Review - Marshall MID ANC

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Also available on YouTube in Spanish: Acho Reviews YouTube 


The Marshall MID ANC have been sent to me for review by a subscriber of the Acho Reviews YouTube channel. As a follower of the channel, I hope that it is clear that my reviews are as honest and sincere as possible, independently of who sends me the item. However, as always, it is always good to be clear on the fact that it hasn’t cost me anything to test these headphones.

If you are interested in sending me anything for review, it is always appreciated. I am located in Murcia (Spain) and can be contacted via email: contact(at)achoreviews.com (this email is only for contact regarding regarding reviews, please do not send questions as they will be ignored)


Intro…

Marshall is a brand that I have known for many years in the guitar world, anyone who has done live music or played with a band will have heard the brand and anyone who has listened to any music that contains electric guitars will most definitely have heard a Marshall amplifier being used (whether they know it or not).

Although their main focus has always been guitar amplifiers and cabinets, Marshall also makes quite a few other things, some of them focused on the personal audio space, such as bluetooth speakers or, in this case, headphones.

The MID ANC are a set of headphones that are quite commonly found in electronics stores and are a bluetooth (and wired) set of headphones with Active Noise Cancelling. 

To be totally honest, although I had briefly tried a couple of Marshall headphones in the past, I have never really spent any time with them (until now) and I really didn’t have any idea of the price of this particular model. I did a quick check online and I have found them to be anywhere between 190€ and 260€ in various places. The price does not affect my opinion of the headphones in general but it is relevant to certain aspects, for example, it is not the same to have issues with a cable at 50€ as it is at 500€ (I am not referring to any issues with the MID ANC here, just making a general observation).

So, the price bracket they sit in is quite a populated segment in the bluetooth headphone world, with or without ANC, but I don't really have many reference models of BT headphones in general tocompare with. Yes, I have tried quite a few, but that has been mostly in stores and isn’t really enough to be able to compare them directly, therefore I will just give my own general opinion of them.


Presentation…

These headphones have been sent to me with all the original packaging and contents (at least I believe so), therefore I didn’t get to unbox them but I did get to see all the included bits.

They arrive in a square black box with an image of the headphones and the branding on the cover. There are details and specs distributed around the exterior of the box but the important bits are obviously inside.

Inside we get the headphones, a micro-USB charging cable, a headphone cable (for using them wired) that has an inline microphone, a nice carrying case and a user manual. Nothing out of the ordinary but enough to not be missing anything. 

I actually like the carrying case quite a bit as it is a simple square shape, with a faux leather finish resembling the Marshall amplifier and cabs, with the Marshall logo in gold. As it is a simple squar, instead of some molded shape, I find it easier to store and carry. The finish of the carrying case also hits a soft spot with me after so many years surrounded by guitar and bass amps.


Build and aesthetics…

The headphones also follow the Marshall aesthetics. The cups are plastic but they are also textured to resemble the Marshall leather look, with the logo again embossed in gold letters, as is to be expected. The yokes are metal, as is the headband, which is covered in faux leather on the top but has a velour type interior to the headband, a nice little touch. The cables that run from the headband to the cups are of the spiral type which adds to the retro-style look of them.

These headphones are on-ear, not over ear, and are rather small and square shaped. I am not overly fond of on-ear headphones (except for some Koss) and the MID ANC are no exception, in fact, I find the square shape of the cups to be rather strange and I am not really keen on how they feel while wearing them. There is a nice extension on the headband, which is good, and they also swivel, so at least they do sit correctly, but I still don’t find them very comfortable. I can still feel that I am wearing them even after long sessions.

The cups fold so that they fit inside the carrying case, making it more compact, but they do not swivel enough for them to lay flat, therefore you won’t be able to lay them flat against your chest if wearing them around your neck.

In general, the quality of the finish and build seems to be decent and look like they should withstand the general day to day abuse. I don’t know how long the person who has sent me these has had them but, other than some slight marks on the gold Marshall lettering, they seem to be in very good condition. Also, being honest, some signs of wear adds to the coolness of Marshall products.


Functionality…

The headphones have a small gold knob on the right cup which serves to control them. It is actually a very simple but functional design which I like. By pressing the knob, it controls play/pause, a long press turns on/off (or enters pairing mode), up or down is volume +/- and backwards or forwards is track +/-. 

On the left cup there is a switch to turn ANC on or off, which allows you to use ANC even with bluetooth disconnected (at the risk of depleting the battery if you forget to turn off). Also located on the left cup are the micro-USB charging port and the socket for using them wired.

The connection with my phone was very quick and is instant when turning them on when already paired. The main issue is with the codecs, there is no LDAC on these and the maximum seems to be AptX, something I will discuss more in the sound section.

To be honest, I like the easy functionality of the Marshall’s with the little knob/joystick type control. It makes them very easy to use and there is an audible notification each time a function is performed.


Sound…

There are a couple of things to consider here, but to get straight to the point, I am not a fan of the sound. The overall sound is very consumer orientated, which is not a bad thing but is not my thing, and could be mistaken with many other headphones of a similar style. Added to that, we need to factor in the AptX codec which, to be honest, is not great. This headphone can be used with a cable, which does improve it a little, but is still not something I would rave about.

As I have mentioned in the past, I am not really a huge Bluetooth fan, I much prefer cable, except for the commodity that it brings. I have various TWS IEMs that I don’t really use, and the only Bluetooth item that sees regular use in my case is the Shanling MW200 because I can just connect any IEMs to it that I want to use wirelessly (although lately it seems to be permanently connected to the Arias). I have used the MID ANC via Bluetooth but I find that the SQ difference between BT and wired is enough for me to just use it with a cable, so I have been using it with the JDS Labs Atom on my desk.

