Marshall Major IV review

Marshall gives the Major IV the rock star treatment in ways that totally fit the brand.

Marshall Major IV review
(Image credit: Marshall)
T3 Verdict

Their smaller footprint give the Marshall Major IV an edge in portability, but it's the combination of sound quality and battery life that turn out to be the real crowd-pleasers.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Enjoyable, well balanced sound

  • +

    Lightweight and portable

  • +

    Outstanding battery life

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    On-ear headphones are Kryptonite to spectacles

The Marshall Major IV review in a sentence: the Major IV may play on Marshall's rock'n'roll legacy visually, but they have a sound to appeal to listeners of many musical stripes. 

On-ear headphones aren't as common as they once were, but if that's what your ears feel best with, you may like putting these on regularly. If you're after on-ear headphones with an upfront, enjoyable sound, these Marshalls are among the best wireless headphones you can get… Unless you want noise cancelling headphones, because they do not have that particular feature, although the on-ear cups do provide a solid level of noise isolation.

Marshall Major IV: build quality and design

Marshall Major IV review

(Image credit: Marshall)

One thing you can always count on with Marshall is unique aesthetics. Rather than run-of-the-mill design treatments, this is a brand that can dip into a music industry legacy, and it shows. From the scaled faux leather headband to the squarish cans on either side, and on down to the gold multi-function button, they look like reimagined guitar amps.

That's been Marshall's consistent design philosophy, and it works well here. But the Major IV are also on-ear headphones, which are increasingly becoming an acquired taste. In a category where over-ears and true wireless earbuds dominate, finding a good pair of on-ears feels like a bonus.

To utilize the limited space, Marshall took a pragmatic approach. The lone button covers all the main features and functions. Holding it powers the headphones on or off, while a single press will play/pause audio or take an incoming call. Moving it up or down controls volume, whereas moving and holding it forward or backward will skip or repeat a track. It may take some initial trial and error, but it is one of the more efficient control schemes on any pair of headphones thus far.

These are Bluetooth headphones, after all, yet they also work in a wired setup, which explains why they have a 3.5mm jack and include a detachable cable in the box. That cable also resembles something you'd plug into a guitar amp, though its real benefit is that it shouldn't tangle as easily. The USB-C charging cable is also handy for those rare times when you will need to charge them back up.

Despite the on-ear design, they weren't uncomfortable, save for the occasional compressed feeling after longer listening sessions. Much of that is owed to the lightweight 165g frame, which won't pinch at the top of the head, or feel weighted down by the ear cups. 

It's also nice that they're collapsible for easier storage and transport on the go, too. That part has another purpose related to wireless charging. Marshall made these Qi-compatible, though it can be a tricky proposition. On charging pads with more clearly defined zones for placement, laying down the right ear cup face down should be a piece of cake. But there may be instances where the connection doesn't feel as seamless. 

Still, it's a neat feature to include, and with their lighter weight, they won't be a burden on any charging pad. That is, of course, referring to the odd time you will have to charge them. The Major IV are the epitome of headphones workhorses, playing up to 80 hours per charge. Even with volume raised to over 60%, they will easily crack the 60-hour mark or higher. Plus, a quick-charge via USB-C for 15 minutes can deliver up to 15 hours of playback.

Marshall Major IV: sound quality

Marshall Major IV review

(Image credit: Marshall)

Marshall's pedigree in this arena has sometimes veered toward rock music, but it would be unfair to characterize the Major IV in the same way. The bass response is too obvious to warrant such a conclusion, and for that reason, it's clear the company's engineers wanted to pitch a bigger tent for extra ears.

That shows from the first track you play on them. Marshall preferred a balanced and flatter equalizer spectrum to ensure that the highs didn't smother the lows. Instead, the Major IV come off sounding deep and resonant, albeit with restrained mids. It's the happy medium that lets both rock and hip hop sound equally lively.

That's not to say they're bass-heavy, because they aren't. Listening to 70s funk or 80s new wave, bass guitar rhythms and synth melodies don't feel out of place, though it is nice to see classic rock can play well with this kind of equalization setup. The highs play with the kind of loudness you'd want to hear from guitar riffs and solos. and all without sibilance or distortion to ruin it along the way. In fact, these headphones can get pretty loud without falling over an audible cliff, though you may want to keep it at a reasonable level so as not to affect your hearing, or leak out too much audio to others nearby. 

Being on-ear headphones, there is no distinct seal here, but they're smartly designed to limit that by way of the padding, which articulates the sound from the 40mm drivers straight toward the ear canal. 

The shame is that Marshall doesn't include the Major IV as part of its smartphone EQ app. Only a handful have made the cut so far, and it would've been nice if these headphones were among them. Instead, you're relegated to going with what's here, which is why the soundstage is all the more important out of the box. 

The Bluetooth connection holds up very well, so there is room for some wandering when listening to these some distance away from the playback device. Even with a wired setup, sound quality doesn't take a dive in any significant way, adding to the theme of consistency permeating these headphones. Still, with the ample battery life available, you likely won't have to use that cable often.

Major Marshall IV: verdict

Marshall Major IV review

(Image credit: Marshall)

The Major IV are a classic case of 'more than meets the eye' for the simple fact they aren't tuned to suit one or two genres. These are crowd-pleaser headphones made for anyone willing to listen. And, most especially, anyone clamoring for a pair of on-ear cans.

If those two apply, and the collapsible build, with almost endless battery life add to the the appeal, there's a lot to like about Marshall's effort. They strike a stylish chord that's different from others, showing that flashy colors aren't always necessary to make a statement. All that comes at a cost, naturally, but should it fit your budget, you're not likely to come away with buyer's remorse.