When you've got legitimate rock-sound credentials, why wouldn't you make headphones? Right? To that end, Marshall is back with a new pair -- called Monitor -- to sit at the top of its existing range. Players in the current market seem to have found the sweet spot between premium pricing and street credibility, and there's no change here. Priced at $200, the Monitor is pit against other sets that mix style-consciousness with claims of quality audio. It's not all about looks, though: the Monitor sports a proprietary "F.T.F" (Felt Treble Filter) system that lets you change the sound for a different high-end response.
Under the hood is a 40mm driver, and the same gold, black and leather stylings we saw on the Major model. This time, however, Marshall opted for an over-ear fit, and threw in a few other goodies too. These include the increasingly popular 3.5mm pass-through jack (so friends can plug in and share your music), a collapsible design, a detachable part-coiled cable and in-line remote. The Monitor is available starting today for the aforementioned $200. But, if you want to know a little more, we got our hands on a set -- head past the break for our first impressions.
Marshall Monitor hands-on
As you may have noticed, the Monitors are physically very similar to the Major model that preceded them. The head strap is near-identical and the same leather-look earcups and gold details have been used (including the gnarled housing on the 3.5mm jack) so that from a quick glance, they almost look the same. The folding mechanism works like a charm, and is one of the smoothest we've seen. Certainly it goes a long way in making them more travel-friendly.
The detachable cord is handy, but there's no locking mechanism to keep it in place. The coil in the cable should deflect most tugs and pulls, but snag this on a door handle, and we can see it coming right out. Not a bad thing, perhaps. There's a 3.5mm input on both ears giving you the choice to use either side, as well as the option of letting a friend plug their cans in too -- if sharing's your thing. The pads on the earcups are held on by magnets which means they can be removed easily to reveal that T.F.T. "system." Essentially, this is a removable felt pad that sits over the driver, taking the edge off the high end when in place. While the pads are easy to remove, they still feel secure enough that they're unlikely to come off while you rock out.
As for the sound, Marshall claims that the Monitors have a frequency range that goes all the way down to 10Hz. It's unlikely you'll ever hear that low (please let us know if you do, though!), but nice to know it's fully covered. At the other end of the scale it all depends whether you have that filter in or not. With it, anything above around 3KHz is gently tamed, but not to the point where it feels detrimental. In fact, for casual listening, we preferred the sound with the filters in place, to the slightly harsher sound without.
You might feel differently, but you might also appreciate the choice. We'd argue that if you're calling a product "Monitor" that you might aim for a truly flat response, but then, we're not about to discourage giving consumers choice, either. The phenomenon that is Beats by Dre is testament to the fact that, for a large number of people, pure, untouched sound isn't of primary concern. Certainly, in the brief time we tested the headset, we found the sound to be clear, bright and not too bassy, even as we sampled various musical styles (in various file formats and bitrates). Best of all, the Monitors are comfortable. Such a simple trait, but one that makes all the difference, and this is where an over-ear design comes into its own.
As we alluded to at the top, it's starting to get a little busy in the $200-range / branded headphone market. Some contenders trade heavily on the design, or celebrity endorsement. Others rely on their long standing history in the business. Marshall seems to be doing a bit of all the above. While the F.T.F. system is a nice touch, we largely suspect you'll be making a decision to buy these based on your feelings for the brand. And why not?