We also need to consider the ANC functionality. There are multiple headphones that improve when ANC is switched on, due to DSP correction being implemented in the DAC stage, and others that actually get worse with ANC on. In the case of the Marshall’s, there is a difference between on or off, but it is not better or worse, at least not across the whole range. I would be inclined to say that I prefer it with the ANC on, but it is also dependent upon what I am listening to.

The ANC itself is not bad. It is not on a level of some of the well known brands in the noise cancelling world, such as Bose or Sony, but it does reduce noise considerably. Another thing that stops it from being great is the fact that they are square on-ear headphones, so they aren’t able to block as much noise passively, making it tougher for them in the first place.

Anyway, let's get on with the usual sound impressions…

In the subbass department there isn’t a huge amount of subbass. This is something to be expected, again due to the nature of an on-ear headphone. You can feel a little of the rumbling when playing sub bass heavy tracks but I would say that it is not something that will appeal to those looking for the lowest of rumbles.

In the midbass and higher bass regions  is where these headphones present a bit of boost that will appeal to lots of consumers. In fact, I would say that the midbass to the lower mids is the best part of these headphones. It is also the part that most seems to come alive when ANC is switched on. There is a noticeable increase in these regions with the ANC activated and I must say that it sounds pretty good. I wouldn’t say that they are excellent, again, on-ears do struggle, and the increase in bass does push the mids back a little, but this frequency range does seem a little more “alive” with ANC. It seems to work well especially with rock and other electric guitar/bass centered tracks. Who would have thought Marshall would tune towards a rock sound? :)

Moving into the lower mids, the transition is cleaner (in my opinion) with ANC deactivated, mainly because the DSP pushes the center of the mid range further back. Vocals especially seem to take a step backwards when the ANC is on, something that I noticed in tracks like “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin or “Killing in the Name” by RATM, tracks that one would expect to go well with the Marshall tuning.

The higher end of the mid also seems to take a little step back when flipping the switch. Not as pronounced as the center of the mids, but it is enough to seem a little veiled in this aspect. If listening to something like “Crazy” by Daniela Andrade, a very simple acoustic song, I find that the change is something that takes away from the whole presence of her vocals, at least to the level that I prefer, but going back to something in the rock genre is far more acceptable.

The treble suffers from some roll off in the higher regions and doesn’t really provide the extension or sensation of “air” that I would like to hear. The positive side to the treble is that sibilance is pretty much absent, “Code Cool” or “Hope is a Dangerous Thing” are quite tame and do not get harsh at all. However, I would not say that the treble is great.

All of the above is related to tuning more than anything else and will be a case of preference as to whether someone likes or dislikes these headphones, however, it is the detail that I find to be the weakest link of the Marshall MID ANC.

There is no real sensation of detail, things just seem to be smoothed over, leaving me missing many of the details that I enjoy in many of my simple acoustic style tracks. Don’t get me wrong, I have heard much worse, but I find the level of detail to be more inline with what I would expect from a sub 50€ IEM rather than a >200€ set of headphones. There are also times when I feel that there is distortion in the details that are present. This is not continuous but there are times when I will be listening to a track that I have heard a 1000 times and something will just sound dirty, as though the headphones are being pushed too hard, even though I am at my normal listening levels (which are by no means loud).

The soundstage is mediocre, although it is not terrible, we do need to remember that these are on-ear closed backs, but again it is more inline with what I would expect from a set of IEMs. The placement of images is also something that suffers due to the lack of detail itself, making it perform decent enough for simple left to right imaging but there are no real specifics as far as placement of small details, the intro to “All Your Love (Turned to Passion)” by Sara K. just sounds flat.


Conclusion…

In my opinion, Marshall has been rather intelligent with these headphones, cashing in on various things that work in their favour. First of all, their brand. The looks and design immediately identify these as a Marshall product, a brand that has been seen everywhere since the 60’s. Second, Bluetooth, something that is certainly popular and gaining more and more popularity as headphones jacks disappear and people also move away from cables. Additionally, they have also opted for a very safe tuning, something that many consumers that are just music listeners and not really interested in reading specs and reviews like this one, will enjoy.

As far as sound, well, they just aren’t for me. Mainly they are not tuned to my preference. They also have faults such as the lack of detail and that slight distortion that appears now and again, but we need to consider that I have been lucky enough to listen to some excellent headphones which, for better or for worse, show me things that can’t be ignored at a later date.

If they were cheaper, let's say around 100€ or less, then I would probably be more lenient towards their final sound, although that still wouldn’t solve the issues that I found with them. But let’s say that at 190€ (the cheapest I have seen the MID ANC), there are things like the (much cheaper) Hifiman HE400se that run rings around them. Ok, no bluetooth, no ANC, you need an amp, they are open back, so I guess they are two different worlds. But there are  also the AKG K371 for less than the Marshall’s, or the K361 for even less, which could be paired with a BT dongle and result in much better sound quality and comfort, although you would still be missing the ANC feature. If we consider the MID ANC for over 200€, you can probably still find a Sony WH1000XM3 for 220€ which is a similar tuning but with better comfort, better ANC and better details.

I think I will end my rant here because I don’t think I am the right person to be giving my opinion on these headphones, or rather, the people who these headphones are aimed at are not really the same people that would be reading a review from someone like me.

Thank you to the subscriber for sending these in, it is much appreciated, and I hope you continue to enjoy them, as that is the most important thing, enjoy what you have and enjoy the music you listen to.

SenyorC