for Spotify Tap, an interesting feature that can play music based on your recommendations when you perform a specific tap on a bud.

There are three ear tip sizes provided, which is fewer than some other models but in our tests the default buds fitted supremely well – ears do vary of course – and felt incredibly secure. The body of each bud nestles quite deep into the ear canal and the stems sit flush against the lower part of the ear, giving them a very flat physical profile when worn. We find them to be very comfortable and not at all prone to slipping loose during movement. Incidentally, there’s IPX5 water resistance in the earbuds and IPX4 in the case, so going jogging shouldn’t be an issue. In-ear detection can pause sound when a bud is removed, and this option can also be disabled.

Motif II ANC touch controls on the Marshall app
Motif II ANC touch controls on the Marshall app

How good is Marshall Motif II’s active noise cancelling?

The noise cancellation has ANC and Transparency modes, each with several level settings. Both work well; at maximum ANC, there’s still a little bleed-through from your surroundings but it’s barely noticeable when playing music unless it’s something boisterous like a police siren going by. Marshall says it’s improved the call quality in these new models and making and taking voice calls worked as well as most we’ve tried.

The codec support is disappointing, with only SBC and AAC available. This won’t trouble Apple users, whose phones can only support these, but it could be an issue for Android users whose phones can use aptX, LDAC and other higher-resolution codecs. Bluetooth 5.3 LE is supported, at least, with a decent range of 10 metres.

The Motif II ANC earbuds and their case on a coffee table, photo by Kevin Castanheira
The Motif II ANC earbuds and their case on a coffee table. Image: Kevin Castanheira

How do the Marshall Motif IIs sound?

A 6mm dynamic driver is housed in each bud, with a standard frequency range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Sonically, the Marshall Motif II ANCs could best be described as brash. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing — did anyone expect Marshall buds to be elegant?

To elaborate, their sound is very upfront, especially when pushed, with vivid power in the low, mid and high-frequency ranges. The low-end is weighty but sometimes tips over into boomy, and mids can seem quite prominent with some mixes. There’s also remarkable stereo separation, with panned elements much more evident than on other earbuds, leaping from one side to the other. Again none of this is bad, just something to be aware of.

Marshall’s companion app has some preset EQs and a five-band manual option; if you find any ranges overly prominent, you can dial them back a little. We certainly don’t find any of them need boosting as the buds’ sound is already very in-your-face. However, pulling EQ bands down from zero definitely results in less punch and focus in the soundstage overall so it’s probably something you’d want to avoid.

Motif II ANC EQ settings on the Marshall app
Motif II ANC EQ settings on the Marshall app

Should you buy the Marshall Motif II ANC?

To steal a famous joke, these buds really do “go up to 11”. Not literally, but there are bags of energy and volume when you push them hard. The rock connection is clear to see and hear but they’re also very lively with electronica and hip-hop. If you mostly listen to classical or jazz you might find the lack of finesse problematic but, hey, these are made by the rockers, for the rockers. Keep that in mind and they’re an interesting prospect: while most companies aim for all-round musicality, Marshall has unashamedly plugged in its guitar and started riffing away.

Key features

  • USB-C and wireless charging
  • Active noise cancelling
  • Up to 9 / 43 hours battery with ANC off
  • IPX4 / IPX5 water resistance
  • 6 mm drivers
  • Bluetooth 5.3 LE
  • SBC and AAC codecs
  • 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response
  • Touch controls
  • Mics for making calls

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