"An edgier, cooler and more affordable option, particularly if guitar music is your jam": Marshall Motif II A.N.C. review

Marshall has turned up the dial on its latest generation of noise-cancelling earbuds. We put them through their paces to see if they’ve earned the reputation as AirPods for rockers

Marshall Motif II A.N.C review
(Image: © Future/Chris Barnes)

Louder Verdict

They’ve got the looks that kill and a sound to match. Noise cancellation does the job but isn’t the best we’ve tried in this crowded field, while the customisable touch controls and EQ tweakability means you can really make these earbuds your own.


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    They look awesome

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    Great for rock

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    Customisable touch controls

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    Loads of control over your sound

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    Touch surfaces are sensitive

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    You can get better for not a huge amount more

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    Noise cancelling isn’t the best we’ve tried

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To date, Marshall headphones and speakers have largely been aimed at music fans who like their tech to have more of a rock aesthetic and the audio tuned to guitar music. The Marshall Motif II A.N.C. (active noise cancellation) wireless earbuds tick both boxes, but how do they fare in a field dominated by giant tech brands like Bose, Apple and Sony?

The OG Marshall Motif A.N.C. earbuds were released into the wild in 2021, joining Marshall’s cheaper, non-noise cancelling Minor series, now in its third generation. The second-gen Motifs build on the originals with improved battery life (from 20 to 30 hours with the supplied charging case), improved Bluetooth and A.N.C. tech, while they’re now made from 70% post-consumer recycled plastic. And, of course, there’s that fancy gold detailing at the base of each earbud stem. Genuinely, it’s a touch that I love.

For reference, these Marshall buds will set you back £179.95/$199.99. Meanwhile, close competitors Apple’s AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) currently retail for $249/£229 and the Bose Quiet Comfort Earbuds 2 are £279.95/$279 (although you can find them cheaper). They’re certainly competitive on price, but what about performance?


Marshall Motif II A.N.C review

(Image credit: Future/Chris Barnes)

Personally, I find that a lot of wireless earbud designs are pretty awful, bulky and not something I’d willingly step out of the house wearing – I get late-90s Bluetooth headset vibes and in my experience they aren’t all that comfortable. I much prefer the drop-stem design of earbuds like these from Marshall, and the AirPods Pro. They just sit right for me. So, immediately I’m sold on the design. And the looks are right up my street too – the sleek black with distinctive white Marshall M, leading down to the cool knurled stems with signature gold tip, a flourish borrowed from Marshall’s iconic guitar amp line, just look right.

The USB-C charging case is just as cool, sporting a weathered faux leather look and Marshall script logo. The case - which can also be charged wirelessly - will keep the earbuds juiced for up to 30 hours in total, while you’ll get a full 6 hours of playtime from each bud before they need to go back in the case for a top-up. In my tests the charging was seamless and keeping the case topped up meant I never found myself out of power. 

To connect the earbuds to your device of choice and to get the most out of their features, you need to download the Marshall Bluetooth app. Setup is incredibly simple and Bluetooth LE Audio meant my connection never dropped and devices were always able to find the buds whenever I wanted to use them. While the app itself hasn’t had much of a revamp in a while, it’s pretty easy on the eye and even easier to navigate.

Each earbud weighs just 4.31 grams, which is slightly lighter than an AirPod Pro (2nd Gen). Having tested both, this is actually a noticeable drop in weight. The Marshall buds feel incredibly lightweight in the hand, even moreso in the ear. You almost don’t know you have them in. I found this lack of heft fine for day-to-day listening, provided you get a good fit - more on this below - but I didn’t have much success keeping them in when going for a run.

In the box you get a Marshall-branded charging cable, plus a set of small, medium and large tips. During setup I found getting the right fit to be crucial, for comfort, security and to ensure the A.N.C. worked optimally. Initially, I struggled with one of the buds falling out consistently. I tried various combos and settled on a medium on the left and small on the right which gave me the most comfortable fit and the best seal for noise cancellation.


Marshall Motif II A.N.C review

(Image credit: Marshall)

So, what else makes these earbuds worth your consideration? Well, aside from the looks, one of the main features I love is the ability to customise the touch controls. You have standard play/pause/skip options, but then you can choose an action for both the left and right buds within the Marshall Bluetooth app. For example, you could set the left bud to turn the volume up with a long press, and the right to cycle between A.N.C., transparency and no noise-cancelling modes. It takes a minute to memorise your settings, but it’s a real win to have so much control at my fingertips without needing to remove the device from my pocket. 

