Marshall released its first pair of Bluetooth headphones earlier in 2016 called the Marshall Major II. Ready to rock on the move, these headphones offered a fun listening experience that was slightly let down by a cheap build and imbalanced sound.
Now Marshall is back with its new and more compact but still wireless Mid Bluetooth headphones.
They're on-ear headphones with great battery life, and a couple of interesting features, but unfortunately they're not the best sounding cans around.
One of the big draws of Marshall headphones is the brand itself. The name is iconic and the design inspired by its amps is distinctive.
You don’t buy Marshall headphones unless you want people to be aware that you’re wearing that brand, so as a result the name is nicely placed in the center of each side of the earphones and the cable has that iconic gold and black amp style connectors so that even if you do have to go wired, you feel pretty damn cool doing it.
Being matte black, small, and fairly simple, they’re not overly flashy, but they don’t have to be – they’re Marshall, and the black, gold, and white color scheme is enough to make them stand out.
Other than the brand features, the Marshall headphones actually feel reasonably sturdy. The plastic coating has improved from previous iterations and the metal bar that connects the headphones to the headband is much improved.
The headband is soft, padded and actually sits comfortably even on smaller heads. The headphones sit firmly against the ears – at no point will you worry they might slip and you can comfortably jog wearing them. That said, they sit so firmly against the ears that despite the good amount of padding, they will leave your ears with a slight ache after a long period of wear.
Being on-ear though, the headphones are conveniently compact and able to fold in on themselves, making them easier to carry around in your bag.
Performance and features
As far as sound isolation goes, Marshall’s Mids don’t perform well. Though they sit tightly against the ears and they’re well padded, they don’t reduce background noise and you'll probably find yourself turning your music volume up louder than you’d like to block out sound on your commute or office buzz.
The problem with this is that as well as letting sound in, these headphones also allow it to leak out so don’t listen to your guilty pleasures too loudly on public transport.
Of course, these headphones don’t claim to be noise-cancelling at all and the sound leakage is mostly due to the fact that while over-ear headphones are large enough to encase the ear and isolate sound, on-ear headphones just aren’t large enough to do this. The advantage is that they’re more portable and more affordable, but definitely note it’s to the detriment of sound isolation and, to a lesser extent, comfort.
Pairing the Mids with your phone is a simple enough task. Simply turn on the headphones, press the gold power button twice and click pair on your phone. Sitting the phone beside the headphones we had absolutely no trouble pairing the devices for the first time and the process was quick and easy each time after that.
Once your device is connected to the headphones what kind of connection can you expect? A reasonably good one, though it’s not perfect. You can’t leave your device in one room and wear the headphones into another and expect your music to keep playing, but you can at the very least leave your desk to go and get something across the room. The maximum wireless listening range sits at around 0 to 30 feet, depending on your surroundings and the presence of obstacles.
We found that when carrying a phone in our coat pocket, the Bluetooth connection was stable with minimal stuttering. The sound drops weren’t frequent or long enough to become an annoyance.
A button of many talents
A neat feature of the Mid headphones is that the power button doubles as a control knob. Just make sure you obey the L/R indicators and wear your ‘phones the right way or those controls won’t do what you want them to.
Pushing right moves the song choice forward, left is backwards, pushing up raises the volume and downturns the volume, you guessed it, down. Double pushing will fast forward your song, whilst pushing three times will rewind it. Press once to play or pause a song and if you have a phone call coming in on your device simple press once to accept the call and double click to hang up or reject it.
It’s impressive that all of these functions have been squeezed into one tiny unobtrusive button and they actually work well as long as you remember what does what. Obviously this is useful in terms of achieving a completely wireless experience since for an entire session of using the headphones we never once had to take our phones out of our pockets.
There are some thoughtful subtleties to the volume control when using the knob which are good to note. Repeatedly pushes will turn the volume up or down at a much faster rate, whereas holding it in the up or down direction will bring a much more gradual volume increase. This is a useful sensitivity that should prevent any unexpected volume jumps from holding the button a fraction of a second too long.
As far as sound quality goes, the Mids are good, but not exceptional. When we listened to Weeknd’s The Hills these headphones coped with this song well, giving good crisp mid-range vocals and excellent bass. The sound notably leaned much heavier towards the bass in tracks.
If you like electronic music, rap, or anything with punchy bass lines you'll enjoy using these as the imbalanced sound works in your favor.
However, if you like to lend your ears to the Classical music genre you won't be quite so enamored with the sound imbalance. The Marshall Mids grab soaring high notes out of songs and stamp them down flat, ruining their impact.
Disappointingly for the Marshall brand, this means the Mids aren't the best headphones available for listening to rock music, either, as they tend to muddy the sound.
If you’re looking for headphones for analytical listening, don’t opt for these. If you’re looking for a pair of portable headphones at a reasonable price point that look and sound good enough for casual listening, though, you’re in luck.
Another helpful feature is that you can wirelessly take phonecalls as there’s a microphone built into the headphones themselves. Of course, since the microphone is outward facing you might find that you have to speak much louder than you’re accustomed to if you’re taking a phonecall in an area with a lot of background noise.
For longer outdoor phonecalls you might find it preferable to use the microphone that’s built into the 3.5 mm cable that comes included with the headphones.
You’ll also be able to use this cable to continue listening to your music should the battery die. With a solid 30 hour battery life this won’t be something you’ll have to resort to too often; we had been using the headphones every day for a week before we had to charge them.
A feature we particularly liked is that when listening to your music wirelessly, you can share it with a friend by having them plug their own headphones into the empty 3.5mm socket. It's nice to be able to share your music without the need for a splitter, and it's particularly useful when you're watching a film with someone when travelling.
Though they're not exceptional, for £169 (US $199, around AU $280) the Marshall Mid headphones perform very well. They look great, they're comfortable, and they sound good, though they do lean slightly too heavy on the bass. In addition to this, they have outstanding battery life, and some extremely useful features such as handsfree phonecalls and sound sharing.
Due the the imbalance in sound, the instrumental soundtracks we love did not fare well with the Marshall Mids. More annoying than this, though, was the poor sound isolation, but we put this down to a dislike of on-ear design rather than a problem exclusive to the Marshall 'phones themselves.
They're not perfect, but Marshall's Mid Bluetooth headphones are undeniably good value for money. For just £169 (US $199, around AU $280), you get a solid wireless listening experience that boasts some neat additional features you'd expect to see in more expensive headphones.
Their compact and attractive design is a big draw but their long battery life cinches the deal for us; our homes only have so many plug sockets for charging every night.
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