Marshall Monitor 2 ANC review: rockin’ noise cancelling cans need price to GET DOWN (and get with it)

Another strong entry in the increasingly cut-throat audio battleground of premium noise cancelling headphones

Marshall Monitor 2 ANC review
(Image credit: Marshall)

Marshall Monitor 2 ANC is a great pair of headphones that goes on sale in two weeks… but that doesn't mean it'll sell.  If you're after premium noise cancelling headphones, you are spoiled for choice these days. They all retail for about £250-£300; they all sound excellent; they even all look much the same, on the whole: blandly handsome. 

And, sure enough, Marshall Monitor 2 ANC will cost £269 when it goes on sale in march 2020 and sounds excellent. In typical Marshall style, it does look rather different to the competition. Not in a way that's going to cause jaws to drop at the audacity of it, but they are intelligently designed, quite attractive and not too bland compared to much of the competition.

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In fact, given that the price is the same as market-leading titans such as Bose NC 700 and Sony WH-1000XM3, the looks might be Marshall's main USP when it first goes into battle with them. 

Marshall Monitor 2 ANC: price and release date

What is the on-sale date and price of Marshall Monitor 2 ANC, you ask? Why, it is March 17 2020 and £269/$319/€299. That's okay, you are more than welcome!

Marshall Monitor 2 ANC: build quality and design

Marshall Monitor 2 ANC

(Image credit: Marshall)

Marshall headphones and speakers have two looks: slightly desperate, 'authentic' styling for uncool dads, or a more toned down, elegant version of that. Happily, Monitor 2 ANC falls into the latter category, with a look that is pleasingly rounded and streamlined, and not excessively 'rockin' out with my dudes'. Sure, it features faux leather fabric, a faux brass control button, and coiled wires to remind you of a vintage guitar lead but they are discreet flourishes. There is also the Marshall logo but that's kind of inevitable. 

More importantly, the functional parts of the design are largely excellent. Although these are over-ear headphones, they are way less bulky than most – almost more comparable to on-ear headphones, in fact. They seem to be comfortable to wear for long periods even though there isn't a vast amount of padding on the earcups. That comfort is down to the way they sit on your head, and their light weight.

Marshall's trademark little brass joystick remains a great way to alter volume, skip through playlists, play, and pause. I much prefer it to Bose and Sony's fancy-pants touch controls.

While the main controller is part of Marshall's stock rockin' look there is also a very discreet button on the rear of the headphones that turns on hear-through mode – or 'monitoring mode' as Marshall insists on calling it – with a single press. Unusually this kills the music entirely rather than fading it down, as many ANC headphones do. That's not very rockin' now, is it? 

The same button also turns off ANC with a long press. You can then resume normal, ANC listening with a further short press.

The app allows you to adjust ANC levels in 10% increments up to 100%. To be honest, I don't see much use for this. Like a lot of ANC headphones, Monitor 2 ANC sound pretty poor with the noise cancelling turned off.

Marshall Monitor 2 ANC: sound and noise cancelling

Audiophiles, look away now: Marshall Monitor 2 ANC supports the SBC Bluetooth codec only. Why does it not support AAC (for Apple) or the 900 variants of aptX (for Android)? I have no idea. 

However, you can get a bit bogged down in worrying about codecs with headphones and regardless of the less pristine quality of the signal they receive from your phone or other device, Marshall Monitor 2 ANC do sound very good. As you'd imagine from their look, they sound mighty fine with rock music, but they also sound good with hip-hop, pop and electronic sounds. 

Obviously, the problem they have, as noted above, is that there are numerous, similarly priced rivals that sound at least as good. The current gold standards for audio from noise cancelling headphones are the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 and Sony's WH-1000XM3. Marshall's effort sounds very good; it doesn't sound as good as either.

The current gold standards for noise cancelling are, again, Sony WH-1000XM3 and Beats by Dr Dre's Studio 3 Wireless. And while Marshall's noise cancelling does a fine job of quelling office, transport and street noise, it can't manage the extreme, state-of-the-art noise-killing job done by Beats or Sony. Most noticeably, Monitor 2 ANC struggles to deal with wind noise. That might seem unfair if you think all noise-cancelling headphones struggle with wind – the way noise is cancelled involves using microphones and all microphones hate high wind – but actually Beats Studio3 Wireless and Bose NC 700 handle it pretty well, via some kind of ungodly DSP magic.

If you love the look and comfort of the Monitor 2 ANC, you won't be let down by their audio quality or noise cancelling. I'm just pointing out that there are better sounding options at about the same price.

Marshall Monitor 2 ANC: verdict

Marshall Monitor 2 ANC

We are almost as excited about these headphones as the models wearing them

(Image credit: Marshall)

Overall, I'd say the Monitor 2 ANC is an excellent pair of headphones for say-to-day life. They're light, comfy and fold up nice and small. They don't feel so robust that I'd chuck them around or put them in the bottom of a gym bag, but I wouldn't do that with any pair of headphones costing nearly €$£300.

The looks and design of these Marshall noise-cancellers may be their USP but price could be all important. The launch price of £269 feels a bit optimistic to me, and too close to highly successful rivals from Bose, Beats, Sony, Bowers et al. 

The good news here is that Marshall products frequently see discounts at Amazon and elsewhere, and they turn up in every sale going. I would be not at all surprised to see them down around £219 on a regular basis within a year, at which point they'll be an even more attractive purchase. For Marshall super-fans I'd add that they're by far the best headphones from the brand that I've tried – way better than the good-sounding but ear-crushing Mid ANC and an improvement on the Monitor Mk 1 – a pair of cans that was also over-priced at launch but which can now be had for £80 less than its original RRP. 

Duncan Bell

Duncan is the former lifestyle editor of T3 and has been writing about tech for almost 15 years. He has covered everything from smartphones to headphones, TV to AC and air fryers to the movies of James Bond and obscure anime. His current brief is everything to do with the home and kitchen, which is good because he is an excellent cook, if he says so himself. He also covers cycling and ebikes – like over-using italics, this is another passion of his. In his long and varied lifestyle-tech career he is one of the few people to have been a fitness editor despite being unfit and a cars editor for not one but two websites, despite being unable to drive. He also has about 400 vacuum cleaners, and is possibly the UK's leading expert on cordless vacuum cleaners, despite being decidedly messy. A cricket fan for over 30 years, he also recently become T3's cricket editor, writing about how to stream obscure T20 tournaments, and turning out some typically no-nonsense opinions on the world's top teams and players.

Before T3, Duncan was a music and film reviewer, worked for a magazine about gambling that employed a surprisingly large number of convicted criminals, and then a magazine called Bizarre that was essentially like a cross between Reddit and DeviantArt, before the invention of the internet. There was also a lengthy period where he essentially wrote all of T3 magazine every month for about 3 years. 

A broadcaster, raconteur and public speaker, Duncan used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."