Marshall Motif II review: Stylish and potent but not perfect

 Marshall Motif II.
Marshall Motif II.

Marshall Motif II review: Two-minute review

The Marshall Motif II look just as cool as you would expect of something from Marshall. Building upon the success of their predecessor, the Marshall Motif, they promise refinement across the board along with superior battery life.

Crucially, the Marshall Motif II still look just as compelling as before with a style and design that's a tad more memorable than what we usually see from earbuds. This time around, you can count on up to 30 hours of battery life with ANC on and a vast 43 hours with it switched off.

ANC is a small bugbear here being not quite as proficient as other examples of the best wireless earbuds but outside of those who need perfection, you can generally forgive the Marshall Motif II ANC for their flaws.

Costing £179.99 / $199.99, they're a shade lower than Apple AirPods Pro 2 which feel like their natural direct rival. That makes them a tempting proposition, especially if you want something a little different from the crowd.

Unlike many other earbuds, the Marshall Motif II ANC offer less punchy bass but more detailed mids and trebles making it a different experience but one that works well. There's always extensive app support and the option of tweaking the EQ if you want to make some changes. But out of the box, these are good sounding buds.

If you like to be different, you'll appreciate the Marshall Motif II ANC. They might not be perfect thanks to slightly buggy dropouts and middling ANC, but for the most part, they're appealing and very simple to use.

Marshall Motif II review: Price and release date

Marshall Motif II
Marshall Motif II
  • Release date: September 2023

  • Price: £179.99 / $199.99

The Marshall Motif II ANC was released in September 2023 in the UK and USA. Priced at £179.99 / $199.99, they're the same price as the original Marshall Motif ANC when they were launched in 2021.

Only available in one color – black – the Marshall Motif II ANC match the typical Marshall look, even though you don't have any options for color schemes.

The price range of the Marshall Motif II ANC is a particularly busy field. The direct rival feels most obviously to be the Apple AirPods Pro 2 even though outside of sales seasons, they're more expensive at £250 / $250. Also near to the price is the Sony LinkBuds S and the Beats Studio Buds.

Marshall Motif II review: Specs

Marshall Motif II review: Features

Marshall Motif II
Marshall Motif II
  • Wireless charging

  • Wear detection

  • Useful app

The Marshall Motif II are the right kind of simple to use. They have the essentials you'd need while being consistently easy to figure out. Much of that success is thanks to the Marshall app which looks a little dated but has everything you could need perfectly lined up.

At a swish of your finger, you can adjust the transparency level for the ANC while noise control can easily be adjusted. Besides the usual options to customize touch controls and even adjust audio prompts, there's a battery preservation section which is a nice touch. It's impossible to tell how much it will help in the long term but it's neat to have that level of control, at least theoretically.

And of course, there are adjustable EQ settings with plenty of sliders and some presets to choose from too. Wear detection is always welcome so we're glad to see the Marshall Motif II ANC's wear detection work so well.

Bluetooth 5.3 LE should mean stable support while listening although we did find that the connection would drop out once in a while or simply restart playing a song. The same issue sometimes occurred when asking the Marshall app. It'd only be an issue for a moment or two but it was a mild irritant.

Feature score: 4 / 5 

Marshall Motif II review: Design

Marshall Motif II
Marshall Motif II
  • Iconic look

  • Snug fit 

  • Touch controls

The Marshall Motif II ANC case is classically just like a Marshall amp. It's instantly more likeable than a plasticky case favored by others. It has a great tactile feeling to it in your hands and is comfortably a little weighty.

The earbuds themselves have a long stem with the Marshall logo and another tactile surface on the bud part. They're snug even in small ears with the hard plastic able to deal with IPX5 levels of sweat and water resistance.

The wireless charging case has an USB-C port on the bottom but it's far easier to place it on a wireless charging pad when not in use. Controls are a matter of tapping on either earbud. They're reasonably responsive too without being overly sensitive to adjustments while you're on the move.

Design score: 4 / 5

Marshall Motif II review: Sound quality

Marshall Motif II
Marshall Motif II
  • Middling ANC

  • Balanced sound

  • Adjustable EQ

No in-ear headphones will ever rival over-ear headphones for ANC and blocking out environmental sound. The Marshall Motif II ANC still struggle against the likes of the Apple AirPods Pro 2 for canceling out sounding noises. Walk along a busy road and you'll still hear the cars go past. It's more subtle than without earbuds that have ANC there's nothing exceptional here.

On the other hand, the Marshall Motif II ANC sound great when listening to music or podcasts. Podcasts are crisp but the stand out is with music. Listening to Childish Gambino's Feels Like Summer is suitably zingy while working through Muse's back catalogue offers up plenty of opportunity to enjoy some deep bass, although the Marshall Motif II ANC aren't quite as meaty as some other options.

Instead, they're quite balanced meaning more orchestral pieces shine here. The classics like The Beach Boys' God Only Knows conveys all the right nuances at the key moments.

However, all this does take a little time. Unusually, playing straight from the box feels wrong at first. Despite its promises, the Marshall Motif II ANC feels quieter than you might think. Stick with it for a little while though (probably out of laziness to adjust the EQ) and it becomes comfortable. Like the marketing explains, the Marshall Motif II ANC's focus is on offering a unique sound. If it's not for you though, whack on Bass Boost on the EQ and all feels right in the world once more, but seriously – stick with it. Trust us.

Sound quality score: 4 / 5 

Marshall Motif II review: Battery life

  • Up to 30 hours (ANC on) or 43 hours (ANC off) via the charging case

  • 15 minute charge gives back one hour of playback

The Marshall Motif II ANC has far better battery life than its predecessor. This time around, you get about 30 hours with ANC on and up to 43 hours with ANC off. With mixed usage, we found the figure landing somewhere in the middle. It's a decent length of time with up to nine hours via the buds alone.

None of these figures might be class-leading bests but they're all more than respectable enough and the kind of thing that means you won't have to worry about recharging. The charging case charges wirelessly too or via USB-C so it's convenient when the time comes.

Marshall Motif II review: Value

Marshall Motif II
Marshall Motif II
  • Premium build

  • Reasonably competitive 

Cheaper than the Apple AirPods Pro 2 and Sony WF-1000XM5 despite offering similar features, the Marshall Motif II ANC are highly competitively priced.

Better battery life than the Sony buds but weaker ANC means a trade off depending on what's most important to you, but you do save a fair bit with the Marshall Motif II ANC.

Value score: 4 / 5

Should I buy the Marshall Motif II?

Buy it if…

Don’t buy them if…

Marshall Motif II review: Also consider

How I tested the Marshall Motif II

  • Tested over 10 days

  • Compared against the Apple AirPods Pro 2 and Sony LinkBuds S

  • Listened to Apple Music, Spotify and Twitch 

  • Used an iPhone 14 Pro and MacBook Pro

The Marshall Motif II ANC followed me everywhere I went for a week and a half. That meant they started the day being worn on my morning walk in suburbia and surrounded by busy traffic as well as some noisy rain. This was conducted while listening to Apple Music as much as possible. Then they were worn during the working day where a loud dehumidifier tried to distract me along with the noise of construction work next door. Here was my chance with Spotify and the occasional YouTube videos.

During my evenings, I listened to the Marshall Motif II ANC while watching Twitch streams, both gaming and cooking ones, all through my MacBook Pro. I also used them on long morning walks near busy traffic, on runs along the seafront, and at home around noisy heaters and dehumidifiers

I've tested audio products for over ten years and am a keen enthusiast of discovering how much more exciting listening to music or watching films can be with a great audio setup.

  • First reviewed in November 2023