Review: Marshall Minor II Bluetooth Headphones
The Marshall Minor II are in-ear headphones that deliver huge sound and impressive battery life. Though they skimp on advanced functions, there's nothing minor about these basic music buds.
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While truly wireless earbuds are garnering a lot of attention these days, headphone makers are still churning out new lightweight, behind-the-neck Bluetooth models. This form has two in-ear buds connected by a wire, with a control module / battery nearer the right bud. The point is to deliver a minimal footprint with maximum impact.
Marshall Headphones is owned by Zound Industries in Sweden. It licenses the iconic Marshall brand to design and sell headphones, speakers, and other audio products. The Minor II are Marshall Headphones' second go-around with the behind-the-neck style Bluetooth headphones. Marshall promises the Minor II are "light on your ears" and "heavy on sound." We have some opinions about that.
The Minor IIs come in black, white, or brown. Marshall Headphones sent us the white ones for review. The color is more off-white than white; I'd call it bone. Gold accents bling up the outer surface of the Minor IIs.
The ear buds are huge. The main housing is about the size and shape of a Rolo candy, meaning it's squat and cylindrical. It's made of hard plastic. The ear insert looks like half an AirPod glued onto the bottom of the larger housing.
The ear insert material is slightly softer plastic. The Minor IIs include an ear wing of sorts. Marshall calls them the Earclick Loop, a name so dumb I refuse to repeat it. It's a thin piece of plastic tubing that's tucked into the housing of each bud. You can pull the tubing out to form a loop that fits your ear perfectly. The loop maintains its shape and stays in place.
No Ear Wing
The ear wings and shape of the ear insert ensure that the Minor IIs will fit in your ear and lock in place. They remained in my ear firmly and didn't loosen up when I moved around. Marshall doesn't market them as sport headphones, but I think you can get away with wearing them on a brisk walk or light jog, but not much beyond hat.
Big Ear Wing
None of this makes them comfortable. In fact, these are among the most uncomfortable headphones I've reviewed in recent memory. The hard plastic of the housing is simply painful to my ears. It's possible they'll feel fine for you. I couldn't stand listening to them for more than an hour or so before pain and fatigue forced me to yank them from my ears. Competing headphones are usually made from softer materials that are far more comfy.
A simple cable connects the two buds. It's a little thin and weak-feeling for my tastes. I worry about the strength of the connection between the wire and the bud. Moreover, the cable is highly prone to becoming twisted and tangled. Gah.
On the flip side, Marshall has given the Minor IIs the absolute best control module I've ever encountered on a pair of behind-the-neck headphones. There's a single button and it does everything. The button is basically a 5-way joystick with a flat top similar to the head of a nail. It is easy to find and has great action.
A long press turns Minor IIs on and then puts them into pairing mode. Press the button up to raise the volume, down to lower the volume, forward to jump a track, backward to return a track. A quick press when listening to music will pause playback or answer a call. It's dead simple. It's seriously great.
A really long press activates Siri (but not Google Assistant, if you have an Android phone).
The control/battery module also includes a microUSB port for charging. An LED light blinks several different colors so you know the buds' status.
Last, but not least, the gold-accented Marshall logo stamped onto the outer edge of each bud is magnetic. This lets the buds stick to each other. You'll learn to rely on this to help keep the wire from tangling.
There's no charging case, nor even any sort of small bag in which to tote the Minor IIs.
The Minor IIs deliver fairly typical Bluetooth performance for this type of headphones. Set your Android or iPhone into pairing mode, long press the control knob on the MInor IIs and they'll go into pairing mode. The start-up sound (guitars jamming) and the pairing sound (electronic bloops) are distinct. Every phone I tried managed to find the Minor IIs in a few seconds and connect in a few seconds more.
The headphones have a range of just 33 feet (10m) and it's pretty strict. The connection remains strong and consistent when the phone is within 5-10 feet of you. I noticed some minor audio drops above 20 feet and the headphones cut off right around the stated range.
Marshall jammed 14.2mm drivers into the Minor IIs with a standard frequency range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Marshall claims the shape of the Minor IIs allows them to provide some passive sound isolation, but I disagree. There's no seal; I had no trouble hearing my surroundings. Granted, if you crank them up you'll drown out the din. Perhaps those with smaller ears will find that the Minor IIs form a seal to help shut out sound, though I find that unlikely given the too-firm nature of the materials.
Fit and isolation aside, the Minor IIs do sound good. Marshall Headphones has tuned them perfectly for rock, hard rock, and metal. I didn't have to tweak anything on my phone to get the sound I typically prefer from headphones. The Minor IIs rocked from the get-go. I think people who prefer really bass-heavy music will be disappointed by the lack of thumpin' thumpin' on the low end. Highs are suitably crisp and mids come through the mix cleanly. Classical and jazz music didn't sound all that great, and electronic stuff could definitely use more tight punch.
More so than anything else, the Minor IIs have that FM radio sound — the huge, boosted overhead gain you get from powerful FM broadcasts that makes everything sound more alive. You'll either like this or you won't.
On the battery front, the Minor IIs are all killer, no filler. A full charge delivers 12 hours of playback time. That's hours more than competing models. Plug the Minor IIs in for 20 minutes to get two hours of playback. It takes two hours to fully charge the battery.
I generally like the Marshall Headphones Minor II, but they are not for everyone. The Minor IIs are straightforward, no frills headphones that cater to the rock crowd. There are better options for those who listen to R&B, EDM, and acoustic music. If you require lots of battery life the MInor IIs have you covered in spades. My biggest gripe is comfort, or the lack thereof. The painful plastics just don't work for me. It's difficult to get excited about the sound or battery life if you constantly want to yank them from your ears.
They cost $130, though you can often find them on sale for a bit less than that.
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