Marshall Major IV
As true wireless earphones take over the audio world, it’s becoming increasingly rare for us to see a fairly straightforward pair of wireless headphones. For those who can do without a bunch of extra features and just want a comfortable fit, a nice design, and quality audio performance, the $149.99 Marshall Major IV headphones represent a solid value. The on-ear design is comfortable, the retro rock amp look is cool, and the physical controls are easy to use. A bass-forward, super-crisp sound signature isn’t for those seeking an accurate listen, but plenty of bass lovers will trade accuracy for the added oomph these headphones dole out.Design The Major IV’s supra-aural (on-ear) cups have a rounded square shape, with generously cushioned, comfortable earpads. The headband has a faux grain leather pattern on it, and the underside is also cushioned and comfortable over long listening sessions. Whether you like the way the headphones look will likely depend on whether you like the Marshall guitar amp aesthetic—the headphones can come off as gimmicky with the Marshall script logo emblazoned on either ear, but the rest of the design exudes a simple cool that may appeal to more than just guitar rock fans. So many wireless headphones struggle with too many buttons or too few, or have a confusing array that requires memorization, but that isn't the case here. The Major IV headphones have a knob that easily controls everything. It can be pressed once for play/pause, once to answer or end a call, or twice to summon your device’s digital assistant. It can also be pushed forward to skip forward a track, or in the opposite direction to navigate backward a track. Volume is adjusted by pushing up or down, and you can even fast forward or rewind by pressing and holding forward or backward. A long press of the knob controls power and Bluetooth pairing. It’s one of the more intuitive, easy-to-use controls we’ve tested, and we wish it were part of more headphone designs. A USB-C charging cable is included and connects to the bottom side panel of the right earcup. Near this port, there’s also a connection for the included semi-coiled audio cable, which allows for passive wired use. Internally, 40mm dynamic drivers deliver a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz. The headphones are compatible with Bluetooth 5.0.Marshall estimates battery life to be roughly 80 hours—a truly impressive number—but your results will vary with your volume levels. Regardless, that’s solid battery life.In addition to USB-C, the headphones can charge via wirelessly via Qi charging pads, but the convenience of this feature largely depend on the pad you use. We found it a bit difficult to balance the headphones just so on various pads—you can often set them down and get them to rest on the pad, but the charging panel of the earcup won’t make enough contact with the pad. It’s less an issue with the pads themselves than it is the swivel action on each earcup—the cups naturally want to lay at an angle rather than flat and flush against a charging pad’s surface. If you push the earcup down a bit, however, enough contact is made and charging commences. Performance On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the headphones deliver powerful bass depth. At top, unwise listening levels, the bass doesn’t distort, and at more moderate volume levels, the lows are still quite boosted and full.Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Major IV’s general sound signature. The drums are definitely dialed up in the bass department, sounding almost thunderous, but the highs are quite sculpted as well. The tape hiss on this track takes a big step forward, and Callahan’s baritone vocals have a mix of boosted low-mid richness and extra-crisp high-mid presence. The acoustic strums and higher-register percussive hits are delivered with brightness and detail, but this isn't an accurate sound signature. Instead, it's a highly sculpted sound signature that will appeal to bass lovers who still want brightness in the mix. See How We Test HeadphonesSee How We Test HeadphonesOn Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives an ideal helping of high-mid presence, allowing its attack to retain its punchiness. The loop also gets some added bass heft, while the vinyl crackle and hiss usually relegated to background status takes a step forward in the mix. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with plenty of deep bass push, while the vocals sound crisp, clear, and perhaps a little more sibilant than usual.Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, sound a bit too sculpted. The bass is boosted to such a degree that the lower-register instrumentation can have a sometimes unnatural presence in the mix, and the higher-register brass, strings, and vocals are bright and crisp, but a little bit more so than is needed. So again, purists won't not love the Major IV’s sound signature, but for pop, rock, and most modern mixes, plenty of listeners will love the boosted and sculpted experience.The mic offers strong intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 8, we could understand every word recorded. There was a hint of Bluetooth distortion around the edges, as is common, but the mic’s overall signal is strong and also delivers some low-frequency response.Conclusions We’re seeing fewer audio-only wireless headphones, so Marshall's Major IV headphones are a welcome addition to a thinning field. They may not be for audio purists, but they deliver a dynamic, bass-forward sound signature and have a comfortable, user-friendly design. In the wireless headphone realm, we’re also fans of the $60 Status Audio BT One, the $100 Jabra Elite 45h, and the $200 Sennheiser HD 450BT, the latter of which also offer decent noise cancellation. Without an app or any extra features, the Major IV headphones don’t quite stand out as a clear winner from this pack, but they're certainly worth considering.
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