By Mike Riley on Tue, 04/18/2017
Another day, another headset review. Or so I thought when the Monitor Bluetooth Headphones ($249) from classic amp brand maker Marshall showed up at my door. That blasé attitude quickly disappeared once I opened the box to discover a degree of design and material quality rarely found on wireless Bluetooth headphones these days. To learn about the most important aspect, how the Monitor Bluetooth Headphones sound, read on.
Having been quite familiar with Marshall amps from my rhythm guitar days in a work band, I already had extremely high expectations on the level of sound quality I wanted to hear from the Monitor Bluetooth Headphones. I love the crisp crunch that Marshall's high-end amps deliver, which is why they are a staple at so many concerts. The headphone designers at Marshall certainly nailed the look and feel of the Marshall amp, which only served to heighten my expectations further.
Pairing the headphones was an easy affair. Hold down the brass nub on the right earcup until the ascending audio cue alerts it is ready to be paired. Select the Monitor Bluetooth from the Available Devices list on the iPhone or iPad's Bluetooth settings and another tone indicates that pairing is established. Having had the Jaybird Freedom so long as my primary daily headset, I missed the bright feminine Jaybird vocal prompts that walk listeners through the pairing process. Another vocal aspect that Jaybird spoiled me with was the same voice alerting me to the charge remaining on the headset. This little but endearing audio cue is quite helpful. Still, I completely understand why language-dependent voice prompts make it much harder to sell headsets worldwide, and the audio cues that Marshall offers on the Monitor Bluetooth is just as effective as the Jaybird voice-prompted alternative. Combine this with the fact that the Monitor headset lasts up to 30 hours on a single charge, the need to be audio prompted with remaining battery isn't as critical as it is on something like the Freedom's meager four-hour battery charge.
The previously mentioned brass nub is the single interactive controller/button on the whole headset, keeping it extremely uncluttered and beautifully clean. Other headsets seem to pile on the buttons and toggles, making it a maddening experience trying to figure out which one powers on the headset versus changes the volume. The nub approach is slick and very intuitive. Push the nub upward and the volume becomes louder, and vice versa. Tap the nub inward and connected audio will pause or play. The look and functional control of the nub couldn't be any more simple or elegant.
Now for the real test; how do the Monitor Bluetooth headphones sound? Remember, my expectations were already sky-high on account of the iconic Marshall brand name adorning each earcup and the textured feel of their amps on them. I kept thinking, this better sound incredible, otherwise all this fine presentation and brand equity will have gone to waste. I cringed just a little as I selected one of my favorite rockers on my playlist, unsure of what to expect. Then the music exploded all around me and I knew right then that Marshall kept its promise. These headphones sound absolutely incredible. I mean they nailed it. From the deepest bass to the highest treble, these headphones cover the full range without any loss of clarity or distortion. I had to remind myself I was listening on wireless Bluetooth headphones sans any additional audio software-signaling enhancements. And even when I connected a wired connection using the supplied headphone cable between my iPad and the Monitor headset, it sounded as phenomenal as it did over the wireless Bluetooth configuration.
Sound and construction are exceptional, but the one area that may be a try before you buy concern for those ready to spend the money for this listening experience is the headphone's fit. It seems that Marshall may have molded the headset to my head shape and ear size because the fit was near perfect. Others who tried on the pair felt the earcups were too constraining and became uncomfortable after a few minutes. I don't know how headphone manufacturers decide the size of headband and earcups, but the Monitor earcup size is noticeably smaller than the average headphone. In contrast, I have a pair of Sennheiser wired headphones with earcups nearly twice the size of the Monitor; they're comfortable, but the earcup's tall contour gives them a floaty feeling, making them too slippery for me to wear them anywhere besides at my desk. I have no such complaint with the Monitor.
Are the Monitor Bluetooth headphones worth their asking price? Absolutely. Are they a one-size fits all solution? Perhaps not. But for those who appreciate the quality sound that Marshall is known for and want to experience that sound free of tangling wires and bob their heads in time with a good backbeat rhythm without worrying about the headphones sliding off while in the zone, they may be the perfect fit.