One word of warning on this – I did find I’d unwittingly trigger certain actions when adjusting a bud in my ear, so you need to be mindful of how sensitive they are, and that the whole outside of the bud (the part with the Marshall ‘M’ on it) is a touch control.

Another feature I liked is called Spotify Tap. If you’re stuck for what to listen to, double tap then long-press one of the buds and Spotify will kick in with a track based on your listening tastes. Double tap and long-press to skip to a new track if that’s not to your taste. It’s a sweet feature that reminds you Marshall has always been about the music.

Battery life has been dramatically improved on this version, too - up to 30 hours of playtime from the case - an increase of 33%. If you do find yourself low on juice, quick charging will give you a full hour of playtime from just 15 minutes plugged into the wall.

As the name suggests, one of the key features of the Motif II A.N.C. earbuds is the active noise cancelling. I’ve tested a range of earbuds that boast this technology, with varying results. There are definitely better options out there than the Marshalls and I was initially disappointed that engaging A.N.C. didn’t make a huge difference. However, I discovered that getting the right fit is crucial to optimising noise-cancelling. Once I had that dialled, I was pretty impressed with the level of isolation and noise reduction possible. It’s won’t give you complete immersion in your music or podcasts, but for me it did just enough to drown out the din of office colleagues and roadside traffic.

There’s also Transparency mode which is a halfway house that lets a little of the outside in so you can retain awareness of what’s going on around you. It’s ideal if you want to keep conversation with someone but don’t want the music to stop, and it’s a feature I went to more than expected.


Marshall Motif II A.N.C review

(Image credit: Future/Chris Barnes)

For the types of music I listen to - modern and classic metal, punk, indie and hip-hop - I found that the bass boost EQ preset delivered the best experience overall. Naturally, there was a bottom-end boost, but there was still plenty of clarity in the mid to high ranges. The title track of Sleep Token’s sprawling Take Me Back To Eden album covers the full gamut, from birds chirping over the picked guitar intro, to the sludgy gut punching outro – the Motifs handled it all, delivering a consistent performance through the whole track.

Meanwhile, the urgent indie guitar stabs in Paramore’s The News retained all of their impact, with no sterilisation of the raw sound. Moving over to hip-hop and I stuck on one of my go-to testing tracks - The Ground Below by Run The Jewels. The driving beat, clattering snare rolls and punchy two-headed verbal assault of EL-P and Killer Mike sounds as chunky as intended, despite the small weight of the buds.

Other presets include a ‘Marshall’ option which is mid-level across the frequency range and which gave classic rock greats like AC/DC and Van Halen a livelier feel. The mid-reduction setting scoops mids and brings through more punch, but I found I definitely lost some guts in the middle.

Presets are great for setting and forgetting - you don’t want to be diving into audio settings every time you switch genres, but if you have your own preferences, you can also create your own custom EQ to dial in exactly what you need.

It’s not all about music though, and whether I was listening to a podcast or taking a voice call, audio was clear, bright and immersive. 


Marshall Motif II A.N.C review

(Image credit: Future/Chris Barnes)

In a nutshell, if the design and colour choices of the current crop of mainstream wireless earbud choices leave you cold and your alternative music sounding sterile, the Marshall Motif II A.N.C.s offer an edgier, cooler and more affordable option, particularly if guitar music is your jam.

The alternatives

If you like the all-black, classic rock aesthetic, then these buds are the ideal accompaniment to your lifestyle. We would say, however, that for just £30/$ more you can get your hands on Apple’s most powerful earbuds yet, the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen), which simply offer more in the way of tech and, to our ears, sound just a touch more refined. If noise-cancelling is your reason to pick up a new pair of earbuds, then we heartily recommend the Bose Quiet Comfort II in-ears, which boast best-in-class noise cancelling.

Chris Barnes

Chris is Louder's eCommerce Editor and has been a metalhead ever since he saw Machine Head destroy the London Astoria in '97. He manages buyer's guides on the site and it's his job to help you find the raddest merch, collectibles and music-listening tech, at the best prices. Chris has spent over 10 years testing gadgets and music gear - reviewing everything from turntables, headphones and speakers to electronic drum kits - for brands including T3, MusicRadar and Guitar World.