Marshall Motif II ANC is balancing legacy with demands of wireless audio - Hindustan Times
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Marshall Motif II ANC is balancing legacy with demands of wireless audio

Oct 25, 2023 09:27 AM IST

There is a perception that Marshall’s audio products sport premium price tags. Comparisons with AirPods Pro 2nd gen, Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 and Sony WF-1000XM4 reveal the fallacy of preconceived notions

There is a convenient difference off the bat for Marshall’s Motif II A.N.C true wireless earphones. They cannot be confused for any generation of the Apple AirPods, or the hordes of indistinguishable replicas masquerading as alternatives. It is a good point to start with, because different levels of differentiation is what’s needed to stand apart from the crowd. Not many audio brands can achieve that sort of creativity and originality. Hence the swarm of wireless earbuds simply have too much resemblance to the AirPods. British audio company Marshall isn’t one to follow a script. Rather, they like to chisel one out, themselves.

Marshall Motif II ANC. (Vishal Mathur/ HT Photo)
Marshall Motif II ANC. (Vishal Mathur/ HT Photo)

It is unlikely that you’ll mistake the Motif II A.N.C for anything else but a Marshall audio product. Many elements are taken from the company’s broader speaker line-up. The earbuds case gives, and remarkably, a very leather-like feel when you hold it. But it’s simply a very smart take on polycarbonate as a material. The all-black colour scheme extends to the earbuds, with the gold-plated inserts at the end providing the contrast. You’ll notice a button nicely hidden in plain sight, just below the Marshall logo on the front of the case. This multi-purpose key can be pressed once for a quick glance at battery life.

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Broadly, Marshall’s Motif II A.N.C are more resistant to risks posed by getting caught in a sudden drizzle or even a sweaty gym session – the buds have IPX5 rating, while the case is IPX4. Not exactly protection against a sharp shower or getting this drenched poolside, but a layer of assurance to have for regular use.

At first go after setting these up with the companion app for iPhone and Android devices, you’ll realise the sound signature is exactly as you’d find with the brand’s speakers (more on that in a bit). The Motif II A.N.C sound neutral at default, detailed with depth and the automatic noise cancellation does just about enough. There are 6mm dynamic audio drivers, one in each earbud, which have enough to dial up the bass too – you’ll need to tweak the EQ from the app.

The tuning of the Marshall Motif II A.N.C, before you begin to play with the sound, comes through as quite subdued. Take the interlude for Justin Timberlake’s ‘What Goes Around’ – you’ll get the sense of powerful low frequencies, but you also get the sense it is holding something back. Too much to demand a subwoofer-esque rumble from wireless earbuds, but the no-man’s land between what the Marshall Motif II A.N.C achieves and what is expected, exists. Tweaking the EQ can only get you so far.

Flip the coin, and this signature leads you to a wide soundstage, able to replicate the smallest of details in an audio track. The Marshall Motif II A.N.C sounds bright, positive and welcoming, with most tracks where emphasis is on vocals. Isn’t that going to make up a large chunk of the playlists for a large demographic of users? Turn on Bass Boost in the app, and even then, mids and higher frequencies don’t get overshadowed. It’s a slight uptick in lower frequency response, nothing overbearing.

We’d rate the Marshall Motif II A.N.C’s handling of mids, vocals and overall soundstage vibrancy at par with wireless earbuds that till now were perhaps setting the benchmark, the Sony WF-1000XM4 (we haven’t tested the XM5’s yet). And remains half a step behind with overlaying the low frequency layer. Not exactly a compromise, nevertheless, but Marshall hasn’t designed these wireless earbuds for absolute replication of bass heavy music.

Codec support is limited to SBC and AAC, and though it can enable the high-quality streaming LC3 codec when streaming devices begin to support it, you may miss aptX and LDAC in the meantime.

Opinions aren’t as definitive with the blanket quality that Marshall’s active noise cancellation provides. It blocks out most ambient noise frequencies, but some of the din still gets through. Perhaps we’ve been spoilt by Apple and Sony’s noise cancellation tech, but for anyone who hasn’t, the Marshall Motif II A.N.C are definitely a better bet than wireless earbuds which don’t have ANC. That said, this is something that Marshall could further improve with software updates, but whether they’d want to tweak anything that’ll risk the sound signature, is anyone’s guess.

The Marshall Motif II A.N.C does well with battery stamina. We clocked just over 6 hours with ANC off, and about four hours with ANC on. This, at volume set at around 40% throughout, via the Apple Music app on the iPhone. There are battery preservation options you can toggle on within the companion app (defines charge amount, to protect battery health). A 15-minute splash and dash charge returns around an hour of music playback. The case adds up to 30 hours of runtime with top-ups every time you place the earbuds back. Likely, you’ll be reaching for a charger only once every few days.

There is a perception about Marshall audio products, and it usually revolves around premium price tags. Many presume they’ll be expensive, but in reality, the Marshall Motif II A.N.C at 19,999 are priced with direct competition in its sights – Apple AirPods Pro 2nd gen (around 24,900), the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 (around 16,990) and Sony WF-1000XM4 (around 26,990; newer XM5 is around 29,990). It compares better than you’d have presumed.

Even more so, with the neutral and a fantastically detailed sound signature providing the basis. There is still the signature Marshall design language, which would surely appeal to the loyalists. Little things have been paid attention too, such as the knurled stems now holding marginally better refined touch sensors for controlling music playback and audio calls. All things considered, the Marshall Motif II A.N.C will not be a difficult pick for most, and in particular, anyone who has a certain preference for the typical Marshall sound. Because the basics haven’t changed.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.

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