Marshall Mode II Review: Light as a Feather, Loud as Hell


“If you like it loud, Mode II puts out a huge amount of sound.”

  • Cool design

  • Very convenient

  • Big, bold sound

  • Good call quality

  • Wireless charging

  • Average battery life

  • No quick charge

  • No custom controls

  • No noise cancellation

Marshall’s Personal Audio division has made some great headphones and wireless speakers over the past few years, but until now they’ve been waiting to venture into the insanely competitive category of true wireless earbuds with their $ 179 Mode II. Was it worth the wait for Marshall fans? Let’s take a look at it.

What’s in the box?

Marshall mode IISimon Cohen / Digital Trends

The small cardboard box contains the Mode II earbuds in the charging case, four sizes of silicone earbuds (media is installed by default), a USB-C charging cable, and some quick start documentation.


Marshall mode IISimon Cohen / Digital Trends

Zound Industries, the company that licenses the Marshall branded personal audio products, has always done an excellent job incorporating design elements from Marshall’s iconic guitar amps. Mode II maintains this tradition without going overboard.

The charging case features the same amp-inspired textured black plastic as the Marshall Emberton speaker with the Marshall script logo, while the earbuds simply get the stylized “M”. In a sea of ​​inconspicuous black plastic earphones, the Mode II is characterized by a retro cool that only the Marshall brand can offer.

That dedication to style even picks up on the USB-C charging cable, which is much longer than a set of wireless earbuds and looks like an electric guitar patch cord – very cool.

I was able to leave Modus II in my ears for hours without getting tired.

Both the earbuds and the wireless charging case are remarkably small and light. At just 44.5 grams in total, they’re lighter than the AirPods Pro and AirPods with wireless charging.

The earbuds themselves have a very low profile so they sit almost flush with your outer ear and won’t interfere with hats or helmets.

But don’t let the small dimensions worry you. The Mode II are solidly built and their case easily protects them from minor mishaps or encounters with other objects when you carry them in your handbag. Thanks to an IPX4 rating, they can survive even your most strenuous workouts.

Comfort and control

Marshall mode IISimon Cohen / Digital Trends

The Mode II’s small size makes it a very comfortable, yet secure fit. More than most real wireless earbuds I’ve tried, I’ve been able to leave Mode II in my ears for hours without getting tired.

Marshall did a great job with the touch controls. If you’ve read my other earbud reviews, you know that I’m generally not a fan of this type of control and instead prefer the accuracy of a physical button. But Mode II struck the perfect balance of just being sensitive enough that you don’t have to tap them repeatedly, but not so hair-triggered that accidental touches become a problem.

Even better, successful touches are confirmed by a subtle but audible feedback tone, which I believe should be the standard practice for all touch-controlled earbuds.

The Marshall Bluetooth app can be used to view remaining battery life, adjust EQ and transparency mode (more on that later), but you won’t be able to adjust the controls. The included gestures let you manage play / pause, skip back and forth tracks, answer / end calls, access voice assistants, and turn transparency on and off. However, you cannot control the volume that you need to use your phone at.

Marshall is sticking to his promise that the Mode II are “in-ear headphones designed for loud devices”.

The Mode II are equipped with wear sensors, but strangely enough Marshall limits their functionality to the automatic pause. In other words, if you remove an earbud, your music will automatically pause. However, when you put it back in, you’ll need to manually resume your music using the appropriate touch gesture. I really want Marshall to fix this shortcoming with a firmware update and give us the option of completely deactivating it via the app.

You can either use your own earbud for phone calls or music. Using only the right earbud gives you control of the track while using the left earbud you can talk to your phone’s built-in assistant.

Sound quality

Marshall mode IISimon Cohen / Digital Trends

Mode II is factory-tuned with the “Marshall Signature” EQ, a bold and punchy mix that favors the bass. It works with a variety of music genres, from the acoustic sounds of jazz ensembles to the full-fledged electrical studio work of Beck or Daft Punk. Stereo imaging is alive and creates good width and depth for the soundstage.

