Marshall Motif II review: Robust style and sound, but features fall short at $199

Decent sound and ANC performance, but there are too many trade-offs

Marshall Motif II with charging case on a blue tiled surface
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Adequate ANC and premium sound in a retro shell aren’t enough for Marshall’s latest buds to compete with the category’s top performers.


  • +

    Great sound

  • +

    Impressive noise cancelation

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    Intuitive battery life management

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    Iconic design


  • -

    Buggy performance

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    Missing common features

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    Poor comfort levels

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    Inconsistent touch controls

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Marshall Motif II A.N.C.: Specifications

Price: $199 / £179 / AU$349
Colors: Black
Battery life (rated): 6 hours (ANC on); 9 hours (ANC off); 30 hours (ANC on w/charging case), 43 hours (ANC off w/charging case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 (codec support: SBC, AAC, LC3)
Durability: IPX5 (earbuds); IPX4 (charging case)
Size: 0.82 x 0.99 x 1.1 inches (per bud); 1.04 x 1.84 x 2.5 inches (charging case)
Weight: 0.15 ounces (per bud); 1.6 ounces (charging case)

The Marshall Motif II A.N.C. wireless earbuds bring a few new perks to the series, including active noise cancellation with improved wind reduction to enable you to listen to your favorite music peacefully even in loud, gusty environments. Battery-saving tools help increase playtimes, while other additions such as Bluetooth LE Audio and multipoint technology also enhance the wireless listening experience, which is stellar, thanks to Marshall’s detailed and engaging sound profile.

However, my tests show that this sequel doesn’t fix the problems I found with comfort and touch control accuracy of its predecessor. Connectivity issues with the Marshall Bluetooth app also hinder performance on this new version as well.

Given that the $199 price puts the Motif II A.N.C. in direct competition with some of the best wireless earbuds I've tested, are the pros enough to outweigh the cons? Read my full Marshall Motif II A.N.C. review to find out.

Marshall Motif II A.N.C. review: Crisp, balanced sound with effective ANC 

Marshall Motif II ANC in charging case held between fingertips

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Expect full-bodied bass that blends nicely with crisp mids and highs. The Marshall Bluetooth app also allows for sound personalization via adjustable five-band EQ or selectable presets: Marshall (default), Bass Boost, Mid Boost, Treble Boost, and Mid Reduction. I recommend sticking with Marshall’s preset, though Treble Boost does a surprisingly good job of enhancing low-mid frequencies. Listening with ANC on slightly increases the low end.   

Most of my music listening was done on Tidal at the highest streaming quality possible. The acoustic guitar strums on Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” complemented the singer’s vocals, which were beautifully reproduced and emphasized the track’s emotional spirit. Bangers like Common’s “Blak Majik” were handled surprisingly well considering the booming lows and looped, distortion-heavy chants. The pounding drums produced outstanding reverb that was everlasting. Vocal presentation was even more impressive, as the rapper’s monotonous rhymes, along with singer Jhene Aiko’s angelic and airy harmonizing, remained prominent over the monstrous bass-heavy beat.

Marshall Motif II worn by reviewer Alex Bracetti in an outdoor setting

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Bluetooth 5.3 with LE Audio delivers richer sound at half the data bandwidth as standard codecs like SBC. I immediately noticed the increase in clarity and lower latency when playing Spotify and YouTube content.   

In terms of noise cancelation, the Motif II A.N.C won’t outperform the class-leading Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, but the buds are sufficient for minimizing distractions. Three ANC settings are selectable — Low, Medium, and High — the latter being most useful for all-day use. The technology performs best against loud, buzzy sounds. It was relieving to silence the construction sounds from underneath my apartment and my wife’s speakerphone chatter during work hours. High-frequency noises like crying babies and sirens were audible and broke my concentration at times.   

Transparency Mode comes with the same three settings as ANC and picks up a lot of ambient noise when set to High. Using the feature outdoors raised my awareness on walks and grocery store runs. It served best when working from home. I communicated with my wife from across the living room and kept tabs on deliveries while keyboard crunching from the couch.

Marshall Motif II A.N.C. review: Excellent battery life management

Marshall Motif II in charging case held in hand with flowers in the background

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Marshall extended playtimes and integrated smarter battery life solutions. A full charge generates 6 to 9 hours, depending how you use the buds, and the wireless charging case holds between 30 to 43 hours. The Battery Preservation feature lets you assign a max charge limit to maintain the battery’s long-term health, as well as a temperature limit to prevent overheating. I only wish that quick charging was more powerful: a 15-minute charge equals 1 hour of use, whereas the AirPods Pro 2 give 1 hour playback from a 5-minute charge, and can regularly be found discounted to $199 or less.

Marshall Motif II A.N.C. review: Iconic design but uncomfortable

Marshall Motif II worn by reviewer on the street accessing noise canceling performance

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Marshall left their true wireless flagship design mostly untouched. The buds have a rugged design that reflects the British company’s original guitar amplifiers highlighted by an all-black exterior covered in coarse-textured plastic, ridged stems, and signature white logo. A gold accent was added to the bottom of each stem for flair. Construction-wise, they’re sturdy and sweat and water-resistant (IPX5). The charging case has a leatherette covering with IPX4 rating, pairing button on the front, and white script logo.

It's a shame that the Motif II A.N.C.’s materials make the buds a painful wear. The hard plastic is stiff and presses against the inner part of the ear, while the rigged stems brush up against your earlobes and cause irritation.

Marshall Motif II A.N.C. review: A decent feature set with performance troubles

Marshall Motif II showing control app

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Motif II A.N.C. aren’t as feature filled as the AirPods Pro 2 or Sony WF-1000XM5, but what Marshall provides is useful. I previously discussed popular features like ANC/Transparency, Battery Preservation, Equaliser, and LE Audio. Everything else is basic: control customization, firmware updates, and toggles for standard functions like auto-pause/play and noise prompts.

Outside of the Marshall control app, there’s multipoint technology for pairing to two devices simultaneously and one-tap Google Fast Pair. Both wireless features performed well.

Marshall Motif II testing touch controls

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Unfortunately, the Motif II A.N.C. suffered from many technical issues during my testing. The companion app would often struggle to recognize the buds when already paired to my smartphone. I encountered a bug that mutes sound on the selected bud for voice assistance when in multipoint mode. The battery notification bar appearing atop the phone touchscreen showed inaccurate power levels for each bud.

Then came the poor touch controls. These buds would either misinterpret triple taps for double taps or not register multi-press commands at all. Even more frustrating was the Spotify Tap gesture, which according to the app, requires two taps and a long hold to activate, but never worked.

Marshall Motif II A.N.C. review: Verdict

The Motif II A.N.C. are as satisfying as they are disappointing. For almost every notable quality, there’s a problematic trade-off that affects their overall value. An awesome-looking design that’s uncomfortable. Serviceable features bogged down by buggy performance. Solid battery life with weak quick charging. You get the point.

Marshall does deliver on the two hallmarks they’ve marketed most: ANC and audio. The noise-canceling modes are effective and grant full control over how much noise you want to eliminate or let in. Combine that with punchy bass response and terrific frequency reproduction, and there’s an enjoyable listening experience to be had. However, blunders in all other key categories keep the Motif II A.N.C. from being considered one of the best noise-canceling wireless earbuds.

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Alex Bracetti

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.