Nowadays, headphones aren't just a way of listening to your music without annoying people on the bus, they're also a fashion accessory. We've had plenty of cool-looking headphones on the the Pocket-lint test bench including Philips O'Neill The Stretch cans and Sennheiser Adidas HD 25-1-II. While both of these headphones got good scores, there is a danger of style taking over from substance. The latest traditionally non-headphone brand to get its name on a pair of cans is legendary guitar amp manufacturer Marshall. But, is the product any good? Read on to find out.
There's no mistaking that the familiar design boasted by the Marshall Major headphones is based on the aesthetics from the brand's amps. The telltale white Marshall logo is proudly displayed on the centre of each earcup and it's also etched into two metal plates found in the inside of each end of the headband. Also on the inside of the headband, in the centre you'll find the signature of company founder Jim Marshall. The outside of the earcups features a textured finish that feels similar (though not identical) to the vinyl that the company uses on its products, while the mesh inside the earcup feels as though it uses the same paper-based construction used for the grills on the brand's famous amps.
We can't promise that the headphones benefit from the same hand-wiring manufacturing process still used by the company for its amps, but nevertheless the cans' construction feels suitably sturdy. The headband feels robust and unlikely to snap and there's a sufficient (although not generous) amount of padding on the underside for a reasonably comfy fit on your head. We would have expected the earcups themselves to be a little larger, but they actually sport a modestly sized on-ear design. The ear cushions are soft and well-padded but as they sit directly on top on your ears, it does tend to get a little uncomfortable after a while, not to mention hot. If you're planning to wear them in relatively short stints then this won't be a problem but if you want wear them for a few hours at a time then you might end up with bright red ears.
The headphones can be folded up so that they take up very little room in your bag in relation to their size when they're unfolded. They also feel pretty light, so carrying them around shouldn't add too much weight to your bag and you certainly won't need to employ the services of a roadie.
Despite their guitar-related credentials, the headphones can be used with pretty much anything that's got a 3.5mm jack, including iPods and most other music players. Like a guitar lead, the connector also incorporates a spring that should prevent the cable from wearing thin where it joins to the connector. What's more, the cans are supplied with a 6.3mm adaptor for plugging into your AV equipment or guitar amp.
At 1m, the lead isn't overly generous, but it should do the trick unless you're particularly tall or you flap your arms around a lot when you walk. The partially coiled design also allows for a fair bit of leeway, adding a bit of extra length when the cable is stretched out. It has a nice, matt rubber finish similar to that found on many guitar leads.
When it comes to the sonics, the Majors offers a clear mid-range that has plenty of punch that sounds great with lots of different types of music. It's not audiophile-grade by any stretch of the imagination, but then they don't come with a high-end price tag either. The bass is pretty good, not the best we've heard, but certainly above average.
The cans are good as all-rounders, although they do struggle slightly with the sounds at the higher-end of the range. They don't include any noise-cancelling technology but the design means that they sit pretty close to your head so they do actually block out a fair bit of noise. The closed design also means that not much sound leaks out of them, which should keep your neighbouring commuters happy on the train.
It's clear that you're paying for the Marshall name to a certain extent, but that's not to say that these headphones have nothing else to offer. They're lightweight and portable, the audio quality is pretty decent and they block out a fair bit of external noise. And of course, they look very cool. If you're not a fan of on-ear cans then you may find them a little uncomfortable, but that's purely down to personal taste. Those that prefer an in-ear design might like to the know that the brand also offers the cheaper Marshall Minor in-ear 'phones.
In conclusion, the Marhshall Major is a decent product as long as you don't mind paying a little extra for the name.
Thanks to Firebox.com for the loan of this product.