This signature sound is comparable to both the AirPods Pro and the Jabra Elite 75t, but Mode II offers slightly better clarity, with the upper registers being more noticeable.

If the signature sound isn’t for you, you can use the Marshall app to create two of your own custom 5-band EQ presets. While playing with these, I found that I was able to significantly cut the bass that some listeners may prefer. You may also want to try cutting down on the highest frequencies – the standard EQ tends to be sharp and sibilant, which can be a bit annoying, especially when listening at higher volumes.

Marshall speaks of higher volumes and keeps his promise that the Mode II are “in-ear headphones that are designed for loud devices”. They get very, very loud indeed – dangerous indeed. I found that even at around 40% volume, I had reached my personal limit for comfort.

If your phone has a built-in ability to reduce loud noise (as most iOS and Android devices do), I highly recommend leaving it on, with a threshold of 85dB or less. Noise-induced hearing loss is no joke and you should take precautions to keep Mode II from maxing out.

Transparency mode

Marshall mode IISimon Cohen / Digital Trends

The silicone earplugs help the Mode II achieve a very good seal in your ear, effectively keeping out external noise. A single tap on the left earbud activates transparency mode so you can hear more of your surroundings.

There is no quick charge option. If you run out of juice, it will take two hours to fully charge the juice.

You can set the transparency in the Marshall app, but even at the maximum setting, the feature prefers sounds that are further away than those that are close together. This is good for getting a better sense of your surroundings during times when you are near traffic or other hazards. Making your own voice sound natural for phone calls or conversations is less effective – you will still notice some subdued quality in those interactions.

Battery life

Marshall mode IISimon Cohen / Digital Trends

The battery life for the earphones is five hours per charge, in the case of an additional four charges for a total of 25 hours. These specifications are almost identical to Apple’s AirPods. That’s more than enough battery life for a full day, but unfortunately Marshall didn’t include a quick charge option. When your earbuds run out of juice it will take two hours to fully charge. This could be frustrating for travelers who suddenly run out of power on a long flight.

You can see the remaining charge level of the earbuds in the app, but you have to rely on the case’s front LED to find out where the juice is – although with a green / orange / red color scheme, that isn’t quite as accurate .

Call quality

Marshall mode II

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Marshall mode II

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Marshall mode II

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Since Mode II has no active noise cancellation (ANC) and therefore fewer microphones than the ANC models, I wasn’t expecting a particularly good call quality, but Mode II is ideal for calls. Wind noise can still overwhelm your voice, but when conditions are reasonably calm these earbuds do a very good job of ensuring that your voice is heard clearly with a minimum of compression.

They automatically switch to transparency mode when the microphones are on, which is handy. As I noted above, this doesn’t completely remove the muffled sound of your voice in your own ears. Even so, I think Mode II will be decent for most types of calls.

Our opinion

While not as comprehensive as true wireless earbuds at similar prices, the Marshall Mode II offers big, beefy (and loud) sound in a tiny and stylish package that fans of the Marshall brand are sure to enjoy.

Is there a better alternative?

Marshall’s iconic style is totally one of a kind, but for the same price or less than Mode II, you can find plenty of excellent alternatives including:

  • $ 180 Jabra Elite 75t: Longer battery life, ANC, better transparency mode, customizable controls and a warmer overall sound, but no wireless charging.
  • $ 130 Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro: Longer battery life, ANC, better transparency mode, customizable controls, but bigger and possibly less comfortable.
  • $ 199 Klipsch T5 II: Longer battery life, better protection from water and dust, and better sound.

How long will they last?

Marshall grants a one-year guarantee on Mode II. They appear to be very well built and their IPX4 rating should help them withstand years of use. If you charge them regularly, you can expect the battery capacity to decrease over time.

Should you buy it?

Yes. The Mode II has a premium price for the Marshall name, but it’s stylish, sounds great, and is very portable.

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