Marshall Motif II ANC review: are these the coolest true wireless earbuds?

The Marshall Motif II ANC stand out against a growing crowd of true wireless earbuds, but they aren't quite perfect

Marshall Motif II ANC review: earphones and the case on a table
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

If you're on the hunt for in-ear headphones that look just as good as they sound, take a look at the Marshall Motif II ANC. These pair Marshall's iconic style with unique audio tuning. They've improved on the first model with better battery life, a new equaliser and enhanced active noise-cancelling (ANC) – and while results are impressive, it's not quite perfect.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Iconic Marshall design and sound

  • +

    Equaliser (EQ) in the app

  • +

    30 hour battery life

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Active noise-cancelling (ANC) could still be improved

  • -

    Inconsistent touch-based controls

  • -

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I have to start this Marshall Motif II ANC review by talking about the fact that not many pairs of earphones look as cool as these. Most of the best true wireless earbuds seem boring by comparison. 

Marshall has a very recognisable design language which transports you to a world of rock 'n' roll and live music – that applies to everything from Marshall amplifiers and Marshall speakers to Marshall headphones. 

A few years ago, I reviewed the Marshall Motif ANC and, to cut a long story short, I was impressed. Not only did those earbuds look great but they performed well and they came with active noise-cancelling (or ANC for short). Admittedly I did have a few reservations like the lack of equaliser (EQ) and the fact that the battery life was a little lacking. 

Since then, this new and improved second-gen model has hit the market: the Marshall Motif II ANC was launched in 2023 and fix a lot of the gripes I had with the previous pair. It won't be worth the upgrade if you already own the original Motif, but if you're buying for the first time then it's a better deal. 

Marshall Motif II ANC review: What’s new? 

The Marshall Motif II ANC are the second-generation version of these earbuds, improving on the first in a few ways. They’re now made from 70% post-consumer recycled plastic, the battery life has grown from a total of 10 to 30 hours, the ANC has been boosted, and the connectivity has been upgraded to Bluetooth LE.  

Marshall Motif II ANC review: Price & Availability 

The Marshall Motif II ANC are available to buy now for £179.99 in the UK and $199 in the US. Check out the live shopping widgets on this page for the latest deals, though, as since launch in August 2023 the price may have dropped for an even better deal. 

Marshall Motif II ANC review: Design & Battery

Marshall Motif II ANC review: headphones charging case

(Image credit: Future)

Marshall's style is iconic. It has made the company's amplifiers stand out for decades, and more recently that's been translated that into the brand's headphones. If you want good-looking true wireless earbuds, they don’t get much cooler than the Marshall Motif II ANC. 

Before you even get to the earbuds, though, the accompanying case looks and feels great. It appears to be made from broken black leather – but it’s actually made from 70% post-consumer recycled plastic, such as old electronics. 

The white Marshall logo across the front is no longer on a small panel (as with the first generation), it now stands alone – and I think it makes it pop more. Below that, there’s a small button to check the battery is charged and to reset the earphones. 

When you open up the case, the earbuds follow that same style. Each has a white 'M' on its exterior, leading to a textured stem and a gold plate on the bottom, a bit like an audio cable. 

The earbuds can be controlled using the touch-panels on each: a quick tap pauses or plays the music; a double-tap will skip forward or answer a call; a triple-tap will skip backwards; double-tap-plus-hold activates Spotify Tap to play your recommended songs. You can also add a custom tap control using the app – which you could use to switch between the ANC modes, change the EQ settings, adjust the volume, or summon your voice assistant. 

In my experience, the touch controls worked fine as long as I made the number of taps very clear. You need to apply pressure for them to work properly as sometimes they would misinterpret my taps. There's undeniably room for improvement there. 

Marshall Motif II ANC review: earbuds on wooden table

(Image credit: Future)

These in-ear headphones are tiny, weighing just 4.31g each, and there are three sizes of silicone eartips included in the box. Combined those two factors make these comfortable to wear for long periods. I like the fit of the Motif II ANC because I could barely feel them and they stayed firmly in place even when I went out running (although there are more suitable best running earbuds, it must be said). 

What’s more is that the earbuds are IPX5 water-resistant so I didn’t need to worry about them breaking during a sudden downpour of rain (or sweat, for that matter). The case is also water-resistant but a little less so, rated IPX4, which means it’ll survive light splashes. Neither the earbuds nor the case can be submerged in water, basically.

