When will these headphones die? That's what I'm thinking two days after switching on Marshall's $150 wireless Major II. The box clearly states "30 hours of playback," but it is a humble fib. It breezed past the 30-hour mark, well, hours ago. If it carries on much longer, it'll reach a second night, and probably run out while I sleep. Then I'll never know how long they lasted. Unless ... surely ... it won't still be playing when I wake up again? I can't risk the not knowing, so I turn them off and pause the timer. I'll resume this showdown in the morning.
The following day, the Major II finally gives in. Begrudgingly it starts the familiar "death beeps" -- a sound any Bluetooth headphone user will be familiar with -- and the music finally stops. In the end, the Major II's 680mAh battery logged a total of 37 hours at high volume. That's about three times what you'd expect from most Bluetooth headphones. It even shames current longevous products like Plantronics' BackBeat Pro (24 hours/$170) and Sennheiser's wireless Momentum On-Ear (25 hours/$400).
The weird thing is just how needlessly small the claim about the battery life on the box is. So, when comparing headphones, you might notice that you don't get features like active noise cancellation that the similarly priced Plantronics offers. Or the build quality that Sennheiser offers, while missing Marshall's most obvious advantage.
Let's also talk about how loud the Major II wireless are. Very. Surprisingly loud for Bluetooth headphones. At one point, a colleague and I had them set on the table playing out loud. I was concerned the neighbors might get annoyed. There are very few times I have thought, "Crap, these are too loud," but I nearly (nearly) did with these. After at least two decades of listening to rowdy techno and, well, obviously getting older, I'm in the habit of mashing the volume button upward. With the Major II, I often found myself with a notch or two still to go. This makes the battery life potentially even longer if your younger, less battered ears enjoy a moderate volume.
Battery life isn't everything, though, right? That'd be like buying a car based purely on its MPG (and that's well into "Dad" territory). You're too cool for that. Also, who cares about 37 hours of music if it sounds crappy? We already established that the Major II is loud, but it also delivers a surprisingly full-bodied sound for the price point. It's predictably a little bass heavy, but that suits my preference and music-listening choices.
It's also not the most spacious-sounding headphone (mids and highs can sound clear, but "close" to each other). This is fairly typical of consumer/branded headphones at this price, though. With Marshall's headphones more likely found on the shelves of Urban Outfitters than at a dedicated audio store, it's clear the company is going after the High Street head bopper, not the hi-fi pundit.
As with all of Marshall's other consumer products, there are nice design details, like the trademark leather-look ear cups and the brass-effect control button. But overall, it's not a weighty or substantial-feeling headphone. It feels a little light and loose, almost flimsy. By that I mean you get, depending on your taste, a stylish, affordable design, but with plastic and polyurethane instead of mahogany and ostrich leather. The flip side to this is that you'll have no qualms throwing them in your backpack to jostle around with the rest of your possessions.
There's an unexpected side effect to the good battery life, too. There's always an element of Russian roulette with any pair of Bluetooth headphones: Will they run out on this train ride or won't they? When you're dealing with a typical 8- or 10-hour battery life, this is somewhat easier to manage (it's easier to remember how many hours you've used them). With this longer staying power, though, you might well have no idea how much juice is left. So your odds of running out of gas mid-commute could weirdly be higher.
A bigger battery also means a longer charging time (about an hour). But hey, there are worse problems to have, right? (Not to mention there's a 3.5mm cable in the box to make them work as regular headphones.) All told, the long run time, substantial sound and $150 price point mean these will find favor with the "go hard or go home" crowd. Or, like me, desk jockeys who are part of that gang only in spirit.
The Major II is launching first in Europe, available online and in select stores in Germany, France and the UK. It will also see a US release in the next few weeks.