Marshall might have a rich lineage in rock ‘n’ roll, but the amp-maker isn’t shying away from bringing big sound to the everyday listener. The brand has been steadily cranking out stylish audio gear since 2010, releasing everything from speakers, headphones and earbuds.
I reviewed the powerful Marshall Uxbridge smart speaker last year, and was excited to try out its latest, the Marshall Motif – Marshall’s only true wireless in-ear buds with ANC.
Design & Build
IPX5 water resistance
Stylish rugged leather look
Before we dive into the sound quality, let’s stop to appreciate just how cool the Motifs looks. If I had to describe the design feel in one word, it would be: rugged. That of course, suits a brand whose heritage is inseparable from rockstar swagger.
You can attribute some of that ruggedness to the textured leather finish on the charging case – a charming little nod to the look of Marshall amps.
You’ll also find the iconic Marshall logo emblazoned on the lid against a mesh texture – again, a nice callback to the woven grill cloths on Marshall amps.
The earbud stems also share this mesh motif (sorry) of the logo. It’s a choice that not only preserves Marshall’s rugged chic ethos, but also improves grip.
The earbuds themselves are compact, weighing just 4.25g each. They’re easy to take out of the case, thanks to a fingerprint-like texture towards the top. The buds also snap magnetically back into place – so it’s easy to put away too.
The lithe earpieces offer IPX5 water resistance, while the case itself offers IPX4 splash resistance. In other words, a bit of rain won’t hurt but don’t plunge these into the bath.
The Motif simply oozes character. Its distinct look promptly sets it apart from market leaders such as the Sony WF-1000XM4 and AirPods Pro (£189/$199) – options that look dull in comparison.
See the best true wireless earbuds around.
Comfort & Grip
The Motifs were fairly comfortable to wear, provided you use the appropriate tip size. It comes with the medium tips attached, but Marshall includes additional large and small tips with the device.
The medium-sized buds were a bit too big for my ears and would hurt if I kept them in too long. The smaller ones fit better, but I would have preferred one size smaller.
The tips provided a decent amount of isolation, however, paring down ambient sounds even before ANC kicks in.
In terms of in-ear grip, I had no issues wearing the Motifs while on a commute or around the house. I wouldn’t really want to go for a jog with these, however. While they’re likely to survive a bit of sweat, they may slip out if you’re too rigorous.
20Hz to 20kHz range
Thankfully it’s not just looks for the Marshal Motifs. You get great, full-bodied sound too with a surprisingly rich bass. The Motifs should be able to handle most genres, and of course podcasts too.
The mix sits mostly in the mid-range. Vocals sound crisp and clear but have enough depth to sound warm. You might hear a slight tinniness at the very top range, but it’s barely noticeable – unless you blast the volume, which wouldn’t be healthy for your ears anyway.
You can also choose from a variety of EQ genre settings from the app, which we’ll go into below…
Noise Cancelling & App
ANC and transparency mode
Voice assistant available
The Motifs do a fair job of blocking ambient sounds. I was still able to hear distant speech from a neighbouring room – so don’t expect a total sensory deprivation chamber – but it will help.
I mostly used the Motifs at my desk, where it blocked out the hum of the room and dampened the sound of typing and clicking.
The transparency mode boosted external sounds, which I found slightly intrusive – as it even amplified the sound of my breathing. Fortunately, you can adjust how sensitive both the ANC and Transparency levels are through the app.
In fact, the app is how you can get the most out of the Motifs. That’s where you can access the Equaliser, set up touch responses, see battery levels and more.
In the equaliser settings, there are a variety of genres presets to choose from – but surprisingly, you can’t manually slide the bars yourself.
You can shortlist which presets the Motifs will cycle through when you long press the left or right bud (you can choose which one). You can only really shortlist two genres here, really, as Marshall offers its own as a default and doesn’t give you the option to overwrite it.
To my ears, the genre presets didn’t sound noticeably different, which is why I wish the app allowed greater customisation. That said, the sound is still solid and you likely won’t really need to change around with the settings too much once you find one you like.
Battery life & Charging
USB-C or wireless
26 hours total with ANC (up to 31 hours without)
15-minute fast charging earbuds
The Motifs boast a strong battery life, offering up to 31 hours on a single charge with ANC turned off.
With ANC on, you get 4.5 hours out of the buds, or 6 hours with ANC turned off. The case offers 20 hours of battery life with ANC turned on, or 26 with ANC off.
In my experience, I rarely needed to charge the Motifs. While I didn’t use the Motifs through the whole day continuously – I could squeeze roughly a month of listening with 30 minutes to an hour’s use a day.
I found the battery depleted faster on the right bud, as that’s the one I set the ANC/transparency touch response to; but charging is quick thankfully. I could get the bud back to 100% in about 30-45 minutes of charging.
In fact, the Motifs support fast charging too, so you can get an hour of playtime in just 15 minutes of charging. This isn’t quite as fast as the Sony WF-1000XM4, which allows an hour’s use with a 5-minute charge, but the latter is also significantly more expensive at £250/$280.
The Motifs also support wireless charging, but this isn’t a feature I tried. Just note, the speed will vary depending on the Wattage of your wireless charger.
Price & Availability
The Motifs are available to buy directly from Marshall for £179.99/US$199.99. You can also pick it up from Argos, Richer Sounds, Currys, and Amazon, though stock seems to be limited at the moment.
The Motif’s closest competition is the AirPods Pro which also offer wireless charging and ANC but it’ll still cost you £10 more in the UK. It’s slightly different in the US where the AirPods Pro can now be found for as low as $179.99 (at time of writing).
You can find more affordable options of course, but you may need to compromise on looks and perks such as wireless and fast charging. See the best budget wireless earbuds.
It’s really difficult to hold anything against the Motifs. It ticks all the important boxes: Great design? Check. Great sound? Check. Great battery life? Also check.
While you don’t get much EQ customisation on the app, and it is on the pricier side for average ANC performance, it’s still more affordable than Apple’s equivalent (at least in the UK). Yes, Marshall is positioning the Motifs as a premium lifestyle good and so you are paying a bit of brand tax, but the price is still competitive against other premium options on the market with ANC.
For that extra cost, however, you’ll get to rock a pair of earbuds that look incredible and sound incredible too.
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