Sweetening the deal from the first model, the Marshall Motif II ANC earphones have a total battery life of 30 hours from the case – and that's with ANC switched on. That goes up to 43 hours if you turn off the noise-cancelling feature. The earbuds themselves will last about 6 hours at a time with ANC, or 9 hours without, which is just about enough.

When the battery does run dry, you can charge the case wirelessly. One downside is that it did seem to take quite a long time to charge the case, even when I plugged it in using a USB-C cable. Another area for improvement next generation, please.

Marshall Motif II ANC review: performance and features 

Marshall Motif II ANC review: earbuds next to charging case

(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to audio gear, Marshall is no newcomer. This company has been making equipment for almost 60 years now. Those decades of expertise come across in the Marshall Motif II ANC because the sound is stellar. 

Energetic and punchy, the default tuning on these earbuds is perfect for any instrument-packed song. You can hear every twang of a guitar and every bang on a drum. The range is broad with a particular emphasis on the bass delivery – but not in an overbearing way. Having said that, don’t expect to hear intricate details because these won’t deliver in that sense. 

The Marshall Motif II ANC are a fun listen and the impressive level of balance means they sound good whether you’re in the mood for a slow ballad or electronic dance music. But as you might have guessed, these do perform at their best playing rock.

Surprisingly, I found the Marshall Motif II ANC earbuds to be a little on the quiet side, especially when I was listening in a noisier place. Once I switched on the ANC, that became less of a problem and I could hear everything almost word for word. 

However, the ANC doesn’t compare to some of the best noise-cancelling headphones out there, yet for a pair of in-ear 'buds, they do a solid job of cutting out distracting sounds. You can still hear some of what’s happening around you but I didn't find outside noise too burdensome. 

As well as ANC, there’s a Transparency mode for the times when you need to hear what's happening around you but you don’t want to switch the music off. 

The Marshall Bluetooth app is available for iOS and Android. There are lots of features to explore. You can use it to switch on the ANC and adjust how much ANC you want. You’ll also be able to do the same with the Transparency mode. There’s also an EQ which offers 5 preset settings including Marshall, Bass Boost, Mid Boost, Treble Boost and Mid Reduction. Or, if you’re a bit pickey then you can use the 5-band equaliser to adjust it in more detail. 

Another feature to know about is Battery Preservation which should help to extend the battery life by limiting the maximum charge and slowing the charging speeds. You can choose how much the earbuds should preserve battery life through a dedicated section in the app. This is designed for long-term longevity rather than being a short-term solution.

I was happy with the new Bluetooth LE connectivity, it didn't drop when I walked away from my phone and the app always picked the earbuds up as soon as I took them out of the case. Multipoint connectivity is featured here too, which is always a bonus, allowing you to connect to two devices at once and switch the audio between them as and when you need.

Marshall Motif II ANC review: Verdict 

Marshall Motif II ANC in a man's ear

(Image credit: Marshall)

The Marshall Motif II ANC are a pair of true wireless earbuds that look and act the part. There’s no denying how cool they look, but to add to that they’re comfortable to wear, they’re water resistant, and most importantly they sound great. 

You won’t be particularly blown away by the active noise-cancelling (ANC), although it does undoubtedly improve the listening experience. Also worth mentioning again is the battery life: I rarely need to charge the case which means I can keep them in my bag ready for whenever I fancy dipping into my playlists. 

Also consider  

If you’re willing to spend a little bit more, and you don’t necessarily care for the stem on the Marshall earbuds, you should buy the Sony WF-1000XM4. They have engaging crowd-pleasing sound, a comprehensive smartphone app, and the call quality is fantastic – although the case doesn't offer quite as much charge, at 24 hours in total. 

On more of a budget? The Nothing Ear (2) earbuds are another option with noise cancelling. If your style is more futuristic modern rather than old-school rock 'n' roll then they’ll be a better match thanks to the clever transparent design. 

Yasmine Crossland
Freelance Tech Expert

Yasmine is the former Reviews Writer for T3, so she's been knee-deep in the latest tech products for reviewing and curating into the best buying guides since she started in 2019. She keeps a finger on the pulse when it comes to the most exciting and innovative tech and is happy to tell you exactly what she thinks about it too. In her free time, you'll catch her travelling the globe – the perks of being a freelance tech expert – tending to her plants when at home and, but of course, planning her next big trip.